More on Marketing
Dung Claire Tran
3 months ago
Is the future of brand marketing with virtual influencers?
Digital influences that mimic humans are rising.
Lil Miquela has 3M Instagram followers, 3.6M TikTok followers, and 30K Twitter followers. She's been on the covers of Prada, Dior, and Calvin Klein magazines. Miquela released Not Mine in 2017 and launched Hard Feelings at Lollapazoolas this year. This isn't surprising, given the rise of influencer marketing.
This may be unexpected. Miquela's fake. Brud, a Los Angeles startup, produced her in 2016.
Lil Miquela is one of many rising virtual influencers in the new era of social media marketing. She acts like a real person and performs the same tasks as sports stars and models.
The emergence of online influencers
Before 2018, computer-generated characters were rare. Since the virtual human industry boomed, they've appeared in marketing efforts worldwide.
In 2020, the WHO partnered up with Atlanta-based virtual influencer Knox Frost (@knoxfrost) to gather contributions for the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.
Lu do Magalu (@magazineluiza) has been the virtual spokeswoman for Magalu since 2009, using social media to promote reviews, product recommendations, unboxing videos, and brand updates. Magalu's 10-year profit was $552M.
In 2020, PUMA partnered with Southeast Asia's first virtual model, Maya (@mayaaa.gram). She joined Singaporean actor Tosh Zhang in the PUMA campaign. Local virtual influencer Ava Lee-Graham (@avagram.ai) partnered with retail firm BHG to promote their in-house labels.
In Japan, Imma (@imma.gram) is the face of Nike, PUMA, Dior, Salvatore Ferragamo SpA, and Valentino. Imma's bubblegum pink bob and ultra-fine fashion landed her on the cover of Grazia magazine.
Lotte Home Shopping created Lucy (@here.me.lucy) in September 2020. She made her TV debut as a Christmas show host in 2021. Since then, she has 100K Instagram followers and 13K TikTok followers.
Liu Yiexi gained 3 million fans in five days on Douyin, China's TikTok, in 2021. Her two-minute video went viral overnight. She's posted 6 videos and has 830 million Douyin followers.
China's virtual human industry was worth $487 million in 2020, up 70% year over year, and is expected to reach $875.9 million in 2021.
Investors worldwide are interested. Immas creator Aww Inc. raised $1 million from Coral Capital in September 2020, according to Bloomberg. Superplastic Inc., the Vermont-based startup behind influencers Janky and Guggimon, raised $16 million by 2020. Craft Ventures, SV Angels, and Scooter Braun invested. Crunchbase shows the company has raised $47 million.
The industries they represent, including Augmented and Virtual reality, were worth $14.84 billion in 2020 and are projected to reach $454.73 billion by 2030, a CAGR of 40.7%, according to PR Newswire.
Advantages for brands
Forbes suggests brands embrace computer-generated influencers. Examples:
Unlimited creative opportunities: Because brands can personalize everything—from a person's look and activities to the style of their content—virtual influencers may be suited to a brand's needs and personalities.
100% brand control: Brand managers now have more influence over virtual influencers, so they no longer have to give up and rely on content creators to include brands into their storytelling and style. Virtual influencers can constantly produce social media content to promote a brand's identity and ideals because they are completely scandal-free.
Long-term cost savings: Because virtual influencers are made of pixels, they may be reused endlessly and never lose their beauty. Additionally, they can move anywhere around the world and even into space to fit a brand notion. They are also always available. Additionally, the expense of creating their content will not rise in step with their expanding fan base.
Introduction to the metaverse: Statista reports that 75% of American consumers between the ages of 18 and 25 follow at least one virtual influencer. As a result, marketers that support virtual celebrities may now interact with younger audiences that are more tech-savvy and accustomed to the digital world. Virtual influencers can be included into any digital space, including the metaverse, as they are entirely computer-generated 3D personas. Virtual influencers can provide brands with a smooth transition into this new digital universe to increase brand trust and develop emotional ties, in addition to the young generations' rapid adoption of the metaverse.
