#DeleteFacebook. But can you?

The growth of a movement to “delete Facebook” is leaving consumers in a pickle. As Vox reports, “the emphasis has largely been on users making up their minds about how to deal with the company on an individual level.However, this emphasis fails to take into account both Facebook’s position in modern society and the stakes involved for anyone who chooses to leave a network that has spent more than a decade trying to make leaving it impossible.”

In short, “delete Facebook” is just not that easy.

Again from Vox:

1) Facebook is technologically embedded within a vast web of interconnected third-party apps and social media platforms

2) For many people, using Facebook regularly is a required part of their job or education

3) Facebook is, for better and worse, a tangible tie holding many people to their communities



Why it’s hot: While the media and some in the ad industry may be quick to oversimplify and describe the current scandal as a death knell for the platform, there’s more at stake and more to consider than what’s on the surface. This could be particularly vital to keep in mind for healthcare communications, noting the above tweet referencing disease-specific diaspora.

Artificial, and [somewhat] intelligent: Can common sense be taught?

In a new article by MIT Technology Review lays bare the shortcomings of the current AI landscape: AI Assistants Say Dumb Things, and We’re About to Find Out Why

The goal is to inform a new approach to machine learning that yields better AI experiences. Basically, looking for ways to teach machines common sense and worldly experiences, rather than limiting them to one area of competence and one narrow set of performance benchmarks that create less-than-desirable experiences for end users.

From the article:

Language systems that rely on machine learning can often provide convincing answers to questions if they have seen lots of similar examples before. A program trained on many thousands of IT support chats, for instance, might be able to pass itself off as a tech support helper in limited situations. But such a system would fail if asked something that required broader knowledge.


“We need to use our common sense to fill in the gaps around the language we see to form a coherent picture of what is being stated,” says Peter Clark, the lead researcher on the ARC project. “Machines do not have this common sense, and thus only see what is explicitly written, and miss the many implications and assumptions that underlie a piece of text.”


Here’s one question: “Which item below is not made from a material grown in nature? (A) a cotton shirt (B) a wooden chair © a plastic spoon (D) a grass basket”


Such a question is easy for anyone who knows plastic is not something that grows. The answer taps into a common-sense picture of the world that even young children possess.

It is this common sense that the AI behind voice assistants, chatbots, and translation software lacks. And it’s one reason they are so easily confused.

Why it’s hot: This new approach to testing AI voice command tools like Alexa, Siri, and Google may help lead to breakthroughs and improvements in the space that open up new possibilities in communication.


Snark, sick burns, and memes? That’s so 140 characters ago

To everyone’s surprise, a few days after Valentine’s Day, snack cake brand Little Debbie posted a tweet about the holiday, which quickly went viral.

Why it’s hot: While brands seem to be falling over themselves to try to figure out how to bottle and imitate that Wendy’s sass or Steak-Umms/Moon Pie je ne sais quoi, Little Debbie seems to have hit on something that people are really craving right now: unabashed positivity. The account’s content doesn’t shy away from earnest and endearing, which seems perfectly aligned with the nostalgic brand’s personality without being over the top. By sticking to and being confident in their brand heritage, they’ve managed to stand out from the pack by simply letting Little Debbie be herself.



Next on Black Mirror: Police use facial recognition glasses to track citizens

Chinese police have begun using facial recognition glasses to perform surveillance in public spaces, starting with train stations this Lunar New Year.

This is a period of extremely busy holiday travel, often described as the largest human migration event on Earth, and police say the sunglasses have already been used to capture seven suspects wanted in major cases, as well as 26 individuals traveling under false identities.

From The Verge

One challenge for facial recognition software is that it struggles when running on CCTV cameras, because the picture is blurry and by the time a target is identified they might already have moved on. The sunglasses, by comparison, given police “the ability to check anywhere,” says Wu. “By making wearable glasses, with AI on the front end, you get instant and accurate feedback. You can decide right away what the next interaction is going to be.”

