Picture This: Marketers Let Emojis Do the Talking

couple holding hands

An illustration from Taco Bell’s Taco Emoji Engine

From my New York Times article:

The condom brand Durex has used World AIDS Day as a marketing hook for years, but for the most recent edition it tried something different: a condom emoji.

Durex said there was no icon that communicated a desire for safe sex, so it started a campaign to provide one on smartphone keyboards. The consortium that sets standards for characters and emojis has yet to approve it, but the mere fact that Durex started the campaign prompted 210 million mentions on Twitter and, by Durex’s estimates, drew 2.6 billion media impressions worldwide.

Such is the power of emojis. And more companies are taking notice.

“There’s a lot of brand demand for emojis,” said Ross Hoffman, senior director of global brand strategy at Twitter, which recently started offering custom emojis for companies to use in advertising. That is because some 92 percent of the online population now uses emojis, according to a study by Emogi, a start-up that uses them to let people indicate how they feel about particular ads. Swyft Media, which creates alternate phone keyboards featuring multiple emojis, says people send six billion of them a day.

Brands like emojis for several other reasons. For one, they reach ad-averse millennials, sailing past ad-blocking software. They are visual, which makes them a natural fit for popular messaging apps such as Snapchat and Instagram and also appeals to international audiences. And because they are meant to be shared, the brand images are distributed widely, free.

“All of a sudden, the brand is in this very personal conversation between friends and family,” said Evan Wray, the chief executive of Swyft Media.

Now, emojis are everywhere in marketing. …

Read the rest.

The Biggest Challenge In Yahoo’s Latest Turnaround Plan


Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer

From my Forbes blog:

Another new year, another Yahoo turnaround attempt. But this one may be the toughest of all to pull off.

Today Yahoo announced plans alongside its fourth-quarter earnings report to proceed on a three-track strategic plan in response to shareholder demands. First, the company will cut 15 percent of the workforce–I mean, “changes in the employee footprint,” as Yahoo so eloquently put it–as it exits or cuts back on everything from games and TV initiatives to once-promising services such as Flickr and digital magazines.

Second, it will look into spinning off the core business plus its stake in Yahoo Japan, keeping only its $30 billion stake in Alibaba. (Though a company called Yahoo that is comprised only of a bunch of shares in a Chinese company still sounds odd.)

And third, it’s open to fielding offers to buy Yahoo outright. (Hello, Verizon. Or is it AT&T? Or News Corp.?)

Here’s the central problem: human nature. If you work at Yahoo and you know the company is getting shopped around to unknown buyers, how hard are you going to work on a plan that, in all likelihood, won’t make a bit of difference to a new owner who will, in all likelihood, slash and burn half of what you just did? …

Read the rest of the analysis.

Facebook’s Monster Mobile Ad Machine


fbq4-2015-evanstweetFrom my Forbes blog:

If there’s one number that stands out in Facebook’s by-all-accounts stellar fourth-quarter earnings report today, it’s the amount of advertising revenues from mobile devices: 80 percent.

Nobody should be surprised that mobile dominates Facebook’s revenues, which rose 52 percent in the quarter (66% on a constant currency basis), to $5.84 billion, from the previous year. A year ago, mobile ad sales were already 69 percent of the total.

But 80 percent is not only a nice round number, but one that says Facebook is inarguably and irrevocably a mobile company. Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said during the earnings call that mobile ad revenues rocketed 81 percent, to $4.5 billion. It’s such a commanding number that those ads on the right side of the desktop home page, let alone in the desktop news feed, almost feel like holdovers from a bygone era.

Like 2012. That’s when Facebook’s initial public offering of shares stumbled largely because the social network had essentially zero revenues from mobile. Zero! …

Read the rest of the analysis.

Marketing in the Moments, to Reach Customers Online


From my New York Times story:

Moments are having a moment in advertising. Or at least a micromoment.

As people flit from app to app online, they have little patience for any interruption, especially a banner ad or, heaven forbid, a 30-second commercial. Moments, whether they come during a 10-second Snapchat video or Twitter’s new collection of real-time news bites — called, fittingly enough, Moments — increasingly are all companies have to market against.

