10 posts categorized "Games"


Starbucks Launches Emoji Keyboard



If you’ve ever dreamed sending emoji of a unicorn drinking coffee to a friend or family member, that dream is now reality. Starbucks recently launched a keyboard app that’s all about entertainment as opposed to the coffee company’s main objective: selling food and beverages. The app allows you to send pictures of coffee, Frappuccinos, teas, and purple unicorns drinking caffeinated beverages to friends and family. 


Snaps Media Partnership

This keyboard app was not released under Starbucks on Apple or Google Play, rather it was created with the help of Snaps Media, a company that works with a variety of brands interested in launching keyboard apps and emojis. Brands working with Snaps Media don’t have the time or desire to craft related apps, which is why the company boasts a client list that includes Nickelodeon, VH1, TCM, MTV, BET, sports teams, and television shows such as Broad City, Deadpool, Portlandia, and Workaholics. Snaps Media also works with brands such as Dove, Sour Patch Kids, Coco-Cola, Pepsi, and Victoria’s Secret. 


App Developer Inspiration

Starbucks is undoubtedly a very popular brand, and one that has inspired more than a few app developers to use the famous name to promote their own App Store options. For example, searching for ‘Starbucks’ results in the pop-up of numerous “secret menu” apps, as well as coupon finders and “nearest store” locators. An emoji keyboard is subsequently not exactly a shocking new possibility related to the coffee juggernaut. 


First Time

The app is the first time Starbucks has introduced an emoji keyboard dedicated to mobile users. 

“Starbucks’ first emoji app features favorite Frappuccino blended beverages, iced tea, coffee, and even a purple unicorn sipface,” the company announced on its newsroom page, and promised new content is coming soon. 


Keyboard Quality

So what about the keyboard’s quality? According to initial reviews, it’s not great. Complaints about icon quality and the fact that emojis must be copied and pasted into messages are putting consumers off, however these problems are generally synonymous with emoji keyboards. This includes Kimoji, the most popular emoji app of the moment. 


Where It Works

The Starbucks emoji keyboard is the same as other popular third-party apps in that it’s available through SMS/iMessage, messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Messenger, and in email among other options. The release comes on the heels of Starbucks’ revitalized Rewards program and their “more personalized” mobile app. The new version of the company’s flagship app includes the new Rewards program as well as entertainment program options and mobile ordering improvements. 

The emoji keyboard app is free to download on both Google Play and the iTunes App Store. Starbucks has already led the way in terms of mobile app payments, so whether their keyboard app will become the most popular option of its kind should be interesting. Whatever the results, Starbucks’ foray into the mobile world demonstrates the company’s ambition in terms of mobile loyalty and related commerce. 

Besides, who doesn’t want to send an emoji of a purple unicorn drinking a cup ‘o joe? 


6 of the Best Star Wars Apps


Tickets for the latest Star Wars film, “The Force Awakens,” are already on sale for the anticipated December debut. Fans are expecting great things after the movie trailer was released mid-October and stirred up quite a buzz online— most notably, viewers were thrilled by the narration from Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and the sight of Han Solo (Harrison Ford) standing alongside Chewbacca. 

The film’s director, J.J. Abrams, has promised fans to keep to the tangibles as much as possible, ditching Lucas’ overzealous use of computer graphics. Even the cute new droid BB-8 is a working prop. 

Fans still have a couple months to twiddle their thumbs before the movie premiere on December 18, and what better way to keep those thumbs busy than by downloading a Star Wars app? 

Here’s a list of the six best Star Wars apps to keep your fandom hot throughout the upcoming holiday season:


Star Wars

For basic news, social media updates, and fun trivia, the namesake app is a solid choice for fans that like to be in the know. This app is good for adults and children alike—and the Star Wars selfie filters are a hit for children of all ages. The Star Wars app is free and offered for both Android and iOS. 


Star Wars: Commander - Worlds in Conflict

This Star Wars-themed app makes the list because it’s similar to another popular game, Clash of Clans. While this may be a drawback for some folks, why reinvent the game wheel if you don’t have to? Play a game you already enjoy but with the added bonus of familiar Star Wars characters and vehicles.  Star Wars: Commander is free for both platforms, with purchases also available in app. 


Star Wars Scene Maker

This is a great app for the creative fan and especially younger fans who want to try their hands at creating live action scenes with personalized voiceovers. Of course, the app includes the obligatory opening credit sequence to polish off all in-app movie creations. Star Wares Scene Marker is only available for iOS (so far), and it’s free, though you’ll likely need to make some in-app purchases to make your movie a masterpiece. 


Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga

This app is great for new or younger fans. Take your character through missions and explore the expansive Lego world created in the likeness of all things Star Wars. The Lego Star Wars appis polished, well designed, and free for both Android and iOS users. 


Star Wars: Uprising

For the ultimate RPG experience, this app is the way to go. This mobile game is the most recent in a long line of previous successes produced by Kabam. Create your character and save the universe in both solo and cooperative playtime set in the gap between episodes VI and VII. Star Wars: Uprising is free for both Android and iOS users, with lots of upgrades available for in-app purchase. 


BB-8 App Enabled Droid Powered by Sphero

Finally, remember that cute little droid I mentioned? Well, Sphero has designed a free app where you can remotely control your very own BB-8 using a smartphone! The only (and obvious) drawback to this amazing bit of fan fun is the droid itself is about $150 in the U.S. If you’ve got that kind of cash to burn on a geeky Star Wars gadget, this is defiantly the app for you.

These are the best Star Wars apps available to keep fans busy while they wait for the movie premiere this December.  

Enjoy them, you will. 


Bing Gets into Fantasy Football Projections, as Mobile Ad Spending Continues to Rise


For some Americans, September is the beginning of a new year—a time to forget the past and make the most of the future. More specifically, the 2015 NFL season is about to kick off.


Are You Ready for Some Football?  

According to The Fantasy Sports Trade Association, there were 41.5 million fantasy sports players in 2014. This market represents more than fanaticism; marketers view them as an opportunity, especially on mobile. 

Bing Predicts, for example, has taken strides to improve its prediction algorithms and provide fantasy football players with immediate statistical data using a bounty of helpful metrics. The improvements include individual player projections that analyze several data points such as social signals, recent games, match-ups, and roster changes as well as adjustments to the coaching staff. 

Additional features include updates on free agents as well as “Power Rankings,” which is a list of predictions for division winners and likely playoff teams.  

Does this sound too good to be true? This Microsoft service is not without its own motivations. Despite significant gains on Google in the most recent quarterly earnings report, Microsoft hopes the new player algorithms will provide enough incentive for fantasy players to keep using Bing well after the NFL season.


Familiar Territory  

This is not the first time an algorithm or prediction-based software has made the rounds in fantasy football leagues. Yahoo, in fact, uses a company called Pro Football Focus to make its predictions. Additionally, Bing Predicts branched out in recent years to other sporting events like the World Cup and Wimbledon, as well as big events like the Academy Awards and US elections. 

Bing’s marketing initiative follows a familiar path. As mobile behavior increases, so too will the marketing spent in this arena. According to eMarketer, search ads, like the ones you’ll see on Bing, are predicted to reach nearly $14 billion this year. Harnessing the fantasy market isn’t just about helping users win fantasy games: it’s about winning consumer dollars.  

But will it help you in your fantasy football quest? Maybe. According to Walter Sun, Principle Applied Science Manager at Bing, during the knockout round of the 2014 World Cup, Bing went 15 for 15 in its predictions. Last NFL season, Bing’s game predictions were just shy of 70 percent accuracy. 

Whether or not users score the perfect fantasy season is irrelevant to Bing’s marketing plans—they are predicted to have a favorable season. 



Apple Catches Up with Samsung on Global Sales


Market research authority Gartner, reports Apple had a good second quarter this year, making strides to catch up to Samsung in the global smart phone race. Apple sold 48 million units, an increase of 36%, while Samsung slipped back 5.6% in the same quarter.  

Despite the media’s optimism towards Gartner’s findings, Samsung maintains a strong grip on the global market. Samsung’s loss of less than 6% last quarter has certainly not gone without notice, however, the dip is less disturbing when compared to the number of units sold, which is more than 20 million over Apple—an impressive 72 million units worldwide. 

Not to be insensitive, but the hype isn’t that interesting. Maybe it makes people feel better knowing that Apple hasn’t given up in the smart phone fight, but truth be told, the numbers tell a different story. 


What the Research Says

Apple’s global market share floats around 12%. Meanwhile, Samsung is sitting comfortably at 21.9% even after the dip in units sold during the second quarter. 

Apple’s biggest threat to other smart phone brands is the price that defines the high-end segment of its mobile phone market. That’s Apple’s niche: slick, expensive, smart devices. They have yet to address a vastly growing segment of consumers that prefer bargain to luxury. 

