Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for the ‘marketing’ Category

Meet Sarah, Buy Car

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The Wall Street Journal’s “CIO Journal” published an article yesterday detailing Daimler Financial Services’ efforts to explore human digital assistants (Daimler was showing off its efforts this week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.)

It’s a fascinating look at the way “human” digital assistants are evolving, and probably just as important, how quickly.  

Udo Neumann is the company’s global chief information officer.

Here are a few snippets detailing Daimler’s progress:

An assistant with a human-like “face,” with instant access to helpful data and programmed to detect how people are feeling and respond accordingly, could help gain customer and employee trust, Mr. Neumann said. “It’s clearly the next step in the development of an evolving technology, (where) emotions come into play.”

Daimler Financial Services, a division of Daimler AG, announced this week it’s partnering with New Zealand startup Soul Machines on a proof-of-concept project to see how a digital assistant with a face and a name could give personalized help to employees and customers.

The companies, which have worked together for several months, are developing a “digital human” built with AI software from IBM Watson that can be programmed to answer questions related to car financing, leasing and insurance, and capabilities to recognize non-verbal cues using face recognition technology.

Neural networking and machine learning tools lets an early version, named Sarah, react to spoken and typed words as well as non-verbal queues such as a loud noise or a nodding head in agreement.

Sarah can be programmed with highly specialized knowledge about, for example, the latest Mercedes models and information about leasing options, said Greg Cross, chief business officer at Soul Machines.

The digital human could eventually act as a “companion” for employees at a call center or training center, he said. For customers, talking to such an avatar might increase purchases among those who feel intimidated by high-pressure sales staff, said Mr. Cross.

So will you one day be buying your next car from a soulful digital assistant like Sarah? 

Never say never…now this baby right over here, you just can’t go wrong. She hits 0-60 in five seconds….!

Written by turbotodd

March 2, 2018 at 10:29 am

A Mammoth Customer Base

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IBM today announced that Mammoth Resorts, the leading four-season mountain resort operator in California, is using Watson Customer Engagement solutions on the IBM Cloud to create customized offers that are helping to drive record numbers of visitors to the resort every year.

One challenge facing year-round travel destinations such as Mammoth is attracting consumers who often visit multiple location web sites to research potential getaways only to hold off on making a firm decision until they’ve assessed all of their options.

For Mammoth, the question was how to bring prospective customers back to the Mammoth website to ultimately book a trip in advance of peak vacation periods.

With cloud-based Watson Marketing solutions, Mammoth is able to closely monitor customer activity on their website including where visitors are spending most of their time, what they were looking at, whether they left their shopping cart empty and more.

With these details, Mammoth is triggering responsive email campaigns that feature deals on the very items customers were viewing such as a free night’s stay on their next visit. The team can then track which promotions are most successful in sparking return visits to the site.

Since launching these campaigns, the results were almost instantaneous, with email click through rates climbing from 8 percent to 34 percent year-over-year, a growth of 325 percent.

In addition to attracting new guests, IBM Watson Customer Engagement is helping Mammoth build customer loyalty through timely, personalized campaigns that take into account each person’s preferences based on past stays. 

Mammoth Resorts then uses these details to proactively recommend trips, such as a return stay during the February winter break for summer guests that includes the same number of rooms and discounts on lift tickets.

Mammoth also automatically delivers guest alerts around birthdays, booking anniversaries and more, with each communication including special deals on both lodging and other items such as lift tickets as well as recommendations on, for example, off-season vacations options such as a summer mountain bike trip for the family.

You can learn more about IBM Watson Customer Engagement solutions here.

Written by turbotodd

July 20, 2017 at 11:08 am

Home of the Whopper Fail?

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“Okay Google, what is the Whopper Burger?”

And that is how the gauntlet was thrown down on the new battlefield yesterday for garnering advertising eyes…errr, ears… in the home assistant device age.

The very same company that encouraged Facebookers to delete their Facebook friends just to get a free burger, and whose mascot who strangly appeared in the corridor with Justin Bieber just before the Manny Pacquiao/Floyd Mayweather fight, has taken guerrilla marketing into the AI age.

First, a little on how Google Home works. Like it’s progenitor, Google Home has a trigger phrase whereby it starts to listen to its owner. In Google’s case, it’s “Okay Google…” followed by the person’s request.

