Adweek Social Targeting

Recently I provided commentary about social ad targeting for both the print and online version of Adweek. The article reviews the advancement of targeting abilities within some social platform providers as well as outlining those that take the approach of a contextual opt-in.

adweek

Here was my full commentary regarding social targeting:

There are definitely two schools of thought when it comes to the targeting abilities of social networks. Those who are constantly refining their offerings and enhancing their targeting capabilities and those who rely on their readers to choose their own path. 

Facebook has always placed value on leveraging social affinity to refine it’s advertising offerings. They have enhanced their capabilities when it comes to geo-targeting, allowed brands to experiment with sponsored dark posts and now they are adding predictive capabilities to further align social affinity with ad interactions. 

Facebook also launched programmatic commerce capabilities with dynamic product ads. By supporting dynamically optimizing, cross-device ad types, Facebook is  focusing on delivering highly contextual advertising at scale. By creating “smarter” segments based on affinity and now predictive elements Facebook can further enhance their approach to programmatic media and show the ability to create 1:1 advertising at scale. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum you have the contextual opt-in approach to advertising that is favored by Snapchat, Buzzfeed and Reddit. This approach is not dependent on highly targeted algorithms it is enabled by contextually relevant content as the core driver into the experience. 

The challenge with this approach at times is to ensure the ads themselves are as contextually relevant as the native content that is driving the original experience. There is also growing demand from brand marketers for additional insight and personalization of experiences that rule out certain platforms that favor contextual opt-in vs. highly targeted. 

There are benefits to both approaches depending on the core objectives and goals of the brand marketer and whether the goal is impressions or creating a deeper association with the brand.

Here is a link to a PDF version of the print article: Adweek_Social Targeting_Tom Edwards

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iMedia Breakthrough Summit 2015

Innovation is critical to succeed in today’s highly competitive environment. This is one of the reasons I support the iMedia Breakthrough Summit each year.

For the past few years I have served as an advisory member for the summit. As a marketing technologist, I love it when marketing and technology come together to discuss emerging technology and how it can enable new forms of value creation.

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This year, I also took the stage with Jeff Donaldson of GameStop. Jeff was the CIO for 14 years and is currently leading GameStop’s innovation practice.

The GameStop Technology Institute is responsible for enabling innovation within this Fortune 500 organization. This presents unique opportunities and challenges when it comes to integrating emerging technology into a heavily linear organization.

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We discussed a number of topics from Jeff’s philosophy and approach to innovation to team structure and how he leverages 3rd parties to the role innovation plays when partnering with the marketing organization.

Jeff outlined his approach to innovation which was captured by the iMedia team during our discussion. Below is an excerpt from the session.

Tom iMedia 7

Measurement
The first step is ensuring that everyone in your organization is aligned and on the same page when it comes to measurement. Only when important factors are identified can a strategy be put into action for collecting data and analyzing it.

Equalized channels
The next step is identifying what data you need to collect to drive that measurement and implementing it through equalized channels.

Co-creation
Next, consider the ability to bring in as many people as possible to work with you to get your ideas realized, which include more than just your innovation team. When it comes to the creation of ideas, your employees and your customers can both get involved and contribute.

Build innovation platform
Then comes the step of creating the platform where your innovation can live. Building this platform for innovation also includes test markets to work through the kinks of your ideas.

Collaboration
Finally, collaboration is key to success. Don’t be afraid to incorporate all of your teams (finance, marketing, IT, and executives) into your plans and ideas for innovation.

Multiple factors come into play when outlining the ideal approach to innovation within an existing organization. The role of data, understanding which 3rd parties will align with the existing team structure, how to democratize the process of innovation and what factors will lead an emerging technology into becoming a fully integrated asset to further support marketing efforts all must be considered.

Tom iMedia 5

The key is having the right partner that understands your business, has relationships with the right 3rd parties, (start-ups, technology partners and platforms) has resources with relevant domain knowledge to extend your team and understands how to bridge the gap between emerging technology and full integration into the existing organization.

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International Business Times, Alphabet & Google

I was recently asked by the International Business Times for my thoughts about Alphabet and Google’s Q3 Earnings and it’s potential impact on future advertising revenue.

(IBT) Has Google finally made mobile work?

Google is benefiting from consumer behavior shifts and accessibility to mobile and capitalizing by constantly refining their offerings tied to mobile search, programmatic and YouTube.

(IBT) What spurred this change?

Behavioral shifts highlighting mobile search now surpassing desktop is now a key driver for capitalizing on Google’s micro-moment strategy to align contextual relevance across devices.

(IBT) Can Google keep this up even as Facebook continues to keep getting better at killing the mobile display ad business? 

By clearly defining the boundaries of Google vs. the other entities housed in Alphabet, Google has aligned the core revenue generating advertising products and simplified the value proposition of what Google is.

Moving forward as advertising dollars continue to shift from search into other advertising product lines, Google can further integrate their offerings into a comprehensive ecosystem that can flex to better meet the needs of advertisers and continue to be a core revenue driver to further compete with Facebook.

International Business times

Also, Here is my original commentary outlining thoughts on the potential for Google’s advertising products based on the formation of Alphabet.

Google’s decision to streamline their organization into a house of brands vs. a branded house will ultimately have a positive impact on their advertising business. 

By clearly defining the boundaries of Google vs. the other entities housed in Alphabet, Google has aligned the core revenue generating advertising products and simplified the value proposition of what Google is. 

By elevating the former SVP of Products Sundar Pichai as CEO of the newly restructured Google, they show a strong emphasis on pushing the boundaries of enhancing advertising product lines. 

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Digital Hollywood 2015

I recently had an opportunity to speak at Digital Hollywood and discussed viral and social media experiences in entertainment, media and advertising creativity.

digital hollywood2

It was a great discussion and the panel touched on topics from social media, smart data usage, social creativity and monetization.

Digital Hollywood

Below is a recap of my key discussion points and additional commentary:

1) You’ve been in the industry a while, what excites you most about the opportunities in viral and social now?

Epsilon is a part of Alliance Data so for me as a marketer having proprietary data assets to support our creative process is incredibly valuable.

The amount of behavioral, attitudinal and transactional data that is available is incredibly exciting and having the ability to combine our structured data assets with the unstructured consumer data and signals via social is key to creating highly contextual connections.

2) What concerns you about the state of social marketing?

One of the core elements that sometimes gets lost in today’s social world that is driven by reach and frequency is the role of community.

Some of the most successful brands today not only have great visual storytelling and entertaining content, they are also empowering their community to carry the brand.

under armour

3) How are social experiences different than traditional media/content?

For me it’s the flexibility. There is an opportunity to create deeply immersive linear and non-linear experiences or extremely lightweight micro-moments. Social experiences should put the consumer in the center and have an opportunity to be highly contextual.

4) One thing that has been said is that viral and social content can enhance the core creative… what are some examples? Any examples where they missed?

You also look at brands like Dove. They are focused on the overarching theme of real beauty and they are proud to have started the femvertising movement.

Last year for the Oscars the inter agency team created a social campaign around #speakbeautiful with the goal of impacting sentiment about the event, specifically the red carpet from negative to positive and it drove a significant impact on positive conversation.

What about examples where it missed?  

We have all seen examples where a brand over reaches trying to capitalize on a real time moment and the context is lost. It should be less about witty brand personification and more about empowering fans.

5) How do you approach creative different in a viral/social environment?

It all starts with understanding the behaviors and attitudes of the individuals to ensure that what we are creating will resonate.

The goal is to then create thumbstopping creative. This means in a mobile first world we want you to stop scrolling.

Example from Mini Cooper of Thumbstopping Creative

mini-cooper-box-02-480x316

It has to be authentic, entertaining and ultimately meaningful to the consumer. Content needs to be atomized but consistent with the overarching theme and highly consumer centric.

It’s also important to develop a strategy that aligns the essence of the brand with the core behaviors of the consumer and finally understanding the role of content, be it brand created, co-created with 3rd parties, integrated with existing programs or curated from fans.

6) What, if any, concerns does the talent have with this new environment? How do you manage these concerns?

Balancing reputation management and authenticity is key. Understanding the role and goal of each platform is key to maximizing reach while mitigating risk.

7) What concerns do advertisers have with creativity in a viral/social environment?

Form factors are highly dependent by platform. Ability to amplify messaging varies greatly. Targeting capabilities can be a core area of focus such as Facebook and Twitter.

Others such as Buzzfeed, Snapchat and Reddit are fully reliant on contextual opt-in. Ensuring that the right creative is being deployed in a way that will resonate is always a concern via social.

Buzzfeed does not target it’s sponsored content (see Subway below) it is all based on contextual opt-in. 

Buzzfeed contextual opt-in

Another point of consideration is maintaining authenticity is key.

8) How does the platform impact the ability to integrate content or immerse the audience?

The platforms play a major role. Some are optimized for reach others are focusing on sequential storytelling like Twitter Moments, others are embracing visual language tools to further connect with millienials.

The key is to understand the form factor and approach that is right for the user and the brand.

9) What are the different considerations between direct and indirect monetization?

It is highly dependent on the goals of the organization. Certain categories such as retail and CPG are highly focused on the Impact of social on trip missions, the role of location and direct conversion.

You see platforms like Facebook renewing their focus on commerce, adding shopping into the native mobile user experience and the focus on messenger as a commerce vehicle.

Screenshot 2015-10-23 16.23.44

The key is to map the goals to a strategic framework that define the role monetization will play in the campaign.

10) Are the “traditional” ad impressions dying? Pre-roll, interstitial, etc.

From an industry perspective they are not dying because too many organizations have measurement models built around impressions.

I do see shifts in what is creating connections. We focus a lot on dynamically optimized creative that is built with different behavioral models to ensure the timing and context of the message across devices creates impact.

11) What are the key metrics that your clients care about?

Impressions, incremental reach to television, engagement, share of voice, sentiment, conversions are just a few.  Also, brands are focused on efficiency of media, viewability of video advertising and for some the impact of location on in-store messaging.

There is always the balance to consider between attribution and causality.

12) What will it take to be successful in the next 18 months? (experimentation, risk, etc.)

1) SMART DATA  – Enhanced focus on smart data and having the ability to create predictive models that can pick up on key signals via social.

2) BRAND ECOSYSTEMS – Moving beyond brand partnerships to create brand ecosystems as co-creation and integration are incredibly important.

3) SOCIAL MESSAGING – It will also be important to focus on strategies for social messaging platforms. Face books messenger already supports 3rd party apps, integrating payment and will become their primary commerce enabler.

Monitoring the Asian paradigm around the role of messaging is a key predictor of the potential here in the U.S.

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5 Ways Ad Agencies Are Behind The Times

My new article 5 Ways Ad Agencies Are Behind The Times was the cover story for iMedia Connection.

Screenshot 2015-10-20 23.35.07

This article dives into the topics:

  1. How “tactical digital” has not evolved
  2. Embracing the role of the marketing technologist
  3. The importance of strategic partnerships and exclusive access
  4. The true role that innovation plays within an agency
  5. How critical “smart” data is to winning

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Twitter Moments Analysis

Recently, I published a post outlining the launch of Project Lightning which became Twitter Moments. This was a major launch for social/digital marketers as it extends the ability to create contextually relevant content series on Twitter.