Why it’s hot: You thought Google Glass may have died a few years back, but it and devices like it are only just finding their legs. Black Mirror-esque, surveillance state problems aside, it is interesting and there could be some cool ideas to explore in revisiting how this tech can plug into different existing platforms/apps using features they already have, like facial recognition or geo-tagging.

Facebook’s Latest Changes

Facebook recently announced a new round of changes to the personal feed experience. As part of a broader initiative that included an update to the company’s mission statement, Facebook is in the process of implementing updates with the goal of making connections on the platform feel more meaningful and personal to users. Mark Zuckerberg has openly said it may lead to people spending less time on the platform, with the hope that the time people do spend there will be of higher quality.

“By making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down,” Zuckerberg wrote. “But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable. And if we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too.”


It was a simpler time.

Why it’s hot: Facebook has promised the changes will not affect advertisers who pay to ensure their content is seen (a strategy adopted by MRM well ahead of this latest announcement), but it’s hard to believe that we won’t see some impact on engagement with branded content if users are spending overall less time on the network.Facebook should by no means be discounted from a multi-channel strategy, but now is a good time to review how you’re thinking about the platform. Facebook has taken many steps post-election to mitigate the proliferation of “fake news” and engagement-baiting content, so brands who have not been actively following and responding to the developments will need to re-assess their content strategies and course correct for the platform by adjusting cadence, promotional strategy, and creative.


It’s Facebook-auto-generated-year-in-review Time Again!

From The Verge: “Ah, the holidays. The time of year when Facebook flexes its algorithms to compile all of your best social media posts into a Year in Review video. These little montages have been sprouting up like weeds on my timeline lately, showcasing many smiley faces and birthday wishes. However, they’ve also served as a lovely reminder of just how bleak 2017 actually was.”

As the article goes on to say, “The Year in Review videos are a delightful illustration of how Facebook AI hasn’t quite figured out that it shouldn’t pair negative memories with cute graphics.”

Why it’s hot: A reminder that social media isn’t just fun and games, for better or worse, and we need to be mindful of that as strategists when we think about the context and attitude with which our content is being viewed. Also, what happens when you maybe forget to adjust your content to account for what’s going on in the world that’s causing the daily joys, goals, fears, insecurities and anxieties of your active user base.




An FDA for Tech?

Amid investigations into how Facebook and other tech giants may have dropped the ball on regulating Russian propaganda disguised as US political ads during the 2016 presidential election, and revelations of tax haven practices at firms like Apple in the Paradise papers, questions are being raised about how tech is regulated – or not, and what to do about it.

  • http://www.wnyc.org/story/power-big-tech
  • https://www.recode.net/2017/10/24/16535754/facebook-google-twitter-russia-hearing-political-ads
  • https://www.npr.org/2017/11/01/561298465/online-advertisers-react-as-tech-firms-face-congress

From the NPR broadcast, “Facebook, Twitter and Google are on Capitol Hill this week facing tough questions about how to avoid a repeat of Russia’s interference in U.S. elections. One of the people who has testified already is a man named Randall Rothenberg. He heads the Interactive Advertising Bureau. It’s a trade group that represents Facebook, Twitter, Google, even NPR. He says this is a key moment for social media companies, which until now have mostly avoided government oversight.”

Why it’s hot: One of the  comparisons being drawn, and questions being asked, is why aren’t tech giants treated like ad firms and media companies, and held to the same regulatory standards? The proposed solution is to institute a regulatory body not unlike the FDA that would oversee the installation and enforcement of rules and regulations on social media, search and other platforms that are currently able to position themselves as tech rather than media companies. This could have huge implications for marketing and advertising, in terms of cost, availability of inventory, and the potential restrictions and guidelines placed on creative. It also could change the internet as we know it, creating a “splinter web” where different countries impose their own regulations (we already experience this to an extent in the EU and Canada), which would have a big impact for global accounts.


