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  • Connect

Feels Good!

Almost daily I get someone asking me how they can best keep their coffee fix going during isolation. Social distancing is possible. Coffee distancing, not possible.

That inevitably leads to questions about which machine to buy.

One of my favourites is the La Marzocco Linea Mini. Affordable, great quality, and gets you fully armed with an iconic machine for the years to come. Now, you want to get a grinder to go with it and while you could drop a heap on a “status grinder” – you know, the kind that any barista would look at and regard you as legit, I’m finding the Breville Smart Grinder well worth it.

Turns out my favourite roaster, St Ali has cooked up a cracker of a deal.

No lines, no queues, not too hot, not too cold. Your own tunes, your own cup, open early and open late. Be your own barista at home with ST. ALi and La Marzocco.

We’ve teamed up with our friends at La Marzocco to help bring ST. ALi home. Grab a La Marzocco Linea Mini today for $5990 and we’ll set you up with a 1 year ST. ALi Orthodox Subscription, with a bunch of goodies thrown in by La Marzocco. Need some help brewing and Melbourne-based? We’ll also send you latte art legend, competition wizard, and all-round nice guy Shinsaku Fukayama for three hours of training, hazmat-suited if need be.

So, the machine should pretty much pay for itself… over whatever period of time reflects your fueling. Two great brands and one great deal. What’s not to like. And St Ali also sells the Breville Smart Grinder Pro.

And, you get to support an amazing Roaster and a bunch of really good people.

  • Learned

Real Marketing vs. Fake Marketing

One newspaper, two different messages. No news there though.

On the one hand, we read a column with the media pundits crying that it’s no time to abandon your brand; consumers are consuming more media than ever; engage your customers… So, we end-up with advice like this:

“But we know that Australians are spending in retail, grocery, pharmacies and online as such FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods), pharmacy, local/state and federal government, health advice and online retail should be very active in media spend now,” said Mr O’Brien, chairman of Atomic 212, Australia’s biggest independent media agency.

This won’t make much sense to the well trained, commercial marketer. They don’t need to be active when consumers are facing limited availability in channels; high demand; pressure from the retail duopoly (= low margins); and constrained manufacturing and distribution. It’s just further evidence of how out of touch most on the Agency side are with marketing as a profession. That’s not saying they aren’t awesome at their element of the communications discipline.

And I keep hearing the same old, same old being pedalled:

“History shows companies that keep investing in their brand in down times cannot only build market share but are also best positioned to come back fast when better times return.”

Really? I’d love to see the evidence of this for the majority of brands in the market and not the minority with the balance sheets to pull it off. Yes, consistent investment in Brand matters. But not at the expense of the balance sheet and not with the same message pre-crisis.

Moreover, there are plenty of examples of companies navigating out of a crisis specific to them. BP, Ford, Exxon come to mind. It’s a different territory managing a crisis of such scale and profound impact as Covid-19. This will result in massive change. Not a return to a new normal such as that we saw post GFC.

On the other, a column, written by my favourite marketing opinionator – Mark Ritson – pointing out rightly that communications are just a fragment of what marketing is, and that marketing needs to get back to its core functions in a time of crisis. Actually, all the time. Nail pricing. Refine product and propositions. Rethink packaging. Drive to new channels.

Mark is right. The media pundits are wrong in absolute terms, but right if that fits with your strategy.

“In reality, brands should be occupied with a bigger mission: selling stuff. The pandemic is a massive societal threat.”

The example of Uber Eats developing new propositions and rethinking how it engages with local restaurants is spot on the money. So much better than running platitudes about being here to help. The real work for Marketers right now is the real work around the other Ps.

  • Learned

We’re all flying blind

Research into CMO’s views tends to humour me more than enlighten. It mostly tends to be out, based on what I am hearing, by some order of magnitude.

The latest from the CMO Council falls nicely into both the humour and out by an order of magnitude category. Here are a few snippets:

  • 84 per cent of global marketers expect the pandemic will multiply business disruption globally. OK, so what are the rest thinking – there either in self-isolation on a mountaintop or in denial?
  • 90 per cent expect to make changes to their marketing plans. Again, what is the remaining 10% thinking?
  • 66 per cent said they don’t have enough real-time visibility and insight into the pandemic’s impact across both the demand and supply chains. That should be like, 100%.
  • 69 per cent are not satisfied with the quality, timeliness and usefulness of decision support data. Again, should be 100%. It’s not that the functions providing the data are failing, it’s just they are living with VUCA as well.
  • Marketers feel they’re addressing customer consternation and concern extremely well (36 per cent) or moderately well (56 per cent). “Feeling” isn’t a fact. What do customers think? The many marketers I’ve spoken to are struggling with how to communicate in a relevant and authentic way, and to scale communications when all the resources they depend on are shutting down.
  • Two out of three said they’re safeguarding employees and support staff extremely well, and 27 per cent moderately well. I’m hearing real concern amongst marketers for their people. Not in terms of whether they are communicating well or not, but rather, whether there will be jobs at the end of this.
  • Nearly 60 per cent expressed moderate confidence in their company’s contingency, containment and recovery plans, while 31 per cent are extremely confident. I’m seeing this skew massively by sector. In banking, high confidence – they are built to weather crisis like this. In travel and hospitality, much less so. In non-essential retail, 100% aren’t. The industry matters greatly. Homogenizing data produces a false result.
  • Nearly half of marketers are bracing for marketing spending cuts. Another 26 per cent don’t know what’s going to happen. Bracing for cuts is right up there with “hope as a strategy”. The best marketers I am talking to are taking a leadership stance in reshaping and remodelling budgets to reflect demand models and architecting a strategy for the next three months, and alternate strategies for beyond that. The budget should be a by-product of strategy.

