Posts

generative-ai

What robotics did for manufacturing in the early 20th century, AI is set to do for the knowledge economy in the 21st.

In November 2022, we saw the launch of of ChatGPT, the conversational AI chatbot from OpenAI. The chatbot garnered 1 million users in just 5 days – faster than any social platform to date – bringing AI directly to consumers in It’s meteoric rise in popularity is likely to eclipse even that of TikTok (Prof. Scott Galloway, NYU).

While AI technology has been around for many years, it is on the precipice of becoming mainstream for both consumers and in industry, particularly advertising. Bots like ChatGPT and DALL-E 2 have exploded in recent months, and industry watchers are predicting the tech will soon disrupt nearly every aspect of marketing, from creative ideation and copywriting to targeting ads. But there’s a lot more to explore about this new tech, including its current use cases, its shortcomings, and its dangers.

What is Generative AI?

In essence, the dialogue-based chatbot has been described as a super-capable search engine that can provide clear, instant and humanlike responses for a wide range of queries. Generative AI is an umbrella term that covers the kinds of models that have gotten a lot of attention recently: those that go beyond information processing and instead move into novel content creation like essays, blogs, music, poetry, computer code, images and more. You may have heard of some of the more popular generative AI platforms like DALL-E 2, Jasper, Midjourney, Lensa, and of course ChatGPT. All of them have slightly different functionality, but all achieve novel and intelligent content generation.

Why does it matter to me?

Marketers are already experimenting with generative AI platforms to see how it might be able to benefit their business. Perhaps the most common use case thus far has been creative ideation, and at a much faster clip than it would normally take a team of creatives. For example, if an agency is in the brainstorming stage for a new campaign, it can plug relevant queries into DALL-E 2 and have hudnreds of ideas in seconds. The same goes for ChatGPT, which can produce polished ad copy for any concept.

Some marketers are already using these models to create ready-to-go advertisements. Canadian agency Rethink ran a campaign last year featuring hero images of Ketchup that had been genenrated by DALL-E 2.

Earlier this month, Ryan Reynolds debuted an ad for his wireless brand Mint Mobile that was partially penned by ChatGPT. Going forward, marketers expect new and increasingly concrete applications to become available as generative AI develops.

Any Concerns?

There are a few. The most pressing concern of generative AI is with misinformation. Since these models are only as good as the data they are trained on, if that data is false or biased or somehow corrupted, then their generated content will be so as well. AI platforms are also not necessarily up to date on the facts. ChatGPT, for example, is limited to knowledge of 2021 data. When queried about crypto firm FTX—which collapsed last fall—the model still describes it as one of the most popular exchanges, as well as having high liquidity.

Issues of plagiarism are another concern, especially with regard to image generators. All of the data the models have been trained on comes from somewhere and someone, and without knowing it, an agency could create images that directly crib the style of an artist. This is why copyright will likely play a sizable role in the future of AI technologies.

Finally, and with special significance to marketers, generative AI could open new questions of data privacy. Technologists are already proclaiming how AI will disrupt targeted advertising once companies can upload their data to a model’s neural network. But how will consumers feel that a highly intelligent computer knows all kinds of information about them and can create an unlimited amount of novel content from that information, some of which may very likely be manipulative? These questions and more will be explored as AI develops.

The big picture: Marketers will need to take advantage of AI and keep an open mind to its changes. But taking advantage of AI doesn’t mean sinking creative teams. Rather, AI will foster an era of human use of machines to optimize outcomes, just like digital art did before it. 

In our view, the places of immediate implication are AI in Search, AI for Content creation and AI in E-Commerce.

AI in Search: The generative AI capability could prove disruptive for engines like Google.  Not because it can out-Google Google but because its answer, and the simple uncluttered way it delivers them, might sometimes be preferable to search results.  And that could dent search engine usage.  We don’t think Google is going away, but we do think this will impact Search behavior.

AI in Content: The benefit here is through automated content generation, improved content quality, increased content variety and personalized content.  Overall leading to more relevant content for the customer and higher engagement with the brand.

AI in E-commerce: There are 4 main ways AI will affect this.  1st, in Copywriting, AI can generate Ad copy in seconds, which can make content on sites and social media more relevant to the user.  2nd, it will allow retailers to provide immediate assistance through chatbots and virtual assistants to help consumers navigate the purchase.  3rd, through personalization.  Think accurate product recommendations based on the customer behavior and shopping history.  And finally with inventory management, using the technology to predict customer demand.

Job profiles at Serviceplan Group

Who does new client acquisition for Mediaplus? And what exactly do our colleagues when it comes to acquiring new clients? Susanne Kiefl and Larissa Staadtlich provide us with interesting insights into their jobs as New Business & Marketing Managers and tell us how their day-to-day work resembles a barraquito.

