1976: The Year We (LC) Happened

It was 1976. Steve Laughlin asked his neighbor for help moving a sofa into his new apartment. This significant ask would be the beginning of a friendship and professional relationship that would grow to matter far more than moving. In fact, it’s grown to what, 40 years later, we’re celebrating today.

That same year, Steve and his neighbor, Dennis Frankenberry, founded an agency with Matt Bernstein and Ellen Persa, aptly named Frankenberry, Laughlin, Bernstein & Persa, Inc. As the agency continued to evolve, a young Englishman, named John Constable, decided to make Milwaukee his home. Now, the two writers finally had their art direction leader.

As time continued to pass, the agency saw more and more changes, more growth and more locations. Today, we’re known as Laughlin Constable – LC for short.

Forty years have gone by, and sometimes, a bit of history can help put things in perspective. Here are a few reference points about life back in 1976:

  • Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded Apple Computer, Inc.
  • Microsoft’s first advertisement appeared in Digital Design
  • NASA landed the Viking 1 on Mars.
  • Nadia Comaneci received the first Perfect 10 in Montreal.
  • Fidel Castro became President of Cuba.
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest swept the Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress categories at the Academy Awards. Jaws won Best Original Score.
  • Matsushita introduced the VHS home video cassette recorder to compete with Sony’s Beta max system.
  • The average rent was $220.
  • Gas cost $0.59 a gallon.

VHS is gone, rent is too damn high and LC is better than ever. Behold some fun facts and trivia from our own archives.

  • The first Macintosh computer was installed at LC in 1990. To be specific, it was a Mac IIcx with 8 mb of RAM, an 80 mb hard drive and a 19” black and white monitor. It had 12 fonts and Photoshop version 1.0.
  • In 1993, Adweek named Laughlin Constable one of the nation’s fastest-growing agencies.
  • The LC Milwaukee office is located in the historic Mitchell Building. Our beloved neighbor – LC has a great history with neighbors – has been next door for a very long time: The Swinging Door Exchange, née Grain Exchange Tavern, has been slinging drinks since the end of Prohibition in 1933.
  • LC once let a woman perform a ceremony to rid our Milwaukee office of evil spirits she had identified around it. Until it rained, ours was the only building in the middle of summer with salt on the sidewalks.
  • In 1998, LC opened another office in Chicago, which we quickly outgrew, prompting a move to Michigan Avenue.
  • The Michigan Avenue office was art directed by LC and the open-floor plan highlights a floor mural designed by one of our own. Inspired by traditional Japanese tattoo work, woodblock prints and undersea motifs, the end result was featured in Interior Design Magazine’s Best in Office Design.
  • The Milwaukee office has griffins guarding its office and Chicago benefits from the protective gaze of the Art Institute’s lions across the street.
  • LC started Wellness Wednesdays because our leaders recognize that breakfast is extra important on hump day.
  • In Milwaukee, we have a popcorn and beer happy hour on Thursdays. In Chicago, it’s on Fridays. Our most enterprising employees plan their schedules to hit both.
  • Our Milwaukee office is kid- and pet-friendly. Just ask our Barketing Manager, Lucy.
  • Our team boasts the talents of a Navy Pilot, Milwaukee Bucks dancer and the Guinness World Record holder for largest pillow fight.

Laughlin Constable is proudly celebrating 40 years and we’re especially proud to celebrate our people. We’re not sure what it’s like at other shops, but we’re a team with unwavering passion for what we do, open minds, intense work ethics, meticulous attention to detail and a universal belief that any idea is worthy. Back in the day, there were a couple of crazy and creative guys moving a couch. Now, we’re a crazy (in a mature way) creative team moving our clients from now to next.

Cheers to 40 years.

The ABC’s of Back-to-School Shopping

Back-to-school season can put a lot of pressure on moms to make the grade. There’s purchasing the right clothes, shoes and backpacks. There’s the added stress from “social moms” – you know, the ones who parade their prowess in preparing artful lunches and hand-designed notes for their children. But moms aren’t the only ones feeling the strain: Retail brands are being forced to learn a thing or two from millennial moms who seek an unrivaled brand experience that reaches them whenever, wherever and however they shop.

