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Thought Leadership

Digital Brands are fracturing the old brand value delivery rules

This piece is contributed by Mike Moran, former IBM Distinguished Engineer, senior strategist at Converseon, and instructor and lecturer at Rutgers Business School and the UVA Darden School of Business. @mikemoran

Don’t listen to people who say that branding is so twentieth century.

Brands serve a useful purpose — they signal value to buyers before they have purchased the product or service, because they believe they know what a brand stands for. Whether through advertising, content marketing, or word of mouth, customers use the brand name as a handle to hang all sorts of expectations of the value they will derive from their purchase.

But digital is fracturing the ways that we deliver brand value in ways that affect how we portray our brands, through dynamically-assembled value chains. You all know examples of these new kind of value chains–Uber and Airbnb are the two most famous. Instead of the brand “owning” all or most of the elements that deliver brand value, these newfangled brands own very little in comparison.

Hotels in recent years have differed in whether they own the land or even the actual buildings whose rooms they rent, but they all manage their people, whether contracted or employees. They have massive sets of procedures of delivering their service. They buy the supplies. They renovate the rooms and keep them clean. They centrally control the brand experience for the hotel guest.

Airbnb does very little of that. They control an app that prospective guests use to book a room. They provide a similar app for people who have rooms to rent. So how do they control the delivery of value as a brand such that they can compete with hotels?

  • Programming interfaces. This is the essence of dynamically-assembled value chains. Airbnb uses software to connect the dots digitally rather than relying on massive vertical integration where they control delivery systems. In essence, they just provide an open booking system. That system is the linchpin of the brand experience that they directly control. 
  • Social reviews. Rather than massive standards, procedures, and employee training programs, social media polices quality, both for the room guest and the room owner. Bad reviews make it harder for either one to use the service again.

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Retail vs. Enterprise IoT – The Game Changing Trend

A CES-Inspired Series (#2)

This post, written, by Bob Pearson, President, W2O Group, is part of our CES-inspired series.  This topic is our second — IoT, Internet of Things.  

The corresponding post from Dr. Augustine Fou (@acfou), CMO of The Advertising Research Foundation can be found here:  http://blog.wcgworld.com/2016/02/from-iot-to-ios-internet-of-signals-the-promise-of-radically-positive-impact

We live in a world filling up every day with sensors, beacons and signals about ourselves, our houses, our cars and more.  It seems like everything we touch sends data to someone somewhere in the world. 

We love the physicality of putting on a watch or a Fitbit or checking our temperature via a new app on our phone.  This is cool, but it represents only the beginning of a much more important trend.

These examples of “retail IoT” are actually powering the more important, longer term trend of “enterprise IoT”.  Its why, in my view, the smartest technology companies in the world will someday be great in both understanding mobile and the enterprise.  It won’t be either/or.  Here are the key trends I see as driving this change.

#1 – Infrastructure IoT Impacts Safety & Habits – we are now used to understanding traffic patterns and alternative routes as we drive because companies have sensors in cars, trucks and roadways worldwide. Our car, itself, is now able to beam up data showing our oil status or how the transmission is working or what speed we’ve been …

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This is a guest post by Ira Schloss, longtime friend of The ARF and Chief Explorer of Opportunities. The topic was inspired by cool new technologies we saw at #CES2016.


At CES 2016, all the major players (Samsung, Panasonic, Sony, LG, Hisense) were again exhibiting their latest and greatest wares. Many new shapes and sizes of TVs were on display with higher definition — on larger, brighter and curved screens.

  • In many instances entire walls were covered with multiple screens to hammer home these points to attendees who saw them from as far away as several hundred feet.
  • The key to its success will not be dependent on the creation of 3D media. Instead, it has an auto-converter box that converts 2D content into 3D — again, without the need for any glasses.

Ultra-D (StreamTV Networks?) introduced a proprietary new 3D display technology that does not require one to wear those annoying 3D glasses to view content. And it could be applied to all types of displays ranging from TVs and PCs to smartphones and tablets! 

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The Power of Geolocation & the Limitations of IoT

A CES-Inspired Series (#1)

By Bob Pearson, President and Chief Innovation Officer, W2O Group

Dr. Augustine Fou, Chief Marketing Science Officer of The Advertising Research Foundation and myself are writing a series of blog posts inspired by our recent roundtable at CES.  Here is our first one on the evolution of geo-location.  The corresponding post can be found here:  http://blog.wcgworld.com/2016/01/companies-will-succeed-when-they-enable-consumers-to-know-and-control-their-own-data-a-ces-inspired-series-2

We now live in a world where we can identify all public conversations at the neighborhood level. 

This level of technology advance has the potential to revolutionize how we look at the 1,9,90 model.  Today, we can identify who the influencers are who create content (the 1%) and who shares and shapes the conversation (the 9%) to reach those of us who choose to benefit from all of their work (the 90% who lurk and learn). 

So now we can identify, via geo-location, who has influence by neighborhood, which means that we can correlate who has influence at the store level.  It means that we can see who has the most influence in a town or city vs. a region or country.  It means that we can see how word of mouth actually moves across a region. 

In the future, we’ll be able to map out the entire retail network for BestBuy or Walgreens and show exactly who the right people are to go…

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The Impact of Glass on Advertising — and Advertising on Glass

This is a guest post by Ira Schloss, longtime friend of The ARF and Chief Explorer of Opportunities. The topic was inspired by cool new technologies we saw at #CES2016.


Corning, the company responsible for the Gorilla glass common on the screens of most smartphones and tablets,  promoted the “Glass Age” slogan at CES 2016.  There will be many places where the latest in glass technologies will be applied to the real world, offline shopping experience for consumer products — and therefore impact future advertising.

  • Retail stores can now have displays that permit the projection of HD (Hi-Def) promotional and informational images onto a “smart show window” from behind (inside).  When that mode is turned off, there is a traditional looking, transparent see-through showcase to view the products within —  and now, without reflection or glare.
  • Once drawn into a retail space, consumers will be able to select items and check availability by size, color, price and other factors, simply by touching an interactive window through which they can still easily view samples of the products.
  • LG introduced a foursome of curved glass panels which together created one oversized screen. Either a single image or multiple images can then be …. displayed across the panels to demonstrate, in many instances, lifesize products such as kitchen appliances.

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“Body to Mind” — what you wear will impact how you think about advertisements

This is a guest post by Ira Schloss, longtime friend of The ARF and Chief Explorer of Opportunities. The topic was inspired by cool new technologies we saw at #CES2016.


“Wearables” include smartwatches, sensor-based clothing and other health-related gadgets that are increasingly becoming a part of consumer wardrobes and lifestyles.

At CES 2016, attendees were bombarded by scores of new companies from around the world who were presenting their latest products in these growing categories.

New apps that seem to appear almost hourly have the ability to mine big data that can track, record and analyze when, where and how often specific content (e.g. music, news media) is consumed by the wearer along with information about vital health statistics (heart rate, steps walked or distance run).

In addition, the combination of wearable fitness clothing, smartwatches and similar devices (e.g. jawbone, fitbit) will make it possible to know precisely when — and for how long — a user has exercised (and in some cases, specifically whether one was biking, hiking, playing tennis, dancing, or doing some other activity).

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