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

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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: 

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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

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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

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SXSW 2018 – Augmented Reality Audio

As the experiences for SXSW 2018 begin to kickoff, one of the first stops was at the Bose Augmented Reality Audio experience.

The experience starts with a video outlining various use cases tied to voice based Augmented Reality.

The trick here though is that there is not a visual aspect to the experience. It’s all driven based on various inputs such as location tags, GPS and extended phone functions.

By wearing the glasses, you get Audio queues such as reviews of a restaurant or landmark simply by looking at an object. The AR aspect is tied to invisible environmental queues that activate experiences.

This could be an interesting bridge to full AR experiences as consumers may accept pervasive voice as an extension into enhanced reality that integrates voice, vision and touch.

The form factor felt more like Snapchat Spectacles and less Google Glass. The push for form and fashion is key for mass adoption.

Looking forward to the SDK this fall as my questions were less about the hardware and more about the location tagging and environmental triggers where there will be a third party dependency.

On to the next experience!

Follow Tom @BlackFin360

In The News: AdAge SXSW 2018 Preview

I was recently asked by Advertising Age to provide my thoughts on a number of topics related to SXSW of years past and what to expect in 2018.

Here is the commentary that was included in the digital and print version:

Here is the full commentary I provided to AdAge:

AdAge – How many times have you attended SXSW?

I have attended SXSW a dozen times over the past 18 years. I am definitely a SXSW veteran. I used to attend SXSW to look for the “next big thing”. From Twitter, Foursquare, Highlight, and Meerkat, SXSW used to be the launching pad for consumer-centric platforms that held the promise for new ways to connect with consumers.

Now in 2018, it’s less about apps and more about intelligent systems and the ever-evolving ways we interface with technology. That and of course SXSW is one of a handful of events where most of the industry converges on a single location.

AdAge – What do you think will be different this year versus last?

SXSW used to be about the spectacle of brand installations from a 56 foot tall Doritos Vending Machine and a 20-foot tall TIE-fighter, celebrating the launch of The Force Awakens Blu-Ray, now it’s shifted to more about the “off-cesar chavez” events held by partners that are just as entertaining and enlighting if not more-so than some of the official programming and experiences.

AdAge – What will people be talking about, or are there any trends you expect to take over?

I am very interested to see the progression of AI-based topics heading into 2018. In 2017, there was a lot of discussion around intelligence augmentation, leveraging machine learning and exploring emotive robotics.

This year, I am looking for interesting use cases of Computer vision, signals leading to the proxy web (virtual assistants as agents to consumers) as well as new ways to develop tangible user interfaces, new methods, and platforms to action against large datasets.Finally, I am looking for new and compelling marketing use cases for blockchain (similar to Kodak at CES and Unilever/IBM’s new blockchain media product).

AdAge – Are there any events you’re excited to see?

SXSW AI, IOT, BOTS AND BREW on March 11th, 2018.

AdAge – Do you think there is SXSW fatigue this year? Why or why not?

My reason for attending and my view of SXSW has changed over the years. Before I would seek out the brand installations and attend partner events (Facebook, Twitter, etc…) for behind the scenes access to how platforms and marketing solutions are evolving.

Now I primarily attend to gauge how the trends I track over the course of the year manifest themselves in a more consumer-focused way. CES is all about the technology and SXSW is more about the application of technology with a focus on consumer experiences and that is where there is still value for me as a marketer.

It’s not as overt as in years past but you can begin to see broader shifts in technology and emerging technology that is going to impact marketing and advertising. It’s less about the next big app and more about connecting the dots between new ways to connect with services and consumers through intelligent systems.

AdAge – How will you be dressed?

The SXSW uniform – Skinny jeans, trendy shoes & frames, some sort of sweater jacket and a light “man bag” for minimal swag.

AdAge – Any survival tips?

Can’t understate it enough, pack light for mobility, drink plenty of water, carry battery backups and a very portable umbrella as it’s rained on and off the past few years.