Below is my initial analysis that explores the user experience, competitive analysis and comparison to SnapChat’s Live Stories as well as explores the potential of sequential storytelling for brand marketers.

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Ad Age Data Conference 2015

Recently, I participated in a discussion about Data + Creativity = ? at the 2015 Ad Age Data Conference.

Tom Edwards Ad Age Data 2

Here is a recap of the various topics that I discussed as well as additional commentary.

AdAge – Give us an example of a smart use of data to inform creative?

Epsilon’s Conversant partners with Cabela’s to generate and optimize 1 million versions of dynamically optimized creative based on targeting, offers and segments.

We harness transactional and online click stream data to drive actionable insights across campaign initiatives that ultimately informs our creative process.

Cabelas

Data and dynamic creative drive a digitally centric approach to support brand awareness, new product lines, new customer acquisition, geo-targeted retail support and personalized ads.

AdAge – What kind of data do you now have access to that you didn’t have access to a year+ ago?

One of the main reasons I chose to join Epsilon’s agency team are the proprietary data assets. Having access to behavioral, attitudinal, transactional, demographic and contextual data as well as proprietary technology that maps to devices and the individual consumer were important factors in my decision process.

Having the capability to create customer centric approaches to plan, create and distribute contextual content powered by smart data makes my job of mapping the art + science of what we do on the agency side even easier.

AdAge – How are you actually using that data in new ways? How has it been a game-changer, if at all?

Having access to this type of data has changed my approach to consumer engagement planning. There is now a heavier emphasis on consumer need states as well as crafting data driven narratives.

Screenshot 2015-10-09 08.05.43

From an agency standpoint we have realigned our approach to consumer engagement through the lens of behavioral economics focused on aligning data with planning that informs creative territories and strategic themes.

In addition to using previous data, past transaction, behavior, etc. we also focus on predicting future need states through propensity (predictive) models.

Another great data driven asset is our ability to map to individuals across devices. This makes it easier to deliver highly personalized programmatic media and dynamic creative by mapping high level themes through to relevant and constantly optimizing micro-moments.

This allows us to connect with consumers regardless of where they are in a heavily fragmented media landscape.

Ad Age – What’s the danger in over-listening to data/insights?

It is important to balance data driven decisions, originality and innovation.

It is important to ensure that the data being leveraged is “smart data” and is actually applicable to the current goals of the program.

It is important to be flexible, especially with signals from unstructured data and have a process to adapt as necessary.

Tom Edwards Data

Also, it is important to not be over reliant on the past and look for opportunities to create predictive models.

Ad Age – Do advanced tech and data present any other challenges? What are the shortcomings?

Integration, portability, privacy, security and real time access are always at the forefront of my mind when aggregating and integrating multiple inputs to execute a campaign.

Ad Age – Are traditional focus groups (two-way mirror) still a thing?

It depends on the client, campaign and the type of insights that we are looking to glean. There are times when we leverage traditional and digital focus groups, but we more frequently commission mobile ethnography studies as well as machine learning and artificial intelligence platforms to explore natural conversation and domain discussions vs traditional focus groups.

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Project Lightning Has Launched as Twitter Moments

Over the past few weeks I have heard rumblings about Twitter’s Project Lightning launch. As the announcement drew closer I connected with many members of the Twitter team and you could tell they were excited about the pending announcement but still remained very tight lipped about all of the details of the launch.

Photo Oct 06, 2 07 15 PM

Today is the official launch day in the US and as the news was breaking I received messages from the Twitter team with links to the official blog post.

Screenshot 2015-10-06 14.34.13

I then saw the update available on my iOS device and then caught the Periscope reveal of Moments by the product team. Now it’s time to jump into what Moments is and how is it applicable to brand marketers?

Photo Oct 06, 2 03 44 PM

ABOUT TWITTER MOMENTS

When you update the Twitter app you now see a Lightning bolt in the middle of the main navigation. Tapping it opens a list of Moments from the day or various topics that include news, sports, entertainment and fun.

Photo Oct 06, 2 38 43 PM

What you see are curated “moments” that users can engage and subscribe to. The user experience consists of full-bleed images + swipe to engage the next piece of content in the “moment”. Content types can including images, videos, Vines & GIFs.

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By tapping on a moment, users have the option to retweet or favorite content and there is a progress bar that shows how much content remains in a particular moment.

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Users can also follow moments to stay up to date as new content is added. Updated tweets to the moment then become a part of the users timeline without the need to navigate back and forth.

NEW INNOVATION???

From a marketing perspective this is a very similar approach to what Snapchat rolled out recently with their Live Story platform.

snapchat-twitter

This is from last nights MNF game and this moment was curated by both Snapchat & Twitter.

Snapchat leverages event geo-fencing so individuals that are participating at an event or moment can submit Snaps that are curated into 3 to 5 minute live stories.

warriors-live-story

Snapchat has also rolled out a comprehensive mobile ad experience that integrates user-submitted Snaps with Snapchat’s full screen ad units, which normally included four units plus an event geo-filter for content.

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Example of a Snapchat Live Story Ad Type

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Example of a Snapchat Geo-Filter

The similarities are that both Twitter and Snapchat are curating content from specific events and making it discoverable. Twitter does not currently leverage geo-location as a filter to curate content, but Twitter’s goal is soon expand beyond their team curating moments and enabling individual users to create moments.

WHAT DO MOMENTS MEAN FOR BRAND MARKETERS?

Twitter’s goal with the Moments launch is to slow the flow of information down and extend the shelf-life of content while also providing new avenues of discovery to conversations and content across the Twitter ecosystem.

Moments also brings sequential storytelling capabilities to Twitter. By enabling the ability to craft brand narratives that seamlessly integrates with created, co-created, integrated and curated content opens up possibilities to create immersive experiences that can sustain themes for longer periods of time leading to more opportunities for organic discovery.

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Moments allows Twitter users to have a more focused approach to consuming event content beyond individuals they follow. A use case would be an NFL game, a user following an NFL Moment would receive content from teams, broadcasters, players, the league, etc…

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For brand marketers, once Twitter provides the tools for individuals and brands to create moments,  it opens up the possibility of curating conversations and potentially packaging and promoting content beyond a single tweet to provide more contextual relevance.

Photo Oct 06, 2 44 04 PMPhoto Oct 06, 2 44 22 PMtwitter momentsPhoto Oct 06, 2 44 09 PM

Taking the same NFL example above, here is what I think the user experience could look like for a brand with an NFL sponsorship when this ad type is rolled out. You have NFL content, User Generated Content and the potential for relevant brand content.

It will also be very interesting to see how Twitter wraps it’s advertising products around moments. (UPDATED) The Twitter team just told me that brand testing will begin by the end of this month. At first, they will be 100% owned and curated by a brand with no immediate opportunity to sponsor an Entertainment Weekly “Moment” or an NFL “Moment” yet.

Based on past ad types, I assume there will be an option to promote a specific moment to bundle event content and focus the conversation, I also assume that brands will have an opportunity to place contextually relevant ad types into key curated moments.

The benefits for marketers is having the opportunity to reach new audience segments in a highly contextual way beyond simply promoted tweets and this may create more value for brands looking to build a connection with users in the moment.

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Location As A Context Filter

I recently participated in a panel for Mobile Media Summit in NYC as a part of advertising week. The discussion was primarily focused on all facets of geo-location as well as a deep dive into the role beacons can play to connect with consumers in real-time.

Tom Edwards Mobile Media Summit

Below are a few territories that I touched on during the session as well as a few additional thoughts. 

ROLE OF LOCATION:  Location is a great filter to align consumer behavior against. My goal is to seamlessly connect physical to digital while maintaining a highly consistent message architecture that is highly relevant to the consumer.

BEACONS: One of the issues with beacon programs to date is how to achieve scale. Media organizations are looking for opportunities to drive scale while marketing agencies are focused on the ideal message structure.

There are many use cases to consider depending on the behavior you are looking to impact. If the goal is to drive pre-shop behaviors, it may be beneficial to leverage a 3rd party solution like shop kick to motivate a pre-shop mission that can lead to a retail visit.

Shopkick Macys

If a retailer has a robust CRM and loyalty program and wants to connect online behaviors with in-store visits it may be advisable to install a comprehensive beacon network.

I recently worked with a major consumer electronics retailer to test proprietary beacons that were fully integrated across multiple touchpoints. The program aligned with the existing CRM platform, leveraged it’s loyalty program to modify in-store behavior and the test led to full integration into the the retailers app.

gamestop-beacon-zones

This approach provided more flexibility to leverage loyalty points as a currency as well as reduce latency of the passive beacons as app activation is set upon entry. 

This program has allowed for mapping of data and interactions and has also lead to the ability to further refine the approach to regionally specific personalized content based on store visit, online behaviors and loyalty interactions.

FACEBOOK PLACE TIPS: Another interesting development is Facebook’s official roll out of place tips for small to mid size businesses. This program has definitely peaked my interest as Facebook is providing the beacon hardware. It’s a very low barrier of entry for the business owner and they have the ability to append location specific details to the Place Tip.

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A consumer would see a notification in their newsfeed if they are near a Place Tip enabled spot similar to what I received recently at the DFW Airport.

Tom Edwards Place Tips

After a user clicks on the notification they are delivered into a location specific experience that allows them to engage with the location, message the business through Facebook Messenger, rate the business and interact with contextually relevant content.

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The business owner has the ability to modify content such as menu’s and I see this as Facebook’s play at ultimately delivering location specific messaging outside of the traditional geo-targeted ad units.

Facebook Place Tips

Location is a key point to consider when aligning a contextually relevant message. The key is to remember there needs to be a value exchange for location access.

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Mashable Apple News App Commentary

I was recently asked by Mashable to provide commentary about the pros and cons of Apple News and the rest of the publisher news ecosystem such as Facebook’s Instant Articles, Snapchat’s Discover, etc…

Mashable: How do you see Apple News (and by extension iAds) competing with Facebook Instant Articles or Snapchat Discover? What does it offer that they don’t? What are its shortcomings as far as what marketers are looking for?

Tom Edwards: The cache of Apple and the relevance of the content will create momentum upon launch. Publishers interested in reaching the iOS user, especially with the pending iOS9 ad blocking, will be open to testing on Apple News and looking to maximize the 3 iAD ad types to their fullest. Depending on the audience, brands do like the flexibility of the larger iAD format, which is essentially a blank canvas and Apple is continuing to evolve their targeting/retargeting capabilities.

One of the key adoption challenges for Apple News is that it is a stand alone application vs. integrated into the existing platforms such as Facebook’s Instant Articles and Snapchat’s Discover. It will require additional shifts in behavior to move eyes from the applications they are already engaged within.

What I like about Facebook instant articles is the ability to create interactive experiences that are contextual for users and provide publishers with a custom experience backed by Facebook’s ad targeting capabilities. Facebook is now extending the best practices of instant articles to their advertising product by testing mobile ad units to compete with iAds blank canvas.  

