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Trends to make or break brands

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The South African market seems to be grappling with a major gap between the work of digital marketing agencies and digital business analysts. BRADLEY ELLIOTT, MD of Platinum Seed, outlines a couple of digital trends that could help bridge this gap.

The South African market seems to be grappling with a major gap between the work of digital marketing agencies and digital business analysts. The concern is that while agencies are highly focused on creativity to solve brand issues, business analysts focus on business processes with little connection to customers. Here are the key smart digital marketing trends in 2017 that may bridge this gap:

1.            Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

This is probably the most underutilised technology at the moment, simply because of the costs involved, and the fact that few companies have the right tools to analyse and find value out of their data.

While this will grow, companies should start focusing on understanding people, before finding ways to engage with them. Machine learning and AI can analyse streams of data, from social media to purchasing behaviour, to create in-depth understanding of consumers.

However, even though ChatBot technology is emerging, automating the engagement process once data is to hand, is often where the wheels fall off. Automation is an important function, but we need to use a combination of human intervention and communication alongside AI and automation. The idea is for humans to moderate some messages before AI sends them out.

2.            Existing channels are underutilises

More well-known, but perhaps less “sexy” technologies are still drastically underutilised. For example, there is still a relatively low rate of smart phone penetration in South Africa, in spite of more affordable devices being available, and we have yet to overcome the barrier of extortionate data costs.

Some channels that are still underutilised, or that could be far more effective if they were used in more than just in a “spray and pray” approach include SMS, USSD, targeted personalised mailers, WhatsApp and Snapchat.

Most importantly, the greatest success factor for any campaign is not so much what technologies brands will be adopting, but rather how they will be adopted, and what content will be shared.

3.            Focus on the customer

Brands need to use data to find, reach and engage with customers, but also understand that they will be working with a rich mix of data-driven insights that inform real customer-centric strategies.

4.            Develop creative campaigns based on customer data

Brands such as Under Armour and Nike have changed their creative processes and now start with consumer insights, from which they develop unique experiences. For instance, Under Armour´s “Rule Yourself” campaign didn’t contain any Olympic intellectual property or branding, but was the second-most-shared Olympics ad in 2016.

5.            Marketing automation

Caution has to be exercised in line with a holistic CRM Strategy when adopting marketing automation. The automation should be limited only to certain tasks, like e-mail and newsletter marketing. The key here is to still drive personalisation alongside automation.

6.            Drive personalisation

Brands have to use data to drive personalisation of content and product offerings. This is extremely important in a world that is becoming increasingly cluttered and difficult to break through barriers. According to a Forrester/PwC study, 94% of executives believe that delivering personalisation as critical to reaching customers.

7.            Using organic brand advocates as influencers

Paid influencers belong to the old days of paying bloggers in exchange for exposure. Brands need to go back to authenticity and identify natural brand advocates to create word-of-mouth marketing strategies. For example, paid influencers generally charge 20c per follower. This amounts to R50 000 for 250 000 followers. The problem with this is that brands would only be paying for reach, not resonance and relevance. A much better approach is to rather focus on getting 50 organic brand advocates with 4000 followers each and spread the risk.

8.            Holistic approaches

Integrate, integrate, integrate! From CRM, to digital, to ATL, if these elements aren’t seamlessly connected the brand will get lost very quickly.

Brands need to focus on what they have to maximise their impact. Trends are trends for a reason; and until they reach mass adoption or penetration, there may not be a need to invest in them. There is still plenty of opportunity to achieve growth within existing channels and the strategies available. In 2017, we’ll see big brands investing in virtual reality and ChatBots, because “it’s the thing to do”. However, the clever brands will focus on data, forming insights and stronger relationships.

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CES: Most useless gadgets of all

Choosing the best of show is a popular pastime, but the worst gadgets of CES also deserve their moment of infamy, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s fairly easy to choose the best new gadgets launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. Most lists – and there are many – highlight the LG roll-up TV, the Samsung modular TV, the Royole foldable phone, the impossible burger, and the walking car.

But what about the voice assisted bed, the smart baby dining table, the self-driving suitcase and the robot that does nothing? In their current renditions, they sum up what is not only bad about technology, but how technology for its own sake quickly leads us down the rabbit hole of waste and futility.

The following pick of the worst of CES may well be a thinly veneered attempt at mockery, but it is also intended as a caution against getting caught up in hype and justification of pointless technology.

1. DUX voice-assisted bed

The single most useless product launched at CES this year must surely be a bed with Alexa voice control built in. No, not to control the bed itself, but to manage the smart home features with which Alexa and other smart speakers are associated. Or that any smartphone with Siri or Google Assistant could handle. Swedish luxury bedmaker DUX thinks it’s a good idea to manage smart lights, TV, security and air conditioning through the bed itself. Just don’t say Alexa’s “wake word” in your sleep.

2. Smart Baby Dining Table 

Ironically, the runner-up comes from a brand that also makes smart beds: China’s 37 Degree Smart Home. Self-described as “the world’s first smart furniture brand that is transforming technology into furniture”, it outdid itself with a Smart Baby Dining Table. This isa baby feeding table with a removable dining chair that contains a weight detector and adjustable camera, to make children’s weight and temperature visible to parents via the brand’s app. Score one for hands-off parenting.

Click here to read about smart diapers, self-driving suitcases, laundry folders, and bad robot companions.

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CES: Tech means no more “lost in translation”

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Talking to strangers in foreign countries just got a lot easier with recent advancements in translation technology. Last week, major companies and small startups alike showed the CES technology expo in Las Vegas how well their translation worked at live translation.

Most existing translation apps, like Bixby and Siri Translate, are still in their infancy with live speech translation, which brings about the need for dedicated solutions like these technologies:

Babel’s AIcorrect pocket translator

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The AIcorrect Translator, developed by Beijing-based Babel Technology, attracted attention as the linguistic king of the show. As an advanced application of AI technology in consumer technology, the pocket translator deals with problems in cross-linguistic communication. 

It supports real-time mutual translation in multiple situations between Chinese/English and 30 other languages, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, Russian and Spanish. A significant differentiator is that major languages like English being further divided into accents. The translation quality reaches as high as 96%.

It has a touch screen, where transcription and audio translation are shown at the same time. Lei Guan, CEO of Babel Technology, said: “As a Chinese pathfinder in the field of AI, we designed the device in hoping that hundreds of millions of people can have access to it and carry out cross-linguistic communication all barrier-free.” 

Click here to read about the Pilot, Travis, Pocketalk, Google and Zoi translators.

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