According to Forbes, more than $75 billion is spent annually on back-to-school products. And for brands that are hungry for a piece of the pie, it’s imperative that they embrace the back-to-school experience in its entirety.

1. Get Social

Clever brands use social media to drive awareness and engage moms in order to make sales. Today’s mom is socially engaged, so brands need to be active on channels like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest (think buyable pins) and Twitter in order to influence her buying decisions. From fun photos and resonant anecdotes to helpful problem solvers and targeted messaging, brands can use social media to effectively market to – and reach – Mom.

2. Mom’s in Control

Successful brands know that moms control back-to-school spending. Moms decide what they need to buy, how much they’re willing to spend and where they’re going to buy it from. Brands need to step up and deliver to mom wherever her purchase is going to happen because moms are controlling the sale, not the brand.

3. Go Mobile

Ninety-two percent of parents use mobile devices during back-to-school shopping, with another 33 percent using mobile devices while making purchases in store, according to The Shelf. It’s estimated that online content influences 36 percent of every dollar spent in-store. This, in turn, creates an opportunity for retail brands to reach Mom with location-based promotion notifications and offer her coupons when she’s actually in the store.

4. Identify Peak Interest

Brands looking to strongly connect with moms need to align their biggest promotions during peak weeks of shopping. School supplies are consistently purchased from July through September. Clothing and fitness apparel increase in July whereas electronics and technology are purchased primarily in September.

5. Time it to the Children

Truth be told, kids guide many moms’ shopping decisions. Moms are unlikely to have a particularly successful shopping trip – especially for clothes and personalized supplies – until whomever she’s shopping for is ready too. And then, of course, there are the kids who are always in the mood: one-third of shoppers who spend $1,000 or more on each child shop year-round.

6. Don’t Forget the College Kids

Connecting with college kids (whose parents may now step back from their buying decisions) is also worth consideration. According to a recent study conducted by UM and Chegg, college students are more likely to notice advertising within mobile apps or on Facebook. Brands looking to target college students should know they expect to spend $163 billion on non-essential items in the next year as they head back to campus.

7. Deal in Dad

And don’t forget Dad. Dads are apt to spend 37 percent more than moms during back-to-school shopping to save time – meaning they’re less likely to search for and use coupons. But that doesn’t mean Pops shouldn’t be marketed to, as well.

Brands looking to connect with Mom, Dad or the kids must connect across all distribution channels and deliver an unparalleled shopping experience. The International Council of Shopping Centers indicates that customers who come through an omnichannel experience spend 3.5 times more money than those who are single-channel shoppers. If that’s not enough reason to make sure your brand is where it needs to be (i.e. everywhere), it may be time to go back to school.

For more tips, tricks, or insights on how to take your marketing from now to next, subscribe to our newsletter or contact Fran Sutter or call 844.LC.IDEAS.

Biweekly Bulletin: 5 Compelling Things You Should Know

Every other week, we share 5 timely and valuable articles from our favorite sources that will inspire and educate readers like you.

Here’s what we’re reading this week:

  1. Some businesses’ failures are likely attributable to the fact that many company leaders, including executives, have what’s called “marketing myopia,” a nearsighted focus on selling products and services, rather than seeing the big picture of what consumers really want.
  2. Companies that successfully combine deep customer data sets with new product experiences will be the ones that matter in the future. If someone else understands your customers better than you do, you should be worried.
  3. Millennials are the generation driving the future. Contently maps out 6 different archetypes of millennials, as no two people born within the generation are the same; therefore, they should not be marketed to in an identical fashion.
  4. The major key to meeting (better yet, exceeding) customer expectations is focusing on personalization, treating customers as individuals, and empowering them with the right information at the right place and time.
  5. How does an agency build unyielding loyalty among its hard-working, creative, busy employees? Open communication and transparency are the foundation of creating a culture of confidence and advocacy.

Don’t forget to sign up for our e-newsletter for the latest in industry news, tips and inspiration. To start receiving updates from Laughlin Constable, subscribe here.

Meet the Creative Mastermind Behind LC’s New Lettering: An interview with typeface designer, Pieter van Rosmalen

To celebrate our 40th anniversary, Laughlin Constable got a makeover. We did our research, rebranded ourselves and launched a new website – and with it, a whole new look. Countless hours were dedicated to the revamp, and more than a few of those hours were spent deliberating over what typeface typified “From Now to Next.”

