news from the intersection of branding & technology

Posts Tagged ‘Marketing’

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


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.

National Retail Federation celebrates 100th anniversary … optimally

In Shopper Marketing on March 16, 2011 at 5:13 pm

by Jeff Sandgren

Some of the words we use, we hate ourselves for in the morning.  ‘Optimization’ is one of them.  ‘Optimization’ is to business-speak as ‘cute’ is to babies.  It almost always fits in the conversation somewhere, but often doesn’t really tell you anything.  It does serve to identify the skulking presence of Brand Marketers who expect you to believe that their solution is not only good for you, great for you, and better than any competitive offering for you – it’s optimized, and therefore the best for you that anything in its class could ever possibly be.  At least until the next release.

But let’s not throw out that Cute baby with the Optimal bathwater.  Optimization isn’t just marketing hype.  It is a solid science whose time has come, as was evident at this year’s National Retail Federation (NRF) BIG Show where the perfect storm of empowered, value-conscious consumers and ravenous, stock-conscious investors narrowed the tightrope of retail performance to a razor’s edge.  If academia’s motto is “publish or perish”, the New Retail’s motto may be “optimize or perish”.

“National” Retail Federation is arguably a misnomer anyway, as attested each year by the growing international presence.  As long as we’re celebrating the 100th anniversary of this illustrious association, perhaps we should change the name to (dare I say it?) the Optimized Retail Federation.  The NRF is dead; long live the ORF!

Semantics aside, pity the poor Retailer of today.  How to satisfy C-level expectations for volume and margin gains over last year’s campaign when consumers have so much more knowledge at their fingertips?  The arbitrage of shopper price ignorance is as much a thing of the past as the luxury of widespread shopper price insensitivity.  To be clear, there still are, and apparently always will be, that segment of shoppers who don’t pay attention to prices, and just want what they want when they want it.  But for them, the Merchant’s need to know is no less: now it is assortment, size, and inventory optimization that must be dealt with.  No matter which segment you target with any strategy, that consumer has choices and knowledge like never before, and if you can’t optimize the driving characteristic that delivers the retail experience they crave and shape their shopping behavior, your competitor will be happy to do it for you.

Leveraging shopper insights has always been one of the core competencies of the most successful merchants and marketers; but in the past this was often more about art than science.   At the NRF conference, DemandTec shared results of recent research fielded by RetailWire that polled nearly 600 industry respondents.    Nearly 80 percent said shopper loyalty program data is the ‘most actionable’, and more than 90 percent consider the application of shopper insights in most business processes as a shared responsibility between trading partners – hence the current focus on collaborative solutions.

We set forth to review a solid sampling of optimization applications this year, and found plenty.  Even more significantly, we found that these solutions are reaching a maturity and sophistication on par with their newly-heightened relevance.  What follows is a list of highlights from conversations with some of the leaders in the field.  Bottom line: if you’re a retailer, and you’re not utilizing these solutions yet, baby, your bathwater may be about to run out.

Applied Predictive Technologies (APT)

At the heart of any optimization approach is the key question: how do you determine the Best Solution to a given problem.  Applied Predictive Technologies positions itself as a world leader in helping organizations harness the potential of “Test & Learn”, a powerful fact-based approach for choosing, targeting, and tailoring strategic and tactical actions.

The central premise is that modeling has to be done in the real world in small scale to validate. The key is a methodical creation of the control group, which should behave like the test group “when nothing is going on”, hence a “simulation versus null” test.

Generally, they evaluate multiple design approaches using simulations of each approach versus null test sets to determine each approach’s average error, and select the design with the lowest average error.  If a design approach = a “well-accepted “established” hypothesis” then it’s assumed to be correct.  For each test, multiple control ‘matches’ are determined, based on financial patterns and store attributes such as age, proximity, size, etc.  If that sounds confusing, think of it simply as using past behavioral correlations to construct future test designs.

