WTF is SMA?!


Social Media Amplification unites social with paid media. It’s crazy that we haven’t done this already.

For all its promise, digital marketing remains an unfortunately siloed business. Nearly every brand invests in both social media — teams of people who agonize about what content to place and promote on Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms — as well as paid media — the ads you see across the “rest of the web.”

And here’s the crazy part: In most marketing departments, the teams who run social rarely, if ever work, closely with the teams who create traditional paid media. If that sounds crazy, well, you’re right. It is.

Although the metrics can be quite different, the goals of these tactics are essentially the same: Creating awareness and conversions against targeted audiences, building relationships with current and new customers, and driving engagement for the brand overall. Put another way, social media and paid media teams have the same goal: engaging customers and driving interest in purchase.

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The Resurgence of Corporate Venture Capital


Photo by Jimi Filipovski via Unsplash

Is the current penchant for CVC just the usual part of the cycle?

I spent a fascinating couple of days at James Mawson’s Global Corporate Venture Capital conference in London this week. Venture capital of all hues is booming. I wrote about it in this week’s issue of my newsletter Exponential View. You can read my thoughts below. For more, subscribe to Exponential View, it’s free and you’ll find it useful.

Last year, $163bn was invested into founders globally, compared to a $25–56bn range in the 10-year period to 2013. Corporate venture capital (CVC), whereby large firms invest in interesting startups, is on an upswing. CVC, traditionally a second-tier option for enterpreneurs, now represents about 18% of all venture deals globally and about a third of all dollars invested in venture. CVC of 2017 is bigger than the entire VC industry of 2013.How do you make sense of it?

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Complete Energy Democratization Is Coming. Let’s Get Ready.


Blockchain may play a key role in the next 10 years of electricity

“With the broadcast system, you have one person in one station deciding what gets put out over the airwaves. When you have a distributed network, like the internet, everybody can be a server. There’s no distinction between the broadcaster and the receiver: every computer does both. You can take your home laptop and run a server off of it in the same way that the biggest computers at Google can. There’s no fundamental difference between the computers they have in their server rooms and what you have on your desk.” — Aaron Swartz, cofounder of Reddit

Decentralization eventually comes to every industry.

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Efforts to Nationalise AI, and Why We Need to Stop Calling it “AI Race”


Photo by Ciprian Pardău on Unsplash

Much of the work done in AI is of the intangible quality, and will drive spillovers

French President Emmanuel Macron announced his intention to make France an AI leader and avoid “dystopia”, supported by €1.5bn in investment. France is not the first country to surge ambitiously towards establishing itself as a “leader” in AI. Putin famously stated that “whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world”. China has a three-year action plan to establish itself at the top. Canada’s Trudeau discussed on multiple occasions the consequences of automation, and the opportunities of artificial intelligence. Macron demonstrates nuanced understanding of the opportunity — both technological and social — of artificial intelligence in this must-read interview.

This sort of thing can only help capitalise on the value of these technologies. I do believe that cultural and intellectual diversity (and France has those when arrayed with China and the US) can only help in the development of appropriate AI systems. The equivalent UK number is only about £75m (€85m), which is a pity considering the nation’s intellectual heritage across both humanities and technology domains, and bottom-up appetite for the Internet over the past 30 years. More importantly, few world leaders have expressed such adroitness with this sea change than Macron has.

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The Third Place and the Need State of Convenience


Newco Shift Forum 2018

Kevin Johnson, CEO of Starbucks, in a wide ranging conversation on the role of an iconic retail brand in the age of Amazon

Kevin Johnson, CEO Starbucks, during NewCo Shift Forum 2018

The Starbucks brand is ubiquitous — especially for anyone who’s visited a major city around the world. But what’s less well known about the iconic company is its long term commitment to, in its CEO’s words, “redefine what it means to be a public company.” To kick off the second annual Shift Forum, we invited Kevin Johnson, CEO of Starbucks, to join us in conversation about the challenges and opportunities driving a company that, even in an age of Amazon, opens one new store somewhere in the world every four hours. Below is the video interview, in full, and a transcript, edited for clarity.

