Walking the walk and talking…non-stop.

As a marketing and communications firm, we’ll be honest, we utilize most of our energy and creative focus on our clients across adtech, fintech, travel and emerging media. We don’t rest until the press, analysts, investors, partners, and entire industry believes in their product or service as much as we do. This means that we often do not get the time to focus on getting attention ourselves. BUT…we also believe you shouldn’t use a penniless financial planner nor a communications firm without a bit of acclaim.

In accordance with this view, we wanted to take a moment to show off some light work we’ve done to help educate the industry, bring new communications techniques to the forefront and present a bit of our own leadership.  Below, find our stats and a bit of our own acclaim.

 

Our stats:

-We’ve launched over 25 startups, eight of those we ran the course with and took through either 8 or 9 figure exits, many of the the rest are growing with us still.

-We’ve assisted over 16 fortune 500 brands.

-We’ve been featured in journalist driven press articles on 119 differing occasions.

-We’ve contributed over 175 bylines to industry and mass market publications.

-We can count eight differing award wins over  history across the company and team.

-14 Keynote speakerships delivered.

-23 Panel sessions participated in.

Some Featured Research:

Augmented Reality:  www.forbes.com/sites/michaelhumphrey/2016/09/26/pokemon-go-user-survey-marketing-via-augmented-reality-will-be-complex

Blockchain Marketers:  https://www.exchangewire.com/blog/2017/07/06/blockchain-can-revolutionise-marketing-us-leads-europe-smart-home-development/  

China’s Digital Affluent: https://jingdaily.com/chinese-rich-mobile-boosts-individualism/

Ad Fraud :  https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/258668/6-billion-lost-to-fraudulent-ad-spend.html

 

Some General Press

Ad Fraud:  https://www.inc.com/bill-carmody/problematic-programmatic-media-buying.html

The Reinvention of PR: https://tech.co/startups-reinventing-ancient-industries-2016-05

Digital Video: https://www.theguardian.com/media-network/media-network-blog/2014/jan/17/three-factors-scupper-online-video-advertising

Work/Life/Fun: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-02-12/nine-professionals-on-their-workday-breaks

 

Some Thought Leadership Bylines:

General PR: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/269920

Advice for Startups: https://thenextweb.com/entrepreneur/2016/08/22/is-telecommuting-killing-your-startup/#.tnw_jNX1gH0t

Branded Data: http://www.prnewsonline.com/earning-branded-content

Native Advertisinghttps://nativeadvertisinginstitute.com/blog/use-native-advertising-amplify-content/

 


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Do you even Blockchain bro?

This month the “Inside Edge” newsletter/blog is on hold due to our chief wordsmith being on leave for a quick few weeks. In lieu of your regularly scheduled “glimpse and delete” material, we decided to push research we know you want and insight we know you need. We’re more than PR.

Do you even Blockchain bro?

We’ve been helping to school marketers across fintech, video, ehealth and adtech better understand how to position novel blockchain endeavors. Check out our research on marketer sentiments and perceptions.

Blockchain and Marketer Perceptions  ExchangeWire

Initial Coin offer…me something of value.

Yes, the ICO space is hot. Yes the ICO space also has serious “sketch factor”. That said, we’ve been bringing value to the bubble. We’re also bringing some research on investor relations pros and ICOs soon. First, our CEO set to figure out who owns the ICO space.

The Great ICO Turf War  Agility PR

It’s the year of the Rooster, get cocky with China’s wealthy

China’s elite can be a tough crowd to roll with. Our day job is to reach them with your message, but in our spare time, we  provide insight as to what makes them tick across devices. Say Ni Hao to these insights..

The mobile habits of China’s wealthyJing Daily

Brand This:

It amazes us how often communicators rely on tired stories to try and hit the press when they have a stockpile of really amazing data. This data can provide the press with unlimited potential to share your news. We provided Tech.Co some basic reasons why.

Branded Data is the Key for Startup Marketing  Tech.co

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How to Avoid Innovation Pitfalls for Emerging Tech Startups

Here at EI, we see plenty of startups looking to evangelize innovations. From augmented reality and health tech to the Internet of Things, a slew of new products and services are revolutionizing responses to both consumer needs and industry pain points. But the unfortunate truth is that 75% of these ventures will fail due to issues involving the brand’s business model, approach or focus.