Companies that buy and sell online advertising are taking aim at these fleeting instances. They are hoping that targeting people based on what they are doing on their mobile devices at a particular time might make them more receptive to the message.

Last fall, for instance, the spirits company Campari America targeted liquor consumers aged 21 to 34 while they were in neighborhoods with lots of bars and restaurants. Using Kiip, a San Francisco firm that places ads in mobile apps, Campari offered consumers $5 off from the ride-sharing service Lyft when, say, they checked a score on an app while at a sports bar. More than 20 percent redeemed the offer, a high rate for digital ads.

“The attention span of consumers today is, what, eight seconds?” said Umberto Luchini, Campari America’s vice president for marketing. “You get one shot.”

And an ever more brief one at that. …

Read the rest of the story.

Webrooming: How Mobile Ads Are Driving Shoppers To Stores


Famous Footwear stores highlight highly searched products.

From my Forbes blog:

Showrooming, the practice of shopping in stores and then buying cheaper online, has long vexed physical retailers that fear they’re losing sales. No doubt they are, but a countervailing trend has been building for awhile now: webrooming, which is shopping online and then buying in the physical store.

That’s potentially a much larger opportunity because the vast majority of purchases still happen in physical stores. The holiday season that just began presents a particular opportunity for retailers that will grow as Christmas approaches and the time to order online before the big day grows short. But the benefits of getting people into stores, not just tapping online buy buttons, is more important regardless of the season, said eMarketer analyst Yoram Wurmser. “People are visiting fewer stores, so they buy more with each visit,” he said.

If getting people into stores to shop is an opportunity for retailers, it’s nothing less than a mandate for companies making coin from online ads. In particular, mobile ads, revenues from which are expected to surpass those of ads shown on desktop computers this year, are key as people increasingly use their phones to find products when and where they want–meaning here and now. “Smartphones have completely changed how we do holiday shopping,” Jason Spero, Google’s vice president of performance media, explained in an interview. “It’s now quick bites and micro-moments.”

No company stands to benefit more from proving its mobile ads work–or to suffer as much if it can’t–than Google, the world’s largest seller of ads. …

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SF App Startup Cola Creates ‘Slack For The Rest Of Us’


message thread 1

From my Forbes blog:

There’s no end of messaging apps that let you exchange texts, photos and videos with friends–Whatsapp, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook Messenger and so on. There are also a lot of business-oriented apps such as Slack, HipChat, and Yammer.

But what about a messaging app that lets you address the space in between entertainment and work, which is to say coordinating and planning activities with a few friends or coworkers? That’s what Cola aims to do.

Today the San Francisco-based startup is launching a limited, private beta test of an app that uses messaging as the basis for a wide variety of common things people want to get done, from figuring out where and when to meet with friends and creating joint to-do lists to tracking expenses at work and even engaging in multi-player games. The idea, says cofounder and CEO David Temkin, is that messaging has emerged as the most important function of a smartphone and even the foundation of many apps on the smartphone, from Uber to DoorDash to Venmo. “We are entering an era when messaging is the central app, like the browser was for the Web,” says Temkin.

Indeed, Temkin hopes to make Cola the first “messaging OS,” a platform on which activities that need to be coordinated among a small number of people can get done using messaging as the essential delivery mechanism. …

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Pandora Eyes Offline Mode For Its Music Service


From my Forbes blog:

Despite the widespread and growing popularity of the streaming music service Pandora, it faces one big obstacle: If you’re offline, you’re out of luck.

But it’s clear that Pandora wants to fix that situation, especially since rivals such as Spotify and Apple Music have ways you can listen offline. Today at the M1 Summit mobile conference in San Francisco, a Pandora executive’s comments suggested that Pandora is seriously considering an offline mode.

The comments came in response to a question posed to several mobile companies on a panel, including Pandora and the mobile sports ticket service Gametime. “It’s something we’re looking at,” said Lisa Sullivan-Cross, vice president of growth marketing at Pandora. “It’s on our minds.”

Asked after the panel for more details, Sullivan-Cross declined to add much. “We know our customers want it,” she told Forbes. “I don’t know if or when.”

The company needs a boost. Competition from the likes of Apple Music and even Alphabet, the holding company for Google, is taking a toll on Pandora. …

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