Check out our new episode of Jobtitles Bingo and learn more about the exciting day-to-day life as a New Business & Marketing Manager at Mediaplus.

In the “Deep Dive” format, experts from the Mediaplus Group immerse themselves in the world of marketing trends and provide in-depth insights into current challenges: how can trends be categorised socially and economically, and how can problems be addressed with an interdisciplinary approach? Magnus Gebauer, Group Head Trendhub at Mediaplus, sheds light on this with his article on the evolution of hybrid consumers.

Jane and John Smith are facing an identity crisis. While they used to fit perfectly into demographic characteristics, average buying behaviour and value categories, contradictions are increasingly appearing in their lives. Just recently, though, Jane has been attributed a split – almost schizophrenic – consumer existence with unstable consumer patterns. As she is concerned about sustainability and shopping locally, she buys her food from the local organic shop. However, avocados and other exotic superfoods also make their way into her basket on a regular basis. John also feels that things are no longer as simple as they used to be. While reading an article on the consequences of the Facebook privacy scandal, he found himself accepting the website’s cookies information without hesitation.

What the Smiths perceive as an identity crisis has for some time been described by marketers as the erratic and contradictory behaviour of hybrid consumers. A look at current trends reveals that there are more and more of these contradictory developments. We are now at the centre of the so-called battle of contradictions. Sometimes the battle appears in just one person, or other times it is apparent in an entire target group, which only seems to work uniformly.

From a marketing point of view, the challenges in consciously addressing the target group are growing. At the same time, opportunities also arise when brands get involved in current trend themes. Contradictions are not only evident in terms of consumption, but also in social life and media use.

For this reason, we are taking a look at three current contradictions from society, consumption and media use and pitting them against each other based on their significance for marketing and media. Which trend is the most relevant? What are the challenges? How can marketers take advantage of the trend?

JOMO vs. FOMO

FOMO (or the fear of missing out) is known from the world of social media. As an antidote, JOMO (or the joy of missing out) is the conscious decision to enjoy missing out on something – both online and offline. From a marketing point of view, FOMO is more relevant. Seven out of ten millennials experience this feeling on a regular basis. The trigger possibilities of the “FOMO Sapiens” simply offer far more scope from a marketing point of view – just think about the effect of temporary stories, the effect of artificial scarcity on booking portals or strict time limits. And in practice? Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Singles Day are the best examples of the impressive effect of FOMO logic. Played at the right moment, however, JOMO also offers a creative playground, especially with regard to contextual messages in the up-and-coming digital wellness cosmos – Dominos UK provides proof of this with its  “The Official Food of JOMO” advert. In a humorous way, they position their pizzas as an alternative to the FOMO lifestyle.

Ethical Consumption vs. Convenience

Climate change and movements such as Fridays for Future are bringing ethical-sustainable consumption into the consciousness of the masses. Well-known green issues such as organic and local are gaining in importance, while new issues such as flight shame and data shame are emerging. At the same time, there are few consumers who want to do without convenience products – but these are usually not particularly environmentally friendly. Brands cannot ignore any of the issues, but sustainability is a must and convenience is an additional option. Sustainability communication requires a clever balancing act between credible brand positioning – especially for non-green-born brands – and avoiding the greenwashing trap into which Deutsche Bahn recently stepped with its green ICE paint. Brands have a number of options available to them to be able to achieve convenience: Nestlé offers an Alexa Skill for young parents that makes everyday life easier. Rewe, Edeka and other supermarkets advertise with the fact that customers can withdraw cash free of charge as a kind of value-added service in stores, and Lufthansa implements data-based dialogue marketing in the form of personalised newsletters.

Glossy vs. Real

On social media in particular, the image people – and also businesses – present is especially important. On the one hand, there is the desire to be presented as perfectly as possible, while on the other hand the appearance should also be authentic and real. After all, Instagram’s #nomakeup hashtag features 18.3 million posts. The bottom line in this battle of contradictions is that glossy – the faked, perfect self-portrayal – is still a contender, because artificial and staged images still dominate the media. But it is precisely in the flood of “instagrammable” posts that carefully arranged bowls and walls no longer really stand out – Gen Z has grasped this fact and staged itself in a refreshingly authentic way.
From a brand perspective, real and unembellished staging can also have a stronger effect on attention. The successful Real Beauty campaign by Dove has been using the “No Digital Distortion” mark in its visual communication worldwide since the beginning of the year. To create a modern brand presence on Instagram, it is worth being both glossy and real: you can present yourself and your products filtered and perfectly staged, but you should not forget your personal touch. The American make-up manufacturer Glossier has mastered this almost to perfection.