CNN Takes on Alternative Facts

CNN’s Creative Marketing team with agency Figliulo&Partners has launched a new campaign, “Facts First.” The ads are running across social media platforms and interactive display media, supported by a landing page destination that features the full length “apple vs. banana” video. The simple execution suggests this may be a running campaign for the publisher that features different juxtapositions of truth vs. fiction in future, but so far is getting mixed reaction from vocal corners of the internet.

Interactive display unit (unfortunately, choosing either answer takes you to the same landing page):

Campaign mission statement:

The video copy in full:

Facts are facts. They aren’t colored by emotion or bias. They are indisputable. There is no alternative to a fact. Facts explain things. What they are, how they happened. Facts are not interpretations. Once facts are established, opinions can be formed. And while opinions matter, they don’t change the facts. That’s why, at CNN, we start with the facts first.


Why it’s hot: On one hand, it feels like a news publisher taking a powerful stand in the name of journalism and the free press. On the other, CNN is being called out on Twitter and by fringe media outlets for what critics see as the network’s hypocrisy in their penchant for giving airtime to pundits who peddle half-truths and outright lies.

It will be interesting to see if this campaign unfolds to something more substantial and is the start of a cultural, content strategy and operating procedure overhaul at CNN, or if it’s merely a timely but ultimately empty ad campaign that’s just preaching to the network’s choir.

Give this Social Media Manager a Raise

KFC’s Twitter account follows just 11 people. 6 Spice Girls, and 5 guys named Herb. GET IT??

Why it’s hot: When this clever Easter egg was discovered, Twitter fans went bananas, generating viral engagement with little to no effort and generating earned media hits for the fast food chain. It comes off as something that was an off-the-cuff, “what if we…” suggestion, which we should never forget is where some of the best ideas come from.


Rethinking the Pharmacy Experience

“Inspired by service-design overhauls at companies such as Disney and Carnival, CVS is hoping to rethink the entire pharmacy experience.” The chain recognized that it needed to do more to give its customers a reason to visit their brick and mortar locations (not a unique problem facing retail right now, but unique in that CVS deals in prescription drugs). So instead of focusing on just one problem or one solution, they’re looking at a complete overhaul of the experience, with the goal of increasing loyalty and adherence – repeat trips to the pharmacy, and repeat retail purchases.

They’ve started the journey by hiring designer Deborah Adler (she’s behind the pill bottle color coding system used by Target and later declared a “Design of the Decade”). The revised take on CVS’s bottles allows patients understand at a glance when they need to take their medication and how much.

And there’s a huge amount of data driving this design decision. “The first, most important part is a system that understands what medicines should be taken together,” explains Kevin Hourican, CVS’s EVP of retail pharmacy. This is a massive data challenge that involves being able to scan thousands of different variations of prescription—”1x every day,” “once a day,” 1x every 24 hrs”—and then slot them into four basic day parts: Morning, Midday, Evening, and Bedtime. It requires verifying that those day parts are in fact right. And then it requires making sure that there are no dangerous drug interactions and that every drug is taken at its optimal time. (For example, blood pressure medications are best taken in the morning; cholesterol medications are best taken at night.) CVS’s system for doing all those calculations, Script Path, is the first of its kind.”

Why it’s hot: This is another example of a brand taking a more holistic, end-to-end experience approach to loyalty and marketing, and using data to inform what will (hopefully for CVS) be a ground-breaking design solution. This approach could open doors to additional marketing opportunities and collaboration for our healthcare clients, too.

When ads know too much

Google has added the option for audiences to mute ads, citing examples like “ad knew too much“. The point isn’t to put an end to personalized, intrusive advertising, but rather figure out how to make this advertising less creepy. “The company says it uses this feedback to avoid showing you the same ad again across any device or browser on which you are signed into your Google account.”

Why it’s hot: The new feature also lets users block individual third party ads and advertisers. Understanding who is blocking an ad and more importantly why is valuable feedback for strategy, media and creative to consider when the next opportunity to optimize assets or message this audience comes along.