To give you an idea of how that went, LC Creative Director Chris De Young gave us a peek behind the curtain:

Typeface selection was a process that initially took weeks. Longer than anyone would think. We weren’t just designing a website; everything about our brand was literally on the table. So we looked at a lot of different things, in different situations, in different environments. We probably looked at and tried dozens of typefaces. Once we decided on the kind of typeface we wanted, it came down to four or five candidates. Then it was simply a matter of staring at them for a couple of days – to the point of near insanity.”

In the end, we choose Pinup. A typeface filled with quirks, boldness, optimism and, like the name suggests, sexiness.

After unveiling our stylish new site, we had the pleasure of talking to the typeface’s creator, Pieter van Rosmalen, a graphic designer from the Netherlands. We were curious to pick his brain about his career, his design process and, of course, the font.

LC: How long have you been designing type?

PVR: I started designing type in the beginning of the 90s. I was greatly inspired by the graphic language of Neville Brody back then, so my typefaces looked a lot like his typefaces and lettering work. After working for a few years as a graphic designer, I went back to art school (Type & Media at KABK in The Hague) to learn how to design typefaces in the most meaningful way possible.

LC: What’s your process for designing a typeface?

PVR: Every type designer has a few key letters that he or she draws first to see if the concept works. Since sketching by hand is not my cup of tea, I draw the glyphs directly in Fontlab or Robofont.

LC: Who are your favorite type designers?

PVR: Frantisek Storm, Adrian Frutiger, Roger Excoffon and Jurriaan Schrofer.

LC: What was your inspiration for Pinup?

PVR: I was mildly inspired by Antique Olive Nord, a typeface designed by Roger Excoffon. I was also inspired by a typeface I designed over 10 years ago, but wanted to refresh.

LC: How long did it take to design Pinup?

PVR: It didn’t take too long to create the initial design, but it did take quite a few years before I completely finalized the design.

LC: How did you decide on the name Pinup?

 PVR: I named it Pinup because of its curves; it’s sexy without being vulgar.

LC: What do you think it visually communicates?

PVR: Pinup is a friendly display typeface with character that’s not too over-the-top.

Again, we’d like to personally thank Mr. Van Rosmalen for the interview. We hope you love our site – and the typeface – as much as we do!

Disclaimer: This conversation has been edited and condensed. 

Creating Disruption in a Category of Giants

ACUITY_Gen_CPhoto-01
It’s a modern-day David and Goliath story that many brands and marketers can relate to: trying to compete in a landscape of larger-than-life brands with larger-than-life advertising budgets. Few brand categories represent this challenging landscape better than insurance, ranked as the sixth top advertising category by spend. In 2015, the top 10 insurance advertisers in the United States spent between $139 million and $1.1 billion on advertising.

In such a competitive marketplace, how do you create awareness and drive online conversions for an established, yet virtually unknown brand? This was the challenge faced by Acuity Insurance.

Acuity
The best kept secret in insurance.
In business since 1925 and named the #2 best company to work for in America, Acuity provides property and casualty insurance products to consumers and businesses in 25 states (and growing).

The company had never run a consumer-facing brand campaign before, as its insurance products are exclusively sold via an independent agent model. With paradigm shifts in the insurance industry and the ways consumers shop for insurance, Acuity needed to begin to drive online engagement and enable a seamless online purchase experience in order to secure its future.

Here are four general principles we followed to develop a campaign for Acuity which can apply for any brand going up against the Goliaths of its industry.

  1. Identify and understand your specific target audience.
    The Acuity customer makes informed, confident choices in all aspects of life, and places high value on receiving the best insurance coverage along with high-touch service. However, many people have been conditioned by the insurance industry to seek only the lowest price when shopping for insurance, sacrificing the human element of quality service.
  1. Find the compelling creative idea that will resonate with your target audience.
    The difference with Acuity Insurance is its people: they are dedicated to providing customer peace of mind. We rallied around this insight as we developed a campaign illustrating the relief of quality coverage while staying true to the company’s fun-loving culture. This would create awareness while building trust and confidence.

The campaign message is that Acuity allows its customers to free their mind of their insurance worries in order to focus on what they love most in life. It’s a transformative brand statement that captures Acuity’s unique approach to insurance and its relationship with its customers.

