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Brand Engagement

Acronym’s Mike Grehan Shares His Thoughts On Marketing In A Post-Pandemic World

By Brand Engagement, Insights & News No Comments

More than a year into the Covid-19 pandemic where volatility, complexity, and uncertainty reached an all-time high, a brand’s ability to get attention, be remembered, and be an educational resource has become more imperative than ever. That, in conjunction with consumers wanting their buying power to reflect their personal values, has placed extreme pressure on brands to get it right.

Acronym’s CMO & Managing Director, Mike Grehan joined SAP’s former CMO, Alicia Tillman and current Senior Director of Global Branding, Dennis Thomas in Bonnie D. Graham’s podcast, Changing the Game with Digital Engagement to discuss Brand Marketing in a Post-Pandemic World.

Topics include:

  • What role does branding play in the buyer’s journey and has that changed since the pandemic began?
  • What could or should companies do to better reflect the social climate or should they not engage in that conversation?
  • What other impacts will the pandemic have on the future of branding?

Watch this conversation and let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Do You Hear What I Hear: The Power of Podcasts in APAC

By Brand Engagement, Insights & News No Comments

Audio programming is making a comeback in the form of its younger, on-demand sibling – Podcasts. 

Podcasting has emerged into a giant industry, exceeding $10B in 2020 and is slated to double within 24 – 36 months. In Asia, the podcast industry is emerging out of its infancy and presents an exciting addition to your digital marketing channel mix.  

According to consumer insight company, GWI, sixty-six percent of those surveyed in the Asia-Pacific region claim to spend an average of one hour a day listening to podcasts.  

  • Ongoing growth of smartphone usage.  
  • Flexibility to listen to episodes while you are on the go. 
  • Multi-tasking potential behind tuning in. 
  • Wealth of content on nearly every imaginable topic or area of interest at your fingertips. 

As podcast audiences grows, we can expect more marketers to start channeling ad dollars into Podcast Advertising (Podvertising).  

Podvertising is a relatively underutilized digital marketing channel. It does not take a huge investment to stand out. In Asia, ad dollars invested into podvertising is currently relatively low, making it an uncluttered medium. In addition, affordable rates make this an inexpensive way of building brand awareness. 

Brands can also hyper-target their campaign to their most captive audiences based on content topics that captivate their key audience segments.  

Podcasts also provide a highly immersive experience, and with attention levels high (no visual distractions), consumers are less inclined to skip ads particularly when the brand airtime is embedded into conversation. Ads in podcasts cannot be blocked by ad blockers, which is a bonus. 

Moreover, listeners tend to be loyal and trust their host and recommendations, like influencer marketing, but much more affordable.  

That said, here is how you can get tuned in:  

  1. Pre-roll, Mid-roll, Out-roll 

Like video advertising podcasts ads are typically played at the start, middle or end of a show. As most listeners would have tuned out by the end of the show, Out-roll ads are generally less popular with advertisers.  Mid-roll ads tend to be most popular because they are a longer segment and listeners tend to be more engaged by this point. Industry standard for podcast advertising is in CPM (Per thousand listens). 

Unfortunately, due to the nature of the medium, metrics beyond listenership cannot be tracked, however many brands have monetized their return on advertising by including a unique and easy to remember discount code or landing page extension. Attribution is then linked to discount codes redeemed or visits to the unique landing page.  

  1. Product placement 

This involves the host talking to their audience about the product or service. They will tend to mention why they recommend it, some examples about how they themselves use it, how they benefit from it, and why the listener would too. In this case, the brand becomes another part of the episode content, as opposed to sounding like a typical ad. 

  1. Sponsored series 

Sponsoring a series takes podcast marketing opportunities to the next level. Sponsors have far more opportunities to reach their audience in more meaningful ways such as a representative that appears on the show, access to the podcast social media channels, audience email lists, website promos and more. 

  1. Branded podcasts 

Producing your own branded podcasts would be taking things to the “Ultimate” level.  This approach requires a dedicated team and would involve a long-term content strategy, like any other social media channel. This approach provides brands with the opportunity to build a relationship with their audience, develop a strong connectivity, create a following and grow your first party database.  

Here are some notable brands who are already harnessing the power of branded podcasting: 

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Like in any other digital advertising medium, success in this medium involves identifying podcasts that have the right audience demographic & interests for your brand as well as the type of ad and messaging that will resonate. Often, this involves research and potentially working with podcast producers to gain a better understanding of their subscribers and how they interact with advertising and sponsored content. 

If you would like to explore podvertising and would like to learn more about how you can integrate this into your digital marketing mix, please contact us. Our subject matter experts will be happy to assist you. 