 

mashable - Tom

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Apps Are the Future of TV

Apps are the future of TV, or so Apple claims during today’s Apple event.  The features include a glass touch remote, siri, great content and apps that set the stage for the new Apple TV experience but what does this mean for marketers?

Screenshot 2015-09-09 12.59.27

With Apple claiming that the future of television is apps, this opens the door to revitalize their iAd business. The foundation for the rise of iAd has been set in motion. iAd is enhancing targeting capabilities, partnering with 3rd party ad tech firms and building out their programmatic capabilities.

apple-is-planning-to-turn-around-iad-by-venturing-into-programmatic-for-the-first-time

With Apple TV becoming the central hub and aggregation point of entertainment across streaming services, This opens opportunities to connect with more audiences and map context and consumption behaviors and reduces the friction to find content across services. 

Screenshot 2015-09-09 12.59.49

With tvOS at the foundation, apple is providing the tools for developers to create immersive experiences for the Apple TV. This expands beyond streaming entertainment and brings iOS and console games to the Apple TV.

Screenshot 2015-09-09 13.24.55

This provides yet another opportunity to create contextually relevant advertising solutions across mac OS platforms and I am excited to test the new iAd solutions for tvOS when they are made available.  

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Twitter’s New Visual Tools Debuted at the VMA’s

I was recently asked by ClickZ about the recent debut of Twitter’s Visual Editing Tool the debuted during MTV’s Video Music Awards.

Clickz: Twitter is testing new editing tools to give its users a lot more creativity in the photo and video department soon. According to numerous images posted by Taylor Swift, Pharrell Williams and other popstars at MTV’s VMA awards show this weekend, it looks like users might soon be able to add stickers, doodles, text and more to photos and short video clips. What does this mean for Twitter?

Tom Edwards: This move by Twitter makes a lot of sense, especially for millennial users who have grown accustomed to customizing their messages with ephemeral social platforms like Snapchat, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. The evolution from text speak to visual language is key for Twitter to capitalize upon to remain relevant especially considering that globally, messaging applications are the primary engagement drivers. 

Twitter has taken steps to amp up their approach to visually contextual content with custom emoji and hashflags. By incorporating more options for it’s users to extend their personalities through stickers and doodles they are providing additional options for users to expand their ability to tell a visual story and continue to expand context beyond 140 characters. 

 

ClickZ - Tom Edwards

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Digiday Video Platform Commentary

I recently provided commentary to Digiday outlining which video platform is ideal for brands.

Digiday - Tom Edwards - 2

From my perspective it really comes down to the individual use case. Instead of saying one platform is the best overall, marketers should identify their specific audiences, how they’re looking to deliver the message and then determine the video platform that best meets their needs.  For example, Snapchat is a great platform to connect with millennial audiences tied to events while Instagram offers marketers a way to extend visual storytelling.  Meanwhile, Vine can be used for very specific uses cases like a do-it-yourself video in six seconds or less.  
 
The more traditional platforms like YouTube have their positives as well.  For YouTube, it’s all about organic discovery as it’s the second largest search engine.  The recent addition of Cards is a key addition to the platform.  These Cards provide marketers with the ability to deliver sequential storytelling through interactivity – which makes videos more dynamic. 
 
Tom Edwards, Chief Digital Officer, Agency, Epsilon

 

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UTA Guest Lecture and Career Advice

Academia has played an important role for me over the past 13 years. During that time I have been an adjunct faculty member and had the pleasure to instruct thousands of students across many disciplines of marketing.

This week I had an opportunity to guest lecture at the University of Texas at Arlington. The course was focused on social media/digital strategy and the students were attentive and sharp.

Tom Edwards Guest Lecture

I enjoy courses that focus on current best practices and push students to develop skills that can assist them immediately upon graduation.

Some of the key areas of focus and advice were:

  1. Focus on developing your network through Linkedin – It really is about who you know. I have seen this come to fruition throughout my career. It is important for new grads to start growing their network early in order to fully leverage it in the future.
  2. Have a point of view and develop original content – In order to stand out it is important to have a definitive point of view that is expressed through original content. This can be perspective on a given topic or simply industry commentary. The point is to showcase how you think to prospective employers. I strongly consider this when hiring against various strategy positions.
  3. It is important to find a mentor and a sponsor – In order to fully maximize your potential, it is important to have both a mentor who will invest in your personal and professional growth, as well as an internal sponsor, someone who will champion your progression within an organization.

It is always a pleasure speaking to individuals about to embark on their careers. 

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SXSW 2016 Voting Has Begun!

Now through September 4th, 2015 is the time to vote on panels & presentations for SXSW Interactive 2016. This time around I have submitted two presentations.

Vote-PanelPicker-Idea-2016-FB

The first panel is Unleashing Innovation. This will be a fire side chat format with Jeff Donaldson of the GameStop Technology Institute as we discuss how to integrate innovation into an existing organization.

SXSW 2016 - Innovation

The second is a solo topic discussing the Uselessness of Data which dives into how data without the right context is essentially useless. By itself data doesn’t move the customer engagement needle. People search out and connect with compelling stories, solutions or insights – that create friction along the path-to-purchase – not raw data or numbers.

data

 

I would greatly appreciate your support with a vote.  The first step to vote is to create an account at http://panelpicker.sxsw.com

Then you can simply search for Tom Edwards or Epsilon and give thumbs up to submit your vote.

Epsilon

Thank you in advance for your support! It is much appreciated.

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Hero 6 Final

Momentology – Loyalty Marketing Strategy

I was recently asked by Momentology to provide commentary about why loyalty marketing is enjoying renewed focus and how companies can benefit now.

Momentology - Tom Edwards - cropped

Retention is a key component to maximizing the lifetime value of a consumer. Loyalty programs focused on retention can reduce customer churn and strengthen the preference for the brand.

From a brand marketing perspective, there is a significant amount of time and energy spent on acquisition and awareness based initiatives. This is represented by the recent shift toward consumer-centric content marketing.

Digital businesses that understand the role that content plays at all phases of the customer journey can create value and loyalty while maximizing retention. The key is to enable the consumer to highlight memorable interactions and provide a platform for sharing or by leveraging social interactions to create social currency. These interactions then become a part of the awareness and discovery cycle decreasing the cost of customer acquisition and increasing the probability of customer retention.

There are five qualities that should be considered when creating advocacy programs to sustain loyalty:

  • Authenticity is critical in a highly transparent digital world.
  • Creating excellent customer experiences creates opportunities for advocacy.
  • Reciprocity with consumers is key and can come in the form of surprise and delight triggers to show appreciation.
  • Empowering the consumer to truly carry and own the brand identity digitally is essential to building strong brand loyalty.
  • Finally, recognition is a powerful tool that can quickly transform a loyal consumer into a vocal brand advocate.

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Lloyd’s Twitter Stock After the World Cup

After a performance for the ages by Carli Lloyd and the US Women’s team during the recent Women’s World Cup, I was asked by Mobile Marketer to provide commentary about how Lloyd’s recent spike in followers could translate into endorsement deals.

world cup

(Mobile Marketer) Is a jump in Twitter followers like Carli Lloyd received enough for brands to jump on board with a sports star, or not enough?

A jump in followers after an event such as the World Cup can be a signal to brands that an individual may be a viable endorsement candidate. There are other factors such as consumer perception tied to awareness, appeal and relevance to the brands image and potential influence on the brands consumer. For Lloyd, the timing is right as awareness is at a high point over the next few months.

(Mobile Marketer) What mobile marketing opportunities could her following be turned into? Before yesterday, when she scored three goals in the USA’s demolition of Japan in the Women’s World Cup final, she didn’t have many marketing deals other than a PR deal last fall with Usana Health Sciences and a deal to represent Visa through the 2016 Olympics.

Depending on the needs and demographic make up for a brand, LLoyd will most likely receive multiple endorsement opportunities as she now has a number of key factors working in her favor, awareness, aspiration and influence.

(Mobile Marketer) Is there a precedent for this type of phenomenon that is worth keeping in mind for marketers on mobile?

The Olympics provide a good frame of reference for non-traditional athletes that are tied to a moment in time vs. consistent year over year endorsement. The key is to ensure that the athlete aligns with the objectives and persona of the brand and attention needs to be paid to the key demographics and resonance of the sports celebrity.

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PepsiCo’s 50th Anniversary Milestone Strategy

I was recently asked by Mobile Marketer to provide commentary about PepsiCo’s 50th anniversary milestone strategy as well as discuss best practices for celebrating milestones both from a corporate and brand perspective.

PepsiCo50

(Mobile Marketer) Is PepsiCo’s approach to celebrating their 50th anniversary a good way to mark a milestone like this given the potential mobile audience?

Pepsico is using it’s 50th anniversary as a content thematic to further tell the brand story and engage with partners (Omnicom, Oracle, Bristol Motor Speedway, etc…) to create relevant content and conversation (#Pepsico50) around the milestone event.

The key point to consider is since this is a PepsiCo corporate vs. Pepsi brand initiative, the conversation is more closely aligned between partners and employees vs. celebrating directly with consumers and rewarding them. With product milestones, you see a number of brands leveraging the milestone to activate their consumer base.   

(Mobile Marketer) What is the right mobile marketing strategy when you commemorate a milestone like this?

Depending if the milestone is tied to the company vs. a product will impact what the end objective may be. Pepsico’s approach is ideal for a corporately led celebration of a milestone.

They were able to create short form content that spoke to different audiences and gained additional earned media equity through partner created content and conversation.

For products celebrating milestones it is an opportunity to activate a consumer base to share in and be a part of a celebration. This can come in many forms, but the ideal is when a brand consumer can convey what the product means to them through user created content that is curated and celebrated by the brand.

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PRWeek Twitter Commentary

I was recently asked by PRWeek to provide commentary about the current state of Twitter.

PRWeek3

PRWeek: What if Twitter didn’t exist?
Tom Edwards: If Twitter did not exist, other platforms would fill the void. Mobile devices created accessibility and creators and those that consume their content would still find a way to connect. What would not be as apparent is the impact to real time earned media as there are limitations, based on privacy settings and limited organic reach on other platforms
PRWeek: What would PR pros use instead?
Tom Edwards: PR pros and marketers would turn to other platforms and influencers that can facilitate earned reach. You look at platforms such as Tumblr, instagram and YouTube as well as socially charged ephemeral communication platforms such as SnapChat, WeChat and Cyberdust. Essentially any platform that supports user created content and garners engagement can be leveraged to meet various communication objectives.
PRWeek: How has Twitter’s role changed over the years?
Tom Edwards: Twitter has been a mobile first platform since it’s inception. It has evolved from a simple SMS-based offering to a discovery platform centered on topics and trends to one that supports multiple media types as well as an incremental driver of tune-in. Currently it is the ideal real-time marketing and reputation management platform. From a marketing and PR perspective, the versatility of the platform combined with a family of apps strategy (Vine & Periscope) provides additional opportunities to create influence and foster advocacy.
PRWeek: How different would social campaigns look?
Tom Edwards: Social campaigns would still focus on various levels of engagement and content creation but hashtag centric campaigns would need to adjust as Twitter’s ability to combine commentary, hashtags and a call to action natively in the tweet that can in turn drive discovery is an ideal experience to facilitate many types of social campaigns.
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Instagram Strategy and the Path to Purchase

From a strategy perspective, Instagram is one of the more misunderstood social platforms when it comes to outlining it’s role and business impact along the path to purchase.

