REX Executive Roundtables IHRSA Keynote

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

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

Here is the full 45-minute keynote.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Edwards Speaker Bio

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Trends for 2018 and Beyond

It’s my favorite time of year. No, I am not talking about Santa & reindeer, I am talking about predictions!

Here is a full analysis of potential trends to consider heading into 2018 via a non-linear or choose your own adventure video format just click the image below.

This video starts with a brief intro, then you will have the option to select a specific section of interest or watch it straight through from beginning to end.

In 2017 I spoke a lot about the evolution of experience through the E^3 Innovation To Reality series.  2018 will bring us closer to a convergence of technology that empowers, intelligent systems that enhance, and the line between physical and digital reality will continue to blur.

EMPOWER – Highlighting everything from camera as a platform, virtual reality gets social, evolution of social messaging, physical experiences that enhance digital, immersive eSports, expansion of contextual commerce and more, this section dives into technology that empowers consumers.

ENHANCE – How AI & intelligent systems are accelerating the evolution of experience. From the democratization of AI, device based machine learning, blockchain put to use, visual discovery, voice + visual conversational experiences, and personalized audio.

ENVIRONMENT – How our world is shifting towards synthetic reality with the convergence of location, computer vision and mixed reality that will reshape how we interact with the physical world. This section includes pervasive robotics, biometric security, augmented art, mixing reality, connected intelligence, and brain controlled interfaces.

EXPERIENCE – This section highlights the convergence of empower, enhance and environment. With topics discussed such as Gen Z = enhance vs. create, system based marketing, mobile disruption, ambient computing, and synthetic reality.

Download the complete 2018 trends presentation. 

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Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

Steve Harries @Steve_Harries22

Ian Beacraft @IanBcraft

Jeremy Olken @JeremyOlken

 

Advertising Age Marketing Technology Trailblazer

Today Advertising Age announced their 2017 list of top 25 Marketing Technology Trailblazers and I am honored to be included.


Photo by Bradley Taylor, Caprock Studio 

A big thank you to the Epsilon corporate communications team, DGC and Advertising Age judges. I am truly humbled by the inclusion with such a great list of industry innovators.

I am incredibly grateful to my data design strategy and innovation teams. From research, planning, data design, digital strategy, digital experience delivery, social and innovation a huge thank you for all that you do.

Tom Edwards AdAge

Finally, a very special thank you to my amazing wife Cherlyn for supporting all the crazy hours and travel for the past 17 years.

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MWC 2017 – Data Design Speaking Recap

What a great show! Mobile World Congress is when the tech world converges on Barcelona, Spain to discuss the ever expanding domain of mobile. I was excited to attend this years event for three reasons: speaking engagement, conducting tours for media and live streaming on behalf of Epsilon. This post will focus on a comprehensive recap of my panel discussion and pre-session approach.

SPEAKING – I had the opportunity to speak at the Modern Marketing Summit event at Mobile World Congress with the CMO of Aston Martin. The main topic was discussing where he could place bets on emerging tech in the near future. I wanted to put more rigor around the discussion and spent time ahead of the session diving into our proprietary data assets to uncover hidden truths about Aston Martin drivers as the basis for recommendations on where to invest for the future.

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One of the teams I lead is called Data Design. We take unstructured data from a given category such as automotive and apply machine learning to process conversation among owners and map key perceptions, occasions and attributes as well as personality. Machine learning directs our quantitative research and then we overlay some of the worlds largest proprietary data assets to map category perceptions and behavior among Aston Martin drivers.

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This approach proved impactful as the foundation based on data design allowed for differentiation of opinion through insights that allowed a more seamless transition to discuss the intersection of emerging technology and new behavioral signals that will continue to empower consumers.

I begin mapping future state strategy through the lens of Connection, Cognition & Immersion. 

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CONNECTION – Trends and technology that connect us, this can include voice based and conversational experiences such as chatbots. Here are previous posts on Connection.

COGNITION – All facets of artificial intelligence such as Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Neural Networks. Here is a previous post on AI.

IMMERSION – Full sensing and immersive experiences, Virtual, Augmented, Mixed, Merged reality, all of these will have an impact in the near future, and possibly shift entertainment from the back seat to the front. Here are previous Immersion posts

Once I outlined each of the components of the Connection, Cognition & Immersion framework I then recommended that he first begin by laying a foundational data designed strategy to prepare for the pending intelligence revolution.

The Intelligence Revolution will incorporate both reactive and predictive elements in anticipation of the rise of the Proxy Web & System based journeys. All of this is built on a foundation of data + decisioning and will transcend individual technologies.

