Marketing Beyond the Screen

Using Voice Technology to Boost Brand Engagement

Phrases like “Hey, Siri,” “Hey, Alexa” and “OK, Google” are quickly becoming part of our everyday lexicon. As more consumers become comfortable with digital voice assistants, smart speakers and other voice-first devices, more companies are looking to leverage voice control technology to their advantage.

For marketers, voice-activated hardware and software presents a cornucopia of opportunities to engage target audiences in more personalized and frictionless ways.

– Large global tech companies — including Amazon, Google, Apple and Microsoft — are driving the market. Their artificial intelligence (AI)–driven platforms for voice control include software (virtual assistants) and hardware (smartphones, smart speakers and other smart devices).

– For most marketers, voice control isn’t a top priority; those experimenting with it are still in the earliest stages. Most projects involve Alexa “skills,” Google “actions” and other apps to encourage engagement.

– Experiments are ongoing in SEO, advertising and promotional messaging, content delivery, customer service and voice commerce. So far, no “killer” applications or monetization models have emerged.

– Agencies and other consultants are beefing up their technical resources and forging technology partnerships to help their clients develop more meaningful voice strategies.

– Best practices are evolving, but brands can take concrete steps to get started now. First and foremost, they must think carefully about how they can add value and utility to users’ lives. Frictionless, compelling and entertaining voice experiences will be key to long-term customer engagement.

Source:; 24 July 2018

Astro Awani and The Star emerge as most trusted source of news in Malaysia

An annual study of news consumption trends across the world has found that Astro Awani and The Star are the two most trusted Malaysian sources of news.

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The Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2018, the seventh edition of an annual series, found that when it comes to trust, Astro Awani and The Star scored 6.05 and 6.03 respectively, with independent news portal Malaysiakini nipping at their heels with a score of 6.02.

“In today’s digital and social media era, news come from a variety of sources, and Star Media Group takes pride in that our team takes the time to verify all sorts of news before we upload or publish it.

“We are aware that people look to us to verify information, and we take this responsibility seriously,” said Star Media Group chief content officer Esther Ng.

However, Malaysian news organisations still lost out to international news aggregator Yahoo! News, which had the highest trust score.

“There appears to be greater trust in what is perceived as international media as opposed to local, with Yahoo! News being the most trusted brand,” said Prof Zaharom Nain of Centre for the Study of Commu­ni­cations and Culture, University of Nottingham Malaysia campus.

“This has much to do with the structures and patterns of media ownership and control. There are some brands that buck this trend. Malaysiakini (44% reach) has maintained its reputation for providing independent news and continues to retain the trust of many Malaysians, especially those tired of propaganda. ” he wrote in the report, published by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

To establish the trust scores, res­pondents were asked to indicate their trust in selected news brands on a scale of 0 (completely untrustworthy) to 10 (completely trustworthy). According to the report, less than a third of the Malaysian sample agree that they trust the news (30%) most of the time. This relates to perceptions that independence is often compromised by powerful business or political interests.

Source:; 29 June 2018

Alibaba develops AI tool capable of writing 20,000 lines of ad copy per second

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has developed an AI tool (artificial intelligence) capable of producing 20,000 lines of content per second.

Created as part of Alibaba’s digital marketing unit Alimama, the tool aims to reduce the heavy and arduous workload of producing copy for product listings by retailers, working by scraping “millions” of existing human writing samples from the company’s e-commerce platforms which it interprets using deep-learning models and natural language processing (NLP) technologies.

According to Alibaba, the AI tool has passed the Turing Test where a machine is analysed for its ability to imitate a human without detection and is already being used “millions of times a day” by retailers on its properties including Tmall,, and Taobao.

Global fashion brands Esprit and Dickies are two such retailers already using the tool, which can be accessed by selecting an option to ‘Produce Smart Copy’, allowing them to choose from samples of varying tones including “promotional, functional, fun, poetic, or heart-warming”.

Concern for copywriters?

While the release of Alibaba’s AI tool will be welcome news for retailers, it may result in some sweaty palms among copywriters. However, the company has emphasised its stance that the product has been designed to complement, rather than replace, the work done by human marketers.

