May 21st, 2015 by Maria Minsker

Here’s a question: if there was an app out there that could block all unwanted ads from your mobile device, would you download it? As a consumer who hates looking for the tiny “x” on a pop-up ad, I’m tempted to say yes, but as someone who follows marketing and advertising very closely, I’m terrified. Shine Technologies has developed a technology that gives wireless carriers the capability to block ads on mobile devices. Their goal is to “stick it to Google” as well as a number of other tech companies that rely on ad revenue to fund content, Adweek’s Garett Sloane reports. Ad blocking is already a common phenomenon in desktop browsing, and by the looks of it, mobile advertising could face the same challenges soon.

It’s hard to blame consumers for wanting a way out of having to deal with ads. Many traditional ad formats are invasive, distracting, and sometimes just plain fake. The ad industry is no stranger to fraud. Just a few weeks ago, Google released a report on ad injection, which is a practice that hurts not only the users that see (or click on!) these questionable ads, but also the advertisers that pay for spots that are being illegally injected. Fake ads are generated by the millions, and apparently neither advertisers nor consumers know about them. Perhaps Shine’s technology is better suited for blocking these questionable ads. As for legitimate advertisements, Shine presents a risk, but it also presents an opportunity.

The risk is obvious–if ads are blocked, there’s less exposure to consumers. The opportunity, on the other hand, is a bit more nuanced. While this may filter out classic pop-up ads and interstitials, ad blocking technology leaves the door open to different forms of marketing and advertising that have proven to be more effective than in-your-face ads. Native advertising, for example, as well as sponsored and co-branded content, serve as more valuable resources to consumers and tend to be more contextually relevant than traditional advertising. For many publishing platforms ranging from The New York Times to Facebook, the lines have become so blurred that transparency sometimes becomes a contested subject. Though finding the right balance remains a challenge, the seamlessness with which original content and native advertising sometimes blend together speaks to the natural fit between the two. It’s much less invasive and, dare I say it, annoying than a pop-up ad.

Industry experts are skeptical about Shine Technologies, and Google doesn’t seem too concerned either. “People pay for mobile Internet packages so they can access the apps, video streaming, Web mail and other services they love, many of which are funded by ads. Google and other Web companies invest heavily in developing these services—and in the behind-the-scenes infrastructure to deliver them,” the company said in a statement. If mobile ad blocking does become a reality, however, brands, marketers, and advertisers will still likely come out on top. There are better ways to build brand awareness and engagement these days.

May 18th, 2015 by Oren Smilansky

I spent much of the past two weeks in California, first in San Jose for NetSuite’s SuiteWorld, and then in San Diego for IBM’s Amplify.  Anyone who’s been at one of those events knows that there’s always a lot going on. Aside from the various press conferences, roundtables, keynotes, and presentations, there are plenty of distractions. (In NetSuite’s case, those  included a Metallica pinball machine and a self-serve bin candy station.) In the thick of so much festivity, it can be hard to keep track of everything that goes on, and I’m not the most active live tweeter, so I often find myself with several documents loaded with unstructured notes. Now that I’m back at the CRM office in New York, I’ve finally had a chance to take a moment and reflect on all that I took in.  Below are some tidbits I highlighted from the various speakers who took the stage at SuiteWorld ’15 . Stay tuned for more quotes from IBM’s Amplify.

1. “The debate about the cloud is over. The cloud has won—if you’re a software vendor, and you don’t believe that, you’ll be out of business soon.” -Zach Nelson, ceo of NetSuite.

2. “If it isn’t simple to use, it simply won’t be used.” -Lars Bjork, CEO of Qlik.

3. “If there was a disrupter hall of fame, [Billy Beane] would be the first inductee.  He was in an industry you would think is almost undispruptable. This is the only industry in America that has an anti-trust exemption–it’s illegal monopoly. It’s called baseball. And to disrupt illegal monopoly, you have to be doing something pretty amazing.” –Zach Nelson, on Billy Beane of the Oakland A’s.

4. “We’re all hungry for data, more and more data’s coming our way, and we want to find ways to quantify everything , even things that are perceived to not be quantifiable.” –Billy Beane, GM of the Oakland A’s and the subject of Moneyball.

5. “Innovation doesn’t have to just take place just in technology, but in perspective, goals.”- Brian Solis, principal analyst at Altimeter group.

6. “Customers do not see departments, they just see the brand—yet we subject them to departments.” -Solis.

7.  “Customers really want to be able to define delivery in their terms. They actually want to be able to say ‘I would like it to be same day, two days later, three days later—[they] don’t want the cable type model where [they’re] there between 12 and 5pm and wait around for it.“ Chris Bosco, managing director of global digital commerce at Accenture.

8. “ Keep it flowing, don’t force it. Let it come naturally. Don’t stop yourself by listening to too many people, just get it done.” –Nico Sereba, of the hip-hop duo Nico and Vinz.

9. “You’ve got to get comfortable being uncomfortable.” – Fred Studer, CMO of NetSuite.

10. “Before you go out there and compete, you’ve got to know what’s in your own back yard, to know you’re people’s strengths and weaknesses and skill sets. What road am I going to send them down to help our company be better?“  Eric Wedge, ESPN correspondent and former manager of the Cleveland Indians and Seattle Mariners.


May 15th, 2015 by Leonard Klie

As the weather finally warms and the snow has melted away, homeowners turn their weekend attention to home improvement projects that were neglected all winter. This provides hardware and home improvement stores with a nice sales lift, but it also means hours of frustration for consumers as “ordinary Joes” struggle to assemble patio furniture and grills that came in big boxes from stores like Ikea.

