Customers may never know how a company’s finance or HR department responds to a major unpredicted event, but marketing sits center stage, its moves reflected in every ad campaign, message and channel. You set the tone for how customers perceive the brand during a difficult time.

Taking the right actions and finding the right message can be challenging, especially in a fast-changing situation. All companies should operate with integrity and trust even as they come under pressure from a swiftly evolving situation. Those with a product or service well-suited for difficult times must, meanwhile, tread lightly, lest customers think they’re exploiting tragedy.

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To say it’s a unique time in the world is an understatement. As we all collectively grapple with what this global pandemic means for us — as humans first, but also as professionals — there are often more questions than answers. There is no playbook for times like these, but what I’ve found is that crisis can provide clarity.

Though we’re uncovering new challenges every day, we’ve worked to codify a set of principles to use internally to evaluate our media campaigns in this altered marketplace. And in keeping with the theme of “five” — as in the “Do the Five” initiative featured on Google homepages around the world, in partnership with the World Health Organization — I want to share five principles that I hope are helpful to other brands undoubtedly navigating the same uncharted territory.

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As people continue to travel, it is only a matter of time before COVID-19 spreads to the rest of the 54 countries on the continent. As I write this from Monrovia, Liberia – a country whose health system has suffered enormous challenges due to civil wars and the Ebola epidemic in 2014 – I am compelled to highlight that one size does not fit all, and special considerations need to be taken into account as we develop the COVID-19 response for Africa.

The continent’s population and health systems make it different from other regions that have experienced COVID-19 to date. Three factors are important at the population level.

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Vision: Values = Value

To be the ‘African investment firm with global standards’ entails having a few key and consistent behaviours in place. Some of the success-ingredients valued at Argon are providing the support structures that enable their team to be dedicated; having a solid vision everyone can work toward; having a powerful leadership and solid management; and at the root of it all is being entrenched
in their values – honesty, integrity, thoroughness, accountability, respect for self and others, and good ethics. All this enables Argon to create continued value for their high-stake clients.




ONE DAY IN late February of 2016, Mark Zuckerberg sent a memo to all of Facebook’s employees to address some troubling behavior in the ranks. His message pertained to some walls at the company’s Menlo Park headquarters where staffers are encouraged to scribble notes and signatures. On at least a couple of occasions, someone had crossed out the words “Black Lives Matter” and replaced them with “All Lives Matter.” Zuckerberg wanted whoever was responsible to cut it out.

“ ‘Black Lives Matter’ doesn’t mean other lives don’t,” he wrote. “We’ve never had rules around what people can write on our walls,” the memo went on. But “crossing out something means silencing speech, or that one person’s speech is more important than another’s.” The defacement, he said, was being investigated.

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AS HOLLYWOOD EVENTS go, there are few more congratulatory than film festival awards ceremonies, where everyone wants to cheer for the Next Big Thing before they get huge. Yet, at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the biggest applause at the awards show wasn’t for a director or actor—it was for Rachel Morrison, a director of photography on the festival jury. “Earlier this week,” host Jason Mantzoukas said while announcing her name, “she became the first woman ever to be nominated for the Academy Award for cinematography. Her historic nod is for last year’s Sundance hit Mudbound.” Out in the audience, Morrison smiled sheepishly; at her side, fellow jurors Jada Pinkett Smith and Octavia Spencer whooped up a storm. The audience stood to clap.

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Facial Recognition Systems Are Even More Biased Than We Thought

Experts say that bias is one of the biggest problems facing the development of artificial intelligence. When a data set reflects systemic discrimination and bias in the real world, that bias gets encoded into an automated system–which can have dire consequences, determining who gets a job, who gets a loan, and even who goes to prison.

Yet it can be hard to tell when a data set is biased, especially when these systems are built by homogenous teams mostly consisting of white men. Even the existing tools that are meant to test algorithms can be biased. Take what’s known as a “benchmark data set,” basically a bunch of data that is used to assess an AI’s accuracy. Two common benchmark data sets used to test facial recognition systems, known as IJB-A and Adience, are actually composed of 79.6% and 86.2% light-skinned faces, which means that these benchmarks don’t test the accuracy of the algorithm for all kinds of faces with the same kind of rigor.

