Thursday, 28 February 2013

Facial Recognition Technology and its use in Marketing

How would you like to walk into a store and be advertised products that are best suited for your age, gender and demographics? How could a store possibly manage to tailor marketing campaigns on an individual basis?

The answer is through facial recognition. If you are unfamiliar with facial recognition, it is technology that scans your face, determining your age, gender and possibly even your name. Military and law enforcement agencies have been using it for years, but now with a potential to be used in the field of advertising, the fun stuff for us marketers begins.

Many opportunities exist with the information that can be collected with facial recognition. For example, you can know precisely what type of customers come into your store at specific times; you can determine even repeat customers across a number of stores allowing you to uncover trends which can be used to your advantage.

Facial recognition technology can be used to solve business issues. For example, you wanted to grow your customer base as the owner of the local pub. Data from facial recognition technology determined that between 6:00-9:00 on a Friday night your pub was 50% full with 75% male customers between the ages of 25-30 years old. Ideally you want your pub to be at least at a 70% capacity, especially on a Friday night. Wouldn’t you consider offering a special on cocktails targeted to increasing the number of ladies aged 23-27 years old in the pub?

In futuristic movies, facial recognition is even used to identify mood and ads are served to cater to that mood. That’s inching onto the creepy side of things in my opinion. I know that I would not like to walk into a supermarket in the middle writing an assignment for Uni, slightly stressed, and be served ads for ice cream and chocolate.

What’s there not to love about facial recognition? Those of us that are concerned about privacy would argue a lot. Where would boundaries be placed in terms of protecting identity? Is facial recognition a marketers dream come true or a Big Brother scenario waiting to surface?

Mina D'Souza
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Google ‘Scroogles’, making Microsoft Outlook appealing

Have you been ‘Scroogled’ recently? I know I have. When writing a paper on Cirque du Soleil as part of an assignment for Innovative Marketing Strategies class (Master of Marketing Program at the University of Sydney) I kept getting served ads about Cirque du Soleil.

Having seen a number of Cirque du Soleil shows, I truly appreciate the innovation and creativeness of the production. I did not however appreciate that Cirque du Soleil was invading my ad space which essentially gave me the feeling of being watched.

So how did these ads just start showing up coincidently at the same time that I was writing numerous emails to my fellow students in my presentation group about the Cirque du Soleil? At first I thought it was just by chance, but as time went on and I kept receiving ads related to words I was using in my Gmail emails I realised that I was being Scroogled!

Microsoft, Google’s competitor came up with the term ‘Scroogle’ by blending the words ‘screwed’ and Google. So being Scroogled poetically implies you are being screwed by Google.

Many Gmail users are unaware that Google’s Gmail system scans emails for keywords and then uses these key words to serve you ads. Brilliant? Perhaps. Invasion of my privacy? Definitely!

As email providers might just become the new competitive platform (at least until the next iPhone or Apple product comes out on the market), privacy policies will be held in high regards as a deciding feature to stay with a current email provider, or to move to a Microsoft’s product such as

Microsoft’s offers many desirable features over and above those offered by Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail. Among them is privacy (currently being violated by Gmail in my opinion), sophistication in that can be connected to your social media networks, and a sorting option that makes it easy for a user to prioritise their emails.

I’m tempted to ditch my Gmail account because I don’t want to feel like my emails are not private. Do you feel that Gmail fairly communicates this lack of privacy to subscribers? How will Gmail have to modify their activities in the future to stay competitive?

Mina D'Souza
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Thursday, 21 February 2013

The Harlem Shake, Gangam Style, The Man Your Man could smell like, Evolution of Dance… What made these videos go viral?

When chatting over the phone with my parents last week we got on to the topic of viral videos, and in particular the latest viral video, The Harlem Shake. My parents were quite concerned that I was watching viral videos because they honestly thought that doing so might leave me with a virus on my computer.

The following 30 minutes of our conversation was spent explaining to my parents (both are in their 70’s), that viral videos do not leave viruses on your computer, but rather they are considered ‘viral’ videos because the way that the video gains popularity mimics the spread of an influenza virus. One person watches a video and they share the video with a number of their friends who then forward on the video link via email, video sharing web sites or social media to their friends. In no time at all the video has been shared exponentially, and is officially considered ‘having gone viral’.