“For merchants, from today onwards, AI can take care of a portion of their copywriting needs. And it significantly changes the way [copywriters] work: They will shift from thinking up copy – one line at a time – to choosing the best out of many machine-generated options, largely improving efficiency,” read a statement by Alimama.

Meanwhile, the group’s general manager, Christina Lu, added; “AI systems will never be able to replace human creativity – but can enable people to focus their major energies towards richly-creative work, and the machines can take over the repetitive, low-value work involved in writing.”

Despite the assurances, however, Alibaba’s announcement forms part of a wider, if slightly alarming trend. In May this year, Google published research of a new algorithm that would be able to generate original and “coherent” articles based on content from multiple web pages to answer a specific question for a user, without the need to direct them to another site.

Meanwhile, news agency Reuters has taken a “gamble” on its very industry in building Lynx Insight, an AI tool geared at helping journalists interpret data, suggest ideas for stories, and in some cases, even write sentences.

Source:; 9 July 2018

Shell becomes a founding sponsor of the Museum of Brands

Shell’s multi-sensory journey through their iconic brand history at The Museum of Brands has drawn in droves of visitors since it opened in London in spring.

The interactive exhibit telling the history of Shell’s iconic brand, showcasing the company’s rich history and how it plans to play a key role in a cleaner energy future, opened in April.

As part of the exhibition, Shell has created “Your Brand ID”, the first digitally immersive and interactive experience at the museum, where visitors can create and personalise their own brand, and take away a digital souvenir of it.

“This exciting exhibit has enthralled many of our visitors over recent weeks,” Chris Griffin, CEO at the Museum of Brands, said. “It’s as educational as it is enjoyable.”

The Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising is the world’s only museum entirely dedicated to loved and memorable brands. It explores how people’s lives have been shaped by the products and brands around them, and vice versa.

Shell’s multi-sensory exhibit features alongside the museum’s other displays, which showcase 150 years of brands, packaging and advertising.

Dean Aragon, VP Shell Brand and CEO Shell Brands International said: “Shell is partnering with the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising who play a key role in preserving and celebrating global brands and their heritage. In our daily lives, we’re surrounded by brands; they are woven into the fabric of society and culture. We are pleased to join the iconic brands already in the museum and to help contribute to the Museum’s ongoing success”

Over 100 years, the Shell Pecten has become a globally recognised icon.

Yet the brand goes far beyond a logo, evolving with changes in popular culture, and even helping to shape them. Shell has been by the side of drivers since the dawn of motoring. Our scientists helped to make air travel possible for millions. And today, Shell are collaborating to explore more and cleaner energy solutions. From popular advertising, to inspiring travel guides and ground-breaking documentaries, telling great stories in memorable ways has kept the Shell brand connected to its customers in an ever-changing society.

Source:; 11 July 2018

YouTube tweaks monetisation model in response to ‘adpocalypse’

Social video sharing platform YouTube is rolling out a “channel membership” paid subscription option to its top creators, following criticism that its latest ad policies make it hard for publishers to earn money.

In a model already employed by competitors such as Twitch and Patreon, the platform will let publishers with more than 100,000 fans charge $4.99 a month for access to exclusive content, while those with over 10,000 followers will be able to host live-streamed “premieres” and advertise merchandise beneath their videos.

YouTube updated its advertising policies in the wake of a number of complaints about popular brand ads appearing next to inappropriate content on the site, branding a large portion of videos “unsuitable for advertisers”.

However, this prompted a backlash from YouTube’s video-maker community who called the update the “adpocalypse”, many of which saw their income from advertising fall as a result.

Competitor pressure

The announcement from YouTube comes just days after Facebook launched Instagram TV (IGTV), enabling users to publish vertical videos of up to 60 minutes long on the popular photo-sharing app, in what Marketing Tech reported to be a bid to move in on YouTube’s long-form influencer marketing ad revenue.

While YouTube may have reacted to early rumours in launching its membership options today, it’s more likely the platform has been reconsidering its monetisation strategies in recent months in order to catch up with aforementioned rivals, Twitch and Patreon.

However, the launch of IGTV may have thrown a spanner in this plan, attracting influencers currently active on both YouTube and Instagram to consolidate their efforts onto the app, which may eventually result in a migration of some of its key creators.

