Royal Caribbean Is Embracing Internet Of Things, Virtual Reality

Richard D. Fain, chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

The Internet of Things is drastically changing all aspects of life, including vacationing. Major cruise brands such as Carnival Cruises, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean have been quick to evolve with the ever-changing technology landscape by introducing fast broadband across its ships, integrating video game technology to attract younger passengers and families and embracing virtual and augmented reality as marketing tools.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCL) showcased a series of new technologies that will be rolled out across its Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises brands this year. The company recreated the at-home, terminal and on-ship experiences at the massive Duggal Greenhouse at the Brooklyn Navy Yard to illustrate how new technology is changing the entire cruise experience.

Richard D. Fain, RCL’s chairman and CEO, told AListDaily that the Internet of Things has opened up new opportunities for the brand to connect with consumers and improve their vacation experience with the company’s 48-ship fleet.

“Everyone having a phone or some type of connected device today allows the cruise experience to become integrated into the Internet of Things,” Fain said. “Instead of wearing a device, you can just use your iPhone or Android device. People want their technology integrated, and the ubiquity of the smartphone allows us to have technology available to anyone at anytime so they can use it as they want.”

RCL has partnered with Jaunt VR to shoot a series of 360 videos that encapsulate some of the excursion experiences available at ports of call around the world. Three experiences were demonstrated at the event, but additional production is underway to add to that library.

Jay Schneider, senior vice president of digital at RCL, told AListDaily that VR headsets are now available at the excursions desks on ships for people to get previews of trips before purchasing them. They can also be downloaded at home for any headset and they’re playable on YouTube 360 for those without a device.

“There are a lot of first-time cruisers who don’t know what our excursions are about, so VR is a great way to give them a taste of what it’s like to be 500 feet above the ground with the wind at your face in a hot air balloon,” Schneider explained.

“VR didn’t even exist a couple years ago, and now it’s exploding,” Fain added. “We’re working hard to stay on the crest of that explosion. We’re even using VR to design new ships like the Celebrity Edge, which allowed our designers to see every aspect of the ship in 3D using CAVE technology.”

RCL also introduced a culinary VR experience at the event, which combined HTC Vive headsets with real food.

“The culinary VR experiment came from our belief that you can use technology to enhance the dining experience,” Schneider said. “We essentially hack your senses through this gorgeous VR world that matches the cuisine. The guest moves through the cuisine courses with immersive audio and video. We layered augmented reality to the experience, so guests can see their hands in the real world.”

Jay Schneider, senior vice president of digital at Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

Schneider said this concept is currently in its beta phase, but his goal is to pilot this on a ship at sea one day.

“We have great dining experiences at sea and we know our guests want different types of experiences,” Schneider said.

Augmented reality gaming will soon be added to RCL ships. The company featured a trio of “midway-style” games (a term that describes skill games found at the mid-points of boardwalks and ships) like Ring Toss Challenge, Plinko and a Duck, Duck Bear Shooting Gallery. What looks like a series of large, colorful posters on the wall come to life through smartphones for travelers to play. One of the games, Plinko, employs a Microsoft Kinect for hand-controls, while the other two games use smartphones for interaction with objects. The plan is for these types of free games to be added to the midway area of RCL ships over the coming year.

AR was also on display through X-Ray technology, which uses art located throughout the vessel as a way to look at the inner workings of the ship. Guests will be able to peer through walls using smartphones to see inside the kitchen or the engine room. Even the staterooms will one day incorporate AR, as one demo showed a ceiling turned that into a starry night sky while the floor became a waterway.

Schneider said the gamification of many aspects of the cruise experience has been helped by the ubiquity of gaming across all age groups, thanks in part to the rise of casual games on smartphones.

“Gaming is something a lot of guests like to do on board, and we have the fastest internet at sea,” Schneider said. “One of the things games do really well is connect people from all over the world. People want to stay connected, even when they’re on vacation. Games have amplified those connections. We’re recognizing that the consumer wants to always be connected anywhere they are on the ship.”VR Dinner set up

And gaming is just part of that connected experience. The Allure of the Sea ship allows passengers to connect to Spotify, for example, and social media has become a key element to the connected cruise experience.

“Everybody wants unique experiences today and they want to share their experiences across social media,” Fain said. “We added pervasive WiFi because people want to access information from outside of the ship, but many want to share their experiences on the cruise with friends. We see that as free advertising. It’s the best way for us to market our experience by having guests share their good times with all of their friends.”

This shift to embrace new technology, including the use of artificial intelligence in the form of a virtual concierge that appears on the Sea Beyond app, is a big push by RCL to market its cruise lines to millennial and younger audiences. It also allows the line to remain in the technology race with other companies like Carnival Corp. and Disney Cruise Line.

Fain said technology is expected by today’s passengers, and RCL’s research has found that Baby Boomers, Gen X, and millennial guests are all willing to pay more on experiences than material goods. The Internet of Things opens new experiences that RCL can use to market directly to these generations, while providing a platform for guests to further amplify their individual experiences with this technology across social media.

