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Before there was Google Maps, before there was Waze, before Siri, we used to be get into cars and drive to places we had never been before, without software.  Only a couple hundred years ago we navigated by trails, celestial guides and landmarks.

Branding is a little old school like this. We create trails that over time become worn and easy to follow.  We branders provide general direction that with navigational tools-of-the-day help move individuals and masses toward our objective, e.g., sight, sounds, smell and other replicable assists.

When there were fewer products and less media choices branding was easier. Less clutter. Also less people touching and managing the sales channel.

Eight to ten years ago I used to rail against pop marketers who boasted how consumers were in control of brands. Not brand managers. Marketing pundits made millions touting this drivel. But consumers can only plot a map to themselves. “Follow me.” Not toward a brand.

Brand planners study consumers, landscapes, general directions and landmarks, then put on their big boy/girl pants and set the trail. A trail that is easy to follow.

Life and branding ain’t a grid. And in today’s digital world it can be even messier.




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Auto Fill For Life.

There was a story today in the NYT about the potential ascendancy of Google’s digital assistant over all others. Over Siri, Cortana and Alexa/Echo. If not Google, who?  Assistant voice recognition is getting there as is voice response. But it’s machine learning that will make or break the digital assistant business. And one can imagine Google has a leg up with all of the data it has on us.

Do you ever find yourself driving around looking for directions and wondering why your nav. assistant doesn’t know you better? I do. Or why you phone can’t make your life easier with repetitive functions? Like an auto fill life? I do. A learned (pronounced learn-ed) assistant is going to be an amazing help to us.  It will save time, energy and planetary resources. The possibilities are truly endless.

As it stands now (according to the NYT), Siri owns the phone, Echo owns the home, and Facebook Messenger rules the streets – when you’re out and about. Google’s digital assistant, which I’m sure will have a much cooler name than Google Assistant aspires to be the lone assistant. (Learn-Ed is actually kind of a nice name. Hmm, you listening Learn-Ed?)

Anyway, should be a fun ride and amazingly profitable.




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Google is introducing a new product today called Google Home. It is their entry into the voice-activated home assistant market. A market first entered by Amazon with the Echo. Voice activated virtual assistants began with the wonderfully named Siri by Apple.  Simple, mellifluous and unlikely be to be confused with other words.  The Amazon Echo is also nicely named, however the software is named Alexa — the name of their web analytics product. So one name for and device another for the assistant; a bit inelegant.

Enter Google Home.

Google has invested in a number of Internet Of Things (IOT) home products, the most obvious of which is Nest a nicely named device that monitors and controls thermostat, smoke alarm and surveillance. Google Home would have been an okay name had it been the first offering to market — a nice segue from its web search engine. But now, the timing is poor. It’s certainly an intuitive name and will act as a nice hub name for all other IOT devices, but lacks panache.

I suspect when speaking to the Google Home device you will simply say “Google, order me a pizza,” rather than “Home order me a Pizza” or “Google home, order me a pizza,” but the whole naming convention may have been better handled. One would expect more.

That aside, the home tech sector is heating up and it will be an exciting ride with lots of money exchanging hands.




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There will be a time in the future when virtual reality glasses will be as common as mobile phones. Perhaps more so. We’ll look back at the failed Google Glass project and whatever first generation of Oculus VR goggles are released and see what we saw when we look back at the AT&T EO and Apple Newton. It won’t be just a virtual reality device, it will offer lots of comms and locational services. These devices will be small, unobtrusive and agile.

How soon will they be here? I’m guessing 2020. Who will devise them? Facebook, Samsung, maybe Sony, and possibly Microsoft. They will probably be free, paid for by advertising. But ads won’t look like they do today, they will more likely be on-demand, Siri-like request and response services.

It’s going to be wild. Count on it.





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David Brooks had a nice Op-Ed piece today in The New York Times on the topic of big data. In one of his metaphors he states that as the data haystack gets bigger the needle becomes more deeply buried. So context is critical to analysis of data he argues. Poor contextual views of data cause failed analysis.

Another opinion leader I follow is Robert Scoble – a tech blogger. Robert is the most “on” person I know. When he sleeps he’s evaluating.  Robert’s big thing this year is context. He reviews and evaluates all sorts of tech tools that create context out of actions, locations, email and Siri voice commands (I threw that last one in there, but I’m sure he’d agree.)

Brand planners use context every minute. As they watch and listen for powerful, motivating behaviors, they seek patterns. Hay of a certain length, as it were. Planners’ brains gravitate away from the formulaic and toward the unique. And interestingly, some of the insights they glean aren’t about selling stuff. They are about people that buy the stuff – or don’t buy the stuff. The insights may provide context around child safety or home health or happy meals (lower case) unrelated to the product at hand. And so long as the insights are not too far afield of the product being sold, they are fair context and stimuli for the creative team and the creative output. In the end, it’s all about sale though.

Did the Deutsch’s Darth Vader spot sell more Volkswagen’s? Do kids ride in cars? Do families have and/or want kids? If you have the answer let me know.  Peace!

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When is a newspaper article finished?  Well, maybe never.  I’m was reading today about Apple’s new educational releases, e.g., iBooks 2, iBooks Author, iTunes U, in The NY Times paper paper and wanted to save the article to my OneNote document.  (Not many people know about Microsoft OneNote — but should.)  Anyway, in order to save the article I went to the and while lighting up the URL noticed the article, first published at 10 A.M., had been updated at  9:02 last night.  Now that update may have made the paper paper but it may not. So why read the paper paper which may have old, perhaps, less than accurate news? The reason is the form factor.

When the accuracy of the content in news reporting out-weights the form factor (user interface, e.g. paper vs. screen, vs. Siri) the war will really be over.   

But back to the first question. When is a newspaper article finished?  Will publishers be interested in changing stories in a year because they know it to have inaccurate info?  Will it be legal to do so? If it’s on the web and accessible, shouldn’t it be the truth?  Now there are some more things to nosh on.  Peace!

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