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Marketing Matters

Presented by Robert Scoble, Rick Wootten
Originally aired on 

Join Rick Wootten for a conversation with marketing leaders to understand more about marketing and the people who are shaping this discipline. What advice do they have for up-and-coming brands? How do they navigate the challenges associated with an increasingly noisy world? What's their superpower?

Learn from the experts on how to build great and enduring brands, engender trust and advocacy, and drive adoption and use of new products and technologies.


Transcript (Beta)

Welcome to Marketing Matters. It's a show where we get to interview some of the brightest minds in marketing in Silicon Valley.

On today's show, I'll be interviewing Robert Scoble.

Am I pronouncing that right? Is it Scoble? Yes. Cool.

Robert's a futurist, a technologist. He's an author. He's published a number of books on technology trends.

And then most recently, we're just talking about this, a book called Infinite Retina, which he published in March of this year.

And Robert's held all kinds of key roles at Microsoft and Rackspace, and most recently at Infinite Retina.

Welcome to the show, Robert. It's great to have you here. It is great to be with you.

And I have a crow that just started yacking in the background, so I might move into one of our other rooms or something like that.

You got to watch out for Alfred Hitchcock.

He's in the woods somewhere. Yeah. So Robert, I'm a big comic book fan, or at least I was growing up.

And every great comic book hero has got an origin story.

Looking back at your history, you've had all kinds of experience.

You're an editor, a VP of marketing, an evangelist. You're now an author.

Give us your origin story. How'd you get here? How'd you get down to that?

I mean, my dad moved us to Silicon Valley in 1971, and he was an engineer and worked in material science and radiation and semiconductors and built military satellites for 30 years here in the Valley.

And that got me in touch with a whole bunch of things.

He bought me an Apple II in 1977, right? And that got me started.

And from there, through college, I met Steve Wozniak and talked him out of some...

Apple's co-founder talked him out of some money for our journalism department at a community college, totally by accident.

And that got me into computer programming magazine.

And after I got out of college, I've been just studying new things ever since.

I've interviewed 6,000 entrepreneurs, been around. That's kind of cool.

And then what was pulling you towards this area? Was it just growing up in Silicon Valley with a dad that you had and the technology blowing up around you?


And I just fell in love with new things. When we got our Apple II, I knew that was going to change my life pretty deeply.

I just didn't know how deeply. And I got a tour of Apple when I was 13 years old, when it was a couple buildings.

And that got me falling in love with these new companies that keep springing up here like weeds out of dirt, right?

Yeah. It's funny because growing up, and I'm presuming we're about the same age, I got into the Commodore 64 as opposed to the Apple.

But I had a bunch of friends who, it was kind of like two groups of us.

One went the Apple route, and then the rest of us kind of nerded out on the Commodore 64 and went down the BBS route, right?

Building our own mock Internet back in the day. But I remember my mom was a robotics programmer when I was a kid.

And so this was like early 80s.

And programming, robotics programming back then was like factories and things like that.

And so she used to take me to Hartnell College with her, and I'd go play on the Apple IIs and try my hand at programming on and all that.

And it was a lot of fun.

I really enjoyed it. That's cool. Yeah, it's an old world. But I worked at a retail store and learned a lot about marketing, learned a lot about how people buy things.

That's a hobby of me, mine. I worked at Microsoft for a while and Fast Company Magazine and Rackspace, big cloud computing company.

And I've had a remarkable career where I was the first one to see Siri.

I was the first one to see Tesla.

I was the first one to see Uber, which was invented right in front of me, literally.

So I've had a fun career to understand both big companies and small, and where technology is going, and written four books about technology that predict decade-long trends.

So let's talk about that a little bit. Like I said earlier, you have that new book, Infinite Retina, that you just published.

It's one of the topics, of course, is spatial computing, which personally is an area of interest for me.

I mentioned in my podcast with Rick, we go into VR and AR and mixed reality a lot on that show.

It's something that we've both been really drawn to. So tell me a little bit about the book and what you're covering there.

And how do you feel like that's going to affect our lives in the future?

