MailChimp is broadening its horizons

Think MailChimp just supports small business email marketing? Think again.

Based in Atlanta–far outside Silicon Valley’s bubble of venture-funded would-be unicorns–the company has 600-plus employees and did more than $400 million in revenue last year. More than 15 million customers sent 246 billion emails in 2016.

But the future of the company, CEO Ben Chestnut says, is “to take MailChimp magic we give to email, and sprinkle it on other marketing channels.”

A year ago, MailChimp introduced a recommendation engine–akin to the ones devised by big companies such as Amazon–that let its customers plunk product suggestions into the emails they sent their customers. In January of this year, it began helping small businesses buy Facebook ads.

Now MailChimp’s Instagram ad-buying feature aims to simplify the process of purchasing ads.

MailChimp’s strategy with these new ad-buying services and other functionality it’s recently added isn’t to give itself a new revenue stream. Instead, it’s offering them as part of its existing subscriptions at the same price as before. As with its freemium model, the company is betting that the more essential it can make itself to the way small businesses operate, the easier it will be to get large numbers of them to pay on an ongoing basis.

https://www.fastcompany.com/40424782/mailchimp-wants-to-solve-every-small-biz-marketing-challenge-even-snail-mail

Why It’s Hot
While most companies aim to leave their roots behind and move on to bigger and better customers, MailChimp is staying firmly committed to small businesses and providing them easy yet robust marketing support at a price most can afford.

Why would Amazon buy Slack? Workers of the world beware…

Amazon is rumored to be mulling a purchase of Slack, the fast-growing corporate chat platform. A deal could give Slack a valuation of $9 billion, according to a report from Bloomberg.

Slack now has 5 million daily users, including more than 1 million paying users.As of last year, Slack claimed 77 Fortune 100 companies among its clients.

Slack

It’s easy to see why Amazon would want to add a popular corporate communications tool to its suite of offerings to Amazon Web Services customers. But the more intriguing explanation of Amazon’s interest has to do with one of the company’s even bolder visions of the future.

Amazon is one of the major players in the fight for dominance in the realm of voice-activated artificial intelligence. As of January, Amazon had sold more than 11 million of its Echo home device, according to a report by the investment banker Morgan Stanley. Lex, the conversation interface that powers the Echo, already has a Slack integration.

Acquiring Slack could position Amazon for shaping the way workers use voice-activated technology at a time when Slack is already considered a possible email slayer. Just think of what bringing all that work data to the Echo’s capabilities would mean for the worker—and the further blurring of any remaining line between work and home.

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/06/why-would-amazon-want-to-buy-slack/530430/?utm_source=atltw

Why It’s Hot

The fight to keep work and personal time separate is real. Keep your eyes on this one as the line continues to blur.

Condoms or IUD? Ask Tia…

Ask Tia is an iOS app designed to assist and inform women about reproductive and sexual health. Through personal, private text-based conversations, users can find the best birth control, get answers to sexual health questions, find doctors, and track periods and symptoms. It’s the first product from Tia, a company “for millennials by millennials” that aims to help women make informed healthcare decisions.

Tia

Building a trusting relationship with an app isn’t easy. Tia has prioritized personalizing the information for each user. Even a simple question about missing a birth control pill has several factors (type of pill, where in your cycle, etc.), which is why Tia’s guiding questions and personalized assessments so much more valuable than, say, a Google search.

“Our goal is to expand Tia to be your comprehensive go-to women’s health assistant for all of your health care information needs,” says Witte, Tia’s co-founder and CEO.

https://magenta.as/simplifying-the-search-for-birth-control-with-a-conversational-interface-e98d0b2a5af1

Why It’s Hot
Sexual health support made accessible through behavioral insight? Yes please.

Start brushing off your resume…

The Mirai is Toyota’s car of the future. It runs on hydrogen fuel cells, gets 312 miles on a full tank and only emits water vapor. So, to target tech and science enthusiasts, the brand is running thousands of ads with messaging crafted based on their interests.

The catch? The campaign was written by IBM’s supercomputer, Watson. After spending two to three months training the AI to piece together coherent sentences and phrases, Saatchi LA began rolling out a campaign last week on Facebook called “Thousands of Ways to Say Yes” that pitches the car through short video clips.