AT&T, Volkswagen, Global Road Appoint New Marketing Executives

AT&T has named Kirk McDonald as the chief marketing officer to its newly formed advertising and analytics company, in anticipation of its merger with Time Warner.

“Kirk brings invaluable experience in the media and advertising technology space,” said Brian Lesser, CEO of AT&T’s advertising and analytics company. “He is a transformational leader—one of many who will join AT&T as we invest in and build a new kind of advertising business.”

McDonald previously was president at PubMatic, an adtech company, and before that was Time, Inc. president of digital.

Volkswagen has tapped Jim Zabel for the role of senior vice president of marketing for its American division, beginning later this month.

“We are excited to welcome Jim at Volkswagen of America,” said Derrick Hatami, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Volkswagen of America. “His experience in building effective, integrated marketing campaigns and leading brand development in the automotive industry will serve as an asset for our growth strategy in the US market.”

Before joining the company, Zabel worked in automotive original equipment manufacturing, managing accounts for Hyundai and Honda.

Jack Pan has signed on with Global Road Entertainment as president of worldwide theatrical marketing to focus on international partnerships.

“I have known Jack for many years and he has proven time and again to be a savvy marketer that not only understands the strategy and building blocks necessary to launch an effective campaign, but he possesses the ability to successfully market to established and prospective audiences,” Rob Friedman, Global Road’s CEO, told Variety.

Pan most recently served as president of motion picture marketing at STX Entertainment, where he led marketing efforts on films such as The Gift and Bad Moms.

Panera Bread has re-acquired Au Bon Pain, reuniting the companies after 18 years apart. Additionally, Panera’s CEO, Ron Shaich, will be stepping down, appointing Blaine Hurst as his replacement.

“Blaine has been a key player in our efforts to transform Panera during the past half-decade,” said Shaich. “He is very well known and respected in our organization and in our industry for his innovative thinking, technological savvy and ability to drive change.”

Blaine has been with Panera since 2011, working under the title of senior vice president of technology and transformation, and led the company’s efforts to build its e-commerce platform.

Heidi Ueberroth, current president of investment firm Globicon, has joined Electronic Arts’ board of directors.

“At Electronic Arts, we continue to expand our global reach with our network, esports competitions and growing ecosystems of content engaging more players and driving new opportunities with partners, sponsors and media,” said Andrew Wilson, CEO of EA. “Heidi Ueberroth brings extensive executive experience across sports branding, entertainment and international growth.”

Ueberroth has also served at the NBA for almost 20 years, most recently as president of NBA International.

Megan Colligan, Paramount Pictures’ president of worldwide distribution and marketing, is departing the company, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. 

Colligan had been with the company for 11 years and held her current title since 2014.

Nick DiCarlo, vice president of immersive products strategy for Samsung, announced plans to leave the company.

“Samsung has a strong commitment to Immersive is mobile, PC & services. The teams working on them are amazing!” he wrote over several Tweets. “For the last 3yrs, I’ve been inspired by the knowledge, creativity and talent of this community.”

Shoneel Kolhatkar, current product management director at Samsung, will take over DiCarlo’s duties for the foreseeable future, leading the team behind the Gear VR headset.

MLB’s president of business and media, Bob Bowmanannounced that he will not renew his employment contract when it expires next month.

“With the recent completion of the sale of a majority stake in BAMTech to The Walt Disney Company, and recognizing the enormous talent pool that exists at MLB and, it is an ideal time for new leadership,” said Bowman.

Serving at the baseball league for 17 years, Bowman additionally held the title of CEO of MLB Advanced Media, where he led all aspects of the company’s digital strategy.

Marijuana tech start-up Leafly has filled its chief executive officer slot, hiring Chris Jeffery for the role.

“Building on Leafly’s established position as the world’s leading cannabis information resource, we are expanding our focus on providing consumers the tools they need to discover and purchase cannabis products,” said Jeffery. “With unprecedented momentum for legalization worldwide, we are uniquely positioned to help consumers navigate this new legal landscape with reliable information and a personalized experience that saves time and money when making purchasing decisions.”

Jeffery was a co-founder of OrderUp, a food delivery service that was acquired in 2015 by Groupon.

Steve Krenzer has joined Groupon as the company’s chief operating officer, where he will oversee the company’s global marketing and business operations.

“The opportunity to add a high-horsepower e-commerce leader like Steve doesn’t come along very often,” said Groupon CEO Rich Williams. “His combination of industry savvy, deep operational experience and intimate understanding of digital marketing is equally rare. Steve will immediately put those skills to work as we continue to advance our vast local marketplace.”

Krenzer most recently served as CEO of Core Digital Media, a digital direct-response advertiser.

Stock-photo provider Getty Images has brought on Bill Shapiro as editor and vice president of consumer media, another step in expanding the company’s B2B licensing business.

“Bill has unparalleled experience in building preeminent editorial destinations,” said Dawn Airey, CEO of Getty Images. “Combine that with his passion for imagery and brilliance as a wordsmith, and I know we have someone who will drive our early consumer content to a worldwide audience who will be surprised, delighted and engaged with imagery that moves the world.”