It's about seven industries that are going to radically change in the next decade because of spatial computing.

And spatial computing is computing that us as humans, or robots, or autonomous cars, or virtual beings.

And we should talk about virtual beings and what it means to marketing.

All three of those are now moving through the computer. It's very different than holding a phone and staring at the computer in a little rectangular screen.

In spatial computing, like with augmented reality glasses, for instance, like the Microsoft HoloLens, computing is all around you, in the air even.

There's things that are flying around.

You can grab them and do things with them. And that's very different than previous paradigms of computing, like the Macintosh or like the iPhone I'm talking to you on.

Right. Yeah. It's pretty interesting. For a while, I was in the AI slash chatbot space.

I worked for a company called 24-7 AI.

And the whole point was they were trying to build technologies that would leverage AI and all that to try and predict, and guess, and solve customer problems beforehand.

And so like whatever, American Express, United Airlines, all those folks were using it.

So that's where you start getting neural networks and all that other stuff they start talking about.

But the end result of that is they wanted to get to an environment where you could have a live video interaction with basically a bot in whatever format it is.

And it could be virtual reality, or it could be on your phone or PC.

And that's definitely, I think, a trend we're hearing more and more from companies.

And I think you'd mentioned some of these companies are using it both for development, but even then, and how customers will interact with them.

Is that fair? Yeah. Yes. And you're absolutely right that that's the R &D that we're going to see come out over the next decade.

You need a 3D map of your house to be able to walk a virtual thing around your house.

So Apple's going to start doing that with an audio headphone next year that has a 3D sensor.

And you're going to wear it around the house, and it's going to have all the computers needed for augmented reality in the headband.

And it's going to start making a 3D map of your house, which is going to let them do all sorts of cool features.

Like you can leave the trumpet here in my kid's bedroom, and I can leave the guitarist in the next room, and the drummer in the next room over there.

It might sound like a stupid example, but now we can tie computing to things, or to people, or to places, or to objects.

So I could put a sound on that art piece. And every time I walk in here, it could be talking to me, or playing some music, or entertaining me.

Particularly when we get augmented reality. And that whole thing could just come alive and start entertaining us.

It sounds like science fiction, but when you think about it, for anybody who has one of those robotic vacuum cleaners that navigate your home, a lot of those are already doing that today, where they're scanning your house, and they have a pretty solid understanding of the different rooms, and they build a map.

And you can even see the visualization of these things.

So the idea of leveraging that for other things, like you said, headphones that kind of help you map it, or what have you, that's not as science fiction as it really feels like it at first.

No, it's interesting. I just got my new iPhone that I'm talking to you on two days ago, right?

And eight years ago, I saw the 3D sensor company out of Israel that Apple bought at the Consumer Electronics Show in a back suite somewhere, right?

And the founder was showing me what a 3D sensor could do.

In fact, he had one of these sensors up here on a projector that was aiming at a table, and he could see, or the sensor could see, how hard I was pressing the table from two, three feet away.

And that's the kind of technology that's now in every Apple iPhone coming out.

And so you start thinking about how is it going to see itself in space?

It's going to know exactly where it is compared to this room, right?

Because it has 300,000 pieces of spaghetti to the room, and it's going to know exactly how far it is to each piece of the room, and be able to compute that in the computer.

So it's pretty crazy stuff that's coming, and it's going to radically change what we think of as computing.

I was just talking to two women who started an AI company, and they're going to have you put your iPhone on the field in front of you, and then play some drills, and then it's going to rate you, and show you what you can do to get better, to get faster, to become a better soccer player.

So it's endless what you can do with this stuff.

Every day I hear about something new coming. Well, way back in the dark ages of the technology, I was with Palm.

You remember Palm Pilot and all that.

And we had a bunch of partnerships with different technology companies, and we looked at a lot of these.

If you remember those laser keyboards that would project the keyboard on the table, or whatever.

And we played around with the idea of interactive virtual reality, or I guess it would be augmented reality, where you see something project in front of you.

But the hardware just, at that time, wasn't there.