Here is additional context about the four components of the intelligence revolution:

REACTIVE DATA SETS – Today most consumer centric marketing is based on reactive data. For this panel I began with machine learning based AI to map the psychographics of the Aston Martin user.

PREDICTIVE – Next you will see the rise of predictive algorithms and API’s. This is where you see the combination of reactive datasets and regression analysis and modeling to build towards predictive experiences.

PROXY WEB – This is essential for the most important point to consider which will be the time very soon when the consumer may not be at the center of marketing. The Proxy web is where bots or other intelligent systems will drive predictive discovery driven by vertical and horizontal algorithms. Where the bots become the new DSP’s and IOT based sensors and intelligent environments become the new DMP’s.

SYSTEM BASED JOURNEYS – That will lead to a new type of consumer journey, except this time it is the addition of system based journeys that provide both predictive elements, but also overlay situational awareness across an intelligent environment.

More detail to come on the topic of the Intelligence revolution in a future post.

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7 Ways AI will Enhance Marketing

For the past 12 months, my Epsilon team and I have focused on multiple facets of artificial intelligence (AI) with data as the primary fuel that powers key insights. We have leveraged machine learning, natural language processing, predictive APIs, and neural networks to uncover consumer truths that previously would have taken weeks or months to uncover.Having the opportunity to work with comprehensive, boundless proprietary data assets is incredibly exciting. In addition to fueling strategy work, it also drives emotional connections with consumers, bonding them to brands in meaningful ways. It is the future of marketing.Now past the experimentation phase, I can say confidently that AI will be a key driver of technology growth over the next decade and will significantly impact consumer marketing. Initial predictions show the market for AI-driven products and services will jump from $36 billion in 2020 to $127 billion by 2025*. (*Source: BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research Estimates — 2017 the year ahead: artificial Intelligence; The rise of the machines.)Most AI we work with today is categorized as Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI). This means that the AI is extremely adept at executing specific tasks.

Right now, there are seven subsets of artificial intelligence, outlined below. Brand marketers can better uncover insights, connect with consumers, and redefine customer experiences using this innovative technology.

Machine learning (ML)

ML uses human coded computer algorithms based on mathematical models. Probability models then make assumptions and/or predictions about similar data sets.

Currently, machine learning can be leveraged as a service to accelerate sentiment analysis and domain-specific insights. It also serves as a foundational element for identifying consumer behavior based on occasions, perceptions, and attributes to construct themes and trends from unstructured data which represents the thoughts, behaviors, and preferences of consumers taken directly from their online activities.

In 2017 and beyond, I expect more third-party providers will offer ML as a cloud service brands and agencies can leverage to transform products and services into smart objects, able to predict needs and preferences.

Machine learning solutions have allowed my team to align our proprietary structured data assets with unstructured data to combine the best of both worlds. This began to accelerate our processing and analysis capabilities to uncover consumer truths within unstructured data to further fuel our agency’s strategic storytelling.

Cognitive computing

Cognitive computing builds on machine learning using large data sets.

The goal is to create automated IT systems that can solve problems without human intervention. Marketing centric cognitive computing solutions can consist of a single, all-encompassing solution, or be comprised of multiple services that build and scale applications over time.

From a marketing application perspective, cognitive computing-based solutions range from customer experience enhancing chatbots to closed loop systems for tracking media performance.

Bank of America recently launched the Erica bot using AI, cognitive messaging, and predictive analytics to further influence consumers’ ability to create better money habits.

Cognitive computing will be key to unlocking the potential of conversational experiences. As ecosystems continue to rise, many of the 30,000 chatbots on Facebook Messenger are powered by AI services.

Facebook’s own M virtual assistant housed within Messenger will soon come out of beta testing and will incorporate cognitive suggestions based on content of a conversation users are having. The goal is to make Messenger-based interactions more convenient, enabling users to access services without leaving the conversational thread within Messenger.

Speech recognition and natural language processing (NLP)

NLP refers to intelligent systems able to understand written and spoken language just like humans, along with reasoning and context, eventually producing speech and writing. NLP plays an essential role in the creation of conversational experiences.

Voice-based experiences, such as Alexa’s voice services (AVS), will become pervasive over the next few years. It is projected that by 2020, 30 percent of web browsing sessions will happen without a screen.* (*Source: Gartner analysts at Symposium/ITxpo 2016.)

The core of the AVS experience is a combination of automated speech recognition, natural language processing, and a cloud-based AI that comprise a voice-based user experience.

