Exclusive: How a Fake Product Announcement Created A Viral Marketing Campaign For Protecting The Environment

Earlier this year, a startup company called Treepex announced that it was taking pre-orders for an ingenious product that cleaned the air that one breathes. The company claimed that its flagship offering – shown for months on the website www.treepex.com, but moved at the moment that this article was published to try.treepex.com – was the “first ever device that transforms polluted air into fresh oxygen.”

Millions of people watched Treepex’s product-introduction video, and thousands publicly raised questions about the offering, discussing on various social platforms whether or not the device was real, and whether it would really improve one’s health if used in heavily polluted cities. The firm’s founders did many media interviews as well.

Today, however, in an exclusive interview with me, Treepex founder, Bacho Khachidze, who is based in the country of Georgia, finally revealed the truth about both the Treepex company and its flagship offering:

The Treepex device does not exist. In fact, it is Treepex’s mission to make sure that the device never needs to exist.

As explained in the video below, Treepex is really in the business of planting trees around the world. Trees, of course, utilize photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide (and water) into oxygen (and sugar) – performing a task vital to keeping the Earth habitable by humans and the many other animals that rely on oxygen for their survival. Pollution and logging, however, have undermined the natural balance – bringing consequences such as accelerated climate change, increased respiratory ailments, and other ecological, biological, and sociological problems.

Treepex’s “product announcement” was designed to raise awareness about the negative impact of pollution on human health, as well as of the positive impact that trees have in cleaning the air for us. It made millions of people ponder whether they would be healthier if they breathed better air. But, at least of today, there is simply no substitute for nature’s method of restoring oxygen to our air via the billions of trees and other plants on our planet; as a society, we must better appreciate their importance in our ecosystem, and the understand that it is our responsibility to maintain and deliver a healthy Earth to generations to come. In that regard, we must also remember that nature does not care about politics, budgets, or unscientific theories.

Treepex’s “product announcement video” appears to have ignited many discussions about trees and their role in our lives, and conversations on related environmental topics are sure to continue for years to come. In the meantime, Treepex offers people the ability to plant trees in several locations around the globe – as such, it truly “transforms polluted air into fresh oxygen” the way nature intended.


5 marketing trends surfacing at SXSW 2016


SXSW Interactive 2016 kicked off this week with thousands of marketers descending upon Austin, Texas for food, fun, and a glimpse at new and emerging technologies that will impact how brands connect with consumers. Even in its 23rd year, SXSW Interactive’s influence and role in innovation is not waning.

Several trends surfacing this year will greatly impact how brands and consumers interact. Here are 5 to keep an eye on:

1. Virtual reality is everywhere

Virtual reality (VR) has been a key part of the SXSW experience for the past few years, with the Game of Thrones VR experience and Samsung’s Gear VR both standing out in past years. This year, virtual reality is at the forefront.

Panels are on tap to discuss everything from Cinematic VR, virtual football, and VR storytelling to city planning using social VR. And the event features various branded installations such as the Samsung Gear VR Lounge and the McDonald’s Loft.

The McDonald’s Loft is showcasing a V-Artist virtual reality experience that transports attendees into a Happy Meal Box and inspires creativity. This installation is a lot of fun and one to check out for a fully immersive virtual reality experience.

Samsung has also pushed to bring VR to conference goers wherever they are via its #VRonDemand campaign and provide portable VR experiences. Gear VR is a great example of making virtual reality accessible to the average consumer.

If you tweet at #VRonDemand and respond to their invite via DM, the Samsung Mobile US team will bring a Samsung Gear VR experience to your location.

Within an hour, I had the Gear VR headset on at the corner of Trinity and 3rd for a portable VR experience. Marketers must pay attention to Gear VR as it will quickly become one of the most accessible forms of VR for consumers.

2. Social media to social messaging

Twitter made its micro-messaging app debut at SXSW in 2007. In 2016, the focus of many panels is discussing the shift that’s happening with consumers moving from social media to social messaging. This includes the rise of the conversational user experience as well as the next multibillion-dollar opportunity: marketing in messaging.

Leading up to SXSW 2016, there has been a seismic shift in consumer behavior towards intimate sharing and the rise of narrowcast networks. Platforms such as Twitter are integrating features normally associated with the more private Snapchat platform. Facebook views Messenger as a primary commerce driver moving forward.

