Finding Humanity In An Era Of Change

A perspective from Cannes 2018

By Sharon Love – CEO, TPN

 

Awards for Creativity. Big data. Provocative speakers. Branded beaches. Yachts, parties, concerts, and rose… Some aspects have remained the same over time but the annual Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity has definitely undergone some change—even in the four short years I’ve attended. Beyond the greater presence of big media platforms and the continuing corporate dynamic, there felt to me, this year, a shift in the posture of our industry. A humbling pivot that’s put many marketers in a defensive position. And for good reason. In a moment of transparency concerns, a tech explosion, and the fight for equality and inclusion, how does an agency or brand survive and thrive? The answer may be to rediscover our humanity.

 

Embracing the human spirit in creativity

The list of jobs gobbled up by robots grows each year. And today it seems feasible that new technology, big data, and in-house creative shops may replace the “agency” as we’ve known it to date. Angela Ahrendts—formerly CEO of Burberry, currently SVP, Retail, Apple— went on the offensive at Cannes during her panel “Reimagining the Retail Experience” championing the value of “the human business” with regards to technology, the digital boom, and the future of retail. She acknowledged the importance of technology (she works for Apple, after all!) but was purposely focused on the need for the human touch. At TPN, we share her opinion that retail isn’t dying, it’s merely changing. That truth was complemented in another great panel, “The Not So Secret Life of Creatives”, where they discussed how Pinterest lets you play in a virtual world to generate ideas that you later cultivate in the offline world. My takeaway? Those of us that adapt the most efficiently and find that right balance of man-and-machine will win moving forward.

 

Seeing each other human-to-human

As marketers, an important part of what we owe our clients is a clear delineation of who their target audience is. No one today should be wasting time or money marketing to the wrong person, even slightly. Data has made us more accurate, in a lot of ways. But as I listened to Faith Popcorn’s session, “The Death of Masculinity and its Impact on Creativity”, I was reminded of the limitations of big data. Her take on the constant blurring definitions of masculinity and femininity, and beyond, cannot be captured in data. It’s too nuanced and shifting. Perhaps one way to ensure we’re connecting with our audience in the right ways is to view them as people as opposed to males, females or other gender labels. That would allow us to avoid offensive or alienating stereotypes. Wherever we can, we should ask ourselves how we’d like to be approached by a brand—as a woman? As a man? Or perhaps just as a person of certain interests. That theme seemed to align well with the message Seth Farbman (CMO, Spotify) sent at his panel “Creativity in the Age of Resistance”. He highlighted the voice they give to artists to make positive change—with themes of inclusivity and acceptance of all rising to the top. Seth stressed that using Spotify’s platform for positive change has become “an obligation”. The nature of your brand or platform, of course, figures largely into your ability to deliver this promise. But overall, the thought of steering clear of any level of stereotype and bias is a smart one for the times.

 

Fulfilling the equality promise

Many sessions focused on eliminating bias from our business—both in our internal company structures and in our work. The argument for gender and racial equality as a business imperative has been talked about for a long time and now there is conclusive evidence that companies who have a diverse workforce and leadership team deliver better results than those who do not. Early in the discussions about the importance of diversity, the moral imperative for equality had to take a back seat to business to get all the people who needed to hear it onboard. So why are some brands so slow to act on this and clean up their act? I just saw on Facebook this morning an old friend bemoaning the back of her (unnamed here) breakfast cereal box. It was a heartland story of where the grains had been raised for the cereal and featured the family of farmers who had grown it—there was not ONE female in the picture! It was kind of shocking. But there is reason for hope that the cereal box debacle will be a thing of the past. At one of my favorite panels, “Agents of Change”, featuring Katie Couric, Queen Latifah, Madonna Badger, and Mark Pritchard—they shared that though 29% of ads still portray women negatively or inappropriately, that number is down from 51% just two years ago. It seems like the hard work is beginning to pay off. As Omnicom’s Chief Diversity Officer, Tiffany R. Warren stated in her panel “Diversity—a Values Issue and Business Imperative”: “Diverse teams mean diverse thinking. We need representation in front of and behind the camera at every level, so we can normalize what used to be marginalized.”

