Top 7 Toughest Marketing Challenges

Top 7 Toughest Marketing Challenges
This is a great time to be in marketing. It’s also a very tough time to be in marketing. I’ve been marketing technology and biotech for over 25 years and co-founded the ad creative awards program Ice Awards in 2001. I’ve never seen such challenges. Let’s take a look.
  1. Digital Ad Conundrum: Brands are increasingly shifting their budgets to digital channels. This is a boon and a nightmare for agencies. With ad blockers on the rise and consumers learning to ignore ads it creates a conundrum for marketers.
  2. Marketing Automation: With so many digital channels and the rise of mobile, the tech industry has responded with an abundance of marketing automation tools. The challenge for marketers is to find the right mix and then there’s the challenge of #1 above coming into play.
  3. Analytics Overload: With all these digital tools comes a dearth of analytics. Social media monitoring, web analytics (each having their own methodology), Big Data analytics and so on. The debate on what to measure, how and why has been raging for well over a decade.
  4. Geopolitics: Digital channel giants Facebook, YouTube and Google are facing an ethical dilemma; monitoring for terrorism and human rights abuses and how much responsibility they bear. Marketers have to now be more aware than ever of geopolitical issues.
  5. Social Norms and Rules: With the current U.S. political climate and the earth’s climate, brands are making political and social stands unlike ever before. This can build brand loyalty and also alienate some segments. But marketers now have to have an eye on societal issues unlike ever before.
  6. Educating Marketers: Look at almost any marketing job description today and brands are calling for skills/certifications in HubSpot, Google Ad Words and analytics…brands want skills universities are lagging behind on teaching. Students need to get certifications beyond a marketing degree just for entry level jobs.
  7. Emerging Technologies: From Virtual and Augmented Reality to Artificial Intelligence and cryptocurrencies. These technologies offer some exciting opportunities, but for marketers, the challenge is how to leverage them and when to invest.

These are the main challenges I see today. There are, no doubt, more. What do you see?

The Benefits of 3D Mapping Our World

The Benefits of 3D Mapping Our World
Most of us have used Google Maps at some point and some of us just about every day. Then there’s Apple’s Maps (which are slowly getting better.) A new company called Carmera is paving the road to 3D mapping not just for autonomous vehicles, but for architects and city planners. And it’s autonomous vehicles that most will think of for using 3D mapping. But it plays a bigger role in our society as we increasingly fuse the digital and physical worlds we occupy.
Beyond Vehicles and City Planning
As embed more and more sensors into devices from lamp posts to cars, buildings and windows, we’re going to be able to “map” our physical world in incredible ways. Here are some of the uses and advantages of 3D mapping our world;
Firefighting & Policing: Fire departments will have continuously updated information on cities and the buildings. Both police and fire can use VR and AR tools with 3D maps for training simulations. It can also provide criminal intelligence and help reduce risk for raids. Firefighters can constantly update plans and strategies for fire fighting.
Infestation Management: Rats, always the rats. And increasingly those urban pandas…raccoons. Using 3D mapping cities and pest control services can map infestation movements and develop countermeasures.
Insurance & Actuaries: Two groups that are hungry for data. They can use 3D maps of urban areas to help with risk analysis and predictive analytics for building insurance.
Healthcare: Hospitals can use 3D maps to plan ambulance routes and perhaps as part of epidemiology studies and preparations.
Logistics: Companies like FedEx and UPS or DHL could use 3D maps for planning delivery routes and drone delivery.
As always, technological advances find entirely new ways of being used that we can’t quite predict. Such as Twitter being developed as an ambulance dispatch tool; look how that turned out.
What interesting ways do you see 3D mapping being used in the near future?

