Headliner Keynote – Industry 4.0

I recently had the opportunity to provide the opening keynote for the University of Alabama EMBA Alumni Network Summit discussing trends tied to Industry 4.0. This is the latest version of the InnovationToReality talk series covering all facets of consumer behavior and emerging technology.

It was a fun and highly interactive keynote session! We discussed how Star Wars, Fortnite, Pixar Movies, & The Matrix highlight how emerging technology and consumer behavior will shift in the near future. We talked about how the 5 levels of autonomy and the new 4P’s will impact industry 4.0. Finally the role and importance of 5G in the transition towards ubiquitous simulation.

Here is a link to download the full presentation.

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2019 Tech Titans Technology Advocate Award

Last night my wife and I attended the 2019 Tech Titans Awards Gala. I was a finalist for the Technology Advocate award. This award recognizes a technology advocate/champion for their outstanding leadership in assisting, advancing or accelerating the performance of technology companies and/or the technology community.

It was a really fun night. The Tech Titans awards are like the Oscars for the Dallas technology community. After settling into a delicious dinner and some fun commentary from the Gala committee it was time for the awards presentations to start.

When my category was up for the next presentation the head of North American Customer Marketing & Communications for Nokia, Marianne Strobel did a great job setting up the category and announcing the winner…

After the initial shock of the win, it was time for photos, a great conversation with Marianne of Nokia about their 5G work and more innovations on the way, networking with sponsors and attendees and fun times with my wife Cherlyn from chomping M&M’s pre-event to celebrating post-event Texas-style with Whataburger.

Thank you to the Tech Titans organization, sponsors, judges, thank you to Marianne Strobel for the warm welcome from Nokia, the Dallas Business Journal for their coverage and support of the event and finally to the other deserving finalists.

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Dallas Business Journal Tech Titan Interview

I was recently interviewed by the Dallas Business Journal for the upcoming 2019 Tech Titans awards show. I am a finalist in the technology advocate category and looking forward to the event! Here is a link to the full interview.

Here is a repost of the full article

Tom Edwards of BlackFin360 is a finalist in the Technology Advocate Award category for the 2019 Tech Titan Awards. Category winners will be announced at an awards event on Friday, Aug. 23. For more information about the awards event, click here.

As founder of BlackFin360, which covers marketing and emerging tech trends, Tom Edwards has been recognized as a marketing technology trailblazer as well as a leading futurist and speaker.

“I focus on helping organizations understand how consumer behavior is shaping emerging technology and vice versa as technology is culture and culture is technology,” Edwards said.

What started as a technology blog back in 2007 BlackFin360 now serves as a “a repository of emerging technology” thought leadership. As a keynote speaker and technology advocate, Edwards says he helps organizations understand the connection between consumer behavior and emerging technology — from the integration of artificial intelligence, spatial computing and the rise of multi-modal interfaces.

Edwards was also Chief Digital/Innovation Officer for Epsilon where he said he “became fully immersed in all facets of data, AI and technology integration.”

We asked Edwards additional questions about technology. The questions have been edited for length, grammar and clarity.

What is the biggest challenge facing your organization in 2019?

TOM – The biggest challenge is less about my organization and what I see across the Fortune 1000 organizations that I have the opportunity to speak to. There are three primary areas that I consistently see. They are: data puddles, ignoring AI, lack of innovation focus.

  • Data puddles refers to a comment I heard at one of the world’s largest consumer beverage companies. Most organizations strive for data lakes and data is key to unlocking personalization and connecting with consumers. The reality is most organizations don’t have a consolidated approach to leveraging various forms of data, be it consumer centric data of culture, data of identity and data of intent. Having a strategy for how to consolidate and action data vs. simply collecting is key.
  • The second challenge is the lack of preparation and consideration of the impact of artificial intelligence on the workplace. This goes beyond system integration, and has to do with impact on culture and how to build a culture around the idea of intelligence augmentation vs. disruption.
  • The third is a lack of aligning innovation initiatives with core goals of the organization. It’s incredibly important to not just focus on short term revenue, but also generating ideas and empowering the organization to bring innovative ideas forward. 

What is something people aren’t thinking about that will change technology in the next few years?

TOM – To me the biggest shift, especially for marketers is that we will be moving from consumer-centric marketing technology to system and algorithm-based solutions. We will see virtual assistants continue to move to the center of the operating system and we will see the rise of multi-modal computing at scale. This includes voice, vision and touch, where our environment adapts to us versus us adapting to it.

Can you recall the moment you decided what you wanted to do professionally?

TOM – My first memory is of the original Star Wars movie. All of my friends wanted to be Han Solo and Luke Skywalker. I liked those characters, but I was enamored with the droids R2-D2 and C3PO and how they and the rest of the sentient tech characters seemed to enable the main cast every step of the way. The technology seamlessly folded into their everyday journeys and that stuck with me all throughout childhood and into early adulthood. When the technology revolution hit with the rise of personal computers, mobile phones and software, I knew that is where I wanted to take my career. 

Who is your technology hero?

TOM – My technology hero is Hal Brierley. Hal is the CEO of the Brierley Group. He has served as President and CEO of Epsilon, was the founder of e-Rewards, Inc, and the Executive Chairman of Brierley & Partners and he currently serves on the board of an AI start-up (Oculus360) that has been an outstanding strategic partner. I admire that work and career of Hal, his impact to Dallas via job creation and his approach to business is something to be admired. 

What should we be teaching children about technology in school right now that we aren’t?

TOM – The future is going to be about augmented intelligence and preparing children, not just how to code, but also how to use various aspects of machine learning to solve problems. Instead of teaching simple math, it’s important to understand specific computing models and concepts for how systems learn. Now, these are reserved for Computer Science courses on the college level, but the sooner we can prepare children for the coming shift of intelligent systems the better.

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Amazon’s 14 Leadership Principles

I have worked closely with Amazon associates across various business units for well over a decade. One of the core aspects that has been consistent is how Amazon employees embody the 14 Amazon Leadership principles.

These 14 principles are also key when Amazon evaluates prospective employees. These principles are not just applicable to Amazon, they are great reminders for teams and organizations to re-center thought and focus towards being customer-centric, having a bias for action, innovation, growing talent and so much more.

Below are the 14 Amazon leadership principles and how I have personally applied the principles in my own career.

1) CUSTOMER OBSESSION  – Leaders start with the customer and work backward. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.

TOM: Every organization talks about being customer-centric, but there is a difference between having a vision of customer centricity and instilling customer obsession through teams. When business is lost it comes down to a few key factors. Poor execution, poor communication and focus on self vs. client’s business. This goes beyond simply focusing on the relationship.

You have to deliver and in today’s environment that includes living and breathing your customers business. This includes tracking quarterly earnings, proactively analyzing trends in the marketplace, conducting primary research, leveraging tools and solutions such as machine learning industry domains to track shifts and changes over time, predictive models to project zero spend impact models and a constant focus on how to future-proof their business while delivering the expected returns for today.

Customer obsession is a great way to think about it whether your customer is an internal stakeholder or the CMO of a Fortune 100 corporation.  

2. OWNERSHIPLeaders are owners. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond their own team. They never say “that’s not my job”

TOM: I have worked across multiple holding companies, consulted with some of the world’s largest brands, developed products and had ownership of various organizational functions and teams. The one thing that has always been consistent is working to be a “value-add” across the organization, not just within a single team or department. Being a good citizen pays off in the long run as you are able to build support for cross-departmental initiatives.

So many organizations that I have consulted with over the years were focused on short term goals and returns. Looking back, those organizations that did not adopt a roadmap for the future nor did they take steps to future proof their business. Those organizations are struggling or no longer in business today. Ownership includes not sacrificing long-term value or opportunity for short-term gains.

3. INVENT & SIMPLIFYLeaders expect and require innovation and invention from their teams and always find ways to simplify. They are externally aware, look for new ideas from everywhere, and are not limited by “not invented here”. As we do new things, we accept that we may be misunderstood for long periods of time.

