tech innovation

Smarter (and Sexier) Wearable Tech Looks Beyond Early Adopters

Posted by Sheila Shayon on May 1, 2014 10:45 AM

The world's biggest e-tailer is now in the wearable tech business. That's right: Amazon, that bellwether of all things retail/e-tail, just opened a Wearable Technology store this week, devoted exclusively to selling smartwatches, activity trackers, healthcare devices, wearable cameras—even trackers for your pet.

From top brands like Samsung, Jawbone, LeapFrog (yes, there are kid wearables) and GoPro, to brands-to-watch like Basis and Misfit, "Wearable technology is an exciting category with rapid innovation and our customers are increasingly coming to Amazon to shop and learn about these devices," says John Nemeth, Amazon's director of Wireless and Mobile Electronics.

Facebook just paid a staggering two billion dollars to acquire Oculus VR, the virtual reality startup whose Oculus Rift gaming headset resembles a scuba mask with a metal plate on the front, while Intel acquired smartwatch-maker Basis Science for $100 million and insiders say that Apple will bring its highly anticipated iWatch to market this year.

As the New Yorker observes, “Companies love the idea of wearable technology because that constant data stream would be a bonanza for marketers, measuring what people are doing every second, even while they’re asleep.” Consumers, however, are not flocking to bulky, strap-on devices as proven by hundreds of Samsung's Galaxy Gear smartwatches that popped up on eBay a mere six months after launch.Continue reading...

tech innovation

Rolls-Royce Shows Off Cargo Ships to Sail the High Seas—Without Any Sailors

Posted by Mark J. Miller on March 11, 2014 10:52 AM

First came Google's driverless cars, and then Amazon’s drone-delivery experiment. Now Rolls-Royce is going much, much bigger on the unmanned front with the design of remote-controlled cargo ships.

Via a $4.8 million grant from the European Union to the Maritime Unmanned Navigation project, Rolls-Royce's Blue Ocean development team designed a remote-controlled cargo ship to help “solve some of the problems of crowded European waters and increasing environmental requirements,” Mashable reports. The unmanned ships are also a big cost-saver for obvious reasons—no staff to be paid, and no creature comforts like air conditioning and sewage needed, which can cost up to $3,000 a day.Continue reading...

get creative

SXSW '14 Preview: Snowden, Gaga and Nye, Oh My!

Posted by Barry Silverstein on March 6, 2014 06:20 PM

Each year, it seems SXSW (South By South West) gets more and more curious—and this year is no exception. Once dedicated to music, the 2014 SXSW festival, running from March 7 through 16 in Austin, Texas, now defines itself as "Music, Film, Interactive." Indeed, the festival has served as the launch pad for some of the market's most high-profile startups, including Foursquare. 

Beyond that, SXSW is a potpourri of personalities, popular trends and brands vying for attention. Indeed, last year's extravaganza was a "feeding ground for viral campaigns and unique marketing stunts." This year? Well, you can expect more of the same—just amped up a few notches.

In fact, SXSW 2014 may end up being known for notoriety. None other than the world's most infamous whistleblower, Edward Snowden, will speak on March 10 via teleconference. He'll be conversing with Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) "on the impact of the NSA's spying efforts on the technology community, and the ways in which technology can help to protect us from mass surveillance," according to the festival's site.Continue reading...

brand strategy

Microsoft's Nadella Gets Down to Business with Marketing Shake-Up

Posted by Mark J. Miller on March 4, 2014 02:07 PM

Satya Nadella has been the CEO of Microsoft for exactly one month and he's already shaking up the ranks at the venerable tech brand. 

The company announced Monday that executive Tony Bates, who had been passed over for the CEO role, and Tami Reller, Microsoft's chief marketing officer, would be leaving the company. While Reller's departure means the loss of one of Microsoft's top female executives, it signals a change in the company's marketing and brand strategy.

That new outlook will be ushered in by Chris Capossela, an executive on the company's marketing team who Nadella has promoted to EVP and CMO to oversee all marketing, and Mark Penn, the creator of Microsoft's "Honestly" campaign (including the Google-tweaking "Scroogled" campaign), who was named Chief Strategy Officer. 

