Category Archives: Headlines

Navigating a New Language: Emojis

Written by: Olga Kraineva
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Ninety-two percent of the online population uses emojis. That’s approximately three billion people. The adoption and use of emojis, a visual language that communicates different emotions or scenarios using digital icons, is exciting but also has tremendous implications.

Emojis’ high rate of adoption can be credited to their universality and ability to be understood by all, regardless of native language. Images are also processed faster in the brain than text is, so there are functional benefits to choosing a visual icon over multiple words to describe the same sentiment.

Instagram embraced the emoji trend and documented the following in a company blog post: “It is a rare privilege to observe the rise of a new language…Emoji are becoming a valid and near-universal method of expression in all languages.”

Brands have come to recognize this consumer behavior and have jumped at the opportunity to use emojis to appear hip, approachable, and current. Last spring, Burger King launched a custom Chicken Fries emoji keyboard that was available in the iTunes App Store and Google Play store (other brands and personalities have since followed suit, like Kim Kardashian and Betches). Taco Bell also made their own spin on emojis with the #TacoEmojiEngine instant-reply campaign on Twitter that used over 600 photos and animated GIFs to show how the taco emoji can play nice with the others.

Moreover, brands are integrating emojis casually into their daily posts, just as consumers would. GE used emojis at RSNA, a professional radiology medical device conference, at the end of last year in their social media communication.

Social media publishing platforms also welcome the trend and continue to create more emoji integrations for consumers, brands, and influencers alike. Below are some of the latest developments:

  • Twitter:
    • Twitter recently (January 2016) revealed three new integrations specifically for high-profile celebrities, including a special camera feature that lends some inspiration from Snapchat. One hundred handpicked celebrities can overlay emoji-style icons onto their photos, giving celebrities a more premium experience through customization.
    • Auto-response campaigns using certain hashtags to unlock content are also an option – something that our client Lifetime did recently. In promotion for the Toni Braxton movie, fans that tweeted one of three emojis and #ToniBraxtonMovie were delighted with a preview of one of three sneak peeks for the movie. The movie garnered 267K tweets and 3.6MM viewers during the premiere. Nielsen reported it as the most tweeted-about program on television Saturday (January 27, 2016), with an 18 percent share of all Twitter TV activity, and the most tweeted movie for the television season to date.
  • Facebook: Facebook is finally moving past the “Like” button in favor of a full range of emotion choices in response to posts. Called “Reactions,” this new feature debuted on Wednesday, February 24, and allows users to respond to posts with six emotion choices: angry, sad, wow, haha, yay, and love.

Keep in mind, there are also implications for brands that use emojis:

  1. According to a Mintel Research Report, Communicating Through Imagery (2015), “Part of the difficulty lies in the fact that images are inherently ambiguous, which can result in consumers misunderstanding key messages.” This can lead to unintentional offense or other negative consequences.
  2. Millennials – the most frequent users of emojis, claiming to use emojis 75.9 percent of the time – don’t want brands to communicate with them using emojis. Only three percent of respondents of an Odysessy research study said brands should use them. That being said, although they say they don’t want brands to use emojis, they may feel differently moving from theory to practice.
  3. Finally, most standard social listening reporting tools do not support emoji-tracking capabilities as of yet. It’s still difficult to get an accurate account of the impact of an emoji-only campaign, unless you also assign a unique hashtag to the campaign in addition to using emojis.
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CNBC, photo by Dimitri Otis | Getty Images

The bottom line is it’s undeniable that emojis are here to stay, and consumer use is likely to continue to increase. Brands should use caution before executing on the emoji trend just for the sake of doing the next buzzy activity, and first evaluate if it makes sense as part of their existing strategy with their consumer at the center.

Google Serves Up Shopper Trends to Retailers to Win in Mobile Moments

Written by: Eric Fransen
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Google has recently begun to use the term Mobile Moments to describe mobile’s place in the consumer journey across devices. Specifically, they’re trying to understand how search signals intent at a regional level and how retailers can capitalize on this intelligence. I’m certainly in Google’s camp when it comes to search as a signal — when you’re asking a question about a product, you’re almost certainly heading toward a purchase, depending on what information you discover — and Google’s plan to address (and monetize) these signals just got better.