TOM: This has been the lifeblood of my career in the interactive space. The one constant has been change and having the ability to create first of its kind use cases for the application of technology is critical to keep pace with exponential change.

This is what started my passion and desire to become a futurist and solution evangelist. Predicting how technology was going to evolve, the triggers and signals gleaned from consumer behavior and having the entrepreneurial ability to actually build and deliver new solutions as well as seamlessly integrate new and emerging technologies into highly linear organizations has been a key success driver.

4 – ARE RIGHT, A LOT  –  Leaders are right a lot. They have strong judgment and good instincts. They seek diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs

TOM: The challenge I consistently put forward to my strategy and creative technology teams is to build a strong POV and then a month or so later completely deconstruct it. The pace of technology and experiences shifts so quickly, it’s less about disruption and more about exponential acceleration, so having the ability to make a call based on deterministic and sometimes probabilistic data, then evaluating and changing course is key. You have to be able to completely deconstruct your views and refine them based on market and situational indicators.

5 – LEARN & BE CURIOUSLeaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.

TOM: As a keynote speaker I cover emerging technology and consumer behavior on a regular basis. I am always looking for patterns for how experiences will evolve. This requires constant learning and curiosity and this is a passion area of mine.

I am constantly reading, tracking industry discussions, looking at developer documentation, following the release of new patents, and attending developer conferences so I can get a first glimpse at potential new use cases.

This is also the #1 trait I look for in prospective employees. It’s a continual desire to discover, learn and solve problems that may not exist yet.

6 – HIRE & DEVELOP THE BEST TALENTLeaders raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion. They recognize exceptional talent, and willingly move them throughout the organization. Leaders develop leaders and take seriously their role in coaching others. We work on behalf of our people to invent mechanisms for development like Career Choice.

TOM: Talent is everything and I look for certain characteristics in individuals that are consistent and foundational. This includes individuals who exhibit an entrepreneurial mindset, are naturally inquisitive, constantly learning, have the ability to “connect the dots”, formulate a point of view and are really good presenters.

Some of the best hires I have had over the years were individuals I met while speaking on panels or industry events. I lean towards original content creators and those that go above and beyond their day job. I look for those who have the ability to articulate a point of view, are strong presenters yet humble in their approach and focused on solving problems that may or may not exist yet.

It’s not just about sharing links about technology or trends, curation is only part of the equation. It’s having the ability to craft a unique point of view. Natural curiosity is very important to me. I look for these attributes in potential hires has led to individuals from incredibly diverse backgrounds but there is a consistency in their abilities to be strategic, autonomous and incredibly high performers. This led to recruiting some of the best talent in the industry as well as serve on multiple tours of duty with high performing team members such as Ian Beacraft, Mike Zeto, Courtney Caldwell, Candice Gilzean and countless others.

7 – INSIST ON THE HIGHEST STANDARDSLeaders have relentlessly high standards – many people may think these standards are unreasonably high. Leaders are continually raising the bar and drive their teams to deliver high quality products, services, and processes. Leaders ensure that defects do not get sent down the line and that problems are fixed so they stay fixed.

TOM: My approach is to set a vision for my teams, empower them, enable them but also hold them accountable to agreed-upon MBOs. It’s important to have a team vision and mission that aligns to the broader organization and then deploy a team of team’s approach to scale across the organization.

This ensures that the teams are adaptable, stay in close communication and are empowered to make key decisions and solve problems without the typical command and control model. This also builds mutual respect and trust within the team as everyone has a key role, is empowered to make decisions and works together to accomplish cross-departmental goals.

8 – THINK BIGThinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. They think differently and look around corners for ways to serve customers.

TOM: I am a futurist in my spare time. This requires thinking bigger on a regular basis to piece together how we will shift from mobile-first to multi-modal interfaces at scale. This includes making foundational statements such as the shift of the virtual assistant to the center of the operating system, the role simulation and data will play and helping organizations to future proof their business while meeting the business objectives of today. This is the basis for my Innovation to Reality speaking platform.

From a business perspective, part of my role over the years has focused on aligning bigger thinking with clients to go beyond the short term and discuss challenges on the horizon and how to future proof their business.

This includes the potential impact of artificial intelligence and the need to not only prepare for shifts in modernizing systems but also the impact on culture and how to build towards intelligence augmentation.

This will be one of the biggest areas of disruption over the next few years as the workplace will drastically shift based on intelligent systems and those organizations that can capitalize on integrating technology, align data assets to fuel systems and prepare their workforce for intelligence augmentation vs. disruption will be the organizations that either maintain a leadership position or challengers will leapfrog established organizations.   

9 – BIAS for ACTIONSpeed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking.

TOM: Balancing action vs. analysis is critical in today’s rapidly evolving environment. It’s important to place strategic bets while still maintaining the focus and hitting short term goals. I use the 70/20/10 approach to bias for action.

70% is focused on the core aspects of driving the business or campaigns and is 100% measurable. 20% is emerging but a bit less quantifiable yet needs to be explored for possible new opportunities and 10% should be solely based on emerging solutions based on trends and affinity signals from consumers.

Finding early-stage start-ups and having an established ecosystem across solution types is critical to reducing time to analyze and moving to action. If you already have the eco-system, it’s easier to activate.

What I have seen over the past few years is a lot of talk about the importance of AI, evolving experiences and the need for innovation. The reality is there is a hesitancy to actively take steps to ensure that the business is preparing in parallel for short term and long term success. There is a bias towards data curation vs. analysis and action. This is going to cause major issues for organizations that will not be prepared for the major shifts that are coming.

10 – FRUGALITYAccomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency, and invention. There are no extra points for growing headcount, budget size, or fixed expense.

TOM: This is where I value individuals with entrepreneurial backgrounds who are used to wearing multiple hats and have a feeling of ownership towards the business. This allows the unit to operate lean yet go above and beyond in terms of output.

Leading innovation practices across many organizations, I have become very accustomed to accomplishing more with less. I coach youth football and my approach to team building is similar to the offensive style of the University of Oklahoma’s football team.

OU focuses on keeping the same personnel on the field. They operate out of similar formations but have incredibly adaptable skillsets based on the down and distance. Meaning any given player on the field can shift into multiple positions and flex out of their natural spot.

This is how I approach the development of a team. Team members have a primary area of subject matter expertise and secondary responsibilities and have the ability to flex across various aspects of the business. This leads to cost savings for the organization but the creation of significant impact.

11 – EARN TRUSTLeaders listen attentively, speak candidly, and treat others respectfully. They are vocally self-critical, even when doing so is awkward or embarrassing. Leaders do not believe their or their team’s body odor smells of perfurme. They benchmark themselves and their teams against the best.

TOM: Coming from a military background trust is the key to completing whatever the mission objective may be. As a leader, you have to listen to your teams, provide them with a platform to showcase their skills, always treat each with respect and most importantly empower your teams.

I have prided myself on earning the trust of my teams by demonstrating subject matter expertise, attention to detail, and most importantly empathy for not only their work but their lives. This then translates to those that we support both internally as well as our end clients.

Trust is THE currency in today’s fast-paced world. Technologies and solutions come and go but having the trust of the team and clients to know that they can be led in a direction that benefits all are key.

US Army Parachutist Badge

12 – DIVE DEEPLeaders operate at all levels, stay connected to the details, audit frequently, and are skeptical when metrics and anecdote differ. No task is beneath them.

TOM: For the last 19 years, I have focused on being as detailed oriented as possible. This applies to diving into technology and development use cases, evaluating opposing constructs and frameworks, executing campaigns and testing 3rd party technology on a regular basis.

This also requires working closely with team members to truly understand and competently discuss their areas of domain expertise. It’s no longer feasible as a leader to just be at 30,000 feet. In order to operate at the speed of business today, it’s incredibly important to be as detail-oriented as possible and hold teams accountable while empowering simultaneously.

13 – HAVE BACKBONE; DISAGREE and COMMITLeaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly.

TOM:  Within my teams I created an environment of equal rank, meaning we can speak freely and disagree with a decision without the fear of overstepping based on rank/title.

