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Time has arrived.

In Apple, brand-building, innovation, iPhone, Technology, Uncategorized on April 12, 2015 at 2:56 pm

Apple Watch customers could wait months.

by Robert Liljenwall

Gold-Apple-WatchAnyone who has been through an Apple launch before, knows you have to get in line early or be phone-ready when the clock strikes midnight.  Pre-orders started Friday April 10 at 12:01 a.m. (Pacific Standard Time) and true to Apple’s prediction, it was a sell out, not for all models but for the lower-priced editions.  For many, they’ll have to wait until June and in some cases, August.  Those who got their orders placed early will get Watches in May.
Theories abound about Apple’s strategy — did they purposely reduce the number of Watches available to create a “sold-out buzz”, thus hyping the Watch’s popularity? Is it really that much in demand?  Do consumers (Apple fanatics) really crave this new wearable device?  Many of the skeptics and cynics opt for the former — one professor cited “this has always been Apple’s strategy — create a sense of high demand even if there isn’t one.  But it works.”
Apple doesn’t comment on these conjectures, but in March, Apple provided rough estimates — 5-6 million watches (in all editions) would be available at the launch.  Wall Street analysts in Fortune’s review had predictions up to 44 million would be sold in 2015.
Stories abound about how to get around the wait.  There are speculators who will sell you their pre-order on eBay for a $1000 over the cost so you can have your immediate gratification.  And people are snapping them up.  There are high-end, specialty retailers — like Goldgenie.com, who has created a 24k Gold, Rose Gold, or platinum Apple Watch with Swarovsk-style crystals that come with your choice of exotic animal skin straps for the $17,000 variety.  Apple is surely going to string this out as along as the buzz and demand are there.  But what about the Watch?  Is it worth it?  Does it do all of the ‘tricks’ that Apple says it will do.  (See the iimpressive Apple Watch video on www.apple.com)
Reviews project another Apple “hit”
Although there are mixed reviews about the Apple Watch, from the more than 20 such reviews we have seen show a clear and sometimes enthusiastic approval for the Watch.  Early testers said — “It’s goes beyond my expectations…”  “It makes me want to wear a watch again.”  “It takes a bit to get used to it but once you get over the learning curve, it’s incredible.”  But what is really driving this Apple Watch demand?  See our Eight Reasons Why.

Eight reasons why Apple Watch will be successful

In Apple, brand-building, Fashion, innovation, iPhone, mobile & tablets, retail, Technology on April 12, 2015 at 2:54 pm

How will fans love thee?  Let us count the ways.