“He’s aggressive,” Mark Moerdler, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., said of Penn, according to Bloomberg. “Maybe this will add a little testosterone to the organization to counter the fact that Satya is more of a deep thinker.”Continue reading...

brand strategy

Lafley Looks to Make Over P&G Beauty on the Back of a Bluetoothbrush

Posted by Dale Buss on February 21, 2014 06:22 PM

The fortunes of Procter & Gamble haven't exactly taken off like a rocket since A.G. Lafley returned to the controls in May. But at least the once-and-current CEO seems to have identified one of the big reasons: the need for a turnaround in the company's crucial beauty division.

And while providing few details of exactly what he plans to do about it, in remarks to the Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference in Florida this week, Lafley did say that he wants to move P&G Beauty back to the classic brand-management system that worked so well for it decades ago.

P&G's beauty business tripled sales and earnings from 2000 to 2007, as Ad Age noted, but then "got stuck" at around $20 billion in sales. And instability of leadership was one of the big reasons, Lafley said.Continue reading...

brand challenges

Walmart's Woes Outrun Its Capabilities; Are Smaller Stores the Answer?

Posted by Dale Buss on February 20, 2014 03:53 PM

It seems the proud days of Walmart are now behind the US brand that is looking increasingly lost in a quickly evolving global market. 

The world's largest retailer on Thursday reported a meager net-sales increase of just 1.6 percent and a 3 percent drop in operating income for 2013 as Walmart coped with struggling consumers in America and elsewhere, a drop in US government support for many in its low-income customer base, and even the scourge of bad weather that has hit many US retailers over the last few months.

Worse yet, Walmart comp-store sales actually declined by 0.6 percent, an incredible blow to a brand that achieved the top of the mass-merchandising mountain by being able to create a powerful price-based loyalty among its customers that had survived every impediment before 2013.Continue reading...

car talk

Tesla Keeps On Surging as Musk Looks to Spread Innovation Bug to Apple

Posted by Dale Buss on February 20, 2014 02:42 PM

Part tech star, part automotive history-maker, Tesla keeps betting on the future and following founder Elon Musk's vision for making electric cars ubiquitous in global luxury markets and then affordable for mainstream consumers.

In the latest snapshot on his progress and thinking, Musk said this week that he's talked with Apple and vowed to lead the way to autonomous cars, and indicated that Tesla plans to boost production by more than 50 percent this year as its single nameplate, Model S, continues to appear on the wish lists of upscale, progressive car buyers everywhere.

"It's difficult to predict where the demand settles out with the [Model] S," Musk said on a conference call. But for now, he's forecasting sales of 35,000 Model S sedans this year after Tesla sold about 22,000 of them last year. And by mid-2014, he expects the Tesla factory in California to be making as many as 1,000 cars a week, implying an annual production target of maybe 50,000 cars.Continue reading...

traveling brands

In Prep for IPO, Virgin America Innovates with In-Flight Social Network

Posted by Mark J. Miller on February 12, 2014 01:47 PM

Virgin’s tech team and customer-relations crew must be working overtime this week. Over in the UK, Virgin Atlantic announced it is testing a wearable tech program with its airline concierge staff to better serve upper-class customers, and now the airline's US arm has partnered with Here On Biz on an in-flight social network based off of LinkedIn.

The venture, which focuses on business travelers, allows passengers on Virgin America flights to connect with other passengers on the plane and on the ground. 

"This partnership allows flyers to take advantage of those serendipitous travel moments where people with complementary business interests are in the same place at the same time—even if that place is on a plane somewhere 35,000 feet above the US," said Here On Biz CEO Nick Smoot, according to The Verge. "With our iOS app and this partnership with Virgin America, you can find your next big connection in seat 4C—or even just a row away from you."

The service, which passengers need to opt into, will launch next week on one plane based in San Francisco and expand to all Virgin America flights by month’s end, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.Continue reading...

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