Contradictions don’t make the world worse, only a little more complicated. This can be transferred to direct customer contact. In addition, not all solutions can be found in media communication – products, sales and customer service are also decisive building blocks and should be included in overall strategic considerations. It is important to be open and bold in the face of these contradictions and to see them more as an opportunity for versatile, authentic communication.

Holistic agencies not only observe current trends, they also analyse and evaluate them based on their relevance for their customers. On this basis, they will be able to react quickly to consumer trends and create innovations from them.

It is a case in point that brand managers and consumers – but also marketing and advertising managers – all have their sights on the same goal: to come into contact with one another at the right time, in the right place and with the right message. The problem is that they all take widely different approaches and that companies rarely carry out real-time evaluations of the data necessary for this.

Consumers looking for specific products or services expect treatment to be as personalised as possible – and, of course, for this to be available at all times, on all available devices and all possible channels. The proverbial “customer journey” has not been following a straight path for some time now. After all, there are endless possibilities for customers to strike up contact with the various companies. They can approach the brands directly or do so indirectly, for example via performance marketing channels such as price comparisons or social media platforms. The upshot of this is that the labyrinthine customer journey throws up more and more purchase process-related data. Marketers, on the other hand, want to understand and reach digital customers but naturally always have their own ROI in the back of their minds. Accordingly, they pursue a strategy that makes the most of their marketing budget. To do so, however, they must first find their way through the data jungle. And the ever-growing volume of data is making it more and more difficult for them to find the right information at the right time.

The golden growth years are over

For the most part, the vast bulk of the constantly collected data ends up gathering dust in a virtual drawer somewhere. Particularly in marketing, endless amounts of user data are collected with a view to tailoring a personal marketing campaign geared as closely as possible towards each individual shop or website visitor. At present, however, many marketing departments are still failing to apply any coherent strategy to this data and only analyse and contextualise it on rare occasions. Which in turn means that the data rarely points the way to clear optimisation measures and follow-ups. Before you start amassing data without any clear plan in mind, you should ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do I really need a constant supply of new data to run successful marketing campaigns?
  • At what point should I start collecting data and at what point should I stop again?
  • How can data be used in decision-making?
  • And what data is actually needed to manage campaigns successfully?

To begin with, the somewhat sobering answer to all these questions is that data collection will never stop. It is more a question of making better use of the (available) data. Which means that marketers should realise that the golden years of online retailing are over and that they need to come up with a decent data strategy. When it first emerged, the online market was able to chalk up rapid growth. In most cases, however, this was generated automatically given that a new market was effectively created, with consumer behaviour shifting online. These days, online sales are still on the rise, but growth is nothing like it was in the early days. This is because users are already online and the market is becoming increasingly saturated. And now everyone is vying for a slice of the pie! Accordingly, online players who want to remain at the head of the pack need to have more than creative campaigns in their box of tricks. After all, market saturation essentially means that all market participants currently have the same starting position. Which, above all, means that a clever data strategy can give players a significant competitive edge.

Data collection will never stop. It is more a question of making better use of the (available) data.

Sharing data across departments

And the good news? The first step towards a successful data strategy can be taken with an initial inventory of available data. Existing customer data is particularly valuable because it provides important information about purchase behaviour, frequency of visits and/or shopping, and the contents of customers’ shopping carts.

For companies, data that already exists forms the basis for targeting consumers with individualised advertising at a later stage. Here, it is important to compare existing data with other departments and to identify any overlaps. Regrettably, it is often the case that a company’s left hand doesn’t know what its right hand is up to. More often than not, this gives rise to data silos that will smother any usefulness the data might have had. Which means that it is all the more essential for all departments – from IT to sales and marketing – to communicate with one another and to pool their data in a common SSOT (“Single Source Of Truth”) solution. For this to work, the importance of the data must be communicated clearly across all departments. Ideally, each company should have its own data manager acting as an interface between the individual departments. This manager must have a clear idea of who constitutes the target group for marketing and sales and, with this in mind, collect, prepare and condense the right data accordingly.

The data manager is also in charge of determining the right format for storing data so that it is available via the SSOT afterwards. Product silos frequently end up being created, particularly in the case of large retailers and corporate groups. The data manager must ensure that data is linked in such a way that it can be used to create campaigns for different products.

Changing focus: meeting needs rather than making sales

A very important structural change in the market is the shift of focus from transaction perspective to customer lifetime perspective, i.e. that the customer now takes centre stage instead of the purchase transaction. Accordingly, it is increasingly important to find out how much individual customers are worth when they can be targeted directly. Consumers looking for specific products or services expect personalised communication complete with relevant offers. Well-informed customers research extensively and shop around, thereby leaving more and more data trails relating to the purchase process. Apart from the transaction focus, which only gears the data evaluation and direct communication towards the purchase itself, the customer lifetime perspective takes into account the customer’s long-term value. It aims to leave behind a satisfied customer who will come back again, who will recommend a service to others – and who might come back and purchase a product after deciding against it three or four months previously.