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Celebrating 500 BlackFin Posts

This post is number 500 for the BlackFin360.com/blog. Starting this blog was one of the best decisions I have made professionally. It provided me with a platform to share original thoughts, cover industry trends and serve as a repository for speaking and media coverage.

It has evolved significantly from the early beginnings in 2007. The blog was originally under the domain TheBlackFin.com. Now that domain is simply a redirect to BlackFin360.com. “BlackFin” was a nickname given to me by a co-worker at the time and the blog name came directly from my Xbox Gamertag “TheBlackFin“.

Here is a screenshot of the original look for the blog from 2007-2009. Why green for a blog named the “black” fin is something I still wonder about to this day.

Over the years the look and feel of the blog has changed but the core content focus on marketing, emerging technology, and gaming has remained to this day.

I officially moved the blog from theblackfin.com to blackfin360.com in 2009. By 2011 at least there were black/techie elements in the look and feel.

Now in 2018, the blog continues to serve as the primary entry point for speaking engagements, advisor opportunities, university lecturing, media coverage and over the past year it has shifted to more of a Vlog.

The look of the site will continue to evolve in 2018 and beyond.

Whether this is your first time here or you have been a subscriber since the beginning, I sincerely want to thank anyone who has stopped by and spent time with my content. I am incredibly grateful for this platform and I would highly recommend to anyone to find their industry voice and build their personal brand in addition to their professional.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

WMD Podcast: Balancing Personal & Professional Branding

This is the second part of my interview session with the Words of Mass Disruption podcast with Eric Hanes.

During this discussion, we dive into finding the right balance between personal and professional branding , 4 steps to a better digital you and the importance of creating and sharing content,  and adding value to your professional networks.

WHAT YOU WILL LEARN IN THIS EPISODE

1. How important it is to develop and share your own perspective and point of view.

2. Be open with your network connections.

3. Find the right balance of Personal Brand (the Digital You) and your Professional Brand (the hand that feeds you).

4. Diversify your network.

Here was part one of the podcast discussing all facets of Artificial Intelligence.

WMD Podcast via iTunes

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

Follow Eric Hanes @WordsDisruption

WMD Podcast: Discussing the Future of AI

I recently had the opportunity to join Eric Hanes on his Words of Mass Disruption podcast. We discussed artificial intelligence for everyday conversation.

My goal was to help those who may not be familiar with artificial intelligence to develop a perspective on the topic. We talked about AI, Machine Learning, IOT and digital assistants.

Thanks in advance for listening! It was a fun conversation.

Words of Mass Disruption Podcast: EP 119 Tom Edwards on Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning

WMD Podcast via iTunes

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

Follow Eric Hanes @WordsDisruption

SMU Temerlin Advertising Institute Interview

I recently had the privilege to be interviewed by the SMU Temerlin Advertising Institute team for the TAI blog. This is a repost of the interview discussing various topics tied to teaching, career advice, and how the advertising industry has shifted over the years.

Professor Tom Edwards is teaching capstone course ADV 4399 Advertising Campaigns for the Temerlin Advertising Institute this semester. Professor Edwards is the chief digital officer at Agency, Epsilon, where he oversees brand planning, research, data design, digital strategy, digital experience, social/CRM/email, innovation and media. He regularly publishes content and speaks on the future of marketing.

Professor Edwards was an adjunct faculty member of the virtual campus for Wayland Baptist University from 2003-2015. He also instructed Principles of Marketing, Advertising & Promotion, Global Marketing and Consumer Behavior. He has also guest lectured at University of Texas at Arlington, and prior to joining the TAI team he was a member of the SMU Digital Accelerator certification program faculty.

What made you want to become a professor?

I have spent the past 17 years in the marketing technology space. The rate of change associated with technology, its impact on consumer behavior and ultimately how we connect with consumers continues to outpace traditional academia’s ability to keep pace. I wanted to contribute and give back to the next generation of advertising professionals by bridging the gap theory and the practical application.

What is your background in the subject you teach?

I currently instruct the Advertising Campaigns course. Over my professional career, I have worked on campaigns for hundreds of fortune 1000 brands (Citi, Starbucks, AT&T, GameStop, Activision, Hasbro, Frito-Lay to name a few) both domestic and international. My expertise is rooted in a deep understanding of technology, consumer behavior, data and intelligent systems such as artificial intelligence and the application of machine learning.