According to Scott Setrakian, Managing Director, 28 of the top 100 U.S. retailers, 10 of the top 25 U.S. restaurant chains, and 5 of the top 15 North American banks use their solutions.   And the trend is upward, according to Scott, who told us “leading retailers increased their use of scientific testing by more than 21% in 2010 compared to 2009.”  U.S. Retailer customers include Big Lots, Food Lion, Office Depot, Publix, and Staples.


DemandTec is a proven player in this space with implementations that connect more than 340 retail and manufacturer customers on the DemandTec network.  This reflects their architecture and approach, with collaborative solutions built to enable shopper-centric merchandising and marketing solutions. DemandTec customers include Ahold USA, Best Buy, ConAgra Foods, Delhaize America, General Mills, H-E-B Grocery Co., The Home Depot, Hormel Foods, Monoprix, PETCO, Safeway, Sara Lee, Target, Walmart, and WH Smith.

Last year they launched DemandTec Shopper Insights™ solution, part of their overall ‘nextGEN’ platform.  With these tools, merchants and marketers get even better information on sales trends by penetration, buy-rate, shopping trip statistics, and more, enabling them to target specific shopper segments with more tailored assortments, promotions and pricing.  Within a month of the launch announcement, Target Corporation adopted it as an extension of their nextGEN implementation, and others are quickly following.

Complementing DemandTec’s analytics-based software services, the company recently announced DemandTec Connect™, which introduces powerful social messaging and collaboration capabilities.  The company says these will “… make the DemandTec experience even richer and more collaborative for its community of customers and partners on the network.”

DemandTec is also one of the leaders who have expanded their solutions to serve the special needs of apparel and other short lifecycle products.  Recent additions to this solution set include ‘rebuy optimization’, size profiling and pack optimization, and store cluster analysis.

To add even more horsepower to their platform, DemandTec just completed acquisition of M-Factor, whose predictive analytics software for marketing mix and trade investment spending is now part of DemandTec Decisions™.  According to the company, their vision is “… to shift the industry toward a more dynamic, holistic, and collaborative planning model that drives better decisions, better results, and more value to retail trading partners and, ultimately, the consumer.”

JDA Software Group

We met at NRF with Heather Loisel, Senior VP Marketing.  Heather is a recent addition to the senior management team.  She recalled that, shortly after joining JDA, she attended their FOCUS Customer Conference, held each May, where she developed the strong  impression that “JDA is the best kept secret in SAP implementations.”

JDA are repositioning their solutions from a historically supply-side focus to the demand-side focus that was a common theme in countless presentations and booths at NRF this year.  They now speak a lot about the importance of “demand signals” and store-level assortment planning.  “We are one of the few to offer end-to-end planning solutions,” says Heather.  Their portfolio includes major acquisitions over the past several years of Arthur, Intactix, E3, Manugistics (the core competitive offering), and, last January, i2, strengthening their positioning as “The Supply Chain Company”.

Recent success stories include Ace Hardware, Hibbett Sports, Wilsons Leather, and Woolworths Holdings.  Heather also cited recent success with Lowe’s and Whirlpool, in which JDA’s Collaborative Planning, Forecasting  and Replenishment (CPFR) implementation “tied” Whirlpool supply to Lowe’s demand signal.

JDA differentiates itself especially on their ability and track record implementing solutions in the broad Enterprise Resource Planning space.  “The world’s largest retailers use JDA,” says Heather, “but you don’t have to be large to be a good fit for our solutions.”

KSS Retail

Another very established player in price and promotion optimization is KSS Retail.  Their VP Marketing, Lyle Walker, tells us that “we started doing retail price optimization back in 1993, and there was already 15 years of prior science behind it then, so we’ve been perfecting this for over 30 years.   KSS has been doing it longer than anyone.”

A major development for them occurred in 2010, when UK consulting powerhouse dunnhumby acquired them.  Dunnhumby’s client relationships are exclusive within a given market space (geographic and class-of-trade), so it was necessary to make KSS an independent subsidiary to avoid conflicts.