Two weeks ago, Google announced a new ad product that allows retailers to tap into their massive databank of search and mapping data, offering them the opportunity to fully utilize local shopping trends and behaviors. For example, Google found that demand for PlayStation 4 was 2x that of Xbox One in New York while consumers in Los Angeles were 9x more interested in Xbox One. This kind of insight could change the entire strategy of merchandising and co-op advertising to fit local preferences and nuances in behavior. Why spend equally everywhere when the same dollar promoting Xbox One would go a lot further in Los Angeles compared to New York?

"I shop here because of their people-first approach to marketing across devices."

“I shop here because of their people-first approach to marketing across devices.”

So, where does mobile fit into this behavior? Everywhere. In fact, according to a recent study, 54% of shoppers are expected to shop in these Mobile Moments between other activities throughout the holiday season, rather than simply cramming it all into Black Friday or a “shopping day.” This also includes the ever-present behavior of “showrooming,” where consumers are checking prices and comparison shopping online even while they are in other stores.

Here’s the bottom line: Mobile is going to be bigger than ever this holiday season, and Google’s got a new bag of tricks to make sure you’re reaching the right customers with the right message on the right device.

Cardboard Redux

Written by: Ian Sherwood
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Google gets it. They understand that widespread VR is coming soon and that means headsets – those clunky, awkward, hairstyle-destroying devices that allow us to imagine we are standing on the USS Enterprise or on the Great Wall of China, all while sitting at a Starbucks.

With Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus Rift and Microsoft’s HoloLens, headsets are definitely real products. But Google gets that we aren’t all going to shell out $200 or more and strap on bulky headsets just for a taste of VR. They lowered the bar last year by eschewing bulky plastics and high-tech eyewear and introducing Google Cardboard: a simple, folded piece of cardboard plus some plastic lenses and adhesive. This one leap has changed perceptions of what is required to get people trying VR. This year, they’ve lowered the bar all the way to the floor with an even simpler cardboard box that unfolds in three steps (compared to 12 steps for the original). We can even get Cardboard headsets printed with artwork or logos and have them mounted to our favorite baseball cap.

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Source: Dodocase.com

Google gets that a headset is just the gateway to the compelling content that we need, so they also announced Jump: a platform to tether 16 digital cameras in a fixed circular array to take 360-degree image and video captures, plus an image assembler to stitch all 16 images together with edge translation, color correction, and blur removal. Suddenly, we no longer need $100K specialized cameras, we only need 16 GoPro Hero cameras mounted just so, and we need Google’s Jump Assembler to put it all together. But, what we’ll get are YouTube-ready, 3D videos that are tailor-made for viewing with – you guessed it – a Cardboard headset. Expect Jump content to appear on YouTube in July, but the camera arrays won’t be publicly available for several months.

Google further announced that the Cardboard app is now available on iOS (get it here), so the other half can see what all the fun is about, too.

And if that weren’t enough, Google announced Cardboard Expeditions: an in-classroom VR experience to give students a view of a location or experience in a controlled setting where the instructor guides the experience. An Expedition pack will include multiple Cardboard headsets and accompanying phones, and a tablet synchronized to the phones that will allow teachers to control the virtual outings.

Look for the updated YouTube app to support VR content soon, and cardboard headsets to be all over your local Starbucks.

How We Used Google Maps APIs to Help Hunt Monsters

Written by: Tom Edwards
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Editor’s note: Tom Edwards, EVP Strategy and Innovation for TMA Digital Engagement, was a guest blogger on the Google Geo Developers blog today, speaking to TMADE’s use of Google Maps APIs in building a website for GameStop to promote the launch of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Congrats to our GameStop team for a successful program and a post on the Google Geo Developers blog!

If you’re going on a monster hunt, it’s a good idea to bring a map. And if you want to build buzz around the release of a new game, you should have the right tool as well—in our case it was Google Maps APIs. We built a website for GameStop to promote the launch of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, an action role-playing game from Warner Brothers and CD Projekt RED. After a visitor logs in to the promotional website, she is dropped into a map of the world and collects clues about where to find monsters. The goal is to be the first person to find each monster and win a prize.

