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Tek Pulse: Science news you can use to build your brand

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

Editor’s Note: This a reposting of the Tek Pulse, a regular blog roundup of the latest and greatest science news McKenzie Worldwide puts together for our client Tektronix. Blog features like this are an affordable way to build your company’s social presence and drive traffic to your website. Drop us a line to learn how we can do the same for you.

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1. Can the donut-shaped magnet ‘CAPPuccino submarine’ hunt for dark matter? Institute for basic science, January 23, 2017, EurekAlert – Scientists have taken a big step forward in the hunt for dark matter. Everything we see accounts for just four percent of the Universe, the rest is dark energy and dark matter. However, we have never been able to directly detect dark matter. One possible dark matter particle is an axion, but special technology is needed to catch their presence. Currently, scientists in South Korea are in the process of building such technology, using haloscopes. Haloscopes contain resonant cavities immersed in an extra-strong magnetic field. The magnets in the haloscopes are the most important feature and in order to find the axion, the team had to develop a new kind of magnet shaped like a donut, called toroidal magnets. The next step is to develop and prototype new machines in the hunt for dark matter.  For the full article check out EurekAlert.

2. New design strategy for longer lasting batteries, Amanda Morris, January 23, 2017, TechXplore –With every charge and discharge cycle on a smartphone its battery capacity decreases, eventually rendering the device useless. In most cases, this degradation is due to the cathode in the device. Now a professor at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering has developed a solution. He created a computational design strategy that can pinpoint optimal materials to coat the cathode in lithium-ion batteries, thus extending the device’s battery and its life. The coatings could provide a barrier around the cathode to prevent degradation from hydrofluoric acid or may react positively with the acid so there’s none left to harm the cathode. The bottom line is, using computation as a design strategy quickly narrows down the potential materials to a manageable number to test experimentally, which will result in the accelerated development of many new materials in the future. For more information visit TechXplore.

3. Highly entertaining: Algorithm watches movie trailer and identifies objects in real time, Heather Hamilton, January 23, 2017, Electronic Products – Recent improvements have increased the speed and accuracy that algorithms can successfully identify objects. Now, a new algorithm called Yolo-2 (Yolo is an acronym for You Only Look Once) can identify multiple objects within the same image. A team of researchers developed and tested their algorithm on the “Wolf of Wall Street” movie trailer with a threshold of .15, meaning the algorithm will only react to objects detected with a confidence of 15 percent or higher. The team claims that Yolo-2 has many advantages over similar systems. For instance, it can look at the entire image so its predictions are informed by global context in the image and Yolo-2 is 100 to 1,000 times faster than other algorithms. For the full story check out Electronic Products.

4. Ultrafast Camera Captures ‘Sonic Booms’ of Light for First Time, Charles Q. Choi, January 20, 2017, LiveScience – A new superfast camera has captured the first ever video of sonic booms. Sonic booms are cone-shaped wakes of light or “Mach Cones.” Sonic booms are created by events like an aircraft flying at supersonic speeds. To capture video of the event, an optical engineer and colleagues at Washington University in St. Louis developed a “streak camera” that could capture images at speeds of 100 billion frames per second in a single exposure. There are other imaging systems that can capture ultrafast events, but they require hundreds, or even thousands, of exposures before they can see them. This new system, on the other hand, can record such events in one exposure. The team says their technique could be useful for recording events in complex biomedical contexts, such as watching neurons fire and to image live traffic in the brain. For more information visit LiveScience.

5. And lastly, the most popular Tektronix download of the week goes to – Worldwide Spectrum Allocations Poster. For all the International Frequency Allocations, right at your fingertips, download this colorful poster.

Download your copy today!

Enterprise transformation – Is it real this time?

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

Over the past 20 years or so that I’ve been involved in the enterprise software industry, I’ve heard endless predictions about how the industry is going to dramatically change and how this technology or that technology, or new delivery models like software as a service are going to put the established vendors out of business.

As far as I can tell, not that much has actually changed. Sure enterprises are using some cloud apps and improving mobile device support. But where the rubber actually meets the road, enterprises are still running their own infrastructures and closely guarding their content and data behind layers of IT administrators. The players aren’t changing much either, with Microsoft, Oracle, IBM and SAP accounting for the lion’s share of revenues.

