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Foursquare just won’t quit. One time social media darling Foursquare, just doesn’t know how to die. In its early days, Foursquare looked to have tapped into a fundamental social behavior every bit as powerful as microblogging, the location check-in. They combined location with gamification to create a sticky, location-aware social activity that took off like a rocket and then crashed (like a rocket.) Foursquare was Pokemon Go, before Pokemon Go. But Foursquare came out of its crash wiser and more focused than many of its social media brethren. Capitalizing on their fundamental IP – something they call “location intelligence” – Foursquare split their business into a consumer check-in app (now called Swarm) and licensed their IP to technology companies like Uber. Now an older and wiser Foursquare is building up revenue and discovering a discipline that eludes younger unicorn tech stars. Application to Marketing: Foursquare is sitting on a huge amount of location aware social data. They may have fewer users than a service like Snapchat, but their knowledge of those users is incomparable. During its early days, Foursquare didn’t always have the best reputation as a marketing partner. The company was simply growing too fast. But the new Foursquare is definitely a company that should be approached for collaboration. The reach may be limited, but the engagement is excellent. Next Steps: It must be 2011, because I think I’m recommending Foursquare. Read More Preventing heart attacks A patient goes into a doctor’s office to get a stress test for a possible heart condition. But the results of the test are inconclusive. The doctor tells the patient to come in for another test the following year. Currently, we have a single data point. That’s not much to work with. However, what if the patient’s heart was being monitored daily using a wearable device. And what if a machine learning algorithm was taking daily, even hourly measurements from this patient and thousands of others and comparing it with known patterns associated with heart problems. Suddenly, we’re working from millions, even billions of data points and the algorithm is improving all the while, giving more accurate results. Soon, the system might be able to alert people who were just starting to develop a heart condition, before it became a problem. This is the promise and, to an extent, the reality of preventative medicine apps like Cardiogram for the Apple Watch. Application to Marketing: Much of pharmaceutical marketing today is focused on selling to people who have already had the worst day of their life. And that’s a tad depressing. But many pharmaceutical marketers are starting to look to digital, and specifically to machine learning, so that the conditions their drug’s address can be identified early and treatment can start earlier. Yes, earlier treatment means more money for the pharmaceutical companies. But it also (generally) leads to better outcomes. So this looks like something of a win/win. Next Steps: Certain conditions are more susceptible to measurement and prevention than others. Read More The Gif Bubble Giphy offers a search engine for gifs. Gifs are short, soundless video files. (Gif is pronounced with a hard G.) Giphy has some other services related to the development and curation of gifs, but their core offering is a search engine for gifs. Although they claim to have a monetization strategy in place, they have not yet applied it. Meaning that Giphy currently makes no money. Also, there’s another search engine that can find gifs. It’s called Google. Oh, and another one. It’s called Bing. Investors have given Giphy just under $151 million since it started. Giving the company a valuation of $600 million. To be clear, Giphy does not own gifs. These files are free to create using existing open source tools. So this is a company that competes with Google in search and currently makes no money based on a niche technology that anyone can make and share. And it’s worth $600 million. I’m sorry to keep repeating that. It’s just so strange, I’m having trouble wrapping my head around it. Application to Marketing: As marketers, we may look across the fence at the exciting world of technology and think: “Gosh, that’s where the real business is getting done.” Sometimes, that’s true. It would be a mistake not to monitor the technology world in order to anticipate the changes that are coming to marketing. But every industry has its blind spots. Technology is not a font of pure, unadulterated wisdom. Sometimes, the technology world offers a cautionary tale about wishful thinking on a monumental scale. I believe that is the case with Giphy. Maybe Google or Bing decide to buy Giphy and the investors walk away with money in their wallets. But that would be an odd decision if you consider how easy it would be to design a custom gif search using their existing technology. So why is this company valued at $600 million by a bunch of wealthy investors in Silicon Valley? No idea. Maybe they’ve never heard of “barriers to entry” or lack thereof. Maybe they know something I don’t. But the whole thing is a good reminder that some technology isn’t inspiring or forward-thinking. Some technology is just silly. Next Steps: Gifs are nice. You can use Google to look up some popular ones. Read More Welcome robot overlords! Every once in awhile, I have a discussion with someone in advertising who dismiss digital as “just a channel.” This is a tragic misunderstanding of the transformational effect digital technology is having and will have on our industry. On the other side of things, there are people like Jason Siegel, the Chief Creative Officer of Bluetext. In an article in Ad Age (link below), Jason systematically breaks down all the jobs at a typical digital agency and points out the ones that are most likely and least likely to be replaced by technology (Most likely: developers, designers, anyone doing QA. Least likely: creatives, project managers, technology managers). think I know where Jason is coming from. As a Chief Creative Officer, his engagement with technology platforms is necessarily superficial. On a superficial level, it seems like designers and developers and QA will soon be eliminated by templates and standardization. However, once you actually dig into a templatization engine like DoubleClick Studio or play around with templatized website builders, you quickly realize how much aesthetic judgement and development expertise are necessary to get anything done. The idea that “creatives” and “project managers” are going to simply feed some assets into these systems and get a useful banner campaign, let alone a website or an app is more wishful thinking. Application to Marketing: Technology is hard. So we look to technology to solve the problem of technology. Make it easier. Relieve us of the pesky need for experts. But those problem solving technologies always require experts to function. The cycle is endless. More technology requires more expertise, not less. What is more likely? That in the future we will have digital ad agencies without developers or that in the future we will have digital ad agencies without chief creative officers? Wishful thinking aside, that’s a question that answers itself. Next Steps: Hire more developers and fewer “technology managers.” (And what on earth is a technology manager anyway? Read More

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