Shapiro signs on from Fast Company, where he held the position of director of editorial and new business enterprises. He has also held roles at LIFE magazine, and was a founding editor for

ESPN has named Cary Meyers as its senior vice president of fan and media intelligence, a research and analytics role to build advertiser interest in non-traditional sports programming.

“Cary is a seasoned research executive with a proven history of media research excellence who also has a passion for the world of sports and its changing landscape for today’s sports fan,” said Wanda Young, ESPN’s senior vice president of marketing and consumer engagement in a statement made available to Variety. “He will bring his commitment and passion to ESPN to lead our talented team to further develop the fan intelligence required to drive our business forward.”

Before joining ESPN, Meyers worked at NBCUniversal as senior vice president of ad sales research and strategy, and before that as the NFL’s first-ever director of research.

Ecco, a Danish footwear manufacturer, has appointed Constanze van de Sand as its latest marketing director for central Europe, succeeding Matthias Schwarte, who departed the company in late August.

Before joining Ecco, van de Sand worked as regional marketing manager for Cartier’s fragrance and eyewear divisions in northern Europe since 2013.

(Editor’s Note: This post will be updated daily until Friday, November 10. Have a new hire tip? Let us know at

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Director, Global Levi’s Brand Marketing Levi Strauss & Co. San Francisco, CA
Director of Marketing, Consumer Products Activision Santa Monica, CA
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Manager, Global Creative Marketing Netflix Los Angeles, CA
Director, Product Marketing Microsoft Redmond, WA

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Xbox One X Partners With Brands For ‘Drop Zone’ Augmented Reality Game

Larry Hryb, Xbox Live’s Major Nelson and director of Xbox programming at Microsoft

The Xbox One X has hit store shelves, and Microsoft is intensifying its efforts to make gamers aware of its premium console.

Xbox One X’s latest promotion has become a literal walk—or jog—in the park due to the augmented reality activation Drop Zone. Doritos and Mountain Dew have teamed up with Microsoft Xbox to host events at Randal’s Island in New York, Whittier Narrows in Los Angeles and Lincoln Park in Chicago to mark the launch of the new gaming system. The events are part of the larger “Xbox One X Every 60 Seconds,” campaign, which started in September and will continue until the first week of January.

The press was given a live preview of Drop Zone in New York’s Central Park this week as actor and comedian Joel McHale hosted the event by giving a play-by-play commentary with passers by looking on.

Larry Hryb, Microsoft’s director of Xbox programming, better known as Xbox Live’s Major Nelson, was also on-hand to engage with gamers before the event opened to the public.

“We worked with Doritos way back with the launch of the original Xbox, so this is a natural extension,” Hryb told AListDaily.

With “Every 60 Seconds,” redeeming codes found inside Doritos bags or bottles of Mountain Dew enter fans into a contest to win an Xbox One X every minute throughout each day. Each code also earns points that can be used as currency in ongoing auctions to pick up Xbox One X bundles or big ticket items such as the Forza Motorsports 7 console bundle paired with a trip to the Porsche Experience Center.

Drop Zone is designed for attendees to download an AR app that enters them into 30-minute competitions where players use their smartphones to track down and capture virtual Xbox One logo markers found within the real-world. Then they must protect it from being stolen from other players by moving around and using special power-ups. Players that successfully hang on to these markers by the time the clock runs out wins a free Xbox One X.

Dew and Doritos, both PepsiCo brands, similarly hosted the “Every Two Minutes” campaign for the launch of the original Xbox One in 2013. According to Hryb, awareness of the Drop Zone events is being spread primarily through word-of-mouth, particularly through the “Every 60 Seconds” contest itself and social media channels across all three brands.

Microsoft launched the Xbox One S one year ago, which supports 4K streaming entertainment, but not 4K gaming, at a lower cost. Hryb is confident that consumers, especially the gaming audience, will understand that the Xbox One X is a premium console while those who want a more economical system can pick up the Xbox One S. He said that the most important point for audiences to understand this holiday season is that all Xbox One games, which currently include over 1,300 titles, will work on any console in the Xbox One family—with many enhanced to take advantage of the Xbox One X’s capabilities.

The approach worked with the Xbox One S, which has been selling quite well despite releasing in the middle of the console generation’s traditional five-to-seven-year cycle.

“There’s a certain segment of gamers who want to have the latest and greatest all the time, but what we hear universally is that they love the fact that their games are going to work regardless of which Xbox One they buy,” said Hryb.

Hryb described the Xbox One X’s target audience as those that “love power,” and “want to play great games and have them look the best they can on a console.” But that description isn’t necessarily limited to hardcore gamers or even those who either already have or are planning to get 4K HDR TVs. The premium console’s graphics will look sharp on regular HDTVs, and the extra enhancements await gamers should they choose to upgrade.

To help people better understand the benefits of 4K HDR graphics, Microsoft released an app called Insects, which allows users to turn features on and off and compare them. Beyond that, Hryb reiterated that Microsoft is relying heavily on its extensive library of games to attract gamers of all types to the Xbox One X.

While hardcore players may be drawn to enhanced games such as Star Wars Battlefront II, Call of Duty: WWII, and Assassin’s Creed Origins, casual gamers can look to family-friendly titles like Disneyland Adventures and Pixar Rush.