Instagram

Below is a breakdown of three Instagram use cases that outline various levers that can influence user behavior that can ultimately lead to awareness, advocacy and offline conversion.

Instagram’s numbers are impressive. 300 Million active users, 30 billion photos shared per day, 2.5 billion interactions per day as well as support for iOS, Android and web presence make it an ideal consumer engagement channel.

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Instagram Session at F8

When crafting an Instagram brand strategy, I always start by mapping the objectives and goals of the brand against the various use cases and scenarios outlined below.

Depending on the desire of the brand marketer, it is possible to execute each of these as stand alone elements, but the greatest impact can be achieved by integrating multiple use cases.

Typically, I map Instagram strategic initiatives into three primary use cases: Brand Channel, Cooperative Content and Direct Response.

1 – COMMUNITY FIRST = BRAND CHANNEL – Some marketers desire to have a robust branded Instagram presence to round out their social channel ecosystem.GameStop, Inc. Instagram photos
1.1 – Why have an Instagram brand channel?
Over the past few years, Instagram marketing strategy has been approached in a very similar manner to other social platforms that came before it. This included extending the persona of the brand, fostering transparency and extending their visual storytelling efforts.

An Instragram brand channel can serve as a brand anchor on the platform, engagement driver and point of personification for the brand and connection with the Instagram community. But it is important to understand there are limitations to this approach if a brand has any desire beyond awareness and engagement.

1.2 – Can I extend organic reach through engagement? When I met with the Instagram team at F8, Instagram has what’s called a deterministic newsfeed. This means that all content that you post will be seen by your followers. The issue is that unlike Facebook’s previous algorithm that rewarded additional reach to your followers and beyond for interaction, Instagram engagement does not equal additional organic reach.

instagram-photo-harrington-news-feed

They reiterated that Instagram brand channels should NOT be treated as distribution platform for brands. Likes, follows and comments will not necessarily drive additional visibility within the platform due to the deterministic feed and the lack of any type of ReGram (Think ReTweet) functionality limits branded content sharing.

1.3 – What does it do for my business? It is important to understand the parameters and set client expectations accordingly about what to expect if a brand channel is the only use case that is realized. Understanding that organic reach is limited to existing audience, a brand channel strategy alone would simply garner awareness and engagement.

1.4 – Conclusion (Awareness & Engagement) – If your brand has a robust social strategy that includes visual storytelling  and is primarily focused on awareness and engagement as core drivers and are okay without having additional reach through engagement then a branded channel is right for you

2 – INSPIRE CREATIVITY = COOPERATIVE CONTENT In a recent meeting with the Instagram team, they expressed that the true power of the platform is the creator community.

For those marketers looking to move beyond awareness and engagement, it is possible to foster intent while maintaining the authenticity and connection with Instagram’s community through curation based use cases.

For most product based businesses, they expressed the importance of driving behavior and using the content created by users tied to hashtags as a cross-platform advocacy play.

sephora beauty board

This is an example from Sephora, that takes user created content and aligns it with the products that created the look to create contextual alignment between the brand and consumer.

2.1 – CALL FOR COOPERATION – The call for cooperation is the key element to maximize a UGC curation strategy. The key is to specifiy the behavior that is expected, provide a relevant hashtag and actively deliver the call to action.

The call to action can manifest itself in many forms. It can be tied to promotional activations that drive a specific behavior, such as the ATT #BeTheFan promotion.

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Or it can come in the form of leveraging influencers to drive the call to action to create content on behalf of the brand.

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The call to action and galvanizing Instagram’s creator community is the first step in curating cooperative content.

2.2 – App Centric Approach
– Many brands leverage Instagram primarily through the lens of the consumer and the native filters of the app. For marketers that are looking for more brand equity out of user created content and have a strong branded application install base, it is possible to create custom filters through the brands native app and tie the share into the Instagram share stream via an API.

Tiffany-True-Love-in-Pictures

Tiffany’s integrated custom black and white, peach and Tiffany blue into a native app experience and then curated the best images as a part of their True Love in Pictures campaign.

2.3Choose the Right MomentsIt is important to have an asset management system that allows you to have a flexible workflow to review submissions, facilitate rights management and connect pathways to cross-platform publishing of the content.

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One of my go-to partners in this regard has been Chute.

2.3 – Display for Impact – Once you have aligned with your community about a call to action, curated images or videos natively or through a 3rd party application and have worked through rights and asset management, it is now time to display the cooperatively created content for impact.

WestElm

This is an example from WestElm that highlights professional and user created Instagram content into their product pages.

Think Geek

Here is an example from ThinkGeek that highlights consumers with products in action.

2.3 – What does this mean for my business? Associating user generated content with products has shown a direct correlation to sales lift according to a recent IPSOS study.

UCG7

For brands that are focused on leveraging earned media to create advocacy and impact “intent” (middle of the purchase funnel) a cooperative content curation strategy may be the right choice.

2.6 – Conclusion – For certain brand marketers the ideal approach is to curate against existing behaviors and create a relationship with passionate fans to showcase their view of the brand as the core assets to fuel cross-platform branded experiences and display for impact.

3 – SIMPLICITY MATTERS = DIRECT RESPONSE – What we have seen over the past 6 months is a fundamental shift in social platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest and now Instagram towards better supporting offline conversion through direct response ad types.

Instagram Targeting

From an investor perspective, awareness and engagement are not always seen as the most viable way to invest dollars that drive tangible business impact. This is one of the primary reasons that Twitters CEO stepped down as they did not have a viable way to measure true impact of spend.

3.1 – Why Paid Advertising on Instagram? Instagram’s paid advertising offerings have evolved significantly over the past year  and we as marketers are starting to see the influence that the Facebook acquisition has had on the platform.

Recent announcements highlighted advanced targeting will be coming soon to the Instagram ad products. In partnership with parent company Facebook, Instagram’s ad products will allow for greater specificity to deliver a contextually relevant message that may drive a direct response from the consumer.

Screenshot 2015-06-18 19.03.31

3.2 – What does it do for my business? With improved targeting capabilities thanks to Facebook and now an option launching this fall to support direct response call to actions such as shop now, install now, sign up, learn more, we see an increased emphasis on driving a user to action. One element that has been missing from Instagram.

Also, the news that an Instagram ads API will be available this fall to support both small and large organizations is important news for those marketers that are not spending millions of dollars on the Facebook ad platform.

3.3 – Conclusion – Instagram’s ad products are continuing to evolve and the addition of direct response units is a very welcome addition. Initial signals are positive, but it will be important to see what changes a more comprehensive ad product suite will have on a platform that has prided itself on simplicity and community.

As you can see, there are various strategic use cases that can drive different outcomes depending on your objectives. Understanding when to activate one vs. the other, or multiple elements simultaneously is key to fully maximizing the highly creative and engaged Instagram audience.

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Google and Twitter Alliance = Mobile Relevance

I was recently asked by Mobile Marketer to provide commentary about the recent Google and Twitter alliance that now integrates certain Twitter updates directly into Google mobile search results.

auto retailers final

(Mobile Marketer) What have been the implications of this program for marketers, especially auto dealers ad other retailers with similar consumer-buying experiences when a customer is in-store and receives a tweet in search results?

The goal with integrating twitter cards into the mobile search experience is to add additional context to the consumers search results thus making the experience more dynamic for the in-store consumer.

This can be a positive if a brand has closely aligned their social communication strategy to deliver a highly relevant message through the reach of Google that has local context.

(Mobile Marketer) Could you please describe cases where the tweet could have negative impact? Positive impact?

The key to consider for brands is that mobile search results that are directly tied to the brand will most likely pull their recent tweets. The other use case is having consumer search based topics beyond the brand show as well. These tweets are tied to popularity of a tweet vs. a firehouse of all tweets.

This provides some level of built in protection for direct brand queries, but the potential negative can be associated with trending topics that may be loosely tied to the brand and lean negative. This is where monitoring and having a real-time response strategy can play a key role in mitigating negative sentiment.

(Mobile Marketer) What are the general implications of the Twitter-Google tie-up for reputation management on mobile social?

It is important for brands to have a consistent content strategy that aligns the essence of the brand as well as the behavior of the consumer to deliver a very clear, concise and relevant message. By integrating and extending tweets beyond the Twitter ecosystem, context will be key as now it is not enough to just consider conversations on the platform, but those conversations will also become relevant in the consumer discovery process.

This is not new, as brands that created communication plans on Google+ experienced a similar experience with content mapping to search results. The key will be to closely monitor topics that may also align with real-time consumer search behavior and add mobile twitter card monitoring to the list of areas to keep a watchful eye on what content is being associated with the brand.

(Mobile Marketer) To what extent could a bad tweet spoil the buying experience for consumers? How far reaching could the damage be?

It is difficult to quantify the impact of a negative tweet with a broad statement, but if a consumer is moving from intent to purchase and their is evidence of a negative experience that is gaining velocity through engagement and shows as a popular tweet tied to the brand, this can have an adverse impact. That’s why it is important to align your communication strategy and customer support to closely align the real-time reputation of the brand with the consumer discovery process through Google.

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NFL and Yahoo Partner for Global Live Stream

I was recently asked by Mobile Marketer to provide commentary about the new partnership between the NFL & Yahoo and their attempt to deliver the first-ever live streamed NFL game this fall.

NFL + Yahoo Edit

(Mobile Marketer) What does this partnership say about the importance of reaching sports fans on mobile?


The NFL understands that mobile is the first screen, especially for younger fans, and they are creating new partnerships that will extend the reach of their product and deliver entertainment across all device types.

(Mobile Marketer) What impact could this move have on the number of folks who now just watch Internet-based TV, rather than cable?

We are seeing a fundamental shift in behavior. Cord cutting over-indexes among millennials yet sports programming is still a key interest area. Having an option to experience NFL programming live in real-time as well as free is a compelling value proposition.

(Mobile Marketer) Given that until now, most streaming TV activity has focused on special events, how might it affect the future of mobile and sports broadcasts?

This is a great opportunity for the NFL and Yahoo to test and optimize future experiences to gauge the interest and consumption across device types. This can help inform the media strategy for future events and where to invest dollars that will drive the most impact.

(Mobile Marketer) If fans take to the idea of watching football on mobile both at home and abroad, what could the implications be for traditional broadcasters, whose advertising revenue has already taken a dive thanks to the rise of streaming video?

The consumer is now in control of their entertainment choices and are not as locked in to traditional broadcasts as they once were. Organizations such as the NFL that create and test new partnerships and distribution points capitalizing on where consumers are and they will have the ability to further align contextual online behaviors to further enhance and personalize the experience of gameday and have a better opportunity to create additional streams of revenue.

