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

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.

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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.

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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

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

 

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.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

In The News: Adweek & SXSW 2018

I was recently asked by Adweek to provide thoughts around SXSW and whether it is still worthwhile for brands to activate there.

Here are my full responses and the first was used in the article.

1. Do you think SXSW is still a valuable place for brands, marketers to be? Why or why not?

I have been a regular at SXSW over the years and I gain a unique perspective each time around. What I find valuable is that unlike other shows, SXSW is really about consumer-centric experiences. CES is about the technology, Mobile World Congress is about the upcoming infrastructure and hardware, but SXSW is truly set apart by the branded experiences.

2. What about agencies?

For agencies in attendance, it depends on the goal of the show. For my innovation team and I, it’s about the analysis of tech trends and experiences that may further validate our positioning on the topic. It’s also still a valuable experience as clients, media and industry associates all converge on Austin and it’s great to accomplish so much in such a short amount of time.

Here’s last years SXSW 2017 Trend Recap Video

3. What are some things brands should keep in mind when creating activations at SXSW?

Activations have evolved over the past few years. What was once about getting attention through over the top activations has shifted to providing utility and making the conference experience better. From Chevy’s ride sharing to Mophie & Samsungs battery activations, what stands out is creating some type of value for me as a conference goer vs. just trying to get my attention. Let me seek you out.

 

4. How do you cut through all the clutter and stand out?

Cutting through starts well before you ever step foot in Austin. Communicate with a clear value proposition, or something of interest ahead of the show, then while there provide a space to recharge, offer something of value, that can be through off conference events, utility such as ride shares and batteries and most importantly is to follow up post-event with either a recap, captured content or key takeaways.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360