Saatchi LA wrote 50 scripts based on location, behavioral insights and occupation data that explained the car’s features to set up a structure for the campaign. The scripts were then used to train Watson so it could whip up thousands of pieces of copy that sounded like they were written by humans.

http://www.adweek.com/digital/saatchi-la-trained-ibm-watson-to-write-thousands-of-ads-for-toyota/

Why It’s Hot
May let us focus more on the design; less on the production.

AR Is Coming To Banner Ads

Augmented reality has been in stasis for the last couple of years, with app developers and gadget-makers still figuring out a mainstream use-case to trump the Pokémon GO phenomenon. London-based startup Blippar thinks the answer lies in advertising.

Blippar says a major car manufacturer will start showing augmented reality ads using Blippar’s software this month. Blippar won’t say what other brands it is working with, but suggests the tech could be used for ads displaying clothes, and offer a means to use your smartphone camera to see what a jacket might look like on you.

The company says that an augmented reality banner ad would cost between $7 and $15 per 1,000 impressions, which is about average for rich media ads that already include audio and video. AR components can be seen on camera-equipped Android devices and will soon be accessible on Apple iOS.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/parmyolson/2017/05/08/augmented-reality-banner-ads-blippar/#5b2e2e3b45d9

Why It’s Hot
Could banners have found their savior? Let the measurement begin!

Going Digital to Rescue Food

About 40 percent of all food in America is wasted. Much of it ends up in landfills, where it emits dangerous-to-the-planet methane gas. At the same time, one out of eight American households don’t have enough to eat.

Wasted food. Hungry people. How do we get the two to meet?

Last month, food rescue made a leap to a national scale. Feeding America matches donors and recipients with an algorithm. A restaurant can go on Meal Connect to post an offer of, say, eight trays of fried chicken and biscuits. Meal Connect will automatically match that offer with the closest food pantry or soup kitchen that can get it up right away.

Feeding America

Meal Connect makes it possible to rescue prepared food and smaller quantities of food — and to do so quickly. “This allows us to provide real hot meals — virtually at the same time that someone coming off the street and paying for it would get it,” she said.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/02/opinion/going-digital-to-rescue-food.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&smid=nytcore-iphone-share&_r=0

Why It’s Hot
When the scale and reach of digital is brought to bear on social issues, huge problems become more surmountable.

Spotify keeps on rocking with Lastminute.com partnership

There’s always one song that brings back memories of a really great holiday. This intrinsic link between music and travel is the idea behind Lastminute.com’s new partnership with Spotify. And according to data, a large percentage of lastminute.com consumers are also Spotify users, meaning the collaboration appears to be a win-win for both brands.

The partners are producing a series of interactive maps, playlists and podcasts – each one linked to 10 different destinations.

Spotify

Spotify

Each city is broken down by area, with playlists bringing to life the distinct sounds of each one. For instance, East London’s playlist includes songs by local artists like Dizzee Rascal and Katy B. Alongside this, the campaign will include a series of podcasts, each featuring an international artist giving insight into the music scene of their home city. And each user will receive personalized recommendations aligned to their music and travel tastes.

https://econsultancy.com/blog/69032-lastminute-com-partners-with-spotify-to-target-music-loving-travellers/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=econblog

Why It’s Hot
Spotify continues to set the bar for leveraging data in meaningful ways to deepen relationships with customers.

What an Influencer wants…

It’s time for marketers to change how they select and reward influencers.

Until now, brands have practiced three levels of influencer marketing.

Level 1 uses PR to send free brand product and information to target influencers, hoping for earned media (or at least a response).

Level 2 allocates media spend to pay relevant influencers with desirable audiences to create “cool” content that showcases the brand in a positive light.

Level 3 builds meaningful, advocate-level relationships with influencers who authentically love and embrace the brand in a way that spans beyond a video, campaign or launch.

Enter the next level

Today’s influencers are operating as businesses, not just communities—and as businesses, they want more from the brands with which they work.

Influencers

Welcome to level 4
, where marketers treat content creators as businesses, help them add value to their brands while bringing value to their audiences—and both sides see greater benefits.