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Hunting Monsters with Google Maps API

I was recently a guest blogger on the Google Geo Developers blog, outlining GameStop’s use of Google Maps APIs in building an immersive experience to promote the launch of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.

Google Geo Developers Blog- copy

Here is a repost of the content:

If you’re going on a monster hunt, it’s a good idea to bring a map. And if you want to build buzz around the release of a new game, you should have the right tool as well—in our case it was Google Maps APIs. We built a website for GameStop to promote the launch of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, an action role-playing game from Warner Brothers and CD Projekt RED. After a visitor logs in to the promotional website, she is dropped into a map of the world and collects clues about where to find monsters. The goal is to be the first person to find each monster and win a prize.

Witcher3-5.20.15-A

The game’s launch deadline required us to build the site within a tight timeframe. We chose Google Maps APIs because they provided the tools we needed to build our maps quickly and easily. They also let us focus on the site creative rather than get bogged down with technical issues. We use the Google Maps JavaScript API for the front end, to start the experience and immerse visitors into the virtual world. Then, with the Google Maps Street View Service, we allow users to search for monsters. We took images of the monsters and used overlays to drop them into familiar surroundings.

We use the Street View API to plant the user in a random location somewhere in the world, then visualize their surroundings, including monsters and trails of blood. We set a randomly generated starting point to the map based on five predefined locations. From there we have event listeners in place for ‘mapView: bounds_changed, streetView: visible_changed, streetView: position_changed, streetView: pov_changed, searchBox: places_changed’.

When the user has initialized Street View, we make a call to our API to see if any monsters are within a defined distance from the LatLng of our monster data set. We continue this test any time the position_changed event is fired until a monster is within range. At that point, we update the class of a div that sits above the map view. Each monster is assigned a specific CSS class, which allows us to easily make tweaks.

Witcher3-5.20.15-B
Google Maps made it easy to combine the real world of Street View with imaginary creatures from the game. Our goal went beyond just our users having fun — we wanted to build a site that would create genuine excitement around the game and give people a taste of monster hunting in the real world.

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Mobile is the First Screen for Millennial Marketing

I was recently asked to provide commentary about social media usage growing on mobile as well as how this impacts millennial marketing. Below is a recap of the conversation.

With the rise in social media usage on mobile, what is the key takeaway for marketers, particularly in what they should be doing to reach millennial consumers?

(Tom Edwards) We understand that mobile is the first screen and that multi-screening is second nature so we look to create integrated experiences that are clear, consistent and recognizable that is designed to be authentic and relevant and always mobile first.

We also understand that for millennials we have to speak visually. Visual language is supplanting the need for text. Whether it’s photos, stickers, emoji or memes visual is a powerful way to deliver a message as well allow for greater flexibility and ownable identity.

Visual Language Meme

Final approach is to treat them as individuals there are different life stages and behaviors across the age range. It’s important to provide as much customization and personalization at the right time on the right platform.

The Temkin Group released a new Social Media Benchmark Study that examines the impact of social and mobile behaviors on 18-24 and it showed decreases in desktop and increased social consumption via mobile. Why?

(Tom) In a recent Facebook briefing, their insights team shared that 60% of 13-24 year olds would rather give up their television than their mobile phones.

Mobile is the enabler of their lives, connection with friends, family, entertainment and the world. Mobile allows them to quickly amplify their personalities.

MLB At Bat

To them, all the world is a screen and we have to adapt and treat them as individuals and personalize messaging at the right time on the right mobile platforms in an authentic and relevant way.

How do you interpret only a small increase in daily Facebook access? What are the implications for marketers?

(Tom) Facebook’s approach is to continue to diversify their positioning to reach millennial consumers. As they move towards a family of apps strategy, where each platform has a specific role, instagram = community, whatsapp = simple 1:1 chat, messenger = enhanced messaging and 1:1 commerce.

F8 2015 Enhanced Messaging 1

It is not surprising to see the small increase in daily Facebook access compared to larger growth on other platforms. Facebook is focused on creating relevant avenues for consumers to connect and interact with every facet of their world through applications that meet specific use cases.

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Maytag Embraces Mobile Visualization

I was recently asked by Mobile Marketer to provide commentary about Maytag and Mondelez leveraging mobile to create a tighter connection to direct sales by branded manufacturers.

Maytag Commentary

(Mobile Marketer) To what extent has mobile accelerated companies’ strategies, such as these Maytag and Mondelez moves, to embrace direct sales, going against history as branded manufacturers who typically do not sell to consumers?

(Tom) For many consumers mobile is the first screen. Maytag is mapping utility through visualizing the MayTag experience in the home. This non-app based experience provides a seamless way to aspirational to practical. 

Maytag 2

Traditionally social owned, earned and paid strategies were focused at the top of the funnel, primarily driving awareness and occasionally intent. With the shift away from organic reach for brands by many of the larger publishers, it has essentially created more opportunity for direct response tactics that may lead to conversion.

Combined with targeting and mobile centric inventory, Mondelez is looking to create a more direct call to action and create value for their retail partners. 

(Mobile Marketer) What challenges might these moves bring?

Driving awareness and clearly articulating the consumer value proposition should always be a key consideration when introducing new mobile centric tools that are designed to add value. Having a simple user experience that also maps to a clear call to action is key. 

One point to consider is how receptive consumers will be to predetermining occasion based consumables such as a snack which can be a more spontaneous purchase. I assume these programs are test and learn to prove the viability of the approach. 

(Mobile Marketer) What are the opportunities?

(Tom Edwards) For Mondelez, the opportunity is to create more value for the consumer and their retail partners, by focusing on a definitive “buy now” call to action, they may increase their probability of conversion. 

For Maytag, understanding the amount of research time that goes into a major appliance purchase combined with creating relevance for the consumer opens up additional possibilities to create intent towards their offering.

(Mobile Marketer) What are the implications for mobile marketers?

(Tom Edwards) The key takeaway for marketers is to align mobile strategy with the objectives of the business. For Mondelez it is focusing on conversion and mapping a stronger call to action to their social strategies that pull through to retail. For Maytag, it is about creating intent through visualization and utility through a frictionless consumer experience.

Bring Maytag Home

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Mobile Targeting & Luxury Daily

I was recently asked by Luxury Daily to provide commentary about advancements and challenges tied to mobile targeting.

Luxury Daily Commentary

(Luxury Daily) To what extent is more specific targeting/buying of audiences growing? If it is growing, why is this happening now?

(Tom Edwards) With the proliferation of device types of all makes and models combined with a non-linear path to purchase, the industry has shifted towards models and solutions that can create relevant and authentic connections with consumers through enhanced media targeting.

There has been a shift towards personalized creative that appeals to specific segments. This means that data that allows for a higher probability of impacting intent is needed.

madden-3screens-hed-2014

Example of the EA Madden Giferator aligned with a real-time campaign from EA.

This extends well beyond traditional digital. Mobile is key to delivering contextual messaging be it tied to location or sensors. Aligning location, transaction, online behavior and aggregating through an identity management platform that is tied to cross screen networks, all while mapping attribution is the ideal.

(Luxury Daily) What are some specific examples of how brands are tapping new tools and services to reach specific groups of individuals/audiences?

(Tom Edwards) A number of our clients are testing various tools. Everything from custom audience segments, leveraging identity management and media execution platforms and a heavy focus on optimization through data analytics.

We are also exploring programmatic creative where we create assets per audience segment and dynamically generate personalized native advertisement to in-store partnerships with providers like EyeQ, who provide facial recognition technology that can serve personalized content.

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Other examples are similar to EA’s Madden 15 campaign. They partnered closely with Facebook and created 32 separate instances of creative based on NFL fan affinity and delivered personalized creative to further connect with fans.

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(Luxury Daily) What are the challenges for brands in doing this on mobile? What things should brands keep in mind in pursuing hyper-targeting of individuals?

(Tom Edwards) There are many challenges as ad providers align their offerings to create the most value for agencies and brands. Identity management, mapping transaction and behaviors, incorporating location all while trying to deliver the most relevant creative is a challenge.

The other point to consider is how real 1:1 at scale is. The key is to identify and segment the target audience, create viable look-a-like clusters and test, test, test to see what truly resonates and continually optimize.

It is also important to understand the distribution channels. There is a difference between highly targeted platforms such as Facebook and opt-in platforms such as Buzzfeed and SnapChat and how you structure your programs.

Snapchat discover

It is also important to know which media channels can drive results for the business as each can play a different role across awareness, intent and conversion. Understanding the channel mapped to the goal in addition to aligning behaviors and creative that is relevant and contextual is key.

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How To Remain Agile In the Face of Change

I was recently a member of the opening keynote panel for the iMedia Agency Summit discussing the topic “How to Remain Agile in the Face of Change”.

Key Commentary from 15:08 – 19:00

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We discussed many topics including what the agency of the future will look like, mergers and acquisitions and I went into detail outlining cross-company collaboration and innovation.

imedia agency summit - Tom Edwards - agile change

Here is an excerpt from an iMedia panel recap and my additional commentary:

Tom Edwards, EVP of digital strategy and innovation at The Marketing Arm, stressed looking to develop subject matter expertise horizontally as well as vertically within your agency, and what he viewed as the three most important elements of success:

Curation, Creation, and Education.

“I’m a big believer in content creation, especially at the junior level, and developing their own personal brand,”

The agency of the near future will be highly consultative. “There needs to be a shift in strategy from transactional to transformational”

iMedia Summit - Tom Edwards

“Our role is to be the digital navigator and strategic partner with our clients. This includes mapping against a non-linear path to purchase that aligns with data, content, channels and value.”

RE: Innovation, “Ultimately we are focused on aligning the art + science as well as develop future models to enable brand partners with new methodologies to integrating emerging technology that provides business value”

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Hero 6 Final

iMedia Agency Summit May 2015 Keynote Panel

Next week, I will be attending the 2015 iMedia Agency Summit and will participate in the Keynote Panel discussing the topic of how to remain agile in the face of change.

iMedia Agency Summit, May 2015 Tom

Definitely looking forward to discussing shifts in the industry, agency models of the future, cross company collaboration and finding a common vernacular internally between teams and externally from agency to client.

Let me know if you will be in attendance!

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BlackFin360

 

3 Things to Know after 72 hours with the Apple Watch

After spending 72 hours with the Apple Watch I was recently asked to summarize my thoughts about what I like, what needs work and what marketers should consider when creating an Apple Watch experience.

What Do You Like About the Watch after spending 72 hours with it?

From Apple’s first announcement last September, to receiving the Apple watch on launch day, I have consumed a significant amount of information about what to expect from Apple’s latest tech. All of the research did not prepare me for the full experience.

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 3.11.47 PM

The watch is beautifully designed and the 42mm face was just the right size. The interface is very smooth and responsive and I am getting a good feel for which elements add the most value for me and how I want to extend my iPhone experience.

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Setup was incredibly easy and was primarily facilitated through the Apple Watch app on the iPhone. After language selection and visually pairing the Apple Watch and iPhone I dove into setting up my application preferences.