Speaking to BBC News, editor of YouTube magazine TenEighty, Alex Brinnand, said; “Creators are largely in favour of the direct-to-creator monetisation options, as it offers them higher revenue from people who are passionate about watching their content.

“This is something we’ve seen on crowd-funding platforms for a long time now, so it is really interesting to see the online video industry adopt this revenue model.”

Source:; 22 Jun 2018

Alibaba still tops, but watch Pinduoduo and other Chinese online retailers

Online shopping competition heats up in China with Pinduoduo and Vipshop joining and Suning as notable contenders.

eMarketer has released its rankings for Chinese ecommerce platforms where, as expected, has Alibaba taking the top spot with a 58.2% share this year. Its closest competitor trails behind at a 16.3% share but the report emphasises that the Chinese ecommerce scene has become more dynamic in recent years with the emergence of several new players.

Most notably, specialist sites such as electronics retailer Suning and branded fashion retailer Vipshop, or are proving to be credible competitors to Alibaba’s Tmall and with their offering of more ‘authentic’ products. The report also mentions Gome, a social marketing-based online and offline retailer specialising in home goods which is expected to take a 0.7% share of all retail ecommerce sales this year.

Group discount site Pinduoduo, meanwhile, has been identified as a rising star, coming at third with a 5.2% share. It marks a significant leap for the platform from its 0.1 share during its launch in 2015. eMarketer notes that Pinduoduo’s strategy has been concentrated on shoppers from Tier 3 and Tier 4 cities who are more price conscious but nevertheless enthusiastic about the convenience of online shopping.

“Smaller ecommerce players such as relative newcomer Pinduoduo have benefitted from this trend as buyers in lower-tier cities have been less tolerant of the higher prices found on large players such as Alibaba and, but they are quick to seize upon the relative deals found on Pinduoduo’s platform,” Monica Peart, eMarketer’s senior director of forecasting.

Despite signs of a more dynamic market, the Chinese ecommerce scene is seen as a proxy battleground between Alibaba and Tencent since the latter owns stakes in, Pinduoduo and Vipshop. All the ecommerce platforms listed by eMarketer will account for 85% of all ecommerce sales in China this year.

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Source:; 11 July 2018

Microsoft has unveiled visual search for Bing

Microsoft launched a new intelligent Visual Search tool for Bing — Microsoft’s search engine — that allows users to search the mobile web by uploading an image or taking a photo with their phone camera.

For example, taking a photo of a flower will not only identify the type of flower, but will also suggest where the nearest florist is. Visual Search is available in a range of apps, including the standalone Bing app on iOS and Android, as well as Microsoft’s web browsing apps for Android — Launcher and Edge.

Microsoft has joined the growing number of companies that are turning the smartphone camera into a discovery tool. Pinterest, Google, and Amazon have all rolled out visual search products within the past two years, for example.

And retail brands, such as Sephora, Asos, and Akira, have also integrated the tech into their smartphone apps to increase customer engagement and help drive conversions. Within two months of implementing a visual search feature into its site, 45% of Akira’s customers had used the feature, according to a case study by visual search company Markable.

For now, the technology is somewhat limited. But it has vast potential to transform the way consumers engage with brands and provide greater insight into consumer behaviour:

• Retailers can increase the accuracy of their product search and boost cross-sell opportunities: Visual search can help retail customers clarify ambiguities that occur when they attempt to describe objects and colours in text-based searches. For example, a consumer may see someone wearing a black hat that they might like to buy. Text search would return thousands of black hats, making it difficult for the consumer to find the hat they really want. Further, visual search offers an opportunity to “cross-sell” items based on contextual cues in the image, such as the customer’s shoes or shirt, by matching them to items sold by the brand.

• Publishers can increase consumer engagement with their content: Media and magazine companies can use visual search to bridge the gap between the printed page and real world. For instance, looking at a printed ad through the phone could turn the ad into an interactive video. The consumer could also scroll through the video to view more information about the product and even add the item to their mobile shopping cart.

And as consumers become more accustomed to using the smartphone camera as a search tool, it will find additional use cases in healthcare, government, transport and logistics, banking, and insurance.