POV By Farah Sadiq, EVP, GM, International

Instagram To Become More Like TikTok

By Brand Engagement, Social Media No Comments

Instagram started testing a new video feature to compete with TikTok and YouTube, which will take place over the next six months with a focus on creators, video, shopping & messaging.

This new feature will be different from Reels, which launched in August 2020, with the aim to compete with creators and users of TikTok, including algorithm-recommended videos from accounts that people do not currently follow.

This emphasis on video comes as TikTok continues to dominate the social media space. Among the top five non-game apps in May, TikTok was ranked No. 1 by downloads and was the only app not owned by Facebook, to make the list. It is estimated that TikTok was installed 80 million times in May, compared with 53 million for Facebook’s main app.

Facebook’s goal with this testing seems to be to transform Instagram from a photo-sharing app to more of a social video app TikTok. Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, announced the plan to show full-screen, recommended videos in user feeds.

“We’re no longer a photo-sharing app or a square photo-sharing app,” Mosseri said. “Let’s be honest, there’s some really serious competition right now. TikTok is huge. YouTube is even bigger, and there’s lots of other upstarts as well.”

Why this is important:

Users will start to see Instagram’s changes in their feed including recommended videos and accounts. Since this is a new feature that will be slow to roll out, there will be many updates along the way. As Mosseri acknowledges:

“We’re also going to be experimenting with how do we embrace video more broadly — full screen, immersive, entertaining, mobile-first video. You’ll see us do a number of things, or experiment with a number of things in this space over the coming months.”

That said, this new feature is perfect for brands that already have a social media presence on Instagram, allowing them to post more TikTok-like videos. If this is an opportunity your brand would like to pursue, contact us about testing.

