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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.


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

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Data is the new content. With IBM’s $2.6B investment in Truven Health Analytics, we are seeing the beginnings of a massive bet on the data business.  IBM has always made its paycheck with data processing hardware and consulting. Sure they’ve sold software but in this age of cloud computing, where software will kinda go away, IBM seems to be appreciating that data ownership is the ticket. Watson Health (into which Truven will be folded) is more than big iron and a log-in, it will be a repository of data that will make a manifold improvement in the quality of health worldwide.

The Obama administration has pushed for EMRs (electronic medical records), which was a brilliant first step. But as is the way in free enterprise societies there are now 70-ish EMRs available, most of which don’t talk to one another.  Where’s the big data “learn” from that?  Truven Heatlh Analytics owns treatment data from 200 million patients. Data. Not sequestered software records. This is an analytics mother lode. This is Google scale stuff — but with a mission that goes way beyond Ad Words revenue. We’re talking “saving lives and transforming care” here.

IBM and Watson are not washing their hands of big iron and consulting, but they are def getting into the data business — in a low hanging fruit sector. Watch out Google. Watch out.


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Back to the future – here we go. Here’s a thought on the evolution of technol-oyee, as my old friend Tom Wan used to call it when he first came to the states: hardware begets software, begets devices, apps and now, drum roll, chips.

ontogeny recapituates phylogenyThere’s a scientific theory of evolution called ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. It means that the entire evolution of mankind can be seen in the development of a two cells coming together to eventually form a baby. One cell, two cell, reptile, bird, mammal, man. Pert cool. Anyway, if you follow the hardware, software, device, app and chip advances serially, it takes you to the Internet of Things (IoT). And the IoT is going to need lots of chips. Back in the 90s, chips were also the haps. They had names like The Hobbit and made by important companies like IBM, AT&T, Qualcomm and Intel. The latter kicked some earnings ass until it missed the boat on the ontogeny of tech. Yesterday Intel announced it is buying their way back back by agreeing to buy Altera. IBM is getting back in the chip biz as well having also made a recent purchase. Will Google, Apple and Verizon be far behind?

Chips fab plants are not inexpensive to develop. Start-ups beware.  They require lots of energy and water. Feel me? These plants, at some point, will need to be in the states (don’t ask) so for the IoT to happen, the last of big business moves in chips have not happened…by a long shot. Invest a shekel, make a few.



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I don’t like the IBM-Apple partnership. It will benefit IBM but not Apple. Apple is the device owner. That’s its art. When we start to hear co-marketing phrases like “big data analytics down to the fingertips” it feels like Apple is being relegated to an end-point not the design marvel we know and love. It begins to imply that the data, analytics, the cloud – read the big machine – is more important than the amazing living breathing organ Apple puts in the hands of consumers.

Tim Cook and Apple like the fact that they will now have access to IBM’s huge salesforce and that it will sow the iOS operating system into businesses with gale force winds. But Apple iPhones and iPads are already in 92% of the Fortune 500. And frankly, in the hands of the influencers, not the unwashed tech masses. Masses who are not part of the Apple franchise. Masses who may fly to the next big thing, when and if it suits them.

What has made Apple such a strong brand over the years is it unique design, form factor, software and intense user community. The IBM move will get IT involved at corporations and will put emphasis on the pipes, data and iron (big machines), and RFP – not where Apple has typically done its best work.

When I put on my prediction hat, my “beyond the dashboard” visor, I see this partnership breaking up in 30 months, if not before. Mark your calendars for 2017. Peace.


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In January IBM decided to sell its server business to Lenovo, China. Today about 15% of IBM’s revenue comes from hardware. Cloud computing and services are the ways to a smarter planet it seems. IBM has a well-established consulting business and a wonderful brand so this new approach will be an easy evolution for customers to understand.

The leader in cloud computing is, and will probably continue to be, AWS (Amazon Web Services.) They were the first big player in on-demand cloud services. Microsoft is doing cloud, as are Verizon, Google and lots of others.

One player doing a great job for a while but who lacks some brand strength is Rackspace. They’re not your average by-the-pound cloud provider. Sadly, their name suggests so. You’ve heard the term value-added-reseller? Well, the name Rackspace is about as far from value-added as possible. They may as well have called the company Cloud Vacancy. Hee hee.

Rackspace doesn’t need to change its name (though it wouldn’t hurt). What it needs is a plan to embed some serious meaning into the brand.  It could use an organizing principle that embodies all the smart people, processes and hardware/software advantages this company bestows upon users.

Brands are not empty vessels into which one pours meaning. They are full vessels — overflowing often — mostly in need of organization, an idea, and discipline. Peace.



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One of my pet peeves is category experience. In the marketing and advertising businesses, it’s everything. Recently, I lost a consulting opportunity because of not having enough financial experience. It was true. Hiring lore suggests: When you come to a position with your head filled with numbers, trends and category milestones, you are a quick study. This approach creates comfortable hiring. (An aside: Do you know how many people take credit for MasterCard’s “Priceless” campaign?)

Personally, I am most energized when in a new category — being scared, facing a blank piece of paper. Tabula rasa. No preconceptions. Childlike discovery moments all around. Surrounded by fresh language, sights and sounds.  Like being in a new country.