This gives rise to completely new approaches and questions that marketers must ask themselves:

  • What does the customer think?
  • What really interests them?

Right now, however, the most important question is:

  • How can I be sure of reaching the customer via all channels?

After all, customers move from channel to channel, sometimes going online to find out about a new product, other times approaching a sales assistant at the POS or calling up data on their smartphone or desktop PC.

Marketing managers must be able to bring together all this data from the various contact points and assign them to a specific customer. After all, brand managers and consumers – but also marketing and advertising managers – all have their sights on the same goal: to come into contact with one another at the right time, in the right place and with the right message. The company should be aiming to communicate suitable content to the customer on a regular basis, thus forging a lasting bond with the brand or the company. Without this bond, long-term objectives are not possible, and the company is left with its hastily set short-term goals.

The labyrinthine customer journey throws up more and more purchase process-related data that often remains unanalysed. (Source: Tradedoubler)

BI solutions call for fast marketing decisions

To provide customers with individualised offers, it is essential to be able to harmonise the available data. Its inherent value must be determined and analysed. Given the mountains of data that cannot possibly be dealt with manually, suitable business intelligence (BI) solutions are virtually a necessity for companies and their marketing infrastructure. After all, it is not just a question of automating marketing processes but of interpreting the data correctly. Because if marketing management only includes pieces of the big picture, some decisions have to be made based on “gut feeling” instead. In this case, marketing decision-makers run the risk of making wrong decisions. Or, worse still, they are snowed under with data and can’t make any decisions at all.

What marketing managers need is a tool that allows them to process large amounts of data and to visualise the information needed for business decisions – in the form of easily grasped graphics and diagrams. (Source: Tradedoubler)

As far as the infrastructure is concerned, it is also important to have a central data repository, i.e. customer and campaign data linked and summarised in the SSOT. In this way, the data from all marketing activities – be it search engine optimisation, affiliate marketing, display marketing or social media – all comes together centrally. Ideally, the marketing team would be shown the evaluated data in real time via the corresponding BI solution and would determine optimisation potential based on this. Remembering, of course, to bear in mind the customer journey at all times. This is the only way for the shift towards customer lifetime value to work. Today, we can already see the trend for forward-looking companies to bundle extensive expertise internally, to be highly specialised and for their work to be data-driven and/or IT-supported to a great extent.

The customer journey must always be kept in mind. Only then can the shift towards the customer lifetime value (CLV) work.

From big data to smart data

It is fair to say that companies today have unmanageable quantities of data at their disposal. Only with the help of suitable software is it still possible for them to track online user behaviour completely over a wide cross-section of channels and end devices. This renders the data analysable, giving marketers insight into the extent to which individual platforms, channels, business models and publishers have influenced the purchase decision. Only with the aid of this information can they optimise all digital marketing measures and personalised advertising at the right time, at the right place, for the right person and on a suitable device. The message in a nutshell: successful decisions in online marketing are not possible without smart data.

Successful decisions in online marketing are not possible without smart data.

Five steps to better decisions

These five steps allow online marketing managers to keep track of their data:

1. Break open your internal departmental and channel silos! It is all too often the case that marketing managers seek out direct success in their own silo rather than focusing on the customer. Instead of this, you should embrace the customer’s cross-channel user journey.

2. If you want to go one step further, set up a dedicated BI team for analysing and classifying the data. For the best possible results, this should consist of a healthy mixture of people from marketing, IT, data management and sales.

3. The data strategy needs to be based on and geared towards a clear objective. For the BI team, that means only requesting data that serves a clearly defined purpose. A structured approach geared towards a specific objective avoids data simply being collected for its own sake.

4. The number of different software solutions in use should be kept to an absolute minimum. The more individual solutions are used, the greater the data chaos.

5. Make sure that you choose a business intelligence tool that offers uniform reporting and systematic analyses. This is the key to a successful data strategy – only in this way will the data be readable, analysable and capable of helping you make the right decision.

The future of search engine marketing is fully automated and has already begun. As you read this, artificial intelligence is managing millions of AdWords campaigns on Google. Contradiction can still help to put the power of algorithms in their place, but there is no stopping the trend.

The traditional keyword has long been redundant as a sole targeting parameter. In the past two years, the level of partial automation has risen constantly. Responsive ads and smart bidding are already a reality and they hint at the direction that search engine marketing will take in future.

