The Day We All Watch for the Commercials

February 10, 2016

For several decades, people have watched Super Bowl commercials almost as eagerly as they have watched the game itself. With the money now involved, $5 million for a 30-second spot, brands are even more committed to raise their creative efforts and capture the attention of both consumers and all the journalists covering this phenomenon.

It’s certainly a lot easier in the age of the Internet to spend time watching and dissecting the 60 or so ads that aired during the game. If you want to take a look at one ‘score’ of the ads to compare against your own impressions, check out the USA Today Ad Meter results that rank viewer submissions on each and every ad.

In the meantime, here are a few thoughts on how the 2016 crop of commercials reflects lessons on how to utilize advertising to create a real brand impact.

To Really Resonate, Combine Emotion and Function

Advertisers have become more and more focused on hitting emotional triggers with their campaigns, and rightly so. There is a danger, however, in creating an emotional message without connecting that impact to the brand.

It’s discouraging when people say, “Oh that ad was great, but, uh, I can’t remember what it was for.” Not surprisingly, ads that scored well in the Ad Meter – which lacks scientific rigor, of course – did a great job utilizing an emotional appeal, usually humor, along with a tie-in to some functional element of the brand.

In pre-watching the ads, the trio of Hyundai ads struck me as hitting this sweet spot perfectly. All three ended up in the top six on the Ad Meter. Granted, some of the stars in the ads prodded their social followers to go to USA Today and vote, but such a push is reflective of the pride these celebrities had in the quality of the ad.

Celebrities Need Quality

Speaking of celebrities, it’s no surprise that lots of them popped up in Super Bowl 50 ads – a famous face reflexively drives mental attention to the screen. But, using such talent can easily be wasted if the messaging and quality of the ad isn’t stellar as well.

Most of the ads did well in delivering on this mix, but one of the worst rated ads was Squarespace’s effort with Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key. While these gents are often hilarious, the characters in the ad weren’t that humorous, likeable, or understandable, so the effort fell flat. In the case of LG’s “The Man From the Future,” the content was just too vague to make much of an impact, and the product, a 4K TV, isn’t ready for prime time as almost no 4K content exists.

Another fascinating celebrity choice was Budweiser’s use of Helen Mirren. There is not a natural brand fit between the two, but for a public service announcement this disconnect was a smart move, helping strengthen attention to its “don’t drink and drive” message. Measuring the true impact of such an effort is difficult, but people seem to have paid attention as a Google Trends search indicates a 500% increase over any peak search for the word pillock over the past decade. (H/t to Frank and Ridley for driving me to research this.)

Beyond Machismo Targeting

In general, Super Bowl commercials are more expansive in their targeting than those running during regular season games. But two ads in particular broke the mold more than others this year.

Hyundai’s “Ryanville” ad was one of the most interesting ads of the batch (to me, anyway) because it specifically targeted women. Even with that target, however, the humor and sense of desire in the ad still maintained a broad appeal, with a relatively similar supportive rating from both men and women in the Ad Meter.

Despite estimates over the past couple of decades that roughly 40-45% of NFL fans are women, it wasn’t until a few years ago that the NFL, and its sponsors and supporters, recognized that they need to expand their messaging beyond just a male target.  Still, ads during NFL games have tended to just downplay gender differences, rather than recognizing that an ad can be more appealing to one gender without simultaneously being annoying to the other.

Going even wider in its demographic appeal, Mini Cooper pushed people to defy all labels. Such messages inevitably bring up these labels while also critiquing the use of them, making Mini the brand that would provide a nod to gay culture by featuring Abby Wambach stating, “This is a gay car.”

On a side note, I found it even more interesting that the celebrities in this ad – from Serena Williams to T-Pain to Tony Hawk – are all actual Mini owners who have behind the scenes videos where they talk about their relationship with the brand.

