Oprah Time: What Does China Think? by Mark Leonard

 I was first switched on to Leonard’s writing by former colleague Jonny Rosemont who recommended Why Europe Will Run The 21st Century.

What does China think? sounds like a major subject area which would require a huge volume to discuss. Leonard’s book in comparison is little more than a pamphlet which I managed to sit down and read cover-to-cover in a little over three hours during the Christmas period.

Over at Danwei it was dismissed as ‘wonkish nonsense’ and being unable to ‘filter the official line’, but I think that this criticism misses the point of Leonard’s book, which seeks to explore some of the ideas and organisations that help shape China’s thinking.

I found that the book gave me  (as a neophyte on all things Chinese) some questions to think about, which I hadn’t considered before and made  me reconsider some of the west’s vision for the future. It was interesting that the Chinese devoted thought on how to manage the ‘decline of the West’.

Predictions for 2009

Its become a bit of a tradition to do predictions, here’s mine for 2009:

  • Haptic displays are going to evolve as everyone jumps on the touchscreen wagon for mobile devices
  • Mobile devices won’t move forward much in terms of technology as the battery life isn’t there, mini and micro USB connections will become the norm on many cell phones (I’m hoping even with Nokia)
  • SSD drives will continue their slow advance into the mainstream
  • Sales of computer hardware will drop in real terms due to a focus on cheaper platforms, the power of mobile devices and virtualisation employed at the high end of servers
  • People will start to get concerned about IP v.6 compatability, especially the fact that BT’s 21 Century Network may only support IP v.4
  • DVDs will exist happily alongside blu-ray for most people as there isn’t a compelling reason to upgrade and financial belt tightening is required
  • The Nintendo DS does comparatively well as it becomes the geek’s answer to the lipstick effect , especially when you have people like Korg making add-on cartridges turning it into serious hardware. Testing equipment may become Nintendo DS cartridges to take advantage of the small size, touch interface and dual screens
  • Enterprises are going to start looking seriously at devices like the Asus eeePC: more applications can be run through a web browser, the devices have a decent battery life and cheaper to purchase than the dullest corporate laptop. This will help reduce the spiralling cost of desktop support.
  • Business software won’t provide any magic gains in productivity, all the big wins have already been made. High-end database sales start to drop as organisations look at more effective ways of handling and processing huge amounts of data
  • Google is likely to find itself on the end of a federal anti-trust case, and make new inroads into the enterprise.
  • Cisco’s telepresence isn’t likely to make business sense until someone invents a display where the camera element stare out from between the pixels, allowing you to make eye contact with other video conference participants. without having to have a huge room and huge screens. It won’t be Cisco that makes that leap forward in screen technology, Apple already holds patents on it
  • Amazon’s Kindle won’t be a great success in Europe, Amazon Marketplace will do rather better so long as it avoids eBay-type fraud cases
  • There won’t be any major innovations in online marketing as marketers stick with tried and proven ROI ways to drive demand
  •  There won’t be a breakthrough application for 2009 in the way Twitter broke through in 2007/8
  • People will form company-specific Facebook groups to reflect on how bitter they are over being made redundant, badvocate causes will multiply
  • Google will continue to do well as marketers fall back from experimenting with social media to online marketing that they can easily demonstrate ROI from, and it doesn’t get any easier than with Google Adwords programme
  • Mobile will be embraced by pioneer brands and these will be rewarded in the longer term, particularly if as part of integrated campaigns incorporating digital artifacts and location based services (the web of no web)
  • ADSL broadband connections will decline slightly as cash strapped consumers use PAYG wireless broadband services, though this may be mitigated by the requirement of having a passport to get a wireless dongle

What are your predictions for 2009?

Design: Adfunture Workshop Hiroshi Fujiwara figure

Hiroshi Fujiwara, originally uploaded by renaissancechambara.

Causeway Bay’s vinyl dons Adfunture Workshop have come back with a blinder: a vinyl figurine of famous musician and tastemaker Hiroshi Fujiwara.

Fujiwara-san is now famous for his collaborations and designer threads; working with the likes of Nike, Levis, Burton the surfboard company and guitar hero Eric Clapton. Ok, apart from Clapton an amazing track record.