 

Applying the good in tech

The power to ‘do good’ using data & technology is very exciting—both as a human being and as a marketer. One compelling session I attended, entitled “Androids, AI and the Future of Creativity” touted a function of new technology as a way for humans to understand what it really means to be human—when you interact with a robot, you begin to appreciate the things it can’t do that a human can. But the flip side (the dark side, if you will) of what data & technology have already wrought is concerning. We need good and responsible data and tech to win the day. Simply vilifying data/tech as bad (taking our jobs way!) or dangerous (destroying our privacy, rigging our elections) is to ignore all of the good it can do, and has done. The opportunity to connect our audiences with relevant, uplifting, and helpful content has never been greater. Our customers look to us to provide helpful information. It’s a great responsibility. But as we work to utilize the ever-expanding network of data, and the power of platforms like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Instagram plus technology like AI, machine learning, and Voice, we need to (somehow) avoid fueling the increasing dependence our audiences have on mobile and social media as personal validation. As Scott Hagedorn, Chief Executive of Hearts & Science pointed out, it’s led to a rise in depression and anxiety (not to mention a polarizing political divide unlike anything we’ve ever seen). It will take human understanding and intervention to help brands utilize the power of data and technology in a transparent, positive, and ethical manner. And the ones who do so will win the ongoing trust of consumers.

 

For an industry a bit on its heels, the unity, positivity, and human spirit in the air at Cannes was palpable. Hopefully, as marketers, creators, thinkers, and—most importantly—humans, we continue to respect the huge responsibility we have to the brands and consumers we serve and harness our platforms and power to make real change, for good.

Why I don’t believe in “The Retail Apocalypse”

So much is being written about a “retail apocalypse” and many spent 2017 talking about the death of brick and mortar.

However, despite what pessimists might say, shoppers and data are telling us a slightly different story and the stats just don’t support such a doom and gloom situation…

  • 4,080 net new stores opened in 2017 (more than the number of stores that closed)
  • 71% of US shoppers still prefer to buy in-store (even if the product is available on-line)
  • 85% of US shoppers want to shop in-store because they want to “touch and feel” before they buy
  • 66% of millennial find store associates “extremely important to their shopping experience”

Sure, certain categories like Fast Fashion and Beauty have taken a hit in-store, but 2017 saw significant store count growth for the Dollars (General and Tree), value brands like T.J. Maxx, Grocers; Lidl and Aldi and beauty brands Sally Beauty and Ulta are demonstrating that brick and mortar retailers are still essential in today’s shopping ecosystem.

An evolution is taking place and brick and mortar retail is at the core.

What is changing are shoppers expectations and what they are looking for when they walk into a store. The right assortment at a good price is no longer enough. Today’s shoppers want more AND they want what they want immediately and they want to have an enjoyable experience. The “currency” of shopper satisfaction is now comprised of Value, Convenience, Discovery and Experience tightly wrapped in Personalization and topped with a shiny bow that is Technology.

While this may sound complex, it represents an opportunity that brick and mortar stores are uniquely positioned to deliver if they take advantage of all of their assets and ensure they are working together toward a common goal of delivering on what the shopper wants. By leveraging an entire store environment, associates on the floor, internal systems/operations and the right technology, retailers can create a “surround sound” affect to ensure the shopper walks out satisfied.

To do this, brick and mortar retailers have to abandon the “one size fits all” approach and move towards having a variety of store footprints that can deliver different brand and shopping experiences. Showrooms, express, pop-up, shop in shops (and a few that have yet to be revealed) all have a purpose and are here to stay. Within those store types, successful retailers can define the role of their associates and provide them with the proper tools and tech to support all shopper needs from basic fulfillment to expert advice. Systems and operations must move beyond self-check-in and inventory-control to be truly connected and assist in the delivery of a seam-less, frictionless, even channel-less shopping experience. That is what shoppers want and expect today – even if retailers aren’t structured to deliver it that way. Connecting on-line to off-line is a retailer problem, not a shopper’s, and connecting all of their systems and operations is the way to do it and make it personalized.

Brick and mortar retailers must become more agile and nimble, accept that partnerships and acquisitions are necessary to remain relevant and succeed. And most importantly, retailers must understand that piloting, testing, measuring and learning are essential and critical to continued success.

Written By: Tracy Faloon, TPN Chief of Client Integration

 

Sources: IHL Group, TimeTrade survey, ChargeItSpot Study, Fortune, ChargeItSpot Study

CES 2018: More Connected Than Ever

Another successful CES is wrapping up and it did not disappoint.

While there were no major announcements this year, the event truly wowed and delivered more of everything: more speed due to 5G, more screens that fit in every space imaginable, more content to view, more ways to capture images, more ways to power devices, more ways to connect the online and offline worlds, the ability to understand more about you and the ability to automate tasks, like driving, so you have MORE time to do meaningful things.

In 2017, the big news was connected everything and the rise of Alexa. This year was a coming out party for Voice command. Whether its Alexa, Google, Bixby, Cortana or Siri you can magically talk to almost everything now in order to get information, get things done without the touch of a finger and instantly buy.