Hits and Misses

Some final fun notes:

  • The Heinz Weiner Stampede is currently second in the Ad Meter, but I thought this ad was horrible. Something about image of a “hotdog” liking a face did not sit well with me. What do I know?
  • Will pharmaceutical companies ever find a way to make appealing ads?
  • I think the Pokemon ad was almost a little ahead of its time. It didn’t score well, and was confusing unless you know about Pokemon, but I loved how it tried to tie traditional sports intensity into the massively growing competitive e-sports category.
  • There is always an ad that isn’t well liked, but gets so much attention it has to be called it a success. That title clearly goes to Puppymonkeybaby.
  • Don’t try to get across too much or be too obtuse in an ad. Paypal, Quicken Loans, and SoFi,all had confusing messages and lost any appeal.

On a final note, I had fun discovering The Late Late Show’s “update” of Cindy Crawford’s famous 1992 Pepsi commercial that helped stoke the fire behind the desire to write articles like this one.

BY MATTHEW QUINT


Microsoft’s HoloLens Brings the Digital World Off the Screen

February 9, 2016

In June of 2015, at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, Microsoft presented a demo (below) of what it is like to play Minecraft using HoloLens. The audience was amazed as the digitized world came off the screen and became an overlay on the real world.

Unlike the completely immersive experience of virtual reality, a la Facebook’s Oculus Rift, the HoloLens allows users to combine the physical world with an immersive virtual experience. Google Glass and other augmented reality efforts provide small “windows” on the real world while Microsoft is using holograms to create complete 3D virtual images. The HoloLens also runs all other Windows applications, allowing users not to have to rely on a screen.

Use cases for HoloLens go beyond gaming, as the technology finds a seamless space for the virtual and real worlds to meet, interact, and collaborate. As our BRITE ’16 speaker Scott Erickson, Senior Director of HoloLens, explains in an interview with The Verge, HoloLens provides users with “the ability to walk around, to overlay holographic information and make it contextual to physical objects that are in the [same] space.”

aa76d8d6-af6d-4401-be0a-7c4d656144bc

A very interesting aspect of the experience is precisely the capability to interact with others around you, both those who are using a holographic computer and those who aren’t. Cliff Kuang from Fast Company, explains that “Microsoft has already conducted hundreds of hours of user testing to figure out just how we might interact in this new hybrid reality. They’ve already come up with some very clever interactions, like making your gaze function as a mouse pointer.”

The only reported downside to HoloLens is that the field of vision for where holograms can appear is still limited.

microsoft-hololens

In early 2016, Microsoft opened up applications for the HoloLens Development Edition, which will ship by the end of the first quarter of the year. With a price tag of $3000 for the kit, it is still unknown what the price of the consumer model will be.

In the meantime, Microsoft is using its Flagship store in NYC to allow developers and a few lucky curious to test the HoloLens.

Join us on March 7-8 for BRITE ’16 and see Microsoft’s Scott Erickson talk about HoloLens and the possibilities of a mixed reality world. Plus, when you register, you will have a chance to sign-up and visit the flagship store to experience the HoloLens yourself.

BY GABRIELA TORRES PATIÑO

 


Reflections on CES 2016: Finding Signals in the Noise

January 21, 2016

Intel_CES_2016

Whether it’s your first time going or whether it’s just another year at CES, the event never ceases to feel overwhelming. Over half a dozen hotels are involved, the actual ‘trade show’ is filled with so many booths that it is split into multiple venues covering over 2.5 million square feet, and for a full week there is basically non-stop keynote and conference content.

There is a lot of noise at CES, and pulling out different signals within it can sometimes be difficult. Press coverage is rampant – and inevitably a bit snarky at times – and you can get top takeaways from dozens of different outlets. For example:

  • AdAge highlighted things that got buzz
  • Phys.org focused on listing new tech
  • The New York Times explored how experiential even a deal making room can be, and
  • Znet highlighted the weirdest and worst gadgets

It was just my second year at CES and so I’m not expert on a historical perspective of the event, but a few themes clearly emerged from my experience.

Rebranding the event itself

For a time, the latest TV advances seemed to dominate the buzz, both good and bad, at the Consumer Electronic Show. Over the past several years, though, as the world became more interconnected and technical components became cheaper and cheaper, the tone and breadth of the event changed significantly.

