Saturday, January 17, 2015

Close proximity technology redefines relationships between businesses and consumers.

This article is part of a series of posts covering innovation in Indiana.

In the recent months there’s been a lot of buzz around hotel chains adopting proximity technology to enhance their guest experience, whether the technology uses NCF, RFID or BLE.
If, like me, you’ve had your fair share of business travel, you often experience problems. Airline delays. Congested traffic. Key doesn’t work. Room not ready. Long lines. The list goes on. It can be really inconvenient to travel, and the industry is constantly searching for new ways to develop brand loyalty among consumers.
Travel brands are looking to offer their guests something new and compelling. Indiana-based y!kes delivers a differentiated way to travel.
As the creator of the first of its kind, proximity-aware technology, y!kes provides an advanced solution to ensure traveling is hassle free.

The company’s technology equips business and leisure travelers with the ability to use their smartphones to bypass the cumbersome hotel check-in process and access their room all while their phone sits in their pocket. By harnessing the power of Bluetooth, y!kes opens the doors to unlimited interactions between businesses and consumers and redefines their relationships.
The hotel guests’ process has remained unchanged and cumbersome for years. Now that the majority of visitors come equipped with a smartphone housing Bluetooth capabilities, there is room for improvement. While regular guests wait in line, friends walk in thanks to y!kes. 

According to Alan Philips, Chief Marketing Office at Morgans Hotel Group, “putting location & service aside, gone are the days when you can differentiate your hotel by spending lavishly on the buildings design & fixtures. The future customers of hotels will be less concerned with the luxury appointments of their rooms, and more concerned with the experiences you provide and how your brand services their personal needs & image”.

y!kes’ h(app)y technology, also known as its hyper app, actually attracts, retains and grows lifelong guests by offering an experience that feels unique and upgraded. With the ability to avoid the front desk and customize rooms to individual preferences, hotels are able to build long-term loyalty and leave users feeling happily surprised.

While industry adversaries attempt to mimic its sophistication with other versions of keyless entry technology, none matches the unprecedented hotel experience y!kes unleashes. Competitors’ front-desk bypass applications require guests to physically utilize their mobile device to unlock a hotel room by holding their phone up to the door handle (not much different from using a keycard). With y!kes, users can keep their phone tucked away and need only the app running in the background to unlock the door. As a result, competitors inflict a more invasive and time-consuming solution when compared to y!kes.

The company’s initial public debut was in 2012 at HITECH, the world’s largest hospitality technology tradeshow, and was recognized for its groundbreaking system when it was awarded a 2012 Indiana Innovation award. Its industry-first system unlocked a new era of proximity-aware technology, and the team has spent the last two years refining its proprietary system even further.
The Indianapolis-based company continued to innovate and grow throughout 2014, bringing in new employees and creating promising relationships with some of the world’s leading hotel brands. With keyless entry gaining momentum in the market, international brands have expressed unprecedented interest in integrating y!kes-enabled systems into their properties.

y!kes focuses on maximizing the hotel infrastructure to perfect, streamline and simplify the guest experience. By eliminating the multi-step process, the company intends to deliver the hotel stay of the future, and expand it to other markets.

y!kes serves as both a software and hardware solution, presenting the next generation of proximity-aware technology through the advancement of Bluetooth capabilities. Offering hotel properties specifically engineered y!kes devices for install in the lobby, room floors and doors, and offering consumers a customizable mobile app available for download on smartphones, these patented technologies work together to alter consumers’ experiences as soon as they step foot on the property.

y!kes’ h(app)y technology retrieves data from onsite Property Management Systems (PMS) and provides guests with room number confirmations via the app on check-in day. The company is revolutionizing the hotel industry and redefining proximity technology. It is the only company to develop the hardware and software needed for secure, seamless hotel navigation through keyless access requiring only a touch of a door handle and a tucked away smartphone.