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Google Thinks The Future Of The Web Is . . . Email

When was the last time you were lost on your smartphone? Because for me, it was just this morning. Whether on Facebook, Twitter, or email itself, I end up tapping something that takes me to a web page stuck inside an app, and I’m left scratching my head, wait, aren’t I just on the web? What app am I in again?

Now Google is taking aim at just this problem with a new initiative called AMP for Email. Instead of an email from Pinterest just kicking you to some in-app browser or an external app as soon as you tap one of its links, a new AMP-infused Pinterest email is the web. So you can pin to your heart’s content, right inside the email window. With AMP for Email, you never need to leave the message itself to browse web content.

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Close Contact

In the second of our eight-part series on the mobility of the future we explore how urbanistic choices can influence the spread of battery-powered cars. A city that’s growing in size doesn’t need to forgo sustainable mobility options. From the densest city centres to the edges of a metropolis, well-distributed charging points can be a wonderful incentive for residents to push the pedal on electric vehicles.

Is making our cities more dense the only answer for inhabitants to access environmentally-friendly means of transport? Cities should evolve but must never forget their human dimension: electric cars can help them with moving people sustainably where other means of transport can’t reach.

Our cities – and their populations – keep growing. While some expand upwards with towering skyscrapers, some branch outwards, creating sprawling suburbs that extend for kilometres. Far from the city centre, these areas may be low-built and green but they often lack the infrastructure to connect easily to public transport, so they rely on cars for their mobility needs.

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The Power of Product Recommendation Networks

We all know that colds, the flu, and other diseases are contagious. They spread from one person to another, with different individuals displaying varying degrees of susceptibility. Similarly, ideas and information can be contagious. Online social networks like Facebook and Twitter amplify the spread of concepts and content — sometimes to such a degree that they’re said to be “going viral.” This phenomenon can play a role in marketing, as customers spread awareness of and interest in products through word-of-mouth interactions.

Such social interactions form the basis for network-based demand shifts for specific products. However, today’s platforms can also enable demand to spread across different and potentially competing products. Online retail platforms like provide product recommendations, noting, for instance, on the landing page of Product A that people who bought Product A also bought Product B. Such recommendations define what we call a copurchase network of products connected by shared purchasing behaviors. As users click from one product to the next, attention flows from one product page to the next, causing the network to become a potential channel for redistributing demand across brands. Think of this phenomenon as the virtual aisle structure of the online storefront.

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Infographic: Improve Customer Engagement With Analytics

The 2018 Data & Analytics Global Executive Study and Research Report by MIT Sloan Management Review explores how companies better engage with customers through their use of analytics.

The report, “Using Analytics to Improve Customer Engagement,” finds that innovative, analytically mature organizations make use of data from multiple sources: customers, vendors, regulators, and even competitors. The following infographic illustrates the degree to which organizations make use of diverse data and the benefit this competency brings.

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Avoid These Five Digital Retailing Mistakes

In a world where customers are shifting a significant portion of their purchases from off-line to mobile and online channels, the mantra for retailers is to embrace the change and capitalize on the virtues of digital commerce. But rather than haphazardly implementing various website features, retailers should adopt a data-driven view — with the goal of understanding how different types of information that consumers collect via the website affect their behavior.

We researched the effects of web technologies on a retailer’s critical performance metrics such as sales and returns. To study these effects, we needed to measure consumers’ actual web technology usage and match it with their transactions. Toward this end, we partnered with a women’s clothing retailer that has a large online presence and offers the type of web technologies that consumers typically encounter in e-commerce. Overall, we studied 7 million purchases made by approximately 1 million unique customers of this medium-size company over three years, and focused primarily on two months’ worth of data, consisting of 183,000 transactions and 52 million lines of server logs that tracked consumers’ web activities. Detailed findings from our research were published in the academic journals Management Science and Information Systems Research.

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Unpacking the AI-Productivity Paradox

We see the effects of transformative new technologies everywhere except in productivity statistics. Systems using artificial intelligence (AI) increasingly match or surpass human-level performance, driving great expectations and soaring stock prices. Yet measured productivity growth has declined by half over the past decade, and real income has stagnated since the late 1990s for a majority of Americans.

What can explain this paradox?

Our close examination of recent patterns in aggregate productivity growth highlights the apparent contradictions. Examples of potentially transformative new technologies that could greatly increase productivity and economic welfare abound, as noted in the 2014 book The Second Machine Age. For instance, consider the recent progress in areas such as machine image recognition (see “AI Versus Human Image Recognition Error Rates”). At the same time, productivity growth has been historically slow over the past decade.