Better engagement than in-person influencers: A Hype Auditor study found that online influencers have roughly three times the engagement of their conventional counterparts. Virtual influencers should be used to boost brand engagement even though the data might not accurately reflect the entire sector.
Concerns about influencers created by computers
Virtual influencers could encourage excessive beauty standards in South Korea, which has a $10.7 billion plastic surgery industry.
A classic Korean beauty has a small face, huge eyes, and pale, immaculate skin. Virtual influencers like Lucy have these traits. According to Lee Eun-hee, a professor at Inha University's Department of Consumer Science, this could make national beauty standards more unrealistic, increasing demand for plastic surgery or cosmetic items.
Other parts of the world raise issues regarding selling items to consumers who don't recognize the models aren't human and the potential of cultural appropriation when generating influencers of other ethnicities, called digital blackface by some.
Meta, Facebook and Instagram's parent corporation, acknowledges this risk.
“Like any disruptive technology, synthetic media has the potential for both good and harm. Issues of representation, cultural appropriation and expressive liberty are already a growing concern,” the company stated in a blog post. “To help brands navigate the ethical quandaries of this emerging medium and avoid potential hazards, (Meta) is working with partners to develop an ethical framework to guide the use of (virtual influencers).”
Despite theoretical controversies, the industry will likely survive. Companies think virtual influencers are the next frontier in the digital world, which includes the metaverse, virtual reality, and digital currency.
Virtual influencers may garner millions of followers online and help marketers reach youthful audiences. According to a YouGov survey, the real impact of computer-generated influencers is yet unknown because people prefer genuine connections. Virtual characters can supplement brand marketing methods. When brands are metaverse-ready, the author predicts virtual influencer endorsement will continue to expand.
5 months ago
Flywheels and Funnels
Traditional sales organizations used the concept of a sales “funnel” to describe the process through which potential customers move, ending up with sales at the end. Winners today have abandoned that way of thinking in favor of building flywheels — business models in which every element reinforces every other.
Ah, the marketing funnel…
Prospective clients go through a predictable set of experiences, students learn in business school marketing classes. It looks like this:
Understanding the funnel helps evaluate sales success indicators. Gail Goodwin, former CEO of small business direct mail provider Constant Contact, said managing the pipeline was key to escaping the sluggish SaaS ramp of death.
Like the funnel concept. To predict how well your business will do, measure how many potential clients are aware of it (awareness) and how many take the next step. If 1,000 people heard about your offering and 10% showed interest, you'd have 100 at that point. If 50% of these people made buyer-like noises, you'd know how many were, etc. It helped model buying trends.
TV, magazine, and radio advertising are pricey for B2C enterprises. Traditional B2B marketing involved armies of sales reps, which was expensive and a barrier to entry.
Cracks in the funnel model
Digital has exposed the funnel's limitations. Hubspot was born at a time when buyers and sellers had huge knowledge asymmetries, according to co-founder Brian Halligan. Those selling a product could use the buyer's lack of information to become a trusted partner.
As the world went digital, getting information and comparing offerings became faster, easier, and cheaper. Buyers didn't need a seller to move through a funnel. Interactions replaced transactions, and the relationship didn't end with a sale.
Instead, buyers and sellers interacted in a constant flow. In many modern models, the sale is midway through the process (particularly true with subscription and software-as-a-service models). Example:
You're creating a winding journey with many touch points, not a funnel (and lots of opportunities for customers to get lost).
From winding journey to flywheel
Beyond this revised view of an interactive customer journey, a company can create what Jim Collins famously called a flywheel. Imagine rolling a heavy disc on its axis. The first few times you roll it, you put in a lot of effort for a small response. The same effort yields faster turns as it gains speed. Over time, the flywheel gains momentum and turns without your help.
Modern digital organizations have created flywheel business models, in which any additional force multiplies throughout the business. The flywheel becomes a force multiplier, according to Collins.
