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Google Reason.

I’m a big fan of  tech pundit Robert Scoble. (Wish he would start blogging again in earnest.) Robert has been head down lately on Artificial Intelligence. Part of his reduced visibility is because he’s trying to live a life but it’s also because AI isn’t fully baked.  

That said, the oven is coming to temperature on AI. Google unceremoniously announced a brand strategy shift yesterday.  Sundar Pichai, CEO, referred to Google as an “A.I. first” company.  This, at the launch of new Pixel smartphones, Google Home devices and VR and wireless headsets.  The NYT used this event to question Google’s hardware chops, and they’re partly right; but they are also missing the point.  AI is the haps. The incipient haps. And Google with its flattening-the-planet search business , Android OS and new data collection devices will feed that trough like no one else.

Big Data ain’t shit without reason. And reason is the reason Google and Alphabet and Amazon, don’t forget Amazon, are in business today. Might as well add IBM to the mix. Amazon isn’t overt about its plans, but rest assured they are in the AI biz.

I like to say it’s going to be a fun ride.  It is. Google is going full-on in AI. The apps to come will be ridiculous (millennial definition). And Mr. Scoble is going to be quite busy.

Peace.

PS. Oh, and Google Reason will be a brand.

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Home delivery is becoming a retail utility. As we gobble up planetary resources and spit out carbon particulates, smart people are going to realize that multiple deliveries each day make no sense.

The US Postal Service, may pass the UPS truck, who drives by the FedEx van to your front door. The Pea Pod man may be in the driveway while this happens, tipping his hat the newspaper delivery lady, parked in front of Blue Apron meal service. And don’t get me started on the pizza kid.

I see a future where a smart companies like Amazon or Uber or TBD recognize the logistics opportunity of collapsing these deliveries into one.  When we to do a better job of consolidating deliveries, we might take 10% of the traffic off our highways.

44% of US homes subscribe to Amazon Prime receiving free shipping. But these are likely individual delivery shipments. Gas. Carbons.

Where the utility idea comes into play is, perhaps, at the post office. All inbound products are amassed somewhere for a one-time a day drop off. Let’s put some energy into this idea. It’s a planetary problem.

Peace.

 

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Two titans of retail are facing off and it’s going to be wild.  Walmart and Amazon. Amazon and Walmart. There will be only winners: the businesses and the custies.  Amazon continues to kill it in online retail. So much so, in fact, that they’re looking into some brick and mortar places to make product access near-instantaneous.  Walmart is beginning to get that 800 lb. monkey off its back (low price, low-esteem, box store with bad vegetables), by ramping up its online offering. It quintupled online SKUs in one year thanks to purchases like Jet.com and others.

The real war zone, when it comes to customer marketing, will be brand-side.  Amazon has an amazing brand that is maturing. An overdog I like to call it. Walmart in a heart brand that many people view as high-traffic but low-value. Don’t get me wrong, the retail product has value, but the brand is a little lacking in the amygdala, as brand expert Megan Kent might say.

Both brands have the money and leadership to innovate. Both have the dough to execute. Now it will be up to the brand leaders to create some excitement. Walmart faces more of an uphill challenge. One any brand strategist would love to tackle. But we all know what happened to the overdogs.

Peace.    

 

 

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D2C.

If you are a CEO in the mall business or major retailer, you had better quit your day job (as you know it) and start making some serious plans. Amazon is eating your lunch. And breakfast and dinner. I see a future for car dealerships. They had better ready themselves for the time when cars will not be bought on lots, but online.

We’re not that far away from virtual reality as a marketing tool and when it hitsit will accelerate direct-to-consumer purchasing. Amazon is fixing the same day deliver problem – one reason to buy in-store — and VR will allow user to try/experience products without a store visit. So buckle your seatbelts.

If you sell anything and are not thinking about direct-to-consumer, you’re napping. If you are thinking about ways to lead your category into direct-to-consumer, you will have an early windfall.

So get with it marketers. Get on the D2C bandwagon.

Peace.               

 

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amazon-boxes

A next big thing in marketing will be distribution related. No, it’s not drones — that’s the next, next thing.  It has to do with the last mile of distribution.  A logistics solution is needed so multiple truck deliveries aren’t made to a single location on a given day. Two days ago all these boxes were delivered to my home. You can’t see it from the pic but each box was from Amazon. UPS and FedEx trucks aplenty dotted the curb. (My sister EJ has been going a little bit crazy this year, me thinks.)

All these random deliveries eat up a great deal of gas. Not to mention manpower.  Each package has a tracking code and delivery address. One piece of software and some colocation warehousing will cut delivery costs down to the bone.