hand with phone

Acronym Explains How Commerce via Chat Is Growing

By Brand Engagement, Machine Learning No Comments
I spent the weekend making new friends on the web. Chatbots are now my new BFFs. Who (or rather what) are these Chatbots? A chatbot is an artificial intelligence (AI) program that can simulate a conversation (or a chat) with a user in natural language through messaging applications, websites, mobile applications or by phone. The global chatbot market is expected to be worth $9.4B by 2024 according to MarketsandMarkets. The increase in adoption rate is largely driven by the business benefits realized through this form of automation. According to a study conducted by CNBC, business cost savings from chatbots are estimated to be worth $8B by 2022. More and more businesses are turning to chatbots to handle customer service. For many users, the chatbot is the first touchpoint with your business – which is more personal than email. It is also available immediately and around the clock. My biggest bane, even pre Covid, was the long wait time on the phone before being able to speak with a customer service officer to address an issue. I have found that on most occasions, a chatbot is able to process my request within minutes and, if there is a question that the chatbot is not able to troubleshoot, there is still the likelihood of being forwarded to a human employee, with transcript of the chat, so we can pick up conversation from where things were left off. Intrigued by how chatbots are increasingly influencing eCommerce, I decided to test out chatbot functionality on some of my favorite Brands. Meet my friend Neha. She is a chatbot for a large high-street cosmetic company. I recently purchased a couple of items online and ended up with one item that was damaged. As there were no return labels, I went online to contact the company and organize a refund and return the item. This brand, like many others, had their live chat functionality on the bottom right-hand corner of their homepage. Neha politely introduced herself and asked how she could assist. I explained the problem and she requested that I take a picture of the item so that she could assist to process the refund.  Then she cleverly suggested the option of a credit toward my next online purchase. I was intrigued so I asked about their existing promotions which prompted a series of questions that helped Neha suggest which of the products on promotion would fit in best with my skin type. Long story short, in less than 10 minutes, Neha had organized my return postage label, courier pick up time and upsold me for 3x more than the cost of the damaged item! Meet my Amazon marketplace ‘Anonymous Personal Shopper’. I have been online grocery shopping for over a decade. Understandably, during the first lockdown in February 2020, most major supermarkets blocked out and reserved their delivery slots for people over 70s deemed vulnerable to the virus. In the UK, Amazon very promptly partnered up with a large local supermarket to start offering a personal shopping experience for Grocery items. As an Amazon Prime subscriber, I was able to secure same day delivery with a selection of delivery slots available some as close as 2 hours from when my order is placed. On a weekly basis I fill up my grocery cart, select my delivery slot and wait for a text message from the system to let me know the status of my shopping cart. My interaction with this bot is two-fold. It lets me know the status of my grocery shopping cart, including when it is on the move and about to be delivered to my doorstep. Its link with mobile maps enables me to track my delivery right to the point where its minutes from my home. Secondly, if an item in my shopping cart is not available, the chatbot provides recommendations for a suitable substitute. I have the option to either accept or reject the substitution and my grocery bill is adjusted accordingly. From a customer service perspective, the rise of chatbots is great as it has allowed us to continue to self-isolate without having to worry about whether we will run out of milk or bread! Unfortunately for my decade old online grocer, Amazon’s new customer experience, has me sold and there is no turning back. Meet my friend Donna. She has solved all my banking issues (new cards, pins, statements, change of address among other items) within minutes! Ordinarily, we would have had to call the bank, schedule an appointment with an Account Manager and then spend anything from 30 minutes to 2 hours completing forms and jumping through hoops to get all items up to date.
More and more banking and financial organizations are leveraging artificial intelligence and investing in chatbot solutions to reduce costs and serve increasingly tech-savvy consumers. The objective is to provide quick service and transactional support. Most basic tasks such as balance inquiry, bank account details, loan queries etc. can now be handled by a chatbot efficiently, allowing customer service representatives valuable time for more complex issues. According to a report released by Juniper, chatbots will be responsible for over $8B in annual cost savings by 2022! In fact, more advanced banking chatbots already exist and based on customer’s data, they can track spending habits, provide credit scores, set and manage budgets and tell the consumer where they are spending their money. With the added advantage of AI-based recommendations, these advanced banking chatbots  could even provide advice for better money management. I am not quite ready to hand over my purse strings just yet, but who knows what the future holds. Meet my friend Patrick. I had read about Lego’s gift chatbot, Ralph, who was launched over Christmas to help indecisive shoppers. I was hoping Ralph would be able to help me pick out a Father’s Day gift. Ralph was not available, but Patrick talked me through my options and helped me weigh out the pros and cons of a Minecraft themed set vs. Mindstorm robotics kit. He shared links to the Lego shopping website and images of themed options complete with discount codes.
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According to HubSpot, 47% of users are open to purchasing items through a bot. That is nearly 1 in every 2 customers who are willing to engage in a purchase process that is completely guided by a chatbot! I did deliberately abandon the cart. Though, Patrick is a persistent chatbot. He has tried to re-engage me through messenger and tempt me with discount codes and free shipping.  No, I have not transacted yet and am waiting for the retargeting media campaign to kick in. Beyond the sales and lead generation aspect, another benefit of Chatbots is cart recovery, particularly for retail and eCommerce companies. Chatbots can remind customers to buy, offer assistance, discounts and even clear up confusion or address concerns. Smart marketers can take this one step further and integrate the intel collected from chatbots and inject it into their remarketing campaigns to re-engage cart-abandoners and try to trigger a transaction. Meet my “Anonymous Friend” who specializes in luxury travel. A couple of months ago, I was contacted by a luxury hotel group’s chatbot as part of their lead generation exercise to re-engage with a past guest. The message was simple: “Hi Farah. We invite you to experience Budapest with our limited-time offer. Please let us know if you have specific travel dates in mind and any questions we may answer. We look forward to welcoming you.” Of course, I was interested. Considering Covid travel restrictions are being eased and summer travel is becoming a real possibility, I inquired about the current offers and travel restrictions. The chatbot’s response included links to relevant packages, travel documentation requirements, a link to a list of accepted countries and contact details for the reservation team. In the last few years, interest in chatbots within the hospitality industry has been growing steadily and is greatly reinforced by COVID-19 circumstances that push towards staff compression, cost efficiency, and the need to deliver instant and up to date information to prospective guests.
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Beyond the above example of how the hospitality industry is using chatbots to influence direct sales and deliver relevant information, chatbots offer support by increasing operational efficiencies, by filtering and answering frequently asked questions and redirecting the more complex questions to the reservations or concierge teams. My weekend with my new friends was truly educational. I learned that chatbots have multiple uses for business from a variety of industries beyond retail and eCommerce. With their quality improving and advances in AI-based technology, they are here to stay and are a welcome change, particularly from a customer service and operational efficiency standpoint. As AI and related technologies develop further, the more advanced chatbots will drive lead generation, influence cart recovery, and engage with prospective customers into conversational commerce that could impact an additional revenue stream. It’s no wonder that by 2024, chatbots are projected to drive eCommerce transactions worth $142bn! If you’d like to discuss how Acronym can help you leverage chatbots for cost-savings or as a revenue driver, contact us. POV by Farah Sadiq, EVP, International
video game controller in hands

G-Commerce is the New Ecommerce: 5 Ways Brands Drive Revenue Through Gaming

By Brand Engagement, G-Commerce, Insights & News No Comments

Gamification is not a new concept in marketing, particularly from the perspective of securing brand loyalty. Back in 1896, marketers sold stamps to retailers who used them to reward loyal customers. Fast forward to the 21st century, brands are still applying fun and engaging methods to stand out positively and reinforce buying behavior, engagement, brand loyalty and fuel online.