Instead of considering alternatives to high-priced products, Apple went head-to-head with Samsung by increasing the screen size on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus—once the distinct advantage to Samsung’s latest Galaxy product line. The increase in Apple’s second quarter sales is likely related to this change, which would have directly squeezed out Samsung.  

Chinese companies like Huawei and Xiaomi are also doing a fair share of squeezing, offering budget alternatives to both Samsung and Apple smart phones in the Chinese market—the biggest country for smart phone sales. 

Gartner also reported that smart phone sales were the lowest they’ve been since 2013. While growth is steady in counties supporting new infrastructure, in places like China where that infrastructure has been established and fewer first time buyers are accessible, the natural trend is to slow. This will likely be the case in any budding market that gets saturated: there’s always going to be a limit to new users.  

So, kudos to Apple for selling more smart phones, but it’s going to have to do a lot more to surpass Samsung, if it’s ever going to win the smart phone race. 



Gif: The Unlikeliest Comeback Kid


If you’ve noticed more GIFs floating around the internet, that’s because in the last few months social media apps like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter have tweaked their platforms to make room for more short-form video.

In particular, brands are looking to these looping clips as a way to communicate with consumers using only visuals—like the popular use of emojis and memes. Some video clip enthusiasts even believe GIFs offer a new kind of communication, which merges content with culture to generate new ideas.    

Adam Leibsohn, Giphy’s chief operating officer said, “They’re [consumers] not using words anymore…there’s an opportunity for that culture to come from a brand.” 

Companies like Giphy and Tumbler are taking advantage of this idea—providing today’s holy grail of content to marketers, while larger agencies are expanding production studios and in-house talent.  

Paramount Picture, for example, brought Giphy’s team in to work exclusively on branded content leading up to the summer release of the latest Terminator movie. But not all GIF content works singularly across the board says Megan Wahtera, a marketer from Paramount Pictures 

"In terms of the animated GIF, we pay close attention to what content works on which platforms,” said Wahtera. “It's not as simple as throwing a 30 or 15 second spot up or even a quick video edit.” 

Some companies like Paramount Pictures have enlisted help; while others have built internal structures to more easily jump on opportunities that work best for the budding content category. In fact, owning the GIF-making process is ideal for companies that can afford it, said Brian Chen, digital associate and creative director and Innocean. 

"It's a potentially fleeting moment," said Chen. "The quicker you can get with the quality and output of these GIFs, the better." 

Just six months ago, Resource/Ammirati had little GIF work to do. Today, animated loops make up 10 to 15 percent of the agency’s social work for brands like DiGiorno Pizza and Tidy Cats. DiGiorno Pizza has seen considerable increases in engagement across their social media platforms. 

"We typically get a few hundred retweets and favorites,” said Luke Oppliger, director of social content at Resource/Ammirati, “but we are seeing GIFs in the thousands."

One of the only challenges posed by GIF content is the investment of time and resources it takes to produce the short videos. Some studios are recommending paid media content behind branded GIFs to ensure companies get a better return on the investment.   

Although GIFs have been around for years, current trends foreshadow and even larger comeback—with growing potential across nearly ever platform. 



AOL Deal Will Help Verizon’s Mobile Advertising Push


Over the past two decades, AOL Inc. has undergone some massive changes. What was once a portal for dial-up internet access, AOL suffered under the merger with Time Warner. After starting over again six years ago, AOL managed to increase its value by acquiring relevant sites like Huffington Post and Tech Crunch. Perhaps most importantly though, AOL took a dive into the deep end of the mobile advertising pool – and it looks like their gamble will pay off.

Last Wednesday, Verizon Communications Inc. announced that the company will be acquiring AOL Inc. in a $4.4 billion deal.

With the latest trends predicting a greater shift toward mobile use by consumers, many corporations have been seeking to carve out a piece of the market share. Currently, the mobile market lies directly in the hands of two leading companies, Google and Facebook. Facebook Inc., of course, owns and operates the largest recurring mobile app user base, while Google provides several integrated apps like Drive and Maps, while providing  the most popular search engine for users as well. As a result of their products’ frequent use, these juggernauts have had the mobile advertising market in a virtual stranglehold.

All of this, however, is poised for a change.

By acquiring AOL, Verizon has the opportunity to integrate advertising and content programming with one of the most ubiquitous wireless networks in the world. The assets provided by AOL include several websites with marketable content, but most importantly, Verizon will receive a mobile video-streaming service out of the deal. As consumers continue to shift away from paying for traditional TV bundling packages and move toward mobile video-streaming services, Verizon wants to provide such a service to new and existing users.