This is a job for Amazon, Uber, UPS or an EPA code nerd (after Scott Pruitt leaves his appointment).

The 4Ps of marketing are Product, Place, Price and Promotion.  If we can get the Place right over the next few years it will positively impact the environment, price of goods and even U.S. manufacturing.  

Peace.                 

 

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The new OS.

Riddle me this. When does an operating system really become an operating system?   When it truly delivers a digital assistant that manages all devices by voice activation. As Amazon’s Alexa intends to do.

Operating systems today are made up of software that undergirds other software and applications, e.g., iOS, Windows, and Android. In 20 years voice commands that direct “ons,” “offs” and other device and system activations will be the operating systems.  These assistants will compete with each other for supremacy.  There will be systems by Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet and one or two start-ups. None will integrate (at first) but mark my words, these are the operating systems of the future. Because they operate real life things…including cars.

These operating systems will be the battleground of the next 50 years. Will they be free?  Will they be as expensive as cars? Will consumers be paid to use them? Time will tell.

Peace.

 

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mass production

I am a big fan of content creation, the new marketing meme sweeping the nation. Content creation has been around as long as the written word. As a tool to promote and sell it has been around since Bass Ale invented its mark and the Sears Catalog was the Amazon of its day.  But the words “content creation” in this age of Google and iPhone movies has taken on, at least for me, a strong commodity meaning.  A creative-by-the-pound activity measured in attention then, maybe, sales.

I am a brand planner who measures success not by hits or vague engagement activities but by sales. And future sales. Sure I’ll write a speech on “web accessibility” for an agency trying to score points at a client’s annual marketing meeting, but I don’t want giggles, attaboys and future invitations, I want new customer contracts. Content isn’t oration, it’s selling.

So the brand planner in me thinks that content creation or content marketing ungoverned by a brand strategy (one claim, three proof planks) is wasted effort. Every act or action that marketing achieves needs to motivate a sale in one way or the other. If you are doing content creation and it doesn’t move a customer closer to a sale, you likely don’t have an articulate brand strategy.

Peace.         

 

 

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So the Federal Trade Commission can squash the proposed merger of Staples and Office Depot, whose collective asses are being kicked in by Amazon (over the last two years the two office supplies companies have been forced to close nearly 600 stores), but they say it’s okay for Anheuser Busch InBev to rename Budweiser beer “America” for the summer???

Budweiser America

I love America and I love Budweiser, but this idea crosses the branding line for me. Not that I oppose it – let’s see what happens… what the hell. I just think it’s a bit sketchy and too commercializing. It’s also too easy. Also, for those of us who stop and take their hats off whenever we hear the Star Spangled Banner, it may be off-putting and have a negative effect.

America is not a brand. And that’s the point. For the FTC or whomever to allowed this promotion to happen it’s a rookie mistake. Even for a young 240 year old.

Peace.                                                                            

 

 

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Fast forward 12 years to a time when Amazon is an online geezer and Wal-Mart is the young, hip tech retailer.  Am I tripping? Nope. How can it happen? Through strategy. Only through strategy.

What can Wal-Mart do to trump world-beater Amazon in online retail? First, it must look at customer care-abouts. Customers want fair prices. They want good value — products that will last. They want product accessibility: same day, same hour, delivered to any address. They’d like to be rewarded for loyalty. Predictive refills would be nice. Lastly, they’d love to remove some carbons from the earth’s footprint.

If Wal-Mart wants to out-Amazon Amazon, it needs to start thinking about these strategies. While Mr. Bezos is playing media mogul, cloud jockey and Steve Jobs, Wal-Mart should focus on the above care-abouts and blaze a new retail trail. Create a new retail equation.

The future is up for grabs. For everybody. Always has been.

Peace.

 

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I’ve written about the brand diaspora as it relates to Microsoft. Diaspora meaning “the spread or dissemination of something originally confined to a local, homogeneous group, as a language or cultural institution.” It’s a topic about which a very boring branding book could be written.

It will be very interesting to see how Amazon handles branding as it continues to take over the retail world. On Long Island, 52 A&P stores are being sold or closed. Wal-Mart earning have slowed, only being kept positive by international sales. Online commerce accounts for a growing portion of all things purchased and it’s not slowing down. Ask real estate sales people – count the brown paper covered windows in local strip malls.

En masse, retail is changing — and the winner is and will continue to be Amazon. Amazon is getting into the industrial distribution business. Hear that MSC Direct? Hear that Grainger? Do you think Mr. Bezos is not thinking about food distribution logistics? And ways to make locally sourced food products cheaper to purchase and deliver?

The future is not now. But one can see it in blurry focus…and Amazon will def be at its center. Plan ahead defenders.

Peace.

 

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