Once my parents had been reassured that I was not putting my computer at risk of disease, they asked a simple question that I didn’t have the answer to: “Mina, what makes a video go viral?”. Although most kids over the age of 6 have the answers to all of their parent’s questions, this one caught me by surprise.

If only us Marketers had the answer! I decided to do a little research to find out the answer to that question. After searching hours on my virus free computer I realised that the question ‘What makes videos viral?’ falls in the same bucket as ‘Where can I find out the winning numbers for next Saturday’s lottery?’.

There is no winning formula that has yet been discovered that will consistently result in viral videos. I did however find a number of common elements in viral videos:
  1. Humor 
  2. Strong Start: Enticing title, alluring description, and visually appealing video thumbnail enticing potential viewers to click through.
  3. An emotional response
  4. Sarcastic narcissism
  5. Community participation
  6. The element of surprise/originality
  7. Identification with the target audience
  8. Must be short, ideally less than 2 minutes in length 
The Harlem Shake is a perfect example of these 8 elements at play. PSY’s Gangnam style, Old Spice’s The Man Your Man Could Smell Like, The Evolution of Dance, and Kony 2012 are all examples of highly successful viral videos where many if not all of these 8 elements were present.

Next time I chat with my parents I’ll at least have the above list of elements a video should have if it is aiming for ‘viral status’. What I won’t have however, is a logical explanation for what people are doing in the Harlem Shake.

Have you been part of creating a viral video? Any secrets you want to share?

Mina D’Souza
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Oreo, Audi and Tide clear winners at the Superbowl

Superbowl XLVII has come and gone with the Ravens as the victors. There are however a few other notable winners this year that went home with thousands of tweets, a trophy of sorts for Advertising and Marketing departments, earned by dominating on-line social media creativeness and speed.

With a half hour blackout during the football game resulting in extra unforeseen advertising opportunities, only a handful of brands jumped on the Tweeting ‘brand’-wagon. Among the more successful were Oreo, Audi, and Tide. While the Ravens and 49ers were pacing the field during the blackout trying to prevent their muscles from cooling down, things were heating up within the advertising and marketing teams for these companies.

Oreo’s power outage tweet read: “Power out? No problem. YOU CAN STILL DUNK IN THE DARK”, with art work representing darkness with an Oreo in a dim spotlight. Oreo was able to capitalise on the advertising opportunity because their advertising firm and Management team were watching the game together and all powers needed to approve the ad were in the same room.

The Ravens and the 49ers weren’t the only competitors out in the field. Audi’s tweet had a message clearly aimed at their direct competitor Mercedes-Benz (@MBUSA) who holds the naming rights to the Superdome where the game was played.

Tide a popular laundry detergent brand wasn’t going to wash away a great opportunity to build on their TV ad where millions had already been invested. Tide’s tweet focused their message on preserving dark clothing color while getting rid of stains.

And the list of other brands that participated in Tweeting ads during the power outage goes on. The lesson learnt is a valuable one. One that we focused on in the Integrated Marketing Communications unit of the Master of Marketing program: strike while the iron is hot, as timely innovation with a dash of humor can leave a lasting impression that’s hard to wash off.

Has your marketing team ever had to create an ad in less than 20 minutes?

Mina D’Souza
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Thursday, 14 February 2013

The power of storytelling

Do you ever wonder why your great ideas sometimes don’t resonate and become adopted while some other seemingly mediocre ideas are embraced? The way they are communicated may have a lot to do with it.

While preparing for an upcoming presentation, I found myself searching for more compelling ways to communicate an idea. I came across the work of Nancy Duarte, a communication expert who is behind some of the world’s most influential business communications.

According to her, ideas are conveyed most effectively through stories. In the above video, she uncovers the “shape of a story” from renowned works of cinema and literature, and then demonstrates how to incorporate stories into your presentation.

Peter Guber, the author of “Tell to win” supports this view saying that stories can act as Trojan Horses. He argues that, when absorbed in a story, people detect fewer inaccuracies and inconsistencies. More importantly, they don’t seem to care about the errors. However, when reading dry and factual content, people seemed more critical than when reading a story.

But why is it that humans seem to be “wired” for stories? Why are they so effective?