The ability to challenge decisions is key to constantly innovate. The ability to deconstruct a point of view or have a differing opinion can be critical to overcoming a challenge.

During my various leadership tenures, I have focused on providing the forum for constructive disagreement and also respectfully challenged some decisions that may not fully align with the company vision or client’s best interest. 

14 – DELIVER RESULTSLeaders focus on the key inputs for their business and deliver them with the right quality and in a timely fashion. Despite setbacks, they rise to the occasion and never settle.

TOM: Over the past few years my teams and I have focused on delivering results in various forms. This could be in the form of delivering a viable v1 of a product, providing a go-to-market strategy, or creating an analytics model that provides visibility into ongoing impact. The key is a constant focus on delivery and execution while maintaining a strategic position simultaneously.

Over the past two years, I was focused on taking a theoretical concept and creating a completely new product offering. There were setbacks at every step of the way but by building key relationships across the organization, empowering team members, identifying the right talent, having tough discussions around limitations of current team skill sets and ultimately pulling in the right teams to complete the product we were able to deliver an elegant v1 of the product that will impact the organization for years to come.

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Algorithms, Affinity & Advertising in the 2020s

Recently, I was on-site at one of the worlds largest manufacturers discussing the convergence of experiences and delivering 2 sets of my Innovation to Reality talk. This session sparked a number of questions from privacy, data and how advertising will look in the 2020s and that is the basis of the commentary below.

My personal position is that over the next decade consumers will “own” their data, essentially through some type of blockchain-powered open ledger technology where ultimately the consumer becomes the trading desk.

This will be managed by their AI proxies via their virtual assistant of choice. The proxy will become the management hub of personal data and consumers via their proxy will approve who/what/when/where the data to be shared. This is why affinity data in the near future will be so incredibly important.

By understanding a passion area, take Star Wars, for example, a retailer can still customize a digital augmented/enhanced overlay experience for you without needing your PII (Personally Identifiable Information) to serve experiences to you. I talk a lot about the concept of the proxy digital twin hypothesis here.

Your personal algorithms will seek out other “affinity links” through the “Proxy web” to make the connection to the appropriate simulation experience.  Advertising in the near future will be algorithmically curated through a consumer AI proxy to align the most relevant products and “situational advertising” will become the new normal.

Your proxy will manage situational products & services through your calendar and past purchase history. Here is an example, you and the family are going to the beach, the proxy will curate a list of items from your previous purchases and point out possible “situational” items that make the most sense based on your trip. 

It will be less about random products that are loosely based on regression models and past behavior. It will be predictive by nature and built more inside out from the consumer, where the AI proxy becomes the predictive “situational” preference center with the goal of ease, convenience for the end-user.

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Print Innovation Exchange Headliner Keynote

I recently had the opportunity to headline the 2019 Print Innovation Exchange in Minneapolis, MN. It was a fun and highly interactive keynote session! We discussed how Star Wars, Fortnite, Pixar Movies & The Matrix highlight how emerging technology & and behavior will shift in the near future and how the 5 levels of autonomy and the new 4P’s will impact the print industry. 

The full Evolution of Experience Keynote is available below.

Thank you and please follow @BlackFin360 across social platforms for various updates and a little bit of fun.

In the News: AdAge Fortnite & Gen Z

I was recently asked by Advertising Age why/if Fortnite is a social network for Gen Z. The behaviors tied to gaming cannot be ignored and the brands that can seamlessly capitalize on creating value, providing exclusive content and enhance creativity will reap the rewards.

Here is my full commentary:

AdAge : Are you buying or selling the notion that Fortnite is a social platform? 

Tom: Fortnite and gaming, in general, is DEFINITELY a social platform, especially for GENZ. It’s not just about the core gameplay. I see groups getting together to create within the game, to conduct private matches with friends and of course for squad play but it also extends to watching streamers via Twitch & YouTube and sharing content.

There is a seamless flow between in-game and associating with game content on the go. Plus with cross-platform play, it doesn’t matter whether you are on Mobile, Nintendo Switch, PC or Xbox you are always able to connect. I see it in my own home as Fortnite has become the starting point for my youngest (11) and his friends to gather, compare in-game skins and then figure out whether they want to create, set up a private match or just play battle royale. 

AdAge: Why or why not? Some brands have gotten into Fortnite (Samsung, Nike, NFL, John Wick, Avengers). 

TOM:
That said, what should brands be thinking about if entering this universe? Brands should definitely consider how they are aligning with titles like Fortnite as well as eSports (competitive gaming). It’s incredibly important to understand the game properly, the fan base and focus on adding value. It’s less about a passive sponsorship and more about creating value or desire through either free downloadable content or virtual items like Skins in Fortnite. 

AdAge: Is there anything else you would like to add? 

TOM: Gen Z spends 2.5 hours a day with on-demand content and 1.5 hours a day gaming. It’s less about content marketing and more about empowering their creativity. Gaming is a social currency for GenZ. Things like virtual skins are the new Jordans (Although virtual Jordan’s were recently introduced via Fortnite). Gaming culture is now mainstream and how advertisers should think about gaming and the power of integrating with various properties should be at the top of the list for brands that covet cultural relevance. 

Here is a link to full article.

AdAge Tom Edwards Commentary

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Google I/O 2019 Trends & Analysis

Here is a quick reaction & recap video with highlights from today’s Google I/O 2019 event. Google continues to build towards an ambient future. The most exciting announcements were tied to the consolidation of augmented reality, computer vision and 3D experiences directly into search results, the next iteration of Google Duplex for the web that is a direct push towards proxy assistants for all, the evolution of Google Assistant moving towards the center of the operating system and how to prepare content for multimodal discovery and so much more.

Google I/O 2019 Trend & Analysis

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FB Messenger & Evolving CRM Strategy

I recently attended Facebook’s F8 developer conference. One of the more compelling sessions discussed Facebook Messenger’s role in lead generation, consideration, and re-engagement.

This video is my assessment and analysis of the content presented and additional perspective for marketers looking to capitalize on Facebook Messenger’s shift towards the center of the Facebook product suite. These changes will result in the ability to reach potentially 2 Billion users across platforms and the globe.

Facebook Messenger & Evolving CRM Strategy

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In The News: AdExchanger & F8

I was recently asked by Ad Exchanger to provide my thoughts tied to announcements made at Facebook’s 2019 F8 developer conference. Here is a link to the published Ad Exchanger article.

My full commentary is outlined below:

(Ad Exchanger) Does this “privacy vision” feel sincere or is Facebook cleverly positioning its shift?

(TOM) I feel the shift from Facebook to “the Future is Private” was necessary as the shift reflects how consumers have been interacting since 2016 when social messaging surpassed open social in terms of usage behavior. 

The company went through a similar shift in 2014 with the myopic focus on becoming “Mobile First” with 100% focus and resource allocation supporting the vision. I see the same focus here with privacy. It makes sense that this was the macro theme for F8 and a rallying cry to adjust the product suites. The focus on interoperability and encryption as well as shifting messenger to be the new connection point for friends and families is a smart move. 

Separately, how much of an impact will the privacy vision have on how Facebook will be able to monetize?

How this impacts advertising will be interesting. While the focus on reduced permanence and the statements around privacy and encryption are good tent pole statements, item #6 in the privacy manifesto was Secure Data Storage. There will also be the consolation around Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp to create a new advertising network connected to 2 billion people. How data will be used to support the targeting is TBD but the infrastructure to create new avenues of reach and the new consumer acquisition ad units that drive to Messenger will be a key part of their strategy putting the onus on the consumer to share data, as outlined by the new consumer acquisition ad types for Messenger. 

And lastly, how will marketers need to change their Facebook strategy as engagement moves invariably away from the feed and more into Stories, messaging, etc.

(TOM) As marketers it’s important to understand the shift away from content marketing and focus on enabling creativity, utility and entertainment through Messenger and Instagram. Leaning into the ability to co-view video, utility through integration of various API’s, understanding the new payment and commerce capabilities and supporting the creation of AR experiences. Also understanding how to navigate the shift with FB5 towards groups and the role that marketers can play to create new types of connections. 