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How Big Data and AI Are Driving Business Innovation in 2018

After years of hope and promise, 2018 may be the year when artificial intelligence (AI) gains meaningful traction within Fortune 1000 corporations. This is a key finding of NewVantage Partners’ annual executive survey, first published in 2012. The 2018 survey, published on January 8, represented nearly 60 Fortune 1000 or industry-leading companies, with 93.1% of survey respondents identifying themselves as C-level executive decision-makers. Among the 2018 survey participants were corporate bellwether companies, including American Express, Capital One, Ford Motors, Goldman Sachs, MetLife, Morgan Stanley, and Verizon.

The main finding of the 2018 survey is that an overwhelming 97.2% of executives report that their companies are investing in building or launching big data and AI initiatives. Among surveyed executives, a growing consensus is emerging that AI and big data initiatives are becoming closely intertwined, with 76.5% of executives indicating that the proliferation and greater availability of data is empowering AI and cognitive initiatives within their organizations.

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The End of Scale

For more than a century, economies of scale made the corporation an ideal engine of business. But now, a flurry of important new technologies, accelerated by artificial intelligence (AI), is turning economies of scale inside out. Business in the century ahead will be driven by economies of unscale, in which the traditional competitive advantages of size are turned on their head.

Economies of unscale are enabled by two complementary market forces: the emergence of platforms and technologies that can be rented as needed. These developments have eroded the powerful inverse relationship between fixed costs and output that defined economies of scale. Now, small, unscaled companies can pursue niche markets and successfully challenge large companies that are weighed down by decades of investment in scale — in mass production, distribution, and marketing.

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Building a Robotic Colleague With Personality

Anxieties about whether machines will take our jobs will soon be a thing of the past. Robots are already here, adding new dimensions to the way we live and function, and researchers are exploring how to create intelligent machines that work better with us as opposed to taking our place. Guy Hoffman (@guyhoffman), assistant professor and Mills Family Faculty Fellow in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, is studying how a working robot’s behavior can influence its human colleagues. The robots he designs lean forward to show they are listening to human interlocutors, and when they hear music, they nod in response to the beat. Hoffman’s work indicates that subtle changes in a robot’s actions have a positive effect on the humans around it. MIT Sloan Management Review spoke with him about his research to probe what his findings imply for managing human-robot teams.

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Data Can Do for Change Management What It Did for Marketing

Business in the 21st century is being redefined by a data-driven revolution. Take the MIT Media Lab’s experiment to see whether it could estimate retail sales performance on “Black Friday,” the day following the US Thanksgiving holiday. Instead of waiting for data from the stores themselves, they used location data from mobile phones to infer how many people were in the parking lots of major retailers. Combining this with data on average spend per shopper enabled them to estimate a retailer’s sales, even before the company had recorded it themselves.

This is just one example. Judgments that used to depend on human intuition alone are now supported by insights gleaned from complex analyses and predictive modeling. Retailers combine data on demographics and weather to predict sales and develop merchandising plans. Banks and lenders have predictive analytics engines that tell the lender the probability that a customer will pay them back. Housing market price changes can be more accurately predicted from analysis of Google searches than by a team of expert real estate forecasters. Investment is rushing into big data analytics as firms seek to find ways to first understand and then take advantage of the possibilities on offer. There has been a rapid uptake in health care, consumer marketing, crime reduction, agriculture, scientific research, and many other areas.

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Marketing and the Evolution of TV

Erich Joachimsthaler, author of Brand Leadership, once quipped that every 10 years or so someone predicts the end of television, but it keeps on playing. His observation is prescient. Television is in the midst of an enormous evolution where consumers can watch programming on any internet-connected device with a screen.
According to a Harvard Business Review Analytic Services survey and interviews with marketing experts, this evolution of TV will continue to march forward and offer marketers promising new opportunities to reach their audiences.

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A Refresher on Marketing ROI

Companies spend a lot on marketing communications. In fact, global spending on media is expected to reach $2.1 trillion in 2019, up from $1.6 trillion in 2014. But is all that money well spent? And more fundamentally, does marketing actually work? Marketing ROI analysis can help answer those questions.

I talked with Jill Avery, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School and coauthor of HBR’s Go To Market Tools, about this concept and what it tells leaders about their spending on marketing.