But he first jumped into the spotlight with Japanese hip-hop label Major Force back in the 1980s alongside Gota Yashiki, Toshio “Tycoon To$h” Nakanishi and Kan Takagi. He influenced artists like Tim Simenon aka Bomb The Bass, jammed with DJ Red Alert and got to remix Yellow Magic Orchestra. I remember trying to hunt down Major Force 12s in record shopping sprees to Bluebird in Liverpool and in record shops across Soho when I occasionally came down to London to get vinyl in the late 80s and early 90s.

Oprah Time: Grown Up Digital by Don Tapscott

Tapscott’s book is a sequel to Growing Up Digital; a book that he originally wrote about the net generation / millenials / gen-Y. The book is more of a defence of the net generation Tapscott takes some of the different criticisms leveled at them and deals with them head on. Are the net generation really unmanageable, spoilt, dumb, able to commune with digital electronics (kind of like Tarzan and jungle animals) and they can do 69 things at once?

Grown up digital by Don Tapscott

Tapscott proves that the inate ability to multi-task isn’t true, but most of the other positive attributes are true. The book breaks down into how the net generation need changes in education, government, business and in marketing communications. The book is easy to read, it is deceptively thick due to the appendix of data at the back of the volume.

Tapscott gives some simple guidance to marketers:

  • Engage with consumers turn them into prosumers rather than the traditional consumer focus of marketers
  • Move from products and services to creating consumer experiences (Starbucks doesn’t sell coffee, it sells a ‘third space’ between home and work that happens to have coffee)
  • Reduce the marketing spend on broadcast media and refocus the spend in digital channels
  • Word-of-mouth marketing is critical
  • Integrity needs to be at the centre of the business, consumers will put their money where their morals are
  • Move the marketing mix from Porters 4 Ps (product, price, place and promotion) to Tapscott’s ABCDE (Anyplace, Brand, Communication, Discovery and Experience)

If you are at all interested in what the future holds for us over the next ten years, I can recommend this book.

Jargon Watch: Dark Trading

Dark trading – Buying and selling stock outside of public view in pools set up by investment banks such as UBS and Goldman Sachs. The practice allows clients to exchange stock at high volume without moving the market significantly. The benefits for doing things in this way mean that positions can be built up over time for a take over bid, without speculation pushing up the price of shares artificially.

It also allows them to avoid derivatives, on the flip side speculators in less regulated markets can speculate without the awareness of their target company, so the Porsche debacle could have been avoided.  This of course does rely on the investment banks not using the trading data from the dark pools as their very own prediction market and acting accordingly. Kudos to Wired magazine.

Oprah Time: The Boys by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson

The Boys Volume 3

I am a fan of modern comic books, particularly writers like Alan Moore that reinvigorate the genres or take things in new directions. Garth Ennis new series The Boys reinterprets the whole superhero canon of comic books.

In the traditional canon, ‘with great power, comes great responsibility’ means that Batman plays nanny to Gotham, Spiderman constantly struggles to do the right thing and The Punisher is driven by a sense of natural justice.

In the world that Ennis created, superheroes conduct mirrors the self-indulgent behaviour of celebrities a la Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon or Jeremy Clarkson’s interpretation of a lorry driver’s job ‘change gear, change gear, change gear, check mirror, murder a prostitute, change gear, change gear, murder’.

Their behaviour is indulged and covered up the faction of the military industrial complex  that created and profited from the superheroes. Chief amongst the cover-ups was a botched rescue attempt of a hijacked airplane where negligence and a loss of nerve kills the passengers and wipes out the Brooklyn bridge.

To counteract these super-degenerates the CIA has its own team called The Boys. The series follows the adventures of Mike Butcher, his bulldog Terror, former US Ranger Mother’s Milk, The Frenchman, The Female and new team member wee Hughie. The story is a rollercoaster ride of dark humour, political satire and depravity that would be familiar to readers of Preacher. The series is also a savage indictment of Dick Cheney / Halliburton politics where key politicians are owned by big business. In fact, the series pushed the boundaries so hard DC Comics dropped it like a stone after six issues and Dynamite Entertainment picked it up instead.