Amazon is a famous flywheel example. Collins explained the concept to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos at a corporate retreat in 2001. In The Everything Store, Brad Stone describes in his book The Everything Store how he immediately understood Amazon's levers.
The result (drawn on a napkin):
Low prices and a large selection of products attracted customers, while a focus on customer service kept them coming back, increasing traffic. Third-party sellers then increased selection. Low-cost structure supports low-price commitment. It's brilliant! Every wheel turn creates acceleration.
Where from here?
Flywheel over sales funnel! Consider these business terms.
4 months ago
What Happened After I Posted an AI-Generated Post on My Website
This could cost you.
Content creators may have heard about Google's "Helpful content upgrade."
This change is another Google effort to remove low-quality, repetitive, and AI-generated content.
Why should content creators care?
Because too much content manipulates search results.
My experience includes the following.
Website admins seek high-quality guest posts from me. They send me AI-generated text after I say "yes." My readers are irrelevant. Backlinks are needed.
Companies copy high-ranking content to boost their Google rankings. Unfortunately, it's common.
What does this content offer?
Despite Google's updates and efforts to clean search results, webmasters create manipulative content.
As a marketer, I knew about AI-powered content generation tools. However, I've never tried them.
I use old-fashioned content creation methods to grow my website from 0 to 3,000 monthly views in one year.
Last year, I launched a niche website.
I do keyword research, analyze search intent and competitors' content, write an article, proofread it, and then optimize it.
This strategy is time-consuming.
But it yields results!
Here's proof from Google Analytics:
Proven strategies yield promising results.
To validate my assumptions and find new strategies, I run many experiments.
I tested an AI-powered content generator.
I used a tool to write this Google-optimized article about SEO for startups.
I wanted to analyze AI-generated content's Google performance.
Here are the outcomes of my test.
I dislike "meh" content. I expect articles to answer my questions. If not, I've wasted my time.
My essays usually include research, personal anecdotes, and what I accomplished and achieved.
AI-generated articles aren't as good because they lack individuality.
Read my AI-generated article about startup SEO to see what I mean.
It's dry and shallow, IMO.
It seems robotic.
I'd use quotes and personal experience to show how SEO for startups is different.
My article paraphrases top-ranked articles on a certain topic.
It's readable but useless. Similar articles abound online. Why read it?
AI-generated content is low-quality.
Let me show you how this content ranks on Google.
The Google Search Console report shows impressions, clicks, and average position.
No one opens the 5th Google search result page to read the article. Too far!
You may say the new article will improve.
Marketing-wise, I doubt it.
This article is shorter and less comprehensive than top-ranking pages. It's unlikely to win because of this.
AI-generated content's terrible reality.
I'll compare how this content I wrote for readers and SEO performs.
Both the AI and my article are fresh, but trends are emerging.
My article's CTR and average position are higher.
I spent a week researching and producing that piece, unlike AI-generated content. My expert perspective and unique consequences make it interesting to read.
No content generator can duplicate a human's tone, writing style, or creativity. Artificial content is always inferior.
Not "bad," but inferior.
Demand for content production tools will rise despite Google's efforts to eradicate thin content.
Most won't spend hours producing link-building articles. Costly.
As guest and sponsored posts, artificial content will thrive.
Before accepting a new arrangement, content creators and website owners should consider this.
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9 months ago
Howey Test and Cryptocurrencies: 'Every ICO Is a Security'
What Is the Howey Test?
To determine whether a transaction qualifies as a "investment contract" and thus qualifies as a security, the Howey Test refers to the U.S. Supreme Court cass: the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. According to the Howey Test, an investment contract exists when "money is invested in a common enterprise with a reasonable expectation of profits from others' efforts."
The test applies to any contract, scheme, or transaction. The Howey Test helps investors and project backers understand blockchain and digital currency projects. ICOs and certain cryptocurrencies may be found to be "investment contracts" under the test.