by Robert Liljenwall

8 apple watches1.  Apple relies on its existing customer base to drive initial sales on all new products.  Apple has sold over 500 million iPhones.  Their customers have the highest upgrade % of any comparable smart phone. As they say, the existing customer is the easiest and ‘cheapest’ to sell. If you own an Apple product, you have already received many emails about the Watch.  Apple knows how to mine it’s customer base, and they are uniquely successful at extracting money from their customer’s wallets.
2.  Apple customers are “discreet adopters”.  Apple never introduces a new device (think iPod, iPhone, iPad) that isn’t tested and performs at the highest level.  Apple is not the first to jump into the new product space — they take a wait/see approach, figure out how to do it better, and then fill in all the gaps and produce exquisitely designed devices that are superior in execution in all areas.  Samsung has given them a ‘run for their money’ but they’re perceived as a lower-tier product — certainly not on the same prestigious level with Apple, regardless of their performance.
3.  Apple’s customers are brand loyal.  They ‘believe’ and ‘trust’ just about everything Apple says about its products.  But these customers don’t just take Apple’s word for this — they know first hand that Apple products perform as expected, and they learn that their customer service is superior.  Yes, they pay more and are eager to do so, but they honestly believe their products are worth it.  For example, they know from experience how polite, courteous, and knowledgeable the ‘geniuses’ at the Genius Bar are.  And they love how they can ‘experiment’ and access all Apple products in their store.  All this builds their brand — they know that every contact they have with their customer is a solid building block for selling future products.
4.  Apple’s snob appeal.  Make no mistake about it — Apple is a luxury product.  They  never discount.  They don’t put on “sales” in Apple stores.  That Apple logo that shines brightly from your laptop in a Starbucks says this about you:  I have an Apple laptop….I paid top dollar for it….I am the kind of person who wants and needs the best…I am proud to be an Apple user.  Being an Apple user also says that you appreciate quality products and services because that’s the kind of person you are.  You want the best.  And wearing the new Apple Watch on your wrist for everyone to see will just be another way to express your commitment to the highest quality, the best.  In many ways, Apple users are tech snobs.  And they’re proud of it.
5.  Apple’s frenzied cult.  This brings us to:  Is Apple a cult?  Of course, it is.  It was always Steve Job’s vision to create the best computer in the world, the MacIntosh.  Then the iMac….then the MacBook…..iPod….iPhone. And now, Tim’s Watch.  Apple customers have been enraptured by the company’s products, its culture and position as a truly luxury brand, they have almost a blind passion for any new product.  They will ‘blindly’ buy their next new thing because  even if they may not need it, they want it.  This is based on customers wanting to always be “cool”, “chic”, tech-savvy, smart.  Apple customers believe so strongly in the Apple methods of inventing new things, they want desperately to be the owner of their latest invention.  It’s a sign that “I am truly a member of the one of most exclusive clubs in the world.”  I may not be able to join the country club, but I can own an Apple Watch and enhance my own brand at the same time.
Passionate Apple users also believe they truly own and depend on the best products in the world that makes their life better.  Apple is not a commodity — it’s the #1 brand in the world today (and the most valuable) that stands for something truly great — Superior Invention.  Superior Design.  Superior Innovation.  These are the common themes in the reviews we have seen on previous Apple products, and the Watch is no different this time around.
6.  Apple takes advantage of its market position.  They are not fools ….they can be arrogant for sure, but for the most part, it’s deserved arrogance.  They have earned, time again and again, the loyalty of their customers because they have delivered in the past.  Consequently, they rely on an established and proven methodology for creating and marketing new products that limits (or eliminates) failure.  There have been glitches — the antennae on the early iPhone was one — and the Apple Map app was a disaster.  Since Jobs created the first new Macs after his return to the company in 1996, their development and marketing process has essentially remained the same.  The only difference Jobs made the second time around was to open up the source code so they could extend their programming and offerings to users without having to spend the $$ on them.  Hence, there are over 1.2 million apps today for the iPhone and developers are now pushing for new apps for the Watch, although we doubt it will handle that many apps.
7.  Apple is the World’s Biggest Tease.  Think about it:  We have been teased about the Apple Watch for over a year.  This teaser campaign is perhaps the best marketing strategy ever created in the history of new product launches.  Nobody does it better.  Not even James Bond.  And what this does is create a “feeding frenzy”.  I asked a gentleman last night in a restaurant who was dining with his wife….they were both looking down at their iPhones — he had a 6, she had a 6 Plus (and proud of it).  I asked him if they ever talk at dinner anymore….they laughed.  Of course we do.  Are you getting an Apple Watch…she emphatically said “no.”  He, on the other hand, nodded ‘yes’, with a huge grin.  “Have to.  It’s my destiny.”  Think about that….his “destiny”?  Every brand marketer in the world wants this kind of customer loyalty.
8.  Apple is the ultimate creative force.  There is an old marketing adage:  The Creative Plan is the Marketing Plan.  I learned this while at Disneyland years ago.  Disney’s creative plan — designing and operating the world’s best outdoor attraction — was the reason for its success.  Not its marketing.  And what makes Apple’s marketing so effective is that their products are so damn gorgeous and work flawlessly (most of the time), they require less marketing than what their competitors must spend.  The brand extensions from Apple II to the Watch have proven winners every time.  Steve Jobs is responsible for building this creative culture.  And yes, he was a meanie.  He wasn’t always the nicest guy.  They got rid of him once.  But it was his devotion to creating the world’s ultimate products that serves today as their foundation for being the world #1 brand and most valuable company.  
 
