Category Archives: Insight

The Future of WeChat

It is not secret that I am fascinated with WeChat. It showcases the promise of conversational commerce in action. Yesterday I was talking about the opportunities in WeChat in Lead Conference. The different features we all know, but I find the small portion in the end of my presentation about the future of WeChat truly intriguing. We all know that WeChat has made huge leap from communication platform to payment platform.

wechat

WeChat: Messaging platform evolved to payment platform

It is currently the digital lifeline of the whole China, but what they are planning in the future. Below are couple of key points about WeChat future:

What about the global expansion?

WeChat tried to become a global messenger app. They hired Messi in 2013 with big money to be the face of WeChat. And apparently they got downloads but not engagement. Messaging apps lives and dies based on do you have anyone to message with. Techinasia dubbed WeChat´s global expansion “a disaster”. What makes WeChat unique in China is hard to replicate in other markets because of different digital ecosystem, legislation and other monopolies ruling the roost.

Now WeChat has pretty much abandoned these global aspirations as consumer product, but don´t be fooled they are still eyeing for global expansion but less as B2C product but more as B2B offering. There are two main ways how WeChat is creating its global footprint:

1.Being the gateway to China for western brands

WeChat wants to work with International brands to enable them to sell their products through its Chinese online retail platform. The benefit is that companies can then avoid some of the bureaucracy in China when setting up their own retail operations in the country.

“Almost 95 per cent of global [luxury] brands are on WeChat now — in the UK, there is Burberry and Mulberry, in Italy, Valentino, Zegna, Prada, all the big brands. Two years ago, the number was 50 per cent and last year 75 per cent, so the growth has picked up recently.”

-Andrea Ghizzoni (Europe Director, Tencent)

2. Conquering Europe and other markets through payment

Majority of Chinese tourists prefer to pay with Alipay or WeChat Pay, and only 10% would opt for cash or credit cards. This consumer sentiment has not left unnoticed by the western retailers. Chinese tourists are extremely lucrative target audience and if offering familiar paying option can ease the buying process I would be really surprised of not seeing WePay more present especially in western luxury retailers:

“Chinese customers tend to close the sale more quickly when they know that they can pay with mobile. Those transaction times are extremely quick, at under a minute.”

– Candice Koo, the Managing Director of CANCAN

All roads lead to AI

Like other big Internet monopolies, Tencent is making big strides with AI. This year they opened research facility in Seattle solely focusing on artificial intelligence and last year they established AI lab in Shenzen. AI is build around robust data so WeChat has clear advantage as they have vast amount of conversation and connections data. More importantly they also have payment data through its WePay platform. So essentially WeChat is sitting on the most valuable data sources: how people are spending their money? Where people are? And what they are talking about?

“Shopping and search engine data show one type of data, which is purchasing or shopping intent, which is valuable, but different. For example, if you were to build out an Natural Language Understanding engine, you would not use search engine data, because no one searches based on complete conversational phrases.”

-Tak Lo, Zeroth AI

There are already couple of prominent accounts utilizing AI within WeChat. Chumen WenWen is voice assistant that connects to third party APIs and answers questions around what you should do (e.g. restaurants, movies, services and more). Alibaba got headstart with facial recognition with its widely covered “Smile to pay” collaboration with KFC but it will be sure that WeChat will be launching tools based on facial recognition technologies. WeChat has also been improving its search function going head-to-head against Baidu by incorporating more social and connection information to its search results.

On a lighter note, what has become tradition with Microsoft AI Chatbots, their WeChat Chatbot Xiaobing and other chatbot BabyQ also went rogue and started slandering communist party.

“My China dream is to go to America.”

Xiaobing (WeChat Chatbot)

Do you think that such a corrupt and incompetent political regime can live forever?”

BabyQ (to the question about Chinese Communist Party)

If you want to know where Western conversational commerce is tomorrow, you only need to analyze what WeChat is already today.

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Video Killed The Digital Star: 6 Key Online Video Trends

Last Monday I was speaking about the latest Video marketing trends. Visual storytelling will be more and more important and naturally video is the most important way to tell visual stories. Video is growing rapidly and currently there does not seem to anything stopping this rapid growth:

  1. Video just keeps growing

We are living in visual age. Picture tells more than thousand words and video tells more than thousand pictures. In next three years video will account 79% of all Internet traffic. Businesses are expected to spend nearly $13 billion on video marketing in 2018. Lots of the discussions about video is focused on entertainment, but we tend to forget that YouTube is the world´s second largest search engine. 75% of consumers believe that a video describing a service is important and 25% will lose interest if your company is not explaining through video.