Platforms like “Google 360” and the “Adobe Marketing Suite” show the way: it is clear that both systems are consistently broadening and enhancing the options for integrating and linking external data sources. Google and Adobe are already very close to achieving the aim of comprehensive access to the customer journey.

SEA campaigns are becoming more individual

The range of automation solutions on offer is a major factor in driving demand for these options. Furthermore, the complexity of today’s digital campaigns is always on the rise. Google and Adobe enable campaigns to be enriched with increasing amounts of profile data from a wide variety of sources. Traditional SEA campaigns therefore make increasing use of profile-based, individualised management. Every profile has a scaleable number of matches with relevant search terms – and the total of these matches will replace a more or less extensive keyword set.

At the same time, management of modern SEA campaigns will exceed what is humanly possible and will only succeed if artificial intelligence helps to process the large quantities of data needed for the targeted management of ads. In an ideal scenario, machine learning will help to steer the correct path between campaign aims, competition and search relevance.

Ultimately, the user decides between success and failure

While management of profile data is automated as much as possible, the quality and relevance of campaign content comes from the digital offering of the companies running the adverts. Whether it is a website or a data feed – companies like Google do not mind where the content comes from. Rather, the deciding factor is whether the data is relevant and current, responds to demand among the target audiences and is technically accessible to the marketing platforms. Optimisation of its digital offering makes the ultimate difference between a company and its competitors when it comes to search engine marketing, as its success or failure is still dependent on the user at the end of the day.

For agencies, this means that the SEA manager of the future will have to bring additional skills to the table. Process automation and increased data management in modern search engine advertising require strong division of labour and specialisation within the team. From programming and optimisation to quality assurance, previously separate functions from search engine optimisation (SEO), analytics, consultancy and traditional SEA will need to interact.

In the age of automated search engine marketing, interdisciplinary teams of specialists will need to ensure that agencies and customers do not blindly deliver a technological black box and that they keep the most important levers for economic success in their own hands.

The central theme of SXSW has always been change: transforming itself from its humble beginnings as a music festival in the capital of Texas into one of the world’s leading conferences on technology, marketing and innovation, to the growing city of Austin itself. And Austin is changing rapidly, which becomes more and more obvious the more often you return. The influx of investments, jobs and residents can be felt and seen everywhere, as new high-rise buildings are being constructed downtown and new, fancy homes and shops take over residential neighborhoods in the vicinity, year after year. Austin’s continuing popularity certainly isn’t being embraced by everyone, especially among long-time Austin residents, who grow increasingly wary of endless traffic and skyrocketing housing costs. Silicon Valley’s latest solution fixing traffic by dumping thousands of electric scooters and bikes on Austin’s streets might be a welcome convenience for SXSW attendees, but an additional nuisance for the city’s residents.

Shifting perceptions 

As the city changes, so does one of its major draws for visitors. SXSW might still be labeled as a tech and marketing focused conference, but the growing emphasis on topics around work culture, relationships and leadership shows that technology and innovation might just not be enough to succeed in business in the future.
Opening the conference with Brené Brown and Esther Perel – two outstanding speakers on topics of belonging, empathy, and relational intelligence – was a perfect framing device for the rest of the week. The importance of applying these concepts, often dismissed as “soft” to one’s actions not only at the workplace, but in life at large, cannot be overstated.
Or as Gwyneth Paltrow, who currently is transforming her own career from Hollywood actress to CEO of her lifestyle brand Goop, put it perfectly: “Culture is your business plan”.

Reframing the toolkit of digital transformation

Does this mean we are done with digital technology? No more new gadgets, no more new platforms, no more disruption? Far from it. But digital transformation itself is changing. The past decade has handed us a toolkit with almost unlimited possibilities and technology has reached a point of productive ubiquity.
So, does ye olde Arthur C. Clarke quote no longer ring true? Has technology sufficiently advanced to a point, where it no longer appears to be magical? Not necessarily, but the tools we spent the last 10 years derivatively refining are now ready to be used productively in business and marketing. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented reality, virtual reality, mobile devices and wearables, blockchain, robotics, digital assistants: they work and they provide value. It’s time to embrace them.