As with most artificial intelligence entities, learning new skills is how personalized and contextual experiences will be created. With Alexa, it is possible to “teach” new conversational elements and interactions through developing skills.

Here is an example from Domino’s pizza that allows consumers to order pizza directly through Alexa voice services.

Alexa skill development is one of the quickest ways for brands to connect with the rapidly growing audience that calls upon Alexa to empower their daily lives.

Fitbit is another brand leveraging Alexa-based skills to extend brand engagement. Traditionally Fitbit users depend on an app to visualize their data. With the Fitbit Alexa skill users can get a quick update on the stats that matter the most without the need of a screen.

Deep learning

Deep learning builds on machine learning using neural networks. Neural networks are statistical models directly inspired by, and partially modeled on, biological neural networks such as the human brain. The use of neural networks is what differentiates deep learning from cognitive computing.

Deep learning is currently redefining Google’s approach to search, and search engine optimization (SEO) will never be the same. Previously, Google search results were based on algorithms defined by a strict set of rules and SEO was based on regression models that looked at past behavior to adjust a given strategy.

With the introduction of RankBrain, Google’s machine learning technology, in 2016, search algorithms are now enhanced with artificial intelligence. Google is now processing roughly 15 percent of daily queries by mixing the core algorithms based on each search type.

The system is adept at analyzing words and phrases that make up a search query. It also decides what additional words and phrases carry similar meaning.

Expect the percentage of search queries handled by AI to significantly increase. Marketers will need to rethink site architecture, content, and the signals being sent via backlinks as the systems continue to learn on a query-by-query basis.

Predictive application programming interfaces (APIs)

A predictive API uses AI to provide access to predictive models, or expose access to an ability to learn and create new models.

Fortune 500 company USAA is analyzing thousands of factors to match broad patterns of customer behavior through its intelligent virtual assistant Nina.

As we shift from consumers using technology to technology enhancing consumers, predictive APIs will play a key role in providing recommendations, enhancing customer service, and providing real-time analytics without in-house data scientists. This is key to unlocking new forms of value exchanges with consumers in a hyperconnected world.

Image and object recognition

Image recognition finds patterns in visually represented data, pictures, and objects. Facebook and Google are two organizations focused on AI research and solutions in this area.

As image recognition is extended into video and live broadcasts, it will redefine contextual relevance, categorization, and automation of content distribution.

Combined with the advancement of cameras, image recognition and machine learning are transforming the way we process data, including much more than just attitudes and behaviors.

Brand marketers can now leverage images, facial expressions, body gestures, and data collected from IOT-enabled devices to understand the triggers behind behavior and build experiences that anticipate their customer’s needs. This requires brand marketers to transform their data strategy to expand beyond first- and third-party data to also incorporate unstructured datasets that capture affect and unconscious data inputs.

Snap’s pending patent on object recognition is potentially game changing. A recent patent application shows its desire to built object recognition into snaps that can enhance recommended and sponsored filters most likely powered by an AI-based system. This showcases how any object can be aligned with creating immediate context with a consumer and brand.

Olay launched an AI-powered Skin Advisor that ingested user generated photos and provided recommendations for suitable products.

Dynamic experience generation

AI-based systems not only have the ability to parse through large data sets and offer predictive solutions, but also can drive the creation of dynamic experiences. AI will become a powerful tool for creating vs. analysis.

Many startups are leveraing AI APIs to create intelligent solutions. The Grid (https://thegrid.io) is leveraging AI to automate web design with Molly. Molly analyzes design decisions and creates new web experiences.

Eventually, AI will be a key driver of creating augmented reality experiences. Dynamic experience generation through AI will recreate physics, recognizing gestures and movements that can generate new consumer experiences.

Below, Mark Zuckerberg discusses the future of AR/VR at Facebook’s F8 conference.

The various subsets of artificial intelligence will continue to be interconnected, redefining how we approach connecting with consumers. AI makes it possible to know the consumer better than ever before. If approached correctly, with the right mix of AI subsets leveraged, companies will see their business grow.

This is a repost of my recent iMedia cover story.

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Trends To Watch in 2017

Technology is now essential to our daily lives. Accessibility and empowerment has transformed how we connect and communicate. This has led to new forms of user interaction that will usher in the business models of the future.

2017 will be comprised of new types of conversational experiences to connect with consumers. It will see the continued evolution of artificial intelligence and connected systems as well as the rapid rise of third-party ecosystems supporting virtual, augmented and mixed reality.

The following trend deck outlines the evolution of marketing in 2017 through the consumer centric filters of connection, cognition and immersion and is now available for download.