Witcher3-5.20.15-A

The game’s launch deadline required us to build the site within a tight timeframe. We chose Google Maps APIs because they provided the tools we needed to build our maps quickly and easily. They also let us focus on the site creative rather than get bogged down with technical issues. We use the Google Maps JavaScript API for the front end, to start the experience and immerse visitors into the virtual world. Then, with the Google Maps Street View Service, we allow users to search for monsters. We took images of the monsters and used overlays to drop them into familiar surroundings.

We use the Street View API to plant the user in a random location somewhere in the world, then visualize their surroundings, including monsters and trails of blood. We set a randomly generated starting point to the map based on five predefined locations. From there we have event listeners in place for ‘mapView: bounds_changed, streetView: visible_changed, streetView: position_changed, streetView: pov_changed, searchBox: places_changed’.

When the user has initialized Street View, we make a call to our API to see if any monsters are within a defined distance from the LatLng of our monster data set. We continue this test any time the position_changed event is fired until a monster is within range. At that point, we update the class of a div that sits above the map view. Each monster is assigned a specific CSS class, which allows us to easily make tweaks.

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Google Maps made it easy to combine the real world of Street View with imaginary creatures from the game. Our goal went beyond just our users having fun — we wanted to build a site that would create genuine excitement around the game and give people a taste of monster hunting in the real world.

3 Things to Consider After 72 Hours with the Apple Watch

Written by: Tom Edwards
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Seventy-two hours ago, I was among the 22 percent of lucky customers whose orders were fulfilled for the Apple Watch. Many have asked I summarize my thoughts about what I like, what I think needs work, and what marketers should consider when creating an Apple Watch experience.

What do you like about the Apple Watch?

From Apple’s first announcement last September to receiving it on launch day, I have consumed a significant amount of information about what to expect from Apple’s latest technology. Yet, all of my research did not prepare me for the full experience.

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 3.11.47 PM

The watch is beautifully designed and the 42mm face is just the right size. The interface is very smooth and responsive, and I am getting a good feel for which elements add the most value for me and how I want to extend my iPhone experience.

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Setup was incredibly easy and primarily facilitated through the Apple Watch app on my iPhone. After language selection and visually pairing the Apple Watch and iPhone, I dove into setting up my application preferences.

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The key thing to consider if you are looking to invest in an Apple Watch is to understand that it is NOT an iPhone on your wrist, but it is an extension of the iPhone experience. It WILL streamline lightweight tasks such as messages, notifications, and quickly reviewing email.

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I like the flexibility of the interchangeable watch bands; it literally takes seconds to completely change the look of the watch. Third-party band options are already appearing on eBay, and I have ordered a second Apple Watch band myself.

Tom Edwards Apple Watch

What needs work?

Outside of the passcode keypad, there is not a consistent input mechanism beyond voice. Responding to messages either consists of predetermined phrases, emoji, or voice response. This is fine 90 percent of the time, but for those times when it is not convenient to speak your response it will require you to pull out your iPhone. #FirstWorldProblems

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The same goes for making and taking calls on the Apple Watch. Be prepared to look like Dick Tracy when you are speaking into your wrist. Calls are better meant for taking on your actual iPhone.

Dick-Tracy

One surprise was Facebook was noticeably missing from the Apple Watch app store on launch day. You still receive notifications from the app, but there is not a native Facebook Apple Watch experience as of yet.

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One additional missing element is a browser experience. There are third-party apps that provide an abbreviated browsing experience, but there is not an official Apple Watch browser. Siri is voice-based, and any search query that is not tied to an existing app function is handed off to the iPhone.

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I have experienced accelerated battery drain on both my Apple Watch and paired iPhone. Also, Handoffs between the watch and app can be awkward in some third-party apps. Upon initial setup, a number of applications have to be preconfigured via the iPhone prior to working with the paired Apple Watch.

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How can marketers benefit from the Apple Watch?

For brands that have a native app in market, the Apple Watch can provide a way to extend the value of the application if marketers focus on creating utility. From a shopper marketing standpoint, Target’s focus on list creation is a good example of taking a single element of the app experience and using the Apple Watch to drive a specific user behavior.