With every new launch, Apple takes its brand equity for a spin.  They use this equity — tangible and intangible assets — to insure that their products are superior in every aspect of their design, function, and purpose, but more importantly, Apple hires the best “experts” in their field to guide the company down a new path — in this case, the watch business.  They recruit the best and brightest (“who can resist?”) from the world market and make sure that they pay attention to their cultural beliefs and practices at every turn.  They may, perhaps, stumble on the Watch launch, but for any company to take on such a mammoth undertaking in a whole new category — such as the tradition-bound watch business, there is no company better qualified to take this plunge than Apple.  They’re not betting their farm on this one product — but they are indeed dealing from a position of strength.  It’s a marvel to watch, pun intended.

Am I going to get the Watch?  Yes.  When?  Not sure.  I have gleaned myself from the frenzied rush to stand in line for hours or dial 17 times to reach an Apple order taker after the clock strikes Midnight.  I’m older now…and besides I have learned that, like with the Watch, I don’t really need it.  I want it.  And yes, it’s my destiny.

Certain truths are self evident. Ask Ithaca, NY

In brand-building, social media on March 18, 2015 at 11:54 pm

by Robert Liljenwall

The area around Ithaca is known for its robust winters. Known by some as the “snow capital of the world,” this region endured record-breaking snowfalls and cold this past winter. But if you’re the head of the Ithaca Convention and Visitors Bureau during one of the worst winters in history, you reach the point that “you’re fed up”, so fed up, in fact, that the Bureau came up with a remarkable marketing idea: Tell the truth. “That’s it. We surrender. Winter, you win. Key West anyone?” And while it’s your job to promote tourism to your area, it was self-evident that tourist were not flocking to an area to which was blocked by closed highways and below-freezing temperatures.

While the marketing concept was later “retired”, it went viral, and as Bruce Stoff, director of the Ithaca Convention and Visitor Bureau told CNN — “everyone in the Northeast is beaten by winter now…and we were dreaming of being someplace that is warm.” It was a move that some in the tourist industry frowned on, but the spokesperson for the Florida Keys Tourism Counil told CNN, “it’s the wackiest thing I have every seen in my life from a tourism marketing standpoint.” The Floridan tourism group eagerly complied with a request to send a photo for the Ithaca web site — it went viral on Twitter.

What is interesting in my conversation with Stoff was that this idea had been in the talked about for eight years, and it was in the planning and implementation stage for the past two years. “It was certainly calculated….that this was going to be a positive for Ithaca.” Bruce is still on the job, but he cautions that the next three quarters will tell if their concept worked.  — RJL

What were they thinking? Car Bomb Stout brand?

In brand-building, Lemon Award on March 18, 2015 at 11:49 pm

by Robert Liljenwall

It’s OK to scratch your head over this one.  Fat Point Brewing, a Porta Gorda, FLorida, craft brewery, posted pictures of cupcakes and beer to its Facebook page on Monday, March 16, announcing the release of its Car Bomb brand — “a milk stout fermented with Jameson Whiskey oak staves and Irish creme flavor,” which was to be served with Car Bomb cupcakes in honor of the St. Patrick’s Day holiday.  Surely, someone — obviously, not a history major — forgot about The Troubles, the nationalist and religious conflict in Northern Ireland that began in the late 1960s and ended in 1998 with the Belfast Agreement. More than 3,500 people died during the three decades of turmoil that included detonating car bombs. The Fat Point post’s Facebook comments started out innocuously with fans asking about the brewery’s hours and the beer’s availability. But Tuesday afternoon they took a turn.  Brand lesson: If you can’t say in front of TSA, you better not use it as a beer label. — RJL

Google dips its toe into the retail world….

In brand-building, Google, innovation, retail on March 18, 2015 at 11:46 pm
Liljenwall 3-18-15by Robert Liljenwall
It’s only a “toe” — not a full, dedicated retail store like its rival/pal, Apple.  But nonetheless, it represents the first-ever physical presence for the Silicon giant Google.  Here’s what they have done:  This past Wednesday, Google unveiled its debut foray in London’s Tottenham Court Road within retailer Currys PC World. Designed in similar fashion to Apple’s successful model, the storefront plays host to a wide range of Android phones and tablets, as well as Chromebook laptops.  Customers will be able to comb through the store to test out devices and software, as well as attend classes and events that teach them how to use the products.
“The pace of innovation of the devices we all use is incredible, yet the way we buy them has remained the same for years,” James Elias, Google’s UK marketing director, said in a statement at the store launch. “With the Google shop, we want to offer people a place where they can play, experiment and learn about all of what Google has to offer; from an incredible range of devices to a totally-connected, seamless online life. We think it’s a genuinely unique try-before-you-buy experience.”  But for now, Google will be sticking with the store-within-a-store model and the company plans to unveil two more shops later this year!  Where?  No one knows yet! — RJL