Apple’s Pricing Strategy: A Psychological Game

Experts have been responding to criticism of Apple’s pricing for the new iPhone X. Clocking in at $999, it’s the most expensive device yet – the defense being that this is all part of Apple’s strategy. According to Harvard Business Review, the high price tag is all part of a mind game where brands convince consumers that a high price tag equals luxury, value and purpose.

“Why did Apple push the limits of pricing on the highly anticipated device? A key reason involves using a premium price to set an expectation of excellence in consumers’ minds. […] Bold marketing words are nice, but consumers are bombarded with, and often let down by, bubbly claims. As a result, we cynically filter the validity of these pitches. Setting a premium price is more of a concrete look-you-in-the-eye pledge: “It’s going to cost you, but believe me, it’s worth it.”


Why it’s hot: The high price tag generated a huge amount of earned media and social chatter, and Apple’s lead analyst predicts that 30-40% of the brand’s customers are willing to pay the price. Now it’s on Apple to deliver (or risk a serious backlash from its most devoted fans and big spenders). Could touting a higher price as a good thing be a messaging strategy for other brands?

BONUS! Listen to this episode of the Simplify podcast with Wharton School professor Jonah Berger (the author of author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On and Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior) on influence, free will, and marketing.

Narcos Ads Are Popping Up, Cocaine-Like, in Nightclub Bathrooms

Netflix is promoting the upcoming season of its original series about drug kingpin Pablo Escobar with clever ads.

“The advertising is largely built around fact-based campaigns utilizing lots of statistics—this season, to illustrate the Cali Cartel’s massive scale of operations, power and wealth, which far exceeded that of Pablo Escobar. Stats in the campaign include:

• Every three hours, the Cali Cartel made $917,000.
• In 1995, the Cali Cartel earned more than Pablo Escobar and any of that year’s Fortune 500 Companies.
• The Cali Cartel was responsible for trafficking 80 percent of the world’s cocaine supply.”


Why it’s hot: It was probably pretty cost effective, it’s memorable, simple, and it grabs the attention of a “captive” audience. And let’s face it, I’m betting a lot of people are taking photos of these ads with their phones while on the throne and sharing them on social media.

When Emergency Alerts Are Written At A College Reading Level, Who Gets Left Behind?

With hurricanes and tropical storms top of mind this month, this article bubbled up as a good reminder of the importance of readability in communicating messages to our audiences. It highlights the disconnect between the reading level and assumed digital literacy required to comprehend and act on weather-related warnings, and the actual audiences they’re intended to serve (a wide range of people with varying education levels and technological abilities) – emphasizing that readability doesn’t just refer to reading level, but to taking in the whole experience and skill level of a person on the receiving end of the communication. How well can they read; how well can they understand what is meant by different wind speeds and other measurements; and how well equipped they are to know where to look for more information.

Why it’s hot: Marketing messages don’t usually equate to a life or death situation, but when we consider things like medication adherence, food allergy warnings, or crisis communications, they come a little closer. Understanding that readability involves not only the text in a communication but also its context and the computer literacy of the audience helps us bring UX, copy, design and experience even closer together.


Produce is War: How Driscoll’s Reinvented the Strawberry

“Produce is war, and it is won by having something beautiful-looking to sell at Costco when the competition has only cat-faced uglies.” This lengthy New Yorker article recently dove into how Driscoll’s uses market insight and crop science to build their monopoly on the berry market.

Strawberry from New Yorker

“Driscoll’s focus groups have shown that millennials, adventurous and open-minded in their eating habits, and easily seduced by novelty, may embrace pale berries. With these consumers, unburdened by preconceived notions of what a white berry should look or taste like, Driscoll’s has a priceless opportunity: the definitional power that comes with first contact.”

“According to Frances Dillard, Driscoll’s global brand strategist and a veteran of Disney’s consumer-products division, berries are the produce category most associated with happiness. (Kale, in contrast, has a health-control, “me” focus.) On a slide that Dillard prepared, mapping psychographic associations with various fruits, strawberries floated between Freedom and Harmony, in a zone marked Extrovert, above a word cloud that read “Social, pleasure, joy, balance, conviviality, friendship, warmth, soft, natural, sharing.” (Blueberries vibed as status-oriented, demanding, and high-tech.) As I studied the slide over Dillard’s shoulder in her office, she smiled tightly and said, “This is proprietary.”