Technology as the trigger for and answer to shifting consumer expectations 

Walmart CTO Jeremy King gave impressive insights into how the world’s largest retailer does just that. Pretty much every technology listed above plays a major role in Walmart’s business processes: from blockchain for produce tracking, virtual reality in staff training to robotics and predictive analytics in purchasing and logistics. While King did not grow tired of repeating how customer and shopping experience were at the center of all of Walmart’s technological ventures, it surely also has an impressive impact on the bottom line, due to large increases in efficiency.
In another session I attended, Heather Hildebrand from Accenture Interactive shared examples on how Accenture helped retailers to improve the shopping experience for customers through tech by offering better personalization, curation and expert advice. Utilizing technology to create true, meaningful improvements to the overall brand experience is the pivotal challenge in the foreseeable future, as the tools are ready and at our disposal. At the same time, technology is fundamentally shifting consumer behavior across all touchpoints – so for now, understanding and properly reacting to those needs is of equal importance. This, however, takes effort and the willingness to think about hard problems and find hard solutions – too often marketers will take the easy exit. Why adopt to changing consumer behavior introduced by digital assistants if you can just launch a gimmicky Alexa skill and be done with it?Achieving equilibrium between playful utilization of new tools and meaningful impact on process and execution requires a change in organizational structure and leadership, though. Balancing culture and technology will be the new frontier of innovation.

The kaleidoscope of change

So, that’s a wrap on SXSW 2019 and it’s important to point out, that this is just my personal take. The sheer amount of sessions, panels and workshops across 29 conference tracks makes it impossible to even attempt to get a comprehensive overview of everything that is going on.
Due to all these possibilities, one could ask 50 different attendees and would very likely receive 50 different answers on what SXSW was all about in a particular year. And what anyone deems noteworthy might be influenced just as much by their current professional and personal challenges as it is by the overarching trends in programming of the festival itself.
I’m looking forward to returning to Austin in a year, not only to see how the transformation of the city is shaping up, but also for the unique mashup between innovation, culture, art and visionary spirit, that can only exist in this city, at this event.

It’s a nightmare for marketing managers. Where there used to be clearly defined spheres of action, today the digital economy throws up more and more new subject areas for the agenda which have to be evaluated and, if applicable, worked into your own plan. The “Internet of Things” (IoT for short) is one of these new fields. However, before we examine the significance of the IoT for marketing, let’s quickly look at how the market is developing. Because like many other digital developments, the IoT impacts a variety of sectors and processes, and it is by no means merely a subject for techies or nerds.

When the fridge suddenly starts surfing the net

The Internet of Things is invading our homes under the umbrella term of “smart home”, supporting us in our everyday office life, helping to optimise production and logistics processes (Industry 4.0), able to alter the mechanisms in the health sector (smart health) and impacting the world of mobility products (smart mobility). In short, there is no area where the IoT is not playing a role. And the developments are coming thick and fast. By way of an example: whereas two years ago, the first internet-enabled fridges were to be seen at the largest electronics fair CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, at the latest IFA in Berlin, they were a fixture in the product ranges of nearly every appliance manufacturer. And in five years, we will have a hard time buying any appliance without internet access and display.

These developments are being driven by two guiding principles. The first of these runs as follows: “What can be done, will be done”. The Internet of Things is a gigantic experimental field where anything that seems to be more or less feasible, will also be tried out sooner or later. This may appear to be devoid of reason in certain cases but it definitely delivers new insights and empirical values. And even if the idea initially seems far-fetched, it may suddenly become an exciting solution in a different context of use. So you shouldn’t ridicule an initiative too early. Even if you’re talking about connected hairbrushes or fishing drones.

The second principle is that the real aim of IoT developments is to simplify flows, interactions and processes for users. The task here is to analyse process sequences, identify the benefits provided by connected devices and products and exploit them to our own advantage. So when devices automatically analyse parts subject to wear and tear and reorder them at the right time, breakdowns and the potential user frustration ensuing from them are eliminated. A good basis for a long-term customer relationship. And therefore also a great opportunity which you should take advantage of as a brand and not leave to your competitors.

One thing is sure: Both perspectives are driving developments relentlessly. Why and how can those responsible for brands now act to actively shape the development of the market and therefore to position themselves for the future? For this, we will look here predominantly at the areas of smart home and mobility, in other words spaces which are usually highly relevant as touchpoints for our target markets.

“Things” become touchpoints

In our homes, in particular, new smart products are coming onto the market almost daily, and everyday things which have hitherto been analogue, are now becoming smart, networked system modules. The fridge already mentioned will not only be available for direct food orders via a touchscreen in the future, it will also analyse its own contents in order to produce its own shopping lists independently or to support health-conscious nutrition.

Cooktops and ovens will be remotely controlled or easily operated through natural language assistants. Light compositions, burglar protection, optimisation of energy consumption — already feasible today, in future ubiquitous as a result of the rapidly rising range of products. Car manufacturers, too, have long since initiated changes to their product portfolios. As well as vehicle production, they are positioning themselves as service providers, and they increasingly view cars as “smartphones on wheels”. As well as primary vehicle services such as the temporary release of engine performance or entertainment offers, manufacturers will also include external services in their vehicle environment for a charge. Insurance, delivery services — whatever the heart desires and users can benefit from is welcome in the coming app economy in cars.