Understanding the Howey Test
The Howey Test comes from the 1946 Supreme Court case SEC v. W.J. Howey Co. The Howey Company sold citrus groves to Florida buyers who leased them back to Howey. The company would maintain the groves and sell the fruit for the owners. Both parties benefited. Most buyers had no farming experience and were not required to farm the land.
The SEC intervened because Howey failed to register the transactions. The court ruled that the leaseback agreements were investment contracts.
This established four criteria for determining an investment contract. Investing contract:
- An investment of money
- n a common enterprise
- With the expectation of profit
- To be derived from the efforts of others
In the case of Howey, the buyers saw the transactions as valuable because others provided the labor and expertise. An income stream was obtained by only investing capital. As a result of the Howey Test, the transaction had to be registered with the SEC.
Howey Test and Cryptocurrencies
Bitcoin is notoriously difficult to categorize. Decentralized, they evade regulation in many ways. Regardless, the SEC is looking into digital assets and determining when their sale qualifies as an investment contract.
The SEC claims that selling digital assets meets the "investment of money" test because fiat money or other digital assets are being exchanged. Like the "common enterprise" test.
Whether a digital asset qualifies as an investment contract depends on whether there is a "expectation of profit from others' efforts."
For example, buyers of digital assets may be relying on others' efforts if they expect the project's backers to build and maintain the digital network, rather than a dispersed community of unaffiliated users. Also, if the project's backers create scarcity by burning tokens, the test is met. Another way the "efforts of others" test is met is if the project's backers continue to act in a managerial role.
These are just a few examples given by the SEC. If a project's success is dependent on ongoing support from backers, the buyer of the digital asset is likely relying on "others' efforts."
If the SEC determines a cryptocurrency token is a security, many issues arise. It means the SEC can decide whether a token can be sold to US investors and forces the project to register.
In 2017, the SEC ruled that selling DAO tokens for Ether violated federal securities laws. Instead of enforcing securities laws, the SEC issued a warning to the cryptocurrency industry.
Due to the Howey Test, most ICOs today are likely inaccessible to US investors. After a year of ICOs, then-SEC Chair Jay Clayton declared them all securities.
SEC Chairman Gensler Agrees With Predecessor: 'Every ICO Is a Security'
Howey Test FAQs
How Do You Determine If Something Is a Security?
The Howey Test determines whether certain transactions are "investment contracts." Securities are transactions that qualify as "investment contracts" under the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.
The Howey Test looks for a "investment of money in a common enterprise with a reasonable expectation of profits from others' efforts." If so, the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 require disclosure and registration.
Why Is Bitcoin Not a Security?
Former SEC Chair Jay Clayton clarified in June 2018 that bitcoin is not a security: "Cryptocurrencies: Replace the dollar, euro, and yen with bitcoin. That type of currency is not a security," said Clayton.
Bitcoin, which has never sought public funding to develop its technology, fails the SEC's Howey Test. However, according to Clayton, ICO tokens are securities.
A Security Defined by the SEC
In the public and private markets, securities are fungible and tradeable financial instruments. The SEC regulates public securities sales.
The Supreme Court defined a security offering in SEC v. W.J. Howey Co. In its judgment, the court defines a security using four criteria:
- An investment contract's existence
- The formation of a common enterprise
- The issuer's profit promise
- Third-party promotion of the offering
Read original post.
1 month ago
Provide a product roadmap that can withstand startup velocities
This is how to build a car while driving.
Building a high-growth startup is compared to building a car while it's speeding down the highway.
How to plan without going crazy? Or, without losing team, board, and investor buy-in?
I just delivered our company's product roadmap for the rest of the year. Complete. Thorough. Page-long. I'm optimistic about its chances of surviving as everything around us changes, from internal priorities to the global economy.
It's tricky. This isn't the first time I've created a startup roadmap. I didn't invent a document. It took time to deliver a document that will be relevant for months.
Although they never change, goals are rarely understood.