They are “getting into” markdown pricing, but are not there yet.  They claim to be implementing a unique and superior approach to the science of markdown, with near real time transaction-level data.    Much focus now is on the Heartbeat® Shopper Insights Platform, a “very granular, intelligent sense-and-model solution” that determines when problems arise in store selling conditions.  The pitch here is that the retailer can effectively use shopper transaction data with KSS’ analytics as a shelf auditing mechanism.  Results are extracted into decision trees, which “take price model optimization to the next level”.   The other key element of Shopper Insights is, as the name suggests, analytics across customer segmentations.  Users can still see aggregated results across all segments, including cross-effects, but now they can drill down to specific targeted segments.

KSS website claims 32 major clients.  New customers include O’Reilly Auto Parts, 7-Eleven, Fred’s Inc., and Foodstuffs (a New Zealand retailer – the dunnhumby relationship is providing more international reach as well.)


When it comes to retail price optimization, the common approach is to emulate the three basic pricing strategies of retail merchants:  they begin with ‘everyday’ pricing, pique interest and demand at times with special ‘promotional’ pricing, and end the cycle (especially for apparel and electronics) with ‘markdown’ pricing.  Taken as a whole, this is commonly referred to as Lifecycle Pricing.

According to Susan Boyme, VP Marketing, Lifecycle Pricing is Revionics’ core solution.  They strongly position their integrated forecasting, an approach that “…uses a single forecast across all software modules to provide a more accurate, consistent version of consumer demand.”   Historically, their solutions began with fast-moving consumer goods; but they have branched out, asserting that “our science adapts to other merchandise categories with different characteristics.”

Their approach is to take retailer (and syndicated) data, and make recommendations on pricing.  This is a key differentiator for them.  Their solutions are about finding and recommending what to do, and ranking the items and actions which will help meet the retailer’s objectives.

Revionics is one of the larger, more established players in price optimization, claiming over 60 leading retailers as customers, with over 20,000 locations.  Recent customer additions include Dick’s Sporting Goods, Roundy’s and the Tractor Supply Company.

SAS Institute

Diana McHenry, Director of Global Retail Product Marketing, shared with us SAS’ excitement over two ‘big news’ announcements.   The first is their positioning of their new offering as next-generation “high-performance predictive analytics”, with their “turbo-charged SAS® in-memory computing platform”.

First go-live customer is Macy’s, as announced by EVP Steve Nevill in a Big Ideas session, scheduled to happen later this year.  Another undisclosed client is positioned soon thereafter.  Larry Lewark, CIO Macy’s, says “we view this as a major breakthrough for quick analysis”.  They are already claiming results for improved performance, including “10 times reduction in demand modeling and forecast cycle time, a 3 times improvement in optimization time, and up to 70% reduction in hardware costs”.

The second big news is their Size Optimization for apparel.  The traditional model of supplier pre-pack assortments of so many items per size, color, and style, has historically resulted in the all too common double curse of shortage on some sizes (bad customer experience, lost sales) and too much of others (and therefore, margin reduction from excessive markdown).  New supplier and supply chain capabilities make it feasible to customize pre-pack to store level – but it doesn’t make any difference if you don’t know WHAT size assortment makes sense for each location.  Their analytics package purportedly solves this problem.  They cite great success with this already at Kohl’s, Charming Shoppes (especially Lane Bryant banner), Tilly’s, Aéropostale, and Wet Seal.  Kohl’s Kevin Mansell (Chairman, CEO) cited size optimization initiatives as a key driver in their recent 3% improvement in in-stock levels.

Soft Solutions

Soft Solutions is a 20+ year old global provider of merchandising software for multi-format, multi-divisional and multi-national retailers.  Their current product, version 7, released last year boasts a new interface that leverages their “Web flow” approach to enhance navigation, improve speed and capacity, and employ self-learning functionality – another key approach to optimization solutions.  They play heavily in European markets, but also count large U.S. customers like CVS Caremark.