What unites all touchpoints, by the way, is the increasing control of the environment through voice control systems such as Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant.

Challenges and opportunities

The task in both areas is to master fundamentally different challenges which go beyond simple operation. Consumers clearly expect “machines” to think proactively. Digital control — fine! But real simplifications only succeed if you are also successful in identifying the particular user, knowing and pinpointing their profile and making them proactive offers in return. To do so, we need to generate user IDs and use them as seamlessly as possible throughout the customer journey with the data saved to the cloud. That’s the theory, at least. Because ownership of the interfaces with consumers — which is what the user ID is — and ownership of the data are regarded as critical factors in future success. In short, everyone wants a piece of the action and they are all manoeuvring to face up to platform giants such as Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon.

As well as the structural challenge — user IDs and cloud services — the task is to develop and implement the right offers for the future. In contrast to the past when this job was usually performed by clearly defined specialist profiles for research and development, this development environment requires far greater capabilities which have to be combined, demanding a new way of working. New digital services will not be the sole responsibility of the R&D department, and the trend towards “advertising as a service” will also extend the variety of topics on the marketing agenda. As it is no longer the idea on its own that is crucial for the success of a new product but above all the way in which it is implemented and to some extent also the speed, collaborative styles of working and greater agility than shown in the past will be important criteria for success. Product specialists will then encounter information architects, designers, programmers, analysts and lateral thinkers. And ideally, consumers will also quickly become part of the team in order to develop sensible services for this new market. The challenges for marketing can therefore only de facto be met by interdisciplinary task forces able to quickly develop IoT offers — hardware as well as digital services — in close collaboration with the aid of design thinking workshops, rapid prototyping and iterative development processes.

Donald Trump is a complete failure. Above all when it comes to marketing. He is a textbook example of what not to do. He should have known better.

Donald Trump – oh dear, not him again. On this side of the Atlantic, we don’t want to see, read or hear any more about the presidential impersonator over on the other side. Not until we receive the news that he is finally gone. At least he appears to be working hard to make that happen. And despite all the signs of fatigue, this actually makes him interesting. Especially for those involved in marketing. After all, when the Americans elected Trump to head of state, for the first time it was not a politician taking office but rather someone who consistently denies being exactly that. In fact, Trump was a brand up until then, just like Coca-Cola, Oreo or Ariel. Something people see on TV so often that they’re bound to try it out at some point. However, things have been going wrong for the Donald Trump brand ever since.

There are of course a number of political reasons behind this, but these are only one part of the story. Trump regularly crosses red lines – the one surrounding the events in Charlottesville was clearly one too far. He made it clear that he is not just suspected of xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism, but does in fact sympathise with far-right radicalism and neo-Nazis. If Trump the businessman were less narcissistic and if he didn’t surround himself with so many bootlickers, he would probably have a word with his head of marketing in light of the resulting situation. It’s like McDonald’s only wanting to sell the Big Mac and nothing else. Trump insists on serving the old-established customer base, which all polls indicate has since become a substantial minority. He never tries to appeal to a new clientele. Perhaps he’s not even interested in being re-elected?

In that case, a personality brand such as his can be an extremely positive thing, and advertisers would be happy to see more of it. We need only take a look – in a much more harmless context, of course – at coffee roaster Albert Darboven, who advertised his beans on television. Or Claus Hipp, the friendly baby food patriarch. These are people who can build trust. Faces that represent a product as well as the company that produces it. They convey truthfulness. However, the Trump brand, which should represent the president for all Americans, has become a fake.

He has meticulously built up this image of a tough property mogul who has become a billionaire through unconventional methods and good old elbow grease (something we can’t know for sure, by the way, since he stubbornly refuses to reveal his tax returns). The old “anybody can make it” story. In marketing, there exists a classic triad for brand trust: Raise awareness, generate sympathy, and arouse the willingness to buy. Trump’s election was simply a case of job done. The electorate bought into him. If you look at it from a business point of view, he succeeded in establishing his brand in a completely new market. The superman of the business world was now going to show politics the ropes. But then, egomaniac that he is, he began unnecessarily cutting those ropes.

Trump’s success as a campaigner is also down to the economy of attention prevalent in today’s world. Twitter, the preferred communication medium of the US president, gained an unexpectedly high number of new users in the first quarter of this year – nine million. 8.9 million of those are attributed to Trump. The respected New York Times and Wall Street Journal have also recorded a noticeable growth in popularity since he entered office. Clearly, people are looking for more than just news, and want signposts to help them navigate the jungle of information brought about by the Internet. After all, the web is not just a convenient source of daily information, but also a hotbed of misinformation due to its over-abundance. Too much, too quick, too often, and too unreliable – we are inundated with news and click bait, whether from politics or economics, with everyone trying to vie for our attention. We look for guidance and direction in this jungle. In other words, we look for truthfulness and trust. That’s what brands stand for. Once I have found “my” brand, my world is in order and I can confidently leave everything else aside.