It begins with marketers giving creators access to the newest products before they hit shelves, and moves into sharing audience data, helping identify growth opportunities, and even providing production assistance including studio time, professional content editing and fresh collaborations.

In exchange, influencers can offer brands preferred rates, disruptive creative, faster speed to market, higher credibility and, ultimately, sales.

http://www.adweek.com/tv-video/its-time-for-marketers-to-change-how-they-select-and-reward-influencers/

Why It’s Hot

Partnerships can help breed a more authentic relationship among brands, influencers and those they influence versus just paying for posts.

The Amazon “stock market”

Just beneath the placid surface of a typical product page on Amazon lies an unseen world, a system where third-party vendors can sell products alongside Amazon’s own goods. It’s like a stock market, complete with day traders, code-slinging quants, artificial intelligence algorithms and, yes, flash crashes.

Amazon

Sellers of commodity items on Amazon are constantly monitoring and updating their prices, sometimes hundreds of thousands of times a day across thousands of items, says Mr. Kaziuk nas. Most use “rules-based” pricing systems, which simply seek to match competitors’ prices or beat them by some small fraction. If those systems get into bidding wars, items offered by only a few sellers can suffer sudden price collapses — “flash crashes.”

It’s clear, after talking to sellers and the software companies that empower them, that the biggest of these vendors are growing into sophisticated retailers in their own right. The top few hundred use pricing algorithms to battle with one another for the coveted “Buy Box,” which designates the default seller of an item. It’s the Amazon equivalent of a No. 1 ranking on Google search, and a tremendous driver of sales.

http://news.morningstar.com/all/dow-jones/us-markets/20170326515/the-high-speed-trading-behind-your-amazon-purchase.aspx

Why It’s Hot

Getting under the hood of how retail monster Amazon operates is always fascinating. The idea that prices are updating hundreds of thousands of times a day is nuts.

‘Town Hall’ – the best thing Facebook has ever done?

Facebook officially released a tool Monday that lets desktop and mobile users in the U.S. easily contact their local officials. It’s called “Town Hall” – reminiscent of what Facebook likes to see itself as, especially in political discussion.

Facebook Town Hall

Here’s how it works:

1. Find the “Town Hall” tab in your Setting pages on the Facebook app or go to facebook.com/townhall.

2. Enter your address. This will let you see which representatives are in your district.

3. See the list of representatives. You can choose to follow their Facebook Pages to see updates in your News Feed. You can also press contact.

4. Facebook lets you call, message, email and go to the Facebook Page of each representative listed. Messages are sent through Facebook Messenger.

The feature is integrated into the News Feed. If you choose to like or comment on a post by one of your local representatives, you’ll see a way to contact your representative after the post.

http://mashable.com/2017/03/27/facebook-town-hall-launch/?utm_cid=mash-com-fb-main-link#gvMh7KygCiq9

Why It’s Hot

Facebook has a huge impact on politics, whether we like it or not. I’d rather see the company focus on trying to encourage civil engagement (even if it backfires) than not acknowledge its role in the political dialogue.

Alexa, we have a problem

Google Home is about to offer a feature Amazon’s Alexa can’t match: finds from local stores.

Google Home

The new feature is powered by local inventory feeds sent by retailers that buy ads on Google. In the past year, local shopping queries have increased 45 percent and the search giant has doubled the number of retailers that send local inventory feeds.

With this new feature, Google is offering users something Amazon doesn’t — a way to find merchandise at your local store and try before you buy.

It’s all part of Google’s long-term strategy to develop products and services that use artificial intelligence to make it easier for people to interact with computers – that, in turn, will feed into Google’s ad-based business model.

https://www.cnbc.com/amp/2017/03/21/google-home-vs-amazon-echo-for-shopping.html

Why It’s Hot
-It continues the local digital trend that’s grown over the past couple of years
-It’s also another interesting bridge between eCommerce and advertising – with a healthy mix of IoT thrown in

IoT Oh My!

Sex toy maker We-Vibe has agreed to pay customers up to C$10,000 (£6,120) each after shipping a “smart vibrator” which tracked owners’ use without their knowledge.

