Links of the day

Michelin star for cheap-eat canteen – Tim Ho Wan in Mong Kok, the most expensive dish is just 4GBP. I hope to visit here when I go out in January. Something to bear in mind next time a review comes up regarding Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley or Sketch.

Mark Payne (CIPayneWMPolice) on Twitter – interesting the way West Midland Police is using Twitter as a kind of customer service and informational channel.

Visa Electron to be phased out – good commentary on how Ryanair used Visa Electron card eligibility to stick to the letter of the ASA regulations regarding pricing in advertisements. I haven’t flown with them in a long time because you don’t know what the actual cost is.

Google Translate bookmarklet – a Google hack that isn’t well-known but absolutely invaluable for me in the past on international projects.

Fashion Vault – Hot designer sales exclusively for eBay members – eBay goes toe-to-toe with the sample and private sale luxury brand | fashion crowd. So far has included Hugo Boss

Koalas and Uzis: Managing Get Busy Committee at FISTFULAYEN – a howto for modern musicians

AR to Realize World of Science Fiction — Nikkei Electronics Asia — November 2009 – good overview of augmented reality

Most Searchers Use Three or More Keywords – The Steve Rubel Lifestream – As Steve Rubel points out this is likely being driven keyword suggestions, a feature that’s now the default for virtually every search engine and every browser. When I started on search it was just one-word, it shows a deceptively smart way that search engines have managed to move towards understanding their audience’s intent.

VOA Rating Manual Volume 5 – alongside the Digital Economy Bill, one of the reasons why Digital Britain is heading to the digital developing world rather than a bright new future

Cisco Internet Routing in Space (IRIS) – Industry Solutions – Cisco Systems – despite Cisco’s best efforts at destroying the coolness of this product with an embarassing video voiceover which would have made the Home Shopping Network proud coupled with a generic soft rock soundtrack, this is exceptionally cool as it means the start of ubiquitous broadband.

Summit Notebook » Blog Archive » What will the media company of the 21st Century look like? | Blogs | – Reuters goes crystal ball gazing with the rest of the industry

Chinese government to set-up VCs with private investors – interesting move to spur innovation.

California dreaming on such a winter’s day…

California dreaming on such a winter’s day, originally uploaded by renaissancechambara.

Just thought I would post this picture as it encapsulated the weather today in London.


Chris over at Splendid flagged up a new MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) from O2: GiffGaff. It is a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) network that provides SIM cards only. It uses customers as prosumers in terms of marketing, product development and customer service.  I don’t know whether it will be successful, but I think that its interesting idea because it deals with a number of issues facing telecoms companies:

  • Customer services experiences with outsourced call-centres based in India have produced a certain amount of customer satisfaction
  • Mobile phone companies in many respects have lost market power as they have become pawns in a struggle for consumers to get the latest or greatest handsets. They are not alone, not even handset manufacturers have real power: consumers have the whiphand, if they realised it a lot of the telecoms business would be in trouble
  • GiffGaff in many ways is an admission of defeat as the mobile phone company just becomes a bit-pipe
  • GiffGaff in some ways is a testamony to fellow O2-based MVNO Tesco Mobile as GiffGaff is aimed at value-driven consumers that are a couple of generations younger than those targeted by Tesco. I also think Tesco’s adoption of the iPhone is no accident either

Montblanc pens – black precious resin: an authenticity FAIL

I had a short haul flight and went over the duty free catalogue on Swiss Airlines. This section on Montblanc pens stuck out at me because of its wording. Each pen was described as being made of ‘black precious resin’. Click on the image if you want to see a larger version.

Precious Resin Montblanc spiel

So what does black precious resin actually mean? One would presume some form of black shiny plastic, which doesn’t seem quite so precious. Now the use of plastic isn’t a bad thing in pen manufacture. For instance fellow German writing instrument manufacturers Pelikan and Kaweco both make writing instruments out of plastic, but they also don’t charge over 300 pounds for a ballpoint pen.

What the explanation misses is the real elements at the heart of Montblanc’s authenticity:

  • History: Montblanc is actually over a century old as a firm
  • Country brand: It’s pens are still made in Germany, so it can take advantage of the German country brand: precision manufacturing excellence and craftsmanship
  • Craftsmanship: making a pen write smoothly is an art, too much ink and you will get splodges. A badly designed nib or ballpoint mechanism will scratch the paper, deliver the ink unevenly and even stain the writer
  • Design: One of the reasons why Montblanc managed to upset A.T. Cross in the market for luxury pens because their pen design feels much better in the hand because of its fuller barrel size

But none of these factors are reflected in the description of the Montblanc pens featured in the duty-free catalogue, instead we get smoke-and-mirrors which engenders distrust and makes for an authenticity FAIL.