Your thoughts?

To view an infographic on the data, click here.

 

  • Connect

Marketing Artefacts

Wandering the streets early this morning – let’s call it mobile self-isolation you can’t miss the marketing artefacts littering the billboards reminding us of another time. Images of holidays, businesses shuttered, products we can’t get, things we can’t do.

So why aren’t marketers rapidly repurposing them for new messages? Or if they have nothing to say, giving the space to those that could use them. Perhaps turning them into sponsored PSA. Or just words of encouragement.

But leaving communications up that is out of touch with times can only result in a brand that is out of touch as well.

  • Connect

Fake News & Fake Humans

It’s always interesting to sit with a client and watch the fake news spew forth from CES.

Today’s from Samsung is a doozy.

Their announcements validate Soul Machines pioneering AGI Research and their fully autonomous digital teammates already deployed with leading global brands and corporations like P&G.

Humanizing AI isn’t easy. Soul Machines has been at it for over seven years  – researching neuroscience, developmental psychology and cognitive science to create of the world’s first digital brain. To autonomously animate digital characters in a hyper-realistic human-like way, they need a brain. So that in the same way we as people use our human brain to interact, behave, engage with others and learn, Soul Machines digital people use a proprietary digital brain to do exactly the same things. The Five Levels of Autonomous Animation clearly lay it out.

It’s super interesting that many of the Neon videos appearing on Youtube are interspersing video footage of Soul Machines BabyX and digital people powered by our HumanOS™ It begs the question: is the hype and the marketing from Samsung NEON at CES  little more than highly scripted CGI and video manipulation? Some are clear that what we are looking at is little more than vaporware at this point.

It’s hard to see any evidence of a digital brain working – but you can see that here and even engage with a digital hero. Many varieties of digital puppets already exist today – avatars, scripted CGI, chatbots and more.

Creating digital heroes requires a combination of advanced animation (Soul Machines Digital DNA Studio™ makes this possible) – and – a digital brain (Soul machines Human OS™). The combination enables a hyper-real experience that goes beyond look and feel to embrace conversational AI, learning, and more.

They are well outside the lab, commercially deploying the world’s first digital heroes with brands globally.

Time will tell what Samsung has beyond a science experiment in a lab and marketing hype is just another Digital Puppet or something more.

Validating technology is a good thing. Not sure pretending is as good.

  • Loved

Humanizing Brands

 

Given Brands are made by humans, how have so many become so, well, inhuman?

Many of today’s brand challenges stem from not being human enough resulting in a chasm between the brand and the consumer. Turns out that the solution to ending what are highly robotic brand responses and interactions is a robot.

Efforts to achieve this typically require massive investments in human capital – and while this will remain the ultimate solution, it hinders brand engagement and comes with a raft of issues such as cost, consistency of service and experience, and time.

Digital has long been touted as the solution to these issues – as providing an infinitely scalable way for brands to reach and touch more consumers. In the purchase funnel that might be partially the case – but what about before and after? How do brands address the complex task of engaging and advising the consumer across their entire journey?

Early advances to address this have resulted in a raft of chat-bots, animated digital puppets and “hot cartoons”. These have proven to be little more than PR stunts. They attract eyeballs but don’t engage to deliver any value to them. Operating to rote scripts and responses, consumers have been rewarded with little more than sizzle without the steak.

That’s about to change.

By fusing advanced general intelligence – a type of AI – with a hyper-realistic animation engine, brands can now create human experiences, quickly and at scale. And this will advance brands into a new world of artificial general intelligence. AGI is the intelligence of a machine that could successfully perform any intellectual task that a human being can. That means, the new face of a brand – a Digital Human – can operate autonomously and in human ways.

YUMI, unveiled today at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity represents the world’s first autonomously animated Digital Influencer. Developed by Soul Machines and P&G’s SK-II, a global prestige skincare brand, YUMI marks the birth of the first fully autonomous digital influencer capable of interacting as a human would but with the control brands need and expect. The technology advances are significant, as are the implications for marketers:

The Rise of Digital Influencers & Celebrities

YUMI will be the first of thousands of new Digital Influencers – some unique, some founded on actual Digital Celebrities – that express a personality unique to them and the brand. Unlike current, information and interaction poor Digital Puppets, their integration with information and AI will enable them to present meaningful information, in a human way, contextualized to the consumer rather than a pre-programmed script. Digital Humans go beyond current PR Stunts with limited ability to interact and engage. They can evolve over time, humanizing the brand across multiple campaigns, products and services.

Crossing the AI Chasm

Today most marketers’ efforts with AI are confined to mining data that is then used to tailor offers and creative to be delivered in the right place and the right time. Digital Humans represent a new opportunity to fuse this data with customer interactions in real-time. Whether you are a Digital Agency, a Data Agency or Creative Agency, the Digital Human becomes the means to converse at scale.

New Creative Solutions

Current Digital Puppets are created through traditional animation techniques that cost as much as the time they take to create. Higher quality equates to higher cost. Solving this problem through an advanced CGI studio enables Digital Humans to be created with, until now, unseen quality, in days.

A New Interface

Digital Humans aren’t just a new face for brands, they are a new interface for any digital environment. Rather than clicking, scrolling, or searching we chat with a Digital Human who does the work for us. Interactions are simplified and humanized.

Digital Humans, like YUMI, humanize the brand by being human. They are imperfect but perfect. They possess knowledge. They respond to you based on emotion and intelligence. They listen, engage and react – autonomously and at scale. They are serious and funny. Importantly, they break from scripts and engage in conversation – and through this conversation, they do the work of presenting relevant information.

But more than anything, the new wave of Digital Humans will humanize brands by thinking and communicating like a human. And in the process, reinvent customer and brand experience.