Sometimes it pays to go against the grain. But organizations shouldn't do it just for the sake of doing something different. Customer strategists must evaluate new technologies and determine if there is a good business reason for deploying them. And, if so, they must create an effective strategy for getting the best results for their company and customers. With that in mind, this issue offers some suggestions to set your company apart from the competition.
Our cover story, "Game On!" by Kelly Liyakasa, makes the claim that if organizations want more from their employees and customers, they should "let them play." It sounds counterintuitive, but some organizations, such as Samsung and the U.K. Department for Work and Pensions, are seeing impressive results. These companies, and others, aren't encouraging employees and customers to play Pac-Man. Instead, they are incorporating game mechanics into business processes to make a process more engaging. To learn which companies are deploying gamification strategies, how they are doing it, and their results, read this story. You'll find that, as one industry analyst says, "This is not fluffy stuff that doesn't work. This is about real brands doing real stuff."
Also, recent advancements in natural language understanding (NLU) might deserve another look. Admittedly, NLU struggled to succeed in enterprise applications about 10 years ago, due to accuracy problems. This, naturally, sent the speech technology industry back to the drawing board, but NLU has received a lot of attention over the past year. It started when IBM's Watson system appeared on the television quiz show Jeopardy! and beat two of the show's most successful champions. This victory shows how natural language understanding can be used to process and present information in a similar way that people think and speak.
Apple then followed with its release of the popular iPhone 4S, which incorporates NLU in its Siri digital assistant application. The application, to many people's delight, enables the phone to listen to users and talk back in a conversational way. These two developments show that NLU is becoming a more reliable and, dare I say, desirable technology. To see how organizations are using NLU and what's happening to make the technology more accessible, read the feature story, "Natural Language Understanding Grows Up," by Michele Masterson.
To stand out from the crowd, companies don't always have to rely on technology. When it comes to marketing and advertising, the right message can set a company apart from its competitors as well. Some great examples of effective messaging appear in Super Bowl ads, such as the commercial during last year's Super Bowl that depicts a young Darth Vader struggling to channel "the Force." (To view the video on YouTube, which already has more than 52 million hits, search for "The Force: Volkswagen Commercial.")
To get that level of creativity in your marketing efforts, sometimes it's best to look outside your organization. However, to compete for your business, many agencies are offering more creative solutions than before, and it can be challenging to select the right one. For some tips, read the feature story "Marketing and Advertising Agencies Blur the Lines," by Associate Editor Judith Aquino.
The most important thing to remember, especially when trying something new, is to test your plan before you go live. Going against the grain can help your organization, but, if you're not careful, it can also leave your company with a lot of splinters.