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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.

Technology Trips Up Target Brand

In brand-building, retail, Target on January 16, 2014 at 9:07 am

There are the good guys. And the bad guys. Pick your Target

by Robert Liljenwall

Cash_Registers

Image from Wikipedia Commons

Well, the bad guys won this round.  110 million hacked Target accounts.  Are you kidding?  And the CEO just now comes out (1/13) and apologizes.  While Rome was burning, he sat there – obviously speechless. Although he made no comments, he did authorize a 10 percent discount for the inconvenience for those on the first wave (70 million) who had their accounts hacked, with PINs no less.  And then, when it was discovered another 40 million were hacked, he decided to descend from his throne and make a comment – on CNBC and the Today show nearly a month after the breach.

The Good Guys

The strength of Target’s brand (which “was” one of America’s strongest, most recognizable brands) could not counter the weakness of their technology.  When technology fails – as it did here, the brand suffers the most.  Sure, they were quick to announce a fix for the first wave, and then another admission of 40 million more breached accounts sorta put a dent in their already weakened brand.

Talk about a brand and technology “perfect storm.”  There is no end to this story of course, since there could be more bad news from Target.  Target reports that they did suffer loss of sales (2 percent to 6 percent) after the revelation of the first 70 million (duh!), but the CEO now says that there are getting back to more normal numbers.

This reminds us of how the CEO of Exxon sat in his office for a full week when the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Alaska in 1989 and had one of the largest oil spills in US history.  He shut down like a dry hole in West Texas.  Like the Target CEO, he was hopeful that nobody was watching … that they, too, would be swept away in the next tide.  It was … and Alaska’s shoreline has proof that it did.  They’re cleaning up that mess and it appears the oil damage in many areas will continue unto the future.

But it all goes back to the core of branding: Do you trust the brand?  I recall that I was tempted to visit the nearby Target store in Pasadena – but first, I would go by the ATM and get some cash.  Good decision at the time.  And then the news of the second wave hit – “my God, is this never going to end.”  While Target did admit that sales were down, they stated the fix is going to be costly and will affect earnings.

Question:  Are you willing to swipe your card at Target now?

But wait!  Now we learn that Neiman Marcus has been hacked – and more on the way.  Isn’t this just terrific?  The Neiman Marcus hack has not be divulged, but my friends with NM cards have already changed them.

Who are the bad guys?

Was this an inside job?  Was it the Russian mafia?  The latter suggestion has surfaced in more than one news report – “they are very talented in hacking into our systems.  I can see them penetrating other large retailers around the globe,” said one security expert.  Do you believe him?  We think more breaches like this lie ahead.

What is so scary is the apparent ease the hackers had in breaching more than 100 million accounts.  Who is next?  That’s the big question.

But make no mistake about it:  Technology failed.  Brand damage is severe for now – but BTN believes they will recover – especially if there are more hacked retailers.  Spreading the bad news actually helps Target.  Pity the thought. – RJL

Free Product Sampling Sound Like a Dream? Then PINCHme.

In brand-building, curation, retail, social media on September 24, 2013 at 2:30 pm

by Jeff Sandgren

Product sampling: a time-tested stalwart of consumer engagement, new product trial-driving and brand conversion. Whether it’s that first slice at the deli, or the cheery little kiosks scattered throughout Costco, the experiential pull is strong – and historically low-tech. That changed several years ago when online companies like StartSampling began offering subscription-based “e-sampling” programs. But as quickly as the online providers grew, the consumer engagement turned in many cases to disengagement, with complaints about subscription fees, irrelevant product samples … even scams. Indeed, a quick Google search of “online product sampling” includes names like “scamfreesamples,” above the fold. That alone speaks volumes.

Fast forward to 2013, and an innovative Australian company is looking to reinvent sampling into the brave new world of Internet-enabled, socially-connected, value-conscious consumers, with a model that promises to deliver relevance and delight to consumers at the same time as it provides laser-like targeting (and ROI) for the sponsoring Brand Marketers.

Sound like a dream? Jeremy Reid says “pinch me.”

pinchmelogo2No, literally. His company, PINCHme, founded earlier this year in Sydney Australia, is about to cross the Pacific and beachhead in the US market, starting in October. The formula has been a big hit Down Under, where in a mere six months Jeremy and his 30-person team have signed up a half million consumers and 50 major CPGs. In the first 30 days of its launch in the Sydney market, PINCHme signed up 2 percent of the population, and it’s been a steady climb since. As for the brands, they include CPG giants Procter & Gamble Co., Unilever, Kraft, Nestle and many more.

