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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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UN calls for electronics overhaul to beat e-waste

Seven UN entities have come together at the World Economic Forum to tackle the escalating scourge of electronic waste.

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Seven UN entities have come together, supported by the World Economic Forum, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) to call for an overhaul of the current electronics system, with the aim of supporting international efforts to address e-waste challenges. 

The report calls for a systematic collaboration with major brands, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), academia, trade unions, civil society and associations in a deliberative process to reorient the system and reduce the waste of resources each year with a value greater than the GDP of most countries. 

Each year, approximately 50 million tonnes of electronic and electrical waste (e-waste) are discarded — the weight of more than all commercial airliners ever made. In terms of material value, this is worth 62.5 billion dollars– more than the GDP of most countries.  

Less than 20% of this is recycled formally. Informally, millions of people worldwide (over 600,000 in China alone) work to dispose of e-waste, much of it done in working conditions harmful to both health and the environment. 

The report, “A New Circular Vision for Electronics – Time for a Global Reboot,” launched in Davos 24 January, says technologies such as cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT), support gradual “dematerialization” of the electronics industry.  

Meanwhile, to capture the global value of materials in the e-waste and create global circular value chains, the report also points to the use of new technology to create service business models, better product tracking and manufacturer or retailer take-back programs.  

The report notes that material efficiency, recycling infrastructure and scaling up the volume and quality of recycled materials to meet the needs of electronics supply chains will all be essential for future production.  

And if the electronics sector is supported with the right policy mix and managed in the right way, it could lead to the creation of millions of decent jobs worldwide. 

The joint report calls for collaboration with multinationals, SMEs, entrepreneurs, academia, trade unions, civil society and associations to create a circular economy for electronics where waste is designed out, the environmental impact is reduced and decent work is created for millions. 

The new report supports the work of the E-waste Coalition, which includes: 

  • International Labour Organization (ILO); 
  • International Telecommunication Union (ITU); 
  • United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment); 
  • United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); 
  • United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR); 
  • United Nations University (UNU), and 
  • Secretariats of the Basel and Stockholm Conventions (BRS). 

The Coalition is supported by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the World Economic Forum and coordinated by the Secretariat of the Environment Management Group (EMG).  

Considerable work is being done on the ground. For example, in order to grasp the opportunity of the circular economy, today the Nigerian Government, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and UN Environment announce a 2 million dollar investment to kick off the formal e-waste recycling industry in Nigeria. The new investment will leverage over 13 million dollars in additional financing from the private sector.   

According to the International Labour Organization, in Nigeria up 100,000 people work in the informal e-waste sector. This investment will help to create a system which formalizes these workers, giving them safe and decent employment while capturing the latent value in Nigeria’s 500,000 tonnes of e-waste. 

UNIDO collaborates with a large number of organizations on e-waste projects, including UNU, ILO, ITU, and WHO, as well as various other partners, such as Dell and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA). In the Latin American and Caribbean region, a UNIDO e-waste project, co-funded by GEF, seeks to support sustainable economic and social growth in 13 countries. From upgrading e-waste recycling facilities, to helping to establish national e-waste management strategies, the initiative adopts a circular economy approach, whilst enhancing regional cooperation. 

Another Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE) report launched today by the World Economic Forum, with support from Accenture Strategy, outlines a future in which Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies provide a tool to achieve a circular economy efficiently and effectively, and where all physical materials are accompanied by a digital dataset (like a passport or fingerprint for materials), creating an ‘internet of materials.’ PACE is a collaboration mechanism and project accelerator hosted by the World Economic Forum which brings together 50 leaders from business, government and international organizations to collaborate in moving towards the circular economy. 

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Matrics must prepare for AI

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By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.

Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.

With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.

Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.

Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist. 

So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?

For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.

In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.

This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.

In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.

As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.

This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.

The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.

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