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Wickr, the James Bond of online privacy


If you’re like me, when you get sensitive information via snail mail, that you’re finished using, you shred it.  But what about receiving sensitive information via email?  We all know that it’s impossible to delete information from the Internet.

Enter Wickr.

A new mobile application for Apple devices called Wickr lets people exchange files and messages without leaving digital traces that could be examined by law enforcement or cyberspies.

Wickr, released on Wednesday, addresses the raft of privacy concerns that arise when a person sends a sensitive message: email providers, ISPs, mobile phone companies and social networking sites all retain detailed records of activity on their networks.

(CIO – Wickr, a Mobile Privacy Application, Sweeps Digital Crumbs Away)

Wickr’s mission:

…to provide secure communications that Leave No Trace. People are being tracked online and their information is being sold in ways they do not understand by numerous governments and corporations throughout the world. Your private communications are worth money. Online communications should be untraceable by default.

(Wickr – About)

Robert Statica, an information technology professor at New Jersey Institute of Technology, who cofounded Wickr with Nico Sell, Christopher Howell and Kara Coppa, describes how the idea for the company came about:

“This began when we were sitting around in a cafe in San Francisco, talking about Anthony Weiner and laughing,” adds Statica. “But the more we spoke about it, the more we began to think seriously about this problem.” And the tool they came up with, Statica says, is meant to go beyond mere “sexting” or gossip to corporate or medical environments, any situation where the most secure record of communications is no record at all.

(Forbes – Wickr Lets Your iPhone Send Both Encrypted And Self-Destructing Messages)

Senders of a message or photo can set a self-destruct time for the data ranging from a few seconds to six days in the free version of Wickr. As soon as the recipient who has Wickr installed opens the message, the countdown begins.

“No matter what can do, you cannot stop the clock,” said Robert Statica.

…The only real way to see something sent to a Wickr user would be to steal the person’s phone. Even then, five wrong attempts at the password will cause Wickr to erase itself.

(CIO – Wickr, a Mobile Privacy Application, Sweeps Digital Crumbs Away)

I wonder how this app will affect social media, especially with the latest news that GM is apparently considering to return to Facebook advertising.  Time will tell.

Filed under: Business, Marketing, Social Media, Tech, World, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

NFC-enabled ads…the future in print, brought to you by Lexus and WIRED Magazine


First, a quick lesson.

What is NFC?  It stands for Near Field Communication.

Great.  But what does that mean?

Near field communication (NFC) is a set of standards for smartphones and similar devices to establish radio communication with each other by touching them together or bringing them into close proximity, usually no more than a few centimetres.

Present and anticipated applications include contactless transactions, data exchange, and simplified setup of more complex communications such as Wi-Fi.[1] Communication is also possible between an NFC device and an unpowered NFC chip, called a “tag”.

(Wikipedia – Near Field Communication)

NFC currently exists by way of mobile-payment, but what makes this so newsworthy, is that this is the first time that NFC will be integrated into a print ad (Lexus ad in the April issue of WIRED Magazine).

NFC-enabled Lexus ad (Wired Magazine) - as seen in the Ad Age article.

“WIRED introducing the first NFC-enabled ad could only be made possible by bringing together the creative minds at Lexus with our reputation for pushing the envelope with emerging technologies and ideas,” said WIRED VP and Publisher Howard Mittman. “The WIRED world moves at an extraordinary speed, and this shows how we continue to work with our partners to ensure we all remain on the cutting edge.”

(Reuters – Press Release: WIRED Delivers First-Ever NFC-Enabled Advertisement Featuring Lexus)

You’re probably thinking…ok, this already exists with QR codes.  But no, it’s actually different.

Unlike the 2-D barcodes that have been storming magazine pages, readers don’t need to take pictures of anything with their phones’ cameras. The phone automatically detects the NFC chip.

In the case of Wired and Lexus, that brings up a link on the phone’s screen. Click the link and a welcome video loads introducing the car’s in-dash App Suite. Users can then click on each of the app icons — Bing, OpenTable, iHeartRadio, Pandora, MovieTickets.com, and Yelp — to see short videos explaing [sic] each app.

(Ad Age – Lexus Brings NFC-Enabled Print Ad to Wired Magazine)

What I find most fascinating, is that of all industries…it’s the auto industry that is making it’s mark with this new technology.

According to the NFC forum (yes, there is actually a forum on this technology), when asked about the forecasted opportunity for NFC

Jupiter Research has projected that up to 700 million NFC-enabled mobile phones will be sold by 2013, representing up to 25 percent of the market at that time (November 2008). Jupiter Research has also projected that NFC Mobile Payments will exceed $30bn by 2012 (September 2009).