WeVibe

The We-Vibe 4 Plus is a £90 bluetooth connected vibrator, which can be controlled through an app. Its app-enabled controls can be activated remotely, allowing, for instance, a partner on the other end of a video call to interact.

But the app came with a number of security and privacy vulnerabilities, allowing anyone within bluetooth range to seize control of the device.

In addition, data is collected and sent back to Standard Innovation, letting the company know about the temperature of the device and the vibration intensity – which, combined, reveal intimate information about the user’s sexual habits.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/mar/14/we-vibe-vibrator-tracking-users-sexual-habits

Why It’s Hot
As we continue to talk about our bodies as the ultimate database – along with the opportunities and risks that entails – few examples seem as illustrative as this!

A Facebook Messenger conversation could help you start a new life

After getting people out of parking fines, Joshua Browder’s chat bot lawyer, DoNotPay, is now helping refugees find a home in a new country.

Browder has adapted the AI to offer aid to asylum seekers in the US and Canada, and asylum support in the UK. He worked with lawyers in each country, as well as speaking to asylum seekers whose applications have been successful.

Asylum

The 20-year-old chose Facebook Messenger as a home for the latest incarnation of his robot lawyer because of accessibility. “It works with almost every device, making it accessible to over a billion people,” he said.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/mar/06/chatbot-donotpay-refugees-claim-asylum-legal-aid

Why It’s Hot
Using technology to help to over a billion people in need – especially in a charged political climate – is hot, no explanation needed.

Girl, “Manterrupted”

To mark International Women’s Day on March 8, ad agency BETC Sao Paolo, has created an app to measure what it is calling “Manterruptions”—a kind of ruder, elder brother to mansplaining (and cousin to manspreading), which analyzes conversations, and calculates how many interruptions by men have taken place.

The app is accompanied by a series of posters designed by female artists to highlight the issue and a website to rally support.

http://www.womaninterruptedapp.com/

Why It’s Hot
It’s a clever and fun way to bring attention – and hopefully change – to a real and serious issue of inequality.

If a picture paints a thousand words…

Experts who want to pierce North Korea’s extreme secrecy have to be creative. One surprisingly rich resource: the country’s own propaganda, like the photo below.

Thanks to high-tech forensics, analysts and intelligence agencies are using photos to track North Korea’s internal politics and expanding weapons programs with stunning granularity.

Korea
The bomb, Kim’s outfit, the entourage and the missile have all been thoroughly dissected

Analysts believe some details may have been deliberately revealed to demonstrate the country’s growing capabilities. Whereas most such images are doctored, if only to improve Mr. Kim’s appearance, they noticed that this was conspicuously unretouched — perhaps a message to the foreign intelligence agencies who conduct such analyses.

Whereas analysts had long doubted the country’s grandiose claims, analysts said, “2016 was about showing us all the capabilities that we had mocked.”

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/02/24/world/asia/north-korea-propaganda-photo.html?_r=0

Why It’s Hot
As countries around the world debate security and the measures appropriate to ensure it, we must remain vigilant against unintended consequences to areas like privacy and data protection.

Cellphones as a literal lifeline

Many refugees consider smartphones instrumental in their journey to safety. Google Maps helps them navigate across the sea. Translation apps provide a rudimentary understanding of the language in new lands. WhatsApp and Viber allow them to chat with loved ones back home.

And almost everyone carries photos of the family and friends left behind.

Photojournalist Grey Hutton photographed dozens of refugees and their phones at a refugee center in Berlin for VICE Germany. The idea for the project came to him after reading complaints about refugees carrying smartphones.

Refugee Selfie

Why It’s Hot
In our current political and cultural environment where debate about refugees and illegal immigrants rages, it’s great to see technology used as both a tool to help people in need and one that humanize those in need to create greater empathy.

Taobao villages: “E-commerce runs toward the road of happiness”

Daiji township is a dusty collection of villages in China’s central heartland plains. It was described in a recent article in a Chinese magazine as a place “synonymous with backwardness, the unwanted stepchild of Shandong province.”

But in 2016, Daiju sold 1.8 billion yuan ($26.2 million) worth of acting and dance costumes.