Why it’s hot: It’s pretty cool to learn how our favorite fruits came to be. I thought this was a cool case study in now market demand and consumer behavior drive product innovation and brand stories.






Who cares about net neutrality?

On July 12th a long list of internet companies participated in a “Day of Action” in support of net neutrality.

net neu·tral·i·ty
  1. the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.

Why it’s hot: Net neutrality can and will change the internet as we know it, in radical ways, especially for us as marketers. Imagine a world where suddenly putting content or advertising on the internet is as expensive as running a prime time broadcast ad. Or where potential customers find our content organically, but then can’t engage with it because they don’t have the right level of internet access from their provider. For more on how it could affect marketers and advertisers, check out this article. But no article or infographic has hit me harder or explained the implications better than this simple Instagram post by Reddit:

What happens when we can’t agree on reality? (Or overcoming implicit bias and the echo chamber phenomenon)

Keeping it light this week (sort of?). It’s always a fight to remain objective when distilling research and data into the insights that become the foundation of our strategies. Here are a few food for thought resources that might make for some good holiday weekend reading & listening!

https://www.reddit.com/r/changemyview/ (premise explained here: http://www.npr.org/2017/06/29/534916052/change-my-view-on-reddit-helps-people-challenge-their-own-opinions)



A Small Lesson in Listening and Content Strategy

Sometimes repurposing an asset for social isn’t as cut and dried as a quick video edit. 

Care.com, a website for sourcing home help like childcare, senior care, housekeeping and pet care, ran a video ad on Facebook. To the audience they served it to [twice] it came off tone deaf. It’s a Facebook spec-friendly version of a longer length commercial. The captions that appear over the video read, “Look at Mom and Dad. Cleaning the house on a Saturday, instead of playing with me.”


What did they do wrong?

  • The ad appears to tactlessly leverage a pouty, sad little girl to guilt parents into hiring a housekeeper. Does guilt really inspire action and create a positive brand connection? It’s a risky gamble, especially in social.
  • The Facebook edit fails to consider how the content comes off without the context of of the longer-form commercial. Repurpose with care.
  • They ran the same ad before, and got the same response. Then changed nothing, and ran it again (without responding to community comments). Maybe they targeted the wrong people?
  • The ad goes against the advice and values they push in their own web contentas directly pointed out by viewers of the ad. 
  • There’s also a typo. Oops.

Why it’s hot: It’s not that hot, but I saw this ad twice and it bugged me enough to keep me thinking about it. It annoyed me as a parent, sure. But it annoyed me more as a content strategist. Not sure how much was spent on this, but the investment could have had way more impact and positive feedback.

Alamo Drafthouse’s Sense of Humor in the Face of “Controversy”

[Reposted from previous week]

Original story: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/05/28/530490073/some-men-are-not-happy-about-a-women-only-screening-of-wonder-woman

Alamo Drafthouse is a movie chain known for off-the-wall screenings: for a horror movie, they handed out gas masks and drove moviegoers into the woods on a school bus. It screened Pirates of the Carribean on a boat, etc. When they announced an all-female screening of the new Wonder Woman film, “it didn’t sound all that edgy,” reports NPR. But some took offense.

Why it’s hot: Alamo’s handling of what would have been a PR and social media crisis for so many other brands was fantastic. They took the complaints in stride, having the guts to respond to trolls and complaining patrons in a way that retained their values and reinforced their brand. They even scheduled a second women-only screening. That takes some balls. And they were rewarded for it, with tons of praise from their social media followers.

Google’s New AI Tool is a Pandora’s Box of Possibilities

It’s a simple idea: turn a selfie into cartoon character stickers (emojis) of yourself. Google’s new Allo app, touted by the company as a “smart messaging app” that lets you “express yourself better” includes this new AI feature that uses your smartphone camera and facial recognition technology to generate detailed facial expressions to suit every emotion. According to Fast Co, Google thinks there are 563 quadrillion faces that the tool could generate.

