Alexa Will See You Now: Why Echo Has A Camera

James McQuivey

Today Amazon announced the latest addition to its Amazon Echo line of Alexa-enabled devices. The Echo Look is the first Echo device to include a camera. It will not be the last. Adding a camera is the smartest next move for Amazon even though it will trigger an "ick" response by people nervous about Amazon looking into their homes. First, the details.

Echo Look is being positioned as an Alexa device that can also take your picture or capture video hands free. By playing on a double meaning of the word "look" the company baits a nice marketing hook because it then goes on to emphasize that by looking at you, the device can help you "love your look." How? By fulfilling a portion of the long-hoped-for magic mirror concept I first wrote about in 2011. The magic mirror would look at you and help you make yourself over. While many companies like L'Oreal and Rimmel have adapted this concept for use in a mobile phone makeup app, nobody has yet gone for the full-body closet assistant we described in 2011. (Actually, there are several of these available in upscale dressing rooms, but none available for in-home use.)

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Nature or Nurture? Culture As A Cornerstone Of Global Branding

Dipanjan Chatterjee

The Earl of Greystoke would have grown up in an idyllic English manor, sipping tea and munching on clotted cream biscuits, were it not for a rather unfortunate turn of events that left him orphaned in equatorial Africa, being raised by a she-ape. At the heart of Edgar Rice Burroughs' tales of Tarzan, which have captivated audiences for over 100 years, lies an elemental question: what makes us who we are – nature or nurture?

In my last blog post (Marketing's Dirty Little Secret), I discussed the biology of behavior and how we are wired to ride the express-lane for decision making. This is an area of investigation that is gathered much steam, including work done by Forrester (see How People Choose by Shar VanBoskirk). This interest in consumer neuroscience has led us to another intriguing area of inquiry: How do we account for cultural context in the biology of behavior? How does nurture shape the biological nature of our decision making?

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Go Ask Oprah: The 'O' Comes to Alexa

James McQuivey

Hearst magazines announced last week that Amazon Alexa users could invite Oprah -- or at least her voice -- into their homes. Fans of the media personality, which includes just about everyone, can ask Alexa to play a quote recorded by Oprah from her 2014 book What I Know For Sure. A different quote will play each day. Other than the fact that the whole thing promotes the book, there are no other sponsors yet. Though that can easily change, see my post on the rise of ads on voice interfaces a few weeks ago. Hearst and Amazon not are exchanging money in the deal, though honestly you could make an argument for both sides to believe the other should pony up some earnest money. After all, this is Oprah. And it's Amazon. When two big brands collide, you never know which one has the most leverage. Evidently they've decided to postpone resolving that question.

For now there is no intelligence applied to the process and that is the big missing piece. There are about 90 quotes that Oprah has recorded, a different one will play each day. The real potential here is when the Oprah skill adds a bare minimum of artificial intelligence. Imagine coming home and asking Oprah for words of wisdom based on your needs in the moment. "Alexa, ask Oprah for help with raising my teenager," or "Alexa, ask Oprah how to reignite my love life," or "Alexa, ask Oprah what special gift I should get my sister for her birthday."

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Martech That Matters (For Marketers Who Actually Use It)

Carlton Doty

Sick of scouring sector landscapes with thousands of vendor logos organized into loosely defined categories?  I mean, do you really need to know the names of 150 programmatic display advertising vendors out there? What’s the total Martech ecosystem going to tally this year – 7000+ vendors? Actually, yes. Yes it is. As my colleague Joe Stanhope said in his work on the convergence of Martech and Adtech – it’s hard to remember a time when there was such an unhealthy and unsustainable technology ecosystem.

At Forrester, we’ve covered marketing technology and the now overused term – “left-brained marketing” - for nearly fifteen years.  We've come a long way as an industry since then, and today Forrester's marketing clients now enjoy step-by-step playbooks like the Enterprise Marketing Technology Playbook, and the Lead-To-Revenue Management Playbook that help them get more out of their technology investments. This is becoming more important every day. Why? Because marketing technology now commands one-fifth of overall marketing budgets for B2C marketers. That’s already a sizable chunk, and we expect it to climb quickly because 41% of these marketers tell us that they still lack the technology they need to grow their business.

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Marketing’s Dirty Little Secret

Dipanjan Chatterjee

For all the talk about customer centricity, there’s a dirty little secret that no marketer will easily admit to: Marketing — as a discipline and as the core of most traditional business school marketing curricula — is inward-looking. Take the much-vaunted four Ps: build the right product, price it correctly, put it in the right place, and promote it to induce purchase. It’s all about the brand, not about the consumer. The consumer responds predictably, robot-like, to the various strategies cooked up by marketers.

Meet Homo economicus — the rational consumer. The foundation of modern marketing. Shhhh! Don’t tell anyone. She doesn’t really exist.  

It’s taken a while for the marketing community to even talk about this. When I was at the University of Chicago, I sat in Richard Thaler’s Ph.D. class on behavioral economics, which was, even in late 1990s, well ahead of its time and disconnected from the MBA curriculum of the abovementioned four-P flavor. In 2011, Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman offered two very different thought systems for mass consumption in Thinking, Fast and Slow. Thaler recently reviewed the Michael Lewis (of Liar’s Poker and The Big Short fame) book on the collaboration between Kahneman and Amos Tversky. Here’s the basic idea: There are two systems that drive our decision-making. The first is highly analytical and was presumed to be the epicenter of our rational being.

