“IoT: What’s working, what’s possible…and where do we go from here?”
Sharp End is truly leading the connected revolution, and we’re honored to have Cameron join Beverage Marketing Association at eBev this fall (http://www.ebevseries.com) to really delve into the IoT opportunity for beverage/CPG brands. Don’t miss it!
Cameron, thanks so much for joining us today!
Hi thanks for inviting me. To any other readers who have questions feel free to send them across to and I’ll answer the good ones 😉
Cameron, we have some big ideas to address here today…So let’s start with the overall picture. In your eyes, how do you see IoT helping us transition earned into owned media? What is the long-term vision?
The long-term view for the Internet of Things, whichever way you skin it across any industry, is a world where everything around us is connected or connect-able. in the context of beverages, there is two key things/areas to activate – products (the things people experience) and places (that the products are experienced in – home, retail, bars/festivals etc).
How this relates to a brands media strategy – I think it comes down to transforming every product that brands make and realizing their potential as a direct-to-consumer channel for engagement and services. Such as how Malibu are connecting their bottles with NFC to engage their consumers via mobile at scale. This is a huge ‘owned media’ opportunity – and what a great way to reimagine the hero asset of any brand. Facebook can turn ‘your’ audience off whenever they want, building an audience through the products consumers buy/use gives you full ownership.
So in order to help big brands take advantage of such opportunities, you founded the world’s first IoT agency. What exactly is an IoT agency, and why should beverage and CPG brands be prepared to work with one or fall behind?
Ha. We tend not to be that forward with our pitch, but I’m from London so perhaps it would be expected/forgiven. Our commitment is helping brands connect with consumers in new ways and not charging too much money. We love prototyping and we have success in delivering successful pilots and at scale too as a full-service tech innovation partner.
The space is still new/early enough for there to be a real distinction between those with clear expertise and case studies (like us) and those that talk a big game and have shiny creds with money to burn on outbound sales prospecting. We’ve been very fortunate to attract clients who share our belief that technology innovation is the new way to build brands (by activating the real world).
If you look at the evolution of ‘digital’ (laptops / social / mobile / IoT) each new evolution has required specialist agencies to help brands navigate the new technologies, opportunities and landscape. We have a laser sharp focus on FMCG/CPG which helps us quite a lot with being more targeted in terms of the key areas of value-add when working with SharpEnd – as opposed to a generalist agency with a broad approach to clients they work with and just doing ‘digital’.
Let’s talk about what you’ve actually put out into the world. What types of deployments have you been a part of, and what are some of the essential learnings/takeaways (that you can share here)?
For beverages in particular we have a very strong story to tell (and also in cosmetics, foods and fashion – but that’s for another time.
Malibu and Kahlúa (part of The Absolut Company) were our founding and naturally our longest-standing client. They’ve been fantastic in every way with i) strong belief in connecting with consumers in new ways ii) trusting us to support them delivering the innovation programs and iii) being able to talk about the work we’ve done together to motivate and inspire other brands. The third point is really key as a lot of work we’re doing (and have done) is wrapped up in NDAs but Malibu have been really committed to not just their own innovation agenda but also helping to inspire other brands to explore IoT/tech innovation.
Some of the key projects we’ve delivered together include…
- Malibu delivering the world’s largest deployment of NFC-enabled bottles (as part of an ongoing scale-up program) since 2016
- Malibu re-imagining the on-trade customer experience in using connectivity (on-demand drinks ordering) with a supercharged drinks vessel called ‘Coco-Nect’
- Exploring how technology can be used in hotel bars to heighten the enjoyment of the space and access valuable services (I can’t be too specific on this one as some more info is coming out soon)
The processes and projects we collaborated on (and continue to do so) were a key factor in Pernod Ricard (the holding company that owns TAC) appointing us as their global IoT agency of record in June 2017. This is absolutely an industry milestone – alongside a career highlight – as it was (and always will be) the first ever appointment of an IoT agency onto a brands roster – so we’re proud and grateful in equal measure and continue to deliver great work together.
What an excellent partner you have in Pernod, whom you’ve served incredibly well….and no wonder they appointed you their Global IoT AOR!!
Okay, so how about the technology side…What connected technologies are you currently most excited by? Are there any that you see being truly transformational in the way we do business?
NFC has a big future. I’m sure lots of people will/do say this but maybe less known is that there are innovations happening around the materials of NFC tags that are bringing the costs down exponentially. It’s therefore making the tech much more accessible to large-scale manufacturers of low-margin/high-volume items. Apple’s also clearly on the way to unlocking full NFC reading capabilities on their devices and that’s going to be another big milestone. But I’d warn brands that if they only start investigating NFC when Apple unlocks it full they will already be a little too late, there’s a lot of prep work that can be done (pilots, being wise about markets etc) that can happen while Apple does its thing…
We’re doing a lot of work with facial recognition and responsive systems – prototyping some new ways of delivering contextual messaging via proximity. Nerd hat is firmly on and I’m aware how many buzzwords I just used – *replaces Nerd hat with Agency hat*
I am over the voice hype a little but starting to get really into the new wave of devices that carry screens blending visuals with conversational UI. I don’t much like the Echo and can’t see it staying as the dominant player – I think most of these speakers will realise they need screens to achieve a lot of what they want to (especially with the promises they’re making to brands around skills/apps/services).
Finally – and I’m sure this ties into what you’ve learned leading the world’s first IoT agency, and which technologies you believe in – what are the big opportunities you see fast approaching on the connected horizon? I’m sure you can think of many, but how about a top 3?
1) Brands coming ‘onto the network’ and activating their products (at scale) and places using a wide range of technologies. There really is a globally scalable opportunity here with connected packaging and immediately actionable.
2) Brands moving away from heavy reliance on messaging/advertising-based approaches to build equity with consumers – and instead look at zeroUI / IoT as a key brand-building pillar and service design
3) More IoT / tech innovation agencies launching with more a ‘business/ROI/scale’ hat on (like SharpEnd does) than just ‘creative technology – we make cool gadgets’ type outfits
Cameron, thank you so much for sharing your vision! We’re looking forward to having you at eBev in Las Vegas!
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