As with any merchandising technology, developing the right solution requirements up front is critical to success.   For Tier 1 customers, Soft Solutions uses a certified third party provider to document requirements and make sure they are solid.  The third party is paid by the retailer; but Soft Solutions offers a “cost offset”.

According to Dr. Fady Garabet, General Manager North American Operations, their forecasting includes halo, similarity and cannibalization analytics.  CVS, for example, forecasts a full 52 weeks ahead.  They believe their forecasting functionality is one of their great strengths.


Formed in 2000, 1010data’s solutions were developed for large scale financial data systems, and their leadership is heavily financial in their pedigrees.  They strongly position their differentiation on merits and enablement of “database transparency”, contending that typical solutions, with the rules, filtering, and pre-processing of data for efficient access effectively lose some of what matters.  “The problem with optimization solutions,” says VP Jim Mattecheck, “is that they have to extract into separate systems, which bottlenecks processing –  they resolve this with averages, which obscures insights.”

Jim admits they “don’t have a formal optimization solution, per se, today”, but contends that retailers can benefit from the ability to do quicker analysis on questions that arise during their daily decisions, rather than waiting for long overnight processing.

BrandTech News’ view

The exhibitors’ directory for the NRF show listed almost 40 companies with solutions in price and promotion optimization, so the above are but a few.  This leaves potential new users (or disgruntled current users) with a quandary: how to pick the Optimal Optimizing solution.

Focusing as we do on the intersection of branding and technology, we suggest starting with the brand point of view.  How you price your merchandise is a big part of your brand image, and a critical aspect of how consumers experience your brand.  Some optimizers refer to the ‘price image’ as a way of characterizing this.  Retailers need to begin with three questions on this.  What do you think your price image is?  What do your shopper segments think it is?  What do you want them to think?

There are lots of technology issues to be considered, starting with a fundamental platform questions.  Do you want Software as a Service (SaaS), premise-based software (installed on your servers), or cloud-based?   What optimization modules and features will be most important to supporting your business objectives?  Even more than the technology, understand the science behind it.  Yes, there is real science at the heart of this, and a solid choice in solid science will help ensure solid results.

Most importantly, focus on value.  The whole point of optimizing is a balancing act, pleasing consumers who will reward you with sales (and, if you’re good at it, margin), and pleasing shareholders who will reward you with market capitalization (and, if you’re good at it, performance bonuses).       JTS

Enhanced by Zemanta

Shopper Marketing Conference targets “In-Store Experience”

In Shopper Marketing on March 16, 2011 at 4:55 pm

by Robert Liljenwall

Every seasoned retailer and brand marketer knows that if you can improve the in-store experience, shoppers will stay longer and spend more.  Disney found that out a half century ago.  Apple epitomizes the in-store experience.  Costco keeps you there by giving you free treats from their famous Demo Queens.  But the target keeps moving, too.  What worked five years ago, may not work today, and we know, strategic marketing teams are huddled everywhere trying to ‘unlock’ the secret to getting customers to spend more.

Under the leadership of Dr. Dan Flint, Director of the Shopper Marketing Forum (SMF) at the University of Tennessee, leading retail and brand marketers are gathering for the inaugural Shopper Marketing Managers Conference, March 29-31 in Knoxville.  (BrandTech will have a complete update on this important conference in our next issue.)Dan Flint

The theme of the conference is: “Improving the In-Store Experience.” The two-day intensive seminar includes an impressive group of speakers from companies who lead the way in shopper marketing, including: Frito-Lay, Crossmark, Mars, and In-Store Insights, with UT Faculty presenting on Research Insights. Dr. Brian Harris, chairman and founder, The Partnering Group, will be giving the opening keynote. The Hot Topic Shopper Marketing Breakouts, facilitated by UT Doctoral Students, provides time to focus on key areas of interest and allows colleagues to interact, share, learn and provide professional insights.