IDC FutureNow, for its 2016 industry predictions IDC is saying that converging technology forces – primarily mobile computing, cloud services, big data and analytics, and social networking – will lead to wholesale digital transformations that will essentially blow up everything we know about enterprise software today. As enterprises embrace emerging technologies, IDC predicts we’ll see the creation of what it’s calling the “DX economy.”

According to IDC, besides determining the winners in nearly every industry – the companies that embrace the new technologies will win while those who don’t will lose – the DX economy will fracture the enterprise software industry. Per IDC’s press release about its research:

Nearly a third of today’s IT suppliers will be acquired, merged, downsized, or significantly repositioned. In this environment, enterprises will have to constantly monitor and assess the solutions offered by their suppliers and partners and be prepared to realign these relationships as needed.

Talk about disruption.

But the big question is whether IDC is right. Is this the moment when the enterprise software industry truly changes, or is this just another hype cycle?

Both sides have a case. On one side, you have the massive investments enterprises have already made in hardware and software which simply aren’t going anywhere. On the other, you have increasingly tech-savvy customers demanding a more cohesive and personalized experience than ever before. There’s also the much-discussed Internet of Things (IoT) that IDC says will be a “fertile area” for DX.

There’s little question that digital transformation is one of the hottest topics in the enterprise space today. But is it real or just another passing fad? Let us know what you think.

In your spare time, be sure to head over to IDC’s FutureScape landing page to soak in a series of 33 on-demand presentations covering many different industries and market segments. Full disclosure: I have not actually watched them all, but many do look promising. I’m interested in learning what’s up with wearables, for instance.

Come check out Simon Sinek’s Talk in NYC on July 11

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Simon Sinek, author of “Start With Why,” will be speaking at a special breakfast presentation from 8:30– 10:30 a.m. at the ACE Hotel in New York City on July 11th.

Come have breakfast with Simon and leave inspired and armed with the right arguments for why you should fight to keep your personal and organizational aspirations at the center of the conversation. You’ll learn why “starting with Why” will inspire everyone in your organization to take  action.

To RSVP, go here.

Customer Engagement and Design Experience Key to Brand Building

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Over the years, I’ve found it fascinating to see how different marketing and creative disciplines define “brand.” My favorite: brand = logo. While the logo is an important visual output of the brand experience, to say that a brand is fully represented by its logo is ignoring a much bigger picture.

Apple is perhaps one of the most obvious companies that truly understands the full view of what it takes to build a powerful brand. This understanding is integrated into its packaging and product design. The marketers at Apple have mastered the customer engagement experience in their stores. Even the clothes Steve Jobs wears are part of the brand experience. And this doesn’t even touch the online experience, cultivation and nurturing of their followers, advertising, PR and overall marketing strategy. All that Apple does makes customers feel they are part of something hip and cool. With a few exceptions of course (that iPhone antennae issue sure didn’t help, but enormous brand equity certainly softened the impact).

This past week Microsoft showed it still has a handle on creating a powerful brand experience with the launch of Xbox Kinect. As the company moves to show Xbox providing something for everyone and being more than a gaming console, it created experiences that connected people to the brand. The launch event in Times Square alone positioned Xbox Kinect as the hottest thing on the market, with dancers showing off the capabilities with R&B star Ne-Yo at center stage. Throughout the year the company has created hands-on experiences for consumers to bring them close to the products and connect them to the brand. Microsoft just raised their forecasted holiday sales for the product from 3 to 5 million based on pre-sales and initial sales since last week’s launch, indicating their brand engagement and launch strategy will pay off. Time will tell in the coming weeks as holiday sales numbers are released.

The moral of these stories? When thinking about your brand, it’s important to consider how you weave the experience through every touch point you have with your target audiences — from your sales associates, retail presence, customer support and Web site to creating experiences that engage consumers directly via events and social media. And design together with innovation plays a critical role, especially in the consumer market where it can make or break the sale.

 Who are the companies you think truly get “branding?”

There Seems to be a “Gap” at the Gap

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

There’s been a lot of buzz recently about the Gap’s release of a new logo, which the company said intended to “modernize” the brand. Unfortunately, the brand fell prey to the powers of social media, with thousands of customers complaining about the new logo and asking for a return to the original.