For those looking to break into the competitive technology space, avoiding these common pitfalls will serve you well:

  1. Don’t aim for disruption. Aim for enhancement.

There’s an old guard protecting the landscape and a variety of organizations who believe they can disrupt it. What most do not realize is that the marketplace is already experiencing immense changes that can be categorized as less of a “disruption” and more so “business as usual” with a twist. Sure, there are technologies and behaviors that are altering many aspects of the business. And of course, there are industry giants poised to take on specific elements in the space. But the bottom line is that there are very smart, well-financed and protected organizations that are capable of rolling with the punches. Smart startups will seek to pinpoint challenges within the tech sector and craft innovations to address them. They will not look to upend a very profitable system, but seek to enhance it. Ultimately, they will figure out compelling ways to affect positive changes while realizing that disruption is not the key to success.

  1. Proof of concept is king.

The technology world is a hype-filled place. The industry is fast-paced, ever-changing and offers plenty of monetary gain, so there’s plenty of people constantly trying to enter it. Some of them are great marketers, but that doesn’t mean their products will live up to the excitement they manage to create about them. If your organization is unable to provide a tangible product, all the hype in the world won’t help you. Even before promotional efforts begin, you must prove your technology actually works. There is no such thing as “we’re working out a few kinks.” If a product is ready, it’s ready; and if it’s not, it’s not. On top of proving this validity, a company must also prove the business case. In fact, this is the single most important task for any emerging tech brand. Your business case should be well-structured to perfectly capture the reason and need for your product. In this industry, the folks that live up to the hype and present a proof of concept are the ones that will flourish.

  1. Jump off the buzzword bandwagon for success that is not short-lived.

All too often, startups, innovators and well-established companies will create and innovate new products based on buzzwords alone. The problem with this approach is that buzzwords are fads, and by the time a product finally goes to market there may already be another buzzword in its place. Seeking to capitalize on specific trends is a short-term strategy based on novelty that doesn’t have any real staying power. Marketing a product solely built around a temporary buzzword is not only a giant gamble that typically doesn’t pay off, it’s also a crutch for the less creative to lean on. Instead of relying on words that may be huge today and gone tomorrow, create your own terms that will allow for profitable results.

Any promising startup can make these common mistakes, which is why we are here to help assist with creating and executing the best marketing strategy for your innovative product or service. By keeping these major blunders in mind while working to craft a paramount business approach, we’ll have the best possible chance of successfully launching you and your product into the technology marketplace.

 


Mobile Marketing Data for the Affluent in China

An article based on Emerging Insider’s deep dive into the purchasing habits of China’s affluent population was just featured by Jen King in Jing Daily. It includes data and insights from our CEO about how wealthy Chinese mobile users interact with brands…and why that should matter to marketers.

To read the full story, click here.


Performance Marketing Data Shows Rise in Demand for Phone Interaction

In a mobile world where so many of our interactions have become digitized, there’s still a lot to be said for humanized conversations. The findings of a recent study by RingPartner made this especially evident by garnering numbers that should make modern day marketers look up from their smartphones and pay attention.

RingPartner is a performance marketing network that works with digital publishers to deliver millions of inbound consumer calls to advertisers. That put them in the unique position to analyze hundreds of thousands of these connections made each month to better understand how consumers want to interact with businesses over the phone.

Based on this research, the company found the desire to have actual conversations with brands is on the rise, with consumers spending an average of 113% more time on the phone with businesses in 2017 than they did in 2016. The report goes on to break down what this means for different industries and how seasonality affects both call volume and conversion rates throughout the year.

The bottom line is that consumers still want to reach out and touch someone. It is your organization’s responsibility to ensure your marketing, sales and customer service strategies allow for that opportunity and make it the best possible experience.

The full report can be downloaded here.


How Augmented Reality Can Breathe New Life into Marketing Communications

Print ads are undoubtedly one of the most tried-and-true forms of marketing communications. But that doesn’t make them feel any less antiquated. Even when advertisements push the envelope with creative infusions that defy the standard construct, there’s only so much they can do to sell products or services in a way that makes consumers care or, at the very least, doesn’t bore them.

Augmented Reality (AR) is a real-time view of the physical world, altered with computer-generated stimuli, that has proven to be incredibly successful for marketing purposes by creating personalized content that fosters a meaningful connection to promotional print materials.

Home furnishings giant IKEA, for example, created an AR program to go along with their 2014 catalog. Users could scan the printed images of items they liked with an app which then allowed them to see how the furniture would look and fit inside a room. This approach not only turned catalog shopping into a new way to interact with a product before buying it, it also helped consumers avoid a dreaded pilgrimage to the world’s most intimidating furniture store.

Vespa, an Italian scooter company, used augmented reality to add functionality to their magazine campaign. By viewing the ads through an AR app, consumers could build their own customized scooter, selecting from various colors, styles and accessories. GPS instructions to the nearest Vespa dealer were also conveniently included.

The New Yorker integrated AR technology into the front and back covers of its magazine to modernize the experience of printed reading materials. Both featured an illustrated cityscape that, when seen through an augmented reality app, allowed readers to view the artwork as if they were a part of it, creating an entirely new way to engage with a traditional medium.

Each of these brands utilized AR techniques that elevated the consumer experience by giving good ol’ print pieces a much-needed face-lift. By including a call out to view them with an augmented reality app, you can literally make words jump off the page with things like product photos or service demonstrations that give a 360-degree view of every attribute.

Ultimately, augmented reality enables printed pieces to include additional creative and informative content that may not fit within a typical template. As marketers look to find ways this established form of communication can be revitalized to keep up with far more innovative tools, AR should be considered for the technology’s ability to monopolize a consumer’s attention span while deepening their relationship with what is being promoted.


Lost in Translation: How NOT to Market in China

If you’re looking to reach China’s massive luxury goods market, you can’t just translate your ads into Chinese. Of course, good translations are very important and can help avoid unfortunate mistakes like that time Pepsi accidentally claimed to bring dead people back to life. But translations alone simply aren’t enough to be successful. The key to an effective communications plan for business opportunities abroad is cultural sensitivity.

China’s consumers have unique feelings about social status, relationships and even leisure activities that necessitate a tailored approach to advertising. If you don’t take the time to understand and then incorporate these tastes into your messaging, you will alienate your audience and eliminate ROI. You will also end up featured as a “Chinese Marketing Fail” on a fine blog like this one. On that note, here are three examples of brands that screwed up launching campaigns in China:

1. eBay

When eBay came to China in 2004, the brand hoped to take customers away from e-retailer Alibaba which at the time was helping small companies run online businesses. In an effort to dominate the market, eBay launched aggressive campaigns, even signing exclusive rights with major web portals that would block their competitors’ ads. It was a savage move that didn’t pay off and the reason they say “know your audience.” Because Alibaba executives recognized that China’s small business people preferred watching TV over surfing the Internet during their downtime. So they invested heavily in television campaigns promoting their new auction site, Taobao. These efforts soon made Taoboa a household name, allowing it to heavily outpace its American counterpart and forcing eBay to wave the white flag in 2006.

2. Home Depot

With home ownership on the rise in China, entering this market seemed like a no-brainer to Home Depot. But six years later, they managed to evict themselves. The company failed on several fronts including a lack of marketing that targeted Chinese women, who often make the final decisions about home décor purchases. Home Depot also greatly overestimated these consumers’ desires to “do it yourself,” a major messaging point in much of the brand’s advertising. Because manual labor is considered the trade of lower-class citizens, this was off-putting to new home buyers. By ignoring these important aspects of local culture, and trying to make middle class Chinese people do their own renovations, Home Depot never effectively connected with this audience.

3. Groupon

Despite spending a whopping $432 million on marketing, Groupon failed in China and it wasn’t because the people there didn’t want to pay deeply discounted prices for concert tickets and hair removal services. They already had successful group-buying sites. Groupon was unable to bite into that business due to a lack of cultural understanding reflected in many aspects of their downfall, from their inability to steal executive talent away from competitors to their difficulty trying to build vendor partnerships. Not only did they scare off prospects during sales pitches by demanding much higher percentages than typical of the market, they also insisted on using mass email campaigns to target business owners because this had worked for them when expanding into Europe. But because Chinese small business owners do not typically read such marketing emails, Groupon’s efforts in China fell flatter than an unstuffed dumpling.

Chinese consumers can differ greatly from those in America. Ultimately, if your organization wants to capitalize on advertising opportunities in China, you’ll make efforts to understand the needs and preferences of its citizens. Because as even some of the biggest U.S. brands like Pepsi have learned, cultural sensitivity can make or break a campaign…especially when you promise to reincarnate your consumers.