“Old” becomes “New” in Pasadena tech venture

In brand-building, innovation, startup, Technology on March 30, 2014 at 9:53 pm

by Robert Liljenwall

85-87 NR and 56 HollyPasadena has always been a technology center in an “old sort of way.”  Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology are two venerable brands – institutions that continue to lead space research and produce Nobel Prize winners and provide the nation’s top-ranked scientists.  Pasadena is also home to the Art Center College of Design, which continues to be a world leader in graphic, industrial and automotive design, and creative arts.  And there has been a surge in Pasadena in recent years of startup high-tech firms such as EarthLink, eHarmony, Idea Lab, and more than 300 other notable high-tech companies in the past several years.

Pasadena’s ‘brand’ has always resonated well throughout the world because of its beautiful neighborhoods and civic assets, including the world-famous Rose Parade and Rose Bowl, nearby Huntington Library and the restored “Old Pasadena” – a booming retail, dining, and entertainment center now ripe for its next phase – infusion of trendy high-tech entrepreneurs who want these amenities close by.  In short, Pasadena is a great place to live and work.

Pasadena hasn’t always been “top of mind,” however, for high-tech startups compared to other California tech havens such as Silicon Valley and Silicon Beach, which is a relatively new concentration of high-tech firms in the coastal corridor stretching from Santa Monica through Venice to Playa Vista.  Silicon Beach is a brand that has ‘stuck’, and it attracts techies who love to be near the beach, palm trees, the strand, and soak in the California sunshine.  The area epitomizes the best of California for many.  And with nearby Hollywood, entertainment-oriented tech firms thrive in this focused community.  It would seem that Silicon Beach has a hefty advantage.

But this is going to change.  Enter David Sacks and Rising Realty Partners who have joined together to create an “answer” to Silicon Beach.  Starting with a quiver full of technology and environmental assets, Pasadena is perfectly positioned to exploit new opportunities being created by these two visionaries.  They are confident they can make an appealing case to entrepreneurs who want what Pasadena has to offer – an intellectual, high-tech, high-energy culture along with its traditional community values that attract a young, upward mobile entrepreneurial elite.

Partners with pedigree brands

David Sacks brings a pedigree high-tech startup background to this venture.  Sacks was the first chief operating officer for PayPal, which was later acquired by eBay for $1.5 billion, and the founding CEO for Yammer, which was acquired by Microsoft in 2012 for $1.2 billion.  He has an eye for successful startups as an early investor in Facebook, Inc., Twitter, Uber, Space Exploration Technologies, Palantir, Houzz and Airbnb.  He knows how young entrepreneurs think and what they want.

Rising also has a gold-edge brand as well – headed by CEO Nelson Rising, former CEO of MPG Office Trust, and a senior partner for Maguire Thomas Partners.  And he served as chairman of the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.  His son, Chris Rising, serves as chief operating officer and has a strong background in investment management and hands-on project management.  He is supervising the Pasadena project.  RRP also has a reputation for preserving and restoring older, historical

Los Angeles-based buildings and turning them into profitable commercial investments that feature the best high-tech amenities that are requisite to today’s technology firms.

“First of all, while we’re starting off with three century-old buildings as the cornerstone of this new technology center, we’re insuring that these buildings will have the most advanced fiber network available.  We’re also making Wi-Fi available to the nearby public park so that our tenants can work in a variety of nearby locales and still conduct business,” stated Chris Rising, president of Rising Realty Partners.  “We know that tech companies prefer access to the highest speed Internet services, and we’re providing 10GB fiber for every office.

“But we also know that young entrepreneurs are attracted to older, restored office environments that have been popular in San Francisco, Austin and Seattle.  We’re preserving the original facade and brick-wall interiors,” he said.  Office sizes will range from 5,000 sf to 15,000 sf.  But it will be the intangibles that make this venture a success:  “We’re looking to group together spirited, ambitious high-tech entrepreneurs who share the passion for a new vision in a complex that breeds successful ventures.  We’re here to support their quest to achieve their startup goals.  And we’re willing to provide below-market rates to these startups,” Rising said along with other superior support services.