John Battelle: Please join me in welcoming Kevin Johnson. He’s got his Starbucks cup. You are on brand, brother. [laughter]

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Price Is A Verb, Not A Noun


When is the last time you really revisited the assumptions baked into your pricing strategy?

Maybe your blades are, but your pricing strategy definitely is.

Technology enables much finer control over how you price goods and services, which means you’ll be hearing a lot about “dynamic pricing” in the coming months. Dynamic pricing refers to the practice of updating prices based on current market demand and supply. While yield management, a form of dynamic pricing, has been practiced in industries such as airlines and hotels for years, technology is enabling a wider range of companies to adjust their prices according to market dynamics.

Upstarts and even incumbents can use dynamic pricing strategy to upturn an industry. Some industries may think they’re immune to such developments, and it might seem odd to imagine certain kinds of companies practicing dynamic pricing — seeing bananas sold with an electric price tag changing amount every few minutes would be unusual. Until it’s not.

Norms are Powerful

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We’re Building A New Consumption Model. And It Starts At The Beginning: Babies.


Babies and children are most vulnerable to our current consumption model. They’re also the key to building a better one.

UpChoose picture

In my previous post, I explained why our consumption model is broken, and how we can build a new one. If you haven’t read it, here’s a quick summary (or watch the short video below):

  1. Our consumption model is hurting our environment, our physical and mental health. We’re over-using natural resources, exposing children to toxic products, and creating too much waste. This is unsustainable.
  2. A big part of the problem is ingrained in the fabric of our lifestyle. The changes needed go beyond what products we choose. We need to redesign our behaviors: Why and how we consume.
  3. We can evolve to a new, higher form of consumption. When we do that, we create endless opportunities to re-imagine and improve our lives.

Re-Designing Consumption

We have to come up with new ways to provide everyday products and services. These new ways should solve the challenges we face:

  • To reduce overconsumption → help us understand what we really need.
  • To avoid toxic products → ensure the highest sustainability standard.
  • To limit waste → offer after-use options such as take-back or re-sell.
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Automation vs Humanization: The 21st-Century’s Two Most Powerful Trends.


Two vastly powerful trends are reshaping the world around us. Now, every business must ask itself: Which side of the line do we fall on?

I work in central London and live in the southeast of the city. Almost every night on my way home from work, I stop at the London Bridge outpost of M&S Simply Food (yes, my life is that glamorous). The place is always packed, but the queue moves quickly because there are 12 staffed checkout tills. Or, they were staffed. Last month the 12 conventional tills were replaced by 12 self-checkout touchscreens and two roaming staff members. Overnight, pretty much all the familiar faces were gone.

The unspoken statement could not have been more clear: the future is coming. Technology is eating jobs. No wonder so many books are being dedicated to the question: Are we heading towards a workless future? And what does that mean?

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Welcome to Augmented Modernity.


An emerging techno-consumerism is taking aim at what makes us human: love, happiness, politics, the search for meaning and more. It amounts to the beginnings of a new kind of modernity.

The founders of a new, AI-fuelled chatbot want it to become your best friend and most perceptive counsellor. An intelligent robot pet promises to assuage chronic loneliness among the elderly. The creators of an immersive virtual world — meant to be populated by thousands or even millions of users — say it will generate new insight into the nature of justice and democracy.

Three seemingly unrelated snapshots of these dizzying, accelerated times. But look closer and they all point towards the beginnings of a profound shift in our relationship to technology. How we use it and relate to it. What we think, ultimately, it is for.

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Large Scale Partnerships Will Push Innovation


How Partnerships, Some Obvious and Some Unlikely, Will Lead the Next Stages of Innovation

This week, Domino’s and Ford announced a corporate partnership that will enable Ford to use autonomous cars to deliver Domino’s pizza to customers in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area.

Ford and Domino’s to deliver pizza using self-driving cars in new test

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