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Computer: Tea, Earl Grey, Hot

James McQuivey

With all due respect, Star Trek got the future wrong in this one important respect.

Like millions of others, I have a fond spot in my aural memory for the voice of Patrick Stewart. With his enviably erudite accent, Stewart played Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise D, and in the process resurrected the Star Trek franchise from the campy overdrama of William Shatner's Captain James T. Kirk. Among the many things Stewart's voice intoned with such high confidence, one that is instantly recognizable to fans like me is: "Computer, tea, Early Grey, hot."

In the fantasy world of the Starship Enterprise, the computer was an omnipresence, an intelligence that could interact with you verbally but also directed visual information to touchscreens nearby when needed. The computer could also control lighting, ship systems, and -- as so lovingly demonstrated in the above clip -- food replicators. Sounds a lot like Amazon's Alexa, doesn't it? Star Trek is famously credited with previsioning a lot of technology we have today, from PDAs, mobile phones and, hopefully soon, tricorders. You can, in fact, assign your Amazon Echo to respond to the command "computer" instead of Alexa, should you wish.

But this simple sentence, "Computer, tea, Early Grey, hot," as right a description of the future as it is, also got the future completely wrong. Setting aside the question of whether we'll ever have food replicators, if we examine what the phrase suggests about human-computer interaction in the future, we can see pretty quickly why Star Trek got this one wrong. Because in the future:

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Google Home Gives In To Ad Interruptions

James McQuivey

Today several users of Google Home -- Google's competitor to Amazon Echo with its Alexa intelligent agent -- reported that Google was inserting Beauty and the Beast movie promos into their conversations. Read The Verge's account of the details and see the tweet from user @brysonmeunier below:

It's surprising that Google is already testing this kind of interruption model for a couple of reasons. First, it's playing catch up to Amazon's much more mature intelligent speaker product and rocking the user boat with something so blatantly counter to the value of the category so soon feels foolhardy. That said, this will hardly cause a backlash so if it shows that Google is willing to test and refine its value proposition more rapidly than Amazon, that's not a terrible thing.

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Have You Ever Really Loved A Brand?

James McQuivey

I want to know who you love. I'm asking because love for a brand is actually a very hard thing to measure. At Forrester we've spent nearly a year trying to understand the emotional components of branding. Our colleagues in the customer experience (CX) team have years worth of data showing that emotion is the single most powerful driver of satisfaction with an experience. Designing to emotion, then, is a crucial method for success and my colleagues are all over it. 

On the brand side, marketers certainly agree that emotion matters. They have always believed that emotion matters. They just don't agree on how it matters. Or better said they don't have clarity on what emotion really is and so it becomes more difficult to pin down how that emotion applies to their brands -- is brand emotion different from CX-derived emotion? Do they relate to each other, act as influences on each other? It's hard to say for sure when your mental model of how emotion works is inadequate to the task of addressing the fast-moving emotions of today's empowered consumer. 

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Beware the Word "Alignment"

James McQuivey

Another Friday lesson on corporate-speak. Last week I shared how wrong it is to be "right?" and I hope you are secretly forwarding that note to every offender in your organization. Today, I'm here to save you from the equally egregious word "alignment." A seemingly simple word, one that baas like a gentle lamb on a hilly, green pasture. Except this lamb is sheep in the most despicable of wolves' clothing. To be aligned with something literally means to be arranged in a straight line. When someone invites you to be aligned with them, they think they are saying, "let's be on the same side," "let's have a shared perspective," or "let's not seem like we're in disagreement here." All of those meanings sound good -- we are teammates, we collaborate, we know how to work across silos! But none of them are what people really mean when, in an interdepartmental meeting someone says, "We need to make sure that we're in alignment on this."

What they truly mean is, "I've listened to you blather on long enough. You are wrong and I am right and you need to start pretending that you agree with me or we're going to have real problems here."

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The Dawn Of The Multi-Billion Dollar Smartpet Market

James McQuivey

This is the post in which I make the seemingly crazy claim that the "next big thing" for Apple -- and for consumer tech -- will be smart pets. Don't say I didn't warn you. :)

Trying to predict what Apple will do next or what Apple should do next (these are two different things) has fueled some of my best work and most enjoyable after-work conversations. I'm not alone in this endeavor, of course. For the past few years -- ever since the Apple Watch came out -- clients, the press, and just people in my neighborhood ask me: "What's the next big thing for Apple?" There are several key candidates that often get proposed – many have suggested an Apple car though late developments make that less and less likely, others think a virtual reality headset is around the corner while I myself have suggested a voice-based personal assistant (Siri in your ear, as I have been known to call it). In none of those cases would Apple be introducing a market-changing product that leaps years beyond competitors, like the jump from Blackberry to iPhone was. Even Siri in your ear is already happening, the latest version that has captured my attention is the Vinci, currently crowdfunding on Indiegogo, a headphone and intelligent agent device which exactly fulfills my prediction of what Apple should have done with Beats but for some reason chose not so, at least so far. 

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