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Target’s Apple Watch app initial user experience

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Target app example of highlighting item location via Apple Watch

I have used the Starbucks app extensively over the past 48 hours. The “glance” tells me how close I am to a Starbucks location as well as extends their loyalty program, and I can leverage Passbook for quick payment for my morning Americano. I have been impressed by the ease of use and the value the app is bringing me through a simple experience.

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The key areas of focus for marketers are understanding how to leverage both short and long notifications to influence certain behaviors while also leveraging the most relevant data to visualize – via a glance – to sustain ongoing wrist engagement.

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American Airlines is simplifying the boarding experience

By focusing on extending apps through the lens of consumer value and lightweight interaction, marketers can capitalize on staying at the top of mind through a user’s wrist.

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Uber’s Apple Watch experience

 

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

Art + Science = Facebook’s Anthology Program

Written by: Tom Edwards
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I recently attended the latest Facebook Openbook event in NYC. The topics included the latest video product updates and the unveiling of the new Anthology initiative.

Openbook

Anthology is a creative brief based program that combines the insights and scale of Facebook with the reach and relevance of large publisher partners.

Anthology

Facebook is providing access to insights rooted in detailed analyses of target audiences to inform publisher creative. Their goal is to combine art and science to inform the creation of highly relevant and shareable content that drives business.

Facebook Anthology Purpose

There are seven initial partners in the program:

1. Vox Media – Millennial-focused media entity targeting sports (SB Nation), tech (The Verge), gaming (Polygon), real estate (Curbed), food (Eater), and retail/shopping (Racked)

Vox Media

2. Vice Media – Millennial-focused media entity that creates over 6,000 pieces of content daily across 10 primary channels covering news, music, tech, food, sports, and fashion, all by young people and for young people

Vice

3. Oh My Disney – Brings the ability to leverage assets and properties of Disney in short-form content that is designed to be shared

Oh My Disney

4. The Onion – Satirical news content creator

The Onion

5. TasteMade – Mobile-centric video network that reaches 25 million people monthly

tastemade

6. Funny or Die – Original and UGC comedy and pop culture content creator

Funny Or Die

7. Electus Digital – Properties include Collegehumor.com, Dorkly (Geek Culture), and Nuevon (Hispanic)

Electus Digital

In the unveiling, each publisher partner had created a mock “anthology” based on Facebook insights and a hypothetical brand/agency creative brief. Each anthology program had its own unique creative slant based on the insights provided by Facebook and the unique perspective of the publisher.

ForD Anthology

In the future, the publishers will produce the content and partner with Facebook to distribute the content through both Facebook’s media network and their own distribution properties.

anthology example

The Anthology program can be beneficial for brands and agencies alike. It is a quick way to collaborate with some of the most relevant millennial-focused publishers, as well as leverage proprietary user data and insights provided by Facebook.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

Is Today Mobileggedon? 5 Things to Know About Today’s Google Update

Written by: Tom Edwards
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Today is the day Google is rolling out a major update to its mobile search algorithm. Some are proclaiming this “Mobileggedon,” others the “Mobilepocolypse.”

The reality is that this is a major update that will boost the ranking of mobile-friendly pages. There are five things to know about how this update may impact your brand.

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1) The update only impacts mobile search results. This is a mobile first update and will only impact results from mobile queries.

2) The update does impact all languages. This is a global roll-out. Those that manage pages across locations should take note.

3) The update applies to individual pages vs entire websites. This may not be apparent initially, but makes sense as a whole. Google indexes pages and queries map to intent which extends from the relevance of the content on the page.

4) This is one dimension for how Google will rank a mobile search query. –This update does raise the importance of a mobile-friendly experience, but this is not the only signal being considered.

5) Strong content can overcome… For now. User intent based on the query is still an important factor. If the content on a non-mobile friendly page is considered the most relevant for the query it will still rank high for now.

It is important to take the necessary steps to create an optimal experience not only from a search perspective but also from a user experience standpoint.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

Amazon Launches ‘Home Services’ To Take the Guesswork Out of Booking Goat Grazing Services

Written by: Rita Mogilanski
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Amazon recently launched Home Services, a portal that allows users to find, schedule, and purchase professional services through Amazon. The services that are currently provided include appliance repair and installation, home cleaning, music lessons, iPhone repair, and so much more (including Goat Grazing).