There was a reactive effort to crowd-source the logo after the complaints started rolling in, but it appears the decision was already made by the public that Gap should return to the original blue box design. What a missed opportunity! Had they started with community engagement, they could have created an incredible relationship with their customers- particularly with a younger demographic, whom based on my observation are not as connected to the brand.

In other Gap news, NPR recently ran a report on the Gap’s move into China and how its approach is raising question as to whether they will be successful. While in days past American brands would be accepted as is, many countries now want personalization. Even Starbucks, which is all about brand consistency, has created a Coffee Jelly Frappuccino for China to appeal to the popularity in this local market. The Gap, on the other hand, believes it must maintain the same consistency worldwide and is making little modification (with the exception of sizing).

Time will tell on this one, but this could be a very interesting case study on brands that failed to embrace the new era of socialization, customer engagement, personalization and localization.

On a related note, if you’d like to create your own “modern” Gap-like logo, visit Crap Logo Yourself (one of many sites poking fun at the company).

Bloggers Speak Out: Give Us Substance and Hold the Hyperbole

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Engaging bloggers is a careful art, particularly those who are not affiliated with the media. PR professionals have been ostracized for sending bloggers spam mails and press releases, and several brands have been blasted over the years for sending “gifts” that were perceived as “bribery”.

The simple rules of blogger engagement over the years have been:

1.       Be transparent on who you are and who you represent

2.       Read the blog thoroughly before engaging

3.       Blogger relationships should not be approached as transactional; Make the engagement conversational versus a pitch (specifically with those who are not journalists)

4.       If you’re sending product, make sure to make it is super clear there are no strings attached

5.       Avoid buzzwords

6.       DO NOT SPAM

Recently, two bloggers added some thoughts to the list I found interesting.

The Reinvigorated Programmer wrote a piece called “How to Render a Press Release Tolerable”. Their advice: pull out all the adjectives and get to the point.  Examples used:

Original:

PRLog (Press Release) – Oct 01, 2010 – Newburyport, MA. October 1, 2010 — eZuce Inc. has          developed strategic alliances with several of today’s leading technology vendors to enhance its open       unified communications solutions portfolio. Through collaborative development efforts and ongoing      integration testing and certifications, eZuce delivers next generation technology innovations that         address the demanding, complex requirements of enterprises and enables customers to seamlessly             transition from their existing legacy (IP) PBX systems.

Don’t your eyes just slide right off this when you try to read it?  Now let’s get rid of the adjectives:

PRLog (Press Release) – Oct 01, 2010 – Newburyport, MA. October 1, 2010 — eZuce Inc. has             developed strategic alliances with several of today’s leading technology vendors to enhance its open   unified communications solutions portfolio. Through collaborative development efforts         and ongoing integration testing and certifications, eZuce delivers next generation technology     innovations that address the demanding, complex requirements of enterprises and enables customers             to seamlessly transition from their existing legacy(IP) PBX systems.

[I was generous; I allowed “technology”, “solutions”, “integration” and “technology” (again) to         survive.]

Mark McLeod Hendrickson also recently wrote about how to pitch the likes of TechCrunch, GigaOm, VentureBeat or ReadWriteWeb. His advice- carefully craft your narrative and make sure it’s thought provoking. Simply sending facts won’t get anywhere.

Hendrickson outlines six types of the most common types of narratives and recommends crafting pitches around one or more of these types of angles.

  1. Competitive or Political Drama – aka “company X releases product Y to kill company Z”
  2. Gossip – “CEO of company X gets tangled up in Y”
  3. Insight – “trend X will change the world because of A, B, and C”
  4. Evolution & Confluence – “service Y is like X for Z, capitalizing on the recent developments of A and B”
  5. Success – “company X has created super impressive technology Y, is growing fast, or has made lots of money”
  6. Failure – “company X is dying or has messed something up”

In many ways, this follows the same rules as pitching business media. They aren’t interested in the product announcement (unless it is a breakthrough or from one of the major players). They’re interested in new trends, controversy, competitive tension, customer stories and the bigger picture impact.

The moral of the story: If you lead with a product announcement, aren’t clued into what the blogger cares about and don’t think through a compelling narrative, you’re wasting your time.

Oh, and hold the adjectives!

News Consumption Up, but How Do You Get the Coverage?