According to Dr. Flint, the driver for the course is a sense that many more managers and new hires are moving into something related to “shopper marketing” in their organizations without a solid foundation of what that means.  They may know what it means to their firm, he states, but not what the leading firms in the industry are thinking of.  The inspiration came from some of our sponsor organizations stating that something was needed to orient their managers and get them to a baseline level of knowledge that they could build on.

“We think that this is needed because more and more focus will be placed on shopper marketing. If too many managers think this is tactical merchandising as it has always been, they will be shocked when competitors regularly take market share away from them, or grow the entire pie in ways they did not foresee,” Flint said.

One of the major factors is the rapid expansion of shopper marketing conferences and discussions in industry that have prompted this initiative.  Research has been going on focused on shopping behavior, consumer behavior, retailing and branding for years. Now much of the attention is being placed on pulling this all together through the entire path to purchase.  So now brand management discussions are involving what has to happen at the store and collaboration discussions are cropping up everywhere between brand marketers, retailers and agencies like never before.

Brands are working with retailers to help retailers differentiate themselves in unique ways.  It has changed the skill set required by brand managers and account managers.  They all need to know business analytics, shopper insights, strategy, brand management, account management, merchandising, finance and supply chain management to make this work.  These skills are currently spread across three to seven people in most firms today.  The course is designed to help managers understand how all of these things are interconnected.

“Essentially,” Flint said, “we need general management skills that span research, strategy, marketing, sales, finance and supply chain management.”

The unique expertise that has been fostered at the University of Tennessee is many years of research in all of these areas and significant work experience with companies.  From consumer psychology, to shopping behavior, to technology in stores, service quality, business analytics, retailing layout and operations, brand management, buyer-seller relationships, strategy and so forth the University has at least one if not more faculty who have spent their careers conducting research in each area.

“We have pulled faculty from retailing, statistics, operations, logistics and marketing to put this course together and to conduct our managers conferences.  We build in hands-on exercises to bring points home and provide nearly two dozen practical worksheets that go along with a formalized shopper marketing management process.  We also have a secret weapon so to speak in significant input from Chris Hoyt of Hoyt & Company; an extremely well-respected expert in-shopper marketing, and Ken Barnett; the CEO of Mars Advertising, regularly cited as one of the top shopper marketing agencies in the country,” stated Flint.

“In fact, Mars Advertising has won the Hub Top 12 award several years in a row. Both Hoyt & Company and Mars know what works and what doesn’t,” Flint stated.  “They have helped us combine their practical experience with our own research and practical experiences with manufacturers and retailers to put together a solid 4.5 day exposure to the concepts, processes, and tools of shopper marketing; from insights and opportunity identification; to strategic planning, execution and measurement.”

Dr. Flint’s personal background and research has focused on bringing social psychology into understanding what consumers and business customers value from products, services and organizations.

“I specifically look at patterns of change that suggest what shoppers, consumers and business customers will value in the future, and work on processes to help organizations create a proactive customer orientation – to look ahead and anticipate.  One view we bring into our discussions has to do with how to leverage a powerful trend toward co-creation of value and experiences that consumers now expect into the shopping experience,” he said.

To register, please go to the Shopper Marketing Forum homepage: .  Simply click on the registration link to gain immediate access to the Registration Page. Under Registration Category, register as: Conference Attendee.  The fee is $149.  For questions or to pay your registration fee, please contact Jennifer Johnson, Forum Registrar.               RJL

Daniel J. Flint is The Proffitt’s Inc. Professor, in Marketing, associate professor of marketing in the Department of Marketing and Logistics, and director of the marketing Ph.D. concentration at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee, an MSA from Central Michigan University, and a BS in Engineering from Annapolis.