“Illustrations let you bring emotional states in a way that selfies can’t.” Selfies are, by definition, idealizations of yourself. Emoji, by contrast, are distillations and exaggerations of how you feel. To that end, the emoji themselves are often hilarious: You can pick one of yourself as a slice of pizza, or a drooling zombie. “The goal isn’t accuracy,” explains Cornwell. “It’s to let someone create something that feels like themselves, to themselves.” 

Full article here

Why it’s hot:

  • It’s another layer on personalization in social media and messaging apps that Snapchat and Instagram will look to integrate. It could also mean the end of Bitmoji as we know it.
  • On a deeper level, there could be many applications outside of entertainment for this type of technology. If you can use AI to better express how you feel to a doctor or nurse, for example, a whole new world of communication could be opened up.
  • And going broader, there’s a big question: as messaging apps get smarter and smarter, do our interactions through them become more or less valuable? When AI is the go-between, are we better expressing ourselves, or is it a substitute for real interaction?

Kids design the darndest things

Co-designing with kids yields gamified, engaging, and actually useful stuff. Who knew? The article provides an overview of the concept of co-design – designers partnering with users (this is not testing but actually being part of the design process) and what the outcomes can be.



Why it’s hot: Thinking about strategy and design the way a kid would can help us get to a simpler truth.

A new kind of pod

Not a new take on the iPod or a hot podcast – “Instagram pods” are a growing trend among social influencers. A pod is a group of Instagrammers who use the platform’s messaging feature to join together to like and comment on each other’s posts. The goal is to create enough engagement to boost their content, getting it to show up in the feeds of people who follow them.

Instagram’s algorithm sparked this behavior when in 2016 the Instagram feed began displaying popular posts and posts from followers that account holders engaged with the most, instead of showing images posted in a timeline (most recent at the top).

What it means: When working with influencers – especially individuals – we need to understand how they promote content on their end, and factor this in to any numbers we report on and use to make marketing decisions. If it looks like a piece of content is getting great engagement, we need to be diligent about understanding where that engagement is coming from. Otherwise, our data is flawed. This also factors in when selecting influencers to work with in the first place – it’s important to understand their engagement strategy and where there likes and comments are coming from.

Why it’s hot: Another day, another algorithm to game. Insta pods highlight the ever-changing nature of digital media and emphasize our need – and our client’s need – to be nimble, transparent and as free from fraud as possible.

Opportunistic Content 101: Toys R Us Giraffe Cam

“April the Giraffe” – a wildlife park’s pregnant giraffe, April, is set to give birth any day now, and the internet is watching. Toys R Us has capitalized on all the eyeballs by sponsoring the zoo’s live feed of April. The buzz has come in the form of genuine excitement and anticipation as well as conspiracy theories.


Why it’s hot: Toys R Us saw the simplest of opportunities – a basic sponsorship getting their brand name and logo in front of hundreds of thousands of people who likely fit within their target demo – and seized on it quickly, having to do little more than pony up the cash to support the zoo. It remains to be seen if the whole thing is truly organic, or if it’s a PR stunt orchestrated by Toys R Us, the zoo, and/or Doubletree Hotels whose local franchise has also placed advertising on the giraffe’s dedicated landing page.

FOMO by Design

Snapchat: The messaging app worth over 20 billion dollars that “hijacks” our minds and changes the way we talk to one another. WNYC’s podcast, “Note to Self” recently featured the app in a conversation about compulsive user behavior and how apps like Snapchat exploit these behaviors, for better or worse.

Why it’s hot: For us as strategists, the podcast scratches the surface of what’s made Snapchat so very sticky – its deft exploitation of our innate fear of missing out (FOMO). It’s not a platform obsessed with followers, likes or favorites, because only the content creator can see who viewed their snaps. It’s all about making content that lacks permanence – once you miss it, it’s gone, forever. This is a learning we can apply to all content, platform agnostic. Content must be experiential, not merely informative or entertaining. The meaning is in being “part” of it. If you weren’t there, you missed that connection.

