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Top Ten Brand/Technology Stories for 2013

In Apple, brand-building, Healthcare, Microsoft, Steve Jobs on December 29, 2013 at 9:31 pm

Big Brand Hits and Misses From 2013

by Robert Liljenwall

Top TenIt’s been quite a year for big brand stories, and even bigger surprises. Here’s our take on the Top Ten stories for 2013, from the intersection of branding and technology.

 1)  Edward Snowden managed to build a powerful, influential global brand in less time than it takes to say, “Gotcha!”  And all on the back of technology and the US National Security Agency secrets he divulged starting in June 2013.  While he may not be a household word, he certainly is now infamously (or famously) known in every government spy agency, every major capital, and by every editor or newscaster carrying the day’s news.  Only 30 years old and a relatively low-level NSA contract employee, he managed to steal rarified, classified material that is called the most significant leak in US history.  He used The Guardian and The Washington Post while employed by NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton to leak his material.  At his news conference from his ‘temporary home’ in Russia this past week, he says the leaks and subsequent chaos caused at the highest level of governments around the world has assured him of ‘victory.’  “Mission accomplished,” he says.  He thinks of himself as a hero while others have other apt descriptions.  Time will tell how this plays out.

2)  The National Security Agency’s brand image has fallen fast since the Snowden disclosures.  The NSA-Snowden story remains evolutionary as one judge tells the government to stop and another one just the other day says it’s OK.  But surely this NSA scandal has affected the US brand all over the world. The reality is that probably everyone else is doing it, too … so it’s probably more bark than bite from the average American point of view.  But in government circles, the confusion surrounding NSA and all government ‘oversight’ programs bothers many of us.

3)  Obamacare site bombed on launch.  Millions have been impacted by the false start, and the cancellations of 5 million-plus insured guarantees a major hit on Obama and his signature program.  The continuing debacle exposes tremendous technical shortcomings of government-run program.  How has this affected Obama’s brand?  Obama’s negative ratings continue their downward spiral. Recent polls show that most Americans don’t want or like the Affordable Care Act – and it’s just beginning.  Will more Americans lose or gain insurance coverage in early 2014? How will the voters’ sentiment play out in the midterm elections?  If there was a BrandTech News ‘perfect storm’, this was it!

4)  Cyber Monday surpassed expectations, and mobile commerce on smartphones and tablets are making inroads toward becoming the biggest e-commerce sales day in history, up 16.5 percent to $2.29 billion.  Mobile traffic (as a part of online sales) showed similar record sales – IBM’s data demonstrates that mobile shopping did grow significantly from last year – with traffic increasing by 45 percent to 31.7 percent share of all online traffic, and total sales growing by 55.4 percent year-over-year to surpass 17 percent share. But, mobile’s share of traffic was down 20 percent from Black Friday while its share of sales was down 21 percent.

5)  Target‘s 40 million ‘error.’  This story moves onto the list and no, it’s not the first time hackers have gotten into credit card files.  But 40 million?  Is this a brand-buster for Target? We at BrandTech News think that Target has really mismanaged this fiasco – offering a lame 10 percent discount  … they beefed it up a bit, but it was, as one writer put it: “… a puny effort.”  News reports that a group in a Target parking lot were regaling in their recently purchased Christmas gifts – only to have police discovered they did so with purloined credit card #s.  It sends a chilling message on how fragile the relationship there is between a brand’s success and the failure of technology.  What will it take before you trust Target again?  We’re still skeptical.

6)  Changes at the top – Microsoft’s Ballmer moving on. Michael Dell takes control back. Personal brands linked to their technology heart/soul have been the hallmark of America’s technology history, starting with such iconic brands as Thomas Edison, Tom Watson, Bill Hewlett and David Packard.  Their brands were synonymous with their technology.  Ballmer leaves on a mixed note and no one has been named to replace him.  Dell tries to reclaim his past glory days by taking his namesake company private.  We believe that Apple, Google, and even Samsung have all whizzed past the former Whiz Kid. The future of the PC – as we used to know it before smartphones and tablets – is in doubt.  And let’s not forget ‘golden boy’ Ron Johnson – former head of retail for Apple – who was unceremoniously disposed as CEO of J. C. Penney.  Personal brands will be forever linked to their founders and managers over time … and to be sure, it’s a challenge to survive in these chaotic times.  Perhaps Steve Jobs ‘got out’ at the right time – the pinnacle of his career and company?  Time will tell.  We’ll be watching.

7)  Apple wins China Mobile.  This is probably the biggest, best news Apple has had in a while.  Their fall launch was successful to a point – rave reviews on the technology and upgraded products, but capturing China Mobile with 760 million users is the big (nix that, it was HUGE) win on the global stage.  Surely this will propel Apple’s future onto solid ground in Asia, but on the homefront, Apple has some homework to do, in our view.  The Apple story is two-edged – #1 – Apple has made up lost ground on its stock closing in on $600 after plunging below $400 in the past 52 weeks … .and Apple is now worth $503 billion, making it the most valuable company on the Planet.  So the brand continues to perform well with investors, but the #2 worry is whether Apple has lost its creative and innovator brand status. Not everyone is saying this, but we suspect that Apple’s brand will suffer greatly in the winter rollout of new products if they don’t come up with something new, spectacular even.  Is Tim Cook really something more than a good operator?  He is that – but Apple customers and investors want more to insure the future.

8)  Facebook and Twitter go public – check your calendar – both are healthy at year’s end!  Brand turnaround for Facebook is our Comeback Player of the Year. Twitter’s early success is not assured for the longer term – too early to tell, but Facebook has legs and is riding high for now.  Thank you, Mister Zuckerberg, for your vision.  After exploding out of the box and hitting a high of $65, Twitter fell back to Earth just a tiny bit – losing 13 percent as of last week before New Year’s.  Finding the economic models that is going to propel these two behemoths toward financial security seems to be the challenge – initially for Facebook they are fast figuring out the ad revenue model, and soaring at present. Twitter remains optimistic it will solve their revenue challenge in the near term.  From a brand point of view, both Facebook and Twitter have ranked high with users … and investors, too.  Our question for you:  Do you visit Facebook every day?  Do you tweet?  Let us know your answers.

9)  Microsoft buys Nokia.  You’d think this was a ‘marriage made in tech heaven’ several years ago, especially when Nokia controlled the world’s mobile market share.  But BrandTech News – and others – aren’t so sure this recently done marriage is going to last long.  Nokia had already accepted a ‘live-in’ relationship with Microsoft when they committed to Windows Phone several years ago, and many thought this merger was on fast forward, not on pause.  But it finally happened.  And the Finnish folks couldn’t be happier since they were on a death march much like BlackBerry – too little, too late.  But now with Microsoft’s Bank solidly behind the new couple (and publicly committed in splashy television ads), Nokia has another chance to again be a dominant player the mobile market.  The brand still has plenty of strength in Europe and elsewhere, but we think it’s been critically diminished in the US market – perhaps irretrievably.

10) BlackBerry’s ‘death watch.’  Here’s the latest: executives jump ship; huge losses; burnt through $800 million this past year.  We heard there were reports for hospice care until the new Foxconn deal in Indonesia put all talk of being ‘done’ on hold – temporarily, at least.  Indonesia is a stronghold for BlackBerry, but the brand is so tarnished that it would take a miracle to turn it around.  BrandTech News expects that BlackBerry will not be able to catch up with Android or iOS, and even Windows Phone in many markets.   They will remain – forever – a second or third tier player.  Not enough to survive. – RJL

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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

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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