There is a lot to unpack and as Facebook continues to shift towards fast, reliable and private experiences, it will be interesting to see how the platforms actually evolve and where new opportunities to drive monetization will come from. 

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Facebook F8 Recap & Reaction

A quick reaction & recap video with highlights from today’s Facebook F8 event. The macro theme was the future is private and it was all about Facebook’s approach to privacy and it’s product suite.

Messenger is going to play a starring role, advances with Instagram and commerce, further maturing of Facebook’s AR toolset, new and exciting VR announcements, a preview of how CRM will evolve via Messenger and what was missing from today’s show. This and more in today’s video.

Full recap & analysis of Facebook’s F8 Developer Conference

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April Fools Day Trends 2019

Yesterday was an absolute blast. Everything moves so quickly in the world of marketing & technology. It’s fun to sometimes take a step back and have a little fun while catching those who maybe moving just a bit too quickly.

Here is a fun “trend” recap video that highlights Pet VR, Smart Meats & Outsourced Relaxation.

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In The News: AdExchanger & Apple Live

I was recently asked for my thoughts about a number of the recent Apple Event announcements. From Apple’s original content strategy, monetization, advertising and more. Here is the published article.

Here was my full commentary on the topic:

(Ad Exchanger) Is what Apple planning a Netflix killer?

(TOM) Apple wants to be the Sherpa and curator of content. Their new recommendation engine is more about aggregation across subscriptions vs. being a content killer. I found it interesting that they are still maintaining partnerships with big cable providers while still differentiating through per channel subscriptions. This isn’t a Netflix killer, but Apple understands that moving forward individuals want control over their experiences and multiple subscriptions will exist. They want to be the “Google Search” of entertainment. This keeps their hardware and services sticky throughout.

With Apple TV+ original content, Apple is focusing on creating programming that will create affinity within their services as well. I would not call this a Netflix killer, but it’s a first step to not only control the navigation of content, but also become a destination as well. 

What makes sense in your view for Apple from a monetization standpoint for its original content and its foray into TV?

(TOM) What came through loud and clear from today’s event is Apple’s focus on allowing the consumer to ultimately control their entertainment options. By providing bite-sized subscription services across their ecosystem they gain a consistent stream of revenue that is scalable and minimizes risk of hardware cycles.

It’s yet to be determined how much revenue Apple TV+ will drive in terms of new subscriptions, but with the amount of talent that was showcased, including Oprah, Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Aniston and so many more providers, it just takes a few shows to catch on to drive monetization of original content.

What are your thoughts about how Apple will deal with advertisers/advertising, what a rev share might be if ads are one of the monetization options?

(TOM) I have not heard anything yet about how Apple will deal with advertisers/advertising. One recurring theme was re-emphasizing on device data processing and less information being available to 3rd parties. Apple may be less inclined to leverage an advertising-based model as they dive into recurring revenue with subscriptions. 

This doesn’t mean the end of advertisers with Apple. As with any program, driving awareness will need to occur outside of the Apple TV+ ecosystem. This is through content, traditional & performance-based advertising. Advertisers will need to focus on other affinity-based channels to connect audiences with programming.

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Apple Live Event Recap & Reaction

Today’s event was all about Apple’s focus on new services. Normally these events discuss Hardware & Software, but today was all about new forms of subscriptions that allow consumers more control while showcasing Apple’s strategy to not only provide access /navigation/curation of entertainment but also serve as an end destination with new original content for gaming & entertainment.

Apple also provided a shock to the financial services system with the launch of Apple Card. With an interface and features yet to be seen by traditional banks, Apple is making a bold move towards controlling multiple facets of the consumer journey, all without advertising and an emphasis on privacy.

Here is the full recap:

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Tom Edwards Funko Pop Adventures

Recently, my wife had a fun idea to get a custom Funko Pop to take with me on my travels and use that to chronicle events, speaking engagements, and trade shows. These adventures will be logged here on the blog via the #Tompop page as well as Instagram be sure to follow/subscribe to see all the fun.

Special thanks to All Star Custom Figures

Carnegie Dartlet Keynote

What a great week! From the OnCon Icon Awards to delivering a keynote during the 2019 Carnegie Dartlet Conference, it was a great week in Orlando!

What was great about #CarnegieConf, besides the fact that it was hosted at Walt Disney World, was the amazing audience of higher education professionals. They were highly engaged both during the talk and via social.

The talk centered around how technology will adapt to us vs. us adapting to it. From the role the camera will play as a bridge to intelligence, why the Pixar Theory explains AI adoption, and how spatial computing combined with virtual assistant proxies will change our view of reality.

Time to leave Disney but can’t wait to be back!

Book Tom for an event here.

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19 Trends for 2019

As technology seamlessly integrates into our lives we will continue to move towards a time when our technology adapts to us vs. us inputting into the technology.

2019 will accelerate the convergence of experiences. The shift from desktop and mobile to voice, vision and touch fueled by intelligent systems will be a key focus for the coming year.

We will see the role of voice-based assistants evolve towards predictive proxies, advancing hardware will unlock spatial computing (AR/VR/Mixed/Hyper Reality) and rapidly evolving iterations of artificial intelligence will transform the camera and how we interact with the world around us. 

We hope you enjoy our 2019 trend predictions. We filter the coming convergence through the framework of Empower, Exponential, and Enhanced

The 2019 Trend analysis from my team and I live at http://theinnovationlounge.com.

EMPOWER – Technology that empowers consumers

EXPONENTIAL – Technology fueling intelligence and autonomous systems.

ENHANCED – Technology that is blurring the lines between physical & digital

BEYOND – Tech that is on the horizon for consideration

Each not only discusses the technology, but also the short and long term implications for marketers to consider.

EMPOWER IMPLICATIONS

EXPONENTIAL IMPLICATIONS

ENHANCED IMPLICATIONS

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

2019 Trends Digital Twins & Spatial Computing


One of the bigger trends in 2019 will be tied to Digital Twins… but why? Here is a full video breakdown. 

WHAT ARE DIGITAL TWINS

A digital twin refers to a digital replica or model of a physical asset (physical twin), processes, people, places, systems and devices that can be used for various purposes such as simulation of performance.

So It’s Primarily For FACTORIES COOL? WHY SHOULD I CARE? 

The primary use cases are tied to Industrial IOT scenarios.The Digital Twin serves as a bridge between physical and digital. The physical asset has IOT sensors that constantly collect various forms of data and feed the information to the digital twin to analyze and run predictive simulations. The findings from the virtual models can then be applied to the physical asset.

MY HYPOTHESIS – APPLICATION TO CONSUMERS 

There is a possible connection to consumer experience use cases tied to physical sensor data and virtual assistant proxy simulations.

What’s going to enable the use of consumer experience digital twin experiences at scale will be 5G connectivity. 5G will fuel connection of IOT frameworks as well as edge computing to reduce potential latency and the ability to process information as close to the source as possible.

This will allow connectivity and enhanced data transfer capabilities of the 20 billion IOT devices that exist today. 

ROLE OF THE PROXY WEB

2019 will also see the accelerated adoption and dependence on virtual assistants. There are now over 1 billion devices that provide voice assistant access today.

90 Million use voice assistants on smartphones and 45 million use them on smart speakers per month.

Digital assistants are an on ramp to further usage of AI and robotics. As virtual assistants move towards the center of the operating experience we will continue to move towards what I call, the Proxy Web.

PROXY WEB

This is where our virtual assistants begin managing certain aspects of our lives behind the scenes.

Our proxy will be able to communicate with other proxies and align preferences to map where to eat for dinner with a friend, it knows our food preferences and schedule.

This preference ownership and ability to communicate with other proxies and nodes in systems could be the key to unlocking spatial computing simulation at scale.

DYNAMIC SPATIAL COMPUTING EXPERIENCES 

One of the key areas of focus in 2019 will be the further melding of physical and digital experiences. We have seen the rapid democratization of various forms of spatial computing.