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  • CONNECTION – Trends that reimagine how we connect, enable and empower consumers.
    • Examples include: Simplified Conversational Experiences, Pervasive Voice-Based Interfaces, Search and Retrieval to 1:1 Prediction, Affective Datasets and eSports

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  • COGNITION – Trends where machine based intelligence will disrupt and redefine data assets and how we work.
    • Examples include: Machine Learning as a Service, Centaur Intelligence, Blockchain & AI

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  • IMMERSION – Trends that align technology and presence to evoke emotion, entertain and power commerce.
    • Examples include: Democratization of VR, VR Commerce, Social VR, (Re)Mixed Reality

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  • ZONE OF CONVERGENCE – Trends that align elements of connection, cognition and immersion that will redefine consumer engagement.
    • Examples include: Cars as the next Mobile Platform, Holographic Computing, Ambient Computing.

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How we consume and interact via digital channels is about to be absorbed and redefined. We believe that 2017 will begin the convergence of connection, cognition and immersion toward an ambient computing future built on new data types that will simplify complex tasks and predict need states vs reacting.

Download the 2017 Trend Predictions Today!

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Voice Based UI Best Practices

Over the past year I have focused research efforts on the shift towards conversational experiences and what consumers expect. The research has been covered by Adweek and it’s fascinating how open consumers are to engaging and adopting these experiences as long as they are easy to use and are convenient.

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One flavor of conversational experiences is tied to voice based user experiences. I recently visited Amazon HQ in Seattle and wrote about my experience with the newly formed Amazon Alexa partner team and the rise of voice based user experiences.

Since this article published I have seen client interest and demand for voice based concepts and skill creation rise as our brand partners see the potential of voice based systems.

Here is a slide from a recent client presentation. Almost every meeting over the past few months has included discussions around voice based UI.

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

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Voice based experiences will play a key role during this time as our interactions with connected systems and the rise of micro services as a primary mechanism to navigate a hyper connected world will become the new normal.

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

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Developing voice based experiences differs greatly from visually driven experiences. Visual experiences provide immediate context and cues to the end user that can guide the user and enhance the experience.

Here are 5 emerging voice UI design patterns the Amazon team and I discussed and subsequent best practices and points to consider when designing voice based skills.

  1. Infinitely Wide Top Level UI

With a mobile user experience, users have the benefit of visual cues that can guide their actions within a given experience. Be it a hamburger menu or on-screen prompts. With Voice based UI the top level of the UI is infinitely wide. Here are a few best practices for building solutions to beyond infinity wide top level.

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Don’t assume users know what to do – It’s important the first time a voice skill is initiated to provide additional detail and tell the user about their what options they have for interacting with your experience.

Expect the Unexpected – Unlike visual interfaces there is no way to limit what users can say in speech interaction. It’s important to plan for reasonable things users might say that are not supported and handle intelligently.

2) Definitive Choices – The key to successful Voice UI design is to make the next consumer action clear. Consumers will not always say what they want so it is incredibly important to map intent beyond the normal function of a skill. An example is how a consumer may end a session. They may utter done, quit, etc… and the skill needs to provide clear action for how to end the session. Here are additional points to consider.

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Make it clear that the user needs to respond – Ask the user a question vs. simply making a statement.

Clearly present the options – Prompts are very important, especially if the question set is an either/or vs. yes/no.

Keep it Brief – Speech is linear and time based. Users cannot skim spoken content like visual content. Quick decisions are key, so voice based prompts should be short, clear and concise.

Avoid too many choices – Make sure choices are clearly stated and do not present more than three choices at a time, avoid repetitive words.

Use Confirmation Selectively – Avoid dialogs that create too many confirmations, but confirm actions of high consequence.

3) Automatic Learning

One of the areas I am most excited about over the next few years is the intersection of artificial intelligence and the ability to apply machine learning and other higher level algorithms to create more personalized experiences. For Voice based UI it is important to understand how sessions can persist over time.

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Obtain one piece of information at a time – Users may not always give all of the information required in a single step. Ask for missing information step by step and focus on a progressive profiling strategy vs. lead capture.

Develop for Time Lapse – It is possible to create skills that allow for sessions to persist with end users. This can be hours or days. This can allow more data to be collected across sessions.

Personalize Over Time – As sessions persist and users interact with skills it is possible to further personalize the experience over time based on previous interactions.

4) Proactive Explanation

With traditional visual design a user can open a web page or a mobile app and the information design shows you what to do. With voice you don’t have a page so having the ability to clearly articulate definitive choices in addition to providing proactive explanations such as tutorials or help are critically important to reduce user frustration.