With the overcrowded wireless market in the United States, Verizon is looking to offer even more to customers to get them on board. While they have been searching for opportunities to increase their brand saturation over rivals like T-mobile and AT&T, they have concurrently been developing their video-technology wing by acquiring other tech companies like upLink, EdgeCast and OnCue. Unfortunately, their original plans for a mobile video-streaming service lacked an advertising component.

Now, with the acquisition of AOL Inc., Verizon has the opportunity to create a brand-new revenue stream for the company, for the first time ever. Verizon has been known for years for having excellent data streaming and calling services, and they have generated an enormous amount of brand awareness in that time. The next step in their business’ evolution involves the creation of a mobile-integrated advertising platform that they can use exclusively on their mobile video-streaming service. The plan is simple with potential for success, but one cannot imagine Google Inc. sitting idly by as Verizon takes a bite out of their market share.

Only time will tell. Expect to see Verizon’s new streaming service in late June of this year.


Nintendo Finally Moves into Mobile Gaming


In a move that’s surprising mostly because of how long it’s taken, Nintendo recently announced the imminent arrival of games designed specifically for smartphones. The veteran video game company has partnered with a mobile gaming specialist, and will release titles on both Android and iOS, with the first one expected later this year. 

It’s not yet clear whether Nintendo will fall in line with mobile gaming standards by offering ‘free-to-start’ options, a business model that has attracted criticism for getting players ‘addicted’ to compulsive games before requesting money to top up credits. It’s thought that Nintendo may want to avoid making the same mistake they made with Pokemon Shuffle, a game designed for their 3DS portable console that gives players a limited number of hearts (essentially credits) that are diminished with each game played. When the hearts run out, players can buy more. 

This model has proved tremendously successful for the makers of Candy Crush Saga and others, relying on the addictiveness of the gameplay to ensure monetization. Free-to-start has become the default practice for mobile game makers. But Nintendo has a hard-won reputation as a family-friendly brand, and will be wary of prompting accusations of ‘rip-off’ from their legions of loyal followers.

The question of whether to monetize mobile games this way is something Nintendo will have to mull over, but they undoubtedly have a number of striking advantages as they embark on this new area of business. For one thing, an official Mario game on the app store will practically sell itself. Other Nintendo titles, old and new, will be highly visible in what is a very crowded marketplace. This level of brand recognition is something most developers can only dream of.

Entering the mobile world will also allow Nintendo to tap hitherto-unexplored international markets (bafflingly, the company has never taken off in a number of major countries, including India). What it couldn’t achieve with consoles, it can achieve with mobile gaming. And if the mobile games take off, they will act like a form of reverse marketing in these countries, with the spin off game promoting the flagship from whence it came. If the launch of mobile games in a big market like India sparks interest in the Wii and DS consoles, that alone will have justified the entire endeavor.



Havas Adds Gaming Expertise to their Mobile Marketing Empire


Communications group Havas has acquired mobile agency Plastic Mobile. The addition of the Canadian company to Havas’ existing services brings a wealth of expertise on user experience, design, strategy and engineering.  

Plastic Mobile is an award winning mobile marketing agency operating out of Toronto and New York City. Since 2007 the company has been a major player in mCommerce and app development, specializing in mobile wallets, mobile coupons and location-based marketing. As the new string to Havas’ bow, Plastic will further the group’s interests in Canada and the rest of North America. 

One of Plastic’s main areas of expertise is the game-ification of mobile marketing. A recent eMarketer report found that US mobile game revenues - including both downloads and in-app purchases - was expected to reach $3.04 billion this year. That’s a 16.5% increase from 2014. The same report also found that mobile gaming accounts for nearly a third of the entire mobile content market. 

Few analysts believe these figures represent the peak of mobile gaming. Smartphone ownership continues to rise; overall mobile device ownership (including tablets) has surpassed 200 million, and groups like Havas are capitalizing on this shifting consumer culture. Their new partners hope to play a major role in the future of mobile marketing. Melody Adhami, the president of Plastic Mobile, said of the merger: 

“As mobile continues along its explosive growth path, our agency recognised that it was the right time to join a large international group in order to continue our development and attract more Fortune 500 brands. Being part of Havas will enable us to benefit from the strategic advantages of a world leader in communications and its network of industry experts and global resources.”



