Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies in Digital Marketing

Businesses today have been extensively integrated with digitization, promising convergence of people and businesses, while disrupting existing business models. A new age of digital marketing has arrived where extensive campaigns are pushing new products through platforms such as websites, e-mails, apps and social networks. With over seven billion people and businesses, and a millions of technologies bringing a new world together, digital marketing plays a major role in empowering businesses with the much-needed edge to thrive with the competition.

Digital Business Development Path

 Rapid change is fueling digital marketing. Within the last decade we have seen technology giants driving businesses such as Facebook and Twitter. Mobile marketing and advertising marketers have begun focusing on consistent and contextual without being interruptive.  Change is the one thing that is constant, with changes being made faster than ever before. However, impact due to the change is highly dependent on it’s temporal context. For example, wearable technology like Google glass has gained a lot of news coverage when in fact, Steve Mann had already developed a similar device, ‘EyeTap digital Eye Glass’ in 1999. This is a prime example showcasing the importance of analyzing the visibility of a product with time for organizations to capitalize its technological and business resources to make the best marketing sense.

Hype Cycle

 The Hype Cycle is a branded graphical tool developed and used by IT research and advisory firm Gartner for representing the maturity, adoption and social application of specific technologies (See Figure 1). The hype cycle map how technologies move through different phases of hype and indicate whether certain technologies and products are good for the company in short term and long term. Marketers need to understand how and when to derive value from a product and also when to dispose of it when new things come along.

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Fig 1: Five Phases of the Hype Cycle (source: Gartner)

What’s new in 2014?

Marketing Talent Communities: Marketplaces have come up that support organizations and marketers to find and hire qualified freelance talent on-demand. A lot of time is saved in the process of recruitment of a variety of qualified writers, designers, strategists, data-analysts etc. Bloomberg Institute is one such example which financial employers approach to hire talented college students through a normalized screening test called the Bloomberg Aptitude Test.

Marketing Technology Integrators: The scope of digital marketing has expanded broadly. Digital marketers can’t claim to address the digital marketing needs solely through offering new Web Content and Experience Management or Portal platforms. As a marketer, the time and attention required to solving technological solutions takes time away from their focus on target customer. Thus, marketing organizations are hiring services and products that design and implement software and increasingly integration-oriented implementation data solutions.

Transactional Ads: This is an example trying to connect marketing with productivity and conversion. Online ad units that are activated by gestures, present a secure transaction or coupon. This reduces the time consumption of the viewer by enabling a person to request information or to buy the advertised product without leaving the webpage on which the ad appears. If old companies can figure out a way to associate more with transactions, they can boost their chance of surviving in the online market. [3]

Quantified self: It is a movement to incorporate technology into data acquisition aspects of a person’s daily life in terms of inputs, states and performance. Applications or services on mobiles and wearable technology that provide self-tracking analytics contribute to self-knowledge through self-tracking with technology. Biometrics have been identified that people never knew existed making data collection cheaper and more convenient than ever before. Recently, companies like Google and Zomato have begun to use location data of a user’s phone to recommend suggestions to buy things based on the proximity to various shopping outlets.

Social co-browsing: Collaboratively sharing of the web space with one or more parties from a social network, regardless of the physical locations of the partners. In real-time, multi-user experience isn’t just slapped on top of an application, it’s directly built into the core experience. Companies would have to redesign their user experience to support social co-browsing so as to provide a natural extension of for users to communicate and interact to enrich their real-time, collaborative experience. [4]

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Future Implications

Most of the technologies at the peak of their hype cycles today, will plateau in terms of productivity within the next two years. The window to gain competitive advantage in this fast-paced environment is limited. Thus companies must adapt themselves for speed, agility and rapid customer response.

Content marketing can be very resource intensive. Organization should use marketing talent communities and agencies as an escape valve for demand as a way to scale elastically as demand comes online.  The in-source and outsourced roles must be carefully mixed together in order to optimize productivity. Organizations should appoint strong leadership to ensure the success of their elaborate content marketing strategy.

Common view of digital-savvy customers should be kept in focus to ensure tight coordination of marketing activities in sync with the changing customer needs and reactions. Emerging architectures of digital marketing hubs should be carefully reviewed periodically to best utilize resources for most productive outcome.