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The key thing to consider if you are looking to invest in an Apple Watch is to understand that it is NOT an iPhone on your wrist, but it is an extension of the iPhone experience. It WILL streamline lightweight tasks such as text, notifications and quickly reviewing e-mail.

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I like the flexibility of the interchangeable watch bands and I already see 3rd party band options appearing on eBay. I ordered a second Apple Watch band and it literally takes seconds to completely change the look of the watch.

Tom Edwards Apple Watch

What Needs Work?

Outside of the passcode keypad, there is not a consistent input mechanism outside of voice. Responding to messages either consists of predetermined phrases, emoji or voice response. This is fine 90% of the time, but for those times when it is not convenient to speak your response it will require you to pull out your iPhone. #FirstWorldProblems

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The same goes for making and taking calls on the Apple Watch. Be prepared to look like Dick Tracy when you are speaking into your wrist. Calls are better meant for taking on your actual iPhone.

Dick-Tracy

One surprise was that Facebook was noticeably missing from the Apple Watch app store on launch day. You still receive notification from the apps but there is not a native Facebook Apple Watch experience as of yet.

apple-watch-event0304

One additional missing element is a browser experience. There are third party apps that provide an abbreviated browsing experience but there is not an official Apple Watch browser. Siri is voice based and any search query that is not tied to an existing app function is handed off back to the iPhone.

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I have experienced accelerated battery drain on both the Apple Watch & paired phone. Also, handoffs between the watch & app can be awkward in some 3rd party apps. Upon initial setup a number of applications have to be pre-configured via the phone prior to just “working” with the paired Apple Watch.

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How can marketers benefit from the Apple Watch?

For brands that have a native app in market, the Apple Watch can provide a way to extend the value of the application if marketers focus on creating utility. From a shopper marketing standpoint Target’s focus on list creation is a good example of taking a single element of the app experience and using the Apple Watch to drive a specific user behavior.

Target Apple Watch App initial user experience

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Target Example highlighting item location via Apple Watch

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For me I have used the Starbucks app extensively over the past 48 hours. From the “glance” which tells me how close I am to a Starbucks location as well as extending their loyalty program, to leveraging passbook to pay quickly for my morning Americano. I have been impressed by the ease of use and value the app is bringing to me through a simple experience.

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The key areas of focus for marketers is understanding how to leverage both short & long notifications to influence certain behaviors while also leveraging the most relevant data to visualize via a glance to sustain ongoing wrist engagement.

Example from American Airlines Simplifying the Boarding Experience

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By focusing on extending applications through the lens of consumer value and lightweight interaction marketers can capitalize on staying top of mind through a users wrist.

Example of Uber’s Apple Watch experience

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BlackFin360

Apple Watch Arrives Today What Marketers Should Know

Today is the day many of us have been waiting for. Today the Apple Watch will arrive. I was on a flight from NYC yesterday when I received the news that I would in fact receive my Apple Watch on launch day.

Apple Watch Shipping

After weeks of diving into the WatchKit SDK and watching each new update description and how brands were creating new Apple Watch experiences I went to my local Apple Store for a personal fitting.

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This was my first exposure to the hardware

I get very excited on Apple launch days. When an Apple white box arrives on my doorstep I take great care in the unboxing of the product.

Apple Watch Unboxing

Today was no different as it was a very smooth setup process. A review will be forthcoming.

Tom Edwards Apple Watch

I was recently asked by Mobile Marketer to outline the opportunity for marketers and the Apple Watch.

Mobile Marketer Apple Watch

(Mobile Marketer) How big is the opportunity for marketers in apps for the Apple Watch?

(Tom) “The Apple Watch provides a great opportunity to extend unique app use cases by leveraging the capabilities of the Apple Watch hardware and the WatchKit SDK.  The key to fully unlocking it’s potential will be driven by marketers ability to create optimal user experiences built on relevant behavioral touch points and value connections with consumers.

(Mobile Marketer) What do marketers need to keep in mind in considering or having apps for the Apple Watch?

(Tom) “One key area to consider are actionable notifications. The Apple watch will support short term and long term notifications. Long term notifications support app-defined actions, so it is feasible to leverage functionality from the app directly from the notification bypassing another step for the consumer.”

(Mobile Marketer) Is an Apple Watch app something every marketer should have?

(Tom) “I would not say that every marketer needs an apple watch, but any marketer that focuses on content creation or distribution should take note of user behavior after launch and fully understand how to create an ideal experience on the platform. 

(Mobile Marketer) What are the hottest topics or category of apps you have seen for the Apple Watch?

(Tom) “Content delivery apps such as Buzzfeed and Flipboard as well as retail apps such as Target and Starbucks are all prepping for the release on the 24th. Buzzfeed is focused on delivering daily polls which may work well as they are short form. Flipboard is focusing on providing summaries of news stories and using the handoff feature to allow for consumption of long form content. Starbucks is porting many of the iPhone app features into the Apple Watch such as store locators and paying with passbook.”

(Mobile Marketer) Are there any examples of Apple Watch apps that seem especially noteworthy?

(Tom) “The Target Apple Watch App looks interesting as not only will it provide list building within the application, it will also provide value while in-store by mapping the location of the items on your list and the glance option will provide simple utility by seeing if the store is open, how many items are on your list, and how many may have deals associated with them.”

I am truly excited to dive into the various use cases that are being deployed today and how we can create new ones for our marketing partners.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

BlackFin360

Art + Science = Facebook Anthology Initiative

I recently attended the latest Facebook Openbook event in NYC. The topics included the latest video product updates and the new Anthology initiative was unveiled.

Openbook

Anthology is a creative brief based program that combines the insights and scale of Facebook with the reach and relevance of large publisher partners.

Anthology

Facebook is providing access to insights rooted in detailed analysis of target audiences to inform publisher creative. Their goal is to combine art + science to inform the creation of highly relevant & shareable content that drives business.

Facebook Anthology Purpose

There are 7 initial partners in the program.

Vox Media – Millennial Focused media entity targeting: Sports (SB Nation), Tech (The Verge), Gaming (Polygon),  Real-Estate (Curbed), Food (Eater) & Racked (Retail/Shopping)

Vox Media

Vice Media – Millennial Focused media entity that creates over 6,000 pieces of content daily across 10 primary channels covering news, music, tech, food, sports and fashion, all by young people, for young people.

Vice

Oh My Disney – Ability to leverage assets and properties of Disney in short form content that is designed to be shared.

Oh My Disney

The Onion – satirical news content creator

The Onion

TasteMade – Mobile centric video network that reaches 25 million people monthly

tastemade

Funny or die – Original & UGC Comedy & Pop Culture Content creator

Funny Or Die

Electus Digital – Properties include Collegehumor.com, Dorkly (Geek Culture) and Nuevon (Hispanic)

Electus Digital

Each publisher partner created a mock “anthology” based on Facebook insights and a hypothetical brand/agency creative brief. Each anthology program had it’s own unique creative slant based on the insights provided by Facebook and the unique perspective of the publisher.

ForD Anthology

The publishers produce the content and partner with Facebook to distribute the content both through Facebook’s media network as well as their own distribution properties.

anthology example

The Anthology program can be beneficial for brands and agencies alike as it is a quick way to collaborate with some of the most relevant millennial focused publishers as well as leverage proprietary user data and insights provided by Facebook.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

BlackFin360

Is Today Mobileggedon? 5 Things To Know about Today’s Google Update

Today is the day Google is rolling out a major update to it’s mobile search algorithm. Some are proclaiming this “Mobileggedon” others the “Mobilepocolypse”.

The reality is that this is a major update that will boost the ranking of mobile-friendly pages. There are five things to know about how this update may impact your brand.

1) The Update Only Impacts Mobile Search Results –  This is a mobile first update and will only impact results from mobile queries.

2) The update does impact all languages – This is a global roll-out. Those that manage pages across locations should take note.

3) The update apples to individual pages vs entire web sites – This may not be apparent initially, but makes sense as a whole. Google indexes pages and queries map to intent which extends from the relevance of the content on the page.

4) This is one dimension for how Google will rank a mobile search query – This update does raise the importance of a mobile friendly experience, but this is not the only signal being considered.

5) Strong content can overcome… For now – User intent based on the query is still an important factor. If the content on a non-mobile friendly page is considered the most relevant for the query it will still rank high for now.

It is important to take the necessary steps to create an optimal experience not only from a search perspective but also from a user experience standpoint.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

 

Going Beyond the App with Actionable Notifications

One incredibly useful iOS feature has flown under the radar for most branded applications. With a recent flurry of adoption from brands such as Walgreens, actionable notifications are quickly gaining traction as a mechanism to drive action through iOS notifications without the need to open an app.

The actionable notification API was originally announced at the 2014 Apple world wide developer conference (WWDC) and officially became available with the arrival of iOS8 last September.

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Actionable notifications essentially allow a user to take an action directly from a notification. By simply interacting with the notification, the user is then prompted with unique app based actions that can be performed without the need to open an app.

actionable notifications

Repost of actionable notification animated example from Nick Jensen

I was recently asked by Mobile Commerce Daily to provide commentary around Walgreens recent deployment of Actionable Notifications. Walgreens is leveraging actionable notifications to provide utility for existing consumers by allowing them to directly refill an Rx directly from the notification.

mobile commerce intro

Walgreens’ leveraging one of the newer features of iOS8 tied to actionable notifications is a great example of a brand maximizing the impact and flexibility of the operating system to create a seamless experience that does not require the user to open the application,” said Tom Edwards, executive vice president of digital strategy and innovation with The Marketing Arm, Dallas.

By providing tools that reduce friction and extend beyond simple engagement they are demonstrating the power of mobile to enhance the customers experience.”

Actionable notifications will also be available as a part of the upcoming release of the Apple Watch. After going through one of the “personal fittings” I was impressed by the potential of how notifications can extend through various notification use cases.

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After trying on the 42mm pictured above, I was impressed by the size and responsiveness of the interface.

Apple WatchKit will offer two types of notifications short-look & custom long-look notifications. Short look gives attribution to the app, title and app name and is visible only briefly.

With custom long-look we can incorporate up to 4 custom action buttons and custom graphics. Long-look is activated when a user either taps on a short look notification or if their wrist is raised.

Example of Short Term Apple Watch Notification

Short Look

With custom long-look we can incorporate up to 4 custom action buttons and custom graphics. Long-look is activated when a user either taps on a short look notification or if their wrist is raised.

Example of Long Term Apple Watch Notification

Custom Long-Look Notifications

One of the key points to consider is that just because the API exists does not mean that it is ideal for all scenarios. It is important to test the notification threshold of your user base and focus on extending value to existing behaviors vs. simply pushing messaging.

If there is a viable use case to create custom notifications that are simple extensions of your branded application then this API could be a great way to drive a certain behavior without the friction of forcing a user to open the full application.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

10 Learnings from Facebook F8 2015

Today my recap of 10 Learnings from Facebook F8 is the lead cover story for iMedia. Here is a link to the full article and below is a repost of the content.

iMedia Cover Story F8

I recently attended the 2015 Facebook F8 conference. Below is a recap of my top ten takeaways from the annual developer conference. The following outlines the current and future plans of one of the world’s largest tech companies.