Hi Tech Trackers Helping Fitness Go ‘Back-to-Basics’



Consumers bought some 84 million fitness tracking devices in 2013, and the trend shows no sign of abating. Fitness experts predict a continuation of the soaring popularity of wearable fitness gadgets over the next 12 months, according to a recent Reuters article.

Companies cited in research conducted by HIS Inc include San Francisco firm MyFitnessPal, which drew on data from its 47 million users to show how digital fitness apps like the one they offer are increasingly being used to help people manage their workout regime.

One of the more counterintuitive finds from the analysis is that hi-tech solutions are enabling people to go back to more traditional forms of exercise, like running and cycling. Zumba, the dance and aerobics routine that you couldn’t escape hearing about in 2011, has lost some momentum, suffering a 9% drop in participants during 2014.

So are people really shunning the hi-techery of the gym in favor of monitoring the morning jog with wearable fitness trackers? Trend watchers seem to think so, and academics agree. According to the Reuters article, The American College of Sports Medicine has identified body weight training - which uses minimal equipment - as one of the top fitness trends in 2015.

So how has technology changed our attitude towards personal fitness? Unlike laptops and phones, wearable tech puts the focus squarely on the body. The insight provided by the low-effort activity of strapping on a Fitbit Flex is opening up a new way of working out, whereby we no longer have to trust a trainer to tell us how effective each routine is - we can see for ourselves.

The efficacy of wearable tech is largely down to its invasiveness. Fitness trackers and the apps they talk to actually become part of your physicality. They become unavoidable. The enormous success of programs that do everything from sending you motivational reminders to slapping you with a fine if you fail to perform a certain task attests to a fundamental truth about human nature: we need to be reminded, nagged, guilt-tripped, even blackmailed before doing what we're supposed to. That, it seems, is what’s truly good for our health.


5 Ways to Connect with Consumers this Thanksgiving


This year's Christmas commercial chaos began before the jack-o-lanterns got cold. On November 1st, retailers started knocking huge figures off their products and gave every ad a seasonal spin. As soon as Black Friday hits, the whole thing steps up another gear, and we’re on the home straight until December 25th. Then the New Year sales begin… but that’s another story.

Until then, it’s the perfect time to capitalize on the season by running Thanksgiving promotions, Black Friday giveaways and Cyber Monday discounts. Themed competitions, surveys, special offers – this is the time to pull out the big guns and win some new brand ambassadors to help you through the January slump. Here are a few suggestions to get you going:


1) Mobile Coupons

Give your mobile strategy a shot in the arm by advertising mobile-only coupons on social media. If customers sign up to receive text alerts, give them an irresistible freebie. Remember, more than 90% of text messages are opened and read within minutes, so the more users you engage via SMS, the better.


2) Do Something Good

The giving season is the ideal time to demonstrate your company’s caring side. Donate a percentage of profits to a worthy local organization, or set up a charity drive with a fun, seasonal activity attached. Whatever you do, avoid cynically exploiting your good deed for marketing purposes. The fact you’re giving rather than receiving will speak volumes on its own. Tell people about it, sure (after all, you want as many people to get involved as possible), just don’t labor the point. The more humility in your humanity, the better it will reflect on your brand.


3) Run a Sweepstakes

The ultimate way to build your database of contacts, a Thanksgiving-themed sweepstakes can be disseminated via social media and SMS messaging. Whether it’s a new dinner set or simply dinner, the same rules apply: people like freebies. Partner with a local grocery store or hardware outlet to offer something special to the mutual benefit of both your businesses. The bigger the prize, the more interest you’ll attract, so try to offer something worth at least a three-figure sum.


4) Seasonal Cards

Sending a Thanksgiving card to your most loyal clients is a great way to stay in touch with them during the holiday season. Not every business will be able to do this, but if you can demonstrate your graphic design and content skills in a fun, humorous way, whilst thanking customers for their loyalty, it’s well worth the expense. If you want to show off your green credentials by eschewing traditional paper cards, design an e-card or a festive gif to send via text message.


Warm yer cockles wi' a wee hot toddy.

5) Mix it Up

Every year there seems to be a new addition to the Thanksgiving season. First it was Black Friday. Then came Cyber Monday. Marketers love to conceive new themed days around this time of year – and sometimes they really take off. This year, why not try focusing on November 30th, which is St. Andrew’s Day in Scotland (and not much talked-about anywhere else). Rebrand it Hot Toddy Day, or Kilt Day – anything with potential for strong visuals. The more different you are from the competition, the more likely your marketing campaign is to get noticed.