Facebook Knows Your Emotions, So What?

A minor ruckus ensued this week when major media reported that Facebook knows how its users feel. It appears that some believe that the world is therefore coming to a nefarious end. As in, "Lions, and tigers, and emotions, Oh my!"

The specific incident involved an analysis that some of Facebook's team undertook in Australia, the results of which were shared in a private conversation with a potential advertiser down under. The reaction of the major media and many voices online was to immediately panic. The objections were straightforward: a) Facebook is snooping into people's lives and learning things it ought not (in this case, insecure teenagers, which seems all the more troublesome), b) Facebook wants to sell this ill-gotten knowledge to advertisers, and c) Facebook and advertisers are in colusion to commit some kind of terrible maniuplation of humanity.

Read more

The End of Advertising, The Beginning of Relationships

Today my colleagues and I publish a bombshell of a report. Titled, "The End of Advertising As We Know It," the report at first glance fits nicely into the current backlash against major publishers and ad networks, including Google and Facebook. Led by P&G Chief Brand Officer, Marc Pritchard, major advertisers like GE and JP Morgan Chase have been reexamining their digital display advertising spend and threatening to cut significant dollars out as they pressure companies like Google and Facebook to provide more transparency and ultimately more standardization into their ad reporting. It all adds up, as we show in an infographic excerpted here, to what feels like a revolt.

All of this is good, necessary, and moving in the right direction for the health of the digital advertising economy. You have to have confidence in what you're buying and right now advertisers don't, for very good reasons. But that is not why we're declaring 2017 the year in which advertising as we know it comes to an end. Something bigger than that is happening. Or should be, if it's not, and that's why we wrote the report. What are we trying to make happen? It's less about the mechanics of advertising and more about a shift consumers are about to go through. Put simply, the end of advertising is coming because interruptions are coming to an end. As I say in the report:

Read more

Alexa Will See You Now: Why Echo Has A Camera

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.)

Read more

Go Ask Oprah: The 'O' Comes to Alexa

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."

Read more

Computer: Tea, Earl Grey, Hot

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:

Read more

Google Home Gives In To Ad Interruptions

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.

Read more

Have You Ever Really Loved A Brand?

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. 

Read more

Beware the Word "Alignment"

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."

Read more

The Dawn Of The Multi-Billion Dollar Smartpet Market

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. 

Read more

When It's Wrong To Be "Right"

"This new initiative is amazing, right?" 
- Just about every executive on the planet, pretty much every day

This year marks the ten-year anniversary of my return to the analyst world of Forrester from academia where I had spent a wonderful, several-year break. Leaving teaching was a hard call to make. Teaching smart students is very fulfilling, energizing, and informative. In fact, it was a student on the back row of one of my classes who first introduced me to YouTube in 2005. When I made the tough decision to return to analyst life, there were two things about teaching that I knew I wouldn't miss, however: 1) faculty pay, and 2) student uptalk.

Most will recall from when it was a topic of wide conversation that uptalk refers to arbitrarily raising the pitch of your voice at the end of a phrase or sentence, as if asking a question though usually when no question is present. Uptalk was rampant on college campuses back then along with the more standard verbal pause, "like," which I also was not sad to leave behind. I tried to teach my students to exert more effort in their use of words and phrasing; some benefitted from my lessons, others did not. In the end, uptalk, while not a reason to leave teaching behind, was also not a reason to stay.

At last, I thought, I can move into the corporate world, where everybody understands the power of words and exercises more discipline in their choice of just the right word for just the right occasion. Wrong. While I was out for several years engaging in energizing discussions with young, smart students, something happened in the business world. A pernicious fad had arisen and spread itself pandemic-like into every industry. That fad, that disease is the word, "right?".

Read more