Links of the day

Interesting privacy hardware homebrew kit

The Language and Branding of QQ in China – its all about the context, I just knew of QQ as the dominant IM client

Motorway map of England, Scotland and Wales<

Web 2.0 Asia :: Korea’s Twitter gets acquired by Naver

Seagate CEO Bill Watkins seeks to avoid $#!+ eating contests in hard drives » VentureBeat – interesting state-of-the-union type article on storage

Stuntdubl Business Search Marketing Consulting » 8 Reasons You Need Social Media Marketing in 2009 – good posts that highlights many of the reasons why search agencies are doing online PR and reasons why your clients should include social media in their programmes

Economists expect a grim 2009 in Silicon Valley – SiliconValley.com

Some Twitter Social Network Analysis | Mediaczar – interesting data points from Mat Morrison over at Porter Novelli

Whatever happened to Webrings? – Authenticities – Edelman Digital

Online shopping and the Harry Potter effect – science-in-society – 22 December 2008 – New Scientist

reality blurred + MTV’s ratings down 23% among 12- to 34-year-olds

Class and the internet

We make judgements about the people we meet, or pass on the street as we walk through a neighbourhood: their clothes, the way they speak, the kind of car they drive or the way they walk. The same is true online, an email address can say so much about the person , here’s some examples to start things off. I would be interested in any other suggestions that people have:

  • .aol – they probably don’t have broadband. If their internet connection was a bicycle it would have training wheels on, despite this they have probably been on the net for a while
  • .mac – Old-school Apple user way before the iPhone blew up as an internet device
  • .me – iPhone mainstream adopter. Johnny-come-lately’s
  • .gmail – In the UK, this is likely to mean that they are an early adopter, the mainstream URI is googlemail
  • yourname.me – its all about the ego with this one
  • tesco.net – its a value orientation: cheap broadband, its also interesting that they didn’t have enough tech-savvy to get a Gmail account
  • Work address for personal business – either very late adopter, a workaholic or a Crackberry-addict

Wishing you a merry Christmas

Season's greetings

Have a great Christmas time (and many of them as my Granny would say).

Essentials for travelling



Oli Barrett has been getting about a lot lately and wrote about the essentials that make travel easier, with this in mind I thought I would start my own list:

  • The North Face Denali vest or jacket – planes tend to get overly air-conditioned and you can wake up half-way through a flight pretty damn cold. It also has a decent amout of pockets of the right size for travel documents, wallet and cell phones. Funnily enough The North Face haven’t managed to provide the same level of traveller utility in their newer designs
  • Timbuk2 bag – I have a number of them; my favourite for travelling being a Yahoo!-branded laptop bag, it seems to have space like the TARDIS and  is robust enough for the most arduous travel with a pocket to securely protect my MacBook Pro
  • Melatonin – take this right before you go to bed in order to crash through time zones and get up to speed fast. It is hard to find in the UK, but I got some from GNC a while ago
  • Apple MacBook Pro – music centre, access to my online lifeline Twitter,my blog, Flickr and a darn fine work tool. My MacBook Pro is my constant companion
  • Huawei 3G modem – very handy for the airport lounge to clear some mails and upload pictures from my camera on to flickr
  • Fujifilm plug adaptors – I have waxed lyrical about these a couple of years ago, but I still think that they are most convenient, best-designed plug adaptors that I have ever come across
  • Nokia phones – At the present time I use a Nokia N95 and a Nokia E90. I use the E90 primarily for email, PIM functions and checking my RSS feeds and the N95 as my voice phone. Both are well built and very reliable. The E90’s 800 pixel wide screen is unmatched by the iPhone or the Crackberry. The Nokias provides better contact sync with my Mac than their Sony Ericsson and Motorola equivalents
  • Business cards – unlike most of the people I know who use Moo, mine were designed by my friends at bloodybigspider. A cardinal rule of PR when I started off was go nowhere without business cards
  • Pentax DSLR – flickr is a bit of an obsessive compulsive disorder for me and my battered Pentax K100D is a constant travelling companion. It has a good reliable kit lens and takes AA batteries so if the rechargables run out I can nip into a shop and then carry on snapping
  • TimeOut travel guides – with the noticable exception of Munich, TimeOut guides have served me well wherever I have gone
  • Priority Pass – If I am having to do a lot of travelling I invest in a priority pass card which provides access to airport lounges all around the world and prevents you from getting a splitting migraine before you get on a flight
  • Electric shaver – I don’t know about you, but part of feeling fresh is mowing the stubble down to a managable length, post-9/11 that means Braun, Remington or Philips. Airlines often do have a set of razors in business class; but they are usually some cheap Bic-disposable type set-up that is good for cuts and razor burn, but bad for your karmic balance
  • Optrex – a squirt of this helps get around the damage that the desert dry air on board the plane does to your eyes

Interested to hear if anybody else has any advice for travel essentials?