Hryb has been in direct dialogue to gamers since 2003, and he is continually active on Twitter, YouTube and Xbox Live. He stated that the best way to engage is by having honest conversations with them.

“All they want to do is talk about games,” said Hryb. “They want great games and they want to talk to people about great games. [It’s about] being involved in that conversation and being honest.”

Having authentic conversations is especially important in the digital era, and Hryb stated that Microsoft wants to “go where the gamers are,” whether it’s on Reddit, Twitter or even a different gaming platform. He indicated that it was that kind of approach that prompted the launch of the Play Anywhere initiative last year, where buying select Xbox One titles also includes the Windows 10 PC version for free from the digital Microsoft Store.

Microsoft’s efforts to bridge its Xbox One and PC gaming communities may one day extend further, since the tech giant made moves to prominently enter the virtual, augmented and mixed reality verticals in October by acquiring the AltSpaceVR social platform and announcing multiple partnerships with hardware makers to develop inexpensive mixed reality headsets.

Interest in AR may have helped inspire Drop Zone, but the mixed reality initiative is currently limited to the Windows 10 platform.

Character Focus Refreshes ‘Murder On The Orient Express’ For Promo

Murder on the Orient Express is the fourth on-screen adaptation of Agatha Christie’s mystery novel, so the marketing team had to convince audiences they were seeing something new.

“We asked ourselves almost every day, ‘How do we celebrate its timelessness and yet reinvent at the same time [as if] we’re hearing a great piece of music again new?’” Actor/director Kenneth Branaugh told People on adapting the classic tale. “Well, you need different interpreters, so the cast becomes really critical.”

As with its award-winning 1974 predecessor, Murder on the Orient Express unites an all-star cast—each portraying a suspect in the murder to be solved by Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh). Marketing for the film highlights each character with a brief description that suggests hidden motivations.

Follow The Clues

Beyond highlighting big names like Johnny Depp and Daisy Ridley, marketing for the film focuses on the love of a good mystery.

Months ahead of the premiere, a series of clues began to surface for fans to discover—the first being a train ticket appearing on the cover of Entertainment Weekly. Over the course of the Murder on the Orient Express marketing campaign, a number of clues were featured in trailers, on posters and during TV appearances by the movie’s actors.

Each of these small clues, which implicate a new suspect in the murder investigation, can be entered onto the official website to learn more about each character. There, fans can also explore a train car scene and click on items to examine them for additional clues about the murder.

The Infamous Mustache

Agatha Christie’s famed detective, Hercule Poirot is known for his sharp eye, neatness and a curled mustache. To celebrate Movember—a yearly mustache-growing tradition to support men’s health—20th Century Fox teamed up with the Movember Foundation and encouraged fans to “grow their mo like Poirot.”

A dedicated team was established to raise funds for the organization, using photos of mustachioed characters from Murder on the Orient Express.

Kenneth Branagh also took over the official IMDb Twitter account for a Q&A session, calling it “Mustache Me Anything,” a nod to Reddit’s Ask Me Anything. Branagh answered questions via text and video about the film’s production and miscellaneous topics.

Opulence For Sale

Murder on the Orient Express takes place on a luxury train in a time of 1930s opulence, and Home Shopping Network curated a designer collection inspired by the aesthetics of the film’s time period. The collection includes items such as furs, gloves, jewelry, home furnishings and luggage, as well as additional clues to explore on the film’s official website. Visitors to the Home Shopping Network site can also view exclusive videos from behind-the-scenes of the movie.

Godiva also teamed up with 20th Century Fox to create a series of chocolate gift sets inspired by the movie. A dedicated page on the Godiva website features bios for each of the suspects, another clue to add to the movie’s website and a chance to win a trip to San Francisco.

Murder on the Orient Express is expected to earn between $19 and 25 million during its opening weekend in the US.

Black Friday Shopper Habits Changing; CMOs Don’t Get Their Consumers

As consumers prepare for Black Friday, their shopping habits are changing as well. Projections by the National Retail Foundation report that 59 percent of consumers plan to shop online during the holiday season, which for the first time in the survey’s history is higher than any other destination. Department stores came in second place with 57 percent, and in third were discount stores with 54 percent of customers planning to shop there.

A survey by Koski Research indicates that one third of US shoppers plan to make purchases from a foreign retailer during the holiday season, with 66 percent of that group seeking to buy something uniquely un-American.

Additionally, 71 percent of US Cyber Monday shoppers will search for deals on the day before, dubbed “Sofa Sunday.” Of those shoppers, 45 percent will spend two or more hours looking for the best deals, and will do so primarily on desktop and laptop computers (52 percent) as opposed to on mobile (36 percent).

“With so much attention focused on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, many retailers may overlook Sofa Sunday,” said Curtis Tingle, chief marketing officer at Valassis. “Brands and retailers that develop their holiday media strategies with the full consumer decision journey in mind are more likely to reach shoppers with relevant, timely messages and will ultimately secure a bigger piece of the retail pie during this critical shopping season.”