Spatial Computing is using the physical space around us as a medium to interact with technology.

This includes AR, VR, Mixed Reality, Hyper Reality and more. The goal with my digital twin hypothesis is to not only deliver a one size fits all experience but creating personalization at scale through spatial computing.

Digital Twin type simulations may be the key to connect custom reality overlays based on preferences driven by our virtual assistants. 

IDEA in Action

I am a Star Wars fan…. the retailer Target normally goes big with Star Wars in-store promotions when there is a major film release. With the digital twin simulation concept, based on my personal preferences, my virtual assistant knows that I have a strong affinity for Star Wars based on my behavior, this includes voice queries, watching Star Wars Theory videos via YouTube, my past purchases of Funko Pops,etc…

Instead of plastering the store with physical Star Wars promotional material, Target could have pre-mapped various spatial computing “experiences” that are triggered based preferences discoverable via my virtual assistant.

An in-store sensor network could feed previous trip information of me and other guests with a similar affinity and allow for the Star Wars focused simulation to be adjusted in real-time to get me to a specific area of the store or special offers on say retail specific Funko Pops.

The Digital Twin becomes the intelligence engine to enhance the base physical store experience and create a personalized experience based on predictive digital simulation. 

The ultimate goal being to have the environment and experience personalized to me based on multiple simulations and a connection to my preferences.

Questions? Tweet to Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

Turning AI into ROI Keynote

I recently had the privilege to deliver a keynote to the Discover card Pulse network advisory team covering the topic of converting AI into ROI.

For this event, I tailored the Evolution of Experience, E^3 talk tied to Empower, Exponential and Enhanced with a detailed look at multiple facets of artificial intelligence including how the Pixar Theory, all movies are on the same timeline, foreshadows the path for how consumers will adopt AI fueled technology.

Next, we reviewed AI’s potential impact on business results and consumer behavior. The talk also covered the rapid convergence of multimodal technology experiences and the role AI will play in shifting behavior towards the intelligent camera via computer vision and virtual assistants.

The talk ended with a deep dive into the new AI driven 4 P’s of AI marketing and key points to consider to start to prepare for integration of AI into all facets of business.

For more on this topic I recently joined the AI Today Podcast and discussed a number of these topics and more.

AI TODAY PODCAST – Episode 50 – Enhancing Experiences with AI Interview

0:48 – Introduction
1:33 – Recap of Keynote topic at Amazon Alexa Voice Summit
2:53 – Discuss why we are in the “golden age of AI”
4:20 – Discuss The Pixar Theory and Artificial Intelligence
7:00 – Why predictive experiences are key for mass adoption of AI
9:00 – Discuss Gen Z & expectations of experiences
9:37 – How Epsilon Agency is using artificial intelligence
13:25 – What is the future of artificial intelligence?

Follow Tom @BlackFin360 or subscribe via YouTube

United Airlines & Executive Perspective Interview

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Jeffrey Hayzlett of C-Suite TV to kick off season 7 of Executive Perspectives. We discussed digital disruption, conversational experiences, artificial intelligence and best practices for leveraging data to connect with consumers.

screenshot-2016-12-15-13-34-43

Now, I have heard from multiple sources that the interview is available On-demand on domestic and international United Airlines flights.

Here is a transcript of the full interview.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

 

Path To Purchase Expo Keynote

I recently had the privilege to deliver the Evolution of Experience keynote during the Path To Purchase Expo.

For this event, I tailored the Evolution of Experience, E^3 talk tied to  EmpowerExponential and Enhanced to focus on the camera as a platform, artificial intelligence, multi-modal, and the New 4 P’s of AI marketing and how the convergence of all of these will impact the path to purchase.

Follow Tom @BlackFin360

AI Today Podcast Interview

AI and cognitive technologies are enhancing many different industries and providing significant ROI for early adopters. However, AI is also providing benefit in improving our various experiences in life. In this podcast, Cognilytica analysts Kathleen Walch and Ronald Schmelzer interview Tom Edwards, Chief Digital & Innovation Officer at Epsilon Agency, who shares insights into how AI is impacting marketing, customer experience, and more. He also shares how the “Pixar Theory” fits into the general vision of technology adoption and how, as a culture, we’ve come to accept AI in our daily lives.

Topics Discussed:

0:48 – Introduction
1:33 – Recap of Keynote topic at Amazon Alexa Voice Summit
2:53 – Discuss why we are in the “golden age of AI”
4:20 – Discuss The Pixar Theory and Artificial Intelligence
7:00 – Why predictive experiences are key for mass adoption of AI
9:00 – Discuss Gen Z & expectations of experiences
9:37 – How Epsilon Agency is using artificial intelligence
13:25 – What is the future of artificial intelligence?

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

 

 

In The News: Ad Age AI & Brands

Recently, my commentary on data & AI was included in an Ad Age piece on the role of data, artificial intelligence & brands.

Here is a link to the full article.

Here is my full commentary based on Ad Age’s original question…

Ad Age: We’re seeing more agencies now offering services for AI solutions, but how do you see this shaking out? What will separate the ones who will succeed with the ones that do not?

TOM: Offering an AI service for clients is one thing, but the key is understand that data is the fuel for AI. Without a solid understanding and corpus of data as a starting point for AI driven experiences consumer facing experiences have the potential of falling flat.

The organizations and experiences that will succeed in the short term with AI will understand that the consumer facing experience should not try and solve every possible outcome for consumers.

We have conducted research on user expectations of AI and there is one fundamental truth for adoption of AI and consumer facing experience adoption across generations and that is ease & convenience. Whether it’s managing personal time, predicting financial needs, or order replenishment through AI. The key is to understand that AI solutions need to seamlessly make consumers lives easier.

What will truly separate AI solutions over time are the ones that have both structured & unstructured data at the core that is built to action against consumer needs, will design for multimodal experiences beyond mobile and desktop, and be prepared to fully guide consumer experiences via virtual assistant ecosystems as AI becomes a proxy for consumers over time.

The organizations that can market to both consumer and systems will win the day. It’s no longer just the consumer decision decision journey as system based marketing via AI is now here and will continue to take on more responsibility for consumers.

Follow Tom @BlackFin360

Evanta CMO Summit Keynote

I recently had the privilege to deliver the Evolution of Experience keynote at the 2018 Evanta CMO Summit in Dallas, Texas.

For this event, I tailored the Evolution of Experience, E^3 talk tied to  EmpowerExponential and Enhanced to focus on the camera as a platform, artificial intelligence, multi-modal, the New 4 P’s of AI marketing and new themes introduced by the Apple WWDC 2018 that happened earlier in the day.

Frito-Lay Boundless Marketing Summit Keynote

I recently had the privilege to deliver the Evolution of Experience keynote at the 2018 Frito-Lay Boundless Marketing Summit in Nashville, Tennessee.

For this event, I tailored the Evolution of Experience, E^3 talk tied to  EmpowerExponential and Enhanced to focus on the camera as a platform, artificial intelligence, multi-modal and the New 4 P’s of AI marketing.

Exponential is all about acceleration through intelligent systems. This looks at the role of data for AI as well as the rise of virtual assistants and the ability to predict consumer needs ultimately becoming a proxy for the individual that will split decision journeys between consumers and algorithms.

Enhanced is all about the bridging of physical and digital reality and how immersive computing, augmented reality, computer vision and the intelligent camera will forever redefine our version of reality.

The talk ends with an explanation of how we will evolve from a mobile-centric world to the new normal of voice, vision and touch experiences powered by artificial intelligence. This includes a date when project it will all converge as well as 4 new P’s of marketing.

It was an awesome crowd and I really enjoyed the 30 minute session + Q&A.

If you are interested in having Tom speak at your event please contact here.

Tom Edwards Speaker Bio

Follow Tom @BlackFin360

Financial Brand Forum Tom Edwards Keynote

I recently had the privilege to deliver the Evolution of Experience keynote at the 2018 Financial Brand Forum.

For this event, I tailored the Evolution of Experience, E^3 talk tied to  EmpowerExponential and Enhanced to focus on Data, Artificial Intelligence, Multi-Modal and the New 4 P’s of AI marketing,  and much more.