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Pew Research issued a recent report indicating that American’s are consuming more news coverage than they have in the past decade. With the rise in ways we can consume news- from traditional outlets such as radio, TV and local newspapers to new online sources- American’s are averaging 70 minutes a day. This does not account for digital and social platforms such as accessing news from phones or getting news updates from social networks (according to The Nielsen Company, our time on social networks grew by 43 percent this past year).

While these figures are inspiring, many companies face the increasing challenge of obtaining media attention. With the move to online news, media outlets are focused on stories that will drive hits or on stirring the pot in order to spur user dialog and debate. At the same time, the economic conditions and uncertainty about online models have led to shakeouts and layoffs across the publishing landscape. This means coverage tends to tilt toward the big dogs.

To compete, small and medium sized companies have to get extra crafty when it comes to the battle for coverage. In light of today’s climate, what can a company do in the race for news coverage? Here are a few tips:

  • Create packaged stories: Because there are fewer reporters, the need for fully packaged stories is greater than ever. Before you release your news, make sure you have strong data, customer and analyst references, strong visuals and a powerful angle. Even better- intertwine a bit of tension into the story. While these have always been the rules of a good pitch, they are imperative for getting noticed now. There just isn’t time for the reporter to go back and forth to piece it all together anymore. If it’s all ready to go, you’ll increase your chances.
  • Podcasts and video: Media are crying out for multimedia content to liven up their websites. For your next announcement, issue your release with a link to a podcast or vodcast and offer these up to the media and bloggers for their sites. Media demand is high for this type of content as their readers gravitate toward audio and video as preferred formats.
  • Zero in on outlets you know will get syndicated: For smaller companies, getting widespread, standalone news stories can be a challenge. Select one to two news outlets you know will get syndicated and focus your efforts on driving coverage with these outlets. If you select the right sources, the coverage can spread like wild fire across other media sites, blogs and lead to viral sharing on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Be your own media source: Don’t forget to incorporate your own news distribution vehicles into the strategy. Your company blog, Twitter and Facebook should also be built into your plan, including teasers and day of coverage. And encourage your internal teams to share the news as well.

As a recent example, McKenzie Worldwide worked with our client Open Text this week to debut ECM Suite 2010, the company’s most significant announcement of the year. To drive maximum results, we crafted a fully packaged story which included a podcast from the CTO to frame the significance of the announcement, a vodcast to outline customer benefits, product screenshots, industry data to provide context for why the product is relevant, and a press release to wrap together the full narrative. Press are responding positively to having everything at their fingertips- from visuals and data to executive perspective and multimedia content . Check out CMSWire for a great example of how this all came together in one story.

Have a strategy or tactic that has worked particularly well for you? What challenges is your company facing in garnering media attention?

Successful Brands Get Personal

Monday, September 13th, 2010

This past week I was reminded of the importance for brands to not only understand their target audience(s), but find ways to get personal with individuals. This was spurred by an email I received from Groupon with the subject line “New: Personalize Your Groupon Deals”.

Having suffered Groupon fatigue from the influx of irrelevant offers, I was quite excited to see their effort to personalize the experience. Unfortunately, when I went to the site to take the survey, they only asked for my gender, birth date and zip code. They missed an incredible opportunity to learn more about my interests and preferences and thereby create a strong, long-term relationship based on truly customized deals (not my zip code).

In today’s world, understanding your target demographic is not enough. People expect to have a personal relationship with brands, so companies must take an extra step to understand psychographics- any attributes relating to personality, values, attitudes, interests, or lifestyles.  Netflix and Amazon do a stellar job of this through employing technology that learns about their subscriber’s preferences and then offering up relevant recommendations. There is something very powerful about feeling a company really knows you, and accomplishing this is nearly impossible if the engagement strategy is based off of broad sweeps of demographic profiles.

There’s an interesting parallel between brand engagement and media engagement. Good PR professionals know they must carefully research their target influentials. It’s essential to know what they’ve written about and what topics they care about before approaching them. I’ve seen many instances over the years of PR professionals get slammed for spamming reporters and bloggers with cookie cutter pitches, resulting in irritation, no coverage and deteriorated credibility. In many instances, the guilty “blanket pitcher” who didn’t take the time to get to know their target gets redirected to the junk folder (or worse, called out publicly in an article or blog post).

The lesson for brands: find ways to get to know your customers on a more intimate level or you too are likely to be overlooked.