  1. Catching the attention is more difficult than ever

1/3 of of all YouTube videos have less than 10 views. That is quite pathetic and showcases the wide gap between hits and misses. Within top 10 most watched videos in 2016, there was only one ad (Nike The Switch). Of all the top 10 most watched ads, half were actually Superbowl ads. You are not only competing with other brands, you are competing of the time of your audience.

  1. It is not mobile-first, it is mobile-only

Mobile video is growing 25%, whereas desktop video consumption is declining for the first time ever. People are already consuming video 36 minutes on their mobile devices compared to 18.5 minutes on non-mobile devices. This mobile shift will affect your video production: Have you thought about vertical videos?

  1. Consumers are craving for instant gratification

Unfortunately average human attention span has fallen below the one of goldfish, so not surprisingly 75% of consumers prefer video under 60 seconds. YouTube is aggressively pushing their 6 second videos, which is enough time to tell even world´s greatest stories (below is Hamlet):

  1. Video platforms are eying for the prime time

YouTube are evolving from dubious quality user-generated snackable content to full-blown entertainment powerhouses. YouTube has couple of interesting offerings: YouTubeTV (cable-free LiveTV) and YouTube Red (ad-free offering focused on music and content creators). Facebook has not exactly resting on its laurels and Facebook Watch provides original video shows.

  1. Video is getting more interactive and immersive

This quarter there were over 2 million VR devices shipped (ranging from no-frill Google Cartboard to top-tier Oculus Rift), but VR has not yet hit mainstream. It currently works well with events and gaming, but we have not yet seen the killer app (or device) that would break VR to become a household name.

Augmented reality is already more mainstream (with Pokemon Go last year and popularity of face filters in Snapchat and Instagram). New Apple ARkit will just keep on making Augmented reality more popular.

Based on the calculations by Credit Suisse, VR/AR market could become as big as the current smartphone market:

Screen Shot 2017-10-16 at 4.01.47 pm

Source: Credit Suisse

So in the future, you do not only need to consider what is your content angle with your video. You have to also consider the depth of interactivity and immersion you want to obtain.

In many ways digital marketing is becoming more simple. It is all about two things: performance and content creation. The latter is all about video creation and to succeed in the market place, you have to be master of video production as well.

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The MAYA Principle: The Most Advanced, Yet Acceptable

“Making the strange familiar and making the familiar strange, again”

– David Foster Wallace (about realistic novels)

Reading the book “Hit Makers” reminded me about Raymond Loewy´s MAYA –principle. Raymond Loewy was one of the most iconic industrial designers of the last century. Among his works are Lucky Strike package (logo on both sides to maximize the visibility), Coke vending machines, Air Force One livery and Skylab space station (with window to look back to Earth) to name a few. MAYA-principle means:

“The Most Advanced, Yet Acceptable”

To sell something familiar, make it surprising. To sell something surprising, make it familiar. This is one of the most important things to understand about human beings. The battle between familiarity and discovery shapes our whole lives. We want to feel safe, but at the same time we enjoy the thrill of challenge. The conflicting forces of safety and excitement explains why we resonate and like things that are familiar enough but also have something new in them. Loewy´s theory (which worked in practice) was also later proved in academic research.

Humans don´t want the same old thing all over again, but they also don´t want totally new thing. They want the same thing with slight twist. That is why Spotify´s weekly playlist works so well, it exposes you to new music but at the same time plays songs you are already familiar with. “Let It Be”, “Don´t Stop Believin”, “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” and “No Woman, No Cry” are built on the same chord progression. However, it would be ludicrous to say that these songs sound the same. There is lot of innovation in these songs, but it is innovation with boundaries. Innovation is not about thinking outside the box, it is about rethinking the box.