This shift is redefining how brand marketers approach connecting with consumers. It’s becoming less about the hallmarks of social media marketing, which included personification of the brand in a witty way and more about enabling conversation. Marketers need to find the key moments to passively enable a conversation through visual language or by creating compelling customer experiences via messaging channels.

With this macro shift in consumer behavior combined with the signals given by the platforms in response to where they are placing their bets for the near future, there could be a new platform unveiled at SXSW that meets the needs of today’s consumers who want a more intimate way to share and connect.

3. Artificial intelligence and emotive robotics

Over the past year, robotics and artificial intelligence have seized media and consumer interest. Now we’re hearing many robotic and AI topics being discussed at SXSW 2016 – think living with robots, the role of autonomous cars, and how emotive robotics can enhance our lives.

Above: Jibo

One of the best robotic panels from SXSW 2015 came from MIT social roboticist Cynthia Breazeal. Breazeal talked about emotive computing, which is based on systems and devices that can recognize, interpret, process, and simulate elements of human behavior. She also introduced an emotive AI called Jibo. Jibo is back this year, and the discussion is focused on how it has evolved and how it can enhance our lives.

Jibo is one of the most advanced robots on display at SXSW this year, offering a two-way interactive and expressive experience that is helpful and thought provoking to the user, making it feel like a human-to-human interaction.

For digital marketers, emotive robotics opens up new possibilities for delivering highly contextual content and could serve as an access point into IoT-based behavioral data. The key to the concept of emotive robotics is its ability to take a consumer’s emotional response into consideration, making consumer interactions with these devices more positive and personal.

4. Dark social

No, this is not the name of a new Indy spy drama; it’s a real trend surfacing during the interactive conference. Dark social is the sharing activity that is somewhat invisible to traditional analytics. It’s becoming more important as the shift towards social messaging takes place.

It’s the culmination of referrals and sharing of content that originates from instant messages, emails containing links, and, most recently, the rise of ephemeral social communication platforms such as Snapchat, WeChat, and WhatsApp.

A recent study by Radium One found that 59% of all online sharing is via dark social and 91% of Americans regularly share information via these methods. 72% of sharing is simply users copying and pasting long URLs and either emailing or texting the information.

What makes cracking the code with dark social even more important is the sharp rise in adoption of ephemeral social communication apps. The convergence of social and mobile is here, and the percentage of content shared will continue to rise at an exponential rate in 2016.

Marketers need to start thinking about dark social and its role as part of their customer experience.

5. Connected everything

From panels discussing connected hardware to events showcasing the car as a new marketplace and the countless wearables and IOT-based devices to be showcased on the conference floor, connectivity and streamlining a consumer’s ability to interact with technology is on full display.

One key experience is Sony’s Future Lab Program, which showcases the latest innovations from Sony as it launches the N wearable at SXSW.

This device acts like a wearable Amazon Echo, shaped like a neck collar so as to not hinder movement. It responds to pre-programmed audio commands and takes hands-free pictures.

Sony is looking to solicit live feedback and refine the prototype based on conference-goers’ user testing. This transparent approach to testing gives attendees a sense of ownership and demonstrates a great approach to testing innovation at SXSW.

The brand experiences that are on full display at SXSW are a strong indicator of what brand-to-consumer interactions will look like in the very near future. Marketers must leverage technology and digital innovation to create more convenient, more engaging, and more enticing customer experiences.

Tom Edwards is Chief Digital Officer of Agency Business at Epsilon. He has worked in digital, mobile, and social media marketing for the past 15 years and was named an iMedia Agency Marketer of the Year finalist in 2014. Prior to Epsilon, he was EVP of digital strategy and innovation at The Marketing Arm. And prior to that, he was SVP of digital strategy and emerging technology at Red Urban, part of DDB Worldwide. He also served as CMO for cloud-based social solution provider INgage networks. You can follow him on Twitter: @Blackfin360.

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Get the most out of your marketing stack by unifying data sources


When it comes to getting the most value out of data, successful companies take a practical approach, first defining their own data strategy and then determining the tools needed to get it done. A good example of this is Airbnb, which set their own data strategy and tools to help users more accurately price their home listings. Too often, however, companies fail to lay out a clear strategy, instead relying on the available tools to show them where they need to go. Unfortunately, these tools usually serve up packaged metrics with data that is too detailed and lacks cohesion.