2009 in PR

Stephen Waddington wrote up his predictions for 2009 in PR. He felt that digital campaigns, government spending and marketing directors looking for a cost effective alternative to ther marketing techniques would be the three most likely bright spots in a challenging economic climate.

I think that digital is substitutive rather than additive: that is clients will be transferring spend online, and this will follow the direction that the media have been going. I don’t necessarily think that new money will enter the arena, but I think new players will.

Search has got  a lot harder as a business: Yahoo! and Google have cut commission to agencies, key words have become more expensive, and a lot of the low hanging fruit from a search engine optimisation (SEO) point-of-view has been picked leaving off-network measures ie: online PR and link exchange. I think that digital agencies will fight a lot harder to get the 50 per cent of online PR programmes that they don’t already manage. Some of them have a lot of smarts, an attractive engagement model and really understand measurement – three points of the PR profession’s Achille’s heel.

On the plus side, I think that PR agencies are in a lot better position to fight their corner by providing tightly integrated offline and online programmes (or what James Warren would call inline.) I believe that both quantative research and qualitative audience insight to better understand their emotional connection with a brand (yes even B2B brands, since the elicit reactions like trust or apathy) are areas that PR agencies can gain an advantage over digital agencies. The days of basing a campaign on a journalist audit and or, desk research should be long gone.

Stephen also talks about mobile being on the cusp of being the next frontier after social media for PRs, and this is probably true for pioneer clients that are willing to take risks. I think that there are two things driving this, firstly mobile devices are becoming much much more capable, not only in computing power, but in screen size, the iPhone provides people with a good facsimile of  a desktop browsing experience but optimised for the form factor. Even though the iPhone is a small percentage of overall phone sales its influence on marketers has been phenomenal.

The second item is the QRcode. A way for a mobile phone to take down an email, web address or phone number from printed media or a computer screen. Pepsi are already championing them using Kelly Brook to educate the great unwashed and both Ford  (for the Ka) and BMW (for the Mini in Germany) have been using these codes to allow customers to interact with digital artifacts (the web-of-no-web phenonena – where digital content is all around us from the Wii to 48-sheet hoardings). Whilst I think that mobile PR could be big, I think that there is a bigger role for digital agencies to create the digital artifacts that PRs can wrap a narrative around.

This all means that the agency that has the client’s trust and the smartest ideas can be in the driving seat for some very interesting campaigns. A smart, well-connected and well-regarded PR agency has just as much chance being in the driving seat as a digital hot-shop.

Whilst it won’t happen in 2009, we are gradually moving to a marketing singularity where boundaries between disciplines are increasingly blurred and more likely to be defined by in-house relationships, trust, budgets and responsibilities rather than agency capabilities.


Links of the day

U.S. Wings – really nice leather jackets

World’s first Blu-ray/DVD hybrid developed in Japan : Boy Genius Report
– hybrid disc

RS Components UK site – handy for spare parts

Economy and HD Adoption Driving Stay-at-home Entertainment Up – Switched – cacooning popular again like in the early 80s, substitute DVDs, PVRs and HD for Nicam, VHS and Beta and you’re there

Consumers Are Choosing Simpler Electronic Gadgets – NYTimes.com – its not about consumers making their money go farther as being tired of feature-rich but unusable products

Disrupting Class and Playing Games
– interesting piece by Fred Wilson on the decline in kids following technical careers

Why and How Embargoes Work in Tech Blogging – ReadWriteWeb

When is the best time to start a company? « Buster’s Brown Blog – Salim explaining why its great to start a company in a downturn

MySpace v. Facebook Advertising Showdown. Which Platform Is Better?

Additional holiday reading: Grown up digital by Don Tapscott

Grown up digital by Don Tapscott, originally uploaded by renaissancechambara.

A late edition to the holiday reading pile but I got sent a copy of Don Tapscott’s latest book Grown up digital – an interesting exploration into consumer behaviour on the web.

Trend visualisation

At the end of 2007 I blogged about a trend visualisation table that the people at nowandnext.com had been involved with. This year Richard Watson reached out to me and flagged up the new version for 2009 and beyond. You can download their 2009 trend blend as a PDF here.

What's Next Trend blend 2009+

Its Flying Spaghetti Monster / giant squid michelin man mash-up look hints at some of the nasty things that the future could have in store for us.