This landmark buildings – known historically as the Pasadena Plaza – were built in the late 1800s and early 1900s in the heart of Old Pasadena, which until the late 1970s, was the rundown section of the city.  But like many cities across the United States, commercial and retail visionaries came into Pasadena in the early 1980s and restored many buildings – whole square-block sections – which attracted national retailers, specialty shops, fine restaurants and theaters.  The area is one of the hot spots in Southern California today.

So why is this an intriguing brand and technology story?

This is a classic brand case of “old” versus “new.”  Pasadena was and is considered “old money” – the original founders of the city came from Indiana in the 1800s with their strong, conservative work ethic and Midwest values.  They created a master plan based on classic European cities – large civic plazas, wide thoroughfares, and provided for a variety of large estate and smaller residential parcels.  Ask anyone what they think of Pasadena, and for those who have been here, they ‘love that city.’

The LA business elite settled here, too – such as the Chandlers, who published the Los Angeles Times, and most of LA’s prominent lawyers and bankers made their homes in the idyllic neighborhoods of Pasadena and nearby San Marino.  The Wrigley’s and Gambles built their winter homes in Pasadena.  And, of course, there was always the annual Rose Parade and Rose Bowl game … still iconic brands after more than 100+ years.

Old Pasadena is not unlike other re-inventions going on in other American cities but the partners know that the city holds some outstanding trump cards – CalTech, JPL and Art Center, plus a growing tech sector. To Silicon Beach, Rising and Sacks are saying – Hold on!  We have something to offer high-tech startups that is as good – if not better – than what you’re going to get in Silicon Beach.  What Rising brings to the table is development and management expertise that is critical to building a critical mass of the ‘new’ tech that is driving the rapid expansion of startups.  Sacks brings the necessary mindset of what is “new tech” and the challenges of starting a high-tech business.  Together, they intend to be very competitive and give these fledgling companies the added expertise of their experience.

“Our strategy is to not try and steal firms from Silicon Beach.  We’re after the many young companies who are looking for help.  Innovate Pasadena is one of the strongest community-centric organizations that is providing a broad range of startup services and support to these entrepreneurs.  We’re an integral part of that initiative,” Rising said, who is a member of the Innovate board.  Innovate conducts a broad spectrum of education and networking programs every month in Pasadena.

One last thought … transportation hub advantage

Rising had one last observation that bears watching.  He aptly noted that California is the automobile manufacturer’s best friend.  Nobody takes public transit.  “But not anymore,” he stated. Ridership on the expanding network of Metro Rail is growing steadily every year … the Gold Line stops just steps away from the new Rising/Sacks project, and is being extended eastward.  Santa Monica will soon have an extension of the Expo Line, and this is where young, hungry entrepreneurs are using these days – it’s cheap, and it beats crawling on the freeways.  Rising fervently believes that the high-tech firms of the future will want to be next to public transportation hubs.  “And we’re practically sitting on one in Old Pasadena,” he said with a smile.  “Pretty soon, one can take public rail transit from Pasadena to Silicon Beach.  Who would’ve thought?” – RJL

Film Festivals Embrace High-Tech

In brand-building, mobile & tablets, social media, Technology, Video, Movies & Television on March 30, 2014 at 3:19 pm
RiverRun International Film Festival April 4-13

by Jeff Sandgren

riverrunThe 16th annual RiverRun International Film Festival will be running from April 4 – 13 in Winston-Salem. Held annually each spring, RiverRun screens a wide variety of feature-length and short films from all genres, and also presents a broad range of special events, including high-profile regional premieres of significant films. This year, festival winners can even become contenders for next year’s Academy Awards.

The festival, like its more famous cousins at Sundance and SXSW, relies increasingly on new technologies to develop and deliver the wonder of traditional moviegoing. We spoke with Christopher Holmes, Program Coordinator for RiverRun, about how they use small-screen and other new technologies to bring this banner event to the big screen in the City of Arts and Innovation.

BTN: How has technology changed the realization of your film festival?