I like: eBay’s Black Friday heat map

eBay has developed a special siteas part of its efforts to gain more of the retail spend. I particularly liked their Black Friday heat map that shows how transactions took place over the day in the continental states of the US.

Black Friday

Its a really nice example of a well designed infographic. Go and get the full experience over the at the eBay holiday site.

Links of the day

“The Unmissable”. BBC iPlayers Success In Numbers – great data points

Portuguese Internet Users Reached Nearly 4 Million in September | WebProNews – low average number for the amount of time spent online, particularly compared to Northern European, North American or many Asian markets

Advertising Recession Shows Signs Of Recovery – key question now is what level will advertising recover to?

ReputationOnline » Blog Archive » Pluck pushes ‘Social Bridging’ – good stuff in here, particularly with social media atomising. ***Declaration: Pluck is a client***

Sleep success: How to make ZZZs = memory – life – 26 November 2009 – New Scientist

Christmas shopping

Here’s some suggestions to blow your hard-earned cash on:


Apple MacBook Pro 13″ – Badass things some in small packages like Jack Russell terriers and AKB48, so the 13″ MacBook Pro is the ideal laptop to travel with, hook yourself up with the Matias Tactile Pro 3 keyboard for home typing goodness and a lack of RSI (repetitive strain injury).


Stussy retrospective collection Rasta jacket. The Japanese Stussy fans have got lucky with some classics being resurrected, my favourite is the Rasta varsity jacket which is feeling irie. I hope that they drop for European Stussy-heads in giant gaikokujin sizes, but somehow I think that’s too much to hope. Look on with envy here.

The New Balance 580 running shoe is an Asian trainer design classic. Now thanks to the lovely people at Crooked Tongues you can bust serious style on your feet. I’ve gone through a couple of sets and they are comfy like a Charles Eames recliner.


The Design Museum managed to get hold of deadstock Braun AB1 alarm clocks as part of the Dieter Rams exhibition, they seemed to have sold out on the site but there were still a few available in the museum shop when I was there. Once they are gone, they’re gone. If you can’t back one here, you can pay a fortune on eBay instead. Get your own piece of product design perfection.


The original submariner jumper. Remember all those David Lean films with lots of atmosphere about life on board a submarine filled with tension and so much British reserve and stiff upper lip that you’re surprised the actors didn’t implode? They also had great knitwear in them and now you can have the same jumper that the Royal Navy used to issue thanks to the nice people at Garbstore.

The digital economy bill

I recently wrote a guest blog post with my colleague Nick Osborne for progressive (Nick tells me that means left-of-centre, politically speaking) blog Left Foot Forward: The Digital Economy Bill is legislatively flawed.

digital economy bill

Nick was particularly concerned about inconsistencies in the legislation and constitutional issues. I thought about different issues regarding media economics and technological progress, so I thought I would share my thinking with the notes I made before I contributed to the post. Enjoy.

Death of a brand: Saab and its loyal customers

Saab has been a pioneer in the automotive sector. It made the first production cars with safety belts, the first headlight washer and wiper facilities, the first impact absorbing bumper, pioneered pollen filters in the air system of its cars and the first CFC-free climate control. Along with the Mercedes S-Class it has had a disproportionate impact on the modern car.

I have a personal attachment to the Saab brand. I can still remember the smell of the interior of a family friend’s Saab 99, the brooding brow over the dashboard that the VDO instruments used to look out from, the heated seats and the ignition key that also locked the gear box.


Motorsport was the preferred sport of my Dad and my hero didn’t wear a polyester Liverpool shirt, but a set of fireproof overalls. His name is Stig Blomqvist, one of the most talented men ever to get behind the wheel of a car. He has competed successfully in circuit racing and rallying for the past 38 years.


Blomqvist’s vehicle during the late 1970s was a Saab with a distinctive avant-garde paint job that caught my imagination as an 8-year old.

However Saab is now staring oblivion in the face, a financial rescue has been scuppered and the car company is likely to be consigned to the annals of history. At this point Saab reminded me of Apple circa 1996, however one thing Apple had in its darkest hours were fans of the Macintosh platform. I know, I was one of them; and thankfully the company is still around making insanely great products that shows my loyalty was not misplaced.

