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Customer engagement strategies that heed power of social media

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The power of social media to alter customer engagement strategies — for a product rollout, an executive hire, a policy change — is impressive.

Case in point: Legendary Entertainment did not anticipate the kind of response it would get when it released its trailer for The Great Wall. The decision to cast Matt Damon as the hero in a film centered around the iconic Chinese landmark drew immediate criticism on Twitter and Facebook as another example of a white savior narrative and of whitewashing.

“The whole storyline was meant to be about someone coming into a new culture and learning and growing in that culture,” Matt Marolda, chief analytics officer at Legendary, said at the recent HUBweek, an arts, science and innovation festival in Boston. “But the perception was not that.”

Social media platforms and the swift judgment of the internet are forcing companies to engage in ways they’ve never had to before. And executives from Legendary and Microsoft are sharing their experiences with the new tools for — and rules for — customer engagement.

New tools of engagement

On paper, The Great Wall made sense, according to Marolda. It was 2016, and the U.S. and China were the two biggest movie markets in the world; the East-meets-West film reflected Legendary’s sale to Wanda Group, a massive entertainment company in China. And, based on an analysis Marolda and his applied analytics team did, Damon had an active following and a reputation for taking on high-quality projects.

But what looked good on paper did not translate well to audiences — especially those in the U.S. Marolda said the company reacted to the criticism quickly. For example, the company released a statement from Zhang Yimou, the film’s director whom Marolda characterized as “the Steven Spielberg of China,” defending the casting decision.

After that, the team stood still and observed. “We had time on our side,” said Marolda, adding that the film wasn’t scheduled to be released for nine months. “We could see analytically that the best thing to do was nothing.”

The public ire did cool, but the film couldn’t completely escape the negative press it had received, according to Marolda. The company ultimately decided to shift its marketing strategy. “We then realized that emphasizing the movie’s possibilities outside of the U.S. was as important as emphasizing the movie’s possibilities inside the U.S.,” he said.

The decision appears to have been a good one. While the film bombed in the U.S., it was moderately successful worldwide, and has helped spark a larger conversation about how to make blockbuster films for a global market.

Executives onstage at HUBweek.
Matt Marolda, chief analytics officer at Legendary Entertainment, and Kathleen Kennedy, director of special projects at the MIT Sloan School of Management, onstage at HUBweek.

Customer engagement strategies: Ask three questions

How do companies develop customer engagement strategies that acknowledge the power of social media? A reactive approach — no matter how swift the response or how successful in the short term — doesn’t cut it.   

Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer at Microsoft, talked about the role companies should play in the public discourse and stressed that companies need a moral compass today.

“You have to know the issues for which you’re going to take a stand. And you have to be grounded in a certain set of principles,” he said during a fireside chat at HUBweek with Adi Ignatius, the editor in chief of the Harvard Business Review.

Before weighing in on a controversial issue, Smith suggested that companies ask three questions. First, is the issue important to the business? Smith described this question as “an easy space,” and can include tax law or intellectual property law — topics companies have always weighed in on.

Second, is the issue important to its customers? As data has moved to the cloud, companies have entered into a new kind of relationship with their customers, according to Smith. He said it’s vital that they think about the security and protection and actively take a stand on issues like surveillance and privacy.

Third, is the issue important to employees? The company believes a safe work environment doesn’t automatically equate to employee success. Employees could be hindered by issues outside of the office such as an inability to buy the home they want to buy, get the kind of healthcare coverage they need, or marry the person they want to marry, according to Smith.

So when a bill in North Carolina looked like it would restrict LGBT rights, Smith said it “was not a difficult decision” for Microsoft to voice its opposition. The company has a pretty significant presence in Charlotte, employing about 1,000 people there, and Smith said the issue was “important for our employees outside of the workplace.”

In an effort to be as effective as possible and preserve its relationship with the community, Microsoft will often seek out a local business community — a trusted organization that uses its voice to speak up on issues such as these — to partner with. “I prefer a course that’s going to maximize our chances of being effective and not just maximize our chances of being seen,” he said.