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Offer help for Complex Skills – If a skill does more than three functions, it is important to not overload a single prompt to the user. Present the most important information first, along with the option of a help session.

Make sure users know they are in the right place – In speech only interactions, users do not have the benefit of visuals to orient themselves. Using “landmarks” tells users that Alexa heard them correctly, orients them in the interaction and helps to instill trust.

Use Re-Promptiong to Provide Guidance – Offer a re-prompt if an error is triggered. This should include guidance on next steps

Offer a way out if the user gets stuck – Add instructions into the help session. “ You can also stop, if you’re done”.

Don’t blame the user – Errors will happen. Do not place blame on the user when errors happen.

5) Natural Dialog

Research shows that people are “voice activated” and we respond to voice technologies as we respond to actual people. This makes the crafting of voice based narratives incredibly important as the dialog needs to be natural, consumable and written for the ear not the eye. Here are a few key points to consider for enhancing natural dialog within a skill.

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Present information in consumable pieces – Humans only retain a small amount of information that they hear, only present what is absolutely required in order to keep the interaction as short as possible.

Longer lists need to be broken out into three to five items and ask the user if they want to continue after presented with each chunk.

Write for the Ear, not the Eye – The prompts written for voice-forward experiences will be heard, not read, so it’s important to write them for spoken conversation. Pay attention to punctuation.

Avoid Technical & Legal Jargon – Be honest with the user, but don’t use technical jargon that the user won’t understand or that does not sound natural. Add legal disclaimers to the Alexa app for users to read and process.

Rely on the text, not stress and intonation – Use words to effectively convey information. It is not possible to control the stress and intonation of the speech. You can add breaks but cannot change elements such as pitch, range, rate, duration and volume.

Clarify Specialized Abbreviations and Symbols – If an abbreviation such as a phone number or chemical compound is somewhat specialized, ensure to test the text-to-speech conversion to see if additional steps need to be made.

One final takeaway RE: the Alexa voice based system is the proximity to transaction and list creation via Amazon’s core services. This combined with 6 years of development tied to Alexa Voice Services and the rising partner ecosystem are all signals towards the convergence of connection, cognition and immersion.

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IIeX 2016 Machine Learning + AI = Data Driven Creative

Yesterday I had the privilege to speak at the Insight Innovation eXchange or IIeX North America 2016 discussing our approach to getting data driven creative via Machine Learning and artificial intelligence.

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This presentation was a joint effort between my Epsilon team and one of our strategic partners Oculus360. I work closely with Raju Kattumenu, the founder of Oculus360 and we have engaged on numerous initiatives over the past year.

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This has allowed us to leverage the power and reach across public domains leveraging their technology combined with our proprietary data assets to validate consumer truths or find new connections based on occasions, attributes, perception & demand signals.

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The technology is a combination of natural language processing, an artificial intelligence neural network and machine learning systems that combine to unlock various themes & trends associated with demand signals created by consumers.

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The key to this approach is that instead of starting macro across all facets of the web or social conversation, this approach looks at specific domains and can go incredibly deep down to the product sku level.

We then take the results from this approach and combine it with our connection planning process and data assets to unlock consumer truths that will define our approach to creative and strategic territories. It truly is an approach where data fuels creativity.

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This approach of combining machine learning + AI with Epsilon’s data assets allows us to truly identify contextual moments to create personalized experiences.

Context is key as this informs whether we should use storytelling vs. storymaking moments. We then align moments with personalized elements of the story based on our data findings and use cross device identity to create personalized story delivery at scale.

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I also discussed how we have realigned our approach to planning with data science to inform creative territories & strategic themes as well as how this approach supports innovation initiatives by informing and validating consumer readiness when it comes to emerging storytelling mediums.

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We then showed an example based on the mini-van category. Traditionally mini-van advertising has stayed very close to the “family” approach to connecting.

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We wanted to either validate the approach or find new consumer truths based on all the factors outlined above. What we found was very interesting as key attributes and occasions began to surface that outlined new demand signals that could be used to shift perception.

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This also allows us to take a look across brands and see which brands align with specific occasions which can lead to differentiation among competitors.

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We can also look at specific features associated with each of the brands to identify new territories or areas to focus on driving awareness, engagement or advocacy.

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In order to maximize contextual connections with consumers it is important to not only have qualitative data tied to consumer insights. It is also critical to leverage the power of machine learning and artificial intelligence combined with strong data assets to unlock demand signals that can fuel the creative process.

