The one constant of digital is change, and much of that change emanates from the offices of small companies propelled by big dreams. Some ideas -- most, in fact -- don't get anywhere. But others hold promise from their earliest days, even before anyone is entirely sure of the full ramifications of what they are doing.
The most successful brands are particularly adept at finding the companies that are going to make a huge difference to consumers and marketing. It's ultimately about placing bets. Here are my bets -- 10 companies that appear to hold great promise for brand and business building in the months and years ahead.
With MixRank, brands can understand the ads and traffic sources that are working for their competitors. MixRank lets you see exactly where your competitors are buying ads and which ad copy is performing best for them across the Google AdSense network of almost 100,000 websites.
You can see what's working for them, and then set your plan of action! It's a remarkably comprehensive set of information that can give you a real edge. Pricing ranges from free for limited access to about $100 a month for deeper access to higher rates for enterprise access.
If you are thinking about a social commerce presence for your brand, definitely check out Payvment. Besides having the best company name ever, its solution offers a full set of services including payment acceptance, multiple social-sharing options, a taste graph feature, complete analytics, and more.
You can import your entire product catalog and visual assets, and then integrate your social store into your brand presence. It gives you a cross-Facebook store presence even when the user isn't on your page. Pricing is reasonable, and every day you get insights to improve your sales performance.
ShopSavvy is a mobile retail shopping app that enables smartphone users to research, locate, and price products locally and online. To use ShopSavvy, the user simply scans a bar code from an item and then explores the information available.
Retailers can get additional customers by participating, while brands can purchase ad opportunities that are hypertargeted to active shoppers and buyers. Targeting goes all the way down to the SKU level.
Too often our industry has tried to recreate offline media experiences in digital environments. Bells and whistles are added here and there, yet the overall experiences are often deliberately reminiscent of print or TV. Not so with 955 Dreams, which is trying to reimagine content experiences to make them amazingly deep and interactive. Many of its first experiences are music related, as in the screenshot above for an immersive jazz experience that serves up hour after hour of multimedia to bring the genre to life.
The company draws parallels to Flipboard, but with a crucial difference. While Flipboard serves up virtually all content in a consistent manner, 955 Dreams is trying to remake every digital experience to reflect the brand and its assets. This is powerful stuff for the iOS platform -- and an opportunity that experiential brands should have on their radars.
GraphEffect helps brands measurably improve marketing effectiveness by identifying new target audiences, pinpointing the most persuasive content, and recommending new ads and messages, thereby integrating social and conversational marketing efforts.
The focus here is on Facebook ads. The platform recommends new targets and ad creatives by analyzing your offerings in the context of billions of Facebook ad exposures across brands. Further, it helps brands identify the most compelling content on their websites and then helps convert that content into ads. Finally, it adds a second layer to evaluating the effectiveness and virality of messages by identifying the messages and audiences that move opinion leaders and influencers.
By pairing concrete ad measurement and analytics with a more sophisticated way of viewing influence and virality, the company is helping dozens of emerging and enormous companies get a great deal more out of social. It's social made a lot smarter.
Visuals have always been the core currency of the web, and Stipple makes images interactive with a layer of additional information designed to help brands tell their stories and sell their products. You can connect people to a buy mechanism or allow them to explore hotspots that provide information about particular features, etc.
You can publish your visual assets with a Stipple layer on your site, in social, or on other types of content sites. If people copy these assets to other places, the layer travels with them, giving you the potential for a vast remote marketing network. Content sites can earn money by getting ad revenue when consumers interact with the layer or take the content with them.
See. Love. Buy. That's the mantra for Zazum, an app that lets you shop TV shows. So what the heck does that mean? Well, I think we can all relate to moments when we saw something in a program that piqued our interest. With Zazum, you can find out more about the product and buy it. The secret is an audio barcode that, once embedded into a content file, travels with that file across media and platforms.
Users know a show is shoppable when they see a blue heart icon in the screen corner. They turn on the app, and the experience begins. The app "reads" the bar code and connects the shopper to additional information. The Zazum app is able to read what is on the screen at a particular moment, so you can zero in on particular items that interest you. You can buy instantly and brag about it on Facebook.
As we move to a world in which ads have to be either content themselves or at least woven into content, Zazum is a way to make these new types of brand exposures actionable. Brands get exposure and a buy mechanism, content owners get a new revenue screen, and consumers get a much easier way to find the things they want.
Steelhouse bills itself as a real-time commerce company -- and for good reason. It essentially takes the basic idea of retargeting and adds important new components designed to jack your conversion rates, both on site and off.There are three key components. The first is an on-site mechanism that allows you to read shopper data in real time and respond with offers that get shoppers further down the buying path. It actually allows you to deliver highly targeted offers to specific shoppers in real time.
The second leg of the stool is retargeting with a difference. In addition to the usuals you might expect from retargeting, it enables you to target customers and associated offers to personalities and shopping behaviors. The final element is the ability to garner new behave-alike shoppers with highly targeted display ads keyed to their interests, possessions, and shopping behaviors.
The brainchild of Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz and his Facebook colleague Justin Rosenstein, Asana is a transformational project management and team collaboration platform that's out to change the way we get things done. Asana's roots are in tools Facebook used to manage development projects of all shapes and sizes. It is particularly valuable for large and/or geographically dispersed teams.
It's not a marketing tool in the same sense as the others on the list, but I think we just might start seeing Asana as a backbone for agencies and brands juggling lots of clients, projects, and assignments. What impressed me most was the fluid, intuitive nature of this affordable solution for small and large organizations. Something to replace all those Excel project lists? Well, it's about time!
Jim Nichols is vice president of branding at ROI DNA.
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