So Burger King figured it would get some free digital media by building some TV ads that made a call out to the Google Home device, whereby it said “Okay Google, what is the Whopper burger?”

To which one would logically ask, from whence came the answer?

In Burger King’s case, reports The Verge, they decided to use the Wikipedia entry, which Burger King apparently edited to read as follows:

“The Whopper is a burger, consisting of a flame-grilled patty made with 100 percent beef with no preservatives or fillers, topped with sliced tomatoes, onions, lettuce, pickles, ketchup, and mayonnaise, served on a sesame-seed bun.”
– via The Verge

Never mind the fact, The Verge observes, that it sounds an awful lot like ad copy, or that just about anybody (Ronald McDonald, anyone?) could go and edit it on a whim.

To make this even more “meta,” the “Whopper Burger” Wikipedia entry now has a reference to this whole escapade:

On April 12, 2017, Burger King released a new commercial, in which an employee states that he had to find a different way to explain a Whopper because they only had 15 seconds, after which he states “OK Google, what is the Whopper burger?”. The dialogue was designed to trigger voice searches on Android devices and Google Home smart speakers configured to automatically respond to the phrase “OK Google”.[81] The specific query causes the device to read out a snippet sourced from Wikipedia’s article on the Whopper. However, prior to the ad’s premiere, the article had been edited by a user who was believed to have ties to the company, so that Google’s automatically-generated response to the query would be a detailed description of the Whopper burger that utilized promotional language. The edits were reverted for violating Wikipedia’s policies discouraging “shameless self-promotion”.[82][83] Furthermore, the snippet became the target of vandalism; at one point, the relevant section listed the sandwich’s ingredients as including “rat meat” and “toenail clippings”, and some users reported that Google Home had relayed information from vandalized revisions.[84][85][81] A few hours later, Google disabled the ability for the ad to trigger automatic voice detection on these devices, preventing the promotional query from being read. Wikipedia also semi-protected the Whopper article to prevent the promotional descriptions or vandalism from being re-inserted.[84]
– via en.wikipedia.org

I kind of gave away the denouement there at the end — Google caught on to the cunning King of the Burger and, before it could spend all that money from all those hard-earned Whoppers on its TV media buy, whose spots would set Google Home assistants a burgerin’ across the country, Google disabled the ability for the ad to trigger the automatic voice detection.

“Okay Burger King, what do you do now???”

I guess they can just bask in the glory of their short-lived PR stunt, which brought far more attention to the Whopper than any Google Home assistant was ever likely to land.

Then again, the ultimate joke may just be on Google. The good Burger King PR for being so clever could very well rub off negatively on the broader home assistant market.

Burger King, I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a Google Home assistant today.

And for the record, all this craziness is precisely why I bought the Amazon Tap, the device that we humans have to hit a button to actually turn the thing on.

You know, that old-fashioned idea of the man actually controlling the machine?

Written by turbotodd

April 13, 2017 at 9:07 am

Speak Slowly In Your Regular Voice

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Happy Monday.

I just returned from a nice long weekend with my buddies out in West Texas, where we held our annual “South Austin Gun Camp.”

Don’t worry, nobody was hurt…well, save for that Easter Bunny pinata which made too compelling a target for our collective target practice to resist.

Speaking of targets, they were mostly old beer cans and paper zombies, but a good time was had by all and the weather mostly cooperated for our three day camp out.

I include in this post a pic of one of the shooting activities I semi excel at, which is skeet shooting (called “Olympic Skeet” in the Olympic games, the U.S. team for which I will not be selected for anytime soon).

Turbo takes out his pent up frustrations on some harmless clay pigeons in the wilds of West Texas, while also basking in his short-lived technological  disconnectedness.

Turbo takes out his pent up frustrations on some harmless clay pigeons in the wilds of West Texas, while also basking in his short-lived technological disconnectedness.

Today, however, it’s been email catchup and back to work.

Out in West Texas, I had limited access to any technology. My LG Cosmos II scantly picked up a Verizon signal, so every once in a while I would get a data dump so I could scan my personal email.

The lack of data connectivity made it a little difficult to keep up with the Sweet 16 results and the PGA event in Houston, but I was able to play catch up on those once back at Turboville late Sunday afternoon.

In the “While You Were Out” category, I noticed this story about Nuance Communications’ efforts to release “Voice Ads,” a “new mobile advertising format that lets people have a two-way conversation with brands.”

