“Always Coca-Cola” leaves a strange taste in my mouth.

“Always Coca-Cola” leaves a strange taste in my mouth.

I have enjoyed working for Coca-Cola for many years. A beautiful brand that over the years managed to surprise time and again when it came to experience and activations: the introduction of Coca-Cola Zero, festival activations and the growth of brands such as Aquarius and Chaudfontaine. But times have also changed for a brand like Coca-Cola and they are having a hard time keeping up. Coca-Cola’s happiness has been overshadowed for some time by the brand’s vast contribution to the plastic soup. The bigger they are, the harder they fall, so it is no surprise that one of the biggest brands in the world is in the proverbial catbird seat. The question is how a brand like Coca-Cola deals with this.

I have been seeing messages from Coca-Cola for a few months now, with the message: “please help us recycle”. A nice way to say that you yourself flood the world with plastic and then ask someone else to clean up your mess. Of course consumers should throw their own trash in the bin, but for the brand responsible for the production of 12,000 tons of plastic bottles per year – according to Greenpeace – it is remarkable to point a finger like this to say the least. And we are only talking about the Netherlands. On an annual basis, we are talking about an estimated 110 billion plastic bottles(!).

coca-cola, please help us recycle campagne is niet genoeg

That is some serious plastic soup. Have a look on the brand’s site “Help us recycle” because a large brand like Coca-Cola has undoubtedly also woken up and is of course eagerly looking for alternative packaging where others ask to clean up your mess is just an temporary solution. There are already countless possibilities for biodegradable bottles based on bamboo, PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate) or even paper. Although they will cost a bit more, they will ensure that you, as the largest soft drink producer, show the world how to take your responsibility. And if those alternatives are not yet good enough, then of course you have already established a fund of some kind that invests in a possible solution.

However, the message on the helpusrecycle.nl website is disappointing and actually a bit laughable:
“We aim to have all our packaging in 2025 so that we can recycle it.”

Seriously, is that your plan, your ambition as a big brand? So you are not going to tackle the source, namely your own plastic production, but you say that you strive for all your packaging to be recyclable within the next 6 years? An unbelievable and also unfeasible story with the following weak motivation: “We are a large company and this also involves a great responsibility. We work together with all parties in the chain to collect and process as much packaging as possible to recycle into new packaging. The consumer is an important link in completing this circle, and that is why we involve the consumer in this campaign. ”

On the same site you can also find the following statement: “The collection of waste is the responsibility of various parties, such as the packaging industry via the Waste Fund, supermarkets, national government and municipalities.” I miss one important party here: Coca-Cola!

It is understandable that this biodegradable bottle will take a while. But it seems that this is not being looked at at all yet and that the introduction of deposits on smaller bottles is frustrated by the party that produces the very same bottles.

Even if we continue to read, there is little news to report. Coca-Cola is especially proud that 95% of large packages and 70% of small packages are recycled. So 6,000 tons of plastic on an annual basis is not yet recycled, shame on you, consumer! Or to put it in ‘Greta’s words’: How dare you!

100% recycling is not a viable solution

If Coca-Cola really wants to contribute to a reduction in that plastic soup, why are there no (concrete plans for) biodegradable bottles yet? Can someone explain this to me? Or maybe so, because putting such a bottle on the market naturally costs a lot of money and Coca-Cola must of course also make a profit. I understand and there’s nothing wrong with that. But the company has made more than just a nice profit in the recent years. In 2018, a a whopping 9.7 billion . And for those who think that this was an incident: it was a growth of 10% compared to 2017 and the years before they also did pretty well where it comes to profit.

Come on, Coca-Cola, you can do much better than this. If you want to tell me I need to recycle, isn’t it about time you told the world when I no longer need to recycle because you have cleaned up your own mess? Only then does “always Coca-Cola” get a new meaning that stands for something that fits this day and age.

What does your brand sound like and why does this matter?

What does your brand sound like and why does this matter?