  1. Develop unique creative executions that can’t be ignored.
    In the overcrowded insurance landscape, the campaign had to be different to stand out. The message is brought to life through whimsical and eye-catching graphics that illustrate what life can be like when you don’t have to worry about whether you’re covered or not.

Acuity-display-ad-auto

  1. Master the delivery.
    The campaign also needed to be hyper-targeted to Acuity’s best prospects in order to maximize impact and minimize waste. The campaign launched in June 2016 and is being delivered through highly targeted channels. It is carried through on landing pages that allow prospective customers to learn more about the brand and begin an online quote.

So, to create disruption and stand out in a category of fierce competition, a brand must know its target audience, find the idea that will resonate with them, develop creative executions they can’t ignore and then deliver them to the audience via the right channels at the right times.

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Online Radio: Home


Acuity-social-motorcycle
Acuity-social-renters (1)
Want to learn more about how to take your digital marketing from now to next? Reach out to Mat Lignel at 844.LC.IDEAS and let’s chat.

P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter, for the latest in industry news, tips and inspiration. To start receiving updates from Laughlin Constable, subscribe here.

Biweekly Bulletin: 5 Compelling Things You Should Know

Every other week, we share 5 timely and valuable articles from our favorite sources that will inspire and educate marketers like you.

Here’s what we’re reading this week:

  1. With AI playing an increasing role in people’s lives, Econsultancy’s Marketing in the Age of Artificial Intelligence report predicts the various ways it will continue to impact businesses and their consumers.
  2. Sometimes the best place to boost creativity and spark innovation on the job is outside the office.
  3. Storytelling is an art as old as time. People and brands must tell captivating stories in order for those who matter most to stick around, listen, and act.
  4. According to an influencer study conducted by eMarketer, social giants Facebook and Instagram were considered to be among the best social media platforms for influencer marketing, especially given that most influencers use photo and video content when marketing on behalf of brands.
  5. In the Internet of Things, it’s not so much about the adoption of technology as it is about adopting new behaviors, many of which simply make life easier.

Don’t forget to sign up for our e-newsletter for the latest in industry news, tips and inspiration. To start receiving updates from Laughlin Constable, subscribe here.

Customer Relationship Management: 4 Ways to Gain a More Authentic View of Your Customer

Marketers often talk about customer relationship management (CRM) as a way to manage and grow their customer portfolio. A primary use of CRM is to measure customer lifetime value (CLV) in order to provide your most profitable and loyal customers the best customer service and loyalty rewards. Customer lifetime value is the prediction of a particular customer’s profitability over a span of time.

However, CRM can be utilized for much more than managing your current customer base. A truly successful CRM strategy considers the customer at each point of the customer decision journey, from awareness of the brand to conversion and loyalty. By taking this approach, sales and marketing can truly align on the view of the individual customer, considering all interactions over time. Passive interactions are those such as simply visiting a website, opening an email or clicking on a pay-per-click ad. Active interactions include purchasing a product or interacting with customer service. Both types can (and should) be tracked in your CRM.

For larger organizations, enabling a single customer view means integrating databases and platforms, such as CRM, marketing automation and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning). These integrations can be costly and require significant resources. However, they’re essential due to customers’ increasing expectations that they receive the right message, at the right time, in the right place. Customers will no longer overlook brands’ blunders when it comes to marketing exchanges. For example, your current customers don’t want, nor should they receive, messaging related to products they already own or aren’t interested in.

So how can you deliver an exceptional customer experience with these platforms? Here are four ways:

