AI and Chatbots: How Marketers Can Keep Up

The marketing world is abuzz with AI chatter. While people love to talk up AI’s potential for automating marketing, the reality doesn’t yet live up to the hype. A study from Oxford University, Deloitte and the BBC revealed that the risk of associate-level marketers losing their jobs to automation is fairly low, at only 33 percent. At the same time, new AI marketing innovations and applications appear daily, and keeping up with this evolution is essential.

What’s a busy marketer to do? According to the Walker Sands State of Martech 2017 study, marketers are feeling the heat already. When asked about tech strategies in general (AI and beyond), almost three-quarters (72 percent) of marketers say the martech landscape is evolving at light speed or rapidly. Times may be hectic, but AI is a tactic deserving special attention. Let’s go beyond the buzz:

AI’s current role in marketing

It’s easy to get carried away in the science fiction-like element of AI. Many companies gaining attention are carrying out genuinely interesting tasks, but below the surface aren’t so advanced in terms of application of the technology.

For example, IBM Watson collaborated with Marchesa to create a “cognitive dress” worn by model Karolina Kurkova at the 2016 Met Gala. IBM Watson analyzed Marchesa’s social media sentiment and changed the dress to correspond to different emotions. The dress was gorgeous, but all-in-all, natural language processing (NLP) is a fairly straightforward technology.

The changes currently brought to martech are far less glamorous, but useful nonetheless. Open-ended technologies like IBM Watson and Salesforce Einstein allow for the development of new AI applications for marketing all the time. Here are a couple marketers have embraced so far.

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Walker Sands PROI Exchange Recap: A Week in Seattle + A Day in Portland

Like my colleagues, Kelsey Gunderson and Payal Shukla, I also had the opportunity to visit a PROI partner agency. Last month, I ventured over to the West Coast to spend time with C+C, a creative public relations and social media agency for companies that help people and the planet. I spent time in their Seattle headquarters as well as a day in their Portland office. They also have offices in Boston and Washington, D.C.

Here’s a look at my visit:

What I Learned

I spent most of my time in meetings with practice leads where we exchanged case studies and processes. Here are a few of my takeaways:

  • Dull, niche subjects can be fun – We like to pride ourselves at Walker Sands on our ability to make obscure B2B tech interesting to broad audiences. We’re not alone. Many of C+C’s clients include equally niche, complex organizations: utilities, food labeling, diversity organization, etc. But that challenge is exactly what makes our job as creative marketers fun!
  • Definition of “success” varies – Contrary to popular belief, “success” doesn’t always mean placement volume or lead generation. For some of C+C’s clients, changing consumer behavior is the real goal. For some of C+C’s clients, that means registering for health screenings or switching to green energy sources. It’s important to define success for each client or campaign to set expectations.
  • B2B can be B2C – It’s easy for B2B clients to get stuck in the mentality that their customers are businesses. But the reality is that humans work at those businesses (at least until robots take over), and the best results for clients come when we take a more consumer-friendly (read: less intimidating jargon) approach.

What I Did

Of course, I had some fun in the Emerald City with and without the folks at C+C. Besides the obligatory trips to the Space Needle, Pike Place Market and the OG Starbucks, here are a few of my highlights:

C&C 1-PRSA Totem Awards – My visit happened to overlap with Seattle’s PRSA Totem Awards dinner, so I crashed C+C’s table and cheered on their wins for the cool campaigns they shared with me.

-Coach Mary – One of the best perks at C+C’s Portland office is a personal trainer, Coach Mary, who visits them once a week. I was there on Coach Mary day, so I participated in a surprise afternoon workout. C&C 2

-Amazon Go – Amazon dominates downtown Seattle, and the city was abuzz with the opening of the cashier-less store. It was only open to Amazon employees at the time, but like any good Walker Sandsian, I pressed my nose up against the glass to peek inside.

It’s hard to believe I only spent three days with C+C! I learned a ton while I was there, and I can’t wait to go back to Seattle. If you’re ever given a chance to visit, go!


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Friday Five: 4/10-4/14


Happy Friday! Check out the latest tech stories before kicking off your weekend:

Facebook adds new features to Instant Articles to encourage email sign-ups and Page Likes – TechCrunch

On Monday, Facebook rolled out an improvement to its Instant Articles feature that now lets publishers include call-to-action units in their articles. In hopes of better connecting with readers, Facebook aims to encourage email sign-ups and Page Likes. The feature allows readers to share their email address directly with the publisher in order to receive email newsletters or other email updates.