If I was a potential saviour, not even a business plan by the best brains from Goldman Sachs would persuade me after reading feedback from the loyal members of the New York Saab Owner’s Club by Michael Corkery on the Deal Journal blog on the Wall Street Journal online.

Some of the things that caught my eye:

  1. …there are some guys in the club who are going to say : ‘good riddance they haven’t made a good car in a long time.’
  2. There are some vintage guys in the club who say that Saab hasn’t made a good car since 1999…
  3. Over the last few years club members have started bringing their non-Saab cars to meetings. It speaks to the fact that Saab has gotten away from what made them a fun driving car.
  4. There are some people who work with me and will ask for car advice. But unless they are a car person, I won’t recommend Saab. I don’t want them to come back and yell at me.

I wouldn’t even like to guess what the net promoter score is amongst some of Saab’s long-suffering fans. Saab has lost what it was to its customers. It was no longer authentic, this isn’t about globalisation; its about a company and its brand losing its soul. This happened whilst the company was a completely-owned subsiduary of GM. General Motors is ultimately responsible for management decisions that didn’t just destroy shareholder value and brand value, they nuked it.

The only bit of Saab that remains is in the camaraderie of the club and vintage vehicles. Graham Brown frequently talks about authenticity being the keystone for successful youth marketing, its also true for marketing to the not-so-young.

Links of the day

Zach Cordner photography – I found this via Steven Vogel of The Wild International and Black Lodges fame. Amazing pictures of a Japan that is more Venice Beach than technopolis

Playdar – Music Content Resolver – from RJ who brought you the audioscrobbler module for – I have a good feeling about this

Customers Are The Brand (new presentation) | mobileYouth – good presentation from Graham Brown on how the interaction between customers and brands have changed

LinkedIn hits 3 million members in the UK, eyes IPO in not so near future – it doesn’t seem that long ago that they were celebrating their millionth member in the UK.

Twitter’s stalled growth could spell bad news for Twitter ecosystem | VentureBeat – interesting read: am amazed that different companies data are lining up on this, usually there is a lack of correlation in data.

State of the Internet: Statistics Focus on Asia & Malaysia – Marketing Malaysia Blog – thanks to Rach for this compendium of stats.

1000heads: The Word of Mouth People » Dismissing the ‘digital native’ myth – “observations of various switched-on kids showed that they did not in fact behave online like self-exposing social media brats, but like regular children. Even though they produce and edit videos and photos online, much of their pleasure was in the process of production, not the product; some of them kept blogs and recordings on their phones just to play back to themselves, rather than publish. For many of them, social media is more an instrument of play than a self-conscious platform.”

Nokia N900 delayed due to massive demand | T3 magazine – most unbelievable headline of the year. Surely you would just start fulfilling orders in the order in which you had received them? Why didn’t the journalist probe a bit further? I had an eerie de ja vu moment reading this, it reminded me of a semiconductor client I used to have who would describe manufacturing problems as being due to ‘unprecedented demand’.

Why I Love Foursquare – GigaOM – 50 per cent growth month-on-month

Atari Battlezone – online – it brought my childhood back to me

Can Google Make Mobile Coupons Mainstream? – GigaOM

Perk Up, USA: You’ve Still Got Your Innovation Mojo | And How | Fast Company

Xbox Connection Funnels A Million New Subscribers To | paidContent

Report on Social Media and Online PR shows where the gaps are in implemention and measurement

Econsultancy’s Social media and online PR report in association with Bigmouthmedia shows that although companies have dipped their toe in the water for social media there is still a lot of work to be done. 90 per cent of companies surveyed had engaged in some types of social media activity. There is a lot of work to be done in terms of ROI as social media is seen as important for ‘softer’ brand-building tactics rather than a financial advantage like increased profitability.

Twitter is most widely-used social media tactic by those surveyed, which is interesting given the recent tail-off in adoption rates reported elsewhere.  Video content was a big deal, used by 60 per cent of respondents, I think that many people are missing a trick with the power of great still images as well.

However its no goldmine, with 31 per cent of responding spending no budget on social media, and 34 per cent spending up to 5 per cent of their budget on social media. 86 per cent of respondents say that they expect spend on social media to grow from this low base. It is also no coincidence that 54 per cent of company respondents cited a lack of resources as a key barrier to success in social media. This probably also explains the low usage numbers of measurement tools. Most measurement is focused on the amount of direct traffic

Archived from blog posts I wrote for PR Week

Omega watches – a brand in trouble?