To find out how the new service is different, we asked Founder Jeremy Reid to explain the new approach.

Jeremy_Reid_23-(1)

Jeremy Reid, Founder

“Sampling today is very effective,” said Reid, “but not very efficient. Are the brand sponsors getting the right products in front of the right consumers? Are they getting a measurable ROI on the sampling costs? Those are the problems we’re solving with PINCHme.”

A key element of the platform is its integration with shopper loyalty data from some of the key providers. “It’s a win-win,” said Reid. “The shoppers see only personalized offers on their home page, so they don’t have to browse through products that really don’t fit them. And the brands are only investing in sampling for consumers they want to target.”

There’s a lot of analytics going on in the background, Reid explained. When consumers are presented with their targeted offers, they can only choose one-third of the selections. “That’s powerful choice information, and it drives a much higher trial rate on the samples,” said Reid. Even before the choice, unsure consumers are offered an array of digital content and other product information. In other words, they’re engaged in the selection process – thoroughly.

Fulfillment is handled by PINCHme, who delivers a PINCHme-branded gift box in three to seven days. The offers refresh every Tuesday, but before a consumer can select more items, they have to answer a mini-questionnaire of six questions, anytime within a 30-day window after receiving their package. Reid claims the completion rate in the Australian test market is an impressive 94 percent. Consumers can even make a follow-up purchase right from the survey website … and may be incented to do so with special offers from the Brands.

And, of course, all this is tightly integrated with social media, encouraging the consumers to share their discoveries with their networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and all the usual suspects.

Proof of success back in Australia comes from the Brands themselves: Nestle is already on its eighth campaign, and P&G is on its 10th.

Pinchme-graphics

The big news for consumers is that they can pre-register now for the upcoming US launch, simply by going to pinchme.com. So if you like the idea of trying new things, and love the idea of doing it for free, you might want to check it out …

… and let us know how you like the service. – JTS

BrandTech News Q&A with CoreBrand CEO James Gregory

In Apple, brand-building on September 3, 2013 at 9:00 pm

One of our preferred sources for updates on big brands is CoreBrand’s BrandPower reports.  CoreBrand specializes in helping organizations understand, define, express and leverage their brands for measurable results. They offer practical and applicable brand research, valuation, strategy, identity systems and management. Independent since their founding 40 years ago, CoreBrand focuses on using brand as a business asset to improve corporate value.Jim Gregory 01 (Square)

We recently spoke with CoreBrand’s CEO, James Gregory, about their latest Brand Respect report, just published in August. Jim is the founder of CoreBrand, and the creator of the Corporate Branding Index®, an annual research survey designed to capture vital reputation and financial statistics for CoreBrand’s various measurement products. The Brand Respect report factors in ‘familiarity and favorability’ to identify the most-respected and least-respected brands, based on a survey of a large panel of business executives.

BTN: What common characteristics do you see in the Top Ten Most Respected Brands that place them so highly?

JG: If I could put it into a single word I would say “consistency” — Consistency of vision and communication, consistency of business processes, consistency of the culture within the company are all keys to getting the most out of your brand building efforts.

BTN: What do you think is keeping Apple out of the Top Ten, and/or what could they do to move to the head of the class?

JG: Apple is not universally loved except by those us who are brand zealots. Certainly Apple has been moving up over the years and is doing very, very well as a brand but it has not yet achieved the Top Ten status among the business leaders we survey.

BTN: Do you see a relationship between the Favorability decline and the rising influence of Millennials and their notorious lack of brand loyalty?

JG: Certainly something has been putting downward pressure on Favorability. We look at inflection points such as when did all of this start and we can trace it back to 2003-2004 when Sarbanes-Oxley was enacted holding management more accountable for their financial statements. We have not arrived at a conclusion as to the drivers of the decline — certainly Millennials may play a role in the decline of Favorability.

BTN: Your report mentions that Delta and Best Buy, while among the least respected, are on the rise.  Can you offer any insights or examples on what they’ve been doing that may be contributing to that rise?

JG: The “Least Respected” list represented companies with the greatest divergence between Familiarity and Favorability. Best Buy is going through a major reinvention of its brand and we’re watching it closely to see if it has traction. Delta has nearly universal Familiarity but quite low Favorability for a company of that size. Delta’s merger with Northwest and their rebranding efforts are starting to show signs of improving the brand, but they have a long way to grow. Also, this was not a reflection about their customer service but rather about three attributes of Favorability including: Overall Reputation, Perception of Management, and Investment Potential. The airlines industry scores very poorly on Investment Potential and all companies within the airline industry could use more respect.