As we explored in a previous blog about neuromarketing, people make most of their decisions based on unconscious emotions as opposed to rational logic. Data dumps, dense PowerPoint slides and pure stats do not emotionally connect people with your idea. The best way to do that is with “Once upon a time…”

Neuroscience also shows the brain works by associations producing webs of interrelated concepts. Countless mind mapping tools and techniques are founded in this simple fact. By linking your ideas to commonly known stories, you are leveraging a previously established neurological path in your audience’s memory. They will be able to more easily associate your ideas with that known path provided by stories. This way your ideas become more meaningful and memorable.

What other insights do you know about stories and presentations?

Adriana Heinzen Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

SodaStream vs. Coke & Pepsi

SodaStream’s direct stab at Coke and Pepsi with its original Super Bowl ad saw them having to replace it with a toned down version, which in turn generated more awareness for the brand. The replacement ad featured generic soda brands upon request from broadcaster CBS, which wasn’t keen on causing a stir among some of its largest supporters, namely Coke and Pepsi.

The ad had a strong single minded proposition: when customers make their own soda with a SodaStream, they don’t waste plastic bottles. The insight of billions of bottles ending up in landfills every month provided the basis for a compelling brand story.

Leveraging the David vs. Goliath narrative, SodaStream is a classic “challenger” brand. According to Adam Morgan, author of “Eating The Big Fish” and expert in the field: “The narrative is that through being fleeter of foot, more innovative and creative, possibly by being an out-and-out maverick, a small business can take share from a larger one.”

In the Master of Marketing consumer behaviour lectures, we explored different brand archetypes, including “The Irreverent Maverick”, which is often associated with challenger brands. It defies social conventions and challenges “normal” behaviour with wit, humour and even shock tactics.

In the end, the controversy around the Super Bowl ads created a huge awareness for the unaired ad with over 4.5 million views on YouTube, while the official Super Bowl ad had just about 200 thousand views. With large business proving they can also benefit from challenger thinking such as Unilever’s Dove “Campaign for real beauty”, I’m keen to see how Coke and Pepsi will react.

What lessons can large corporations learn from challenger strategies?

Adriana Heinzen
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Google and Amazon battle over online shoppers

"Amazon wants to be the one place where you buy everything. Google wants to be the one place where you find everything, of which buying things is a subset" setting them up for a natural collision as Chi-Hua Chien, a partner at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, has it.

As many as 30 percent of US shoppers started their product search in compared to 13 percent who started a purchase search in engines such as Google in 2012 according to Research firm Forrester. Two years ago search engines were the preferred starting point for purchases search and Google is now on a mission to recoup online shoppers as much of its business depends on product searches and related ads.

Google’s product search engine, Google Shopping, was recently modified charging retailers a fee to be listed in the results. By turning top search results into paid ads, Google addresses allegations of biased search results by its rivals. This is clarified to customers by a discrete disclaimer on the top right corner “Google is compensated by these merchants. Payment in one of several factors used to rank these results”. Google also recently bought BufferBox, a company with a network of lockers that customers can use to receive parcels, which further emphasises its intention of playing a larger role in online retail.

Amazon, in turn, is selling ads that are displayed to the side of product search results on its website. According to comScore, the number of ads has more than tripled compared to 2011 figures. Although still a fraction of Google’s ad business, Amazon is using newly developed technology to leverage the customers purchase history and allow marketers to target ads at specific segments on and on other websites. This is invaluable data to advertisers as it tells them what customers have just bought and what they are trying to buy right now.

Other online giants have their eyes closely focused on Google and Amazon’s cat fight. Facebook, with its own search and advertising ambitions, has been lurking in the shadows, while Microsoft has put its gloves on with an anti-Google campaign launched last year. Having accused Google of "unfair pay-to-rank shopping practices", Microsoft has gone as far as putting up a site named “Scroogled” in a bid to deter customers from using Google’s new shopping service.

So far, Google Shopping has been seen by many customers merely as a showroom to figure out what items meet their criteria, a similar role to the brick and mortar retailers nowadays. Once customers figure out the brand and item they are searching for and get an idea of the average retail price, many still head straight to Amazon or eBay to make the purchase. The main reason is convenience and trust. Shopping direct from the vendors is still largely seen as a hassle due to the many steps involved in filling out forms, addresses and giving away card details to yet another unknown entity.