Enhanced by Zemanta

The Augmented Eye of the Beholder

In brand-building, mobile & tablets, Shopper Marketing on January 8, 2011 at 12:59 pm

by Jeff Sandgren, Technology Editor

After that C in high school Creative Writing, I swore I’d never write another story that asked the question “what is reality?”  Yet here we are, me breaking my oath, and you hopefully a bit too curious to look away.  Well, technically, we’re going to examine in this story what is not quite reality, by looking at the ingenious efforts of three companies who find that a bit of augmentation makes the reality of brand marketing and messaging at retail more engaging to shoppers.

Some of the most familiar forms of augmented reality (AR) are Sportvision’s yellow “First  and Ten™” line on football fields and the “K-Zone” over home plate in baseball games, as seen on network television.  In fact, Sportvision’s many augmentations and mediations in sports broadcasting have become interwoven into our video fabric of perception – a model of solution maturity to which retail might do well to aspire.  Overall, AR is augmenting its market size in the real world, too.  ABI Research predicts a market size of $360 million by 2014.

At another corner of the Milgram Continuum (a graphical representation of the ‘map’ of augmentation and mediation) is Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning Helmet Mounted Display System, which is too complicated for me to even attempt to describe, but represents a major innovation over the previously innovative Heads-Up Displays, standard gear for most recent fighter aircraft.  No, this is NOT the future of brand marketing.  We’re looking somewhere between yellow lines and F-35s.

One of my first surprises, in interviewing three hot players in this field, is that none of them is of U.S. origin, although all play eagerly in this market.  A sad but increasingly resonant reflection of the state of innovation at home, I fear.  At the leading edge of cool retail AR implementations I found European and Japanese innovators: Metaio, Total Immersion, and LM3 Labs.


Founded in 2003 and headquartered in Munich, Germany, Metaio GmbH is a pure-play AR shop dedicated to “enhancing the real world with 3D animation”.  Metaio’s founders, Thomas Alt and Peter Meier, met while mechanical engineers at Volkswagen.  They won a contest with a purse of 25,000 euros, threw in another 100 euros each, and never looked back.

Noora Guldemond, Metaio’s head of sales and marketing here in the US, notes the significance.   “Here in the Valley,” says Noora, “the perennial question is which round of funding your startup is on.  We’re proud to be a bootstrap company, completely self-funded, and already profitable over the last few years.”  Today Metaio has additional offices in San Francisco and South Korea.  According to their website, they have already completed projects for over 340 customers.

According to Noora, one of their most successful projects has been an interactive kiosk for Lego’s.  Shoppers can hold a box of Lego’s in front of the kiosk, and a superimposed display shows them how the assembled toy will appear, in 3D.  After starting in a few stores in 2008, sales lift surpassed expectations, and the kiosks are now being rolled out worldwide to all the company’s branded stores, and to a few additional locations including selected Walmart and Toys R Us stores.

Other prominent Metaio projects in retail and brand marketing include Ben & Jerry’s MooVision ice cream lids and projects for JC Penney, Time Out New York, Adidas and many others.  My personal favorite is Zombie ShootAR, a smart phone app that lets bored guys out shopping with their significant others see an image of their retail environment with zombies crawling up out of the ground that you have to shoot before they chew your face.

“No, honey, don’t hurry.  Take your time.  I think you should try on one of EACH color.  Accessorizing is much too important to rush.”  Zombie slaying: a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it.  The REAL zombies, of course, are the shrewd marketing beasties who know your purchase size is getting bigger with each demon you destroy.  Good news: nobody ate your brains; bad news: your paycheck just became an entree for the undead.

Although they have a strong in-house development team – over 80% of their employees are technical engineers – Metaio is nurturing the mobile ecosystem with Software Development Kits (SDKs).   Their technology centers on their proprietary Unifeye™ platform, which expanded this year to include SDKs supporting iPhone, Android, Symbian OS and WinMobile.