There was not one tech introduction that felt incredibly breakthrough. But, there were definite improvements and builds on past developments. As a marketer (and as a mom), its exciting to see more technology for the connected life. ARTIFICIALLY intelligent things are truly going to change our lives—how we do things, how we communicate, how we shop/buy. And, it gives us as marketers more ways to constantly connect with consumers and move them to engage or buy brands. From connected fridges to speakers—the route to reach consumers is becoming more complex and we have to be mindful of communicating to both the machine and the consumer in meaningful ways. A few examples…

Kohler Konnect – More from your bathroom

KOHLER Konnect, a new platform and suite of smart fixtures that can interact with owners through voice commands, adapt to user preferences and collect data to provide valuable water usage feedback. “When people talk about smart homes, they always leave out the bathroom,” Kohler innovation practices director David Funk explained. “We wanted to bring tech into the bathroom. Now you can talk to the mirror and ask it anything you would ask of an assistant.”

Samsung – More from everyday living

Samsung will also double down on smart home technology this year, promising to bring connectivity seen in its popular Family Hub smart fridges to other machines around the home.

Samsung Electronics’ Family Hub Refrigerator offers “connected living” and is both a storage and communication device. With a built-in screen on its door, family members can leave messages, see what’s in the fridge while at the store, adjust the thermostat or even check on a sleeping baby in the next room.

Users will be able to direct their vacuum cleaners or query milk expiration dates with a voice command. Samsung’s SmartThings network will connect to devices from other manufacturers, including Ring’s video doorbell, Philips Hue lights, and Netgear security cameras.

Polaroid – More from your moment

Have digital photos left you longing for something more … tangible?

Retro Meets Modern at CES with the first immersive Polaroid Originals experience showcased in a colorful and creative exhibit. Meet the Polaroid OneStep 2 camera – an analog instant camera that is a proud successor to the original Polaroid OneStep camera that democratized instant photography 40 years ago. Polaroid instant digital products are the perfect blend of retro instant prints and modern digital camera technology.

Written By: Amy Lanzi, TPN Managing Director, New York

Move over millennials. Tech-savvy boomers are here to stay.

Millennials are receiving a lot of attention these days.  They’re reportedly self-centered, entitled and can’t survive without technology.  And while Facebook usage is waning among the generation thanks to instant-gratification platforms such as Snapchat, what about older generations?

Both of my grandmothers – proud baby boomers – are on Facebook, use a computer daily and one even has an iPhone (gasp!).  They often comment about how they cannot keep up with technology, but in my opinion, they’re doing pretty well.

And according to a new study by Mashable and Statista, several technologies millennials may view as archaic are vastly prevalent among boomers – but they’re also adapting rather quickly to new tech.

While basic cell phones, desktop computers and VCRs are more popular among individuals 65 and older, they’re catching up to millennial youngsters in tablet and eBook reader usage.  Further, as millennials adapt to video streaming services, cable television companies may have to adjust marketing efforts toward older generations.

Click the infographic below for additional comparisons.

Technology

http://www.statista.com/chart/1759/technology-adoption-among-americans-of-different-age/

2013: The Year of Deal-Seeking

Google released its top-searched items of 2013, and Kohl’s, JCPenny and Nordstrom graced the top spots on the apparel brands and retailers list.  Following the top three included Forever 21, Old Navy and Macy’s.

What do these retailers have in common?  All were searched along with terms that indicated shoppers were looking for a deal or price reduction.  For example, Nordstrom shoppers were most likely looking for Nordstrom Rack in their searches.

But this trend of looking for good deals is not exclusive to online retailers.  Shoppers are also more likely to negotiate prices in-store, thanks to multiple resources.

Brick and mortar shoppers now have an arsenal of never-ending resources in the form of smartphones.  Price-checking in-store, or showrooming, has quickly become the norm, and retailers have had no choice but to find creative ways to fight back and ensure in-store sales remain strong.

Best Buy is one of those retailers and is offering a price-match guarantee this year.  What does this mean?  Customers can bargain.  Prices are no longer set in stone.  If a shopper finds a cheaper price online, Best Buy will work with them to keep that sale in-store.

The future of retail is changing rapidly and with each new technological advancement, shoppers get smarter about what they are willing to pay for products and services.  Brands and retailers will also have to continue to get smarter, adopting new technologies and policies that will ensure both in-store and online channels thrive.

Macy’s Gets Active to Draw Millennials to Stores

In an effort to attract a younger audience, Macy’s will introduce a wider array of athletic apparel to its stores this month.  Brands will include Nike, Under Armour and the North Face, among others.