Source:; 26 June 2018

Chances are, your brand isn’t ready for WeChat 4.0

Brands and their agency counterparts need to keep pace with WeChat’s evolving digital ecosystem. Here’s what the latest changes mean and how to make the most of them.

If brands and their agency counterparts aren’t keeping pace with WeChat’s evolving digital ecosystem, they are forfeiting valuable opportunities to create consumer relevance.

Just last week, WeChat’s subscription account display improved from a stacked list of accounts to a content feed.

Here’s some other recent changes:
• Look, an inventory, technical and distribution partner for fashion KOLs claimed that its most successful KOLs can move anywhere between 5 million and 100 million RMB of stock per month through their individual WeChat stores.
• 跳一跳 (Jump, Jump), a mobile game within WeChat, attracted 400 million players within three days of launch.
• Netease Music migrated playlists from its app to its WeChat mini-program.
• Tencent Video opened a WeChat mini-program that allows viewers to watch the latest Game of Thrones episodes.

The above examples beg a simple question: What’s happening to WeChat?

The answer is deceptively simple, but the implications are far-reaching. WeChat’s evolving. It’s now a fully-fledged digital ecosystem, enabling its billion-strong monthly active user base to access digital experiences and services, not just content.

To understand the changes taking place, let’s first backtrack a little to WeChat’s humble beginnings in 2011.

From WeChat 1.0 to WeChat 4.0

WeChat’s development has been through four distinct phases.

The first phase, WeChat 1.0, connected users with users. Users chat with, call and transfer files between one another through individual or group chats.

The second phase, WeChat 2.0, connected users with information through WeChat Official Accounts. These official accounts, including subscription accounts and service accounts, periodically send users long-form articles, memes or notifications.

In February 2014, WeChat was turned on its head as its ‘Red Packet’ (红包) function was unveiled at CCTV’s Spring Festival Gala, with 1.2 billion red packets delivered over the festive period. This represented the dawn of WeChat 3.0, which connected users with payments.

WeChat’s integration with payments didn’t stop at peer-to-peer payments through red packets stuffed with virtual money. In the blink of an eye, WeChat extended its payment function to utilities, mobile phone credits, and offline purchases.

WeChat 3.0 was a significant turning point in WeChat’s development. It transitioned WeChat from a social media giant to a ‘super app’, commanding around 30% of Chinese internet users’ time online.

However, WeChat’s most significant change came in January 2017 when it lifted the veil off its mini-program. This program allows an application smaller than 10 megabytes to run instantly within WeChat, removing the need to download and install an app from Apple’s App Store or Google Play. It may sound small, but apps smaller than 10 megabytes can achieve a lot: order a taxi, have take-out delivered to your door, rent a shared bike, purchase a pair of sneakers, and watch your favourite vlogger’s livestream. Like its ‘red packets’ in 2014, mini-programs heralded a significant shift in how Chinese users interact with WeChat.

Within the space of the next 18 months, WeChat implemented a new format of Moments Ads (advertisements now presented as an enlarged ‘card’, instead of the previous text-image-link format), WeChat Search (an internal search engine across content on Moments, in articles from official accounts, related mini-programs, stickers, music or novels), and Mini-Games.

An enormous amount of change, compressed into a relatively short time frame. This is the fourth stage of WeChat’s development, WeChat 4.0, which connected users to a full digital ecosystem. Messaging, search, entertainment, gaming, payments, e-commerce, mobility and lifestyle services can now all be completed within WeChat.

Source:; 25 June 2018

Facebook just secured Premier League rights for the next four years

Facebook won the rights to stream all 380 Premier League soccer matches per season from 2019 to 2022 in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, in a deal worth about £200 million ($264 million).

This is likely Facebook’s highest profile sports streaming deal to date — the platform has previously streamed Major League Baseball (MLB) games and World Surf League (WSL) competitions among other sporting events — because the Premier League is the world’s most watched sports league.

Facebook’s acquisition of the Premier League rights represents how digital platforms are contributing to cord cutting by increasingly curating premium sports content that has historically only been available on linear TV.