What has been your favorite memory from teaching for TAI so far?

The passion and creativity exhibited by the students and the staff and their willingness to roll up their sleeves and get to work, even when it’s in areas they may not be in their core area of focus.

What is your favorite part about being a professor?

I have instructed thousands of students over the past 15 years across a few universities and my favorite part is the open dialogue with the students. Getting to hear their perspectives and thoughts and to see their work evolve over the course of the semester is incredibly gratifying.

What made you want to go into advertising? How did you get where you are in your career?

I started my advertising career during the dot com days of the late 90’s. I had a passion for technology and all things digital. As graphical user interfaces and connectivity began to spread, so did the need to create engaging digital experiences.

The alignment of marketing and technology have been a key foundation for the advancement of my career. I have worked in interactive agencies, start-ups, enterprise software companies and large agency holding companies. Having the ability to decipher complex problems into simple solutions has been a key to career advancement. The other critical component to career growth has been my blog. 10 years and over 400 posts later, having a visible point of view and a repository for thought, industry commentary and speaking has been a valuable asset in my career development.

How have you seen the advertising industry change since you started?

 The biggest change over my career is the shift towards the empowered consumer. Prior to 2007 advertising had remained somewhat stable with broadcast at the center of the experience. In 2007 we saw that begin to shift with the introduction of the first iPhone. This sparked the shift towards mobility in advertising that is still prevalent.

Then we saw how technology enhances consumer empowerment through the creation of user-created content, accessibility and amplification via social channels, the personification of brands and celebrity being redefined from Hollywood to influencers.

Moving forward we are now seeing the shift from content marketing to contextual and the rise of multimodal interfaces with the focus shifting from mobile and desktop to voice, vision, and touch.

Moving forward, we will see the shift from consumer-centric advertising to system based marketing as algorithms and virtual assistants will take on more responsibility for consumers and ultimately our definition of reality will evolve when we see the convergence of location data, computer vision, augmented reality and artificial intelligence where any space, physical or digital becomes a new canvas to connect with consumers.

What advice do you have for students who want to have a career in advertising?

I have 3 tips for students just starting their career:

1) Network – Begin building a professional network before you start your professional career. Attend industry events and network in-person, focus on your LinkedIn profile and engaging with content. Your professional network is one of your most valuable resources. It should require more nurturing and attention than personal social channels.

2) Sponsor & Mentor – It is key to seek a mentor, someone who works in the industry you are about to enter to help navigate key pitfalls and to “learn the ropes” from a seasoned individual. It is incredibly important to be open to feedback. It is also important to identify a sponsor within your organization. Someone who is either directly or indirectly in your chain of command. Someone who can provide positive internal earned media and groom you for advancement. You cannot always depend on an immediate supervisor to serve this role. Seek out highly respected and influential individuals within the organization, you will know who they are.

3) Original Thought – I cannot reiterate how important publishing content can be for a new grad. Having thoughts on industry commentary or showcasing your ability to connect trends that may not seem to link on the surface is an art that can lead to you being selected over someone else.

How do you incorporate aspects from your work into your teaching?

 I look to bring best in class examples and techniques, be it research, the latest on aligning psychographics and affinity to personas or the role of conversational experiences into digital strategies. The key is aligning experience and tools with the core areas of focus of the lesson or assignment.

Follow Professor Edwards on Twitter @BlackFin360 to stay up to date on the latest areas of study.

In The News: HuffPost & Adweek The Evolution of Experience

I had an opportunity to share my thoughts and predictions about the evolution of customer experience in 2018 with Advertising Week & the Huffington Post.

I outlined how technologies that empower consumers, intelligent systems will enhance experiences, and how the blurring of experience between digital and physical will continue to converge in 2018 leading to new forms of interaction.

I also discuss the potential disruption of mobile user experiences as well as the rise of system based marketing as we offload more of our daily tasks to virtual assistants.

Read the Full Article Here.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360