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How To Create Brand Intimacy

Mario Natarelli and Rina Plapler, both partners at MBLM, “the Brand Intimacy Agency focused on strategy, design, creative and technology,” recently released, Brand Intimacy, A New Paradigm in Marketing. The book explores the concept of Brand Intimacy, a new take on a old strategy – namely that successful brands need to strengthen and leverage the emotional bonds their clients have with their brand.

The book reviews Apple, Amazon and Netflix for their successes as well as United, Foursquare and Apple (again) for their missteps and provides lessons for marketers, business leaders and entrepreneurs seeking to understand brand relationships and the opportunities they represent. The following is my interview with Natarelli about the book.
Harrison: What is “Brand Intimacy” and why is the book so important right now?

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13 Strategies To Help Your Global Brand Maintain Its Local Roots

Not long ago, mom-and-pop shops struggled to compete with the big conglomerates and internet businesses luring their customer base away with convenient shopping at low prices. Today, the local business scene has made a resurgence, thanks in part to millennials who want to “shop small” and support entrepreneurs in their own backyard. In fact, nearly half of consumers in this generation are willing to pay more to support a small business.

If you’re a growing global company, don’t fret: You can still work to establish strong local relationships that will draw in customers and benefit not just your own business, but other local vendors in your area. Thirteen Forbes Agency Council members share some strategies to help you do it.

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Pixability guarantees YouTube brand safety for advertisers

In response to repeated brand safety flare ups on YouTube over the past year, Pixability has launched a new solution that includes a 100 percent brand-safe spend guarantee for YouTube advertisers.

The Boston-based video advertising platform for campaigns on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram says its new technology takes into account each advertiser’s unique definition of brand safety as well as more nuanced settings of campaign-specific brand appropriateness.

“The brand safety conversation has evolved significantly over the last few months, as advertisers wake up to just how individualized their approach to the issue needs to be,” said Bettina Hein, Pixability Founder and CEO.

There are two tiers of the new managed service. The higher end version, DependAbility Premium, provides access to the entire campaign placement list via Pixability’s AI technology, third-party verification of viewability and video completion measurement by Moat, and human review of placements to ensure 100 percent contextual relevancy.

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Big Brands Want Marketers Who Know AI, New Glassdoor Research Reveals

There is a ton of speculation about how artificial intelligence will impact our jobs, but little on-the-ground data—until now.

Glassdoor, a job search portal, has data on millions of job postings. This data can tell us much about how AI is changing the employment landscape. Thankfully, Glassdoor breaks it all down in a new study that analyzes how companies are hiring for AI-related positions. To create the study, Glassdoor looked at AI-related positions, top companies hiring AI talent, popular metro areas for AI work, and payscales of these roles across millions of job listings.

The data might surprise you.

While developer jobs in Silicon Valley dominate this list, there are a number of top AI jobs in marketing and sales. This suggests marketers should start to understand how AI will transform their roles, if they want to capture lucrative professional opportunities for themselves and their businesses.

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10 Creative Ways Companies Are Using Snapchat

Founded in September 2011, Snapchat continues to evolve and innovate in a way that keeps the industry on its toes. From impressive uses of augmented reality to clever lenses and filters, the company logged over one trillion snaps in 2017. That’s more than all the pictures taken by smartphones in the world.

Snapchat does not consider itself to be a social network, but in fact, a camera company. Its audience is passionate about communicating through photos and videos in a lighthearted way. Companies that thrive on the platform need to think visually and take their brand a little less seriously. Here are ten companies and campaigns creatively using the platform to reach and delight customers.

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Facebook Finds Two More Ad-Metrics Discrepancies

Facebook ’s FB -1.33% ad-measurement odyssey continues. The social-media giant has revealed two new adjustments to the data it provides marketers to evaluate the effectiveness of their ads.

In September, The Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook had been overestimating a video-advertising metric for as long as two years in some cases. Then last month, the company revealed it had found four more measurement discrepancies after undertaking an extensive audit of all of its advertising-related data.

That announcement seemed to put Facebook’s ad-measurement challenges to bed. But on Friday, Facebook said it had uncovered two more discrepancies and was working to make specific changes to its ad-data output.

Specifically, Facebook explained in a blog post that during live video streams, it was in some cases counting individual users’ reactions to posts (such as likes and other responses) as part of another related metric, i.e. the number of reactions that these live streams generated when shared on Facebook. Facebook said it is reallocating these metrics.

