In this modern age where ‘me time’ is ‘screen time’; innovative marketing strategies are dependently linked to technology. From the mediums through which brand messages are served, to the back-door algorithms that silently churn through your data, brands now more than ever before need to be mindful of how the latest technology can profit their businesses.
A good place to browse the latest technology is the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). At the beginning of each year, the world’s largest tech convention brings together the best and brightest thinkers in the industry to humble-brag, share and show-off their newest electronics.
This years CES highlighted that even the most seemingly simple consumer products have innovated to stay relevant to consumers. One example is the recently unveiled Kerastase smart hairbrush, which measures the health of your hair as well as the effectiveness of your hair care treatments. Another is the Swimwear brand, Spinali Design that has developed a smart bikini that can tell you when your skin is getting burnt. These two examples are categories that one would not immediately associate with technology, yet they seem to be breaking boundaries and are well on their way to infiltrating our daily lives while, at the same time, gathering reams of important data for their brands.
With ‘innovate or die’ being the harsh theme song for marketers around the globe, it’s clear that the brands that are going to survive in their respective fields are the ones that are building technology into their products so that they seamlessly embed themselves into the lives of their consumers. Moreover, we believe that businesses that use technology to be ‘better for’ consumers and not simply ‘better than’ competitors will achieve an even greater advantage.
New technologies such as facial recognition, ‘intelligent assistants’ and robots are pulling consumers ever closer to tech and in the process, shaping the future of industries, as we know them.
We have identified four technologies from #CES2017 that present marketers with new ways to engage with consumers and more importantly, technology that could enable brands to make a meaningful impact in communities and society.
1. The personification of tech
With the world headed towards a more tech-enabled environment, marketers need to apply empathy and contextual understanding in how they use technology for product development.
At CES, Kuri, a robo-nanny developed by Mayfield Robotics, stole the hearts of many through its friendly and bubbly interface. Designed by a Pixar animator, the complicated technology has since become more relatable through its clever design.
Closer to home, we have seen the personification of tech in Absa’s relentless push of their banking app through adverts featuring a humorous robot named Bot. This is a great example of how making technology relatable, can overcome barriers created by the intimidating complexity of electronics.
This technology could also help inform solutions for societal issues in South Africa. Public-private funded robo-nannies could monitor aftercare students in busy community centres, when their parents are working shifts.
2. Facial recognition mapping
Facial recognition, the technology used to identify or verify a person’s identity, has been adapted and developed to read emotions. This new application of the technology could turn customer profiling on its head and provide a plethora of useful data to inform sales and business strategy.
Hubble’s Hugo Cam (another marvel out of #CES2017) can read human emotion. According to reports written about the show, in a hypothetical scenario, the Hugo could be set up in a child’s room; if it sees that the baby looks unhappy, it can send a message to the parent, or start playing soothing music.
More intriguing than this little bot is the extension of the technology into retail. Imagine if your webcam picked up that you needed something to lift your mood and asked you if you felt like an ice cream or a cup of tea?
The above examples solve ‘problems’ that are relatable for the wealthier contingent. Perhaps a tool to tackle crime would be more useful. What if this technology could be used as a safety device in high-risk public areas to monitor and pick up the behaviour of potential predators and criminals?
3. How does your brand sound in the digital world?
With a little army of ‘intelligent assistants’ in the form of Siri, Alexa and Cortana buzzing through many an eardrum, we anticipate that verbal communication will have a larger share of voice than ever before. As text powered searches are complemented by this new functionality, we should start thinking about how our brands will sound in the digital world.
For example, what if Siri responded to consumers researching a place to eat with, “Feel like something flame-grilled, or finger lickin’ good?” This ‘second dimension’ of SEO advertising highlights a huge opportunity for brands to boldly and creatively put themselves in situ.
4. Everything including the kitchen syncs
From smart vacuum cleaners, roaming through your living room to a wall socket that conjures up sound waves to lull you to sleep, a connected home is something that is moving out of Hollywood and into our homes.
Associated with this new level of connectivity, is an enhanced opportunity for brands to target consumers on a hyper personalised basis. The smarter electronics become, the more opportunity there is for better-targeted advertising.
As much as all of this new technology provides customer and market value, it is evident that there is less thinking on how technology can provide long-term societal value. We believe that true social innovation can be achieved through orientating businesses and brands in ways that drive positive societal change.
A case in point is a social enterprise named Lumkani that uses network technology to address shack fires in and around South Africa. The early warning fire system works by detecting heat in any given home and then, with a wireless network radius of 60m, warns other neighbours of the impending fire.
As referred to in the below Yellowwood Transformation Model, Lumkani is a great example of an enterprise that mirrors all five of the basic levels of innovation. Often times one would find that brands consistently and deliberately provide value in the first four tiers, with the fifth often being an after-thought.
And so, as another year of CES comes to an end and all the innovative thinkers slump back behind their computers, it is time for brands to contemplate new technology through a more meaningful lens and consider how brands can use tech to improve lives and create new economies to drive real relevance.
Abe Louw is an analyst at Yellowwood
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