RRIFF: Online streaming platforms have made all of our jobs tremendously easier. Keeping up with the programming landscape at major international festivals like Cannes has become so much more manageable – without ever having to leave the office. In the past it might take several emails back and forth and then the mailing of a physical DVD screener to facilitate the consideration of just one potential film, or even schlepping to the festival in person.

Online filmmaker services such as Cinando and Festivalscope now exist that allow us to request and receive invitations to watch streaming versions of many films, and this can all happen within the span of an hour or less now, given the response time from a particular filmmaker or distributor. Likewise Vimeo and YouTube have become high quality, legitimate receptacles for screeners from filmmakers that respond to our open call for submissions, so it’s really changed things for the better in terms of how quickly we’re able to preview titles that pique our interest.

BTN: How does it help support and promote the event?

RRIFF: Social media tools and their mobile apps have become integral to the way we promote the festival. We used to rely heavily on our in-house printed film guides and brochures, and local print media to get the word out, but now we can do that worldwide within a matter of minutes using Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. These tools additionally allow us to maintain a direct running dialogue with our supporters in the community and make everyone feel actively engaged with what’s happening at RiverRun on a consistent basis.

Keeping in touch with our audiences and staying on their radar in the many off months has always been a particularly challenging undertaking and technology has allowed us to accomplish this in a more purposeful and conversational way. And just in terms of design and implementation of graphic elements, it speeds up turnaround time on the creative end as well, since sharing high-res mock-ups and proofs via email is now very simple.

BTN: What is this new connection with the Academy Awards?

RRIFF: This year, for the first time in our history, we’ve been approved as a qualifying festival for the Academy Awards in the category of Short Subject Documentary, of which there are only a handful in the Southeastern United States and just a few dozen overall. Each year we assemble a jury for each competition category, comprised of noteworthy professionals, writers, academics and other personalities from the cinematic arts. Those juries deliberate during the festival to distinguish films with awards in their respective categories.

What the Oscar-qualifying tag means is that whichever film our Documentary Shorts jury awards with the Best Documentary Short prize is automatically in the pool of films that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences members ultimately consider for Oscar nomination. Basically we are a necessary filter between the entire mass of documentary shorts produced every year and what the Academy members are able to consider with their extremely limited time. So there’s a decent chance that one of the films programmed will be among the Oscar nominated shorts this time next year, and directly because of its participation in the festival.

BTN: We hear a lot about multiscreen user experience these days. Are you discouraging or encouraging it for events like this? 

RRIFF: We are certainly discouraging it during the screenings themselves!  There’s nothing more magnetizing to the eye than seeing a screen light up, and it is an enormous disruption to the immersive environment filmmakers covet when creating their work, so we do everything we can to be faithful to that interaction. However we are certainly encouraging the integration of all sizes of screens and technology in representing the festival more generally—talking about viewing experiences our audiences have had, sharing viewpoints on films we’ve shown, events we’ve put on or experiences we’ve created, and including things like trailer links and other visual content on our web-based analogs.

BTN: How can moviegoers use their mobile devices to select films and track showing and ticket availability?

RRIFF: Our website has a mobile version which enables sorting through film listings, viewing the schedule, watching trailers and buying tickets online. Additionally we have a mobile app for both iOS and Android devices that makes simply sorting the films even easier … it even allows the user to filter out a combination of attributes such as genre and venue to achieve a very specific set of recommendations based on a lot of different variables.

BTN: Looking ahead, how do you think wearables – especially devices like Google Glass – may change the film going experience of tomorrow … for better or worse?

RRIFF: Hmm, we wonder…

We don’t see a small-screen application like Google Glass as particularly conducive to the large scale, projected effect that cinematic communication necessitates. After all, larger screen sizes have been positively linked to viewer engagement and interactivity (even on a physiological level) so the smaller the viewing space, the less control the filmmaker has over the way and degree to which the audience engages with the content.

For more small-screen, commercially driven applications like viewing sports, news, film trailers and social media, we can imagine it being very appealing, even if only from a novelty perspective. People are constantly looking for new user experiences and ways to keep their messages fresh and vital, so Google Glass and other wearables seem like they could present new opportunities in that respect.

