Category Archives: Mobile

The Marketing Technology Landscape

I’m not 100%  sure how to address the growing complexity of the marketing function, except to suggest that you take some time to re-evaluate and redefine what marketing is about. Consider layering in your technology mix along with your media and marketing mix. Then bring together a team of mobilists, technologists, data analysts and creative folks and you can get the ball rolling.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensMedia

Advertisements

The Digital & Social Era: Unlocking Brand Value in a Nanosecond

 

Monopoly, Scrabble, Mr. Potato Head, G.I. Joe, Nerf, Little Pony, Transformers.  These are only a few of the brands we are all growing old with, and are also seeing our children grow up with. They are all household names that have an extensive legacy and franchise around the world. They’re all Hasbro brands.

While many brand managers often think of extending a brand in terms of new product in the physical sense, the digital and social era offers the opportunity to transform brands into new media properties in ways that unlock the brand’s legacy. The age of new media offers up the chance to pull brands literally “out of the vault” and make them fresh again by relaunching them in an entirely new format.

Hasbro is a company that not only manufactures and distributes toys and games; it is an entertainment company that now competes with the likes of Disney. For example, one of the largest and most successful movie franchises is Transformers. Introduced in the mid-1980s, Transformers was a toy line that featured parts that can be shifted to change from a vehicle into a robot action figure and back again. A number of spin-offs followed, including an animated television series.

In 2007, a live-action movie, under sponsorship of Steven Spielberg, was released, with the latest installment to be released this summer. Around the brand is a vast array of media, including video games, a website, online games, TV commercials, a Facebook community, books, gear and all sorts of toys. Yes, there are apps for iPhone – in 3D no less – that include puzzles.

Not only has Hasbro become a force in the movie industry, it also is a direct investor in television having recently launched The Hub channel in the U.S. in partnership with Discovery Channel whereby the Discovery Kids platform was renamed The Hub. In Canada, Corus Entertainment and Hasbro Studios have come together to distribute Hasbro brands across the various Corus kids television platforms, such as Treehouse, the TV home of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (with HD episodes available on iTunes).

What makes the discussion even more compelling is how Hasbro has been able to artfully blend instinct with formal management process. I say this because the toy business, like fashion, has for many years been built on having a nose for what’s hot and what’s not. In the age of digital, so much is in the moment that risk and reward take on much shorter cycles, thereby requiring a balance between management discipline and entrepreneurial behaviour. As Michael Hogg, President of Hasbro Canada, says: “The toy business is like packaged goods with your hair on fire,” in that much of the action is in the moment, about today. This makes me think of the phrase Carpe Diem – on steroids.

Underlying this “360 degree” approach to defining the media mix is the foundational belief that there is also a value chain with regard to the media platforms. In Hasbro’s case, TV is the anchor to build brand awareness in key segments, whereby other media take on a supporting promotional role to augment consumer engagement.

In the days of traditional media, there was much talk about unlocking ‘incremental brand value’ by building out line extensions and adding ancillary products. In the era of digital and social media, brand value can be unlocked in an exponential way by developing the optimal media mix and devising the right formats for each brand.

It also means sticking to the fundamental questions: what are the demographics, who are the buyers, what are the right media choices and how do we build the trust factor into everything we do? The latter is most important especially when engaging audiences of ‘mommy bloggers’ who have valuable opinions about product safety, play value and ideas for innovation.

It also requires a change in mindset since metrics are not always conveniently at hand. In fact, it may be advantageous by allowing managers to take risk by investing in more trials, seeing what works through iteration and then building metrics that support additional investments for a calculated payoff.

For Hasbro, one formula that continues to prove itself in effect leads the consumer through the channels. Television is the anchor for certain target segments for brand building; websites are ideal for promotional activity and driving consumers to the retail store.