Virtual Reality Has a Social Problem

Virtual Reality Has a Social Problem
To listen to the pundits, by Christmas 2017 we’ll all be diving under the tree for Virtual Reality goggles, from junior to senior, maybe even grandma too. Except, we won’t be. Microsoft just launched it’s tongue-twister flagship gaming console the Xbox One X (don’t say it too fast.) And it has no real support for VR. Nor does Sony’s PlayStation or Nintendo’s latest Switch.
Virtual Reality Has A Social Problem
For the most part, in the few games I’ve tried, VR is a rather solitary experience. Most VR games and approaches in development have been single-person focused. This largely makes sense since it is easier to develop technologies like this in the single person.
But console video games over the past decade have evolved very differently. Franchises like Call of Duty, Halo and Medal of Honour and sports games, thrived by being multiplayer in their very nature. The initial instalments of games like Halo and even sports games were 1-2 players and some online multiplayer. As broadband became less costly and more ubiquitous the game companies invested less and less in the story line, going for MRR (monthly recurring revenue) business models. Good for the gaming companies, but bad for the solitary nature of VR right now.
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Augmented Reality is the Transitional Technology
Pokemon. Enough said. Even Apple realizes the mid-term strategy is Augmented Reality (AR.) Consumers are far more comfortable to adapting to AR right now because they already have a smartphone that they’ve adapted into their way of living. Are you really going to slap on a pair of VR goggles in Walmart to go shopping? Exactly. But you’ll hold up your phone to see layered information on a product.
The Problem is the Hardware and the Socialization
VR goggles, even the simpler version you can slide a Samsung Galaxy into, are still a difficult technology for most people. You have to stop and put them on. And be vulnerable. Not something most people want to do in public. People aren’t comfortable blocking their senses in public. This is easier with AR, since you don’t block out your situational awareness. The lizard brain is still a strong factor.
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The secondary issue is the social factor of VR. It just isn’t very social. There just aren’t that many other people connected at the same time and few tools encourage or have socialization features. This is a problem in a world still trying to figure out social media a decade later. Are all your friends rushing out to by VR goggles?
The Short Term Prognosis for VR
For at least the next decade, VR will be a very specialized area. There is tons of economic opportunity for VR, don’t get me wrong. It’s a brilliant tool for trade skills, military, medical and technical training. The VR companies that understand this and focus in this way, will make money. They will also be ready for when mass consumer adoption is ready. But as a mass consumer technology? Not for a decade at least, if not longer.
In the meantime, look for advances in AR tools and those ever awkward eyeglasses.
What do you think?

How Your Job Will Get Better With Artificial Intelligence

How Your Job Will Get Better With Artificial Intelligence
There’s a lot of hype around Artificial Intelligence (AI) knocking out great swathes of jobs, from low-level administration all the way over to lawyers and doctors. Yes, to some degree. But that will be a while before it has a truly significant impact on the economy. Based on my work with clients across a number of industries and the role of AI, it’s more likely your job will be made better by AI, not worse. Let’s take a quick look.
The Mundane Stuff Goes Away
Almost every job role has mundane tasks, they may be quick but boring, or tedious. But they are almost always processes that involve the management of information; whether that be numerical or textual, it is all about information management. Today, AI does exceptionally well at repetitive, mundane, process driven tasks. Just because an AI system can do those tasks, doesn’t mean job loss for you. It means being able to spend more time doing what challenges you and benefits the company. Monday’s may not be so bad again…
Create More Career Opportunities
As AI takes on the mundane, this may give you more opportunities. Wise companies will deploy skills and job improvement educational programs via eLearning platforms. You’ll have opportunities to grow. How many certifications can you hang on your wall?
Relieve Some Stress
Taking on the boring stuff that can be stressful, will enable you to exercise the brain a bit more and take away some of that stress. This gives us a better chance at the elusive work/life balance challenge.
Enable Greater Cross-Team Functionality
As AI will help manage information flows and execute certain process driven tasks, this will enable, with those added skills you’ll get, greater cross-functional team projects. Companies will do better and so will employees.
More Interesting Jobs Will be Created
When ATM’s were introduced into banking, the assumption was no more human bank teller jobs. In fact the opposite happened. There are now more human tellers than ever. Because now tellers do more, have more responsibility and have increased their skills. It’s hard to imagine what jobs will be created, but they will be. That’s human nature.
So what do you think? Are there other ways your job might improve?

Technology & Society’s Big Questions

Technology & Society’s Big Questions
The hype around emerging technologies like blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI), self-driving cars, Big Data, home automation, drones and so on, is loud. The hopes of Alphabet, Microsoft, IBM, Apple, Amazon and others all rest on these technologies taking off. They all offer great opportunities to advance commerce, create and destroy jobs and make our world a better place. There are downsides to each as well, as it is with all technologies. The printing press enabled the exchange of knowledge, but also lead to a lot of arguing between academics…but there are some serious questions we’re going to have to deal with in the next few years. Here I take a look at some of them and maybe you’ll have one or two to add.
Free Will & Human Agency: While privacy has and continues to be a concern, the issues of free will and human agency could be even bigger. No more so than with predictive analytics. Imagine that you apply to university for a commerce undergrad and you’re rejected. Why? Because the university’s predictive analytics program saw that neither of your parents had a college degree and worked blue collar jobs, so no advanced education for you. Or you’re rejected for car insurance based on an AI algorithm. Does this take away your free will?
The Jobs Gap: It is likely that whole new jobs will be created from all these technologies. But they won’t happen overnight. If mass unemployment happens, that will mean no money to consume goods. Robots might be efficient, but if there’s no one to buy the goods they produce, they’re not much use. This will have to be addressed through government or corporate programs. Will Basic Income be a solution?
Who Owns Your Biologicals: There have already been legal battles over who owns their genome. This could get worse as we introduce 3D printing of human organs and perhaps even brain tissues.
The Underground Economy: Hundreds of millions of people around the world rely on “cash under the table” to survive. If we eliminate cash with technologies like blockchain and cryptocurrencies, tracking to taxation becomes easier and sliding money under the table not so easy. Is this okay?
There are many more big questions around these emerging technologies. In some cases these technologies may end up taking several decades to be truly integrated into our societies. Some may be stopped altogether or radically changed. Just how much should government regulate? Can corporations self-regulate?