Market research by the likes of Nokia pointed out that a large number of people no longer have a watch, but instead use their mobile phone, so watch brands rely on increasingly emotional brand.

“It’s important for your watch to be stylish and reflect your personality because you really don’t need one any more as everyone has cell phones” – Popbitch attributed this to Omega ambassador Cindy Crawford.

Part of the emotional hold is the creation of a totem object and Omega has some of these:

  • The Omega Speedmaster: the ultimate adventure watch since it was the only watch worn on the moon. Whilst you can still get a watch that approximates to the original Speedmaster very closely, the format of the watch has gone through so many derivations of design and limited editions (more akin to sister-brand Swatch) that it is hard as an outsider to know what the watch actually stands for anymore. The authenticity has been buried in a blaze of limited editions and variations
  • The Omega Seamaster Ploprof: Omega’s deep-sea dive watch that they’ve resurrected after three decades. A relatively unknown design classic that is all about pushing the limits in deep sea diving. However this is a crowded space with Blancpain’s 500 fathoms, Rolex’s Sea-Dweller and Sea-Dweller Deepsea to name but a few having an equally valid heritage of technical diving
  • The standard Seamaster has undergone too many changes to really have a ‘classic’ design, with the Planet Ocean it is still too early to tell: again obstificating an authentic design classic through endless limited edition permutations

The unique co-axial movements that now goes into many Omega watches is an admirable piece of horological design, but most of its customers will be more worried about how their timepiece looks.

Contrast this with Rolex were change happens at a more considered pace and there is a clear lineage for instance between the Submariner series, the Sea-Dweller and the Sea-Dweller Deepsea.

Then there is Omega ambassador programme:

Given the resurgence in watch brands over the past decade competing for the luxury consumer, shouldn’t Omega up its game?

I had been thinking about getting an Omega for a while, technical watches are an expensive vice of mine: I don’t drink and I don’t smoke, so I justify these watches as my personal indulgence.

My Dad has always worn an Omega since before I was born and my Grandad had one when he was alive, but its not the technical timekeeping instrument brand that my family wore now. I’ve never brought a modern Omega myself, instead I have gone for Rolex and IWC Schaffhausen respectively as the brand didn’t seem relevant to me, in the same that it had been to my Dad.

For me Omega feels like a brand in trouble, its really a question of what they do next. I hope they get their act together soon and find their centre as a yoga teacher would say, as I would like to carry on the family tradition in wearing an Omega watch.

Links of the day

The Digital Economy Bill is legislatively flawed | Left Foot Forward – piece that I co-authored with my pod neighbour NickO

Why Music Is Broken – The Artist To Consumer Connection – interesting music industry analysis: artists have a strong incentive to disintermediate the record labels and get more of the pie for themselves. It is unclear what value the labels now provide.

Telestream ScreenFlow – Overview – great screencasting software. Mac-only.

Jason Goldberg Leaving Xing After A Year; New Startup & Investments | paidContent – putting the serial into serial entrepreneur. Disclosure: Jason was a former client when he was CEO of Jobster.

Android is splintering, just not how you think it is… – – reminds me of the unix wars of old

China Poised to Claim Half of Global Online Game Market Next Year, Report Says – China Real Time Report – WSJ

2010: just where is digital going?

I was challenged by some of my colleagues to think about digital and social media in 2010. At first all I could think of was the Roy Schneider film 2010: The Year We Make Contact.

I couldn’t nail things down to a 12-month period and as the Koran says ‘the man who predicts the future is a liar, even if he tells truth’. However, here is some trends that I think are going to become increasingly important.

Social media wouldn’t be social media without people and I see 2010 as a time when more people start thinking about how we deal with the trust-based issues that social media throws up. Social media allows people to be more connected, but also affects the fabric of society as we relate to each other in different ways.

We need to think about the implications for etiquette, ethics and what will be the new social norms that we have to deal with. I already get asked about what should you do if your boss sends you a friend request for Facebook or suddenly starts following you on Twitter? Its been eight years since Heather Armstrong, author was fired because of her blog, yet as a society we still haven’t got to grips with what social media means.

I personally live from a worldview similar to that articulated by Singaporean blogger Pat Law “As long as the information is online, even if you’ve placed it on private mode, your privacy is automatically placed on a pedestal for potential abuse. So never publish anything you don’t want people to know online.”