The vast majority of marketing executives are out touch, according to new research. Only one out of four every marketers surveyed claimed to understand their consumers well. Adobe’s information suggests that quickly changing consumer behavior is the largest factor driving CMO confusion.

Call of Duty: WWII has netted Activision more than half a billion dollars in its first three days, the company reports. This marks a turnaround for the franchise—the game is the first in several years to outsell the one before it.

“We challenged our players to get their squads back together and they answered the call, with the highest number of players we’ve ever seen on current-gen consoles and PC,” said Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision. “Call of Duty: WWII returns the franchise to its roots and the results are incredible, selling twice as many units in its opening weekend as last year, and setting the day one record for full-game downloads on PlayStation 4.”

A new study has forecasted products such as Google Home and Amazon Echo becoming even more ubiquitous in the coming years. Juniper Research predicts that 55 percent of US households will install a smart speaker by 2022, totaling 175 million devices across the nation.

Furthermore, Juniper asserts that ad spending on zero-UI devices will reach $19 billion in 2022, though it warns that the platform is not for everybody.

“Voice-based interaction presents fewer options than other forms of advertising, meaning fewer adverts are possible,” said research author James Moar. “Not all voice interactions are product searches, meaning advertisers will need to adjust their strategies to build a brand’s voice strategy around information provision as well as sales.”

Fifty percent of Americans don’t pay full attention to TV programming, choosing instead to use a second screen. According to a report by eMarketer, 177.7 million adults in the US will digitally multitask while watching TV at least once per month, up 5 percent from 2016. EMarketer also predicts that by 2019, this figure will be as high as 193.5 million.

Unsurprisingly, mobile causes the majority of split attention, with smartphones distracting 91.5 percent of digital multitaskers. By comparison, only 62 percent of simultaneous users use either desktops or laptops.

AdColony’s 2017 mobile usage survey points to similar trends. Despite the portability offered by mobile phones, a significant majority of mobile usage occurs at home in the evening. Sixty-nine percent of ad requests come over wifi, and phone use peaks at 9 p.m., normalized for time zones.

Even with hype cycles and early adoption culture, many users opt to stick with phones as old as four years, AdColony’s data found. More ad requests originated from the iPhone 6s units, and the iPhone 7 lagged behind not just all models of the iPhone 6 but even the iPhone 5s. Android phones saw a smaller effect, with the Galaxy S7 being the most popular, followed by the S5 and then the S6.

Luxury fashion brands face major issues when it comes to digital presence, a study by L2 Inc. reveals.

“Luxury fashion continues to lag in digital sophistication behind other sectors,” said Brian Lee, L2 Inc.’s associate director. “As a result, luxury fashion brands have become susceptible to growing threats from disruptor brands.”

Of the 90 companies L2 studied, 38 percent did not own more than half of the search terms related to their brands. As high as 40 percent of paid search traffic went to resale sites, hurting direct customer sales.

Not all of L2’s findings were negative, however. Fashion brands saw significant growth in their Instagram followers, increasing by an average of 53 percent this year.

Adobe has released its predictions for the 2017 holiday season, forecasting groundbreaking revenue and budget-conscious shoppers. The company’s research suggests that online spending during the holiday season will break $100 billion, jumping 14 percent year over year. Their report, however, noted that this double-digit growth has been slowing by degrees since 2015.

Adobe’s study also found that for the first time, more consumers will visit retailer websites on mobile than on desktop, with a 54 percent–46 percent split.

Additionally, average-size retailers are likely to feel squeezed out in the coming months, Adobe’s research indicates. Both large and small companies achieve higher average conversion rates (3.2 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively) than mid-sized companies (2.4 percent). Additionally, small retailers, with a mobile conversion rate of 1.9 percent, are better at closing sales on phones than medium or even large companies.

Content marketing is set to explode in the next five years, a report by Technavio predicts. The global content marketing industry, worth $195 billion in 2016, will grow by 211 percent by 2021 to a total value of $412 billion.

“The effectiveness of traditional marketing is decreasing by the day,” said Ujjwal Doshi, lead analyst at Technavio. “Companies must adopt the latest marketing trends to enhance their business and increase their consumer base.”

Optimism about IoT is low, according to a massive survey undertaken by Mozilla. When asked what about the “connected future” they were most looking forward to, 27 percent, the largest group, answered “none of the above.” 

Privacy and mistrust of businesses remain the largest sources of fear for the future, with 45 percent of the survey’s 190,000 respondents reporting being afraid of losing their privacy. Among those who self-identified as “very tech savvy,” that number was even higher, at 54 percent.

Furthermore, respondents lack trust in private organizations to help them keep their privacy secure. Only 3 percent claimed to trust the media to help keep them safe online, and only 2 percent said the same about governments. A full 27 percent of the survey-takers said they didn’t know who, if anyone, to trust.

Lastly, the survey found that tech terminology is advancing faster than many can keep up. Only 26 percent of respondents said they would be comfortable explaining “IoT” to a friend. The only terms a majority of users could explain were “connected devices” and “VPN.”

A new survey by the Pew Research Center has revealed that more Americans are using social networks to keep up with the latest headlines. Twitter acts as a news source for 74 percent of those surveyed, up from 52 percent four years ago. Almost every platform saw an increase in news usage except for Reddit, whose figure dropped by 2 percent since 2016.