The mobile marketing data landscape

In VentureBeat’s The State of Marketing Analytics: Insights in the age of the customer, author Jon Cifuentes writes:

“Enterprises are stuck between fragmented data silos…There’s customer data, inventory data, log data, search data, reporting, analytics, CRM, session data, et. al – with different vendors supporting each. While “real-time” customer data sounds nice in theory, the actual process of broadcasting this information through the organization is time-consuming, expensive, fragmented, and frustrating.”

These cobbled-together sources and tools provide directional insight but don’t align with initial expectations, particularly as companies start requiring custom insights and metrics.  In fact, most companies quickly find themselves in exactly the situation they had hoped to avoid – working in increasingly complex systems with considerably higher non-value added workloads.

The challenge for companies is: how do you align your data vision with your unique acquisition, engagement and monetization strategies?

Purpose-built tools like app analytics, A/B testing, marketing automation, etc. have done a great job in recent years of allowing non-technical people to analyze data, run tests and engage users. However, since these tools were built for single-use cases and by separate companies with proprietary data stores, they have failed to address a core issue: the need to access the same user data in order to truly provide a personalized experience to each user.

Data-capture tools and user engagement tools also need to be integrated in order to provide a full picture of how changes impact the product downstream.  For instance, teams need to be able to apply user actions from app analytics to run A/B tests, which will in turn impact the user experience.

The path forward

The solution exists at the platform level: unifying data sources before applications are built on top of them, with a flexible 2-way structure that enables real-time integration between event and user data, at all levels in the stack, and not just based on basic pre-determined rules with segmentations on top.

This type of structure makes it possible for events to be enriched by boundless user attributes (user state) and enables contextual analytics.  This, in turn, produces a robust targeting framework, because now the user state can be updated in any manner, in real-time.  For example, Glassdoor utilizes this methodology to deliver real-time dynamic notifications of job alerts to users based on their prior behavior when browsing the Glassdoor website.

While many marketing vendors are fighting to define themselves as integrated or unified marketing platforms, most still need to reach deeper down the stack and unify product and marketing tools with data tools at a platform level.   Because they refer to the same data source, there will be no discrepancies between insights and actions.  For example, segments defined for analytics will maintain the same properties in A/B testing or content delivery.  Applications developed on top of unified data platforms will be inherently more flexible and manageable.

From VentureBeat

VB just released The State of Marketing Analytics: Insights in the age of the customer. $ 499 on VB Insight, or free with your martech subscription.

Omniata is coming out of beta on September 24th!  You can reach us at [email protected] to learn more. Though just coming out of beta, we’re already tracking 300 million monthly active users, 2 billion events per day, and handling over 17,000 requests per second!

Alex Arias is the CEO and cofounder of Omniata, a unified data, analytics and user engagement platform.  For more than 10 years, Alex has been an entrepreneur and driver of innovation in digital services, working previously at Digital Chocolate and EA.  He’s been helping companies define their own Data Value Journey since cofounding Omniata two and a half years ago.


5 tips for running your first influencer marketing campaign

This article is part of SWOT Team, a series on Mashable that features insights from leaders in marketing, brand-building and public relations.

The rise of social media has given consumers more power than ever before, arming them with a platform where they can engage brands in real time. This has created a shift in marketing. While traditional tactics involved pushing out brand content with little focus on creating conversations, new campaigns tap influencers to engage with consumers and create brand loyalty among them.

In spite of the positives, the rise of influencer marketing has also led to many questions, like how to select the right influencer agency or measure ROI. Here are the five most important things to know before you begin your first influencer campaign Read more…

More about Influencers, Branded Content, Business, Marketing, and How To

Cloud Computing

Couch commerce and micro moments: Apple opens up 2 new marketing channels


Here’s what I’ll say about Apple’s latest announcements: The hype wasn’t without cause. Wednesday’s event signaled some of the biggest movements towards a true proliferation of omnichannel media. They had cool changes to their already cool phone, some jaw-dropping upgrades to the Apple TV, and more implications and applications for the Apple Watch. If that’s not the definition of the hyper-connected consumer — and the always-on company — then I don’t know what is.

So what does all of this mean for marketers? Like it or not, when Apple reinvents and reimagines, marketers have to be in lock-step — or, minimally, understand where the industry is heading. We have to understand how our brands can align and excel in a way that’s authentic, organic, and customer-centric. Here are a few things for marketers to keep in mind as they work to leverage and implement Apple’s recent changes.