Snap Want to Help Brands Track When Ads Drive People to Locations – Wall Street Journal

Helping advertisers leverage unique data, Snap Inc. will roll out Snap to Store – a new set of data and tools for advertisers. Marketers and advertisers will now be able to use the tool to measure whether their Snapchat campaigns actually drive users to specific locations including stores, restaurants and theaters. Although Snap has been testing this tool since last year, it now wants to expand Snap to Store to a wider variety of brands — think retail, fast food, automobile and more.

Comcast Said to Plan Online Rival to Netflix Using Hit NBC Shows – AdAge

Comcast Corp. is planning to introduce and online video service offering top shows from NBC Universal in the next 12-18 months. The new service could include shows from Comcast cable channels Bravo, Syfy and USA. The online service could help Comcast adapt to a TV industry that has transformed, as tens of millions of customers continue signing up for services from Netflix and Amazon.

Google Home can now help you find the cheapest time to fly – The Next Web

Starting today, Google Home users can ask their device to find and track flight prices, hands-free. Google will generate a quote for approximately two weeks from now, and then ask for specific dates in mind. Rather than blurting out every price, it just signs users up for the price tracking feature Google introduced last year. The device is can answer a few other travel-related questions including currency conversion rate or whether you need a visa to enter a country.

Google Disabled Burger King’s Ad Hijacking  Google Home, but BK Got Around That Too – AdWeek

Burger King’s latest ad stunt (a TV spot) was designed to hijack people’s Google Home device by saying, “OK, Google” and asking about the Whopper. Google blocked the ad, however BK would a way around.

What was your favorite tech headline from the week? Tweet us @WalkerSands!

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Walker Sands’ Culture has a Place for Foodies

At Walker Sands we’ve long prided ourselves on having great company culture. We let our employees help shape our inclusive atmosphere through staff-led kaizens. Kaizen is the Japanese word for discovery, which is something Walker Sands has been supportive of since day one.

Our kaizens serve as grown up extracurriculars that take place both in and out of the office. Through the years our kaizens have allowed Walker Sandsians to lead book clubs, volunteer within the community, compete in intramural sports and create their own data studies.

At the start of 2017, the kaizen system underwent a refresh. Everyone was surveyed and asked to provide feedback on the kind of kaizens they’d be interested in joining at Walker Sands. Based on feedback, a handful of kaizens were retired and replaced with new interests, one of which was the Cooking Kaizen.

juliaThe Cooking Kaizen is responsible for bringing people together to participate in activities all things food related. Last month we hosted our first event, a French themed potluck with a special viewing of Julie and Julia.

The evening was filled with lots of handmade treats like nutella croissants, cheese gougeres and tarte de soleil. Yum! Next month, we’ll be venturing outside the office to the flagship Whole Foods in Chicago to try our hand at a cooking class hosted by a local cookbook author.

The Cooking Kaizen looks forward to continuing to bring our love of food into the office!

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Walker Sands Lands a Spot on The Holmes Report’s 2017 North America Agency of the Year Shortlist

WS_Image_AgencyRepresentation_R5 (1)This morning we received exciting news:  We are shortlisted as finalists for the Holmes Report’s 2017 North America Boutique PR Agencies of the Year award – one of the public relations industry’s most prestigious awards programs. The report credits our recognition to consistent double digit growth and expansion, all of which wouldn’t be possible without our supportive teams and amazing clients!

Since Walker Sands’ founding in 2001, we’ve witnessed immense growth and are incredibly humbled to see the accolades our agency has been able to achieve together. Last year we were finalist in the top Technology Agency category, and are privileged to be distinguished for two years running. You can read more about what qualified our agency for a spot on the Boutique Agency of the Year shortlist here.

Today’s news came hot on the heels of last week’s SABRE Awards North America Finalists announcement, in which were earned a spot on the Public Education category shortlist for our CompTIA Make Tech Her Story campaign. This honor is felt company wide today as this campaign was a full team effort, utilizing resources from our PR, demand gen, web/design and content teams.  

The winners will be announced for both awards on May 2 at the awards ceremony in New York. We would like to extend a huge congratulations to the other finalists and wish our team the best of luck at the ceremony!

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