The secret to create things that resonate with popular audience is to embrace the conflict in the humans. It is not choice between neophilia (curiosity about new things) and neophobia (fear of anything too new), it is about finding the balance. This dualism is crucial in our industry as we quite often fall into the trap of going after whatever is new and shiny. Or we are too lazy and just do something that has been done before without adding any of the magic. Both are equally bad approaches to talk to the masses (which is the main goal for advertising). You have to find the balance between typicality and novelty.

The secret to popularity is to add slight hint of danger but still maintain the feeling of safety in your audience.

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Three Secrets of Apple´s Social Media Strategy

Apple does not have particular social media strategy.

By being quiet, they are one of the most talked about brands in social media. It naturally helps that you make iconic products with almost religious following. They have social media channels though, because they have realized the importance of social media as a reach driver. Apple does a lot of social media advertising to help to sell more of their products. What they are not doing is “joining the conversation”. Social media is eyeballs, not likes or tweets.

applehasnttweeted

Therefore Apple´s Instagram account is refreshing detour for their muted social media presence. They are actually posting things!

appleinstagram.png

But again, it is not about Apple starting a conversation or begging for engagement. They are highlighting photos that iPhone users have taken. They are tapping to existing behavior (#shotoniphone-hashtag has nearly million photos in Instagram). They are not telling about themselves, instead they are showcasing people using their products. Instead of talking about popular culture, they are popular culture.

The odds are that you are not working with iconic brand, so you might need to approach your social media strategy differently. Still, these rules might serve as the golden standard to which you should aim for:

  1. Make products people want to talk about.
  2. Use Social media mainly as a channel for reach, secondly to engagement.
  3. Showcase your users, not your brand or products.
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No Moment too Early for Machine-created Creatives

Good copy stops you to read. Bad copy as well (so in that way mediocrity is something you should avoid):

I like to read paper newspaper as it keeps me in touch of the current decline of print advertising (not to mention Straits Times gives interesting viewpoint to the society, mostly by what it omits to tell). This ad is a good example on why we should already move to machine-generated creatives for majority of advertisers.

Of course AI will eventually be able to do even better, more touching and innovative creatives than we do at the moment. Meanwhile we should at least try to differentiate a little, show what humans are better: emotions, insight, feelings. If we cannot add even a little bit of magic to whatever we do, AI will overcome us faster than we have predicted.

 

 

 

 

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UX is Everything

There are too many passwords to remember.

Therefore the user experience of “forgot your password”-button is essential. Not surprisingly when I had to reset my password for Skype, I was not particularly happy with this captcha:

captcha

How you should write this up? First the rows or columns? Funnily (or annoyingly) enough the audio did not make any sense.

Eventually it took 15 minutes for me to reset my password and even then I am not exactly sure of the logic of captcha. Not surprisingly I generally prefer Hangouts over Skype.

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The Age of Assistant: The More Personalized and Predictive Internet

starwars

We are entering the age of assistants, they just reside in our mobile phones.

Internet used to be about destinations. Typing in URL. Searching for something you need in Google and then following that search result to the rabbit hole of different sites. Clicking on banner ads and going to the websites from those banners.

That age is soon long gone.

Although majority of firms are still basing their digital strategies on destination approach, we have already moved to the age of assistant. Internet will become more personalized, predictive and the same time it will become more even more centralized. Our communications will start revolving around our messenger app (mainly WhatsApp), our information gathering will happen in Google app (increasingly through voice) and our buying will start to focus (again increasingly more through voice). Every brand needs to become better in predicting user behavior to provide more personal service:

  1. Prediction will trump the destination approach

When I have booked a flight, Google will automatically say to me to check-in, take a taxi and arrive on time. I am not going willingly to websites of either my airline, the airport or taxi company. The whole journey is prompted by the assistance of Google and I am happy for it. Our digital properties must be able to work in conjunction with this new assistant ecosystem. We need to balance between positive surprise (“How did they know that? So cool!”) and slightly creepy  (“How did they know that?” So scary!).

  1. People want the service in their own personal way

Chatbots have just scratched the surface of conversational commerce. We want to order pizza with emojis. Get song recommendations based on the context (“Hey Google, play that new theme from James Bond”). While the world will become more voice and message-driven, the transactions will become more personal and conversational. We must revamp our service process and lingo, so that we are able to serve our consumers in way that is intuitive for them.

The future of your digital business will be revolving around consumer data. The more you can have it, the better you can predict the behavior and more personal service you can give. We are entering the age of assistant and the best butler will rule them all.