Recognizing these changes, in 2015 the producing organizing rebranded itself as the Consumer Technology Association (from Consumer Electronics Association) and dropped the full name of the trade show to just CES. As CTA President Gary Shapiro noted, “Our name change is an evolution. Just as the tech sector itself has evolved and now crosses multiple industry sectors, we’ve broadened our membership to include new technologies and intersecting industries – software, app development, crowdsourcing technology, robotics, content creation, and the personalized health care and services sectors.”

In this case, the name changes follow an already established shift in the mission of the organization and the set-up of its flagship event, so it didn’t draw much attention or create any real impact. Still, it does formalize the fact that CES is now highlighting how technology will drive broad social and business changes, rather than just showing off the latest update to a gadget in your home.

Autonomous vehicles

The auto industry has become a large part of CES over the past few years. Gary Shapiro even joined in at the Volkswagen Keynote that I attended on January 5. Most of the focus was on electric vehicles, physical displays and interconnectivity. CEO Herbert Diess opined, “The car will be the most important device on the Internet.”

What didn’t get nearly as much attention via the microphones was the future of the automated/self-driving car. This was unfortunate, as one moment on the showroom floor showed me that this is what people are most fascinated by when thinking about the future of transportation.

The benefit of attending CES in person is that you can see people’s reaction to the tech in front of them. When walking the automotive area, the Nvidia booth immediately stuck out as an anomaly. Isn’t Nvidia a graphics card company? And why is this booth swarming with people? What’s going on?

Nvidia_CES_2016It turns out that Nvidia has become a strong player in the automotive area by developing Nvidia Drive to create automated systems to “enable cars to see, think, and learn.” Employees at the booth were surrounded by folks interested in understanding the technical set-up for gathering information on the road as well as the neural networks and machine learning that are being develop to create automated driving experiences.

While looking at futuristic car designs draws one’s eye, people’s minds are sharply attuned to how their car may help them drive in the future.

Partnerships rule

Just introducing the new cool gadget isn’t going to cut it anymore. Every keynote and press conference wasn’t complete without other companies, entertainers, or politicians gracing the stage to talk about projects and partnerships that would shape the future of society.

Panasonic_Denver_Smart_City_CES_2016At the Panasonic press conference, I got to see the mayor of Denver, Michael Hancock, take the stage with Panasonic N.A. Chairman and CEO Joe Taylor to talk about their smart city initiative. Ford announced its efforts with Amazon to integrate the Echo system into future smart vehicles. Google appeared on stage at the LG press conference to highlight their partnership to develop more secure smart things. And Samsung had Microsoft’s Bryan Roper demonstrate natural language queries on Windows 10 that will drive their smart devices.

Finally, there was no bigger experience than Intel’s keynote. From knowns like A.R. Rahman, Oakley, X Games, and Lady Gaga, to smaller start-ups like Daqri, there was a constant steam of people demonstrating what can be made possible by Intel’s latest line of chips.

While competition still abounds in the tech sector, the future growth of smart things, augmented/virtual reality, drones, and robots, will be contingent on various kinds of shared systems. The potential of interconnectivity for both commercial growth and societal benefits will only come about if the devices and systems that hold promise in this area can find ways to work together via partnerships, APIs, and universal standards.

Some closing observances

Samsung Gear has been available, but with Oculus Rift taking pre-orders at CES, virtual reality fully put its stake in the marketplace this year. I’ve tried the headset a few times and within minutes gotten “VR sickness.” I await future reports on the return rate of these devices.

There are car manufacturers a plenty now at CES, but sadly they have no idea how to staff the show floor. Turn left or right at any other booth and you can find a staff person to talk to – sometimes even at a leadership level – but from Volvo to Ford to Toyota, it was nearly impossible to find anyone to talk to about their latest efforts.

The smallest things can create the biggest emotional reaction. Panasonic showed off its transparent TV screen in a natural looking living room setting and people crowded around to watch it with expressions of joy and wonder plastered across their face.

And finally, no Las Vegas experience would be complete without an Elvis moment….