With increase in social-marketing hype, the social marketing objects should be tied to the corporate vision of the companies. Analysis of how each social marketing activity will support that goal and provide a high return of investment. Gain from adapting to emergent technologies can lead to savings on media from improved efficiency or lift in sales from improved effectiveness of a company’s budget.

B2B management investments should be made into multi-channel, taking advantage of accessible areas in data mining, segmentation and behavioral analytics. Useful analytic results should be incorporated to the marketing strategy to further boost performance.

Criticism about Hype Cycle

Several disadvantages of Hype Cycle have been brought to light. Firstly, it is very difficult to objectively estimate the current location of a technology in its hype cycle. Secondly, terms such as ‘disillusionment’ and ‘enlightenment’ are misleading for people as they give a wrong idea about how exactly and to what extent a technology can be used for an organization. Also, there is no mention of how a technology transitions between phases and what all factors influence the shift. Lastly, several technologies are heavily correlated in terms of advancement through the different phases. The hype cycle does explain the cause-effect relationships between technologies and their impact on acceleration of technology progress and generation of excessive hype for a product.

References:

http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2819918

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/03/02/steve_mann_on_google_glass/

http://techcrunch.com/2010/03/07/the-rise-of-transactional-advertising/

https://goinstant.com/blog/collaborative-customer-interfaces-and-social-cobrowsing

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More Than Just a Game

With the technology world abuzz with the upcoming IPO of Zynga (creator of Farmville, Cityville) it is an interesting juncture to take a step back and observe how the video game industry has evolved from its inception, and where it is likely headed in the future given the tremendous change it has witnessed in the last two decades.
               
Origins
The origins of the video game industry can be traced to as far back as the year 1947, when a patent was filed for what was called a “cathode ray tube amusement device.”At the outset, there was no industry to speak of, and many such games were invented for different platforms on stand alone bases, often purely as experiments, without much thought given to financial gains. Naturally, these experimental games had limited visibility and remained among the inventors and the tech-savvy.
The concept of video games gained mainstream popularity in the 70s and the 80s, with the surge in arcade games. The late 80s and 90s, particularly, witnessed a steep increase in the relevance of video and computer games, one that led to the formation of what would become a massive industry that has exceeded Hollywood in annual revenues.
The golden years
The industry went through a period of significant change with the transition to home computer and video games in the 90s. The main factors that contributed to this were the rapid advancements in technology at the time (Sony Playstation, Nintendo 64, powerful PCs) as well as the rising penetration of PCs owing to falling costs. The market for home video games gained traction, and soon replaced arcade games as the major source of revenue for the industry.
The early part of the 21st century witnessed even more advancements in technology, as computers improved even more and the sixth and seventh generations of game consoles were developed. This slowly led to video game consoles dominating the PC as the platform of choice.
The coming change
From the above, it is clear that the industry has witnessed several changes during its history and each of these changes led us to look at video games differently. It is of little surprise then, that the industry is facing another change. Except this time, the change that looks to be right around the corner promises to be the most significant one yet. The principal driver behind this change has, of course, been the Internet.
The signs have been there for some time now. The introduction of the Massive Multiplayer Online Role-playing Games (MMORPG) clearly signaled that the future of the game industry would be collaborative or social gaming. Indeed, when Blizzard announced the extension of their Warcraft franchise into the World of Warcraft, some gamers were initially skeptical about how they would achieve the scale required. Today, World of Warcraft is the largest MMORPG by far with over 10 million active players, and has been instrumental in redefining the online gaming industry. This naturally led to numerous duplicates which were successful in their own right, albeit not as much as World of Warcraft. But one thing remained, game developers and companies alike tried to leverage the Internet and incorporate it into their games. A prime example of this is Microsoft’s XBOX Live and the XBOX Live Marketplace, both of which revolutionized the industry and introduced a powerful new way of doing business.
The casual gamer
A characteristic of the industry in the past was that most games were made for the serious gamer. Sure, there were always the popular ones such as Pacman and Tetris, but the focus of the industry was completely on the enthusiasts. The trend has been changing for sometime now, largely in two ways. Firstly, with breakthrough innovations such as the XBOX Kinect and the Nintendo Wii, companies are looking to make gaming a family affair and expand their audience. Secondly, and more prominently, the surge of social networking and the increasing amounts of time spent by people on such sites has given a big push to social and online gaming. Of course, the ready-to-use platform named Facebook has contributed immensely.
This is where companies like Zynga came in, looking to capitalize on this changing trend. Indeed, with a series of simple, addictive and free-to-play games (Zynga Poker, Farmville), Zynga has captured the attention of millions of users through Facebook. All new business models pose doubts about feasibility, sustainability and scalability. However, in the case of Zynga’s games, scalability was never an issue thanks to their partnership with Facebook (Which they have extended up to the year 2015).
To achieve sustainability, Zynga was able to apply elements of the model used by the MMORPGs. The motto is simple – Lure more people in by using different means (such as a buddy referral benefit), get them hooked on and make them purchase virtual goods for money. The market for virtual goods in games is astoundingly large. Zynga alone made $235mn in sales in one quarter this year, and are well on their way to achieve the billion-dollar mark in sales for the year. This is a truly remarkable feat for the company to have achieved in such a short time. For some perspective, the total sales of video games across all platforms in 2010 were $18.5 billion.
The future – Coexist or Cannibalize?
As Zynga ventures into more platforms such as Android and iOS as well as competitors to Facebook such as Google+, many have predicted that mobile and social gaming is a new trend, one that will slowly but surely supplant traditional video games. Many other startups have entered this space, looking to create the next Angry Birds or the next Cityville.
While it is true that the growth potential for online casual games is immense and social gaming is the way forward, it need not be at the expense of traditional video games. For a serious gamer, the value proposition offered by games on handhelds and browsers pale in comparison with those on the more powerful consoles, which provide for more complexity, better graphics and a larger variety in games. For this reason, it appears that social gaming and traditional video games can coexist and even thrive in their own right.
That being said, game companies will have to adapt to these changes in the industry to stay relevant. Indeed, many companies have modified their strategy for the same reason. We are seeing a larger number of sequels to popular games as companies try to build franchises around games (Eg. Gears of War), both to boost future sales as well as tap into other avenues (Hollywood adaptations). A larger fraction of games are being made for a wide range of platforms, right from the iOS to the XBOX. Companies are looking to expand their horizons by acquiring other companies. For instance, Zynga recently (unsuccessfully) tried to acquire Angry Birds creator Rovio for a staggering $2.25 bn. MMORPG creators are looking to create incentives to bring in fresh players (Such as World of Warcraft making the first 20 levels free to play).
We are entering an exciting phase in the life cycle of the video game industry, one that promises tremendous growth for companies willing to innovate. One thing is clear though, the business of video games is here to stay, and can no longer be dismissed as “just games”. 

