People 30 January 2017
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."
3 Min Read
"How did you ever get into a business like that?" people ask me. They're confounded to hear that my product is industrial baler wire—a very unfeminine pursuit, especially in 1975 when I founded my company in the midst of a machismo man's world. It's a long story, but I'll try to shorten it.
I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up—even if it involved a non-glamorous product. I'd been fired from my previous job working to become a ladies' clothing buyer and was told at my dismissal, "You just aren't management or corporate material." My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.
Over the years, I've learned quite a few tough lessons about how to successfully run a business. Below are five essential elements to keep in mind, as well as my story on how I learned them.
Find A Need And Fill It
I gradually became successful at selling various products, which unfortunately weren't profitable enough to get me off the ground, so I asked people what they needed that they couldn't seem to get. One man said, "Honey, I need baler wire. Even the farmers can't get it." I saw happy dollar signs as he talked on and dedicated myself to figuring out the baler wire industry.
I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up.
Now forty-five years later, I'm proud to be the founder of Vulcan Wire, Inc., an industrial baler wire company with $10 million of annual sales.
Have Working Capital And Credit
There were many pitfalls along the way to my eventual success. My daughters and I were subsisting from my unemployment checks, erratic alimony and child-support payments, and food stamps. I had no money stashed up to start up a business.
I paid for the first wire with a check for which I had no funds, an illegal act, but I thought it wouldn't matter as long as I made a deposit to cover the deficit before the bank received the check. My expectation was that I'd receive payment immediately upon delivery, for which I used a rented truck.
Little did I know that this Fortune 500 company's modus operandi was to pay all bills thirty or more days after receipts. My customer initially refused to pay on the spot. I told him I would consequently have to return the wire, so he reluctantly decided to call corporate headquarters for this unusual request.
My stomach was in knots the whole time he was gone, because he said it was iffy that corporate would come through. Fifty minutes later, however, he emerged with a check in hand, resentful of the time away from his busy schedule. Stressed, he told me to never again expect another C.O.D. and that any future sale must be on credit. Luckily, I made it to the bank with a few minutes to spare.
Know Your Product Thoroughly
I received a disheartening phone call shortly thereafter: my wire was breaking. This horrible news fueled the fire of my fears. Would I have to reimburse my customer? Would my vendor refuse to reimburse me?
My customer told me to come over and take samples of his good wire to see if I might duplicate it. I did that and educated myself on the necessary qualities.
My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.
Voila! I found another wire supplier that had the right specifications. By then, I was savvy enough to act as though they would naturally give me thirty-day terms. They did!
More good news: My customer merely threw away all the bad wire I'd sold him, and the new wire worked perfectly; he then gave me leads and a good endorsement. I rapidly gained more wire customers.
Anticipate The Dangers Of Exponential Growth
I had made a depressing discovery. My working capital was inadequate. After I purchased the wire, I had to wait ten to thirty days for a fabricator to get it reconfigured, which became a looming problem. It meant that to maintain a good credit standing, I had to pay for the wire ten to thirty days before my customers paid me.
I was successful on paper but was incredibly cash deprived. In other words, my exponentially growing business was about to implode due to too many sales. Eventually, my increasing sales grew at a slower rate, solving my cash flow problem.
Delegate From The Bottom Up
I learned how to delegate and eventually delegated myself out of the top jobs of CEO, President, CFO, and Vice President of Finance. Now, at seventy-eight years old, I've sold all but a third of Vulcan's stock and am semi-retired with my only job currently serving as Vice President of Stock and Consultant.
In the interim, I survived many obstacles and learned many other lessons, but hopefully these five will get you started and help prevent some of you from having the same struggles that I did. And in the end, I figured it all out, just like you will.