In the bigger picture, there are emerging thought leaders in Silicon Valley who are continuing to question and build a case for considering ethics when it comes to how digital experiences are designed.The podcast juxtaposes commentary like this quote from Netflix’s CEO – “Our biggest competitors are Facebook, YouTube, and sleep” – with the need for some form of ethical standard bearers in the industry to keep a watchful eye on how apps and content tap into and take advantage of human vulnerability, considering how far is too far. This hints at what the future of social platforms may look like, as “design ethics” proponents wonder how much we’d pay for a version of Facebook built entirely around helping us spend our time well – by our own definition – vs. simply passing that time with distractions.

Watson’s First Sculpture

IBM’s Watson cultivated findings that allowed Softlab to create a piece of art based on computer analysis of thousands of architect Anthoni Gaudi’s buildings, along with the input of text documents about the architect, Barcelona’s history and culture, and song lyrics.The output was a modernist sculpture that responded to real-time social analytics that kept the pulse of what people at the conference were talking about on Twitter. As topics and emotions cropped up, changed, and peaked, the sculpture responded.

IBM Watson Created a Modern Sculpture Inspired by the Work of One of Spain’s Most Famous Architects

From the article: “I think from our perspective, definitely in the design process itself, one of the things that Softlab talked about was that a designer or expert can look at an image, and they can make inferences,” Arn said. “But there were things that came out of the analysis that we did that they really had not considered.”

Why it’s hot: In the article, Jeff Arn of IBm said of the sculpture “in this case, it’s a very abstract example. But you can imagine […] a social media manager for a retail brand can ask, ‘What does our audience think of us, or how are they reacting to a particular comment?’ … It kind of gets you a lot more understanding of who your audience could be based on traits given to you by the way they write on a medium.” While we are maybe reluctant to concede that machines may be smarter than us, we should at least acknowledge their utility in noticing the things we can’t see due to our own cognitive limitations or biases. As marketers we’re trying to understand the nuances of who we’re talking to by creating personas and doing consumer research – this is a glimpse into what the future of that will look like!

Taking Email Seriously

Email often gets pushed to the bottom of the marketing priority list because it’s historically un-sexy, but opt-in email lists represent scores of people literally asking for a brand’s content. The possibilities for email creative have been quietly advancing, with brands coming up with creative ways to get around inbox fatigue and filters and incorporate media content (such as animated gifs).

Email is also a data collection point, allowing for segmentation and ongoing a/b testing and optimization with a relatively consistent audience. As automation gets more and more sophisticated, brands can do more with less resources, setting up trigger emails that target customers when they’re most engaged and in-the-moment.

Why it’s hot: Email is still a relevant and impactful component of a successful customer engagement strategy. Getting potential customers to sign up for email captures valuable lead data while offering a one-to-one, opted-in communication channel.

What “New Journalism” Means for Brand Content

The New York Times recently published internally, but also publicly, their mandate for a new approach to digital journalism. There are some exciting goals expressed for the publication that support what we already know as marketers, strategists and social media specialists – quality over quantity; use of more engaging and experiential digital content formats and visuals; and a clear need for social integration and audience participation with real-time reward.

To see where they are headed, check out https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/12/07/world/asia/rodrigo-duterte-philippines-drugs-killings.html [warning: graphic content]. The full 2020 report is here.

Why It’s Hot: A huge publisher like the Times acknowledging so forcefully this “new” reality of storytelling – rich photography and immersive design, integration of tech (like Google Maps), making UGC part of the story – is important as this will become the way more and more people expect to get their content from all publishers, including brands – especially as more and more people around the world gain access to the technology and networks needed to support the dissemination of this rich experiential content.

You may have also noticed that Medium is expressing something of a manifesto lately across their social media channels. Interesting to consider the way media is adapting and changing as we look to both work with publishers and capture their audiences for our brands. https://www.instagram.com/medium/