Metaio’s mobile AR browser, enabling zombies and other graphic and informational augmentations to your smart phone, is branded “junaio™”.  Like most other mobile and internet-connected AR apps, it can be downloaded for free, and most of the content provided is also free.  With all that “free-ness”, you know the zombies of finance have to be just below the surface, demanding their just desserts.  One recent addition to enable this is junaio`s new “Ad-Inject” service, which enables ads to be served up on your mobile browser in a similar manner to the way Google AdSense works on your traditional one.

An example of this is the recent mobile ad campaign of the Hermes parcel service available in all major German cities. Whenever a junaio user opens the Wikipedia channel and points his onboard camera to check out interesting sites around him, he is being made aware of the nearest Hermes parcel shop in the vicinity. “This isn`t just plain vanilla advertising”, says Jan Schlink of junaio, “Hermes sees this campaign as part of their dedication to customer service.”  Good thing: zombies hate plain vanilla.

Total Immersion

A second leader in the field is Total Immersion (TI), which began eleven years ago as a French startup and today has offices in Paris, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Tokyo and London.  We recently spoke with Max Polisar, VP Sales here in the US, following their announcement of strategic alliance with Adobe.  TI’s proprietary platform D-Fusion™ will now be more accessible to the “more than three million” developers and designers actively using Adobe Flash for desktop, mobile and other consumer electronic devices.   Total Immersion also plans to leverage the new Flash Player and Adobe AIR 3D future releases.  The business model includes providing developers with an integrated “tracking library” for Adobe Flash Player and AS3, which will generated “protected” software; developers can then pay a licensing fee to TI in exchange for a runtime key.

“The big difference with our solution,” says Polisar, “is marker-less tracking … that works.”  The point here is that some AR solutions use ‘markers’, like barcodes, quick response codes, or similar symbologies, to trigger recognition by the software application and generate the corresponding imagery.  In some cases, packaging redesign is necessary to properly display the markers, which can then create a domino effect of packaging and distribution problems, making a campaign much more difficult to design and launch.  By developing a ‘marker-less’ solution, the original object, without re-design, can be recognized and actuate the AR experience – streamlining campaign launches. [Editor’s note: some other companies also claim to have ‘marker-less’ solutions.]

Polisar says that Total Immersion focuses on making the AR “a feature of the product”, rather than just a promotional gimmick.  As an example, one of last year’s successful projects was Hallmark’s Webcam Greetings, which allowed recipients of traditional print greeting cards to interact online, using their webcam, and seeing a moving 3D animation of their card.

TI’s projects include marketing-at-retail solutions, but that’s just part of a much broader spectrum including toys, publishing, trading cards, amusement parks, and more.  Another favorite of Polisar’s was a project with the Olympus 10 camera.  “It helped push forward the technology,” says Max, “beyond just the cool and wow.  It really helped us open the door to the consumer electronics category.”

Other Total Immersion clients include Mattel, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, P&G, Kraft Foods, Nokia, BMW, Boeing, Sony Ericsson and many more.

TI is focusing to push the D’Fusion software onto “as many platforms as possible … we want to be platform agnostic.”  The broad net strategy seems to be working: at their recent open house, over 400 attendees from around the world paid them a visit to find out more about TI and AR trends in general.

LM3 Labs

While not pure-play Augmented Reality in the usual description, some of the most exotic – and exciting – work in interactivity solutions is being done by LM3 Labs, which spun out of France’s Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (National Center for Scientific Research) in the same way that E Ink displays and Electronic Product Codes spun out of MIT here in the US.  The founding scientists were working on computer vision-based tracking algorithms originally, and went to Japan in to engage the video projection manufacturing sector which is so prominent there.

“It really started with a big mistake,” explains Nicolas Loeillot, co-founder and COO, “we were just trying to license the technology to manufacturers, but couldn’t generate much interest.  The feeling back then was that people didn’t need interaction. ”

Following this initial discouragement, the team went back to France, until in 2004 they began to work with Japan’s NTT DoCoMo.  This led to the epiphany, as Loeillot describes it, that “… clients wanted to buy products, not technology. And of course it is so easy to make products in Japan.  So we wound up becoming as much a ‘hardware company’ as a technology company.”