Google has released new research on AutoML, a machine-learning process that can creates neural networks without human design. Using AutoML, researchers built an image-parsing algorithm that was able to recognize objects in static images with 83 percent accuracy, a rate superior to most other human-made models.

This new tool bodes well for marketers, as superior image-recognition can lead to better tracking of users’ offline behavior and easily scalable information on behavior and purchases.

Pandora has become the top-grossing non-game app in the US in Q3 of 2017, claiming a spot that had been comfortably held by Netflix for several quarters before. This is likely due to the broad release of the app’s Premium service, competing with other paid-for offerings by Apple and Spotify. Worldwide, however, Netflix remains king, with Pandora in the number three spot.

(Editor’s Note: This post will be updated daily until Friday, November 10.)

Brands Discover Feelings Make Recommendation Engines Work

Recommendation-engine technology is reshaping the entire digital consumer experience from entertainment to online shopping. To make a lasting impression, experts recommend focusing recommendation engines not only on user activity but the emotions driving those decisions.

For cable and entertainment providers, recommendation engines infuse algorithms with emotional connection data to create recommendations based on similar benefits, drivers and emotions that consumers are looking for in a show.

“If the consumer is given recommendations that are not relevant, do not resonate with them and do not seem to match their tastes, that will lead to a lack of trust,” Jill Rosengard Hill, executive vice president of Magid, told AListDaily.

Magid, a research-based consultancy for television and entertainment industries, curates “emotional DNA,” a database of consumer-rated emotions and attributes associated with TV prime time and network programming.

“We believe that those emotional drivers and connections that consumers have to content will make recommendations more relevant and more appealing than the current matching algorithms being used to make suggestions,” said Hill. “So much of [recommendation engines is] based on a matching algorithm. ‘Do you like this drama? Here are three other dramas you’ll like.’ That is somewhat obvious and it doesn’t necessarily surprise and delight consumers.”

Hill described how matching emotional attributes of a movie or TV show such as “adrenalin” and “fun” hones in on the reason a user chose that content as opposed to simply recommending the same format or genre.

This sentiment echoes a statement made by Todd Yellin, vice president of product innovation at Netflix. In a recent interview, he said that around 80 percent of subscribers trust and follow the recommendations of the Netflix algorithm.

“Personalization is about creating the right connection between a viewer and their content,” Yellin told MobileSyrup. “To do that, we have to understand everything there is to know about the content. It’s important we present the right content to the right member at the right time.”

Recommendation engines are commonly used for online retail and entertainment but are also used in other industries where emotions lead the buying process. When it comes to travel, recommendations become a source of inspiration.

“We know from our research and data that travel is a considered and time-consuming purchase, and the booking path is complex,” Lisa Lindberg, vice president of product management at Expedia Media Solutions, told AListDaily. “Expedia doesn’t use a traditional recommendation engine, as you may find on other e-commerce platforms because we’re a different form of retail. Travelers are visiting our sites to dream and be inspired, as well as purchase, so we have a different level of insights, including data on what consumers are actually viewing versus booking.”

Expedia websites recommend content to aid in research and planning. Once a purchase has been made, additional recommendations are provided to help build itinerary such as special deals on flights, hotels and attractions.

“Informative content is a strong influence on consumers—they’re open to inspiration and can be influenced when planning a trip,” said Lindberg. “Ultimately, recommendations should be relevant and provide valuable information to consumers, whether they are coming from a traditional recommendation engine or as a result of sophisticated audience targeting and relevant product offerings.”

Gartner predicts that by 2020, smart personalization engines used to recognize customer intent will enable digital businesses to increase their profits by up to 15 percent.

Someday, an entire consumer experience may be powered directly by emotions. For guests at Walt Disney Resorts, that day may soon be here. Disney filed the patent “Sensing and Managing Vehicle Behavior Based on Occupant Awareness” that reads guest emotions or pre-determined interests to customize ride experiences.

That means someone looking bored may cause the ride to speed up, or a child might see a charming fairyland while another sees a spooky graveyard. The patent also states it may be able to sense passenger comfort levels such as temperature and alter the air-conditioning of the ride to make it more pleasant.

“You look as if the ride made you really happy.”

“Would you like to buy a souvenir?”

Zynga Pushes ‘Words With Friends 2’ With Social Angles

Since its launch in 2009, Words With Friends has grown into one of the most prominent mobile word games around, boasting over 57 million active game sessions going on at any given moment. However, Zynga sees it as more than a word game and describes it as a “catalyst” that connects players with their friends and family. It is this social element that the developer and publisher is using to drive the launch of the sequel Words With Friends 2.

The new installment enhances the Scrabble-like, word-game formula with a series of player-centric upgrades. This means a single-player mode so that wordsmiths aren’t stuck waiting for others to take their turns when they have just a few minutes to play. That’s in addition to a revamped multiplayer mode that simultaneously supports high-speed matches between several players.