  1. Use customer preferences to deliver a personalized product or service.
    • With the depth and breadth of available data around individual customers today, you can now provide recommendations on products based on their previous purchases and location. For example, you can display the store closest to their home and serve them ultra-personalized messaging and content.
    • An example of a brand doing this well is Birchbox, the monthly beauty subscription service. Birchbox curates the sample size products in their subscription boxes to best meet their customers’ beauty preferences (e.g., hair type, age, beauty knowledge and other criteria).
  2. Contextualize your customer service interactions.
    • When customer service agents ask for a customer’s name, phone number and other information, they’re searching for any information available in the system. By merging your customer service management and customer relationship management systems, you arm your customer service agents with key customer data including, but not limited to, purchases, preferences and location. Collecting this data makes it much more personalized and relevant to their (and your) needs.
    • For example, Nestlé now has a permanent space within Salesforce’s office in New York, focused on eight of Nestlé’s water brands. A digital command center constantly monitors and manages online and offline data, such as social media activity, email program statistics, media buys, and even a map that shows all U.S. retailers that sell the Nestlé water brands. The ultimate goal is to actively use and effectively respond to customer service questions online and optimize their ongoing marketing programs.
  3. Continually nurture customers.
    • Integrating marketing automation and CRM will enable you to use insights gained during the lead nurturing process to continue to provide value to current customers. By knowing your customer, you can provide content and tools they’re looking for, on the channels they most frequently use. With advanced lead generation, you’re able to ultimately deliver more information than ever before on your prospects and customers’ needs and wants to marketing and other departments as well.
    • For example, ClickDimensions is a marketing automation platform that natively lives within Microsoft Dynamics CRM. It enables organizations to track customer interactions with all owned and earned channels. Once those prospects have become customers, companies can use previous activity the customer has taken to cross-sell or upsell them.
  4. Report across the entire customer decision journey.
    • By integrating your new business and current customer databases, your brand will have a much clearer view into each customer’s journey with your brand, including the interactions across channels they took to ultimately reach their purchase decision. Brands can view this data in larger segments and queries, or distill it down to the individual consumer.
    • Data visualization tools, like Microsoft Power BI, allow marketers to develop dashboards with key performance indicators (KPIs) in every stage of the journey, using CRM data and other sources, such as Google Analytics, to garner insights that propel your marketing programs from now to next.

Today, a grand wealth of knowledge is available to meet – and hopefully exceed – customer expectations and make them loyal advocates and champions of your brand. However, a clean and well-managed database is imperative to the success of any technology ecosystem. With processes in place to ensure clean data collection (cleaning lists, rules for data entry and a logically sound CRM database), you can be confident the insights you’re acting upon will increase revenue and customer satisfaction.

A well planned and executed CRM strategy will give you actionable, strategic insights that are invaluable in optimizing your marketing programs and taking your brand to the next level.

P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter, for the latest in industry news, tips and inspiration. To start receiving updates from Laughlin Constable, subscribe here.

Biweekly Bulletin: 5 Compelling Things You Should Know

Every other week, we share 5 timely and valuable articles from our favorite sources that will inspire and educate marketers like you.

Here’s what we’re reading this week:

  1. Once considered only a point-of-purchase and in-store channel, shopper marketing has grown to involve the entire omnichannel experience thanks to advancing technology.
  2. According to an eMarketer study, nearly half of iPhone users who hadn’t tried Apple Pay as of June 2016 said it was because they said they were already happy with their current payment method.
  3. The hottest upcoming book that every brand marketer should read is Brand Admiration: The Exponential Effect of Brand Love, Trust, and Respect. According to the authors, who are renowned marketing researchers, brands that manage to evoke senses of warmth, empathy, and gratitude — psychological attributes generally associated with love — create the strongest connections with people that can generate influential competitive advantages.
  4. “When answers become cheap, good questions become more difficult and therefore more valuable.” In his new nonfiction novel The Inevitable, founding executive editor of Wired Kevin Kelly raises many important questions that will shape the next few decades. Technology is metamorphosizing faster than people can even master it, so it’s more important than ever to master the art of lifelong learning.
  5. Digital entrepreneur Jeff Bullas shares his key steps to awesome content marketing that works, including discovery, payment, engagement and conversion.

Want to learn more about how to take your digital marketing from now to next? Reach out to Mat Lignel at 844.LC.IDEAS and let’s chat.

P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter, for the latest in industry news, tips and inspiration. To start receiving updates from Laughlin Constable, subscribe here.

Location, Location, Location: Delivering Value Along the Mobile Customer Journey

Pokémon GO. Simply put, it’s a global phenomenon. But it has also spurred discussion among retailers, brands and marketers about how to use the location-aware nature of the game to cash in on its success.

However, many may not have considered why or how to incorporate location-aware mobile marketing efforts into their strategy for long-term success.

The mobile beast is difficult to tame.