“We are working with the best brands in the category to bring our customers exciting merchandise that will serve their athletic interests in all endeavors — from the yoga studio to the weight room, to hiking and rock climbing,” said Jeff Gennette, Macy’s chief merchandising officer.

It’s no surprise that the department store saw an opportunity for growth in the category, as athletic apparel is key among Millennials, who are already purchasing two to three times more clothing than previous generations.

Further, athletic apparel is no longer just for working out.  These days, Millennials want to look good in their athletic gear while at the gym or running errands, making it “lifestyle” apparel, more than anything else.  This category shift has been also a driving force behind the success of Lululemon Athletica, the third most successful U.S. retail store in 2012.

Macy’s introduction of additional athletic brands will also include kiosk technology to further create a bridge between in-store and online shopping, allowing shoppers to find any brand in any store.

Feature Photo Credit: spafinder.com

Test Drive for McDonald’s Happy Table

Venturing into new territory, a McDonald’s in Yishun, Singapore is testing driving a new form of in-store entertainment with the Happy Table. With the help of NFC (near field communication) stickers placed on the underside of the table, DDB Group Singapore is bringing a new playing field for games to the restaurant.

As shown in the video, people, in this case children, can use smartphones to communicate with the NFC stickers to play games across the table. A whole new world of gaming becomes easily accessible and unveils another excuse for families to linger a little longer in the restaurant, maybe to grab one more drink while they’re hanging out. And while I’d like to think such a game might allow for more peace at the table, I can’t help but wonder how this pans out when the number of children outnumbers the number of smartphones available in Mom’s purse. But I digress.

The simplicity of this technology, from the installation of simple stickers to the basic methods of playing the games, make the Happy Table seem like a no-brainer. Once this pilot program at the single location ends, rollout plans are in the works to spread to more McDonald’s across Asia. How long with it take for the Happy Table to cross the pond to the states? No dates confirmed as of yet.

NFC has not hit mainstream USA, though with every new iPhone or latest mobile phone release, people anxiously await for NFC capabilities to be incorporated. However, it’s easy to see that NFC is drawing closer and closer on the horizon. An NFC-driven concept like the Happy Table could easily be translated into any number of ways. Perhaps, Barnes & Noble could incorporate NFC to its play tables at story time or Starbucks could implement simple games into its tables, with varying games that could appeal to children or to the procrastinating college student taking a study break.

Along those lines, why not have these NFC stickers strategically-placed by the sitting areas in malls, near chairs/tables placed for resting in retailers, or at the beverage station in a convenience store etc, all with the purpose of quick games to increase engagement with their surroundings, when people might otherwise disengage into Facebook posts or their own games or texting their friends. Because at the end of the day, it’s the engagement that will keep your store/product/brand top of mind and keep them coming back for more.

Credits: Youtube, DDB Group Singapore, FastCo

PHOTOS: TPN Chicago Hosts First Google Glass MeetUp

TPN Chicago’s Manolo Almagro and Brad Kleinman hosted a Google Glass MeetUp on Tuesday, Aug. 20, giving Glass enthusiasts a chance to discuss the technology, and for many, use Glass for the first time.  Attendees came from various backgrounds including healthcare, fitness, marketing, retail, technology and media, creating lively discussion about the implications of wearable technology across disciplines.

Check out the gallery below for photos of the event, and for more information, join the Google Glass Explorers of Chicago MeetUp group here.

What Does a Yawn Get You These Days?

A cup of coffee. Yes, a yawn can “buy” you a cup of coffee. A campaign from Dutch coffee company Douwe Egberts uses a gussied-up coffee vending machine with facial recognition software to dole out free cups of coffee to weary airport travelers in need of a pick-me-up, all for the cost of a yawn. Called “Bye Bye Red Eye,” the campaign served coffee to more than 210 airport passengers.

I love this. It seems like a simple match of technology and creativity put to use in a way that’s a perfect fit. People who are tired often drink coffee. People who are tired often yawn. Bam! An engaging platform is born to get people talking about their coffee.

Facial recognition, or recognition technology in general, as currency mixed with a vending machine with a seems like it could apply to a variety of brands. Smile for a Hershey’s bar or a Pepsi. Roll or smack your lips for a Chapstick. Sneeze for a box of Kleenex. Granted, this would be a promotional spin on these items as brands can’t pay the bills with smiles or kisses, but it would be fun nonetheless.

Watch the video without yawning. I dare you.

Image Credits: YouTube, DouweEgbertsSA, Getty