4 Reasons Your Startup Should Avoid Large PR Firms

There are so many justifications as to why a startup should hire a public relations firm that doing so is basically a no-brainer. After all, why wouldn’t you look to a team of seasoned experts able to approach what you’re selling from an objective, outside perspective rather than rely on your internal team members who don’t have the same range of experience or ability to overcome myopic points of view enabled by an emotional proximity to a pitch? Not doing so would just be silly.

But when it comes to selecting an agency, some serious thought must go into the size of the organization you choose. Here are four important reasons why a boutique firm is better equipped to handle your startup:

1. Big firms mean less attention.

Would you rather date somebody who already has a wide variety of demanding, high-maintenance significant others or someone who has time for you? Large PR agencies care less about doing everything they can to promote a small client and far more about the giant brands they can bill up to $30k per month. But ultimately, the joke is on them. Because boutique public relations firms know that hitting smaller accounts as hard as possible is what someday turns startups into huge, powerful brands.

2. Big firms have high turnover.

You should never get too attached to your account team at a large PR agency because chances are, they won’t always be your account team. Big firms are a revolving door for young, overworked talent which means these reps never have the time it takes to truly learn your industry. That makes your business their resume fodder. New public relations agents at huge organizations are more concerned with amazing startup launches they can reference during future job interviews than they are with building realistic and sustainable long-term strategies.

3. Big firms can play favorites.

As a small startup represented by a large agency, you’re a little fish in a big pond. And no agent wants his picture taken holding a guppy when there’s a 300-pound Marlin available for the shot. With the scale of clientele it takes to support a big PR firm, there will always be competitive clients on their roster that may be handed media opportunities before you are. Smaller firms are more likely to ensure that each of their clients is getting the available coverage that they deserve, regardless of their retainer size.

4. Big firms face bureaucracy.

One of the best things about small PR agencies is their ability to be nimble, pivoting as necessary to take advantage of breaking news and evolving trends that can be leveraged to promote a startup. But at large firms, anything truly innovative must often go through several levels of approval before it can be executed. Cutting through all that red tape inevitably takes up time that allows fantastic opportunities to quickly pass by.

When it comes to finding the right PR firm to represent your business, be sure to look past the established names and check out smaller agencies that will truly have your best interests at heart. Boutique agencies are not so far removed from the struggles startups face and are more likely to view themselves as a partner rather than just a paid ally of your organization.


3 Ways Augmented Reality Marketing Can Modernize Traditional Consumer Experiences

In a world of digitized transactions, face-to-face commerce can feel downright old school. We’ve grown accustomed to the convenient wealth of information available to us as part of the online consumer journey. Of course, this has made a web presence imperative to every successful marketing strategy. But there are plenty of industries which still rely heavily on in-person interactions. Fortunately, these established touchpoints can now leverage augmented reality (AR) technology to create customized engagement opportunities able to compete with the unique experiences brands can offer via the Internet.

AR is a real-time view of the physical world that has been altered with computer-generated stimuli such as graphics, video or sound. AR marketing enhances consumer encounters with personalized content that fosters a meaningful connection. And it can do so across industries where live exchanges with consumers inevitably mean more revenue. Here are three traditional in-person experiences that could stand to benefit from the modernization inherent in augmented reality.

1. Brick and mortar shops.

With competition from delivery services like Peapod and AmazonFresh, customer retention is of utmost importance to conventional grocery stores. Some chains have rolled out loyalty cards to satisfy their customers’ needs by tracking and offering discounts on frequently purchased items…and to give their cashiers more things to ask you about during checkout. According to Supermarket News, when retailers use shopper data mined from such programs and apply it to pricing, promotions and assortment, they can see a 4%-7% increase in gross profits.

Now imagine a customer loyalty platform which allows access to additional layers of purchaser information by incorporating augmented reality marketing in the form of personalized touchpoints that build a bond between the consumer and retailer. A PwC poll showed that 52% of respondents felt the in-store experience is a major feature that brings them back. So an app that scans the produce section, offering tips to help pick the freshest fruits and vegetables, or gives meal prep advice and side dish suggestions when selecting meats would give the store a competitive edge over its e-retailer counterparts by adding value to the shopping trip.

2. The real estate industry.

The real estate industry could use AR technology to take the home buying experience to the next level. Currently, agents spend up to $2,500 “staging” a property for potential purchasers by making it look like a cozy and comfortable model home, not unlike you do the first time you plan to invite a date back to your place. Tactics may include depersonalizing and decluttering or minimalizing furniture to show off the size of the space. By positioning a property in its best possible light, it will spend 72 percent less time on the market and generally sell for more money according to the Real Estate Staging Association.

But what if staging could be customized based on applying buyer preferences with augmented reality technology? A family likely to update a traditional home with modern design elements could view these modifications through a realtor’s AR app, or they could turn what was a basic guest room into an inviting children’s playroom by seeing bright colors on the walls and an overflowing toy chest. An empty backyard could be altered with images of a perfectly placed fire pit or a party-friendly pool and hot tub. By offering these visualizations, augmented reality tools can take buyers beyond the limitations of virtual video tours, actively making a house for sale feel less like someone else’s space and more like their very own dream home.

3. Entertainment and event marketing.

An effective hashtag can be crucial to promoting an event as these callouts help attendees organize their experiences and stay virtually connected to the occasion, which is why bridezillas now agonize over generating the perfect one. Better still is for marketers to actually provide participants with unique content they can share via social media to pique their friends’ and followers’ interest in what they’re up to.

An augmented reality application could easily place the image of a concert-goer on center stage right next to the performer, allowing them to forgo the expensive meet and greet tickets to get virtually up close and personal with their favorite singer or band. Similar technology could layer a photo of an excited football fan into a shot of the end zone without the risk of getting tackled by players twice his size. By including a feature that allows these generated photos to be screengrabbed and shared straight to Facebook, Instagram, etc. the interactivity of the event has been heightened with unique pictures far surpassing the average cell phone shots taken at concerts and games. Given that a Ticketfly study showed that almost a third of 18-34-year-olds are using their phones during half of an event or longer, organizers can and should be using AR to steer this usage in a way that will help sell future tickets.

From small businesses to large events, a variety of traditional industries could stand to benefit from these unprecedented augmented reality marketing opportunities. The sky truly is the limit, and it could very easily be augmented, by any organizations willing to take advantage of AR.


3 Keys to Creating the Right Augmented Reality Marketing Experience

“Augmented Reality” presents a world of opportunities just waiting to be visually altered by smart brands taking advantage of this multi-dimensional tool for enhancing user experiences. Studies have shown that over 60% of consumers see clear benefits in using AR technology in their daily lives, and there are now hundreds of AR startups on AngelList with an average valuation of $4.6 million.

Enriching the physical landscape with imagery and videos in real-time is both attention-grabbing and memorable, the pinnacle of marketing campaign effectiveness. But to reach the ultimate trifecta of ROI it also needs to be build a connection between the brand and the consumer. Here are some of the best practices now commonly used to create augmented reality content that drives the highest levels of engagement.

1. Building It

The first thought that comes to mind when you hear “augmented reality” may be a giant head-mounted display that takes away from the coolness factor of being an early adopter. After all, people had some choice things to say about the first wearers of Google Glass. But AR technology can be used on all sorts of screens including less cumbersome mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. The easiest and most cost-effective way for brands to get into this space is by utilizing an existing augmented reality viewer to build a campaign. This allows for testing the waters to learn what consumers respond to best before investing time and money into building your own app which can cost anywhere from $30,000 to $700,000 for high-level functionalities.

2. Perfecting It

Once you’ve established the right technology to wow your audiences it’s time to determine how you’ll encourage users to interact with their environment. Brands that have gone all in on AR campaigns will utilize mapping technology to let consumers virtually try on makeup or they’ll gamify a day at a theme park to make it somehow even more stimulating. But on the most fundamental level, augmented reality viewers are designed to simply place virtual objects in the real world, making this innovative technology well-suited to liven up even the most basic ad offerings like direct mail campaigns.

3. Promoting It

With the pieces in place to launch your augmented reality campaign, the final step is driving audiences to interact with it. Simply put, people won’t accidentally open an augmented reality viewer and take a look at your content. The only way users are going to know you have an AR experience is if you make sure they get that message loud and clear. That is why all the most successful AR marketing programs have one thing in common – strong calls to action. Virtually every consumer touchpoint should contain a reminder that an app on their device can expose them to a whole new world of exclusive content.

With predictions that augmented reality could hit $120 billion in revenue by 2020, now is the time for your brand to explore the technology and get comfortable using it. By making smaller investments while learning what works best to reach your consumers, you’ll have mastered the art of the AR campaign by the time all those AngelList startups have matured into the marketplace.