You must have heard or read about voice or smart speakers. But what exactly is voice and why could it be interesting for you? Maybe you just want to read more about it or know all about it and purchase a smart speaker. In this article I will tell you more about voice and what impact I think voice will have on the way we deal with technology in the coming years.

Voice is a technology that makes it possible to give commands to computers with voice commands. Since the vast majority of computers in the world are connected to the internet, it is also possible to give voice commands online and thus control devices remotely, perform searches, book a vacation or place orders in an online shop. Digital speech assistance is being used more and more. Not only at home, but also at work, in the car and just in public places.

From visual interface to audio interface

My prediction is that in the coming years voice will bring about a huge change in the way we deal with online technology. Where everything is still visually oriented and we use a screen, this will shift to voice in many areas where a screen will no longer be needed. This will have major consequences for the way we communicate, but also for example how we shop online and receive information.

Brands will also have to start thinking about how they want to present themselves in a world where voice becomes leading in a number of areas. How are you going to present yourself in a recognizable way if there is no longer always a screen on which a consumer sees your product or logo? And if a consumer wants to buy a product, how do you ensure that your brand is first choice in the mind of the consumer?

There are a number of major players who have been working for years to improve the quality of their speech assistant. Apple has Siri, Google has the Google Assistant, Amazon has Alexa and Microsoft has Cortana.

 

smart speakers voice

 

How does voice actually work?

You can activate a digital assistant via a smart speaker by saying a command like “Hello Alexa” or “Hey Siri”. You can then ask a question or give a command to which the digital assistant will respond. It may be that this is an answer or a requested action right away, but you may also receive a question about a follow-up action. But how does this technically actually work and how is it possible that a digital assistant “understands” your question or command? This has everything to do with a smart combination of hardware and software.

The operation of digital speech interaction can be divided into three core steps:

     

  1. Speech to text
  2.  

  3. Text to intention
  4.  

  5. Action intention

The first step, speech to text, essentially converts voice commands to a text input that your computer or smartphone normally receives because you type it. Good speech to text software such as Apple Dictation, Google Docs voice typing and Dragon naturally tune into environmental noise and variation in voice tone / pitch / accent to provide accurate translations in multiple languages. The software breaks your speech into small, recognizable parts that are called phonemes – there are around 40 in the Dutch language and 44 in the English language. It is the order, combination and context of these phonemes with which the advanced audio analysis software can figure out what exactly you are saying. For words that are pronounced in the same way, the software analyzes the context and syntax of the sentence to find out what the best text combination is for the word you spoke. In the database, the software then matches the analyzed words with the text that best matches the words you spoke.

The second step is text to intention. This step interprets what the user means exactly. For example, if you say “tell me about Amsterdam” in a conversation context, how do digital speech assistants know what exactly you mean by this question? Do you ask for the latest local news about Amsterdam, or do you want flight options to Amsterdam, or do you want to know the weather in Amsterdam ?, And when a word has a double meaning, this interpretation becomes even more difficult.

Web search engines solve this challenge by arranging answers to the ‘query’ in descending order of derived intention. For a digital speech assistant, this ranking should ultimately lead to the best answer and not a list of answers that a search engine can get away with.

A number of possible answers are put in a so-called thread. Each thread uses hundreds of algorithms to study the evidence, looking at factors such as the information, what kind of information it is, the reliability and how likely it is to be relevant, and then making an individual weighting based on what has already learned the software.

The third and final step is the intention to act. This step is aimed at meeting the needs of the user. Most digital speech assistants evolve from answering simple questions such as the weather to doing things when they are integrated into other devices. Think of cars, thermostats, light bulbs, door locks, refrigerators, washing machines, alarm systems and coffee machines.

These 3 core functions of Digital VI not only get better with more data, but are also available as an API (application programming interface) with multiple providers. Companies can use that modularity and choose the best options and combinations to build integrated solutions for their customers.

Although good progress has already been made with digital speech assistants, their development is still in its infancy and we will see this technology come to fruition in the coming years.