Their first product was the Ubiq’window™, which allows people to interact with digital content or real life objects just by using natural gestures.  Over time, their portfolio expanded to include Catchyoo™, a family of interactivity solutions for floor, wall, table and 3D spaces, and Airstrike™, a touchless solution which lets users interact with any type of display, distantly, with natural gestures.

As their clients continued to encourage them to provide more ‘whole solutions’, they developed a network of partners to deliver just that.  “We were selling color commentary to black & white guys,” reflects Loelliot, “we couldn’t just sell interactive tables and chairs.”

Nicolas admits that their solutions aren’t cheap.  “We tried going to a convenience store chain, but found our sensors were more expensive than their budget for one shop for a whole year!”  Undaunted, they shifted their focus to ‘higher-end’ clients, and have successfully delivered projects to a prestigious list including Audi, Calvin Klein, Cartier, Chanel, Chivas, Dior, and more.  (And yes, Mr. Liljenwall, they did a well-received project at Disney Tokyo Resort)

As they’ve grown their portfolio and successes, less glamorous but powerful ‘everyday’ brands have also adopted their solutions, including Amstel Beer, Heineken, Levi Strauss, Nestle, Nokia, Pepsi … again the list goes on and on.

Being involved in installations around the globe, Nicolas notices significant differences in cultural patterns in getting people to interact via touch and gesture.  He cites an installation for Ito En (a Japanese tea retailer) in New York City that LM3 Labs did during a virtual blizzard.  “The chill factor was -15°F,” recalls Nicolas, “yet there were people all over it!  We can do an installation in busy area of Tokyo, and initially no one touches it!”  Generally speaking, Nicolas observes, it’s a question of passive versus active interactivity; “Asians expect the content to come to them.”

So, armed with these insights, they adopted a different approach.  First they tracked bodies moving by windows on the street, but found the content changed too much.  Instead, they are using face-tracking instead of gesture recognition in some recent installations.  At an installation in Ginza for Seiko, the “Seiko Flame” follows passers-by along the window as they walk along, but only switches to more meaningful content if the viewer’s gaze shifts to the flame and lingers.

Looking Ahead

Looking ahead, Guildemond sees technical advances in Flash, notably with more native 3D support, as being a key upcoming development.  “Better 3D will enable a more engaging experience,” says Noora, “Games will drive creative, and that will accelerate adoption.”

So when should marketers use AR?  “It depends on the brand and audience,” suggests Guildemond, “Look for opportunities to extend engagement after the purchase, or to close the deal.  Look at what’s been done by others so far.  Focus on audience experience.  And call us!”

Polisar also sees the enhancement of the consumer experience as paramount.  “We see AR moving into commerce akin to online shopping.  Ubiquitous image recognition is the future … in and out of the retail store.”

LM3 Labs has big plans in store for 2011, with the launch of their newest offering, MoovAction™ starting this quarter.  They’ve got some very cool table top stuff coming, tracking individual fingers for special effects literally “at your fingertips”.  And as if that’s not enough, Nicolas hints at a 3D field project, 3DFeel™, that will launch this year and goes beyond even what Microsoft’s Kinect™ can do.

“It’s really not Augmented Reality as much as it is ‘Mixed Reality’,” Loeillot maintains, “where there’s a device, something between you and the reality, that brings digital content into the real world in a wide variety of forms that allow you to interact naturally in ways that enhance your experience.”

Between that Zen-like view and the more graphic images of attacking zombies and stalking flame-balls, it can all get a bit mind-melting.  But don’t be put off by the descriptions.  Readers are encouraged to go online and view some of the sample projects of these leaders.

Augmentation and mediation are coming, as sure as zombies, and you’ll want to have your head on straight if you don’t want to get eaten alive by your competition.                  JTS

Enhanced by Zemanta
%d bloggers like this: