Friday Wrap #215: Can AR save print? Does print need saving?

Shel Holtz's picture

Friday Wrap #215

I extract items for the Wrap from my link blog, which you’re welcome to follow. To make sure you never miss an issue, subscribe to my weekly email briefing.

Upcoming Free Stuff

Free crisis communications webinar—Next Thursday at 2 p.m. EDT, I’ll join Jen Zingzheim Phillips for a fee webinar on crisis communications hosted by Carma, the company that owns media monitoring service CustomScoop. Did I mention it’s free? Register

Panel on measurement planning will be broadcast—Also on May 18 at noon EDT, I will moderate a panel of Fellows from the International Association of Business Communicators on how to plan for measurement of communication efforts. The hour-long panel will be broadcast free via a Google Hangout on Air. Read more


Facebook demotes low-quality sites in News Feed—Facebook doesn’t want you to see lousy websites. To that end, the company is pushing links to such sites far down the News Feed and is refusing to carry ads that point to them. The company considers these sites to be those that contain “little substantive content, and that is covered in disruptive shocking, or malicious ads.” In addition to saving us from clicking to these sites, the move could also help in the fit against fake news, since these items are usually motivated by ad revenue and the sites to which they are published often meet these criteria. The takeaway: The flip side is also true: As Facebook buries crappy sites, high-quality sites may rise higher in your News Feed. Read more

Is a crisis ever really a crisis?—You would think that the passenger-dragging incident had a financial impact on United. You would be wrong. Even as the company struggled to calm public outrage, United posted the strongest gains of the year when it comes to passengers served and seats filled. That not only beats the same period in the previous year, but it’s the best performance by United for all of 2017 so far. The takeaway: Crisis experts struggle with this kind of report. Why respond at all if the bottom line won’t suffer? Other factors need to be considered, including recruiting. Also, it could be the next period that reflects any economic consequences, since most travel in April had already been booked before the dragging incident went viral. Read more

Nugget-craving teen breaks retweet record—Sixteen-year-old Carter Wilkerson tweeted the Wendy’s fast-food chain how many retweets he’d have to get for a year of free chicken. Wendy’s responded: 18 million. “Consider it done,” Wilkerson tweeted back; then he tweeted, “HELP ME PLEASE. A MEAN NEEDS HIS NUGGS.” Next, he launched a campaign asking for retweets from friends and celebrities. The campaign went viral: t-shirts bearing #NuggsforCarter appeared, and he began getting invitations to appear on TV shows. Wendy’s kept up with the campaign (e.g., “1 million?!?! Officially SHOOK”). Wilkerson has beaten the previous most retweeted tweet (the Oscars selfie by Ellen Degeneres) and currently stands at about 3.6 million. For that, Wendy’s is giving him the free nuggets even though he’s not likely to hit the 18-million mark. The takeaway: When you hear about social media being a channel for companies to engage with customers, remember this story of a one-to-one interaction that caught fire. Read more

United’s nugget tweet gets the response you’d expect—In response to Carter Wilkerson’s quest to get 18 million retweets in exchange for free Wendy’s nuggets for a year, United Airlines tweeted that if he reached the goal, United will “give you a free flight to take you to any @Wendy’s in the world in a city we serve. Good luck!” Does anybody at United think before they do anything? It’s not hard to guess the Twitterverse’s response, which addressed everything from the recent dragging incident to the teens tossed from a flight for wearing leggings. The takeaway: Companies in the throes of a reputation crisis need to resist the temptation to join in online fun and figure out when it’s best to just shut up. Read more

Misaligned marketing from IBM—IBM’s Smarter Workforce unit hosted a panel at the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology where it concluded that people who work from home tend to be “more engaged, have stronger trust in leadership, and much stronger intention to stay.” That came three months after the company forced employees to start showing up at the office or lose their jobs, ending a 10-year-old remote working policy. The takeaway: A classic case of the right hand not knowing what the left is up to. Coordination is vital. Leaders of one business unit shouldn’t be able to make decisions in a vacuum, lest they produce a statement like this that makes them look out of touch with themselves. Read more

Pinterest camera search adds Visual Guides—Pinterest Lens—a live camera search utility—allows users to point their camera at a product and see new ideas or products related to what the camera sees. The new Visual Guides uses object detection to help identify what’s in the image and help users search for specific items. The takeaway: Consumers will grow more accustomed to these technologies, requiring communicators to consider where adopting them will enhance their own customers’ experiences. Start using Lens so you can get a handle on what is essentially a whole new user behavior. Read more

Browser provides one-click access to messaging apps—I haven’t used the Opera browser in years, but I reinstalled it yesterday after learning that the latest version includes icons for Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Telegram. The icons appear on the left-hand side of the browser; clicking them gives you instant access to your account. Desktop versions were already available, but you have to launch each separately. The takeaway: These fly-out versions of messaging services is brilliantly executed. If only I could also have access to all my Chrome extensions. Still, I’m more likely to have two browsers open than open my messaging apps separately whenever I want to use them. Read more

Google unveils 360-degree cameras—The idea behind the 360-degree camera from Google is to let users create their own Street View images. You will be able to shoot in one of four standards: mobile-ready (for uploading the 360-degree image from an app), auto-ready (for cameras mounted on vehicles), VR-ready (for VR gadgets) and Workflow-ready (for cameras that have publishing software built-in). By the end of the year, at least 20 “Street View Ready” recording devices will be available. The takeaway: Consider this an extreme example of crowdsourcing. Read more


Brands finally wake up to memes—They flood Facebook, those images with huge all-cap block lettering that are easy to create and deploy. Brands have stayed away from them, for the most part, but recently (thanks, in part, to Instagram) they’re finally gaining traction with marketers. Memes cut through the clutter and avoid the annoyance that comes with an ad that interrupts the flow. “That means less overt promotions and more of the humorous’ internet conversations’ that millennials are already having.” Among the brands trying out meme marketing: Gucci and HipChat. The takeaway: I have been arguing for brands to use memes to convey pretty much anything, including data. When talking about data visualization, I like to point to a meme that showed up during the Ebola outbreak, a photo of Kim Kardashian and text that read, “MORE AMERICANS HAVE BEEN MARRIED TO KIM KARDASHIAN THAN HAVE DIED FROM EBOLA.” That’s data and a lot of people saw it. Read more

Influencer marketing comes to the cannabis business—Even supporters of marijuana legalization object to TV, billboard, and magazine ads because they don’t want their kids exposed to it. Influencer marketing could be the silver bullet for the burgeoning industry. Social media users and bloggers with followers who talk about the industry in their posts are targets for pot marketers if you can convince them to talk about your business. The takeaway: If you didn’t hear my interview with digital media pioneer Aliza Sherman about her new weed marketing consultancy, head on over to the FIR Podcat Network and give it a listen. This market is heating up with the growing number of states legalizing for both medical and recreational use. Aliza didn’t talk about influencer marketing but, as long as the effort abides by all the relevant laws, I expect to see a lot more of it. Read more

Social media a requirement for midsize businesses—Edelman president and CEO Richard Edelman and Leslie Gaines-Ross, chief reputation strategist at Weber Shandwick, agree that consumers expect CEOs to lead, filling the void left by governments, and disappointment in CEO failure to lead has led to a collapse in public trust in CEOs. Monitoring and employing social media is no longer optional, with CEOs needing to lean on their employees since speaking “from the mount…doesn’t work,” according to Edelman. “It’s wildfire if it comes from the employees.” In midmarket companies, social media engagement is particularly important for attracting the right people to work in the organization. The takeaway: As noted in the article, 84% of CEOs spoke up on President Trump’s immigration ban. CEOs no longer have a choice: They need to become spokespersons for social justice and social media is a key channel for articulating their views. Read more

Marketers to increase PR spending—I have read two major reports recently that call out the shift of PR as part of marketing. One of these is from the UCS Center for Public Relations at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. The Association of National Advertisers was part of this year’s study and reports that 62% of respondents said they planned to increase internal PR staffing over the next 5 years, while 75% will increase overall PR spending. An ANA spokesperson said that “Public relations as a discipline is clearly evolving and becoming more important to marketers.” And a Center for Public Relations spokesperson added, “Our findings clearly predict a convergence of PR and marketing over the next five years.” The takeaway: This is good and bad news for PR. Much of public relations is already product/service focused and the changes to PR make it an ideal marketing companion. Other PR, though, is corporate and reputation-based, where it will not serve the industry to be perceived as serving sales. I would advocate changing the name of the profession to “corporate communications” or something similar if I thought there was a snowball’s chance in hell that the label would get traction. In the meantime, this is definitely something the industry will have to work out. Read more

Are consumers ready for online digital experiences?—While customers are anxious to try new ways to connect with a brand, they are mostly interested in getting quick, convenient, and affordable results. Seventy percent of those who used Virtual Reality, interactive digital displays in a store, or using voice technology were disappointed and vowed to avoid those digital approaches. Marketers are also ignoring the willingness to use these technologies among younger demographics. Ultimately, using new online digital tools must make it easier for a customer to engage. The takeaway: You won’t get far with just a novelty. Newfangled technologies still need to “clearly promote the benefits that customers value, such as time savings, convenience, and faster results.” In other words, stop dangling the shiny object and start being strategic. Read more

Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality

Will AR save print?—With AR, print need not be confined to the limits of the printed page. Readers will be able to point their phones at the page and experience enhanced content—images, animations, videos, 3D experiences. This will require content creators to think in terms of how AR can enhance the print material to deliver a genuine experience (or, as this article puts it, “AR demands that we approach content creation with conscious intent”). The takeaway: Print is already resurgent, with recent data indicating paper book sales are booming while e-book sales are waning. I have never bought into the notion that print was dead. Enhancing the tactile experience of print with supplemental AR content could give you a solid reason to return print to the range of tools you employ in your communications. Read more

VR better than morphine for pain treatment—SnowWorld is an experimental VR therapy for treating burn victims undergoing excruciating treatments by having them fly through a virtual canyon while throwing snowballs at penguins snowmen. In several trials, researchers have found that “patients playing the game during wound-care sessions reported up to 50% less pain than those attempting other means to distract patients from pain.” Now, newer prototypes resulted in reduced pain from all but one patient. “Overall, patients reported 60-75% less pain than before their VR sessions. Immediately following a single session, patients reported 30 to 50% less pain. For comparison, morphine averages around 30% pain reduction.” The takeaway: Limiting your thinking about VR to marketing and entertainment could lead you to miss significant opportunities. How can VR enhance your existing products or services? Read more

Financial institution uses VR to bring report to life—A campaign from Bank of America Merrill Lynch is designed to bring its VR research to life. The report covers how “Future Realities” will change business in the near term. One VR video shares findings on how VR, AR, and Mixed Reality will change how businesses and consumers work and live. “Our goal…is to make the complex easier for our clients,” a spokesperson said. The takeaway: Using VR to explain VR to clients is a smart use of the technology. Read more

Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots

Ads are coming to Alexa skills—Analytics firm VoiceLabs is working on a technology that will let developers add interactive “sponsored messages” to Amazon Alexa skills. Developers would be able to select the ad they want to integrate into their skill. Users won’t notice anything different the first few times they use a skill, but after they have become a repeat user, they could start hearing something along the lines of, “Thanks for playing our game, and thanks to ESPN for sponsoring us.” Then, after a few more uses, the skill could pause to remind the user there’s a playoff game on ESPN later that night and ask if the user wants to be reminded when it starts. VoiceLabs can only offer its services in limited ways given Amazon’s policies against advertising; only flash briefings and streaming skills are available for these insertions. But “if Amazon softens its advertising policies for Alexa,” the company could quadruple its user base with thousands of developers looking for ways to make money from the skills they develop. The takeaway: Developers should exercise caution. I foresee a lot of bad advertising leading people to disable the skills that contain those ads. Read more