(NFC Forum – FAQs)

It’ll be interesting to see how this affects print vs. online advertising,  the (hurting) auto industry, the economy in Japan, and the behemoth known as Apple (as it is not on-board with NFC yet…).

Filed under: Automobiles, Business, Marketing, Science, Social Media, Tech, , , , , , , ,

Oscars 2012, a marketing perspective


The 84th Annual Academy Awards took place on Sunday night at the Theater formerly known as the Kodak Theater .

I attended a friends’ Oscars party, and found myself noticing things from a marketer’s perspective, that others didn’t see.  The night was filled with product placements, advertising, and branding (to a targeted audience).

Here are a few of my casual marketing observations from Sunday night:

1. In the opening montage, as Billy Crystal merged with the animation and changed into his suit he said: “you’re gonna like the way you look, I guarantee it”.  If that doesn’t ring a bell…it’s the tag line by George Zimmer, Founder and Chairman of The Men’s Warehouse.

Following the most fantastic quote of the evening, by Billy Crystal –

“So tonight, enjoy yourselves because nothing can take the sting out of the world’s economic problems like watching millionaires present each other with golden statues.”

2. …Tom Hanks took to the stage. But before presenting the the award for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography, he introduced the audience to Carl the ‘Seat Filler’.  We learn that Carl has been filling seats at the Oscars for the past nth years.

The reason, I think, that so much time was spent on this segment, was to make the audience feel part of the event.  A “you too can be at/a part of the Oscars” moment.  It was definitely a nice segue from the biting quote by Mr. Crystal.  This is the first time, during the evening, that the Oscars tried to brand itself to the non-millionaires (the estimated 39.3 million Americans who were watching).

After this segment, I bet you were thinking, ‘gee…if I lived in LA, I’d totally apply to be a seat filler just like Carl!’

3. Cirque du Soleil…talk about a teaser.  It was a fantastic advertisement, with 39.3 million pairs of eyeballs watching.  Even though tickets range from $75-$200+, seats still get filled (and not for free like Carl).  Cirque’s performance was also an anniversary of sorts, it was their ’10 year anniversary’ since performing at the Oscars.  Though at the 74th annual…they nearly burned down the house, and not in a good way.

4. Aside from an increase in viewers as compared to 2011, this year, the Oscars was able to retain the 18-49 year old range.  This fact was most certainly helped by the arrival of:

And bit by:

(Unfortunately, due to copyright, the video of the Will Ferrell & Zach Galifianakis on YouTube, was pulled).

Not to mention Justin Bieber, in the opening montage, who bluntly says that he’s there to ‘help with demographics’

So those are a few of my marketing observations.  I’m curious, did anyone notice the same things?

Filed under: Marketing, Random, , , , , , , , , , , ,

QR codes are so yesterday…


I think QR codes were innovative at first glance, but now… they’re just an eyesore.

Flipping through a magazine, you see these really fantastic print ads, and then to the far left or right, there’s this:

Well, apparently I’m not the only one…

bieMEDIA, an online marketing and media solutions company, is predicting the end of the QR Code.

With all those QR scanner apps out there, you’d think that consumers MUST love ’em, right?

57% of consumers who have scanned a QR code say they did nothing with the information, compared to 21% who shared the information with someone and 18% who made a purchase, according to a survey by Chadwick Martin Bailey (CMB).

In fact, of those who have scanned a QR code, just 41% said that they found the information they received useful, while 42% had mixed feelings and 18% said the information was not useful.  (The End of the QR Code is Near – MarketingVOX, January 24th)

Enter Pongr.

When brands ask consumers to snap a product photo and text or email it in, Pongr recognizes the image and replies. (Forget QR Codes: Pongr Easily Turns Your Photos Into Brand Rewards –  Fast Company, January 9th)

So how does Pongr work for its clients?  Here’s an example:

1. Fan photographs self with Michael Jackson’s Immortal, sends it to mj@pongr.com.

2. Pongr’s image-recognition software identifies album in photo.

3. Fan is entered in contest to see premiere of Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson show.

The call-to-action by the brand is so much greater here. With QR codes, you’re hoping that the link embedded within will be enough of a pull to bring in a new consumer.  Using a mobile visual search

…provides consumers with faster, more convenient and compelling, interactive marketing experiences. (bieMEDIA Predicts the End of the QR Code – MarketWatch – January 24th)

As Jamie Thompson, President of Pongr explains it (in the Fast Company article):

Some brands are stuck in the mindset of this old-fashioned data-sampling model, where they think their customer might be the guy on the panel, because some data company has painstakingly and very expensively created a panel for them. Yet the reality is, there’s 100 million other people out there that they don’t know, that they’re not looking at, and they’re not slicing into that correctly.

So get the user to share real information with you, so that you know who they are.

That about sums it up.

(Note: I have no connection to Pongr. I just think that the company is super innovative, and it provides support to my anti-QR code claim).