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Turning Over a New Leaf

Last week I started a new job.

It is always exciting times. Lots of new faces and names. New processes. Different snacks in pantry. Different slang.

First couple of weeks are also devastating: you are already anxious to make your mark but you should also listen and absorb as much as possible. First weeks are great time to ask those stupid questions that everyone is anxious to ask, but after a while are too afraid to do so. So I have been mainly trying to talk to as many people as possible and to think as much as possible. I know that soon the time to think is of high value.

Many people asked what prompted me to change the job. I gave the following analogy:

The key to continuous progress when you are training with weights is to frequently vary your load or the amount of repetitions. Not too often, because then you lose the focus and just do random things. Not too seldom either because then your muscles get too comfortable to your current exercise. For a while it felt to me that I was doing the right exercises at work, but I did not develop as fast as I desired. Then you start to analyze can you easily vary your load, repetitions or should you change a gym.

After four great years in R/GA, it was time for me to change the gym and also the complete training program.

It is of course early days, but it already looks like the training program is starting to bear a fruit.

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Anatomy of An Insight: Don´t Ask The Internet

Cyberchondria is a growing concern among many healthcare practitioners as patients can now research any and all symptoms of a rare disease, illness or condition, and manifest a state of medical anxiety.
-Wikipedia

I seldom get sick, but when occasionally I start to feel under the weather I will enter to full-fledged hypochondria. After entering the rabbit hole of Google searches I will be convinced that I have gotten some weird tropical disease and I am on my way to early grave. Knowledge is power, but quite often knowing too much about potential diseases will just result in increased anxiety. To tackle this common behavior, the healthcare app Babylon has launched a new outdoor campaign “Don´t ask the internet. Ask a real doctor”:

hangover

Insight: People find visiting their doctor cumbersome, so they try to self-diagnose themselves with Google and avoid doctor visits as long as possible. This results in false diagnoses and growing unsubstantiated fear about potential problems.

sorethroat

Good campaign idea combining the humans need of convenience and rising cyberchondria. Babylon health app provides diagnoses from fully qualified GPs (with some AI) to your mobile phone, so you can get authentic info but don´t need to physically visit doctor:

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Blocking The Ad-Blocking

Ad Blocking is nothing more than someone saying your advertising sucks.

Sharon Napier, Partners & Napier

NBA: New York Knicks at New Orleans Pelicans

Ad-blockers are changing the digital advertising landscape drastically. Already quarter of Internet users in US are using ad-blockers and about 50% more is considering to start using them.  If digital advertisers are left with audience who is just incapable of using the ad-blockers, it does not sound like particularly lucrative target audience. We already know that people who are clicking banner ads are not necessarily the sharpest pencils on the drawer. Already in 2011, it was 279.64 more likely that you would climb Mt. Everest and reach the summit than to click a banner ad.

Facebook has started to force ads even if you are using ad blockers in desktop. Publishers are testing different ways to battle ad-blocking. But essentially it will a game of cat and mouse. People have already made their statement: majority of them don´t want to see your spammy ads.

So if you can´t beat em, join em:

  1. Brands should do their own ad-blockers

Maybe Amazon could this. Instead of getting non-relevant harasment, you would get personalized recommendations based on the content you are watching. Essentially Google ad network could already provide some of this level, but many of the advertisers are still quite lazy to utilize all the possibilities. New cognitive ads from Watson could provide interesting alternatives to changing the adspace from intrusion to utility.

It could be also strong statement from brands doing constantly good advertising. For example I would rather see Nike ads all the time than majority of other brands (see D&AD Ad Browser filter)

There are already some ad-blockers who are selling ad space (which sounds a little contradicting, but what the heck). The logic is that you replace the annoying and ugly ads with acceptable and beautiful ads.

  1. Reverse ad-blocker

This could be an interesting art project.

When we are flooded with fake news, actually the ads are only thing we can rely on. So I don´t actually want to block the ads, I want to block the horrible content I waste my time on. Think about it if you could block all the Facebook updates, irrelevant Whatsapp messages and biased online commentary. You would only see the good old marketing communications aimed to make you buy more instead of fake news messing with your head.

Blocking is a part of good defense, but great blockers keep the ball on court.

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