By now, marketers recognize that mobile has created a major shift in how people behave, and the resulting opportunities for brands to reach and engage them. Along with the mobile-driven shift in behavior has come a shift in expectations. People increasingly expect their interactions with brands to be personally relevant to their preferences and interests, and also to their immediate needs in the moment.

In a survey by Google and Ipsos, 69% of online consumers answered that the quality, timing or relevance of a company’s message influences their perception of a brand.

Due to the rapidly evolving nature of mobile technology, and its impact on people’s behaviors and expectations, it can be difficult for marketers to keep up with how to best leverage mobile as part of an overarching marketing strategy that delivers a personal and contextually relevant customer experience.

According to a recent study by PointSource, 54% of retailers say their biggest challenge around mobile experience is finding ways to integrate mobile strategy into their overall marketing strategy.

Location-based marketing provides opportunity for brands to create deeper connections with their customers. 

Location-based marketing is the use of location intelligence in mobile marketing to target mobile users within a certain location or geographic area. This might bring to mind in-store beacon technology that allows retailers to ping customers with messaging or offers such as coupons while in store, or location-based app notifications that use geo-fencing.

Behavioral economist Dan Ariely has stated that today’s marketers must “think about the context of their customer on the path to purchase: where they are, what device they’re on, and what their likely mindset is in that given moment.” Location-based marketing creates opportunity for brands and marketers to better reach and engage customers by delivering a personal and contextually relevant experience, both in mobile moments and as part of the overall customer experience.

The following are considerations for brands and marketers to help think about the context of their customer throughout their journey (the phases the customer goes through in their unique relationship with a brand) and incorporate location-based marketing as part of their marketing strategy.

Awareness

Brands of all kinds, and especially those that have physical retail locations, can benefit from using location-based marketing to build awareness of their local presence. This can include paid search and social media ads that leverage data to provide location-relevant messaging.

For the best approach, brands must consider what their target customers are doing on their mobile devices, including what they might be searching for based on their current situation, location and their immediate needs.

Hilton Worldwide used data to target people in airports at times when there were a lot of flight cancellations by proactively increasing its paid search ad buy in those markets and serving ads for nearby Hilton hotels with geo-targeted messaging to people searching things like “Philadelphia airport hotels.”

 Evaluation

Once a prospective customer has moved to the evaluation phase, brands must provide optimized mobile experiences that serve up the contextually relevant information they are seeking in that moment. Websites and landing pages must be mobile-friendly, with quick load times and content that is prioritized by what a customer is looking for in that mobile moment.

Brands can use a customer’s location to help provide the most relevant information and answers that will give them the confidence to quickly make a decision.

GoHealth Urgent Care uses geolocation data on its mobile site to serve up urgent care center listings in order of proximity to the user, along with providing estimated wait times and online check-in. The site also features integrations with Google Maps and Uber to help a user easily figure out how to get to the location.

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Action

Once customers have made their decision, brands must provide an experience that allows them to easily take action, such as making a purchase, scheduling an appointment or visiting a location. Brands can use location-based marketing to provide a more relevant and convenient experience in this phase.


Best Buy makes it easy for the on-the-go customer to find and purchase a product by using Google local inventory ads to display its current inventory at stores closest to the customer’s location. A customer that searches “slr cameras” will see exactly which SLR cameras are in stock at nearby stores. The ads let the customer choose to buy online, but also feature an option to pick up in store for added convenience.

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Loyalty/Engagement

Once a brand has acquired a customer, mobile can play a large part of an effective engagement strategy to build the relationship with that customer over time to keep them satisfied and coming back.

A popular way to do this is by creating a brand app. However, with many customers at a point of app fatigue, only a select few apps are actually used on a regular basis. To be successful, a brand app must deliver genuine, long-term value for customers, and location-based marketing can help in providing this value.

In addition to allowing customers to make payments, report claims and view policy info, Security First Insurance’s mobile app allows Florida homeowners to quickly plot their current location against an active storm’s ever-changing path relative to that location using an interactive Storm Tracker. Using social plug-ins, they can also share their map and storm updates with friends and family.

security-first-insurance-storm-trackerOther opportunities for brands to build loyalty using location-based marketing include adding enhanced personalization to engagement communications, such as providing nearest store location or weather-based messaging in email campaigns.