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MMS Upfront @ Internet Week 2016

This week I had the opportunity to speak at the Modern Marketing Summit Upfront @ Internet Week 2016 discussing the topic of the transformation of storytelling. Below is a recap of my key talking points.

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The discussion covered 4 territories tied to how storytelling is being transformed.

1) How do you define storytelling from your company’s perspective? What is a story? 

I’d define Epsilon’s approach to storytelling as finding a compelling difference through data that leads to a consumer truth then completing a narrative around that truth. The truth/data will often reveal the correct medium by telling who, what, where and when of the audience. We then use traditional tools of persuasion formatted by channel to reach the audience.

For us a story can be any type of format that creates a connection with a consumer. This can come through brand created, co-created or user created content. We further delineate storytelling and storymaking by working with our brand partners to make them the catalyst for the stories consumers are making for themselves.

2) How does the context of where and when the story is being told affect the way you choose to tell it? 

Context is key as this informs whether we should use storytelling vs. storymaking moments. We then align moments with personalized elements of the story based on our data findings and use cross device identity to create personalized story delivery at scale.

We partner with a major sports speciality retailer to generate and optimize 1 million versions of the brand story that aligns with key contextual moments.

This is approach is based on transactional and online click stream data and that in turn continues to drive actionable insights across all of our initiatives to inform and optimize our creative process in near real time.

The key is consistency of message across various formats and having the ideal understanding of cross-device behaviors to deliver a message at the right time.

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3) How do you coach your clients to think from the consumers perspective? What do you hope a good story will achieve for your client? 

We show them what consumers expect, how they perceive their brand and category and align strategy where there are opportunities to create new points of connection. This includes understanding when to leverage branded content vs. co-created vs. integrated vs. user created content to tell the story for the brand.

We focus a lot on consumer behaviors. This comes in the form of machine learning and artificial intelligence that looks at specific domains and mobile ethnography studies. We also leverage our proprietary assets that highlight key behavioral, transactional and affinity based data that allows us to demonstrate how we find unique ways to tell or make a story.

We not only show them what consumers expect, how they perceive their brand and category we focus on the potential outcomes tied to our storytelling and story making efforts.

Our goal is to start or change a conversation, create advocacy and ultimately drive purchase and business outcomes.

4) How important is data in informing your decisions about your storytelling methods? 

Data is the fuel of our creative process. It enhances the creative, it does not replace or stifle creativity.

We realigned our planning with data science to inform creative territories & strategic themes we then use this to map the story as well as deliver audiences all with an eye towards outcomes and building models that show the impact of our storytelling efforts

One of the other great assets is our ability to map to individuals across devices. This makes it easier to deliver highly personalized and dynamic creative. Mapping high level themes through to relevant micro-moments. This allows us to connect with consumers regardless of where they are in a heavily fragmented media landscape.

Data also informs consumer readiness when it comes to emerging storytelling mediums. Whether it’s the shift towards conversational user experiences to immersive experiences such as Virtual, Augmented and mixed reality. data is a foundational element to our approach to creativity and innovation.

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Facebook F8 2016 Trend Recap

I recently attended Facebook’s F8 developer conference in San Francisco and the event did not disappoint. Mark and the Facebook team outlined their approach to a ten year roadmap, launched the highly anticipated Messenger chat bot beta and showcased their first concepts of a social virtual reality experience.

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The presentation below covers:

•  The 10 year roadmap analysis

•  The Rise of Chat bots

•  Immersive Experiences & Social VR

The 10 year Roadmap

Facebook Roadmap

This was the 10 year roadmap presented at F8. It follows the lifecycle continuum approach outlined in the previous slide.

Facebook proper is the most mature and has a thriving 3rd party ecosystem as well as a sustainable monetization model.

Messenger has been identified as the next ecosystem with powerful tools that were released at F8 2016 to drive conversational commerce and a new approach to replacing apps..

VR, Connectivity and AI represent the near future for Facebook and Social VR will be a key area to watch. Developing strategies that capitalize on creating value today while experimenting for the future is key.

For analysis on Facebook’s 10 year roadmap including Facebook’s approach to product lifecycle, Facebook proper, the Live video API, approach to connectivity, artificial intelligence and Facebook’s investment in hardware and open platforms view slides 4-12 in the embedded slideshare.

The Rise of Chatbots

With 900M users and over 1 billion messages sent per month, Facebook felt that Messenger has progressed through their continuum approach to product lifecycle and now has hit the inflection point of scale to build out an ecosystem to solidify and sustain Messenger as the go to mobile application.