This is the third in a series about a startup's unique roadmapping needs. Velocity is the intensity at which a startup must produce to survive.
A high-growth startup moves at breakneck speed, which I alluded to when I said priorities and economic factors can change daily or weekly.
At that speed, a startup's roadmap must be flexible, bend but not break, and be brief and to the point. I can't tell you how many startups and large companies develop a product roadmap every quarter and then tuck it away.
Big, wealthy companies can do this. It's suicide for a startup.
The drawer thing happens because startup product roadmaps are often valid for a short time. The roadmap is a random list of features prioritized by different company factions and unrelated to company goals.
It's not because the goals changed that a roadmap is shelved or ignored. Because the company's goals were never communicated or documented in the context of its product.
In the previous post, I discussed how to turn company goals into a product roadmap. In this post, I'll show you how to make a one-page startup roadmap.
In a future post, I'll show you how to follow this roadmap. This roadmap helps you track company goals, something a roadmap must do.
Be vague for growth, but direct for execution.
Here's my plan. The real one has more entries and more content in each.
Let's discuss smaller boxes.
Product developers and engineers know that the further out they predict, the more wrong they'll be. When developing the product roadmap, this rule is ignored. Then it bites us three, six, or nine months later when we haven't even started.
Why do we put everything in a product roadmap like a project plan?
Yes, I know. We use it when the product roadmap isn't goal-based.
A goal-based roadmap begins with a document that outlines each goal's idea, execution, growth, and refinement.
Once the goals are broken down into epics, initiatives, projects, and programs, only the idea and execution phases should be modeled. Any goal growth or refinement items should be vague and loosely mapped.
Why? First, any idea or execution-phase goal will result in growth initiatives that are unimaginable today. Second, internal priorities and external factors will change, but the goals won't. Locking items into calendar slots reduces flexibility and forces deviation from the single source of truth.
No soothsayers. Predicting the future is pointless; just prepare.
A map is useless if you don't know where you're going.
As we speed down the road, the car and the road will change. Goals define the destination.
This quarter and next quarter's roadmap should be set. After that, you should track destination milestones, not how to get there.
When you do that, even the most critical investors will understand the roadmap and buy in. When you track progress at the end of the quarter and revise your roadmap, the destination won't change.
9 months ago
Union LA x Air Jordan 2 “Future Is Now” PREVIEW
With the help of Virgil Abloh and Union LA‘s Chris Gibbs, it's now clear that Jordan Brand intended to bring the Air Jordan 2 back in 2022.
The “Future Is Now” collection includes two colorways of MJ's second signature as well as an extensive range of apparel and accessories.
“We wanted to juxtapose what some futuristic gear might look like after being worn and patina'd,”
Union stated on the collaboration's landing page.
“You often see people's future visions that are crisp and sterile. We thought it would be cool to wear it in and make it organic...”
The classic co-branding appears on short-sleeve tees, hoodies, and sweat shorts/sweat pants, all lightly distressed at the hems and seams.
Also, a filtered black-and-white photo of MJ graces the adjacent long sleeves, labels stitch into the socks, and the Jumpman logo adorns the four caps.
Liner jackets and flight pants will also be available, adding reimagined militaria to a civilian ensemble.
The Union LA x Air Jordan 2 (Grey Fog and Rattan) shares many of the same beats. Vintage suedes show age, while perforations and detailing reimagine Bruce Kilgore's design for the future.
The “UN/LA” tag across the modified eye stays, the leather patch across the tongue, and the label that wraps over the lateral side of the collar complete the look.
The footwear will also include a Crater Slide in the “Grey Fog” color scheme.
On 4/9 and 4/10 from 9am-3pm, Union LA will be giving away a pair of Air Jordan 2s at their La Brea storefront (110 S. LA BREA AVE. LA, CA 90036). The raffle is only open to LA County residents with a valid CA ID. You must enter by 11:59pm on 4/10 to win. Winners will be notified via email.