F8 2015 Top 10

Current State – The primary theme of the opening keynote delivered by Mark Zuckerburg was one of “people first”. Facebook is now positioning it’s core offerings as a family of applications that are designed to align with how people are naturally using technology to engage and share.

F8 2015 Current State

It was quickly noticeable that each platform now plays a very specific role in the Facebook ecosystem. WhatsApp will continue to be a simple messaging platform, Instagram will maintain a focus on simplicity and creative expression.

Messenger is quickly being positioned as the primary mechanism for 1:1 communication and direct connection with businesses and groups continues to be a go to for 700 million people who want to collaborate around specific topics.

The core Facebook experience is focused on further extending it’s video capabilities while highlighting how they will remain relevant in the future by setting the foundation to support deeply immersive forms of content such as virtual reality.

Enhanced Messaging – One of the highly touted announcements was the expansion of Messenger to a 3rd party development platform. This is an important move for Facebook, especially with WhatsApp confirming during the conference that they will not be providing API’s any time soon on their product roadmap.

F8 2015 Enhanced Messaging 1

3rd parties can now reach and engage over 600 million active users. With the Messenger Platform it is possible to drive discovery, engagement and attribution through images, videos, GIF’s and sound clips.

Applications can either be stand-alone apps designed to enhance conversations, or it is possible for a brand application to create a workflow to share content through messenger and deep link into the messenger optimized experience in their native application.

F8 2015 Enhanced Messaging 2

Facebook also announced the beta launch of Businesses on messenger, which is how Facebook envisions brands and consumers engaging directly through enhanced customer service and value add to the consumer through templates that can showcase product details and enhanced order details.

Embedded Video – Facebook users are viewing over 3 billion videos per day and Facebook took another step towards challenging Google owned YouTube for market share by launching a new embedded video capability.

The new feature supports view count synchronization, full-bleed video and includes social actions in video such as Like and Share. Key points to consider are the desktop version is flash based and mobile is HTML5.

F8 2015 Embedded Video

In recent Facebook briefings there have been discussions about Q3 introducing sequential storytelling into the fold. This is one area that the current embedded video option is lacking compared to YouTube. YouTube currently has the ability to create annotations and now “Cards” to create connections between assets.

Importance of Advocacy – With all of the talk about Facebook and brands lack of organic reach, it was confirmed that for users the newsfeed is still mostly deterministic in terms of the content that is served. This confirmed that peer to peer sharing is still the most viable option for content centric brands.

Another central theme was tied to sharing of content and the importance of creating relevant and engaging content that inspires consumers to share. It is also important to create content that is tailored for the audience and then selecting the ideal application from the Facebook family delivery and discovery.

F8 2015 Importance of Advocacy

While most social brand personification strategies have taken a back seat now on Facebook’s primary platform due to the shift towards reach and frequency, leveraging consumer and employee advocates as well as groups are still viable means to distribute a message outside of paid advertising.

State of Plug-Ins – Social plug-ins have been a staple of the Facebook ecosystem for years. The Facebook social plug-in’s team outlined their intentions to redefine the experience of many of the standard plug-in’s to create a richer mobile experience.

The first step is to relaunch Facebook moderation tools to allow greater flexibility and an optimized experience for moderation that includes bulk actions, custom lists and is being rewritten from scratch for a better mobile experience.

F8 2015 State of Plug Ins

The team also outlined they are testing a new form of comment mirroring that aggregates comments from external news articles to the Facebook page and vice-versa. This is a key point to consider as this will align different audiences and shift the potential engagement that happens on-page.

Instagram – The Instagram team reiterated their focus on being community first and maintained that simplicity matters above all else when it comes to their product roadmap and the overall experience of the application.

The team confirmed that the Instagram newsfeed is 100% deterministic meaning that the content posted from your followers will appear in your feed. Based on this feedback, potentially adding features like a ReGram is not currently on the roadmap as the goal is to keep the experience simple.

F8 2015 Instagram

They reiterated that Instagram is not a distribution platform for brands. Likes, follows and comments will not necessarily drive additional visibility within the platform due to the deterministic feed and the lack of any type of ReGram functionality.

For brands, the ideal approach is to curate against existing behaviors and create a relationship with passionate fans to showcase their view of the brand as the core assets to fuel your branded experiences.

Omnichannel – In recent years, Facebook has increased their focus on shopper and direct response capabilities. They stated that they view Omnichannel as the future of commerce and they are positioning their cross-channel approach as the ideal for brands.

Facebook highlighted the size of their network, the persistence of logged-in identity and their cross-platform approach as to why they should be considered as a holistic omnichannel offering.

F8 2015 Omnichannel

A key point of discussion was tied to cross-screen attribution without proxies. With their SDK and conversion pixel, they stated that they have the ability to capture accurate measurement tied to their real users.

Future State – The most intriguing aspect of F8 was the insight into the future of Facebook strategy outlined by Facebook’s CTO Mike Schroepfer. In his keynote, he discussed the three core areas of focus for the near future. Those being planetary connectivity, natural interfaces and immersive experiences.

F8 2015 Future State

Services that scale and planetary connectivity are key areas of focus in the near future for Facebook. One of the key initiatives is tied to the Aquila unmanned solar drone. The drone is designed to stay aloft for three months at a time to deliver connectivity for remote regions.

Information overload was also an area of discussion for the future of Facebook. The goal is to build contextual systems that deal with information overload. One approach was the use of artificial intelligence built around the concept of convolutional neural nets that essentially create deeper associations between content elements at a faster rate than a simple algorithm.

The last of the three core pillars of the future state of Facebook is tied to the importance of creating and enabling the consumption of immersive content such as virtual reality. One of the key immediate takeaways was the fact that 3d spherical videos will be supported in the Facebook newsfeed. This is setting up for the immersive virtual reality experiences that are to come.

Parse + IOT – Facebook’s Parse was also a primary area of focus. Facebook acquired Parse in 2013. Since then, they are leveraging the platform as a service offering to provide additional rapid development services to mobile app developers such as user management, push notifications and analytics at scale.

F8 2015 Parse + IOT

Now with over 400,000 apps built on Parse, the Facebook team is now extending Parse to connect Internet of Things experiences. Facebook wants to make it easier for developers to leverage data from connected devices into their applications.

Many other tech heavyweights are investing in IOT data solutions. Apple, Google and recently IBM are all vying to unlock the key to leveraging IOT data.

Facebook’s approach is to connect devices and software that share common elements to increase the probability of systems working together. This could then lead to Facebook being the data aggregator between devices, software and data to create unique experiences across devices.

Virtual Reality – Virtual Reality played a key role throughout F8. Facebook referenced Virtual Reality as the next evolution of content experiences.

They showcased different applications from their teleportation stations that showcased what was happening in Menlo Park to their more immersive Crescent Bay demos that showed off the full capability of the Oculus Rift.

F8 2015 Virtual Reality

Facebook also spent half of a keynote simply showcasing the physiology associated with virtual reality and how the timing is now right as the cost of technology to create affordable consumer products is feasible, the experience is compelling and there is broad industry participation and a long-term commitment to advance the technology.

Facebook did a great job of balancing the short term vs. the future state while ensuring they are bringing their developer partners along the way. By shifting towards the family of apps strategy as well as building towards connected devices and immersive experiences, Facebook is in a position to remain relevant well beyond whatever happens with the core Facebook platform.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFIn360

BlackFin360

MLB At Bat App Hits Big With Fans

I was recently asked by Mobile Marketer to provide commentary about the early success of the MLB At Bat App as it has already hit 5 million downloads.

(Mobile Marketer) To what degree is the app a way for MLB to connect with younger audiences via mobile given baseball fans tend to be older on average than for some other sports?

(Tom Edwards) The key for MLB’s At Bat strategy is the portability and access to content. By providing a personalized approach to content consumption as well as live look-in’s the MLB app provides flexibility regardless of market. This is especially appealing to younger fans who may want instant access to content.

(Mobile Marketer) What do these downloads say about the power of mobile to enhance consumption not just of one game but of the whole universe of the Major League Baseball season for highly engaged fans?

(Tom Edwards) The MLB approach to accessibility and cross-device support is key to early success and success will be sustained throughout the season as MLB has struck the ideal balance between portability and personalization.

MLB - BlackFin360

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

ESPN Gets Personal with Fans Through New Site

I was recently asked by Mobile Marketer to provide commentary about the 20th anniversary re-launch of ESPN.com. The re-launch features the ability to further personalize the experience as well as provide a mobile first approach to cross screen experiences.

(Mobile Marketer) To what extent does this move reflect ESPN’s efforts to reach consumers on mobile?

(Tom Edwards) ESPN is focused on creating a mobile first experience that is tailored to it’s readers. By creating a responsive experience that also incorporates highly relevant content they are focused on delivering a contextually relevant and consistent content experience regardless of the device type.

(Mobile Marketer) What does the move to integrate ads into the site reflect about the needs/behavior of the mobile consumer?

(Tom Edwards) Initial signals of the ad offerings point to a more contextual ad experience that will be optimized based on the device type. This means that ads will be more of an extension of the experience which coincides more with how consumers are already interacting with the content.

ESPN - BlackFin360

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

Emotive Robots Key to Unlocking IOT Potential

Over the 15 years of my digital career, I have witnessed significant technological innovation and massive shifts in consumer behavior based on the impact of innovation. Highlights include the evolution of the personal computer, the now ubiquitous smartphone, and the explosion of consumer-centric social media.

Apple-iPhone-generations

Looking to the near future, the current rate of exponential technological advancement will continue to accelerate, and we are primed for another significant leap forward; the concept of emotive computing is about to enter the lives of early adopters and has the potential to shift our behaviors once again.

During SXSW 2015, the personal side of robots session presented by Dr. Cynthia Breazeal caught my attention. Her session focused on the potential impact of emotive computing as the next wave of computing innovation.

emotive computing

Emotive computing is based on systems and devices that can recognize, interpret, process, and simulate elements of human behavior. The key to the concept is the alignment of both emotion and cognition as the drivers of adaptive behavior.

I have followed Dr. Breazeal’s work at MIT since the late ’90s when I first heard about the Kismet project. Kismet was designed to be one of the first socio-emotive AI. The core focus was to move past simple cognitive skills and align psychosocial elements into the robot’s ability to understand and treat people as people.

MIT Kismet

During the session, Dr. Breazeal discussed the evolution of Kismet to the next iteration of the AI, Leonardo, as well as how emotion + cognition should be the basis of intelligence and adaptive behavior – which is key to creating an emotive AI.

leonardo ai

The advancements made with Kismet and Leonardo have set the foundation for a new type of consumer device that is focused on delivering multiple levels of utility while also demonstrating adaptive behavior.