Empower is looking at how accessibility to mobile technology has led to consumers being empowered to create, amplify and influence across generations. Specifically looking at the behaviors of Gen Z and the evolving role of the camera.

Exponential is all about acceleration through intelligent systems. This looks at the role of data for AI as well as the rise of virtual assistants and the ability to predict consumer needs and ultimately become a proxy for the individual that will split decision journeys between consumers and algorithms.

Enhanced is all about the bridging of physical and digital and how immersive computing, AR, VR, computer vision will make the user’s camera intelligent and forever our version of reality.

The talk ends with an explanation of how we will evolve from a mobile-centric world to the new normal of voice, vision and touch experiences powered by AI including a date when it will all converge as well as 4 new P’s of marketing to consider building future state strategy around.

It was a good crowd and I really enjoyed the 45 minute session + Q&A.

If you are interested in having Tom speak at your event please contact here.

Tom Edwards Speaker Bio

Follow Tom @BlackFin360

MarTech Conference Tom Edwards Keynote

I recently had the privilege to deliver the Evolution of Experience keynote at MarTech West 2018.

For this event, I tailored the Evolution of Experience, E^3 talk tied to  EmpowerExponential and Enhance to focus on Gen Z & Computer Vision, The evolution of the camera from capture to communication and much more.

Empower is looking at how accessibility to mobile technology has led to consumers being empowered to create, amplify and influence across generations.

Exponential is all about acceleration through intelligent systems. This looks at the rise of virtual assistants and the ability to predict consumer needs and ultimately become a proxy for the individual that will split decision journeys between consumers and algorithms.

Enhanced is all about the bridging of physical and digital and how immersive computing, AR, VR, computer vision will make the user’s camera intelligent and forever our version of reality.

The talk ends with an explanation of how we will evolve from a mobile-centric world to the new normal of voice, vision and touch experiences powered by AI including a date when it will all converge.

It was a good crowd and I really enjoyed the 45 minute session + Q&A.

If you are interested in having Tom speak at your event please contact here.

Tom Edwards Speaker Bio

Follow Tom @BlackFin360

C-Suite TV Tom Edwards Interview on BizTV

Sunday night April 22nd at 6 EDT, my previous interview with Jeffrey Hayzlett and C-Suite TV aired on the BizTV television network. Here is a recap of the discussion.

I previously had the pleasure of joining the C-Suite TV team at their San Francisco event and was interviewed by Jeffrey Hayzlett. It was a fun discussion as he asked me about the shift from social media to social messaging, strategies to make the shift, voice-based experiences, disruption, galactic cannibalism, trends and the future of connecting with consumers.

photo-nov-08-3-07-23-pm

Below is a recap of my key talking points for each question.

(C-Suite TV – JH) As we’re on the verge of a transformational moment in marketing with the shift from social media to social messaging, how are marketers making this shift?

(Tom Edwards – TE) Over the past 5-10 years, we as marketers have focused primarily on the open web + social media. Earlier this year social messaging passed social media in terms of monthly active users. Consumers are ready for conversational experiences. Part of the reason for the appeal is that it is seen as safe, comfortable and intimate.

I spent most of 2016 researching, writing and educating our brand partners about what this shift can mean for their business. We conducted proprietary research on what consumers want from conversational experiences that led to an ebook on the topic.

Social Shift Toward Messaging

As we dug into consumer expectations around conversational experiences, our research found that they want experiences that are convenient and support local experiences, there is openness to pay within social messaging and an expectation that it will connect physical and digital elements such as in-store coupons and discounts, there is also a willingness to interact with intelligent systems.  Research also shows that 60% of millennials would prefer talking to a chatbot vs. talking to a human when it comes to resolving questions about online shopping.

From a marketing perspective, there has been a significant amount of experimentation trying to create the ideal experience. With Apple, Facebook, LINE, Kik, Skype and more providing tools and services that will allow others through 3d party SDKs & API’s to create an ecosystem. Their hope is to become the central portal in order to empower consumers and drive commerce. Facebook doesn’t own the hardware or the operating system, so they are invested in keeping people in the messenger experience.

Some experiences are trying to further personify the brand, others are about creating utility or a sense of intimacy with the brand. The goal is to create a real-time experience that is centralized in one conversational thread.

The key will be creating experiences that are not disruptive but are actually attentive to the current and future needs of the consumer. The ideal experiences will be built around the premise of simplification + prediction. It’s not about a deeper personal connection with a friend, but to be able to anticipate, predict and enhance a consumers experience.

This is where we see the idea of CONNECTION + COGNITION coming together.

(JH) What processes and strategies do you need in place to make this shift effective?

(TE) I recommend an approach that is based on five core factors of Simplification, Data Design, Prediction, Ambient Design & Physical to Digital.

photo-nov-08-4-09-30-pm

1 – (SIMPLIFICATION) The key is to reduce complexity in consumers lives and create experiences that are ownable by the brand’s domain. Analyze data for most commonly asked questions and expand from there with use cases focused on enhancing and simplifying experiences.

2 – (DATA DESIGN) Have a strategy not just to capture data but how to use it. Define the role of unstructured data in refining the experience. Consider what new data points are being integrated to inform future prediction. How are you making the data actionable? On my team, we now have a data design team that sits between traditional brand planning + digital strategy. This is the intersection of Big Data + Design Thinking. They own the tools, assets and data sources and understand how to craft a data-driven narrative.

3 – (PREDICTION) Anticipate consumer needs is key for the future of conversational experiences. Messenger experiences are not designed to be like Google search, at least not yet. Google is working towards the ideal intersection between search & retrieval vs. predictive. But again a combination of data, predictive analytics built on working data is the entry point towards truly predictive experiences. (cognitive will accelerate this)

4 – (AMBIENT DESIGN) The future of computing is tied to ambient experiences, or how your environment interacts with you. It is critical to approach designing conversational and voice based UX differently.

5 – (PHYSICAL TO DIGITAL) One of the other elements is the rise of conversational commerce. There is a concerted effort to closely align physical & digital shopping experiences as a means to enhance the customer experience. Our research shows there is an expectation from consumers to have local experiences connect to digital through conversational experiences.

(JH) Let’s talk about some newer technologies, how does voice-based technology play into this shift to a conversational user experience?

(TE) I am a strong believer in the fact that voice-based experiences and artificial intelligence systems will become pervasive in our everyday lives. The core of the experience is a combination of automated speech recognition, natural language processing and a cloud-based AI that comprise a voice-based user experience.

I am very intrigued by the possibility of the ability to create context through voice services such as Amazon Alexa Voice Services & the recently launched Google Home. Voice-based experiences will play a key role during this time as our interactions with connected systems and the rise of micro-services as a primary mechanism to navigate a hyper-connected world will become the new normal.

Photo Jul 19, 9 07 41 AM (1)

I strongly believe that we will begin to see a convergence over the next few years where elements that enable connection such as social messaging and voice-based conversational user experiences combined with cognitive computing (AI) and immersive experiences such as holographic computing will become interconnected and will redefine how we approach connecting with consumers.

We will begin to see services such as Alexa Voice Services quickly proliferate throughout 3rd party devices from in-home IOT systems to connected vehicles and “skills” will become a key component for how we navigate beyond screens. Estimates already show over 28 billion connected devices by 2019.

(JH) We hear you say that “disruption is the new normal” what do you mean by that?

(TE) Digital disruption has been at the center of major consumer shifts over the past 10 years. Disruption is now the new normal. The Premise is change is constant and experimentation is critical and how you integrate trends into your existing business is key.

The acceleration of technology has led to the rapid empowerment of the consumer. What organizations have to consider is that with each iteration of technology and consumer empowerment new types of interactions will lead to the need to rethink the business models of today.

Japan Emotional Robot

This has a significant impact on the C-suite as the pressure on CMO’s to be creative thinkers, intelligent around data, domains, and disciplines as well as mitigation of risk, the pressure to innovate, find and retain talent and try to be as agile as possible. Combined with the pace of new interaction models there is a lack of strategy to deal with the shifts in a meaningful way as the focus is on short-term stability.