The power wasn't there. And while they could demonstrate the concept, trying to bring it to market, let alone make it affordable, was next impossible.

And now, that problem's largely gone away.

I mean, if you... New problems are here, though.

What's that? New problems just arrived. Well, the LiDAR on this new iPhone, it's pretty good at seeing your room and making a 3D model, but it's very noisy.

It's not perfect yet. And so, consumers don't even know that it's noisy. I'm seeing this because I'm talking to developers who are trying to build apps on it.

And so, they're like, oh man, this thing is a little rough to deal with right now.

This is the first one, right? It's like getting the first camera in the first iPhone, which is a crappy camera compared to the one I have now, right?

Oh, totally, totally.

We saw that with virtual reality as well. I had the original Oculus Rift, and everything was very jerky in it.

Even with the sensors in the room and all that, it just wasn't that accurate.

And then, I skipped over the next version. I ended up buying the first version of Quest, and it was better.

It was surprisingly better. But then, like you, I just got the Quest 2, and oh my gosh, it is so much smoother.

It's definitely come of age.

It's definitely matured. I think we see that as well in other things.

I think I saw- Well, the GPU in that is, what, something like four times faster, three or four times faster than the one in the first one, right?

So, you can draw more polygons. This whole new digital world that we're talking about is drawing little polygons around you, right?

That's how BeatSaber works or VR works.

And the more polygons you can draw, the faster, the better the thing feels.

The higher resolution it looks, the better it feels. The more responsive it is, the more immersive it is, right?

These are words we're using to describe this new world coming at us.

Well, you know, I saw a video that you did, I think, just after the full self -driving was released on the Tesla.

And as you were driving along, you could see that the technology is good, but still not 100% there, because the objects would kind of rotate around, or they would flicker, or they'd move, where it wasn't quite sure what it was, and it kept re-scanning it.

And, you know, it's going to be interesting to see where we are in, you know, another five years.

That's an artifact of how machine learning works, by the way, because if I teach machine learning that this is a starfish, for instance, right?

It's going to see this in the camera, and it's going to give it a probability that this is 99% chance it's a starfish, right?

And in the Tesla, the early ones weren't able to get a high enough probability when you were sitting still, so the cars around you would dance, would move around.

And now they're getting better, because the computer vision is getting better, and the probabilities are getting up at its recognition system, right?

So it's interesting to look at the insides of these things, and how they work, and talk to the people building them, because it's a very different kind of software than we used to build 20 years ago, where it was like, if the user clicks on a mouse, then this has happened, right?

It's very specific. AI is loosey. It's not quite sure all the time what it's seeing sometimes, and it's interesting how they're getting the systems to be trained better.

Yeah. Yeah. And it's my understanding with a lot of these, that's where the machine learning takes in input from humans, and effectively trains it what false positives are, so that it can then, to your point, learn and get a little bit better, and get a little bit better, and try and avoid those edge cases where it just doesn't know something.

What's happening is the cost of training is going way down, really fast.

For instance, when I first started hearing about AI, I was the first one to see Siri, which was the first AI app.

That was just a decade ago, right? Now, a third of the chip inside your Macintosh that you buy is neural network space.

It's just incredible.

In a decade, this whole thing has come along. I don't know where I was going with that.

We're talking about how fast artificial intelligence is learning now.

Yeah. The cost of the training has come way down. There's a company called Chooch, which has got an investment that came out of Berkeley, and they do computer vision training.

They can now, in a couple of hours, train a camera to see if you've washed your hands properly, to get all the COVID off the hands.

They've done a few dozen hand-washing to train the camera what hand-washing looks like, and recognize when it sees hand-washing.

It took a couple hours, and a couple dollars. It used to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and take weeks to do that kind of training.

Now, you can just circle something in a VR, like this starfish. In video, you would just put a little square around this, and tag it, and say, that's a starfish.

Then, it trains on, oh, that's a starfish. That kind of training used to cost a lot of money, and take a lot of time, and need hundreds of examples of starfish in the past.

Now, the thing learns a little bit better. Again, going back to your book, where do you think this takes us next?