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Source:; 6 Jul 2018

It’s not ‘Tmall vs JD’ in China: Two other apps are taking over

Two up-and-coming apps are starting to make a real impact on China’s ecommerce landscape.

Secoo's experience centre in Shanghai

Secoo’s experience centre in Shanghai

It’s understandable if you’re outside of China trying to learn about ecommerce here, and you think the quest for success is between the go-to platforms Tmall and JD.

These two platforms are often mentioned by certain media outlets churning out quick articles. As is usually the case, the reality here in China is far from the online portrayal of it. Speaking to a variety of experts in China, it becomes clear to me that the two real up-and-comers are in fact Secoo and Xiaohongshu (also known as ‘Little Red Book’).

Despite receiving less attention in international media, the figures show Secoo’s strength. Its market share in China is 25.3% as measured by GMV, according to a Frost & Sullivan report. How has it achieved this?

O2O = Oh? to Oh!

It’s not just a gimmicky term. ‘O2O’ really does enjoy the best of both worlds: the convenience of mobile e-commerce with personalised, tangible brand experiences.

What’s more, the fun factor of these omnichannel experiences, full of photo opportunities to post on WeChat Moments, is all-important in China. Secoo now has 10 offline ‘experience centres’—including one in Malaysia—where popular weekend activities like cooking classes or wine tasting sessions bring credibility for Secoo, transmogrifying it from bland e-commerce into a lifestyle platform. Every item used at the experience centre is for sale.

Plenty of foreign media still pump out the same old news about China being ‘cashless’, sometimes making it seem as though brands have been really ‘clever’ in accepting mobile payments.

The reality in China is that you can pay for your wet-market vegetables or your car-parking coupons via Alipay or WeChat Pay, and everyone does that, from kids to grannies. There’s nothing ‘clever’ or too new—until Eric Chan, CEO of Secoo Luxe, explained to me how Secoo took the concept of cashless payments further. First, customers can opt for interest-free monthly instalments to make higher-value purchases than they were previously able to (and didn’t want to use a credit card for). Also, Secoo partnered with retailers, such as Parksons, so that customers can pay for products using the same interest-free instalment plan that currently has partnerships with 26 banks in China.

Ecommerce is more than products

Secoo has taken a lead in diversifying its ecommerce options. It doesn’t only sell luxury products. Travel-wise, it focuses on 48-hour trip packages, having found that many of Secoo’s affluent consumers preferred shorter, work-friendly vacations, for example. These, plus the health and educational services it sells, reflect the (pursued) middle- to upper-class lifestyles in China that Secoo understands.

JD’s luxury section, Toplife, promises certain user-friendly features such as first-class delivery services when it launched in Oct 2017. But Secoo has been doing this for a while. If you buy a suit, it arrives with larger and smaller sizes for you to try on, even with a belt-hole puncher to adjust the belt to your exact size.

Chinese women make up a prosperous 88% of Xiaohongshu’s user demographics in 2017. The shopping-tip app—valued at US$3 billion in its series D round—is a platform for (mainly) women to read reviews of beauty and fashion products from ‘desirable’ overseas destinations. They purchase chosen products for themselves, and then review their own purchases. Rinse and repeat. It’s a beautifully simple cycle of a clearly beloved hobby of young Chinese ladies below the age of 35 (i.e. 89% of Xiaohongshu’s users).

With 100 million users as of now, another strength of Xiaohongshu is that there is no sharing or forwarding function. Users can save their favourite reviews to their own shopping lists, as well as like and comment on other’s posts. This prevents spam and builds the notion of a ‘safe place’ which is just about user reviews.

Yet, authenticity is still an issue for Xiaohongshu. I spoke to several young Chinese ladies as part of my research and discovered many were wary of the authenticity of KOL reviews. This caution is an ever-present aspect of ecommerce in China, and worth mentioning amidst this gushing praise of Xiaohongshu.

Crucially, the aspect of user-generated content by leading KOLs, who post at will and for their own pleasure, is something that Tmall and JD don’t have.

All in all, Secoo and Xiaohongshu have engendered greater popularity among ecommerce players in China and are where brands should be looking to engage with their target consumers.

Source:; 26 June 2018