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The key is that Messenger will support one bot to many pages. This makes it easy to seamlessly connect brands or services in a portfolio to create compelling and unique experiences that are 1:1.

Since Facebook does not own the mobile hardware or the operating system, they are positioning Messenger threads as a replacement for native apps.

For in-depth analysis of chat bots including an overview, conversational commerce, the send & receive API, wit.ai, discovery within Messenger, promotion and conversational advertising  view pages 14-22 of the embedded slideshare.

In addition to this POV our Epsilon agency team wrote  a comprehensive eBook that launched when Facebook announced the Messenger Beta. The ebook covers the shift from social media to messaging and the role data, chat bots and conversational commerce will play for brands.

Social Shift Toward Messaging

Virtual & Augmented Reality

Facebook states that virtual reality is the next evolution of computing and is heavily invested in the hardware and experiences that will comprise aligning technology with presence.

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During F8 Facebook outlined a path forward for active VR experiences, demonstrated social VR concepts for the first time publicly and identified augmented reality as a viable disruptor for the first time as to date all the conversation has been about VR experiences.

Virtual Reality experiences are coming and the key will be empowering consumers to create their own immersive experiences. Facebook’s long term goal is to create completely virtual experiences that recreate the physical world. For now wave 1 will be avatar based.

For in-depth analysis of virtual reality including an overview of the role of the Gear VR in the ecosystem, Oculus Touch, the first public demo of Facebook’s Social VR concepts and the bets of the future review slides 23-29 of the embedded slideshare.

For more insights and analysis follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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The Social Shift Towards Messaging eBook

Today at F8,  Facebook made the formal announcement to beta launch 3rd Party Chat bot support for Facebook Messenger. I have written a few articles on this topic and have consolidated the thinking into an eBook.

Social media—and now social messaging—is a path to understanding and being in a relationship with your customers. Social messaging is poised to become the most direct, direct marketing channel, creating immediate 1:1 conversations with customers.

As consumer behavior shifts toward more intimate forms of communication and away from public sharing, we’re seeing social messaging apps become more popular than networking apps. Social messaging apps are the new lifestyle platforms, where consumers can do everything from booking a vacation or ordering food to checking traffic giving rise to a new form of commerce. 

 

This white paper provides a deep-dive into:

1) Shifting consumer behaviors towards social messaging,

2) The potential impact of these changes driven by chatbots and conversational commerce 

3) Proposed best practices and future considerations.

Download the eBook today!

Social Shift Toward Messaging

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2016 Header

Mobile World Congress Recap

I recently attended the 2016 Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, Spain. With over 100,000 attendees and 2,200 participating companies there was a lot of breaking news and tech on display that has the potential to reshape industries.

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With mobile representing a primary access point for consumers this event is becoming increasingly important for brand marketers.

At the end of this post is a slideshow providing a comprehensive recap and analysis of key trends identified during the event. Here is a preview of the territories analyzed.

Key Industry Topics discussed at MWC such as ad blocking, digital transformation, sponsored data and the role of 5G for connectivity in the future.

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Overviews of Technology that will empower consumers such as modular form factors, virtual reality cameras, connected devices and new features that can influence consumer behavior.

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Immersive Experiences were at the center of MWC. The recap reviews new entrants into the VR arms race, how Facebook is looking to provide VR for the masses, the role augmented reality can play for brand marketers and the potential for mixed reality.

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Evolution of the Connected Car dives into how connectivity is shifting from internal to external, the rise of autonomous cars, cars as the next mobile platform and the creation of immersive in-car experiences.

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Here is the full slideshare deck:

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16 Digital Trends for 2016

The first movie I saw in theaters was the original Star Wars (Episode IV) in the late seventies. That ignited my passion for advanced technology, space travel, science fiction, robotics and the future.

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I continue to draw inspiration from that sense of wonder today. Understanding how to connect systems and data with compelling creative is key to connecting with consumers in an incredibly fragmented landscape.

Just like a disturbance in the force, there are macro digital shifts that will impact strategy. What worked a few months ago may not be applicable and adaptability and experimentation are key to staying ahead to meet the demands of today and to reinvent for tomorrow.

yoda

Below are my predictions/previews for 2016. The 16 Digital Trends for 2016 slide show explores macro digital shifts that will impact digital marketing in the next year.

The focus is to identify trends that can enhance campaigns in 2016 as well as provide a look into the near future through emerging technology that brand marketers will begin experimenting with in 2016.

From the impact of Ad-Blocking to Holographic Computing, the deck will provide an overview and key takeaways for consideration for 2016 planning.