Pokémon GO may be a tipping point that has started many brands and retailers thinking about how to adopt location-aware marketing tactics, but there’s much more they must consider to achieve long-term success.

In a world where customer-brand interactions are increasingly taking place on mobile devices, and in on-the-go moments, location-based marketing will be an important factor for brands to successfully deliver a personal and contextually relevant customer experience. Those brands that can leverage mobile location data to provide value at each stage of their customer’s journey will be best positioned to win.

For more tips, tricks, or insights on how to take your marketing from now to next, subscribe to our newsletter or contact Mat Lignel at 844.LC.IDEAS.

Our Journey to the Great Unknown: Quality Assurance in a World Flirting with Artificial Intelligence

In 1870, Jules Verne foretold the future in his famous novel, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. At a time when only crudely constructed vessels were being built, he spoke of a future world with submarines. Fast forward some 140 years, and IBM has acted on its own visionary dream, with the introduction of Watson. Named after the company’s first CEO and industrialist Thomas J. Watson, Watson takes customer questions, quickly extracts key information and then reveals insights, patterns and relationships from all the data its retrieved.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

In recent history, what used to be the playground of only a few hard-boiled scientists, now has numerous players who’ve opened up their artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning platforms (Google, Microsoft and a host of other players) allowing us to happily swim and muddy the waters.

With the advent of these platforms and products built around them, certain complications have arisen. In particular QA (quality assurance). Traditionally, QA follows a script based on a set of inputs with expected outputs. These are deterministic in nature and, for the most part, rigorous but fairly recipe-bound. However, now we’re dealing with systems that have very little respect for our scripts and can almost be as bothersome as some humans.

A + B Sometimes Equals D

Quality assurance (QA) is a key component of product development. Incredibly detail- and process-oriented, QA involves testing, testing and more testing to ensure accuracy of data and systems. In the not too distant future, however, there may be a lapse in the QA continuum.

Let’s consider image recognition and classification. At the moment, most systems (IBM, Google, Facebook and others) focus on nouns. They recognize objects – and some are scary in that they can string together sequences of images over time to track an object/subject. Verbs are still a bit of a problem. An image with a tiger and a deer can be classified as containing a tiger and a deer. However, most systems will not return the verb, “eat.” The tiger is about to eat the deer. Let’s imagine that this problem is solved in the near future, and that a business is built around classifying images. Now QA becomes a problem. The AI/machine learning system in question may actually classify an image differently from our test script and still be reasonably correct. Does the system fail the test in this case? Furthermore, how do we compare the results between multiple platform providers who may provide different but equally valid outputs given the same inputs?

How do we QA this mess?

The above example is trivial and the problems are going to be far more complicated in the future.

Life today is diverse, with lots of shades of gray, grey or gris. It’s realistic to imagine that, as smart as AI systems may be, they’ll encounter data they don’t know how to respond to. Systems will churn and try to recalibrate, trying to make sense of this gray data. Some systems may come to a halt or create abnormal results.

Complex artificial intelligence will require greater testing and human control. The systems are smart, but people are still smarter…for now.

QA analysts will need to become greater experts at data interpretation, taking atypical information and making quantifiable results. Only humans (at this point) understand and can extrapolate the nuances that make people individuals with sometimes, very unique answers.

Will this be the downfall for some artificial intelligence systems? Will this just be a brief interruption in the QA process or will it have a greater impact?

Ready to Join Us?

At Laughlin Constable, we’ve spoken before about creating brand experiences that are more human and personal. Our LC product development team takes artificial intelligence (AI) systems, such as Watson, to provide enhanced customer and user experiences for our clients by providing smarter buying and decision systems. Better knowing the customer is imperative in evolving business models for the future.

Fully autonomous systems provide highly intelligent educated “guesses,” backed by data. These systems – and their answers – are used in numerous industries to help people get on with their lives and make better choices, such as in healthcare and finance.

Systems and people must continue to evolve to complement each other. Lifestyles will only continue to grow in complexity – as will artificial intelligence. In 1863, Jules Verne predicted what the 20th century would look like (eerily accurate). Today, we must put on our JV moniker and stake our claim in the future, as uncertain as it may be. Are you ready to join us?

Want to learn more about how to take your digital marketing from now to next? Reach out to Mat Lignel at 844.LC.IDEAS and let’s chat.

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