My earliest memory of a Brand -developed viral online game application is the Red Bull Roshambull game app, an online version of the old schoolyard game “rock-paper-scissors” which was launched on the Facebook platform back in 2007. It was fun, engaging, and due to its addictiveness, a perfect match for embracing the early days of Facebook’s growing community. It did wonders from a Brand visibility perspective, back then, as it was simply more interesting than just poking a friend!

In today’s world, everything is turning into entertainment and there is increased demand for new customer experiences and engaging content presented in a unique and fun way. Hence, the convergence of gaming and eCommerce (G-commerce) is inevitable.

While the common perception is that the typical gamer is very young and with little decision making and buying power. The truth is the average video gamer is 34 years old parent and homeowner (and women like me represent 33% of this gaming population!)

In 2019, there were already more than 2.7 billion video gamers worldwide. The gaming market has since exponentially grown and is due to continue to grow to $256 billion by 2025.

According to Forbes, 80% of smartphone users play mobile games on their device, and nearly 50% play games every day. Additionally, mobile game apps are used equally by both men and women. While more teens play mobile games than adults, 62% of adults do use these apps.

If you are not tapping into the gamer market, you have got to ask yourself, “Why not?”.

Here is how some brands are successfully using games for marketing and generating a new revenue stream through G-Commerce.

Live Streaming Game Platforms 

In September 2020, British heritage brand, Burberry became the first luxury fashion brand to collaborate with Twitch and livestream the BurberrySpring/Summer 2021 show from London Fashion Week. The hour-long stream garnered approximately 42,000 concurrent views. It has not only unlocked a new space to connect with the Burberry community but also enabled the luxury fashion brand to tap into a potential new customer base.  

As Twitch is owned by Amazon, there is possibility to now extend the Twitch partnership further and create a seamless linked customer experience on a new eCommerce storefront – Amazon Luxury Stores.  

Sponsorships 

ESports has always been popular and not just in the US. With game genres ranging from fighting games, first-person shooters, strategy, sports, racing and all sorts of multiplayer online battle arenas, it is no wonder that the esports market is valued at over $900M and growing at an exponential rate. It has certainly come a long way since the first ever FIFA game was released in Dec 1993 on consoles like SEGA. (While the game only included a national team, without player names, there were sponsors on the background billboards!)

Companies looking to grow their brands are partnering with specific esports leagues or tournaments to sponsor the events. These partnerships offer an opportunity for high engagement since they often feature live performances and, extensive media coverage – online and offline, which helps brands connect with enthusiastic gaming fans. Beyond event sponsorships, companies have also adopted product placement to boost brand awareness with in-game branding such as billboards, player jerseys, digital signages and customized arenas.

Red Bull tops the list of ESport sponsors, and their investment has a return of a whopping USD 1.8B+ in revenue from ESport sponsorships alone

Brand Tie-ins 

One of my favorite brand tie-ins is EA Games and Italian fashion house Moschino from 2019. They collaborated to create in-game packs that would unlock virtual Moschino clothing and fashion-themed career paths in the Sims Universe. Not only did the luxury brand creatively position their garments as part of the in-game experience, but Moschino also adopted the game theme in-store by launching their ready to wear line under the Moschino x Sims moniker. 

More recently, Balenciaga recently released their 2021 Fall Collection in the form of an immersive online video game titled “Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow”.  

 Influencers & streamers

Like Travel, Fashion and Beauty influences, Gaming influencers are extremely impactful. Most of

these streamers have millions of followers, and sponsoring their streams is an effective strategy for brand marketing. Similar to other advertising on broadcast channels, a streamer might include your brand in a sponsored stream title or on a tile on their channel page. Other options include brand placement on the video stream itself or behind the streamer on their webcam.

Brands can monetize on this when streamers share unique promotion codes with their fans to receive discounts or value adds when they transact on Brand eStores.

Adidas collaborated with gaming streamer Ninja (Tyler Blevins), to launch a new sneaker collection. As Ninja is one of the most followed Twitch gamers (14M+ followers!), this collaboration helped Adidas tap into his massive following.

Programmatic advertising in games

In-game advertising has significantly evolved, not just in the sophistication of gamer audience target segments but also with the use of AI technology, tools and technique that are less disruptive to game play while still being engaging.

With programmatic advertising now integrated into mobile devices and console-based games, it has opened up a whole new channel for Brands to engage with their desired audience while using the same sophisticated and customized audience-based targeting.

For those of you who are still deliberating on whether gamification should be part of your overall marketing mix, perhaps start with a small test on your next programmatic media buy and take things from there. Or, you can contact us and we can help develop a strategic approach with you.

POV by Farah Sadiq, Acronym’s EVP, GM International