What brands do you think do a good job of understanding their customers?

 

The Power of Multichannel Marketing

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

The power of video gaining viral legs can create incredible visibility for a brand. One of my personal favorites – the Evian roller babies – brought this brand back to life for me after moving it to the passé section of my mind sometime in the 90s. However, even though I loved the video, I still haven’t been motivated to pick up a bottle. I just smile when I see the logo and pay heed to the creative talent who developed the video.

 

Interestingly, Evian started running the ads on TV a few months ago. Apparently the sales pipeline thinned out from the online push and they’re trying another approach.

This week, SymphonyIRI released the latest sales data for Old Spice body wash, the product that has risen to the number one most viewed video spot thanks to the muscular Isaiah Mustafa sending messages from the shower.

Bad news Mustafa – sales are down. Apparently these past four weeks, the campaign has been running without a corresponding coupon, leaving consumers less motivated to purchase. Sales have dropped 30-33 percent since the buy one, get one free sales promotion ended, giving Mustafa quite a bit less muscle on his own.

This serves as an important reminder that motivating target audiences to take action requires more than an entertaining video. Today, capturing a consumer’s attention takes a minimum of 3-5 touch points from multiple sources. Companies must create 360 degree campaigns which reach their targets in all the places they are engaged — media, blogs, point of purchase, social networks, online video sites, events, etc.  And there has to be a compelling call to action and/or incentive. For the general consumer, coupons are particularly hot right now as the recession has conditioned us to look for ways to save.

Regardless of your target audience, the importance of having a multichannel marketing plan is imperative. A one legged stool just won’t stand up. Unless of course your only goal is to be the number one viewed video and have people smile at your water bottles. And let’s not forget – viral isn’t a given, so even this goal has no guarantee.

What brands do you think are the best success stories when it comes to multi-channel marketing? Failures?

Crisis Management 101 Gone Bad

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

The New York Times ran an interesting piece this past weekend (“In Case of Emergency: What Not to Do”) on what can be learned by crisis management mistakes made by such industry-leading companies as BP, Toyota and Goldman Sachs.

There’s been a lot of discussion over the past several years about how crisis management has changed, particularly with social networks providing a much bigger stage for issues to catch instant fire. We saw this play out most recently with JetBlue, a topic my colleague Rob Goodman discussed earlier this week.

While the need for greater speed, broader engagement strategies and approach to the tone of messaging are a clear change (and in some cases such as JetBlue, what business decisions should be made), it struck me that many of the fundamentals of crisis management have and will always remain the same. And yet, companies still seem to fail at these basics:

1)      Put those who are impacted first. Having managed several crises in my career, I’ve seen the initial defensiveness and temptation to shift blame set right out of the gate.  All the while those who have been or could be impacted get lost. First things first- make sure you’ve expressed sincere concern, start taking immediate action and let the public know what they need to do. Unfolding how things happened and where fingers should be pointed can wait.

2)      Never blame the customer. The NYT piece provides some great examples of how this has backfired, particularly when Audi blamed customers for acceleration issues that led to hundreds of crashes in the 1980s. Even if true, better to explain how to avoid a crash than blatantly say it’s the customers fault.

3)      Know your full situation before making bold claims. In the case of Toyota, they clearly didn’t have a clear perspective on what was causing their acceleration issues, but still moved forward with offering explanations. The problem: turns out their explanations weren’t entirely true, and they were further exposed when the full story was revealed. Better to say you are still evaluating the issue than offer up or provide the wrong answer.

4)      Never lie. This one goes without explanation. One hundred percent guaranteed you’ll get caught. It amazes me that companies (and people) still think they’ll get away with it. Bill Clinton? Steroid users in baseball? Just a few examples.

5)      Have a crisis plan in place. For many companies, crisis is inevitable. Having at least the basics in place for when that time hits is imperative, and yet, so many are left in a scramble because they were in a state of denial. This is a guaranteed recipe for a double crisis- the one at hand, and the one with PR teams, executives and lawyers wasting precious hours trying to figure out what to do.

It amazes me that such established and sophisticated brands outlined in this article missed the boat on these fundamentals which have remained true for eons. I can see not understanding how to implement social media into the strategy, but making claims before you know the full truth? Ouch.

What other companies do you think botched the basics? Which companies do you think have handled a crisis situation wisely?


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