Perhaps there’s a way to integrate the glasses with 3D moviegoing and TV experiences, as well?  How about it science? – JTS

Branding Tip: How To Humanize Your Brand

In brand-building, innovation, social media, Technology on March 6, 2014 at 1:22 pm

3 ways to breathe life into your brand

by Sookie Lioncourt 

Your customers are human, and so are your business partners. The people who create your products and contribute to the proliferation of your ‘brand’ are also all, human. As a response, it’s just fitting that you should also start ‘humanizing your brand’ to make it more interesting and universally appealing. Tim Ingold Jr. and Jabil Circuit of Wired said that through this practice, retailers and establishments alike “can seek ways to add a personal touch to non-traditional outlets” for your products and services. With the rise of digital technology, this can be done with ease — you can leverage social media interaction to provide real-time information to the public, use an intelligent virtual machine in your freestanding kiosks that dispense products, or take advantage of augmented reality technology to add a lively flair to your brand. To elaborate this further, read on below for we discuss how digital technology can indeed give life to your precious brand.

Through Social Media Influence

Using a social media channel is a thoughtful and deliberate process in giving life to your brand that yields some great benefits when properly utilized. Maren Hogan of the HR Examiner pointed out that the “humanization of a brand fosters more intimate brand-customer communications, customer loyalty, growth through feedback and increased engagement.” Here’s how you can leverage social media:

  •  Document…Document…Document…

Collate all the responses from your customers and visitors, even if they are criticizing your products and/or services. The whole point of having a social media account is to hear, apart from being heard. Treat your online followers as if they are all your friends by listening to their suggestions and sentiments.

  •  Respond Rapidly and Individually 

Those who will leave a quick wall posting your business page wanted to be acknowledged and addressed immediately. If the information is not yet readily available, at least have the decency to tell them that someone is looking into the situation. Inactive social interaction translates to inconsistency in your business and company as a whole. “No one likes an inconsistent company… this is a glaring flaw when making use of social media interaction,” as highlighted by Wise (@letsgetwise). The web may be far too big to win over everybody, but a bit of personality is way better than being a faceless autobot.

  •   Say Sorry When Necessary 

Humans are not perfect. We do commit errors and mistakes and that’s OK. Apologizing to your customers will help them realize that your brand is committed toward serving them and caring for their personal interests. You’ll be surprised by the favorable effects that you can achieve when you “kill” them with kindness.

The Use Of Virtual and Real-Life Objects

What could be more human than a product that acts like one and operates like a person? One example of this one is the virtual holographic mannequin of Boston’s Logan Airport named Carla. She is an attractive young lady that gives out pieces of advice ranging from air security and safety. She and her other virtual sisters, whose located in strategic locations inside the airport, are also there to greet passengers and accompany them as they leave and arrive in the vicinity.

Another example is the campaign created by Douwe Egberts Coffee Company called “Bye Bye Red Eye.” The Dutch company installed high-tech coffee vending machines in airports and other public places that interacts though facial recognition software. So, when a yawning traveler approaches the machine, it automatically dispenses a hot cup of coffee for that wearied person.

Though these practices are done outside the traditional store setups, using the machine’s lively element can establish a more personal link between the brand and the consumers.

By Augmenting Reality

Augmented Reality, three-dimensional web tools, and interactive computer applications can also add a human flair to your brand even without an actual person from your company involved in the process. For instance, some clothing and Eyewear e-commerce shops are employing the use of virtual fitting room that uses the customer’s web camera to see if a particular product is ideal for them or not, before doing a transaction. Since this practice fosters a product-consumer engagement, using Augmented Reality is a cost-effective way of humanizing your brand.

With the proliferation of technology, adding a human touch to your brand is no longer a difficult venture. As you’ve seen, you can leverage social media interaction to provide real-time information to the public, or use an intelligent virtual machine or tangible object to foster product-costumer engagements and vice versa. — SL

BrandTech News is excited to share the insights of our first Guest Reporter, Sookie Lioncourt, bringing us news and views from her home office in the UK.  Welcome, Sookie!

Guest Reporter: Sookie Lioncourt

Guest Reporter: Sookie Lioncourt

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Sookie Lioncourt has a solid background in business administration and marketing, she can give you helpful pieces of advice to kick start your business, and ensure your brand’s success by leveraging the power of digital technologies and online media platforms. Talk to her via LinkedIn.