Google has pushed vendors to step up their customer experience last year when it released a series of humorous videos parodying customer’s frustration when shopping online. Now it seems to be taking matters on its own hands with a certification service highlighting merchants that ship quickly and up to $1,000 in "purchase protection" as well as its own Google Wallet payment service. In our Internal Marketing lectures, we looked at many service companies initiatives to ensure a consistent brand experience at every customer touch point. Google Shopping is still far from Amazon’s streamlined service but it is certainly heading in that direction. What other advancements could Google Shopping employ to improve customers’ experience?

Adriana Heinzen
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Can Alicia Keys help Blackberry to “keep moving”?

Blackberry has launched its largest campaign ever for the make or break new operating system OS BB10 and a new range of products. The campaign will carry a “keep moving” theme to demonstrate the software’s capabilities. Among the central features are a smarter predictive keyboard and a “hub” for notifications from email, Facebook and Twitter.

The campaign
The mobile manufacturer announced on its launch event that Alicia Keys would act as its global creative officer. The 14-time Grammy Award winning singer, songwriter and entrepreneur will be joined by film director Robert Rodriguez and author Neil Gaiman in a series of online films demonstrating how they engage with their BB10 devices and inviting users to share their own stories. The heart of the campaign consists of a real-time marketing drive across search, video, direct marketing, social media, CRM and mobile.

How it will be assessed
According to BlackBerry’s CMO, Frank Boulben, the central measure for Blackberry success and market share will be the Net Promoter Score (NPS), adding “we want the first customers using BlackBerry 10 to recommend to friends and family.” As seen in our Marketing Performance Evaluation lectures, NPS measures the "willingness to recommend" a product and is usually adopted for higher involvement products, where opinion leaders and WOM is in play. It is becoming an increasingly popular customer loyalty measure with growth of social media. Although all companies have their favourite metrics, some going for the traditional Customer Satisfaction measure while others adopt the famous NPS, the growing reliance on a simple single customer metric won’t provide them the full picture and can be dangerous trend.

Target market
BlackBerry’s global market share fell from 20% to roughly 6% in the last three years and many see this as a last resort to recapture old and new users. The company is aiming to expand beyond corporate users and appeal to working moms. Boulben described Keys as the embodiment of a "very typical BlackBerry user" who is a "working mom" and runs a small business.

"Faced up against guys with significant market share, BlackBerry needs to find areas where it can make headway in. They can't compete broadly and they can't compete everywhere," said Stephen Baker, a VP of industry analysis for consumer technology at NPD. "If they think women is how they can do that, and it's a big enough segment and there's an opportunity there, then God bless them, they should go for that."

Celebrity endorsement
Celebrity endorsements are nothing new and they can often be an effective marketing tool if the company can find an authentic advocate for their brand. Alicia Keys seems a good fit with their new target audience; however, some analysts question her suitability as an endorser for Blackberry. To make matters worse, her official Twitter account showed her posts just days before the launch event were published from an iPhone and used Instagram to share all photos — an app that’s not available on BlackBerry according to a recent NYT release.

How NOT to do it
BlackBerry isn't the first tech company to employ a celebrity to boost its credibility. Three years ago, Lady Gaga was named creative director of Polaroid and she even designed a printer for the company. Two years ago, from the Black Eyed Peas was announced as the director of creative innovation at Intel. These high profile job titles attempted to make the relationship more authentic when it involved little more than just posing beside the product in exchange for a large cheque.

A different spin on product endorsement
To distance itself from those claims, Boulben has stated the Alicia Keys hire is different from “traditional product endorsements” as it is based on user experience. "You won’t see the celebrities in the 'Keep Moving' campaign on TV. The 'Keep Moving' TV campaign is all about showing the product experience in the flow of your professional and personal life." Activity will include Alicia Keys creating a video in each city where she is performing her “Set the World on Fire” tour, with each customised video based on ideas she receives from fans.

Is it this kind of celebrity endorsement a good investment?
Do you actually need a famous creative director when you truly have great product design? Why doesn’t Apple have a celebrity creative director? Do you think the women audience targeted by Blackberry could be better inspired by an authentic ambassador, such as a young mother who genuinely loves the product, sending the message that it is the users who really matter when it comes to the design process?

The global mobile market could really use more competition right now; let’s hope Blackberry can “keep moving” with its ambitions.

Adriana Heinzen 
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School