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Why Saying ‘It’s Fine’ Is a Business Killer

It’s not entirely your fault if the words “It’s fine” are defaults in your vocabulary. Honestly, it’s not–social conditioning and deep psychological needs and fears both contribute to how much they escape your lips. Probably the most common reasons you might use them are

  • To reassure someone, such as if they drop something or interrupt you
  • To get people to leave you alone when you are upset or don’t want to address an issue
  • To give praise or agreement

But as small as these words are, however harmless they initially might appear, they can devastate a business.


Saying “it’s fine” as a mode of reassurance is a bad idea.

  • Quite frankly, it doesn’t do a very good job of reassuring. You might mean “Don’t feel bad!” or “Go ahead!”, but in simply saying “It’s fine”, you inevitably force everyone who is listening to acknowledge the mistake, actually drawing attention to it instead of minimizing it. Subsequently, because of what psychologists refer to as the “spotlight effect”, the person who committed the error might feel only more self-conscious and embarrassed. When you’re trying to make customers, shareholders or team members feel comfortable, that just doesn’t work.
  • There are going to be times when, even though it might seem polite to say “It’s fine,” it’s really not fine. Dropping a huge pile of files two minutes before a meeting is an actual problem, for example.
  • You don’t want to inadvertently teach people that certain behaviors are acceptable, giving them subtle permission to ignore or abuse you, your policies or your protocols.

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Ikea’s Leave Policy Actually Includes Most of Its Workers

On Tuesday, Ikea—the Swedish furniture company that has become eponymous with trendy, affordable furniture and relationship tension—announced a new parental-leave policy. The plan is notable not only because of its generosity—both in terms of time off and pay—compared to many American employers, but also because Ikea will become one of very few employers to make such leave policies available to both part-time and full-time employees.

The new policy, which begins January 1, is based on the length of tenure. Employees who have been with Ikea for more than a year will be able to take parental leave for 12 weeks, the first six weeks at their full wage and the second six weeks at 50 percent of their normal pay. The policy is more generous toward those who have been with the company for more than three years, providing eight weeks of full wages and another eight weeks at 50 percent. Both policies are in addition to short-term disability benefits.

Currently, the most generous parental-leave policies in the U.S. have mostly come from the tech sector. Earlier this year, Etsy announced a new 26-weeks paid leave policy, joining a handful of U.S. companies—including Netflix, Google, Facebook, and Twitter—that offer paid time off well beyond what’s required, which is nothing. (The U.S. is the only OECD country that doesn’t mandate paid maternity leave.)

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There are few things that can bring geeks (like me) to the edge of hyperbolic hysteria like compelling new hardware videos, and this last week had not one but two!

There’s no question both products are exciting in their own right; what makes them compelling, though, is not simply the technology demonstrated, but the fact both, unlike their forbearers, are clearly designed with the smartphone in mind.


The Nintendo Wii U and the Surface RT were both launched at the end of 2012; both were miserable disasters, and both for largely the same reasons: they targeted markets that no longer existed.

Back in 2006 the Wii came out of nowhere to win the seventh-generation of consoles, outselling the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 despite the fact Nintendo’s hardware was significantly under powered relative to its competition. The key was the Wii’s motion control, best manifested by the seemingly simplistic Wii Sports; it turned out that simplicity was a virtue, attracting casual gamers who had long since abandoned consoles or never considered one in the first place, and Wii Sports went on to become the best-selling video game of all time.

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It is election day in the United States, and the tech figure who had one of the biggest impacts on the current cycle is perhaps a non-obvious one: Jeff Bezos.

Back in 2013 Bezos bought the Washington Post, whose coverage of the campaign has been exemplary. The august newspaper’s reporting, particularly the work of David Fahrenthold, has uncovered stories that have had a far bigger impact than any number of tweets or blog posts or calls for days-off-work in Democrat-safe California ever could have had. What Bezos understood is a technology industry truism: impact is made at scale through the construction of repeatable processes. In the case of the Washington Post, facilitating a strong, confident newsroom has reaped far greater returns than any of us can accomplish on our own.

When Bezos made his purchase, I wrote an article entitled Rebuilding the World Technology Destroyed. It is, by Stratechery standards, pretty short, so I hope you will forgive my taking the unusual step of quoting it in full

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