This is why it’s important to build a plan with a foundational approach to data and understand what domains the brand can own and wherein the new interaction types there are opportunities to redefine business models. This is why I have chosen Connection, Cognition and Immersion as the pillars of how brands can map to the new interaction types of the near future.

(JH) I heard you say we’re on the verge of galactic cannibalism can you explain what this means for marketers and how can marketers stay ahead of the game?

(TE) I have spoken a lot recently about how disruption is the new normal. I recently heard someone compare the last five years as a “supernova” of disruption in terms of the intensity and velocity of change.

With the rise of artificial intelligence, conversational, ambient experiences, connected systems, and mixed reality on the horizon we are moving well beyond a supernova and are now on the verge of galactic cannibalism.

gc2

Galactic cannibalism is when one galaxy collides with another and there is a subsequent absorption of parts of one into the other. From a consumer marketing standpoint how we consume and interact via digital channels is about to be absorbed and redefined through new advancements in connection, cognition & immersion.

The key point to surviving and thriving is to have a comprehensive data strategy as data assets will serve as the fuel of this shift. Regardless of which galaxies collide a thorough understanding of data, content, experiences, and outcomes is a marketing foundation for the future.

Also, it is important to understand how data will evolve. Currently, the focus is on 1st part & 3rd party data. But in the emerging world think of the data created by connected systems as well as new forms of real-time sentiment data, such as your eyes in a VR experience or facial recognition in a retail setting. These will require a comprehensive data design effort to craft content, experiences and drive outcomes as a marketing foundation for the future.

Ultimately we will have to acknowledge that the relationship between consumers and technology will fundamentally change from consumers operating technology to technology operating for consumers through data.

(JH) How do you apply the trends of today to the business models of the future?

(TE) One of my responsibilities with Epsilon is I lead the innovation practice for the agency business. We have designed an approach that is consumer-centric, data-driven, iterative and allows our brand partners to scale emerging technologies and integrate trends into tangible solutions that drive business outcomes. The practice is comprised of four distinct elements that span research, workshops, experimentation, and transformation.

Innovation v3 - white slide

Regarding research & trends, we leverage Epsilon’s proprietary data and analytics, first and third party research, emerging companies and established partner networks to research, curate and educate on the latest trends and how it can apply to our clients business.

Our approach is as follows:

Our team identifies a new tech/emerging tech…

1. Track Product/Technology Announcement

2. Measure Velocity of coverage & discussion

3. Conduct Initial analysis & POV outlining potential value/impact

4. Explore outcome impacts & role of tech in the consumer journey

5. Map vertical specific use cases

6. Educate internal teams & external clients

7. Identify early vendor partners and alpha/beta opportunities

8. Conduct Project based experiments

9. Capture & package project based success

10. Build business value case for horizon consideration

Once you have identified your trends its helpful to begin to filter across key macro trend territories, in this case, I am exploring trends that reach across

Empower, Exponential, and Experience.

(JH) What’s really resonating with consumers right now? What should marketers be paying attention too?

(TE) Anonymous personalization through dynamic content, targeted video content, Personalized, connecting the consumer experience across digital to physical & 1:1 messaging that is authentic, provides value and is contextually relevant is key.

Human attention is now a scarce commodity. Attention is a resource – and we only have so much to give. The key to experience design is built around data, content & channels or experiences.

Screenshot 2016-08-29 09.48.19

I like to start with data, it can be 1st party or secondary data sources, but I look for attitudinal, behavioral in addition to standard demographic. Transactional data can also be a key element and consistency of message is key.

(JH) What is the future of connecting with consumers?

(TE) I strongly believe that we will begin to see a convergence over the next few years where elements that enable connection such as social messaging and voice-based conversational user experiences combined with cognitive computing (AI) and immersive experiences such as holographic computing will become interconnected and will redefine how we approach connecting with consumers.

Screenshot 2016-08-29 09.48.40

The key will be to create data designed experiences that empower consumers.

Here is a link to the full video interview kicking off season 7.

c-suite-blackfin360

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

REX Executive Roundtables IHRSA Keynote

I recently had the privilege to deliver the Evolution of Experience keynote for the REX Executive Roundtable group at the San Diego Zoo. This was a lead-up event to recent IHRSA 2018 conference.

For this event, I tailored the Evolution of Experience, E^3 talk tied to  EmpowerExponential and Enhance to bring examples relevant for the evolution of experience in the fitness industry.

Here is the full 45-minute keynote.

Empower is looking at how accessibility to mobile technology has led to consumers being empowered to create, amplify and influence across generations.

Exponential is all about acceleration through intelligent systems. This looks at the rise of virtual assistants and the ability to predict consumer needs and ultimately become a proxy for the individual that will forever alter the path to purchase.

Enhanced is all about the bridging of physical and digital and how immersive computing, AR, VR, computer vision will make the user’s camera intelligent and forever changing the retail experience.

The talk ends with an explanation of how we will evolve from a mobile-centric world to the new normal of voice, vision and touch experiences powered by AI including a date when it will all converge.

It was a great crowd and I really enjoyed the hour with such a highly engaged and interactive group.

If you are interested in having Tom speak at your event please contact here.

Tom Edwards Speaker Bio

Follow Tom @BlackFin360

Dr. Pepper Media Masters Keynote

I had the privilege of presenting to the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group marketing organization today via a Keynote format on the topics of data & the evolution of experience during their Media Masters event.

The first half of the hour-long talk explored how Epsilon Agency approaches data and data design. Highlighting our work with structured data, our view on the alignment of actioning of data through mapping attributes to dimensions and then highlighting multiple case studies tied to our unstructured data work and machine learning approach.


Then the presentation shifted into the full Evolution of Experience, E^3 talk tied to  EmpowerExponential and Enhance and discussed how we will evolve from us inputting into technology, to our environment adapting to us.

Dr. Pepper Media Masters

Empower is looking at how accessibility to mobile technology has led to consumers being empowered to create, amplify and influence across generations.

Exponential is all about acceleration through intelligent systems. This looks at the rise of virtual assistants and the ability to predict consumer needs and ultimately become a proxy for the individual that will forever alter the path to purchase.

Enhanced is all about the bridging of physical and digital and how immersive computing, AR, VR, computer vision will make the user’s camera intelligent and forever changing the retail experience.

The talk ends with an explanation of how we will evolve from a mobile-centric world to the new normal of voice, vision and touch experiences powered by AI including a date when it will all converge.

It was a great crowd and I really enjoyed the hour with such a highly engaged and interactive group.

If you are interested in having Tom speak at your event please contact here.

Tom Edwards Speaker Bio

Follow Tom @BlackFin360

Viva Fresh Expo Tom Edwards Keynote

I recently had the opportunity to deliver a version of the Evolution of Experience talk as a keynote during the Viva Fresh Expo in San Antonio, Texas.

The first half of the talk explored the rise of Amazon and it impacts on consumer behavior and retail experiences. Then the presentation shifted into the full Evolution of Experience through the E^3 Framework of  Empower, Exponential and Enhance and discussed how we will evolve from us inputting into technology, to our environment adapting to us.

VivaFresh Expo

Empower is looking at how accessibility to mobile technology has led to consumers being empowered to create, amplify and influence across generations.

Exponential is all about acceleration through intelligent systems. This looks at the rise of virtual assistants and the ability to predict consumer needs and ultimately become a proxy of the individual that will forever alter the path to purchase.

Enhanced is all about the bridging of physical and digital and how immersive computing, AR, VR, computer vision will make the user’s camera intelligent and forever changing the retail experience.

The talk ends with an explanation of how we will evolve from a mobile-centric world to the new normal of voice, vision and touch experiences powered by AI including a date when it will all converge.

It was a great crowd and I really enjoyed the hour with such a highly engaged and interactive group.

If you are interested in having Tom speak at your event please contact here.