Professional Consulting and Political Campaigns

Cash guzzling political campaigns are the talk of the town whenever the election season arrives. With the world zooming into the 21st century, these campaigns have evolved into a serious business of complex strategic planning and mass marketing with a single aim of getting the candidate into power. The advent of technology and a high degree of professionalism into this field has led to a ripened business of niche consulting catering to politicians and political parties.

Consultants and political advisors have been around forever, but the modern political consultants differ from their traditional counterparts in two major aspects:

  • Traditional political consultants tend to have personal interests in the candidate, the office and the issues. Election work is not their primary source of income nor is it their full time profession. On the other hand professional political consultants completely redefine this image. They often possess a certain level of emotional detachment from the candidate and the campaign. They possess expertise in specialized aspects and treat politicians like clients rather than partners in victory.
  • In the era prior to the 1990s, political advisors were experienced people with a strong insight into the strategy game and were considered political gurus. They have been relied upon for many years but are almost always limited in their reach and resources, but with the rapid progress in technology, rising campaign budgets and focus on results in the past two decades, the professional consultants have revolutionized campaigning for political parties. They rely upon solid business fundamentals and research to develop efficient and effective strategies for their clients.

Professional political consultants undertake projects under three major aspects of political campaigning.

1. Generating financial resources

The Obama-McCain presidential race in 2008 alone cost a staggering $2.4 billion. This showcases the need for massive funding and thus the expertise that is required to raise the money. This has been a major area where political parties turn to experienced professional political consultants.

2. Designing strategies

Voter base profiling, ground research and hours of analysis go into collecting data to build a strong foundation for a successful political campaign. Consultants specialize in these activities and can be the difference between success and failure.

3. Promotion and advertising

Developing promotional and advertising programmes has been the most dominant work for the political consulting firms. This area of work has evolved hugely with technology, web based campaigning and a constant need for breakthrough promotion strategies.