What do you think are the big, aha, magical moments we're going to see in the near future?

We're already seeing pieces of it.

Let me take you on a tour of my house. My kids are on Zoom, so it might be a little noisy.

Let's take a look around some of the things that are changing already.

First of all, we have computing listening to us all the time. Alexa, what's the news?

Okay, but first, a quick update.

Now, when you ask for the news, you'll hear NPR's news channel.

Alexa, start. We have things listening to us. We have ubiquitous computing.

That's what ubiquitous computing means. We have ovens now, like this June oven, which has a camera in it, and an NVIDIA card.

A gaming PC is actually inside that oven.

When I put toast in the oven, it knows that it's toast, and it properly cooks it.

It's really cool. All of these products get better after you buy them, Tesla included.

This is just a little taste of what's coming.

Now, let's talk about this Facebook portal. Back to this thing. This is a Facebook portal.

It's a $150 computer. Oops, sorry. Got to get my gimbal going a little bit better here.

This thing has a camera. You can turn off the camera if you want, and a microphone.

The 4K camera here, let me sit down so I can explain how this thing is working and why it's so interesting.

The camera sees pretty much my entire kitchen.

It's a 4K wide-angle camera. If I'm talking to you on Facebook Messenger, the video is only 720p, so it's a smaller piece of video than 4K.

4K is this big, and 720p is like a quarter of the size. If I'm walking around the kitchen on a video conference with my friend, the camera actually follows me and zooms in on my face.

That's cool. Chooch has taught me that you could put software in here that recognizes everything, recognizes what brand, recognizes when I eat an orange, recognizes when I pour coffee, recognizes when I eat some Cheerios, and this thing could turn on automatic shopping.

That sounds really freaky from a privacy standpoint, but this is where we're heading, where computers are going to watch our behavior, watch what we do, and make decisions on our behalf or tell us to do things.

Autonomous cars. We're soon not going to be driving.

The same technology already works in the street, and my Tesla can see a garbage can from 100 yards away and show it on the screen.

The same thing can happen here in the kitchen.

All of a sudden, Alexa was starting to make my life better just by watching me.

That brings up two things that are interesting. One is, what does that mean for the world of marketing and advertising?

That means the potential to have very personal advertising, where you're not just advertising that because you're of whatever age, we're going to promote this vitamin or what have you.

It's actually going to be more specific to you. It's going to be able to tell what types of brands you like and look for affinities and advertise those affinity brands versus just a generic.

What kinds of things do you think are coming from an advertising perspective?

A whole bunch. My friend's working at Walmart on R&D.

Let me close this door. Soon, everything in the store, the AI is going to know where you are and what you're looking at when you get these glasses on.

It's going to have a 3D field. Let me see if I can. Here's an idea. If I ask Siri, how much is five of these on Amazon?

It has no idea what I just said. Siri is stupid about that.

When I'm wearing glasses with a 3D sensor that's looking into my eye and a 3D sensor that's looking at this, all of a sudden, it knows what this is.

It can bring up a visual menu right here. It's endless what is going to change about advertising because all of a sudden, when I'm looking at a product, something can happen.

When I'm in a context, something can happen.

If I'm at school or in church or in work or in a Starbucks, all my contexts are different.

What I'm being presented with is going to be different. Also, I'm going to have a very powerful service-based platform on my face where I can be inside a concert or inside a movie or inside a video game or inside a sporting event.

Now, I can have things brought to me or I can touch things in the world and get them delivered or talk to Siri and say, hey, Siri, can you bring me some Chinese food?

It'll bring up some choices. The world is about to change in a very deep way over the next decade.

Advertising is going to be a very different thing than it is today because it's going to be able to engage us in new ways that are pretty crazy.

When I talked to Red Bull, they're really excited to buy this for a couple of brain science reasons.

They know if you get into VR and have an experience with a brand, you remember that experience like if it was real.

That's how your mind looks at this stuff. That's why it's really powerful against pain or depression or dementia or other things.

There's a whole bunch of science going on with the brain with visuals that are brought to you by VR.

The Red Bull people say that the brand engagement and the brand remembrance of that experience is off the charts.