12 Important Social Media Tools for Brand Marketers

In brand-building, mobile & tablets, social media on August 24, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Future Trends globe and handby Jeff Sandgren

Today was the wrap for the Social Media Insider Summit, and the sponsors had the good sense to stream the final session to those of us not fortunate enough to be at the event by the shores of Lake Tahoe.  Social Media Insiders – who could resist a bit of Saturday afternoon multitasking bandwidth to hear what these Technorati had to say? After an interesting discussion of the possibility (or near certainty, depending on the pundit) of a Facebook Apocalypse (think MySpace) in the not too distant future, we got down to the really juicy insider stuff: what’s next?

So in case you weren’t with these folks, or sitting like me at home wishing you were at Lake Tahoe, here are 12 social media sites & tools that you might want to keep on your radar. To be clear, the order of these sites is as they came up in conversation, and shouldn’t be interpreted as bestowing any more importance on one than on the others. Except the most important one is last … and no fair peeking.

  1. Waze is an app that enables “fun, community based mapping, traffic & navigation.” The 50 million + “Wazers” outsmart traffic by reporting backups, hazards, police and cheap gas to help you find the best way to your destination. By driving with Waze and GPS active on your smartphone, you passively feed data that helps the system automatically detect slowdowns and faster routes. So big bennies for users; for marketers, it means location-based marketing, geofencing and consumer behavioral insights. Right there on the edge of am-I-sharing-too-much, but if you can save me time and gas, well …
  2. LoudDoor claims to be the leading research and targeting platform on Facebook, offering proprietary audiences for market researches, built on the big kahuna of social media sites. Unless the apocalypse actually happens.
  3. Compendium wants to help you calm the chaos of content marketing. Their platform lets you manage all steps of the content marketing process. It’s used by retailers like Bass Pro Shops and Gymboree, event managers, colleges, online marketers … potentially anybody who want to leverage the power of content marketing (like us) with less pain and effort (yeah, OK, like us.)
  4. Kenshoo is a digital marketing company whose mission is to empower every marketer in the world with technology to build brands and generate demand across all media. Brands, agencies and developers use their solutions to direct more than $25 billion in annual client sales revenue, with campaigns running in more than 190 countries for nearly half the Fortune 50 and all 10 top global ad agency networks.
  5. Offerpop positions itself as “the most widely used social marketing platform” with more than 50,000 global customers (supporting 17 languages), and more than 270,000 campaigns created. They promise to enable you to launch campaigns on Twitter and Facebook in minutes … and offer a free two-week trial.
  6. Tagkast solutions support Brand-sponsored photography at live events by integrating them with social sharing. Based on the idea that social media marketing begins and ends with photos, they leverage the social media advantage that 92 percent of consumers trust friend referrals, but only 33 percent trust digital advertising. Their landing page ticker indicates they are approaching 5 million branded moments shared. There’s still time to sign them up for your participation at next summer’s event of the season: the BrandTechNewsaPallooza. Be there or be square.
  7. LINE is a communication app that enables free voice calls and free messages. It’s been ranked the number one free app in 52 countries. Their ‘Home’ feature lets users share photos, videos and location info, and an ecosystem of LINE apps support stickers, cards and all manner of addictive social doodads. Teens and tweens can’t get enough of it.
  8. Vibrant Media is the world’s leading provider of in-content contextual technology that gets brand content and advertising discovered across platforms. With more than 6,600 premium publishers, reaching more than 300 million unique users per month, they offer brand marketers the opportunity to deliver highly targeted advertisements and branded content within text and images. They say Content is King, but Context is Queen.
  9. Percolate helps brands create content “at social scale.” Their solutions help brand marketers create smart hits of curated content that are relevant and inexpensive, but still convey quality and allow the brand to leave their stamp. Sounds great, but where’s the part where someone brings me coffee?
  10. Jive offers enterprise social software to streamline the workflow by making marketers more productive, aligned and innovative. A recent report finds that more than 90 percent of US, British and Australian employees work during their personal time. Jive aims to lighten that load. Ooh, ooh, me next, me nex
  11. Wildfire is the social marketing platform just purchased in July by Google, which lets brands run contests, sweepstakes, branded games and more … and serve marketing and ad campaigns on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and LinkedIn.
  12. BrandTech News is here to help keep you in the know on all the latest at the dynamic intersection of branding and technology. Well, yes, it’s us. Forgive a moment of self-serving sentiment in the midst of our journalistic integrity. But, hey, we’re doing it all for you. Just scroll down a little bit and hit the ‘Sign me up!’ button so you don’t miss a beat of our hard-hitting coverage.
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