For the record, I’m a big Nuance (and voice dictation/speech recognition, more generally) fan, but the idea of my talking to a brand made me laugh out loud.

What happens when the brand can talk back to me?

“Hello, Budweiser. I’ll have one of you.”

“Could I see your ID, please?”

“Excuse me?”

“You asked for one of me. I’m Budweiser, an adult alcoholic beverage, and you must be 21 or older to speak with me, much less consume me. Could I see your ID, please?”

“Sorry, I left it at home.”

“I’m sorry, too.  You must be 21 or older to talk to this Budweiser.”

Upstart Business Journal has all the details, ‘splainin’ that Nuance has already signed up marketing partners like Digitas, OMD, and Leo Burnett to reach the approximate 100,000 app publishers out there in the world today.

And no question, mobile marketing is a huge market — I’m just not sure how many people are ready to talk to their brands.

If they are, it’s surely to help them get something useful done. I can easily envision this mobile app from JetBlue sometime soon:

Why am I so late, JetBlue Voice?”

“Your plane was delayed.”

“Why was my plane delayed, JetBlue Voice? I need to get to New York. I have a meeting!”

“Could you please enter your confirmation number?”

“It’s in another part of my smartphone, and I can’t find it because I’m talking to you. Don’t you have voice recognition or something?”

“Perhaps you could call back another time when you have your confirmation number. Thank you for calling JetBlue’s advertising.”

No no, NOTHING could go wrong with mobile voice advertising!

Samsung Theatre, RSS-Less Google

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Anybody watch that Samsung Galaxy S4 launch last night on the Webcast from Radio City Music Hall in New York City?

Well, the latest episode of Smash it certainly was not.  I think the entire show could probably have used a dramaturg, but hey, what do I know? The last show I saw at Radio City Music Hall was Iron Maiden sometime around 1985.

But, if Samsung doesn’t exactly have a handle on the number of the thespian beast, they certainly do seem to have learned how to make smartphones.

Once I got past all the drama last night, I was ready to shell out a few hundred bucks to move back into the smartphone camp (I’m currently carrying an LG feature phone from Verizon, because unlike most people, I actually still use my cell phone to TALK to OTHER HUMAN BEINGS.)  I currently depend on an iPod Touch 5th gen for most of my tablet computing (news consumption, email, calendaring, shooter games, travel, etc.)

But at some point, I’m going to create my own harmonic computing convergence and try to come back to one device.

Of course, the price point for an unlocked Galaxy S4 will likely require a second mortage, and that’s if you can even find one.

So I’m also keeping an eye on the downmarket players like BLU Products, a little known player from whom I recently ordered an unlocked feature phone for $35 that I now use as my bat phone.

BLU is introducing a whole slate of new smartphones in April, entitled “Live View,” “Life One,” and “Life Play,” all of which will allegedly be sold unlocked on Amazon and range between $229 and $299.

The Life View model will include a 5.7-inch display (bigger than the Galaxy 5 at 5 inches), a 12-megapixel rear/5-megapixel front camera, 1GB RAM, 16GB of expandable storage, and also a 2,600Ah battery for those lonnngg plane rides to Bangalore.

I imagine that phone will be “good enough,” and you can learn more here on Engadget.

What’s apparently not good enough for Google is having an RSS reader. It was just announced that Google Reader was going to be taken out back to the Google woodshed and shot, as of July 1 of this year, a resultant casualty of Google’s annual “Spring Cleaning.”

To whit I ask, couldn’t they have found something less useful to “clean?”

Not to pile on, but this is a really dumb move for Google, if not for the bad PR value alone (and there’s been plenty of that). Google Reader was a beloved product, if only by the niche social digerati — you know, all those massive influencers with a big social media megaphone.

For my money, it’s a jaded move — Google’s not making any money off Reader, and RSS feeds are notoriously difficult to measure, so why not bury it in the Mountain View backyard? On the other hand, it would be nice for them to keep a useful tool that helps we bloggers keep our blogging sanity, and Reader does/did? just that.

C’est la Google vie…I’ve turned to Feedly online and on the iPod, and Reeder on the Mac, to assuage my soon-to-be Google Readerless existence.  So far, I’m digging the newspaper-ish like layout.  I just hope I can learn how to add and subtract feeds as easily as I was able to on the Google Reader cloud.