 

The future of speech recognition (voice)

The beauty of the future is that nobody knows exactly what is going to happen, but that does not alter the fact that you can make predictions about what you think will happen. This is also nice to see or read years later. We all know the movie from 1998 that asks people if they have a mobile phone.

There are many articles and opinions online about the future and certainly in relation to something as exciting and futuristic as speech recognition. My opinion is also one of many where I foresee that the number of devices that will be connected to the internet will only continue to increase and that the same applies to the number of smart speakers with which more and more of these connected devices can receive commands via voice. You can read articles online that say that by 2020 half of all searches will already be done by voice, but I think this is a bit too ambitious and I would like to add a few more years to that. I am not talking about giving commands to other devices via a smart speaker because that is a step further.

It is, however, impressive to see how quickly speech assistance technology is developing and how it finds its way to our homes. The technology is now seen as the natural way to operate the smart house, thanks to the inexpensive ability to add speech to your installation. And this has been developed to a good level in a relatively short time, which makes it all the more exciting for the future.

 

Siri

Siri was the first to make speech technology mainstream. When this was launched in 2011 with the iPhone 4S, this was a pretty revolutionary addition. Siri was then mainly focused on the device with which it was delivered and therefore, although functional, quite limited. In addition, it was also beta technology that was still developing. At the introduction, Siri also became a direct victim of its own success. Due to the great popularity, the necessary bugs appeared and the back-end servers were not prepared for the questions of millions of iPhone users.

Despite these starting problems, Siri did clear the way for competitors’ speech assistants and also proved that controlling devices with your voice was a function that consumers would like to embrace. Google and Amazon also delved into the development of their own speech assistant. Google Assistant first and foremost resembled Siri by applying natural language processing where it interprets the user’s question and then uses Google’s gigantic databases to look up the answer.

 

Google Duplex

Google has also presented an interesting extension of Assistant under the name Google Duplex. This technology is not only designed to answer questions and make lists, but to become a credible personal assistant who can communicate autonomously and as naturally as possible with others and thus, for example, call a restaurant on your behalf to reserve a table.

Where Apple and Siri have planted the seeds for speech assistant technology, Amazon has been the fastest with Alexa. Amazon has used its power and influence to ensure that Alexa is a piece of technology that is available to everyone, regardless of their budget. And it is a strategy that has worked.

A cautious estimate is that between 60 and 80 million people worldwide now have access to a smart speaker and the vast majority are equipped with Alexa. The Amazon range means that you can have full speakers with built-in Alexa, or that you can make any speaker smart with the Amazon Echo Dot. The voice OS has also found its way to Amazon tablets and, via third parties, everything from fridges to robots.

 

“The future is not that we look down and scroll, but do two things that are much more instinctive and efficient: speaking and listening.”

 
The smart home or office is a complex web of disparate products, but Alexa simplifies your installation by linking them all together and bringing them together. The smartest thing Amazon did with Alexa was to get it out of the Amazon ecosystem and open it up to as many partners as possible. Being a market leader does not always mean that the future of a technology is safe and that you can rest on your laurels. The road to an operating system that functions completely naturally through speech is still far away. There are still a lot of challenges in the field of language, grammar and pronunciation and dialects.

However, the real future of speech assistants could be at the end of our addictive relationship with our smartphones. What are we actually using our phone for? Information, games, communication and maybe even people calling. This is exactly where speech assistance can play a major role. If you use your smartphone as an alarm, why not wake up with one of your favorite songs? And can the lights in your house be switched on, the coffee machine switched on and displayed on your mirror in the bathroom? And all at a certain time or because you say “Good morning Alexa”.

The future is not that we look down and scroll, but do two things that are much more instinctive and efficient: speaking and listening. In the beginning I was quite skeptical about audio as an interface, certainly when it comes to presenting online information. We are so handy and fast with reading and scrolling? Is audio then not less convenient and slower? But now take the rapidly growing popularity of podcasts and audio books and the possibilities to be able to quickly screen or search through audio. Or would the solution lie in screen connectivity? Google and Amazon give their smart speakers a screen like on the Echo Show.