Gurpeet Singh, the game’s director of product at Zynga, personally visited the homes of players in Denver, Phoenix, St. Louis and other cities throughout the year to watch them play Words With Friends and get their input. It was part of the San Francisco-based company’s approach to audience engagement that went a step further than social media and online interactions to build the sequel. The company also had a number of soft launches in different regions for greater feedback.

It doesn’t hurt that Words With Friends is an incredibly well-known game, which gives the sequel a significant advantage when marketing in the crowded mobile market. Singh said its popularity alleviates having to establish brand awareness and a call to action to download.

“In this case, people already have a notion of what Words With Friends is and have very fond memories of the game,” Singh told AListDaily. “From our research, nobody left the game because they were upset, and when we asked them if they wanted to play again, they said ‘absolutely.’”

There’s positive sentiment associated with Words With Friends, and oftentimes, all it takes is a small nudge by emphasizing the gameplay improvements to get players back in the saddle for potentially another eight years.

Singh said the first Words With Friends was somewhat of daily ritual for many of its players who would turn to it in the morning then wait for in-game boosters to return. The key was to make sure their routines were not disrupted, which is the reason why the company decided to release a sequel instead of overhauling the original game. That way, they can choose to adopt the new title instead of having it being forced upon them.

When players download the new version, in addition to new modes, all statistics, progress and connections will carry over and they won’t have to create new accounts.

Although Zynga hopes that these incentives will get players to switch over to the sequel, it will continue to support the original game for the foreseeable future. Singh said that prior to the sequel’s release, the company relied heavily on its soft launches and in-game communications channels to build messaging around different versions of the game. Zynga also teased the game on social media and other external channels to drive awareness, but it mostly saved promotion for the November 8 launch day to preserve excitement.

But even a popular eight-year-old IP like Words With Friends still needs to attract new players. Singh confirmed that Zynga is keeping three types of players in mind with the launch of the new game—dedicated hardcore players, lapsed players eager to return and take advantage of new features and a new generation of casual players.

“When we did our testing, we looked at different segments to make sure the game is universally appealing to a broad set of players,” said Singh.

Maintaining long-term interest with Words With Friends starts with the players who enjoy the core experience and are unique in the mobile gaming space, Singh said. Another aspect is how the live-services team is constantly staying in tune with what players are saying and continually meeting with them throughout the year to improve the game.

Beyond that, maintaining long-term user interest comes down to delivering on the game’s daily diet of mentally challenges obstacles.

Singh reiterates that the true “X-factor” is the social experience, which allows players to make new friends and stay connected for years whenever playing.

“We’ve been able to enhance and improve the experience over the years to make sure that the game continues to feel fresh,” said Singh. “The new version will give fans both old and new cool things to think about and experience so that they can continue to give us feedback. I’m excited because I really do think it’s the best one we’ve launched to date.”

Fashion Marketing Caters To Digital Natives With Mobile Strategies

Fashion may be a $2.4 trillion industry, but it is not immune to the effects of a “buy now” culture. In order to survive, fashion brands are rising to meet digital natives where they spend the most time—their phones.

Young consumers want to be able to shop for the styles they like—when they see it—whether that be online or in a magazine or worn by a model or celebrity. This type of customer journey has given birth to innovation in how a smartphone can be used to turn discovery into fashion purchases.

See It, Love It, Buy It

Google analyzed its search data and discovered that 90 percent of smartphone users begin shopping without knowing which brand they want to buy from.  Marketing fashion has not only become more mobile but discovery-focused—helping consumers explore ideas based on criteria like colors, styles and patterns.

ScreenShop is a new app for iOS and Android beta that converts screenshots into a mobile store. Users take a screenshot of the fashions they like, import it to the app and the technology generates shopping results for the same or similar clothing.

Kim Kardashian West, an advisor for ScreenShop and minority shareholder, told Vogue that the company is looking for more retail partners and that it wants to expand into children’s fashion.

Social shopping site launched its own app earlier this year that also turns mobile screenshots into links to buy.

A staggering 87 percent of Pinterest users have purchased something they found while using the platform. The Pinterest Lens and Shop the Look features allow users to track down and even buy products they see inside fashion and home decor Pins.

Virtual Runways

Through augmented and virtual reality, fashion marketing is immersing consumers in the latest styles. Mobile apps are now available that allow users to try on items like shoes and make-up.

Designer Rebecca Minkoff had her 2015 fall runway show filmed in VR and introduced her own version of Google Cardboard—a branded cardboard headset that (together with a mobile phone) provides enhanced content for fans. The $25 headsets provided an intimate view of Rebecca Minkoff’s runway shows, from the models to the photographers and members of the audience.

Fashion Marketing: The Game

Dress-up games go back generations from paper dolls to mobile apps. To reach today’s mobile fashionistas, brands are partnering with fashion games to transform make-believe dress-up into grown-up purchases.

Covet Fashion is an app by CrowdStar that allows users to create outfits and enter their wardrobe choices into contests judged by the app community. Unlike dress-up games designed for young girls, Covet Fashion features e-commerce links to bring the wardrobe home. The brand recently teamed up with The Zoe Report Box of Style to cross-promote items from its fall collection.