Reviewing the current landscape of personal robots, we see mostly single utility or cognitively-driven robots. They enhance our lives by the tasks they complete but are weak in their ability to conceive emotional engagement.

personal robots

This is where I begin to consider the current product/market fit for socially emotive AI. When you start to consider the Internet of Things or the Internet of Better Things, there are key components missing that would unlock new levels of value, which would lead to mass adoption. Most of the current ecosystem is comprised of single-utility solutions that are neither interconnected nor adaptive.

Internet-of-Things

Initially, my assumption is that the IOT would benefit from a central hub that is built to scale. The basis for the hub has already been approached by Amazon with Echo. But the current technology tied to virtual assistants is built around search and retrieval based entities with limited capabilities to learn.

virtual assistant

With the rise of emotive computing, it is feasible that the core hub for the connected home could be an emotive AI. Toward the end of her talk, Dr. Breazeal revealed that her current initiative as founder and Chief Science Officer of Jibo is to deliver such an entity into homes sooner rather than later.

Jibo is being touted as the first “family robot” and positioned as a support and an enhancer to humans. The IndieGoGo crowdfunded robot raised over 2.2 million dollars and the first run is currently in production. Jibo can see, hear, speak, learn, assist, and relate to individuals, and is going to be the first mass-produced emotive AI.

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Jibo is also going to be built on a comprehensive developer ecosystem. With toolkits and a full SDK available, the focus is on creating a scalable content delivery platform.

Jibo SDK

I have talked a lot about how the IOT needs to be navigated with the consumer at the center, and I have shared my view of the #databaseofyou as the key to unlocking marketing value from the IOT, but little did I know that the database would actually reside within an emotive AI.

Evolution of Social Marketing Future - Tom Edwards

From a marketing perspective, I am very interested in the adoption and advancement of Jibo. If an emotive AI becomes the primary hub for the connected home, then it also becomes a potential content delivery platform that is the key connection between brands and consumers in the connected home.

By leveraging the full SDK and potentially certifying content, brands could provide contextually valuable experiences delivered through Jibo, or potentially new skills that extend the utility of the robot.

This is obviously speculation on how to potentially leverage emotive computing to create marketing value, but it is important to begin understanding that a significant shift is coming and that it may have just arrived in a small robotic form.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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TechnologyAdvice Expert Interview Series

TA Expert Interview Series featuring Tom Edwards of The Marketing Arm

Tom Edwards, the Executive Vice President of Strategy and Innovation here at The Marketing Arm, was recently invited to be a guest on the TechnologyAdvice Expert Interview Series to share his insight on the digital marketing landscape. The series, which is hosted by TechnologyAdvice’s Clark Buckner, explores a variety of business and technology verticals through conversations with industry leaders.

Edwards joined Buckner to discuss modern day digital, social, and mobile innovations, the importance of bridging technology and marketing, and the four core elements that bring a campaign to life.

Below are a few of the highlights from our conversation:

TA: Tell us about what life is like at TMA and some of the projects you work on everyday.

Tom: At The Marketing Arm, we’re really a consumer engagement agency, so that touches a wide range of project types. Everything from digital, to promotional, to talent, to production, to just a number of different types of projects that come across my desk on any given day.

I’m a part of the digital engagement division and we service about 16 core clients, everything from Exxonmobil, to GameStop, to name just a few organizations. So over the last 15 years, my role within the industry has really shifted from starting more on the technology side, and really kind of incorporated being that bridge between technology and marketing.

As digital continues to progress, we’ve seen it all: the end of the dotcom boom, massive portals, the rise of consumer social. All of these different types of trends we’ve seen definitely had a hand in touching and guiding different project types across multiple platforms and different routes of sale. It’s been a fun, interesting ride and it continues to get better.

TA:  What suggestions do you have for a team trying to compare and find the right marketing automation vendors? What should they be looking for?

Tom: Portability. So if I’m able to either leverage a tool that can aggregate content, redistribute, visualize things that can basically whether it’s a seamless flow, whether that’s your API through an SDK or whatever it may be, like that’s what I’m ultimately looking for now.

I’m looking for how can this one piece fit into the larger strategy that I’m trying to deploy and continue to add value without adding additional barriers or additional layers, that’s really the key piece. Because we’re touching so many different channels, everything from top line awareness via digital all the way down to shopper and point of sale.

So making sure that we can have programs that can work in scale. Scale is another key piece for us too and the data considerations depending upon local versus global so there are a lot of different pieces that we look at when we’re evaluating but for me, it’s how can whatever tool that you’re leveraging best provide value for everything as a whole versus just one specific piece or one specific function.

To learn more about The Marketing Arm, visit www.themarketingarm.com. Connect with Tom on Twitter @BlackFin360 and follow his blog at BlackFin360.com/blog. Be sure also follow @TheMarketingArm.

BlackFin360

Listen to the entire show above in order to hear our full conversation, or download the show to listen later. You can subscribe to the TA Expert Interview Series via Soundcloud, in order to get alerts about new episodes.

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This podcast was created and published by TechnologyAdvice. Interview conducted by Clark Buckner.

NCAA March Madness & Snapchat

TMA EVP, Strategy & Innovation Tom Edwards recently talked to Mobile Marketer about the big players for social media and brands during NCAA March Madness.

Q: What role could Snapchat and other social media platforms play in March Madness marketing?
TE: “Snapchat is actively looking to connect and extend physical experiences digitally. With their our story product, they are looking to provide brands with an opportunity to authentically connect their brand with content being created by event goers.

In addition to Snapchat, platforms such and Twitter and Instagram will see heavy usage for brands trying to capitalize on real-time opportunities as well as visual storytelling. Facebook will see usage, especially their video products to further extend the reach of television and create incremental value for their brand partners.”

Q: What makes social a good fit with this tournament?
TE: “The enthusiasm that individuals share for their participating schools, combined with the water cooler nature of brackets creates a lot of conversation, especially as the tournament draws to completion. Social is a great enabler of word of mouth, that combined with the passion for sports makes the platform ideal for large sporting events.”

Q: What brands are likely to be big players in social in March Madness?
TE: “A number of brands will try to create real-time moments associated with the tournament. Brands such as AT&T, Capital One and Coca-Cola will play a big part in March Madness once again. What will be interesting is to see the creativity of brands that are not official sponsors and how they align with the events that transpire on the court and how they try to relate it in some way to their brands social persona. We have seen a sharp rise in brand-to-brand conversation around marquee events over the past year. I am assuming we will see more of the same when the tournament starts.”

Q: What sorts of campaigns could we see these brands launch during the tournament? What campaigns have worked well in the past?
TE: “With an event such as March Madness you will see everything from on-site activations to digital sweeps. Brands that can create an authentic connection with the fan and provide fun and engaging creative that moves the viewer from consumption to creation behaviors will have a leg up.”

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

Virtual Reality A Reality At SXSW 2015

Another year, another SXSW Interactive is in the books. Each year I look to get inspired, reconnect with publishers and 3rd party partners and look for new or incremental innovation that can add value for my clients. This year, one of the areas that caught my attention was the advancement of 3rd party integration and applications tied to virtual reality experiences.

In 2014, one SXSW exhibit in particular received a lot of attention for creating an immersive Virtual Reality Game of Thrones experience courtesy of Oculus Rift. 2015 did have it’s share of branded experiences tied to Oculus, see Samsung below, but a majority of 3rd parties were focused on showcasing how they create value through integrating VR and mobile devices as they prepare to go to market.

game-of-thrones-exhibit-oculus-rift-sxsw

Samsung – I had the opportunity to experience the Samsung Gear VR headset while at SXSW. The Samsung Gear VR is powered by an Oculus Rift headset that integrates with the Galaxy Note 4. The approach of serving as an extension of an existing device that can scale through various media and applications is the right approach to allow optimal personalization of experiences through devices and media entities that consumers already consume.

The #GalaxyLife VR exhibit was a rich experience that I definitely enjoyed.  My tour featured a Mountain Dew branded snowboarding adventure. There are pros and cons to the experience as it was immersive, although the audio was a bit lacking. If you have not tried the core Oculus Rift experience and this was your first foray into VR it is an impressive experience and for the average consumer, consuming media, be it VR cinema, gaming or 360 degree experiences can all be achieved through the Samsung Gear headset.

This type of VR experience is ideal for branded integrations as the experiences are tied to the mobile device and with the right SDK, it is possible to extend immersive content experiences through the Samsung Gear VR.

Photo Mar 15, 1 24 36 PM

Google – One of the more unique takes on a similar premise to the Samsung Gear VR came from Google. Google Cardboard is a simple, inexpensive way to enjoy VR based experiences through either Android or iPhone devices. When the Google team handed me the device, it was about the size of an iPad Mini. After a few minutes of folding I had an instant VR viewer that I could view media from VRSE or other Google Cardboard supported applications.

As with most things Google, there are Android and Unity SDK’s available to easily integrate Cardboard into existing VR applications to ensure that it is supported. The experience is surprising rich and the fact that it is inexpensive and also supports iPhone VR applications is a plus. Google Cardboard is a great tool to introduce younger audiences to enhanced VR experiences. It definitely passed the test with my crew of 12, 10 and 7 years of age. And with the simple design, I am not concerned about how they would handle the device.

Photo Mar 17, 9 51 05 AM

Intel and 3rd Parties – The SXSW Gaming Pavilion featured multiple extensions of the Oculus hardware with various groups working to create new integrations that could bridge the gap between traditional gaming and VR. Intel and CybertronPC showcased one of CybertronPC’s gaming rigs that supported an Oculus experience. This experience drew quite a crowd as onlookers wanted to catch a glimpse of PC gaming + Oculus.

Photo Mar 15, 4 15 35 PM

Another 3rd party that caught my attention was Sixense’s STEM System. This was a Full-Body Presence VR system vs. just an Oculus Visual experience. The system provides motion controls, haptic feedback and additional spatial awareness in the VR experience to create a full body controlled experience in game. The demo featured a light saber duel, think Microsoft Kinect in terms of open space, body controlled motion but with a fully immersive Oculus Rift visual experience.

Photo Mar 15, 4 20 07 PM

We are inching closer to mass consumer availability and I have been impressed how much has been developed within a single year. I still have my doubts as to whether or not Facebook’s Oculus Rift based experiences as they exist today will appeal to the mainstream consumer. We are still at the nascent stage of the technology and I do believe that augmented, virtual reality and digital overlays will become a part of our lives as some point in the next 10 years it just may not be a bulky headset, it may be something as simple as a bionic contact lens.

Bionic-Contact-Lenses-3

I definitely enjoyed playing with the new hardware and look forward to what the future may bring at SXSW 2016.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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Aligning Employee Passions to Relevant Programs

This is the third and final post taken from my recent interviews with iMedia. This post & video discuss aligning employee passions to relevant programs.

Agencies know that turnover is high industry wide. They are learning that one way to keep good employees, accomplish creative marketing, and boost morale is to learn the passion points of each of their people and put them on projects that best align with them. Employees who are passionate about their campaigns and clients do better work, and are more positive in the workplace. These small shifts and adjustments sometimes make all the difference.

Tom Edwards is the Executive Vice President of Digital Strategy & Innovation

Follow Tom @Blackfin360