Filed under: Business, Marketing, Social Media, Tech, , , , , , , , , ,

2012: Say goodbye to traditional marketing


With the advancement of technology, a lot of dependable and traditional forms of marketing are becoming…well…sort of antiquated.

Rather than dwell on things in a negative light, allow me to make a few marketing trend predictions for 2012.

Social Media Integration

If your company has not jumped on the social media bandwagon, well…you best jump right on, because as with most things related to technology, things are only going to get MORE advanced.

I’m sure that I’m not the only one that has noticed the recent uptick in social media integration on TV.

Facebook pages promoting shows and their stars are a given at this point. But using Comcast’s Xfinity, a viewer can access program guides based on Facebook trending topics, and networks are also integrating Facebook into their shows. During NBC’s “Meet the Press” debate earlier this month, viewers were able to see Facebook comments and queries on-screen…

…“The convergence of social and on-air is the result of over a year’s worth of groundwork — getting people used to it, learning how to talk about it, not mentioning platforms as if they have air quotes around them,” [Ryan] Osborn [senior director of digital media for NBC News] said. “They are actual viewers, just engaging with you in a new way.” (As Social Media Hits Television, 2012 Is the Year of Must-Tweet TV– Jan. 16th, Reuters)

Clearly TV networks have marketing budgets that are quite larger than average-sized B2B and B2C companies, but aside from “the funds”, two important pieces to this social media integration puzzle include a creative in-house team, and a person/time devoted to social media. Where there’s a will…there’s a way.

Apps

With over 500K apps available to smartphones, 2012 will be the year when the formerly hard-hit auto industry will have its comeback.

App integration means bringing services such as Pandora, Google search, and Twitter into the car. The car maker benefits from the known brand and features of the app, while car owners get the services they know and use on the road.

Pretty amazing.  I never envisioned the auto industry as one to embrace technology like this!

What about safety, you ask?

…automakers are attempting to create safe interfaces. The apps use the car’s navigation display, and can be controlled with voice and in-car buttons.

And for those who want to view their apps on screens larger than their phones or tablets…there are smart TVs.  I actually blogged about this in May of 2010 – Computers…coming soon to a TV near you, but it seems as though this technology will actually become prevalent in 2012.  You can read more about this here: Smart TV: Six big features that matter (ZDNet).

Imagine all of the advertising integration possibilities…via these new modes of app integration.  Banners, streaming, real-time, product placement…the options are really practically endless!

Mobile shopping

Smartphone users are shopping and purchasing through their smartphones at the rate we expected. However, we were surprised to see that users are buying physical goods at about the same rate as apps, indicating that the technology is on the verge of widespread adoption,” said Ann Graham Hannon, vice president of the financial services division at Market Strategies.

Along with mobile shopping, more retail companies will  create mobile-friendly websites.

But with an increase of technology, comes an increase in cyber attacks…  Yesterday, Zappos announced that their site had a security breach.

Zappos plans to send out an email to its 24 million customers that says, in part: “there may have been illegal and unauthorized access to some of your customer account information on Zappos.com, including one or more of the following: your name, email address, billing and shipping addresses, phone number, the last four digits of your credit card number (the standard information you find on receipts), and/or your cryptographically scrambled password (but not your actual password).” (Hackers Hit Zappos, 24 Million Customers, January 16th – PCMag.com)

So what now?

Pop up stores

This is completely a personal opinion (ie. I haven’t found any material online to support this prediction)…

While I think that technology is amazing, it could be that because we are advancing toward unknown territories, consumers are too quick to trust the online medium for all of their needs.  Case in point – Zappos’ online security breach.  As such, I think a lot of brands are going to jump into the pop-up store (short-term sales store) phenomenon.  We’re almost at a point where the brick-and-mortar is considered “vintage”, so what better way to stand out from other online retailers, than to have items available for people to touch and see in real life vs. on a screen?

I don’t mean to say that more retail stores will necessarily open, no…this would defeat the purpose of something new and fresh. What I mean is that pop up stores will  assist brands that already thrive online…as a “new” medium to reach a new audience.

What do YOU think??

Filed under: Business, Marketing, Social Media, Tech, , , , , , , , , , ,

Consumers 2, Big Corporations 0


It’s times like these (read: major global financial crisis) that companies should know that it’s wiser to cultivate their relationships with existing customers, rather than attempt to isolate them.  Further, ever since the Occupy Wall Street movement has gained sympathizers, it seems like the average US citizen’s voice has been found.  And s/he is not afraid to use it.

Consumer 1, Corporation 0
On September 19th, I received an email from Netflix CEO – Reed Hastings, alerting me of some major company changes. Namely, the renaming their bread and butter – DVD by mail service – to “Qwikster”. 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Netflix Kill[ed]s, its DVD-only business before [its] launch.