The Hacks Just Keep On Coming

In brand-building, Target, Yahoo! on February 1, 2014 at 2:28 pm

Yahoo! the latest victim of hackers

by Robert Liljenwall

hacked

Target, Neiman Marcus, Michaels and now Yahoo!  And God knows who else (there were supposedly six other retailers hacked but names have not surfaced). What is fascinating is that these are not just ordinary e-crooks – these are capable hackers who enjoy Breaking & Entering huge data files and walking off with millions of accounts that is sending shock waves through every retail and financial executive suite in the country.

What is ironic is that Jan. 27, Yahoo! Finance reported the hack of craft supply retailer Michael’s, only to discover two days later that Yahoo has also been hacked – and it has 273 million accounts worldwide, with a third in the United States. Yahoo is the world’s #2 email account provider after Google, and it has already issued a fix – change your password – and often. Yahoo declined to say how many accounts were compromised or provide a detailed description, although reports indicate it was for the US accounts only. But Yahoo was quick to state that they are investigating it. Really?

Yahoo maintains the breach was not on Yahoo’s systems but obtained from another party who did have access as a vendor account.

Meanwhile, back at Target, they have appeared before Congress – have reportedly lost more than $153 million in replacement costs for new credit cards … sales are down between 2.5 percent to 6 percent as a result of customers staying away … and employees have been laid off. Perhaps the most damning criticisms against the Target brand is that their CEO didn’t respond for nearly 30 days … had a lame offer of 10 percent discount on merchandise upon learning of the crisis … and have been fraught with missteps such as issuing partial statements only to have them revised later. A strong brand seemingly adrift.

Retailers are scrambling to strengthen their security programs, but hacked customers are not happy, regardless of how ‘nice’ the companies are in ameliorating the losses. Target asks you report it to your store, but they recommend you also file a police report. As one frustrated, hacked Target customer who had $2,700 unauthorized charges said … “why do I have to file a police report?  I don’t have time for that!”  The credit card company will reimburse him though. – RJL

New Book Bridges Branding and Technology

In brand-building, innovation, Technology on January 22, 2014 at 6:59 pm

Helping creatives and engineers communicate and collaborate

by Jeff Sandgren

A helpful new book demonstrates the power of skillfully blending branding and technology. It’s already a part of my regular reference library.

Author Vinay Trivedi is an entrepreneur, investor, and tech enthusiast with a computer science background from Harvard. Through his experiences, he realized that nontechnical individuals often struggle to understand the basic technology. This can be especially true for brand marketers and agencies as they try to express their ideas and creative brainstorms on the palette of modern technologies. Like Imagineers and computer geeks at Pixar, it takes a common platform of communication to make the magic stories come to life in the digital age.

Trivedi 6610-5 PODHiResVinay’s new book, How to Speak Tech: The Non-Techie’s Guide to Technology Basics in Business (Apress Media) spells out the essential technical terms and technologies involved in Internet startups and web applications in a way that almost anyone can understand. Nontechnical readers will find their digital literacy painlessly improved with each 10-minute chapter of this illustrative story of one successful technology startup building its Web-based business from scratch.

But this book goes beyond just being a “Tech Talk for Dummies” approach. The world is hardly divided between folks who are fluent in all technologies and folks who know none – far from it. In these increasingly specialized times, many of us are much more conversant in some technologies than others; and that’s where the added value of this book really delivers. Maybe you have a firm grasp on Cloud and Hosting technologies, but need a clearer understanding of what’s involved in defending your project’s environment against security threats; or maybe for you it’s just the other way around. In either case, Vinay’s guide offers quick reads to help you get ready for your next conversation, so you don’t sound like a … well, like a dummy.

“Success, creativity, and efficiency will lie with people who understand how to match the needs of users with the basics of technology,” said Joe Lassiter, Harvard Business School professor and Faculty Chair of the Harvard Innovation Lab. “Through the simplicity of his presentation, Vinay shows that the basics can be straightforwardly understood by anyone who puts in the time and effort to learn.”

Best of all, Vinay demonstrates his conviction in the importance of bridging this communication gap by promising to donate all proceeds from the book toward supporting tech education. Better to light a Rosetta Stone candle than curse the digital darkness. – JTS

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