Social media has great power and an ability to mobilise people, from flash mobs to meet-ups with like-minded strangers: the ability to bring people together for good is well documented. However the ‘wisdom’ of mobs is something that is starting to raise its ugly head, from parties on Facebook that get crashed, to the vilification of Jan Moir following her Stephen Gately article. Repugnant though Ms Moir’s views are there is something sinister about the chattering classes online version of Orwellian ‘two-minute hate’.

A crucial part of the relationship between members of society is the role of the government is key. From a government perspective all this self-organising power can be dangerous: people getting together and standing up to authority – we’ve seen it before:

  • Climate–change protestors
  • Poll tax riots
  • Illegal raves

Each time, the government has brought resources and legislation to bear against them. I expect this to be at least considered in the next year. We are already seeing the genesis of thoughts in this area with the three strikes internet connection ban against potential file-sharers.

If you look at countries like South Korea and China the real ID concept is likely to take hold. Where consumers access to web services will be directly tied to their real-world identity. Being the UK, this data is also likely to be sold to commercial enterprises resulting in better online targeting and mapping for marketers. I wouldn’t be surprised with the real ID was floated at a concept for public consumption next year.

A good reminder that government also doesn’t get things right is the current Digital Britain report, which is astounding in its lack of vision and imagination and would have been more appropriately named as a Digital Cripple report. As my pod neighbour Nick Osborne repeatedly points out to me: the Australian’s have set higher speed goals for getting broadband into the outback than the UK has. Finland has made 1MB speed bandwidth a legal right already. I don’t see anything changing in this area anytime soon. The bar being set so low provides a temporary benefit to telecoms companies. These same telecoms companies would like to move to a pay-per-bit model where you pay for each unit of data that you use rather like the way voice calls used to be.

Whilst I can’t see that happening in 2010, I could see it being openly discussed by the likes of BT. If bundles are used, it would only be to confuse and obstificate price comparisons by consumers.

The UK will still have analogue intellectual property laws for an increasingly digital world, I don’t see a dramatic change to correct this coming anytime soon.

From a marketing perspective, I think that marketing budgets are undergoing a long-term disruption. Social media will no longer be special but part of the normal mix.

Changes in marketing spend will come partly at the expense of search advertising. There is an argument to be made that Google Adwords as a platform has matured. With some noticeable exceptions such as some parts of insurance services key word prices are now optimally priced. Two factors have come along to affect search advertising.
Firstly, search is moving into the real-time web slowly, yet much of the interesting content is happening there. Real-time web advertising allows the media buyer to think about location and time slots on a much more granular level. I have already seen promotional deals offered on foursquare for local restaurants when I am at work.

Secondly, Facebook behavioural adverts are still relatively cheaply priced versus their competition, combine this that the trust has engendered after a number of false starts and their ad platform is looking increasingly viable for many of the intent-based campaigns that would have previously run on a search engine.

The good news for the search engines is that consumers are much more open to a curated web via friends and authorative individuals, many of the concepts of social search will be ready for an early majority audience in 2010. All they need to do is work out how to monetise social search effectively.

Continued pressure on spending within business is likely to affect social media in a number of different ways.

I expect there to be an increase in social media rightshoring. In the past, I have used a Philippines’-based moderation company for a large community project, but only the other week a senior international business-to-business marketer was asking me to recommend someone they could recruit to be their global head of social media, to be based out of India.

Given the myriad cultural differences that separate us, I am inclined to think that many of these rightshoring projects will fail miserably. Its hard enough speaking to my bank based out of a Bangalore call centre, what happens we ask these organisations to engage in conversations that are much more culturally sensitive.

Social media will be looked at to provide solutions to problems that businesses continue to wrestle with: from knowledge management to customer relationships and workflow. As with previous iterations of solutions, I expect the results to be variable in quality due to organisation factors, culture and a lack of management expertise.

One of the break out trends for 2009 was ‘the web of no web’ where a mix of QR codes and augmented reality allow consumers to interact with the real world with online information. This has a huge potential, but there are two key challenges, the most dangerous one being that someone comes up with a creative execution so bad that consumers reject the ‘web of no web’ concept.

The second challenge is much more mundane and not likely to be solved in the next year: power consumption. Power technology has not improved as fast as display technology or electronic components with modern devices we devices and applications that can flatten a smart phone battery in a few hours. I already struggle to get a day out of my iPhone battery and powerful applications are only likely to exasperate the situation.

There you go, that’s my predictions for 2010, what are yours?