Tom Edwards Speaker Bio

Follow Tom @BlackFin360

The Innovation Playoffs

Over the past 18 years, the first three months of the year always seem to stand out in terms of analyzing the alignment of emerging technology and consumer behavior that impacts trend analysis for the remainder of the year.

2018 was no different. I often joke that the “playoffs” for emerging technology happens between January and March each year. We immediately kick off the new year with CES, the consumer electronics show. CES is all about the latest technology and covering multiple football fields of tech in addition to all of the sessions and announcements culminating in a trend recap and analysis.

February is all about infrastructure and the underlying technology that will power the next iteration of multi-modal computing (voice, vision & touch) through Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The discussions here highlight key tech tied to the upcoming rise of 5G connectivity and edge computing that will connect our world like never before. Find out what these trends mean for your business.

March then caps the three-month sprint with SXSW. The first fifteen days of March 2018 were especially accelerated from discussing machine learning, blockchain and humanizing artificial intelligence with ZD Net to previewing SXSW with Ad Age and Adweek

Tom Edwards SXSW.jpg

South by Southwest Interactive focused on experiences that build on technology and infrastructure to provide the consumer perspective for how the technology will further adapt to us vs. us inputing into technology. I spoke about our approach to artificial intelligence actioning data during SXSW with John Dubois of Oculus 360. And you can watch our Epsilon Agency SXSW recap video here.

The final leg of the innovation sprint culminated in delivering a TEDx talk on March 17th. Tom Ewdards TEDx Professional photo3TEDx is about sharing “ideas worth spreading”. Since 2009, TEDx talks have garnered over a billion views. I had the opportunity to speak at TEDx Oaklawn in Dallas, Texas on the evolution of experience. I focused on when the mobile device will no longer be the primary way we interface with technology as we shift from desktop and mobile to incorporate voice, vision and touch powered by intelligent systems that will ultimately enhance our reality.

The full TEDx video will be available within the next few weeks.

I look forward to sharing more throughout the year. For more, follow me @BlackFin360

This is a repost from the Epsilon corporate blog

MarTechSeries Interview

I was recently interviewed by MarTechSeries in advance of my speaking engagement for MarTech West on April 24th in San Jose, California.

The full interview covers topics such as my role with Epsilon, advice for B2B marketers dealing with evolving technology, start-ups I am working with, how to prepare for the impact of AI, apps and tools I use, productivity hacks and much more.

Here are some excerpts from the full interview: 

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

 

10 Reasons Westworld Won SXSW

Westworld’s SXSW 2018 activation was one of the most talked about and highly sought after experiences in recent memory. Many elements made this the best experiential experience to hit SXSW in my many years of attending.

Here are 10 reasons why the Westworld experience is one of the best-branded activations ever to hit SXSW.

1) Authenticity – The 2 acres dedicated to recreating Sweetwater was a sight to see. From the white doors of the Mesa Gold Station leading into Westworld to the carefully crafted buildings to the actors who never broke character. This level of authenticity and interaction was a key to why this execution more than any other I have been a part of was so compelling.



2) Exclusivity – The event was one of the toughest tickets at SXSW in 2018. Most of the times were reserved prior to the start of the conference.  The options to score a spot were either the incredibly long standby lines or hitting the lottery with Lyft… more on that later… The amount of social traffic I saw by those who didn’t get into the experience almost rivaled those that were highlighting their time in Sweetwater.



3) Analog in a World of Digital
– Walking onto the SXSW conference trade floor can be a jarring experience upon first entry. Your senses have to take a moment and adjust to the lights, the sea of VR headsets and every type of digital experience you can ask for. What made Westworld so compelling was the fact that it was the polar opposite.

The only technology was what you carried into the park. No Tesla charging stations here! Having a completely analog experience that heightened your natural senses was different than tricking your mind with ever-evolving synthetic realities.

4) Personalization – From choosing the black or white hat to the letter you receive at the post office to the final note you receive via e-mail and mobile, the experience was tailored to include personal elements at every turn. I even sent an IRL postcard from the Sweetwater post office.

5) Immersive within immersive  – In addition to the incredible sets and actors who memorized hundreds of pages of dialogue, it was the experience within the experience that really won the day. Whether it was trying to find additional clues, like a 3D Westworld maze map or a mysterious keyfob to unlocking a locked door with the season 2 premiere date as the code to a secret room in the already locked secret room.

The level of detail spent creating an immersive experience within an immersive experience was Inception level “dream within a dream” scenarios.

6) Secluded – The fact that the experience was 20 miles outside of Austin and in a very secluded location added to the experience. As you get closer and further outside of the city you were not quite sure what to expect and caused anticipation to build.

7) Partnership – How I got into WestWorld was through their partnership with Lyft. While we tweeted at Westworld via social, they responded with a cryptic response about Lyft having the code.

This promotional partnership with Lyft, who had 10 luxury vehicles that starting running special “winners” to the park between 2 and 10 pm, was a great way to drive usage for Lyft and rewarding those who looked for the code.

8) Socially Engaged – Our gateway into Westworld started with Twitter as I previously mentioned. The near-real-time engagement via the @WestworldHBO handle was very well done. Kudos to the Westworld social team as they nailed the tone and persona of the property that helped to cut through the noise of SXSW and focused our efforts towards engaging with the Westworld experience.

9) Limited Time Only – The activation only lasted a few days, which really amped up the conversation and desire to enter the experience. I had friends in Wilton, Connecticut asking if I was able to get into Westworld. Word of the activation spread well beyond the SXSW Interactive Austin crowd.

10) Post Event Follow-up – In addition to the personalized content during the experience, this morning I received a final communication welcoming me “back to reality” with a personalized letter that was optimized for sharing via social. The best aspect was my letter was different than my two co-workers.

I have been asked many times, what does it take for a brand to breakthrough at SXSW? I would say a combination of the 10 factors outlined above is a good starting point, but rarely have I come across an activation that went a perfect 10 for 10. That was #SXSWestworld

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

SXSW 2018 Artificial Intelligence Event

During SXSW 2018 I had the opportunity to discuss “How Artificial Intelligence is Transforming Marketing“.

The session was in partnership with Oculus360 & their CEO, John Dubois. John and I discussed our collaborations with machine learning applied to various categories, including eSports and how to align unstructured & structured data.

SXSW 2018

Here is a recorded webinar that we recorded February 28th, 2018 that we reprised during SXSW.

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SXSW 2018 Sony Wow Studio

Over the past few years, one of the most consistent brands across trade shows (CES, MWC, SXSW) has been Sony.

I have been impressed with their strategy to evolve experience interfaces beyond mobile through voice, vision and touch.

At SXSW 2018, Sony’s experience is a showcase of multi-modal interfaces. From interactive projectors, AR & VR experiences, Robotic assistant Xperia Hello!, CES 2018 Star Aibo, and one of the weirdest yet immersive experiences I have been a part of at SXSW.

The Wow Studio is a preview of what’s to come as our environment becomes more of an interface and technology begins to adapt to us vs. us adapting to the technology.

I have experienced the Xperia Hello! At previous shows. The Xperia Hello! Is Sony’s version of a robotic assistant. Think of an echo style form factor with a 4.55 inch screen. The robot assistant responds to voice, gesture and facial expressions and one of the primary use cases I personally tried was tied to Skype and F2F communication.

One of the most unique experiences was the Sonic Surf VR experience. This was a fully immersive experience that did not require a headset. This is a new technology that will allow creators to make sound appear to move on its own. See below for a sample of the experience.

Audio as an extension of Enhanced Reality (AI + AR/VR/MR) is one of the key themes I have observed so far.

One of the final experiences was upon exit of the Wow Studio. This section featured a digital message/graffiti wall. The unique aspect is that the experience was driven by an interactive projector light based interface to create the experience.

Here is the evolving digital artwork.

Sony continues to provide a preview for how consumer centric experiences will continue to evolve. From AI & Robotics to gesture and touch based interfaces to the rise of enhanced audio in support of spatial experiences tying physical and digital together. Sony delivered on the promise of the “Wow Studio”.

On to the next experience…. Westworld

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360