Political Consulting in India

The developed form of political consulting as described above is an evident characteristic of political campaigns in the United States but it is yet to find its feet in young democracies such as India. The political scenario in India is hugely different and more volatile than those in countries like the United States. As a result, dependence on new age professional consulting firms is limited to advertising, promotional activities and analytics. However, the Indian political picture is changing rapidly and professionalism seems to be the way to go. With young leaders bursting onto the scene and a spark of development politics, there is huge scope for such consulting expertise in India. Although it would still take some time before we see all this in mainstream action, budding firms (eg. Leadtech) are slowly gaining acceptance in India.

Landmark deal for Indian defence industry

The Government of India (GoI) has embarked upon an ambitious plan of developing about 2,600 new-generation Future Infantry Combat Vehicles (FICVs) to replace the currently ageing fleet of the Indian Army.

The defence ministry has mandated that only Indian companies will be eligible for this deal and has shortlisted four companies that will be eligible for this bid. The shortlisted companies are Tata Motors, the Mahindra Group, L&T and the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB). This would mean that three private companies and one public company are in the fray for the deal.

Infantry Combat Vehicles (ICVs) look similar to small tanks and can carry about 7-8 people on board. They are lightly armoured and highly mobile vehicles which can travel deep into the army territory. The FICV to be developed for the GoI must be bullet-proof, amphibious and transportable by air. Also, the FICV should have atleast 50% indigenous content.

The defence ministry is soliciting an Expression of Interest (EoI) from each of the four companies in which the companies will detail their plan about developing the FICV, the technologies that they intend to use, the timeline involved and the estimated capital expenditure on the project. The companies are also expected to state a minimum order quantity which will make the project viable.

After careful evaluation of the EoIs, two contractors will be selected to develop the FICV prototypes. The FICV prototype which gives better field results will be finally chosen. The company finally selected will be allocated 65-70% of the order whereas the other contractor will get the remainder of the order.

The cost of the project will not be borne by the MoD alone. The MoD will fund about 80% of the total cost while the contractor will fund the remaining 20%.

It is believed that the Ordnance Factory at Medak might be utilised for making the FICVs since building a new facility for the same purpose would be a waste of resources. The FICVs should be ready for use by 2018.

Managing Glitz

Be it brand endorsements, launch parties, special appearances or stage performances, being a celebrity in India means big money. The ever increasing influence of celebrities on consumer choice and a growing demand for their presence at events across the country has translated into an entirely new business area of celebrity management. Although still in its infancy in India, it is garnering huge interest and has resulted in the emergence and establishment of numerous celebrity management firms in the recent past. The corporate big wigs realize that they live in an era of cut throat marketing and celebrity associations are simply essential for market presence.

Celebrity management firms have traditionally acted like brokerages, but a paradigm shift is in process as they turn professional and replace madness with method. Virtually anyone with strong contacts can setup shop. A lot of veterans still perceive “Celebrity management to be more of an art and much less of science”, but the science is emerging with companies like Percept and Celebtrack who systemically focus on research and their roles as consultants rather than just being gatekeepers for celebrities.

Celebrity endorsers can be classified into three major categories. The first set consists of celebrities who follow the gold mantra and will endorse any brand as long as the price appeals to them (Shahrukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan etc.). The job of managing them is essentially cutting the deal and negotiating rates. Concepts like brand fit hardly exist and only hard cash matters. The second set comprises of stars who position their image in the market and associate with a brand only when they think that it suits them. The third set is of celebrities who are smaller in stature and are interchangeable. They come relatively cheap and rarely have preferences. The third set of celebrities is the one that will be most attractive for firms in the industry. This category witnesses frequent deals and does not depend hugely on celebrity preferences.

The industry is still trying to find its feet and recent events like IPL have turned the game into a gold rush for the companies involved. Recent deals between Madison Mates and John Abraham, Priyanka Chopra and Krossover are signs of aggression and competition in the industry. It is a mix of glamour and professionalism as good as it can get. The numbers speak and nine digit figures are common. Experts believe that the industry is well on its way to become worth more than INR 10 billion in the near future. Ample opportunities, low entry barriers and lucrative economic benefits continue to boost growth and interest. It still remains to be seen whether all of this can actually induce some so called “management” and change anything about the tantrums and craziness that is generally associated with celebrities in India.