Cutting Through the AI Hype

Cutting Through the AI Hype
For most of us, when the words Artificial Intelligence are in the story headline, news or in a movie, there is the image of some magical silicon brain that performs incredible feats of intellect. Problems solved and it is connected to everything so it can offer all kinds of sage advice. The reality is something quite different. I’ve done over 15 briefings on AI to C-suite executives this year alone. So what is the state of AI today really?
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The Artificial Intelligence Industry is a Hot Mess
The sector of the ICT industry that is focused on AI is really quite a mess. And that’s exactly where it should be right now. There are hundreds of startups and multinationals (i.e. IBM, Google, Microsoft) working on various approaches and solutions. Consumers may see IBM Watson, Siri and Alexa at the forefront, and they are good products for sure, but they are the ones with big marketing budgets behind them too. Investment into AI is across almost every industry from retail and banking to insurance and the energy industries. All with different approaches, viewpoints and technologies.-
AI is Nascent. So Are The Technologies it Relies On
As an industry sector, AI is fairly new, only really popping into the forefront in 2011 when heavy investments and venture capital started to get involved. The technologies that Artificial Intelligence relies on are the Cloud, Big Data, Internet infrastructure and data sciences. All of which are still fairly nascent.
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AI is comprised of a number of sub-disciplines such as Natural Language Processing (NLP), machine learning, data mining, predictive analytics and several others. Most of which are nascent.
There is No One Big AI Brain
Although it makes for great science fiction, there is no one big AI brain tucked away in a dark basement with awesome mood lighting. There are some very big computing rooms with massive air conditioning and energy usage though. But right now, companies like IBM, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Google and so on are very proprietary and very secretive for competitive reasons. Very few AI systems connect with other AI systems.
Artificial Intelligence Is Very Single Task Oriented
Just like men, AI is terrible at multi-tasking right now and for the next several years. Siri and Alexa are quite powerful, IBM Watson is amazing (disclosure; I use IBM Watson regularly for text analytics research projects and love it.) But when someone says to you “we have really cool AI in our product” they probably do, but it’s most likely only really good at doing one or two things like ordering a product or completing an information task. That’s it.
So What About The Big Brain?
For the next while, AI is going to be a hot mess. A very fractured industry with a lot of competing ideas. Some of the AI tools out there are really very, very good and they’re doing some truly amazing stuff with AI. Over the next few years, some jobs will be supplanted by AI and some cool products and companies will come along. But it’s going to be a while yet before theres any Big AI Brain out there.
What do you think?

Is Our Lizard Brain Technology’s Biggest Challenge?

Is Our Lizard Brain Technology’s Biggest Challenge?
Is it our basic survival instincts that are impacting our adoption of technology today? In the beginning, for hundreds of thousands of years, the technologies we developed were those of raw survival; tools to hunt for food, tools to prepare foods, clothes and shelter to develop. Language and sociocultural structures to establish rules of survival through cooperation. But this took a very, very long time. Technologies evolved slowly until the last hundred years. Now they’ve ramped up at an incredible pace. A rate we’ve never before witnessed as a species.
Advances in communications technologies such as the internet and the devices that enable the transfer and assembling of data into meaning (smartphones, computers etc.) mean we can share learned knowledge on a scale unlike ever before. Societies evolved because we learned how to communicate. It is this ability that lies at the very base of our social and cultural structures.
Technology Can’t Be Absorbed Fast Enough
Today, we are developing technologies so fast that I believe our species is struggling to integrate them into our social, cultural and economic systems. Perhaps it is our very basic sense of survival that tends to subconsciously reject or hold off on adopting new technologies.
We know in business that implementing new technologies in a company can be disastrous if not done with careful consideration of processes and how people work.
Case In Point: Social Media
Modern communications technologies enabled the rise of social media tools. Now, a decade later many businesses, governments and individuals are still struggling to understand what social media are, if they’re effective and why people even use them. Yet we do. If you’re reading this post, I’d wager that you know someone who thinks social media are a waste of time and useless. There were those that thought that of the printing press a few hundred years ago. And the telephone. And the television…and so on.
So What Does This Mean for Tech Companies, Society and the Economy?
Advances are so rapid that I think many societies, cultures and countries are struggling to find out how they are fitting into our social lives, business and economies. While some technologies like smartphones, laptops and tablets have reached a plateau, others like artificial intelligence and robots are advancing rapidly and they will impact our global economy. Home automation, self-driving cars, these too are going to have an impact.
I believe it is these sociocultural tensions with technology that are the biggest challenges for adoption of new technologies within society and business. Our “lizard brain” doesn’t see a lot of these technologies as crucial to our very survival – yet. Perhaps once we collectively, subconsciously, agree to the benefits, we will adopt them faster. But how to get there? The technology may be evolving rapidly, but are our social structures?
What do you think?