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Evolution of Connection Keynote

I recently had the privilege of delivering a keynote presentation during Social Media Week Chicago. The topic was the evolution of connection.

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Evolution of connection explored the past, present and future state of social media. The initial section highlighted the transformational innovation that forever changed digital marketing by enabling accessibility to create content and how consumer behavior has evolved.

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Next, we took a look back at the past decade and touched on some of the macro trends that have shaped the now rapidly evolving digital landscape and what it takes to now break through in the attention economy.

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Then the focus shifted to how we connect in today’s heavily fragmented world. Focusing on the role data, content and channels play as well as new millennial research outlining the importance of life stage vs. simply segmenting by age.

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Next, the conversation shifted from content marketing to contextual marketing. This section highlighted key trends over the past few years and teased what’s to come as consumers shift from macro sharing to intimate and contextual connections.

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The discussion then shifted to the rise of moment based marketing. Google, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat are all trying to align moments, which is an event + context as a means to re-imagine connection beyond one off personifcations of atomized content.

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From moments to influence. The next section outlined how influence is evolving and highlighted the massive shift in entertainment that is taking place as well as looking at the heuristics of how influence works.

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After influence we discussed the role that video plays when it comes to connecting with consumers. We explored expanding video content strategy across the full content continuum as well as key platform considerations that highlight key points to consider when comparing platforms.

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Next we discussed one of the more important topics of the presentation. This section defined the pending shift from social media to social messaging and how both consumer behavior and platforms are driving towards 1:1 connections.

Tom Edwards Social Messaging

The shifting role of messaging also has a profound impact on the future of commerce. The next section discussed the different shifts in mobile commerce that will have an impact in 2016 and beyond.

Everywhere commerce

We ended our journey discussing the near future and explored topics such as virtual reality, IOT, artificial intelligence, holographic computing and more.

Mixed Reality

From shifts in entertainment that make co-creation essential to understanding  the role that data, content and channels play when connecting with consumers. Gaining insight into the dynamic shifts in how we connect will be key areas of focus in 2016.

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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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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.

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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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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.

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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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Media Post IOT Shopping Panel

I had the opportunity to speak on a MediaPost panel this morning discussing end-to-end beacon solutions and how to leverage the data gathered to create authentic and relevant connections with consumers.

Tom Edwards

It was a lively discussion touching on a number topics. The panel kicked off with a discussion about  what the low hanging fruit is for organizations to capitalize on beacon based initiatives. Then we discussed the type of data collected and how to append value. We then outlined challenges around gathering IOT data and more importantly create actionable insights in real time.

We also explored who will own the central repository of data in an IOT world. I outlined that an arms race is currently underway with the likes of Apple, IBM, Facebook and Google vying to convince partners of the value of their platforms.  

Finally, we spent a lot of time diving into our approaches to privacy and the role that data scientists will play in the near future.
I will post the stream of the panel once it’s live.

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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.

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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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 4.35.10 PM

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.

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Internet of Things: Beacons Panel

On February 10th I was a part of a Media Post panel discussing the Internet of Things and how beacons can be leveraged by brands to create value.

The discussion focused on going beyond the beacon trigger and creating new models of in-store creative advertising that connect physical to digital. We touched on strategy, creative, technology and best practices.

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

Here is a quick breakdown of topics I address:

  • Introduction – The Marketing Arm – 1:22-1:53
  • Dealing with complexity of omnichannel – 2:36-3:58
  • Deeper dive into beacon deployment – 3:58-6:24
  • Creating something new – 11:07-13:00
  • Program Case Study – 14:47-17:43
  • Internal Agency Relationships – 25:38-27:12
  • Database of You – 32:32-33:25
  • Content – 36:24-38:22
  • Future State – 41:14-42:16
  • Leveraging Data – 49:02-49:41

Here is the formal description of the panel.

Advertising on the relatively small smartphone screen has hardly been a hit to date. Once initiated by a beacon signal, what creative will work best? What is the role of post-beaconing, such as sending ad messaging well after leaving a store? What about using past beaconing knowledge to drive foot traffic back to a store? What are consumer expectations from in-store engagements? What future creative options might be used to catch the shopper’s eye? Three creative minds discuss the best beacon-triggered creative approaches for in-store mobile marketing and mobile advertising.

The panel consisted of:

Ian Beacraft (Moderator), Manager, New and Emerging Technologies, Leo Burnett @ianbcraft

Ben Murphy, Director of Technology, FCB Chicago

Scott Varland, Creative Director, IPG Media Lab @scottiev

Tom Edwards, EVP Digital Strategy & Innovation, The Marketing Arm

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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