While it seems virtually every screen we interact with has become fodder for advertisers, tech entrepreneur, Vivian Rosenthal, found white space somewhere obvious, the chat box.
“People are already spending all their times in messaging channels, and now brands are playing catch up to put themselves into the conversation," says Rosenthal, a forward-thinking tech entrepreneur with a background in architecture. “We are providing technology for brands to enter a channel where there are already billions of users."
Rosenthal's platform, Snaps, is billed as the first brand marketing platform for mobile messaging. She asserts that with Snaps, everyday people who are chatting with friends can become brand ambassadors simply by sending an emoji. Since 2014 Snaps has been making branded stickers and emoticons for more than 100 brands like Nike Jordan, Coca Cola, Viacom, L'Oréal, Coach, Burger King, Toyota, Dove, Dunkin' Donuts, Sephora, and Macy's, as well as celebrities like Kevin Hart, looking to get into the branded emoji game (a la Kim Kardashian's Kimoji line, which famously crashed the app store when it was released.
“For us it's really about being the go-to solution for brands that need to find a compelling strategy and tech platform to reach millennials in the messaging space," says Rosenthal. “We are looking to drive powerful experiences for clients and consumers and exploring further investment from different verticals in different brands."
"When we decided to make KEVMOJI, all I knew is that we had to do something no one else was doing," says Kevin Hart about his move into the branded emoticon space. “So here we are, literally changing the face of iMessage by creating a real experience through emojis and stickers, rather than in animation. With the launch of iOS 10, my production team, HartBeat Digital along with Snaps, is revolutionizing the kind of content I'm able to share with my fans."
With a combined network of more than 2 billion global users and over 120 keyboards in the market to-date, Snaps has three different product suites; a branded keyboard, branded stickers, and Facebook Messenger chat bots on Slack and Kick, Imessage.
Because of the nature of sending branded emojis, Rosenthal says the overall affect for advertisers is surprisingly effective, as it opt-in for consumers. Rather than bracing for or ignoring a pop-up ad you might see on Facebook, customers tend to engage more authentically in the messaging space.
“It's very different than traditional social ads," says Rosenthal. “You will not see ads like in your Instagram feed. Instead, you unlock your sticker pack and opt to send a Starbucks emoji to a friend. It's someone raising their hand saying 'I want to be a brand ambassador.' The engagement has been so meaningful because it's opt-in, peer-to-peer sharing. Because of that it's [a recommendation that has] been vetted, pre approved."
There has been much discussion as to whether or not social media ads are successful, and the overall belief is that in order for them to work there must be authentic engagement. In addition, ads that work on mobile tend to be even more effective. While there has been some question as to whether or no branded keyboards are working to increase sales for brands, there is no shortage of corporations trying their hands at it. In 2016 alone almost 300 companies launched their own versions of emoji keyboards.
“There has been a huge movement away from the traditional broadcast model of social into a more private messaging channel," says Rosenthal. "With chatbots, the opportunity out there is really powerful. One-to-one marketing in scale can reach millions, but it's still a personal experience. It offers the ability to reach out and touch someone in a way you can't do in social."
Since this is still relatively virgin territory in terms of monetization, Rosenthal says the long-term goal is to eventually bring shopping directly into messaging.
“One one hand you can look at it as pure brand engagement and on the other hand, we are seeing some clients looking to drive commerce," says Rosenthal. "Going from conversation to commerce is the promise of messaging. That's the direction we're going in."
Rosenthal, who originally started her company as an AR platform, said she realized she was ahead of her time in terms of customer understanding and usage. She says the idea was originally centered on virtual pop up stores and geosense, which were very appealing to brands and retailers but premature for consumers.
“One of the things that I learned through this whole thing is that there's this thing called product market fit, which means, is the timing in the market right for what you're trying to create," says Rosenthal. “The AP platform was really early. We saw it come to live with Pokémon Go and that was four years later, goes to show you can have a good idea, but it could be too early to market. It was a great lesson and I ended up pivoting the action into the messaging space, as data supported that's where people are spending all their time. I learned first-hand what it meant to have something too soon for customer adoption."
“And then we pivoted into messaging, which is the opposite," says Rosenthal. "The consumer adoption is already there."
“We've seen brands on our platform use the messaging space in an impactful way to drive ROI, which depending which vertical, has different key metrics," says Rosenthal. "Because the messaging space is quite fragmented, they need to have a strategy for each different one. They need to do a lot of things concurrently. We saw this in social. Now we are seeing the same kind of thing happening in the messaging space."
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.