Technological innovations can be so deceptively smart that they become boring. There’s only so much talk about innovation causing another marketing transformation or a piece of technology breaking barriers and disrupting the status quo before that feeling of wonder goes away. But there’s always a story that can be told—and, as a marketer for a tech enterprise, it’s your task to recapture that sense of awe. Sometimes, it’s about creating art with robots; other times, it’s about reinventing your image.
Imagine this scenario: Despite your best efforts, engagement for your company’s digital publication has fallen—much to your horror. Page views are down. Time on page has shrunk. Newsletter subscriptions have waned. Looking back through your brand guidelines, you realize you’ve been telling the same, fear-based stories about the future of technology ad nauseam. But your brand does so much exciting work: you’re always engaged in new projects that will push humanity to new heights. You just haven’t told anyone, and as a result, your readers are falling out of love.
Even legacy tech companies have a story that can rekindle that sense of awe. Here’s how.
1. The Daydreams of Robots (Alphabet)
Alphabet should have a perennial spot on any list regarding creative pioneers—piloting innovation in any number of ways, from moonshots literally focused on landing on the moon to releasing a VR headset that’s as comfortable as it is powerful. While we could look at the latest line of Google products for the home or the Pixel smartphone, what’s most exciting about this software is its knack for creating at a near-human level.
Alphabet has invested heavily in machine learning and AI, and you can see the results in everything from search to translation to voice recognition. “It’s what allows you to use your voice to search for information, to translate the web from one language to another, to filter the spam from your inbox, to search for ‘hugs’ in your photos and actually pull up pictures of people hugging,” said Sundar Pichai, Google CEO, in his 2016 founders’ letter.
Among the many interesting things currently cooking at Alphabet, Deep Dream—an AI experiment with results that are equal parts trippy and interesting—is among the most fascinating. Initially, Deep Dream was developed as a research tool to help understand what neural networks recognized in images. By learning what a machine “sees,” scientists and engineers can better train future AI programs. Alphabet made the code available to everyone, which led to surrealist art that would make Dali proud.
2. Hello, Watson (IBM)
Powered by Watson, IBM is breaking barriers and leading a marketing transformation through AI technology that thinks like a human. Watson became a celebrity after easily defeating former champions Ken Jennings and Bruce Rutter, but the program has led an impressive career away from the spotlight.
Watson has been used in everything from health care to video games to tennis. Because Watson can be used in so many ways, IBM has a unique challenge in selling the AI to a broad range of businesses. There would be no point in innovation if potential customers assumed the product did not fit their needs or did not understand the scope of your platform.
IBM has succeeded in positioning Watson as a pivotal to a marketing transformation while educating a larger audience about AI and its vast capabilities through clever ads and innovative use cases. Watson could be used to create art or a dress worthy for the red carpet of the Met Gala. Partnering with fashion house Marchesa, Watson was used to create a cognitive dress with LED lights that changed based on comments made on Twitter.
The AI technology was also involved in the creation of the dress. Watson examined hundreds of Marchesa dresses and determined what color and material would work best. The dress was as beautiful as it was technology advanced.
In another fun use case, IBM revealed how Watson could be used to analyze personality traits via a guest role on Sesame Street. IBM and Sesame Workshop are using Watson to create educational tools that better fit how children are learning today.
3. PCs Are Cool Again (Microsoft)
What’s a behemoth like Microsoft to do when facing an image problem? Once considered a pioneer, the tech giant has seen Apple, Google, and many others take the lead in the innovation department. That has changed dramatically over the last few years with the release of the Surface and positive reception of Windows 10. In 2016, it solidified its return to pioneer status with the release of the Surface Studio—for which the reveal video alone has generated over 10 million views on YouTube to date. The Surface Studio placed Microsoft squarely back into the middle of a conversation that’s typically dominated by Apple, leading many to wonder if Apple couldn’t learn a lesson or two from Microsoft’s comeback.
For Microsoft, the past year has proven one thing: an old enterprise giant can learn new tricks. And that goodwill is predicted to continue: The best VR experiences typically require a powerful PC that costs thousands of dollars—an important economic hurdle to cross for mainstream adoption. But if consumers can experience good VR with the laptop or PC they currently use, they may be interested in purchasing a headset starting at $300. Knowing this, Microsoft has introduced its Windows 10 VR headsets, aimed at bringing VR to the average household. With a little creativity, the company aims to bring a once-elite technology (and, as a result, its brand) into the mainstream.
4. Keeping Your Head in the Cloud (Amazon)
It’s more than free two-day shipping, it’s about breaking the barriers that preventing consumers from the products and services they need on a daily basis. Amazon makes shopping feel like the cutting edge with its product recommendations or the many ways a product can get into your hands with a single click.
A few years ago, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos discussed the future of delivery through the use of drones. Prime Air could lead to a world where drones zip by with recently ordered packages, and the recently announced Amazon Go could lead to a shopping experience without any checkout lines. These innovative approaches to retail are part of Amazon’s larger plan to offer affordable services to millions of users.
Amazon sells a lot of items, but the company’s cloud services are what truly help make the company profitable. Through discounted Amazon Web Services, users can take advantage of cloud storage, machine learning or the perfect website. Creativity can really flourish when you don’t have to worry your data or productivity.
In what could be a boon to the future of video games, Amazon released its Lumberyard game engine to the world. Usually, this type of technology is only available to the largest game companies in the world, but now independent developers can use these powerful tools to create games that tell unique stories.
There’s no shortage of fascinating ways to talk about a tech brand—and these four brands are proof that it’s all about how you spin your story. By looking to the future and the impact of your brand’s work on humanity as a whole, you’re bound to find stories that challenge and inspire your readers for years to come.
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