As for my post-SXSW-partum depression, the sun’s shining in Austin and I plan to get out and play some golf this weekend.  But I’ll just say this: For me, Best SouthBy ever.  I saw a lot of great speakers and sessions, talked to a lot of cool and interesting people, consumed some of my native city’s great food and drink, and enjoyed myself all the way around.

And for those of you who made it to the IBM party at Haven Saturday night, well how about that?  Definitely NOT your father’s IBM.

The bar she has been raised.

CMO Talk: What If Everything You Knew About Marketing Changed?

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Click to enlarge. The practice of marketing is going through a period of unparalleled change, putting CMOs everywhere to the test. However, you can seize the opportunity to transform your marketing function. The combined insights of the 1,734 senior marketing executives participating in IBM’s Global CMO study point to three strategic imperatives that can strengthen your likelihood of success, as outlined in the graphic above.

Contrary to popular opinion, we don’t all know one another at IBM.

I know, I know, it’s hard to believe, considering there’s only 400,000+ plus of us — you’d think we all knew one another, but we don’t.

But the good news is, we’re always making new acquaintances inside IBM.

That was the case at the Word of Mouth Marketing Association Summit I attended last week in Vegas, where I finally got to meet face-to-face my colleague, Carolyn Heller Baird.

Carolyn is situated in IBM’s Global Business Services organization, and for the better part of two years, Carolyn served as the Global Director for our Chief Marketing Officer study, which was released late last year (and for which I wrote an extensive blog post, which you can find here.)

Carolyn was also in attendance at WOMMA, where she presented the CMO findings in some detail before a sizable audience.

I sat down with Carolyn to talk about the study’s findings in more detail, and to also try and better understand the implications for marketers in general, and social media practitioners in specific.

Before I hand you off to our interview below, I want to highlight the fact that the study results are still available via download here.

As the study concluded, half of all CMOs today feel insufficiently prepared to provide hard numbers for marketing ROI, even as they expect that by 2015, return on marketing investment will be the primary measure of the marketing function’s effectiveness.

There’s a gap to close there, and Carolyn’s comments in the video provide some actionable insights on to how to start to close it!

Live @ Information On Demand 2012: Smarter Marketing Analytics

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Big Data is the digital convergence of structured and unstructured data. Those organizations that can capture and analyze their data, regardless of what type, how much, or how fast it is moving, can make more informed decisions. At Information On Demand 2012 today in Las Vegas, IBM announced a new digital marketing system to help CMOs conduct smarter marketing analytics.

The news dam has begun to break at the IBM Information On Demand And Business Analytics Forum here in Vegas.

One of the highlights of today’s announcement was IBM’s unveiling of a new digital marketing system and big data software designed to help organizations gain actionable insights.

These tackle the most pressing big data challenges facing organizations today — accessing and gaining intelligence into an enormous stream of data generated from mobile, social and digital networks.

Big Data for Chief Marketing Officers 

The emergence of big data technologies is driving the transformation of marketing for every channel. Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) are now responsible for analyzing consumer demands from social media, mobile devices, and traditional channels and align these demands with product development and sales.

The new IBM Digital Analytics Accelerator helps CMOs tap into consumer sentiment to create targeted advertising and promotions, avoid customer churn, and perform advanced Web analytics that predict customer needs.

Now, CMOs can bring advanced analytics to all their social media, web traffic, and customer communication behind their own firewall.

The industry’s first big data solution in the digital marketing arena is powered by Netezza and Unica technologies. With this integrated offering that includes the recently announced PureData System for Analytics, clients can run complex analytics on petabytes of data in minutes, and arm marketing professionals with instant insights.

CMOs can use new insights to accelerate marketing campaigns and better meet consumer needs based on the broadest range of data.

Trident Marketing: Gaining Visibility Into Consumer Behaviors

For Trident Marketing, a direct response marketing and sales firm for leading brands such as DIRECTV, ADT and Travel Resorts of America, performing analytics on big data has helped the company gain unprecedented visibility into consumers — from predicting the precise moment in which to engage with customers to anticipating the likelihood a customer will cancel service.

Working with IBM and partner Fuzzy Logix, the company has realized massive growth including a tenfold increase in revenue in just four years, a ten percent increase in sales in the first 60 days, and decreased customer churn by 50 percent.

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