So let me end with a few more Hasbro brands that you may well recognize: Twister, Battleship, Yahtzee, Risk, Tinker Toy, Play-Doh, Sorry! and Easy Bake. And yes, there are and will be more apps.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensMedia

 

Hasbro: From Manufacturing to Media Powerhouse

Hasbro is no longer just about Mr. Potato Head. It is a company that has been able to unlock many brands from the vault. These brands have now become instrumental in transforming Hasbro into a media powerhouse – think Transformers, G.I. Joe and Star Wars. Movies. Very successful movies. Think Monopoly going mobile.

Hasbro will soon be launching hub, “a new TV channel for kids and families”. Here’s the point: in the past 5 years, Hasbro has delivered consistent growth in revenues, profit and stock growth. The proof is in the return on investment – just check Hasbro’s investor relations page: www.hasbro.com/corporate

Stay tuned.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensMedia

Media: The Sum of Its Parts or Something Else?

Reductionism says that a complex system is nothing but the sum of all of its parts and understanding those parts can tell us everything about the complex system that they belong to. This idea was supported Thales of Miletus, the first known philosopher of the western civilization circa 580 BC.

Shortly thereafter, in 2010, the ‘Galaxy of Media Choices’ (a term coined by The Boston Consulting Group) presents us with a complex system of communication with a series of moving parts.  There are some 70+ media choices, or parts if you will, including traditional (television, radio, outdoor, POS and print) and the Internet (digital,  mobile, geo-location, video, QR codes, SMS, social networking platforms etc.) – no need to list everything here.

The advent of Internet and digital technology in combination with the amount of time we spend on media is what makes the media system so fascinating and correspondingly difficult to grasp. Why? Because, like space, it is seemingly infinite.

How do the parts help us understand our complex media system?

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensMedia

Marketing Technology: Mobile People & Portable Brands

The idea of mobile communications is not something new, it’s just that things have progressed immensely since the days prior to the Internet and PDA devices.

What lies ahead is a huge opportunity for brands to get closer to their customers daily lives by  becoming integral to their cutomers’ processes. For me, the idea orignated when I was at IBM where self-serve technologies, such as the ATM and airline check-in kiosk were beginning to take hold. One of my colleagues quipped “Yes, it’s really about the customer saying to the brand ‘come into my process’ but I will remain in control of the transaction”.

This was compelling as it freed the customer not only from delays (lineups at the airport) but it suggested that the customer could transact when and where they pleased – on their own terms.

With mobile devices – PDA’s if you will, customer (and brands) can enjoy more freedom than ever before. No longer encumbered by a fixed location to transact, bank customers can now do their banking from wherever and whenever they choose. The same goes for those who travel by air, say, using Air Canada or Virgin Airways.

Mobile applications can and are being developed for many brand categories. Pharmaceutical apps can help patients with prescription continuance and information on disease states; automotive dealerships send service alerts so that maintenance schedules are adhered to; transit systems can notify passengers when the next bus is about to arrive at a stop.

At the end of the day, its about people who are mobile, devices that enable ‘anywhere computing’ and brands that are portable – the ultimate engagement & collaboration.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

Data: The New Capital of the Digital Age

Data: The New Green

The Economist recently ran a special report on managing information that prompted some thinking. First, some big numbers from the report: Wal-Mart handles over 1 million sales transactions per hour. Facebook houses some 40 billion photos (after only 4 years of operation). Cisco estimates that Internet traffic will reach 667 exabytes by 2013.

 With some 60 million people on Twitter, according to comScore data (November 2009), there are roughly 10 million tweets a day. This doesn’t account for the content – characters, photos, articles and video content. I also found that YouTube has generated more video content than all of the television networks combined have ever generated. The current upload rate is equivalent to about 100,000 Hollywood movies being made on a monthly basis. Finally, almost 100 trillion e-mails were sent in 2009.  

Bringing this a bit closer to home, consider the number of daily transactions that take place for banking, air travel, credit card processing, phone calls and e-commerce. You end up with some very large numbers indeed. This data also says a lot about how we behave. Most intriguing perhaps is what it can tell us, through the use of complex algorithms, how we might behave at some future point in time – and where new business opportunity may dwell.  