Elvis_CES_2016

BY MATTHEW QUINT


KIND Snacks: Starting a healthy conversation

December 23, 2015

Daniel Lubetzky had the lofty goal of starting a company both economically sustainable and socially impactful. In 2004, after ten years as a social entrepreneur, he started KIND Snacks. Now valued at more than 700M USD, the company still follows his vision to build a community, a movement, and ultimately a company with the goal of doing the right thing.

It was early in his career, however, when Daniel Lubetzky learned the hard way that a mission does not sell a product, the product sells the product. Back in the early Nineties when he was starting PeaceWorks, Lubetzky methodically walked the streets of Manhattan selling dried tomato spreads. Peaceworks produced Mediterranean spreads and other goods, but Lubetzky’s pitch focused on the company’s model to try to promote peace in the Middle East by sourcing and partnering with companies from regions in conflict — Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Turkey, Indonesian, and Sri Lanka. He wouldn’t leave a store until they either bought his product or told him what he should do to improve it. Through these interactions with store buyers he realized Middle East peace wasn’t selling the spreads, the spreads were selling the spreads. So, he soon put quality first, even when it was more time consuming and expensive.

daniel-headshot

As Lubetzky himself notes in his book Do the KIND Thing, “Yes, increasingly consumers are focused on ensuring that the companies they buy products or services from are genuine members of their communities, doing their part to make this a better world. But that is not a substitute for delivering on the functional merits. First and foremost, the product must stand on its own.”

After a decade of positive press with KIND snacks, it came as a surprise to Lubetzky when the FDA sent KIND a letter this year indicating that four of its bars were in violation of marketing labeling guidelines for the use of the word healthy and the plus sign.

Like many others would do, KIND responded immediately and adjusted its labels. Unlike others, they took the slap on the wrist as a way to start a conversation on what it means to eat healthy and how the FDA guidelines may be misleading. On December 1, 2015, KIND submitted a citizen petition to the FDA, asking the agency to update their requirements related to food labeling in order to reflect a shift in dietary guidelines that focus on whole foods that help achieve and maintain wellness, rather than on specific nutrient levels.

kind_fda_infographic_instagram_v1a_final-1

This move, which if made by a different snack company could look like just another lobbying effort, has been embraced by KIND’s stakeholders as a way of doing something good for the community: aiming to help people recognize and understand distinctions between whole foods and processed, low-fat “healthy” foods. This permission is given because the snack company has built its brand with the hope of spreading kindness. One example of this is the #kindawesome initiative –part of the company’s KIND movement- that is“a little program we cooked up to celebrate kind acts everywhere, spot a kind act, give a KIND snack. On us!” Anyone can send KIND snacks to recognize an act of kindness via twitter, Facebook, or email to people they’ve spotted doing everyday kind things.

See Daniel Lubetzky at BRITE ’16 (March 7-8, NYC) to learn more about his story and KIND.

BY GABRIELA TORRES PATIÑO


NEW RESEARCH: Insights on the Future of Data Sharing

November 19, 2015

The high pitched fervor over ‘big data’ has died down a bit, but only because companies are more focused on putting their noses to the grind stone to determine how to more effectively collect and analyze data, of all sizes, to improve their business performance.

The Center on Global Brand Leadership, in conjunction with the Aimia Institute, conducted a global study of more than 8,000 consumers to look deeper into the types of data consumers choose to share with companies, and what factors drive their willingness to share this data.

We encourage you to examine our full report, What Is the Future of Data Sharing?, which offers information and insights on consumer attitudes towards data sharing, how those views are affected by industry category and country, and how brand trust positively impacts a willingness to share data.

In this piece, I will highlight three particular areas to help businesses think more strategically about how to better influence their customers to share data, and create more meaningful relationships with them.

1. The Four Data-Sharing Mindsets of Consumers

My co-author, David Rogers, and I wanted to better understand how certain attitudes towards data sharing might help predict which segments of consumers are more willing to share data. Through a factor analysis we were able to effectively split our respondents along two differentiating attitudes:

  • Defensive attitude axis
    This categorized consumers according to whether or not they had: 1) made up personal details to avoid giving away real information, or 2) had taken steps to limit companies from tracking them online.
  • Sharing attitude axis
    This categorized consumers according to their attitude towards sharing personal information to receive relevant offers and discounts.