The people (customers) had spoken, and in a smart, yet rash decision, Netflix decided to retreat.

Hastings admits now: “In hindsight, it is hard to justify. Having separate brands can in theory make sense. However after the price increase, Qwikster became the symbol of Netflix not listening.”

As of September 14th, NFLX stood at $208.71/share, and today it’s at $80.09.  That’s a 60%+ drop!  Ouch.

Consumer 2, Corporation 0

On November 1, Bank of America announced that they’ve eliminated their plan for [the] $5 debt card fee.  This AFTER backlash from existing customers.

The bank canceled the fee, which would have started in January, after listening “to our customers very closely,” David Darnell, co-chief operating officer, said in a statement today.

As a non-CEO of a publicly traded company, maybe my views are skewed, but I’ve always believed that a company should strive to maintain its relationships with existing customers, regardless of the state of the economy.   Happy customers tell their friends = more customers (that’s the best kind of marketing).

Let’s hope that “third time’s a charm”, isn’t relevant here, and big corporations have taken note.

Filed under: Business, Finance, Marketing, World, , , , , , ,

Friday: The sky is falling…or just a defunct satellite.


If you haven’t heard it by now, a defunct satellite is due to reach Earth this afternoon (September 23rd).

The defunct satellite is

NASA’s Upper Atmospheric Research Satellite (UARS), which launched in 1991 and was shut down in 2005 after completing its mission.

It was originally thought that the UARS was to make landfall in late September/early October, but:

 NASA spokeswoman Beth Dickey confirmed with SPACE.com earlier today that the reason UARS is expected to fall early in its re-entry window is because of the sharp uptick in solar activity. Solar effects from the sun can create an extra drag on satellites in space because they can heat the Earth’s atmosphere, causing it to expand, agency officials have said.    (Space.com – September 16)

So why is this UARS falling to Earth?

Generally, satellites in Earth orbit naturally lose altitude slowly over time if they have no fuel to boost to higher orbit. The orbit of UARS has slowly decayed over the years following its deactivation, to the point that it will soon begin its final dive toward the ground, pulled in by gravity.

It’s important to note the “no fuel” part.  So aside from this bus-sized 6 ton object falling, it will not have any toxic components.

I’m not sure about you, but I have no grasp of what 1 ton, let alone 6 tons looks like!?  So in an effort to learn more, consider this a fun lesson.

1 ton = 2,000 pound

= 5,000 – 14,000 lbs (or 2.5 – 7 tons)

= 6 tons

Ok, fantastic.  So an object the size of a bus, that weighs anywhere between 2 large African elephants to 1 Killer Whale, may fall where?

NASA may only know for sure, 2-3 hours before.  But the debris (apparently 26 large pieces..how do they know this?) is due to cover 500 miles (roughly the length between San Diego to San Francisco).

The satellite is rotating in an uncontrolled pattern, which is why no one knows where it will land.

Where will the satellite fall? (WashPo) Click to view larger.

Apparently the satellite is not expected to fall in North America.

Though, dear reader, if you aren’t located in North America, fear not.

There is a 1-in-3,200 chance that UARS debris could hit a person, though NASA considers that scenario extremely remote.

Filed under: Random, Science, World, , , , , ,

Print media…will soon be an oxymoron


Today I happened to glance at an article that is tacked to the wall of my cubicle.  Honestly, I rarely cut out articles, but this one seemed to be so futuristic (it was the end of 2008), yet intriguingly possible, that I had to keep it. The article in question – “Five Years From Now, Media Will Be Totally Intangible” by Steve Rubel in Ad Age. (Now you too can tack a copy to your wall…and you’re welcome.) The articles begins:

I want to make a bet with you. I wager that by January 2014 almost all forms of tangible media will be either in sharp decline or completely extinct in the U.S. I am talking about not just print but all tangible forms of media — newspapers, magazines, books, DVDs, boxed software and video games.

At the time, I am not going to say that I was unaware of the technological advances that were gaining speed, but I really didn’t think that it would happen so quickly.

Since the start of 2009 (a very brief look) –

  • Hulu gained popularity.
  • Blockbuster closed over 900 stores, to date.  If you go to Blockbuster.com you can download movies (ala Netflix).
  • In 2009, Circuit City closed and Virgin Megastore ceased to exist in the US.
  • Borders is closing in 2011.

Additionally, online banking and invoices have become so popular, that the US Postal Service is considering to shorten their work week.  Do you even know how much a stamp costs nowadays?  Right…didn’t think so.

Just like the individuals who left comments to Steve Rubel’s article, I too was a bit skeptical.  Funny thing is…now it seems like 2014 is too far into the future.

Filed under: Business, Green, Marketing, Tech, , , , , , , , , , ,

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