“Made in China” is nothing new. But the internet and e-Commerce specifically have exponentially increased the volume and reach of manufacturing, changing the face of the country. Half of Daiji’s 45,000 residents now produce or sell costumes—ranging from movie-villain attire to cute versions of snakes, alligators, and monkeys on Alibaba-owned Taobao.

And Daiji is not the only rural town in China dramatically changed by globalization. In November 2016, China’s State Council Office on Poverty Alleviation, along with 16 other ministries, released guidelines calling for a massive expansion of e-commerce in rural areas as part of the fight against poverty.

Taobao

Why It’s Hot
In the current political environment where countries like the U.S., the U.K. and France are looking for ways to preserve jobs of old, looking at countries that continually push to capitalize on globalization may help us to embrace change rather than hide from it.

When programmatic goes wrong

Jaguar Land Rover has ceased all digital advertising in the UK after an investigation revealed it was funding terror organizations without its knowledge.

Jaguar

According to reports the car marque’s programmatic ads were among a number of brands indirectly paying Islamic extremists, white supremacists and pornographers.

Ads for the Jaguar F-Pace have appeared on YouTube next to a pro-Isis video that has been viewed more than 115,000 times. It has since been removed.

In a statement Jaguar said: “Jaguar Land Rover is very concerned by reports that advertising featuring our brands may benefit extremist and other inappropriate on-line media. This is an unintended consequence of algorithm technology used on some video-sharing websites.

http://www.thedrum.com/news/2017/02/12/jaguar-land-rover-pulls-ads-amid-terror-funding-investigations

Why It’s Hot
-It reminds us that algorithms and quant data are not everything. Our ability to monitor, evaluate and draw learnings is key
-It also is a reminder of our responsibility, liability and yes sometimes vulnerability in engagements with our clients. I can imagine the phone calls Jaguar’s UK agency received. We need to be able to justify our decisions but also deal with our mistakes when they happen (and they will happen. and we will have each other’s backs!)

Yummy, I’ve got tech in my tummy

Ingestibles – i.e. tech you consume and either dissolves or you “pass” – aren’t new. The medical field in particular has been experimenting for years with things like cameras you swallow instead of taking tubes down your GI tract.

But powering this tech has been an issue. This week MIT researchers announced that they have developed a new safe-to-swallow battery powered by stomach acid. They explain it like this:

“Remember those lemon-powered batteries from middle school science class? It’s essentially the same thing. With lemon batteries, the citric acid connects the two electrodes — usually a galvanized nail and a copper penny. Researchers simply replicated the system, attaching zinc and copper electrodes to the surface of the ingestible sensor.”

http://inhabitat.com/mit-researchers-invent-an-ingestible-battery-powered-by-stomach-acid/

Why It’s Hot
Uses for technology explode year-on-year but the energy to power these applications has long been a limiting factor. Alternative power sources – especially ones that are environmentally responsible – will open up amazing new avenues for tech.

The future of VR filmmaking

I shared this with the Army team but if you haven’t seen it it’s worth watching. My Brother’s Keeper isn’t your typical VR movie. The PBS film, which premiered at Sundance last week, uses its period setting to show off several new filmmaking techniques, including the first 120 fps slow-motion recording in VR and the use of a customized action camera rig.



Why It’s Hot

We’ve all seen VR/360 video examples with lots of bells and whistles. But very often the techniques eclipse the story. As Engadget described “…most important, it uses all of that technical wizardry to craft a genuinely moving story.” When form and function meet art and heart.

If you could read my mind, love, what a tale my thoughts could tell…

Using a device which detects patterns in brain activity, patients paralysed by ALS can answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ – and tell doctors they are ‘happy’ with life.

During the sessions, the patients wore a cap that uses infrared light to spot variations in blood flow in different regions of the brain. As they answered the questions, a computer hooked up to the cap learned to distinguish the blood flow patterns for “yes” and “no” in each patient.

For his next project, Birbaumer wants to build a system that allows patients to communicate more proactively, rather than simply answer questions.

Brain Activity

Why It’s Hot
Bless technology. When it’s used for good it’s so good. But when I read this the first thing I thought about was how companies would try to use the technology for profit – i.e. hijacking customer brainwaves to make them an offer their rationale selves can’t refuse. Just a reminder that we need to keep our values with us as we make choices on behalf of customers.