Leverage Couch Commerce with Apple TV

I, admittedly, was holding my breath for TV news. Just ahead of the announcement, Adobe released its Q2 digital video benchmark report, which called out TV Everywhere (TVE) as a platform in need of a serious boost. Despite growing 63 percent year-over-year with close to 13 percent of paid viewers watching on devices, the lack of a simple, all-in-one solution” could be limiting the full potential of TVE. This was the moment for Apple to strike with something truly innovative — authenticated views on TV-connected devices like Apple TV and Roku up 110 percent since this time last year.

And strike it did. The Apple TV announcements include iOS9 integration, a built-in Siri, and a new universal search that displays every option you’ve got for watching a show, providing a much more streamlined experience for consumers. For marketers, the biggest piece of the Apple TV news was the dedicated app store. An all-new app SDK designed just for the set-top box will enable your brand to develop Apple TV-specific apps. You could order takeout on your TV between shows. Siri could share real-time updates to your social platforms. You could text a friend to turn on their TV.

Beyond that, think about couch commerce in general. Last year, during the finale of popular British reality show Strictly Come Dancing, online searches for ballroom shoes spiked 163 percent. The Great British Bake Off, another U.K. reality competition show, heavily featured Kitchen Aid appliances in its final episode. The result? A 36 percent increase in searches for “Kitchen Aid” during that nail-biting hour. Apple has, effectively, taken the middleman out of the equation — even if that middleman was its own iPad or iPhone. Now consumers will be able to stay on platform — and engaged on platform — and find what they want right now with a few voice commands or clicks. How’s that for a simplified experience?

Your next step? Think about couch commerce and your brand, even if you aren’t selling dancing shoes or kitchen appliances. How is — or how could — your multi-tasking audience engaging with your brand while consuming TV or video content? Think about the shopping, sharing, socializing, secondary content consumption — and think about how those experiences could be enhanced and streamlined for the Apple TV.

Capture Micro Moments with a Bigger, Better Apple Watch … if it Makes Sense

During its event, Apple touted the enhanced Apple Watch, complete with OS 2 that allows for watch-specific apps, which means increased functionality for wearers and seemingly infinite potential for marketers to get up close and personal with their core audience.

Like the Apple TV announcements, these sweeping changes couldn’t come at a better time for the Watch. Forrester recently highlighted, “Mobile moments will shrink to micro moments … those mobile moments that require only a glance to identify and deliver quick information that customers can either consume or act upon immediately.” The Apple Watch is the epitome of the micro moment and with these upgrades, brands will be able to better respond to their needs and wants in real time. “Consumers will still look to apps for complex tasks, but increasingly, they expect brands to anticipate their needs with micro moments,” explains Forrester, “powered by contextual data and executed with push notifications in the form of text messages, audio, or haptic signals to spur them into action.” Check and check.

Again, the million dollar question for marketers: now what? Despite the excitement surrounding Apple’s announcements, this isn’t the time to “leap into an ‘I need a smartwatch strategy’ mindset reminiscent of 2008, when everyone needed an iPhone app without much of a strategy behind it,” says Forrester. Think about what’s right for your brand, your consumers, and this specific moment in time and go from there. To be successful on this platform you’ll need some serious ideation, testing, and a razor-sharp focus on delivering a powerful, unparalleled consumer experience. And that doesn’t just happen.

Ready to Roll Up Your Sleeves?

Like all Apple news these roll outs come with massive opportunities for optimizationally-focused marketers and brands. Take this as your signal to dig in and see where your organization sits within this hyper-connected landscape. See where the potential lies to capture greater market share and deliver spot-on relevant experiences for consumers everywhere. And, equally importantly, see what makes sense for your brand at this moment in time. Not every brand should be plastered across a TV screen or developing watch-friendly apps, but all brands need to quickly figure out what strategy makes the most sense for them because, before you know it, these potential holiday must-haves will be lining shelves everywhere, packed with massive opportunity for brands across all verticals.

Kevin Lindsay heads up product marketing for Adobe Target. He was with Omniture prior to its acquisition by Adobe and previously held product and strategic marketing positions at search software companies Mercado and Verity.

VB’s research team is studying web-personalization… Chime in here, and we’ll share the results.