One might then interpret a brand as being a good thing. It isn’t. It is only good for sales. In politics, for example, the brand of populism has massively increased in value in recent years, as analysed by Giovanni di Lorenzo, editor-in-chief of “Zeit”. He spoke about this during his keynote speech at “Best Brands” – an event where the best brands in Germany are awarded prizes. Populism means simple orientation with clear guiding principles and, above all, with enemy stereotypes. Which brings us back to Donald Trump. His populism has not only damaged his own brand, but this movement as a whole. The populists have been unsuccessful in their attempts to gain power in the Netherlands and France, and the story will be the same in Germany. It’s impossible to win in Trump’s wake.

The guy has a knack for marketing, as he demonstrated during his campaign. But politics is not his thing. That’s why he continues to act as though he’s still on the campaign trail. As much as we like to rant about politicians, The Donald makes it clear that even this job is one for professionals. It would be interesting to find out the course that his company’s business takes in light of the political debacle. According to the US press, after Charlottesville, charitable associations no longer wanted to book his golf club in Florida where they would have held events for a lot of money. And apparently he has been unable to sell a holiday villa in the Caribbean, even after lowering the price. Perhaps this is down to the “dictator chic” style of the interior design. Unfortunately we don’t know any more details.

What cannot be ruled out, however, is that the Trump brand has become a financial burden on the Trump company. After all, the most important thing for a brand these days is the product (something often underestimated or overlooked by those responsible). Whoever makes a promise about a product needs to keep it. If the detergent doesn’t actually make clothes whiter, then customer confidence – the essential capital of the brand – quickly disappears (by the way, have you noticed that this type of advertising is barely used anymore? There is a reason for this!). If the president just keeps producing sound bites and failing on his promises instead of getting down to politics (which we are actually used to with politicians, but didn’t expect from this anti-politician), then something is wrong with the product. Quality has never been more valuable.

 

This article was also published at Horizont

Diana Degraa, Managing Director of Plan.Net Hamburg, talks about her technological experience, her tips for female talents and what role big data and business intelligence will play in the future.

What does creative mean?
What a question.
Ideally, creative is something one just is, without any lengthy discussion.
However, if I must.
Here goes:

Creative is new, unpredictable, capricious.
A smartass take on this is that being creative is a paradox. It is the meaningful combination of things which do not belong together.
And then you suddenly just get it.

The word “meaningful” is important. Randomly combining thoughts, feelings and forms usually ends in confusion. Creative combinations on the other hand must make sense – but ideally not until they are in the mind of the consumer. If he or she completes the chain of thought, decodes the ultimate meaning of a film or a picture then, test institutes please take note, the effect is much stronger than when everything is pre-digested.

Actually, “consumer” is a word that I don’t really like to use. Yes, ultimately, advertising is concerned with selling, but the more messages rain down upon us “consumers” the more we only take heed of the relevant ones. That can be the much-quoted “right product at the right time in the right medium”. Programmatic is the key word here. However, the crucial factor is that the better a message is packaged, the stronger – again – the effect. I prefer to side with “Saint” Sir John Hegarty, and refer to “the public” rather than to “consumers”. We want to sell to consumers. We want to entertain the public. What is good is that a well-entertained public buys more than a well-informed public. After all, we speak of a “buying mood”.

What is good entertainment in a creative form? It’s more than just fun. It’s a new, stimulating thought, for example. A new perspective on life, giving rise to the observation, “Wow, I’ve never really looked at that in that way before”. That is what we remember, that’s what we like to tell other people about.

Good creation thrives on strong feelings. Being enthused, touched, unsettled, buoyed up, amused, everything that moves you. Tedious lists of information do not move me. I am moved by good stories which end with a surprise. Human stories which turn my prejudices and my neatly ordered thoughts inside out and upside down, which develop a dynamic of their own, never to serve their own purpose but that of the brand. This is easy to say, but damn difficult to realise every day.

Of course, creative also means unyielding, untiring and tough. Here’s a good thought: it is not ideas which set good creatives apart from bad ones but their refusal to give up.

P.S. I’m quite proud that I didn’t use the current buzzwords “disruptive”, “diversity” and “digital transformation” a single time in this text. But if you need to, my dear public, just add them mentally where appropriate and then you too will get it. 😉

This article was published in German at W&V.