Why Use Amazon?

Amazon handpicks the service providers to assure quality by performing background checks and verifying insurance and licenses. They remove most of the risk associated with choosing domestic help by suggesting only verified vendors and giving customers standardized, prepackaged prices. Amazon will match prices if customers find a lower price for the service provider elsewhere, and you are only charged after the service is completed.

4.1-1This service will prove helpful for users making purchases that need installation. When shopping for an air conditioner, I was served a link to book a professional to install the appliance. This seamless integration relieves much of the stress around installing major appliances. Consumers already trust Amazon and will be willing to go with the professional services the platform recommends to expedite the process.

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How is it Changing the Industry?

Other similar platforms like Angie’s List and Yelp provide users with trustworthy reviews. Unlike Angie’s List, there is no membership fee for Amazon, and unlike Yelp, you can book directly through the site. Competing platforms may choose to increase the services they provide to be more robust in order to compete with Amazon’s one-stop shop experience.

TaskRabbit, which is a platform that provides services very similar to Amazon Home Services, has partnered with Amazon in such a way that allows Amazon users to hire fully-vetted “Taskers,” or TaskRabbit’s service providers, through Amazon.

Small businesses that rely on the local community may feel the pressure of competition from businesses listed on Amazon. For professional services looking to get their business on the website, they can apply here. Businesses pay Amazon a portion of the profits, and Amazon handles payments and customer complaints and issues, taking some of the stress off the professionals as well as the customers.

If you’re looking to take the risk and guesswork out of booking professional help, Amazon Home Services is a great tool. They are currently making life easier for customers and small business owners in most major US cities. For similar platforms, however, the competition just got real.

Image: Amazon.com

Image: Amazon.com

 

YouTube Rolling Out “Cards” to Replace Annotations

Written by: Hannah Redmond
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This week, YouTube announced the release of a new product called “Cards,” which will eventually replace annotations on videos. Keeping with the trend of mobile optimization across its products, cards will work across screens, including mobile. Currently, in the annotations category only InVideo Programming annotations work on mobile devices.

Source: YouTube Creators Blog

YouTube says this is a response to feedback from YouTube creators for the need of more flexibility with annotations and the need for them to work on mobile. They said in the YouTube Creators Blog:

You can think of cards like an evolution of annotations. They can inform your viewers about other videos, merch, playlists, websites and more. They look as beautiful as your videos, are available anytime during the video.”

There are 6 types of cards: Merchandise, Fundraising, Video, Playlist, Associated Website, and Fan Funding. You’ll now be able to find the “Cards” tab in your Video Editor to create and edit them at any time.

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As mobile media consumption continues to increase year over year (note the graph below on mobile data traffic), it makes sense for YouTube to extend the benefits and functionality of annotations to mobile devices for content creators.

Similarly, as brands continue to increase the amount of content for the digital space, the consumer’s mobile experience needs to be kept in mind. Marketers need to ask: “How will these cards help my consumer while they are on their mobile device?” There is a difference between “standing out” to a consumer and “disrupting” a consumer’s experience. The trick with these cards will be using them in a unique way to stand out that still adds value to the consumer.

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Source: We Are Social

Visit the Cards Help Center to see more detailed descriptions about, and examples of cards.

Google Algorithm Update will Prioritize Mobile Websites in Search

Written by: Hannah Redmond
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Google recently announced that they will be using mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal in driving search results to users, beginning this April.

In the announcement, Google’s Webmaster Central Blog stated:

Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.”

That means mobile-friendly and mobile-responsive sites will earn better positioning in Google’s mobile search engine results, and sites that are not optimized for mobile will see less mobile, organic traffic.

This all makes sense. More and more people access the web on mobile devices, and it’s Google’s job to return to you what is user-friendly and relevant, or you won’t come back. The problem is, this will impact small local business owners the most, as many don’t have marketing departments or budgets to create responsive web sites, yet many of their customers rely on Google search to find local services. Google does aim to provide many robust resources to help developers prepare and optimize websites. You can even test if a site is mobile ready according to Google.

Google has been recommending responsive web design for years now, but this is the first time they have officially announced that it will have an impact on search as a result.