With the hotel industry already jumping on board, there are many other vertical markets where y!kes is hoping to provide significant impact, including retail, multi-unit housing and more… Looking towards the future, y!kes will continue to utilize proximity technology to better the overall customer experience.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Why I am big fan the Taylor Swift brand… What she teaches us about branding.

I am not personally a big fan of Taylor Swift as an artist (meaning I don’t buy her records – although I enjoy listening to her music). I am probably too old to relate to her lyrics, but my kids love her songs and I see her as a good role model for them.
However, I LOVE the Taylor Swift brand. Why? Because from a young age she’s developed an authentic, engaging , truthful relationships with her customers (sorry – her fans!).
If you have any doubts, check out Oliver Darcy’s article and the YouTube video… She is not a fabricated star, she is authentic and she genuinely cares about her customers (sorry – her fans!). The same happens backstage on her tours. A few weeks ago I heard on the radio listeners commenting on their various backstage experiences. Most of them said stars just show up for a few minutes, take a group picture and leave. Taylor Swift actually spends time with fans, has dinner with them, takes individual pictures, calls them by their names, wants to learn their personal stories…

What can TS teach us about branding then? Kevin Roberts, Executive Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi, perfectly describes the different between brand and what he calls lovemarks.

People have only 3 questions of any brand engagement:
1. do I want to experience it again?
2. do I want to share it?
3. do I want to improve it?

The key is to create an emotional experience and you get action. Brands are built on respect. Lovemarks are created out of respect and love.

Brands build loyalty for a reason. Lovemarks inspire loyalty beyond reason. Actually they inspire loyalty beyond attribute, benefit, range, price.

Brands aim to be irreplaceable. Lovemarks are irresistible.

Intimacy is the small touch, the perfect note and it is the future of business. The purpose of business is to make the world a better place for everyone. Intimacy is empathy, the brand in the audience’s heart, (not the audience at the brand’s heart).

Kevin Roberts takes it even further. “Brands are owned by companies, marketers, and stockholders. Lovemarks are owned by the people who love them”.At a Cannes event back in 2012, he shared how marketers can build loyalty beyond reason for their brands through music and turn their brands into Lovemarks.

Takeout 3Es

Enthusiasm – (from Greek enthousiasmos). Be an irresistible force of nature. Risk it! Put music at the heart of your brand.

Execution – The audience won’t wait for inspiration: Form a music partnership. Start a conversation. Ignite a movement. Fail fast, learn fast, fix fast! Now!

Emotion – Music is life. Lead with your heart, and you will become priceless.

In a previous post, I explained how companies must find a new why to do business, meaning to connect emotionally with their customers.

A brand is the external reflection of a company’s inside culture and core values. In order for a brand to stay relevant, be different and unique, it must reinvent itself continuously. If a company’s products or services don’t change the game regularly, they suddenly become a commodity, as unique and innovative they could have been at some point. EVERY product and service becomes sooner than later a commodity. What’s critical is for the company to keep its brand relevant by innovating and bringing to life new game-changing products or services. You must keep delivering on your brand promise, day after day.

DON’T settle for being an er-brand. Your tactics are focused on being better at the same things that your competitors do. Red flags go up whenever I hear a pitch that explains how a new offering is just like another but is small-er, bigg-er, thinn-er, light-er, fast-er, sexi-er, whatev-er.
DO find a unique brand personality that translates into a unique customer experience, enabling your brand to rise above competitive comparison. Using brand personality in this way is not simply about developing creative communications; it’s about infusing every aspect of your operations with your unique character.

You have to switch your company’s focus from being transaction oriented to emotion oriented. A product is a transaction, an experience is an emotion. That’s your differentiator. 

It is easy to create a brand and a “promise”. What is hard to achieve is to deliver on the brand promise over and over again. As innovative as the brand promise may be at some point, other brands will follow and suddenly your promise will become commoditized, again.

As marketers, we all need to turn our brands into lovemarks. Like Taylor Swift.