They're real excited. You talk to Walmart, they want to know where you are in so they can show you new products and new experiences while you're walking around the store.

They want to virtualize the store so you can shop at home better than you can today.

It's a grid of flat products. It's hard to see what they look like or see if they fit into your house.

With augmented reality, we can put a virtual bed down or a couch or whatever and see if it fits the decor.

Absolutely. With COVID, a lot of people have had to shift online shopping, particularly for groceries and things like that.

Those companies, Safeway in particular, I pick on them, just wasn't prepared for it.

I remember it was probably three weeks before I could get a delivery from Safeway for anything.

Even today, when I add things to my cart, they add.

By the time I check out, they're out of stock.

There's a whole ecosystem that has to be built around that. To your point, that still doesn't quite replace the, I want to go and look at a piece of fruit and pick it.

I want to go look at the different brands of tomato sauce and pick the one that looks the most appealing to me.

I think they're going to have to get there as well.

They have to figure out these virtual worlds. Yeah, that's true. The buyer is going to be wearing a 3D sensor of some kind.

They got the person picking up your fruits or the robot that's picking up your fruits.

The robot could actually let you see your fruits in 3D on your glasses soon.

You're going to be able to do that validation.

Okay, those fruits look good. Bring those over to me. Much better than you can today.

Today, you have to take an act of faith that they're going to deliver stuff that's not spoiled.

Maybe about a year ago, I was walking through San Francisco and there was a robot.

It looked like a giant teardrop, a big brown robot, probably four or five feet tall and maybe three feet wide.

It looks like an egg.

There you go. It was wandering around the street. I was like, what is this? It was completely autonomous.

It just wandered around the street. It was a sentry bot.

It was actually just scanning for problems and things like that. I guess it would alert the police or what have you.

You're seeing these more and more and more now.

To your point, at some point, you may go to the grocery store to go shopping and it's you and a dozen other robots wandering around trying to pick out things off the shelves.

The other way to think about this world that's coming pretty quick.

I drive an hour and a half to a farmer in Manteca to pick up strawberries because his strawberries are way better than anything you can get at Safeway because he has a farm right behind his little shed near the freeway.

He grows his own strawberries, picks them fresh in the morning.

When you pick them up at 11 in the morning, they're fresh.

They're really great. In an autonomous transportation world, I could send my Tesla to his farm and tell him, put a crate of strawberries in my trunk and it'll just take off and come back home.

Right now, a $65,000 Tesla costs $2 an hour to operate.

It cost me an extra $4 to go and pick up really great strawberries.

That's how when I talk to Sebastian Thrun or people who built autonomous cars and are thinking about the future, that's how they're thinking.

They're just like, wait a second, the city is going to change and how we use transportation is going to change because the cost of using a piece of transportation is going to come way down.

That changes how we look at things. Yeah, that's true.

We haven't really touched on it, but I think the idea of privacy and security is going to become foremost.

California is becoming very aggressive around privacy laws in the EU and in Canada.

We're seeing a lot of that stuff.

The privacy of this world is going to be very different than it is today because today, I'm holding a phone and yeah, it can get my heartbeat.

It can see where I am with cameras, but it doesn't really know much about me until it starts studying my behavior.

Let's talk about Facebook. You're scrolling through Instagram or Facebook and clicking like or commenting or sharing.

That's about it. Maybe buying a product that you see.

Soon, you're going to be wearing glasses that have a sensor that looks at what is your eye looking at and is your eye opening or closing.

If you're excited about something, your eye actually opens a little bit.

It can see if you're excited about a new experience or whatnot. It can see what you're looking at in a shopping mall or something like that or even in your house.

I can see I'm trying to do something. It can also see everything around you and it's going to catalog the entire house.

Yeah. That's scary to people.

This is why Apple is going to start it in an audio headset to take people into this world slowly so that they can change their behavior over time and understand how safe or not safe it is to them.

That's awesome. Yeah. Your timing's perfect.

We just wrapped up and went offline. All right. Well, I'll let you go, my friend.

Thank you so much.