 

Will Google stay King of Search?

Google is now the absolute market leader in search, but it is not self-evident that this will be the case in new areas such as voice or visual searches. The company has a considerable lead when it comes to speech recognition and conversation search possibilities, but the competition is certainly not standing still. Google is no longer the young start-up that has managed to push competitors such as Altavista, Excite and AskJeeves out of the market. Moreover, the earnings model of Google is largely based on the current way of searching and advertising and it will want to maintain this for as long as possible.

Do we all need voicing?

So where does all this leave the future of voice optimization? Many of these possible scenarios have a real chance of success, but it is impossible to predict which direction this will take us. It is therefore quite difficult for brands to develop a strategy for the emerging speech recognition technology.

Start by asking whether voicing is relevant to your brand and how this can help your target group. And that’s just the beginning. Are you going to use this channel directly or do you want to experiment and learn more? And how should the voice be associated with your brand? The technology is of course very interesting, but it must offer added value otherwise it is a gimmick that is just as fun, but does not add any value to your brand.

From startup to scale-up: how do you become a strong brand?

From startup to scale-up: how do you become a strong brand?

In collaboration with Nick Reineman from Startupboot, an organization that brings together startups and scale-ups in the form of events, Martin and Lewis organized a seminar earlier this month. The approach to our seminar proved to be interesting among the guests, because the 30 available seats were taken in no time.

In addition to a number of mature organizations, we also work for scale-ups and in recent months we have been increasingly asked whether we can help with the (re) positioning and re-branding of their brand. Scale-ups often find that refinements are needed to be able to properly develop the organization and factors such as new financing rounds and the move abroad can also be reasons to critically examine their own brand and the organization. It also happens that the product or service offer has changed over time to find a better connection with the market.

A number of companies see the added value of a strong brand and how this can contribute to your business objectives, while others are curious about insights and tips to get more support for branding in their own organization.

 

In our seminar, Sjoerd Goderie (brand strategist) and Frank Schippers (creative director) discussed the importance of a strong brand based on relevant experiences and examples.

Some practical tips we’ve given:

 

Think in “jobs to be done”

What we often see is that brands mainly think from their own product or service offering and are less concerned with an approach from their target group’s point of view. What is the customers’ problem and how can you solve this? How do you bridge the gap between your own organization and the target group you are targeting? And if you think emotionally about “jobs to be done” then create stories instead of product features.

 

 

Build brand recognition

A brand extends far beyond a logo, brand guidelines, tone-of-voice and a list of catchwords. It can also express itself in the behavior, attitude and DNA of your company. Of course, consistent use in all communication, online and offline, helps brand recognition, but if it is insufficiently clear within the organization what the brand stands for, then it is difficult to communicate this clearly to others.

 

Love your customers

Every brand wants fans. Fans who will not leave you when the competitor returns with a price promotion. To achieve this, you have to work hard. Not just about a good product, but also about emotional and personal relationships. The value of small gestures is important here and the awareness in the organization that every individual must be busy with purpose.

 

Inspire your employees

Your employees are your very best brand ambassadors who can talk about your brand and product with great love. Give them the space to express this in their own way and they can become the HEROs (Highly Empowered Resourceful Operatives) of your organization.

 

Do not attempt to puff everyone

Building a strong brand is also about making choices. For example, make the comparison between brands and artists. Brands do not have the largest number of fans. Not noticing how we define it in any case. They are the artists.

Think of superstars such as Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Katy Perry. Every artist has lovers and haters and there is often little in between. Because of the choices they make, they know that there will always be fans, but there is also a group that has nothing to do with them. As a brand, this is also something to realize well. Make an effort for the people who have a connection with your brand and who appreciate the brand for what it is. Save time and money befriending people who don’t want to be friends with you.

 

Our next seminar will be held on November 21 in the A’DAM Tower. Again, “growth” will play a central role. Want to know more about this seminar? Then contact Marco or Frank!