This kind of arduous task can hurt a couple’s relationship, as uncovered in a recent Wall Street Journal article. But even more important, a difficult assembly process can have a massive impact on customer satisfaction. It can also have an impact on future sales, given that many of the purchase decisions in this area are spurred by online reviews and word of mouth.

Customers complaining online about how difficult a product is to assemble could potentially lure buyers away from those purchases, no matter how great the product might be.

That’s where a recent launch from SAP could really come in handy (pun intended). To help marketers and consumers, SAP has developed the BILT mobile app, which enables manufacturers and retailers to provide customers with interactive, three-dimensional, voice-guided assembly, repair, and installation instructions. The app works with both iOS and Android tablets.

Manufacturers post their instructions to the site, and customers can go there whenever they want and, through a Simple Search, can find the products they’d like to put together and work at their own pace. That can be significant because most customer support centers probably aren’t open throughout the weekend, when customers are likely assembling products and in need of help.

According to SAP, the BILT app will revolutionize the customer experience and help marketers impact their bottom lines by doing the following:

  • Reducing customer service calls;
  • Increasing 24/7 customer support;
  • Allowing them to update and make changes to instructions immediately rather than going through the lengthy process involved in reprinting and repackaging;
  • Reducing returned products because of assembly errors.

Since its launch, BILT supports 25 products and continues to rapidly expand its offerings. Most recently, Weber Grills began placing its top selling models on the BILT app.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any major purchases in mind. But, should something around the house break, it’s nice to know that I’ll have this as an option if and when I need to buy a replacement.

May 14th, 2015 by Maria Minsker

On the rebound from the Comcast merger disappointment, Verizon snagged up AOL for $4.4 billion earlier this week. For a second, I was sentimental. I thought about all those times the little yellow running man greeted me as I logged into my AOL 5.0 account, and remembered all those times that I heard: “You’ve got mail.” But I know what you’re thinking. That AOL, the one I knew and loved, has been long gone. In its current state, AOL is barely recognizable. Home to the Huffington Post,
TechCrunchEngadget, Moviefone, and Patch, AOL as a whole is equal to much less than the sum of its parts. Essentially, it has become a flimsy umbrella that these brands could huddle under. Verizon, on the other hand, has more promising shelter to offer, but it comes at a price.

Once the acquisition is finalized, it’s likely that Verizon will reorganize AOL’s properties and integrate them with their own offerings, and AOL as a brand will disappear. As companies like Netflix and Hulu gain ground and continue to chip away at cable subscriptions, Verizon FIOS TV may be threatened. To compete, Verizon will need to make a serious content play, which is probably one of the key drivers of the AOL acquisition. In addition to video from the Huffington Post or TechCrunch, AOL has several original video content projects in the works, and together, these are all part of an appealing proposition for Verizon. Video from all of these channels could be incorporated into Verizon’s own offerings, and made available as Video on Demand for FIOS customers. If that’s the ultimate goal, keeping AOL around isn’t really worth it. But what’s going to happen to the handful of customers that still use AOL for email and other account services? Chances are they’ll find a home at Verizon, and won’t miss their former provider.

SO will Verizon build up the Huffington Post or AOL’s other content production components enough to compete with the likes of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon TV, or even Yahoo, which has also made some ventures into original video?  And how will it build up the combined ad network into a meaningful platform for reaching consumers? All of that remains to be seen. What’s clear is that the timing couldn’t be better for Verizon. Still reeling from the D.O.A. Comcast merger, Verizon had to redeem itself. Gobbling up AOL while it was still worth something as a brand was a logical move.


May 7th, 2015 by Maria Minsker

Just two weeks ago, McDonald’s new CEO promised that big marketing changes were coming. So far, I’m not impressed. The new hamburglar, which is essentially a revamped version of a persona that McDonald’s already experimented with, hasn’t been used in marketing content since 2002, and for good reason. TIME magazine rightly points out the the figure doesn’t really make sense. Stealing burgers is pretty pointless, and if Twitter is any indication of how the general population feels, then the overall message of this campaign is definitely lost on most consumers.

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According to a spokesperson for McDonald’s, the hamburglar is going to help launch a new, limited-time Sirloin Third Pound Burger. I don’t really see the connection, though. Perhaps a larger campaign is brewing and we’re only seeing a part of the picture for the time being. Still, it seems to me that McDonald’s is, once again, demonstrating that it’s out of touch with its customers and the expectations that the new generation of fast food consumers has. If it’s going to update its image, why not start with the iconic Ronald McDonald, a clown that now feels so dated that he makes Colonel Sanders look young?

Even some of McDonald’s laggard competitors like Burger King are becoming more aware of where their customers are and what they find engaging. Just look at the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. Sure, it made absolutely no sense for the Burger King mascot to walk out with Floyd Mayweather. And sure, it probably didn’t send millennials flocking to their local BK to pick up a Whopper. But it did get Twitter buzzing in a positive way. In an Internet culture of memes and GIFs and all that jazz, consumers want to see brands embrace these trends, and Mayweather walking out with the goofiest mascot ever had viral content written all over it. Throw in Jimmy Kimmel walking out with Pacquiao, and you’ve got an actual showdown worth watching. It seems silly, but that’s the kind of move that makes consumers feel like a brand understand what drives interest and engagement on the social Web. McDonald’s, however, remains sadly unaware.

The hamburglar is a dated concept, and it feels like one. The entire campaign is like a bad dad joke, and if McDonald’s doesn’t turn it around, I don’t think shareholders are going to be happy becoming the punchline.


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