This growth in the information industry is not reflective of recessionary times. It points to a shift in investment, new business models, the laying of new infrastructure (servers, storage, cloud computing, software) and global workforce expansion in business information. It’s also transformational as the CIO’s role is increasingly one of contributing directly to business growth in contrast to the dogmatic notion of keeping the lights on in the boiler rooms of Enterprise Resource Planning and Supply Chain Management.  

It’s the effect of the peta, exa and yottabyte world that is most intriguing. Conventional ways to sense and understand consumer behaviour  will be challenged by the new wave of business analytics. Marketing research is but one example. If predictive analytics can do a better job of identifying which category of SKU’s is trending upward or which meal combo is gaining favour, what will marketing research be used for? Data analytics can also be used to generate new ideas for services, products and as importantly, help companies shed under-performing assets and balance inventories. By implication, there is a clear line of sight to the financial payback as firms like Amazon and Marriott have learned.  

This point from the Economist is worth noting:  

“…all these data are turning the social sciences upside down, he [Sinan Aral, NYU] explains. Researchers are now able to understand human behaviour at the population level rather than the individual level.”  

It’s no wonder Big Tech (IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP etc.) is loading up on search, storage and processing capability. In exchange they will reap new profits from the digital age, largely unnoticed from behind the curtain of social networks and online store fronts.   

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM  

MaaS Marketing the new Mass Marketing?

Is marketing now only about placing the order?

I have worked in a number of environments where marketing technologies have been at the centre of business transformation. I don’t mean to suggest that customer wants and needs were not a consideration. Rather, there was a tendency to undertake business tranformation in a way that was technology-led where the requirements of the client were the last consideration in defining the vision and implementation strategy.

Today, we have what appears to be an increased love affair with marketing appliances. What I mean is that there is an almost universal embracing of the latest piece of technical wizardry to hit the marketplace. When a new gadget hits the market it’s not just covered in a technology publication, it’s a major event that makes the front page of the daily news. On the consumer side, it’s been about various tablets, e-readers and smart phones. On the business side, it’s been about apps ranging from the latest in search tools for consumer-generated content, customer relationship management and licenced applications in general that provide augmented value through Internet access on demand known as SaaS – Software as a Service. Implicit here is the pervasive expansion of social networking platforms.

By no means am I suggesting a dislike for gadgets – I have plenty of them myself. It’s really about the illusion that using applications or appliances in and of themselves augment the value of a brand experience or address a complex business challenge. For example, having a website or microsite has little effect on consumer behavior if it does not enable something (or someone) and lead to an action or at best, a positive result. The same can be said for having a fan page on Facebook, opening a Twitter account or running banner ads on the Internet. Similarly, “ordering up” the latest in mobile applications might demonstrate that a marketing manager is taking an action but unless that application delivers value that the customer can see or experience, an enterprise is best to take the money, put it in the bank and let the interest payments flow to the bottom line.

We are a society that makes an increasing number of decisions based on data. Business goes to market with an array of marketing appliances. We all spend more time on the Internet. What we seem to be missing is the opportunity that technology should enable us to do and that is to have more time to create. What I mean is create new artforms in business – incorporating creative ideas that reflect an advancement of culture, art and intellectual enlightenment, something that seems to more of the past than in our future.

I was influenced early on in my career by Theodore Levitt. He wrote a book entitled  “The Marketing Imagination”. I was also influenced by Wally Olins, a practitioner of corporate identity and author of “The Corporate Personality”. Both books were about ideas, identity and shaping the corporate personna.

If we want to uncover opportunity in our own marketing futures, let’s take a turn toward the creation of ideas and not rely too much on appliances to do the work for us. That’s the difference between between having 15 seconds of fame in web-wide world and creating brands endure long after a marketing technology has reached the end of its lifecycle.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM