Smart House: Not Just a Disney Movie

It’s been a long day at work and as you open the front door to your house, you realize how happy you are to be home. The familiar comforts and smells welcome you back as you walk into your living room and plop down on the couch.
“Siri, I’m home!” you announce.
The lights near you brighten and the air conditioner jumps to life. Everything is just the way you want it to be, and yet you haven’t done so much as lift a finger to get it that way.
This might sound like the fictional 1999 Disney movie Smart House, but Apple wants to make it a reality – without an evil robot sabotage of course. Continue reading “Smart House: Not Just a Disney Movie”

Don't Make These Social-Media Blunders That Businesses Keep Repeating

The following article, written by BIGfish president David Gerzof Richard, was originally published on Entrepreneur.com

Whether you are bringing a new venture to market or marketing an existing brand, sooner or later (probably much sooner) you will find the need to participate in some form of social-media engagement.

When you do, you better have a well thought-out strategic plan, a strong content strategy and have done your research. Conducting research is a major weak point where many brands frequently slip up — specifically, a lack of attention is paid to past mistakes made by other brands.

In my experience as a digital media professor and marketing agency founder, I have found there are five regularly occurring social-media blunders brands make. I’m continually amazed each and every time a company repeats another brand’s previous mistake, sending their own brand into a tailspin of apologies, reparations and damage control.

1. Mixing up accounts. Most native platforms and third-party apps make it easy to toggle back and forth between brand and personal accounts, which is convenient, but can also be an accident waiting to happen.

One of my favorite examples of a social account mix up is this tweet from Chrysler: “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f*cking drive.” A good solution is to use separate and distinct apps for each account — this ensures there is no chance of confusing which account you are posting from.

2. Social media never sleeps. In this digital age, consumers can interact with brands at any time, requiring companies to man their brand’s social media platforms 24 hours, seven days a week. At a minimum, someone should always be monitoring social chatter around the brand to pick up any early warning signs that something is amiss.

British Airways slept through a number of social-media customer service issues, including a case of lost luggage. The airline decided their Twitter feed was “open” only during certain times of the day, even though Twitter is always up and running and the airline itself has planes in the air around the clock.

Had someone at the airline been listening, a quick tweet would have solved the issue. Instead, eight hours later (which equals about three months in social-web meltdown time) a response was made. By that time, what should have been a small blip on the radar became a viral headline.

3. Automated anything. There is no shortage of apps and tools that enable your social accounts to automatically do just about anything and everything you want. These automated duties include sending scheduled posts, changing a profile picture, replying to messages with canned responses and following other accounts based on preset criteria.

If you lump enough of these automated tools on to a single social media account you in essence have created a social media robot. A robot may seem like a cool and cost-effective solution to managing your social media, but online interaction requires personal attention with a human touch.

Automated communications can come off as cold and callous, especially during times of crisis when members of your community turn to your social platforms for assistance and reassurance.

While in the midst of horse meat packaged as beef scandal, the UK supermarket chain Tesco fired off a pre-loaded automated post: “It’s sleepy time so we’re off to hit the hay!” Clearly not the language to use when under the microscope for a horse-meat scandal. Keep usage of automated tools to a minimum, turn off all automation when a crisis hits and always work to be human.

4. Leap before looking. Savvy marketers seeking to extend mind and market share are always on the lookout for opportunities to leverage the relatively inexpensive reach and influence offered by social-media platforms. Two frequently used strategies are tapping into trending topics and hashtag story sharing. Both can result in varying levels of success and sometimes, horrific failures.

Countless companies have used a hashtag without first checking to see if anyone else is using it and what it means. Worse yet are companies that lump their brand on a news trend in some unrelated way, making them look conniving and insensitive.

The largest of these failures though, are brands that develop a promotion for their community to share stories of brand experiences without realizing the interactions they are looking for might turn out to be horror stories. GM, McDonald’s, JP Morgan and the NYPD all made this mistake, which could have easily been avoided had someone looked at past promotions gone awry as precedents.

5. Loose posts sink ships. More than 50 percent of the U.S. population now owns a smartphone. This means there is a good chance more than 50 percent of a company’s workforce is equipped with a mobile device capable of instantly capturing and posting ideas, photos and videos to any number of social platforms.

A number of companies including Google, HMV and StubHub have all experienced rogue posts from employees compromising internal corporate workings, yet few companies have learned from these breaches and established guidelines for employees on what can and cannot be shared.

A social media policy probably won’t shore up every possible social leak, but it will certainly help reduce them as well as provide a framework to manage situations when they do occur.

BIGfish Joins Client Glori Energy in Ringing the NASDAQ Closing Bell

BIGfish president David Gerzof Richard and account director and partner Meredith Frazier recently took a road trip to New York City to join client Glori Energy in ringing the NASDAQ closing bell. Glori (NASDAQ: GLRI) is an energy technology company known for its AERO System, a highly efficient, biotechnology process for increasing oil recovery from existing reservoirs. The company went public after merging with Infinity Cross Border Acquisition Corporation this spring and had the unique opportunity of ringing the NASDAQ closing bell on May 27, 2014.
Glori-Energy-NASDAQBIGfish has been working with Glori Energy since 2011, running the company’s media relations, branding, design, and marketing communication programs. The past few months have been both busy and exciting as we helped Glori prepare to announce the merger. A few weeks ago, the hard work culminated in the exciting closing bell ceremony.
Upon arrival to the NASDAQ MarketSite, located in the heart of Times Square, we were ushered with the Glori team into a studio filled with large monitors displaying stock tickers and news programming. Above us were TV cameras from all of the major networks around the world and around us filling the room was a small, in-studio audience. And of course, front and center was the NASDAQ bell with Glori’s logo prominently displayed!
Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 3.40.25 PMAfter a brief rehearsal and lots of photo taking, the ceremony began. There was clapping and excitement as we counted down from 10, and before we knew it Glori CEO Stuart Page was closing the stock market for the day. From the stage, we were able to look up and watch ourselves on TV. FOX Business News and CNBC streamed video of the closing bell celebration and Stuart Page was interviewed on BNN, just before the ceremony.
IMG_4339Once the ceremony was over, we ventured out into Times Square to see the NASDAQ Tower streaming video of the ceremony. Everyone was anxious to snap some photos to capture their image on the big screen in NYC. Overall, it was an exciting and well-organized experience; something to check off of the BIGfish bucket list!
NASDAQ-billboard-glori-energy We’re pleased to represent Glori as a now publicly traded company and look forward to helping them continue to grow. Congratulations to the entire Glori Energy team for their hard work and dedication in taking Glori to the next level.

The Power of Thick Data

Thick Data. What is it?

In recent years, there has been a lot of hype around “big” data in the marketing world. Big data is extremely helpful with gathering quantitative information about new trends, behaviors and preferences, so it’s no wonder companies invest a lot of time and money sifting through and analyzing massive sets of data. However, what big data fails to do is explain why we do what we do.

“Thick” data fills the gap. Thick data is qualitative information that provides insights into the everyday emotional lives of consumers. It goes beyond big data to explain why consumers have certain preferences, the reasons they behave the way they do, why certain trends stick and so on. Companies gather this data by conducting primary and secondary research in the form of surveys, focus groups, interviews, questionnaires, videos and other various methods. Ultimately, to understand people’s actions and what drives them to your business (or not), you need to understand the humanistic context in which they pursue these actions.

It’s crucial for successful companies to analyze the emotional way in which people use their products or services to develop a better understanding of their customers. By using thick data, companies can develop a positive relationship with their customers and it becomes easier for those companies to maintain happy customers and attract new ones.

Big data will tell you that in 2013, Samsung was able to sell 35 million more smartphones than Apple. But what can these companies really do with this data? Pat themselves on the back or hang their heads in shame? If you are in the market for a smartphone, you’re not going to buy a Samsung because they sold 35 million more than Apple.  As a customer, you probably don’t even know this information.

You may, however, buy a Samsung because they offer a multitude of models that you can customize to your preferences, and Apple’s product line is less diverse. Or perhaps you won’t buy an Apple smartphone because it’s not quite as durable, or they don’t have as wide a selection of phone colors as Samsung. Using thick data to figure out why more people are buying from Samsung is key for both companies to move forward and either keep dominating the market, or reinvent to gain dominance. At its core, business is about making bets on human behavior, and those bets backed by thick data are what business models should be based around.