Within those differentiated attitudes, we further identified four data-sharing mindsets:

  • Defender (43% of survey participants): Consumers who are not happy to share and are guarded against companies asking for their data.
  • Savvy and in control (24% of survey participants): Consumers who are happy to share, while keeping control of how much, when, and with whom.
  • Resigned (23% of survey participants): Consumers who are not guarded, but aren’t happy about sharing, either.
  • Happy go lucky (10% of survey participants): Consumers who are not guarded against sharing their data and are happy to do so.

Data-Sharing-Mindsets

 

[Click here for the full infographic.]

One of the surprising things we found was that 70% of the people who are happy to share their data for relevant value from a company are also taking defensive actions at times to protect the data they share. Being attentive about one’s data and being happy to share it are not mutually exclusive.

Most interestingly, among all four Mindsets these “protective but happy to share” consumers – the Savvy and In Control mindset – are more comfortable with how companies handle their data, more willing to share various data points, and more influenced by brand trust.

While we are wary of making predictions of generational attitudes into the future, we do believe that the impact of growing up in a hyper-connected society will remain as generations grow older. Given this, the much larger percentage of Millennials and Generation X members in the Savvy and In Control mindset should offer companies hope for building stronger consumer relationships over time.

What is the takeaway for companies? In order to build a “win-win” scenario with your customers when it comes to collecting their data, a company must provide transparency about how they are using data and also give consumers a level of control on how they choose to share their data. In addition, companies must demonstrate how customers will get value from sharing non-required data points.

2. People Do See Value in Traditional Loyalty Program Offers

Not surprisingly, consumers show clear interest in traditional loyalty/rewards program offers and benefits.

Offer-Influences

 

[Click here for full infographic.]

Sharing an e-mail address in return for an offer was by far the most common piece of data consumers were willing to share, and this was true across all age demographics. When looking towards the future, however, we found that younger generations – Millennials and Generation X – were up to twice as likely to share other non-required types of data. For example, 23% of Millennials and 16% of Generation X were willing to share their mobile phone data, as averaged across all 10 offers, while only 11% of Boomers and 8% of the Silent Generation were willing to do so.

As the data shows, consumers report greater interest in offers that are more direct and financial in nature – rewards, cash back, coupons – but a majority do also show interest in offers that are less direct and more experiential  – recommendations and tools to help them make decisions. Given this, firms have a real opportunity to seek information from their own customers and develop personalized offers that match the interests of different groups of customers – sometimes at lower costs than promotional efforts with financial incentives.

3. New Kinds of Data-Enabled Benefits Present Future Possibilities

To better understand where the future might lie for companies, we also wanted to examine new kinds of value that are being developed out of personal data sharing efforts. Netflix and Amazon, for example, spurred the use of aggregated customer data to improve individual user experiences through product recommendations. And services such as Mint and Billguard are compiling financial information and providing insights back to consumers in order to help them make better decisions and protect against fraudulent or unauthorized finance charges.

We classified these new efforts as “data-enabled benefits” and asked respondents how likely they were to be interested in exchanging non-required personal data for such offers.

Data-Enabled-Benefits

 

[Click here for the full infographic.]

Given the fact that these new types of benefits entered the marketplace in just the past few years, we were encouraged that many consumers already agree that there is an interesting value exchange to be had by exchanging their data in return for these benefits.

Once again, the Savvy and In Control mindset shows the greatest affinity towards sharing data in exchange for these new kinds of benefits:

Mindsets-Data-Enabled-Benefits

 

As firms constantly aim to innovate and develop creative new experiences for customers, this data points to a clear opportunity for them. Companies can build their brand and strengthen customer relationships by crafting value-added features for customers that are developed by analyzing and sharing insights on the very data that they hope consumers will share with them.

As Prof. Michael Schrage from MIT has nicely phrased it, “Making customers better makes better customers…. Customers need to learn from you almost as much as you need to learn from customers. Serious customer experience design debates in organizations should focus almost as much on customer learning as customer delight.”

BY MATTHEW QUINT


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