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Source: https://searchcio.techtarget.com/news/252451024/Customer-engagement-strategies-that-heed-power-of-social-media

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‘SNL’ host Elon Musk takes a Saturday off from Tesla’s troubles

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By Joseph White

DETROIT (Reuters) – Elon Musk’s turn as host of this week’s “Saturday Night Live” television program will be a light-hearted, brand-building break from the pressures of running Tesla Inc and SpaceX – or land the billionaire in another bucket of hot water.

That uncertainty appears to be the point for both Musk and NBCUniversal’s <CMCSA.O> venerable comedy sketch show.

Musk has been encouraging fans and detractors to anticipate shenanigans, potentially involving the Dogecoin cryptocurrency. Musk has touted Dogecoin on his Twitter account, and the cryptocurrency’s value has soared ahead of his appearance.

“I’m a wild card, no telling what I might do,” Musk, wearing a black bandana, joked in a brief promotional video for the show alongside Saturday’s musical guest, Miley Cyrus.

“Same here,” Cyrus said. “Rules? No thanks.”

Musk has been in New York this week preparing for the appearance. A photo posted to the “Saturday Night Live” Twitter account on Wednesday showed him hunched over papers, wearing a “Nuke Mars” T-shirt. Musk has mused about using nuclear weapons to reshape the Red Planet for human habitation.

Some “SNL” cast members have expressed displeasure at the show’s decision to give its platform to one of the world’s richest people. Musk’s appearance has drawn comparisons to the show’s controversial decision in 2015 to invite Donald Trump to host as he was preparing for his presidential run.

Although it is rare for a business executive to host “SNL,” South Africa-born Musk, 49, is no stranger to pop culture or comedy.

He has appeared on “The Simpsons,” “Rick and Morty,” and “South Park,” and dates a pop star, Canadian singer Grimes. Musk’s persona helped inspire Robert Downey Jr’s portrayal of superhero Iron Man in a series of Marvel films.

His humor also shows in the names of Tesla car models S, 3, X and Y (“sexy”). He once built and sold flamethrowers to promote his tunnel venture, the Boring Company. In 2018, Musk smoked marijuana on a live web show, and later offered $420 a share – a drug reference – to take Tesla private.

While Musk has been getting ready for the cameras, Tesla has been in a rough patch.

Longtime major shareholder Baillie Gifford disclosed it had sold 41% of its Tesla shares. Police in California are investigating a fatal accident in which a Tesla crashed into an overturned truck. Documents prepared by California regulators said Tesla executives do not believe Tesla can deliver the “Full Self Driving” autonomous vehicle technology this year, contradicting Musk’s statements.

(Reporting By Joe White, Editing by Nick Zieminski)

Image Credit: Reuters

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Source: https://datafloq.com/read/snl-host-elon-musk-takes-saturday-teslas-troubles/14510

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U.S. Commerce chief cites auto chips shortage in jobs report

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on Friday the semiconductor shortage was a factor in April’s jobs report that showed hiring unexpectedly slowed.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said the auto sector shed 27,000 jobs in April as automakers were forced to cancel production shifts and furlough workers amid the chips shortage.

“We’re working very hard to get the president’s plan passed in Congress to fund a semiconductor fund. The fact of the matter is we need to get back into the business of making more chips in America. And the supply chain issues are very real,” Raimondo told MSNBC.

(Reporting by David Shepardson and Susan Heavy; Editing by Chris Reese)

Image Credit: Reuters

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Source: https://datafloq.com/read/us-commerce-chief-cites-auto-chips-shortage-jobs-report/14509

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U.S. auto part makers brace for a bumpy ride as chip shortage to intensify

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By Ankit Ajmera

(Reuters) -U.S. auto parts suppliers warned of more production cuts at major automakers as a global semiconductor chip shortage worsens before easing in the second half of the year and aiding in a partial recovery of lost sales.

The chip shortage came at an inopportune time for automakers as demand rebounded from pandemic lows due to low interest rates and consumers’ preference for personal transport amid the health crisis.

“We’ve embedded a 3% reduction in industry production to factor in what we’re anticipating and expecting as further announced downtime that hasn’t been publicly announced at this point,” Lear Corp Chief Financial Officer Jason Cardew said on Friday.

“We have line of sight on a more meaningful reduction (in production) in the second quarter than IHS Markit and others are projecting,” Cardew said.