Amazon unveils Echo speaker with a touchscreen—Echo Show is an Echo smart speaker that features a 7-inch touchscreen for video calls. The 7-inch screen also plays videos and displays information (like an Amazon order). The Show is available for pre-order at $299. It will ship late next month. The takeaway: See the last item in this section. Amazon is poised to own a market that is exploding. Expect Google and Apple to show up with their own version that includes a screen. Microsoft, conversely, wants any Windows 10 computer to serve as a hub for voice tech, even though it’s entering the market via Samsung’s Invoke (see next item). Read more

Samsung and Microsoft enter smart speaker market—Amazon owns about 70% of the smart speaker market with its Alexa product line (see the item above); Google Home has barely made a dent. Apple is working on a device and Microsoft wants to play, too. Partnering with Samsung’s Harmon Kardon unit, Microsoft is introducing the Invoke, which will be powered by Cortana and allow users to make phone calls via Skype in addition to the usual voice-appliance features (like playing music, checking traffic, getting answers to questions, and controlling connected-home devices). The takeaway: Making phone calls may be the holy grail of smart speakers. Amazon introduced limited calling to Alexa recently; the people you’re calling have to also have the Alexa app installed. Using Skype—which Microsoft owns—will enable users to call virtually anybody just by using their voice. This could be the death knell for land-line phones, which are installed in fewer than 50% of American homes. Samsung seems to be covering its bases, since its own Bixby assistant will deliver voice tech through its line of smartphones. Read more

Voice tech added to makeup mirror—It’s not enough that ModiFace lets customers look in a mirror (or at their phone with a ModiFace-based app) and see how they would appear with, say, different lipstick colors or a few Botox treatments. Now, voice recognition has been built into the product that lets users simply ask to see how they’d look with blue eyeliner, and their appearance will change. The takeaway: What does your company offer that can be simplified with voice commands? Seriously, this is no longer aspirational or sci-fi. It’s here. Read more

Smart speakers set to post huge gains—Voice-enabled speakers like the Echo and Home will see usage rates jump by almost 130%; that’s more than 35 million more Americans who will use a smart speaker at least monthly. Amazon’s Alexa will control 70% of that market, according to analyst estimates. The takeaway: This technology is taking root faster than VR and AR and needs to become a focus for communicators as people increasingly look for content via these devices. Read more


Live 360-degree videos come to Periscope—Twitter’s Periscope live video service now supports Android devices using the Insta360 Air, a $129 camera that attaches to Android smartphones. Users of Periscope Producer can broadcast from two external cameras. Twitter is likely to add more cameras sooner or later. The Insta360 Air also works with Facebook Live, which may make the investment a little more worthwhile. The takeaway: Twitter’s move is evidence of the growing popularity of 360-degree video, including those live-streamed. Read more

Mobile and Wearables

Now you can upload images outside the Instagram app—If you visit the Instagram mobile website, you can upload an image from it without needing to open the app. That should add a lot more image sharing, particularly among users in developing regions where downloading the main app could be problematic. Officially, you still can’t upload from the desktop version of the website, though CNet has published instructions on how to do so unofficially by using the developer tools available within the Chrome and Safari browsers. The takeaway: The easier it is to use a service, the more people will use it. What Instagram has done is identify a pain point and address it. Read more

Carnegie Mellon app gives users more privacy control—With Privacy Assistant (for Android only), smartphone users can tap the power of Artificial Intelligence to get more control over the information collected and shared by their phones. Just answer some questions, like “Do you feel comfortable with finance apps accessing your location?”, and the app will analyze the apps on your phone and make specific recommendations about how you should manage your permissions. For now, Privacy Assistant works only on rooted phones. The takeaway: I have never rooted my phone—too many horror stories about rooting going south and leaving users with an expensive brick—but the concept is brilliant. I hope to see a tech company run with the idea. Read more