Take for example Lego, a successful company that was near collapse in the early 2000’s because they lost touch with their customers. After failed attempts to reposition the company with action figures and other concepts, Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, CEO of the Danish Lego firm, decided to engage in a major qualitative research project. Children in five major global cities were studied to help Lego better understand the emotional needs of children in relation to legos. After evaluating hours of video recordings of children playing with legos, a pattern emerged. Children were passionate about the “play experience” and the process of playing. Rather than the instant gratification of toys like action figures, children valued the experience of imagining and creating. The results were clear; Lego needed to go back to marketing its traditional building blocks and focus less on action figures and toys. Today, Lego is once again a successful company, and thick data proved to be its savior.

While it’s impossible to read the minds of customers, thick data allows us to be closer than ever to predicting the quirks of human behavior. The problem with big data is that companies can get too caught up in numbers and charts and forget the humanistic reality of their customers’ lives. As this Wall Street Journal article puts it, “By outsourcing our thinking to Big Data, our ability to make sense of the world by careful observation begins to wither, just as you miss the feel and texture of a new city by navigating it only with the help of a GPS”.

This is not to say big data is useless. It is a powerful and helpful tool companies should invest in. However, companies should also invest in gathering and analyzing thick data to uncover the deeper, more human meaning of big data. Together, thick data and big data give you an incredibly insightful advantage.
Jess Cook

#WWDC14 Spotlights the Best to Come at Apple

Although techies from around the globe predictably flock to Apple’s famous World Wide Developers Conference, each year brings a new and unexpected twist to Apple’s established line of hardware and software; and this year was no exception. Beginning with the introduction of the next operating system for Mac and ending with improved developer features (including an all-new coding language called Swift), this year’s WWDC has given technophiles more than enough to chew on for the next few months.
As expected, Apple’s Keynote followed a relatively traditional format, first introducing the next-in-line operating systems: OS X 10.10 and iOS 8. Like it’s predecessor, ‘Mavericks’ (named for the California Maverick waves), OS X 10.10 Yosemite is also named after a California landmark, and much like iOS 7, Yosemite swaps isomorphic icons for those of the flat variety and introduces increased window transparency.
The new system has more than just looks, though. It features integrated calendar and location capabilities that not only let you schedule a beach trip, but also tell you how to get to the nearest beach; an improved Safari browsing experience; and Mail Drop, which enables the sending of large (up to 5GB) files through iCloud. As if that wasn’t enough, the audience was thrown one more juicy apple with the introductions of iCloud Drive and Airdrop “handoff” – software advancements that allow users to not only access documents across devices, but also “pick up” documents from one device to another for increased continuity.
Apple’s iOS 8 builds on the most popular features of iOS 7 by adding a new burst of initiative; actionable notifications. This new feature enables users to view message notifications and even comment or engage with them in the notification bar without having to switch to a designated app. This is especially good news for those of us who have experienced what it feels like to be in the middle of an important game when an even more important message comes in (read: you don’t ever have to actually leave your game of 2048).
Additionally, this new mobile OS is growing brains with features like context-smart predictive texting and a search bar that automatically gathers relevant information, including apps or files that are outside of your phone. iOS 8 has grown a heart, too, with the all-new HealthKit, a group of apps and services that composites all of a user’s health information and apps into a single space to enable a comprehensive look into their wellbeing. Throw in vastly improved Siri capabilities, voice and video messaging, and enterprise device enrollment, and it is apparent that the iPhone has made one giant leap for cellularkind.
Finally, Apple left its developers in awe with the introduction of a largely unforeseen new ability- the powers of an entirely new coding language. Named Swift, this new breed of programming language allows developers to use a relatively small amount of code for the creation of high-quality apps. Faster than the industry standard, Apple is already hedging its bets that Swift will become the standard sometime soon.
Both iOS 8 and OS X 10.10 Yosemite will be available for free this fall. Want to know all the juicy details from WWDC 2014? Read The Guardian’s “as it happened” coverage here.
Melanie Katz, Summer 2014 Intern