More than 175 brands have partnered with Covet Fashion to have their fashions appear as virtual wardrobe options, which in turn can be purchased for real-life wear through an e-commerce portal.

The game’s call to action is a natural evolution of other apps like Glu Mobile’s Kendall & Kylie that aim for brand awareness by dressing up avatars in real fashions. The PacSun Kendall and Kylie’s Spring 2016 collection was integrated into the free-to-play game before the clothing was released in stores.

“When players are granted access to interact with a brand’s product, even virtually, it allows for more of an intimate connection,” Niccolo de Masi, the executive chairman and former CEO of Glu Mobile, told AListDaily.

Twenty-nine percent of fashion executives see digitization and e-commerce as the biggest opportunities of the year, according to the McKinsey & Company’s 2017 State of Fashion report. The consulting firm predicts that e-commerce luxury fashion sales will increase fourfold by the year 2020.

Xbox One X Marketing Taps Into Gamer Competitiveness

Xbox One X is officially in stores and to celebrate, Microsoft is showing off its mid-generation console with the help of its brand partners. Gamers love their tech, but they also tend to be competitive—so it’s no surprise that marketing tapped into this enthusiasm for winning.

Despite a $499 price tag—over $200 more than Xbox One S—gamers pre-ordered Xbox One X at record-breaking speeds. For everyone else, there were plenty of chances to win the console through marketing partnerships.

In September, Taco Bell teamed up with Microsoft for a pop-up arcade in Seattle to coincide with PAX West. The activation offered a chance to win an Xbox One X console, Steak Quesarito $5 Boxes and signature cocktails. The promotion extended to all Taco Bell customers, who received a chance to win with each Taco Bell $5 Box purchase.

Food and gaming have a longstanding fruitful relationship that Mountain Dew and Doritos are known to capitalize on. Specially marked packages from both PepsiCo brands offer codes that can be redeemed for the “Every 60 Seconds” promotion.

The promotion features an online auction program that gives gamers the opportunity to win one of thousands of Xbox One X consoles. Between Nov. 6 and Dec. 15, points can be used in daily online auctions to win the new console, games and other Xbox prizes.

Fans can physically compete for an Xbox One X as well with a Mountain Dew and Doritos Drop Zone activation. Live competitions are taking place in select cities. An app uses GPS to locate a virtual Xbox One X in the area. Participants can capture and defend their console with the help of power-ups that are dropped every 60 seconds or can be purchased with codes from specially marked Mountain Dew and Doritos products.

Speaking of athletic-wear with which to snag a new console, Microsoft teamed up with Under Armour to create the Xbox One X and Curry 4 “More Power” VIP kit. Reserved for select influencers and members of the press, the VIP kit includes an Xbox One X console, two Xbox One Elite controllers, Under Armour Curry 4 shoes, gaming headphones, games and more.

With all those games playing in 4K, gamers will need a 4K TV, which created a timely partnership opportunity for Samsung.

“The gaming industry is extremely attractive to Samsung because these are passionate consumers that desire the best technology available to drive the ultimate gaming experience,” Eddie Combs, vice president of home entertainment marketing at Samsung Electronics America, previously told AlistDaily.

The partnership between Samsung and Xbox will include various marketing and retail activations throughout the country, including a national TV spot.

“I feel like this is every bit as energetic a console launch considering that it’s not a next-gen console launch,” Albert Penello, senior director of Xbox console marketing at Microsoft told “From my perspective, I think we’ve shown we can have almost the same level of energy around a mid-generation upgrade as you can for a new console launch. I think you’re going to see a pretty significant push from us actually for both products this holiday.”

For Brands, Twitter’s $99 Per Month Promote Mode Is ‘Always On’

Not content with launching just one major platform update in a week, Twitter announced Promote Mode on Wednesday, a new automation tool targeted at smaller brands without the time or funding to manually manage amplification campaigns.

Promote Mode is, as far as advertising tools go, fairly simple. In the announcement, Wook Chung, Twitter’s director of product management, describes the services as an “always-on amplification engine.” In essence, for a flat fee of $99 per month, the service will automatically promote the user’s account every time they Tweet, up to 10 times per day.

The service offers simplified, user-friendly analytics tools, displaying total reach, followers and profile visits gained while Promote Mode is active as well as colorful graphs displaying organic reach alongside the higher promoted figures.

The service emphasizes ease of use over personalization, however. Users cannot select which Tweets are promoted, they must pause Promote Mode to Tweet without amplifying them. The service will never promote retweets, replies or quotes. Furthermore, users can only select five different interests or regions to target, which is far less than the app’s main advertising service offers.

Twitter’s announcement calls the service “mobile-first,” but at the moment it’s available mobile-only through the app. Users must sign up through Sprout Social, a Twitter partner, to track engagements on desktop.

Though Twitter did not guarantee any results for Promote Mode subscribers, it stated that one of the initial testers, @RIMtailing, gained 30 followers and reached 30,000 new people per month.

The program is releasing in beta form, so its current state may not reflect its final release.

“We know that budding businesses and individuals with personal brands want to grow their presence on Twitter,” said Chung. “But this can be hard—especially for those who are new to Twitter.”