Values-Driven Marketing

Pepsi ad puts damper on issues advertising—The Pepsi ad featuring Kendall Jenner that sparked outrage for its oversimplified, rosy look at protests has put the brakes on a trend toward more issues-oriented advertising that was on prominent display at this year’s Super Bowl. Doing issues advertising well means “creative has to be grounded in strong insight; otherwise, the bandwagoning becomes glaringly obvious…and many brands are realizing it’s not for them.” The takeaway: Advertising is an easy way to convey a company’s perspective on an issue, but it’s decidedly not the only way. Concrete action is best—consider Bacardi’s work on clean water. Fitting your controversial view on a controversial issue into a 30- or 60-second spot can be perilous. Read more

CEO gets pie in face, maintains support for same-sex marriage—It will take more than a pie in the face to get Qantas CEO Alan Joyce to change his position on same-sex marriage. As Joyce began a speech this week, a man rubbed a pie in his face. The perpetrator told Australian media he wanted to make a statement about Joyce’s support for same-sex marriage. Joyce had joined other top Australian CEOs in a letter urging the government to legalize same-sex marriage. “No attempt at bullying us into suppressing our voice will work,” Joyce said later. The takeaway: Committing to principles means standing up for them in the face of adversity. Not that a pie in the face is all that dire, but still, it drew attention to Joyce’s position and probably earned him a few fans. Read more

Latest body diversity campaign from Dove goes awry—Packaging for Dove body wash was meant to represent different body types, but offended a lot of consumers. One critic wrote, “I do not appreciate a company that so oversimplifies the complicated issue of how society views women’s bodies.” Dove’s intent may have been to celebrate body diversity, but consumers hit back with tweets like “So if CVS is out of ‘skinny bitch’ bottles am I not going to be able to get clean? Not sure how this works.” The takeaway: I’m sorry to keep repeating this advice, but before launching anything that could be controversial, project yourself out six months after the launch failed and ask yourself, “What went wrong?” Read more

Consistency is required for social impact—This interview between PwC’s chief corporate responsibility and purpose officer and a professor at the Kellogg School explores the requirements for a company taking on a social cause. For example, companies need to “look at both the primary drivers of their business and the issues they see on the horizon (and) thinking about the resources they use throughout their global supply chain.” Beverage companies are focusing on water, for example, while drug store CVS—addressing health—stopped selling cigarettes. It’s also important for competitors to unite on these issues (as they did in their opposition to North Carolina’s transgender-focused bathroom bill). The takeaway: If your organization is getting serious about competing in the values-driven marketplace, this interview is loaded with great insights. One observation from PwC’s Shannon Schuyler: The company noted to its employees that its support of repealing the North Carolina bathroom ban was not based on the morality of the issue, but rather “because the ban would mean we can’t appropriately serve our clients. The same thing with the Executive Order travel ban. We aren’t able to serve our clients if we can’t get the people that we need from overseas here.” Read more


Can blockchain unite the UN?—The emergency efforts of multiple United Nations agencies often overlap, meaning work gets duplicated and agencies step on each other’s toes. One example: A hospital in Kabul needed a generator and applied to several UN agencies; various agencies responded independently, resulting in five generators showing up at the hospital. The UN has been exploring how things would change if the agency could unite on a blockchain. Using blockchain, “Transparency could result in fewer internal disputes and more efficient allocation of resources.” The takeaway: I once worked in a company where one department couldn’t find the equipment it needed to run a test and spent tens of thousands of dollars having the work done by an outside vendor, only to learn in a casual lunch conversation that another department did, in fact, have that equipment. It’s easy to see how blockchain technology can resolve these kinds of problems in any organization. Read more

This week’s Wrap image—a Johnnie Walker promo wrapped around the Southern Life building in Johannesburg, South Africa, is courtesy of amanderson2’s Flickr account.



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