Ford Motor Co, a major customer for Lear and peers including BorgWarner and Magna International, has said the chip shortage would halve its vehicle output in the second quarter.

Europe’s Volkswagen, another customer for the three suppliers, has said it is in “crisis mode” over the lack of badly needed automotive chips, with the shortage intensifying and hitting its profits in the second quarter.

Lear, which makes automotive seating, cut its global vehicle production forecast to a 9% rise, from up to 12% it had predicted at the beginning of the year, while also expecting second-quarter revenue to fall 9% from the first.

Auto suppliers also cautioned that the pain from the shortage could linger at least until the next year.

“We don’t expect the supply/demand imbalance to fully recover to normalized levels until 2022,” said Joseph Massaro, chief financial officer of Aptiv, a maker of advanced driver assistance systems, vehicle computers and high-voltage cabling.

Auto suppliers are also grappling with pressure on their margins from rising costs of key inputs such as steel and copper.

However, many expect to offset some of those costs as automaker customers focus on building higher margin, more profitable pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles.

“On the biggest raw material purchases, we have about 60% pass through with our customers,” BorgWarner Chief Executive Officer Frederic Lissalde said.

Still, most suppliers have raised or reaffirmed their full-year financial outlooks, thanks to the better-than-expected performance in the first quarter.

Analysts highlighted risks associated with the production outlooks from some suppliers as chip demand rises from other sectors such as enterprise, cloud and consumer electronics following speedy COVID-19 vaccinations and economies reopening.

“The question in my mind is can this (production loss) be made up later on in the year. And that’s really an unknown,” Magna Chief Financial Officer Vincent Galifi said.

(Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

Image Credit: Reuters

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Source: https://datafloq.com/read/us-auto-part-makers-brace-bumpy-ride-chip-shortage-intensify/14508

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Auto sector urges U.S. Congress to help fund its computer chip needs

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By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. auto industry and United Auto Workers union on Friday urged Congress to tie billions of dollars in government funding to boost semiconductor production to help fill the needs of automakers forced to slash production because of chip shortages.

Congress “should prioritize production of the semiconductors necessary to assemble vehicles here in the United States. This will ensure that motor vehicle manufacturers have a fair share of chips needed to meet consumer demand,” said the American Automotive Policy Council, Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association and UAW on Friday in a joint statement.

Tech companies and other industries have repeatedly urged the administration not to pick “winners and losers” or attach conditions to funding to address the chip shortage.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said the U.S. motor vehicle and parts sector lost 27,000 jobs in April.

The letter seen by Reuters said the U.S motor vehicle industry is estimated to have lost over 330,000 production units as a result of the chip shortage.

Carmakers across the world curbed output, hampering attempts to recover from the pandemic, due to a shortage of chips used in everything from computer management of engines to driver assistance systems.

The global chip shortage hit automakers hard after many canceled orders when plants were idled during the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, demand for chips boomed from consumer electronics makers churning out premium devices for people spending more time at home.

Automakers have warned the chips crisis could last until 2022 and have pressed the U.S. government to act.

Ford Motor Co last week warned the shortage may slash second-quarter production by half and for 2021, cost it about $2.5 billion and about 1.1 million units of lost production.

President Joe Biden has proposed $50 billion to boost U.S. semiconductor production.

The letter urged the government to “include specific funding for semiconductor facilities that commit to dedicating a portion of their capacity to motor vehicle-grade chip production.”

On Friday, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers and Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute urged Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to ensure chip supplies are “fairly allocated across industry sectors.”

The groups said they were “dismayed” Raimondo said she was seeking to prioritize automakers. “We simply ask for fairness so that the health, safety, comfort, productivity, and other needs of Americans can be met,” they wrote.

The department did not immediately comment. Raimondo told MSNBC Friday that the auto chip crisis was a factor in April’s jobs report. The auto sector shed 27,000 jobs in April.

(Reporting by David ShepardsonEditing by Chizu Nomiyama, Keith Weir and David Gregorio)

Image Credit: Reuters

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Source: https://datafloq.com/read/auto-sector-urges-us-congress-help-fund-computer-chip-needs/14507

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