One of today’s marketing heavyweights, Joe Tripodi, is a category surfer. That’s why he is so strong.  His career trail meanders: IBM, MasterCard, Mobil Oil, Bank of NY, Seagrams Wine and Spirits, All-State, and currently the CMO of Coca-Cola. Whoever hired Mr. Tipodi recognized that his light shines in the area of marketing not technology or banking.

Good brand and account planners achieve because they see things through fresh eyes. Great hiring agents approach hiring similarly.  Be great when hiring. Peace.  


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As a student of B2B advertising and someone who has made a nice living helping corporations sell technology, services, even processes, I am amazed by how few marketing promises are served up in the tech space.  SAP will be the latest such company with a new campaign built around the word “Run.”  Ogilvy does the work, and I suspect it will look much the same as its IBM “Smarter Planet” work.  One headline from the new SAP campaign is “Run 10 years of numbers in seconds.”  A smart brand planner at BBDO once said to me good planning is about poetry, and there is very little poetry in this type of tech advertising – but there are lots of bucks in it.

I’ll tell you what makes companies and countries and planets smarter: Education.  Teachers. School administrators who love their jobs.  Technology people in inner cities who mine garbage bins to find PCs for students. Parents who care more about their kids educations than watching “Family Guy.”  Education moves societies. It moves cultures.  Software is nice. Hardware is nice…but it won’t stand in front of a bullet to save your life. People will.

Education is a right in America.  Now let’s make great education a right.  If we get great education right, we don’t have to worry about “clean technology” and porous borders and religious zealotry.  Peace.

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FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) drove billions of dollars of B2B marketing communications in the 90s and was the brainchild, so I’ve been told, of IBM.   “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM” was the quiet mantra of IBM sales team and ad agencies.  With proper and subtle brand management, this notion was acculturated into the IT departments across American and beyond.  I’m not aware of any IBM ads ever mentioning FUD.

Digital Equipment may have been the company IBM was trying to scare people from; Apple at that time certainly wasn’t a factor. The strangle hold IBM had on business during that period, thanks to FUD, was broken by Dell when Michael Dell opened up the computer and showed us it was a bunch of simple parts — worth a good deal less than the white shirts at IBM were offering. Plus Dell took advantage of a technological breakthrough – the US Postal Service – to change the game by selling direct to the IT dept. For those old enough to remember, Dell boxes were flying in and out of IT depts. across the country.  It was Christmas every day for techies.  The fear was gone. Fast forward a few years and IBM sells its PC business and does some serious brand retrenchment, tossing “the fear” in favor of a more positive “building good systems” approach. IBM is crazy back.

Strategic planners need to understand fear, but they shouldn’t use it. Leave it to Disney and Comcast and CBS to deliver our required dose of fear. (NBC…Grimm? Really?) Plan strategy using the end-game of hope and deliverance and well-earned reward. Those are things in which it is worth investing. Peace!

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Ogilvy is a great advertising agency.  Always has been.  It loves big ideas, big productions and big brands.  Lately, it has made a name for itself on services companies.  Other than American Express and IBM, I’m not quite sure what accounts they have – which is my bad, but partly theirs. 

IBM’s “Solutions for a smarter planet” was a big idea. Already well entrenched with big businesses on the hardware, software and services (consulting) side, IBM decided that rather than grow by increments, it would focus on large-scale advances targeting countries and industries.  That’s some enchilada stuff, there.  “Solutions for a smarter planet” helped IBM take on the planets ills (traffic, energy, food) and showcase some future technology.  By going big, it covered small (corporate) and positioned IBM as vendor of choice for massive overhauls.

Then the economy tanked. And companies started having a difficult time making payroll. And saving the planet lost a bit of luster.  Rather than returning to an advertising idea that supported product and services sales, IBM tasked Ogilvy with keeping revenue up by evolving the idea — the planet will be back at some point (knock wood).  Enter “I’m an IBMer, I’m an IBMer.” For the purposes of continuity (agencies are big on that) the campaign is tagged with “solutions” but focuses on smart employees.  Mistake.  It milks a campaign idea that is no longer the business idea.  Like the Microsoft Bing work that straddled two ideas “information overload” and “decision engine,” IBM is pushing an unclean idea.

Come on Ogilvy, bring on the new work – the new idea. Peace!

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I love the internet and most everything about it. It’s a transformative technology changing the planet at light speed.  One thing I wish it would do more of (IBM) though, is reduce waste and distribute things earmarked for landfill to those in need.  The web is great at minimizing the space between buyers and sellers but imagine if its powers were used for such non-profit activities like feeding the hungry or providing used furniture to kids moving into apartments.

The people who developed Stub Hub and some smart urban planners from the city of NY should combine efforts to create a way to distribute day old food that would normally be fed to the gulls in Queens, Staten Island or hovering over barges. It may sound like a no brainer, but I suspect it’s a logistical nightmare. (Can you say sign a waiver?) It is worth doing.  Just ask City Harvest.

The amount of good food that is thrown away in NYC every day, probably weighs in excess of 100,000 pounds.  That weight has to be picked up by sanitation and carted away using trucks and gas. The same with old furniture.  When families lose an elder parent, houses have to be purged and lots of stuff is tossed in haste. Valuable stuff.

Here’s a solution for a small planet, let’s try to redistribute good things to people in need, not the landfill. The web can be the logistical tool to bring parties together. Mayor Bloomberg, this is your new 311.  Start small and scale. (Google would be an excellent partner.) Peace!

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