I have been thinking about were things are going and boiled this down into eight areas. Some of these areas overlap and enable each other, so it’s often hard to tease apart the post-modern tangle into neat categories and drill down into these in more depth in future posts:
- Social hygiene – social as a channel has become engrained into our lives just like the mobile phone, the web and the telephone directory before it. It is no longer a brave new frontier, but a place were audiences expect brands to have even a minimal presence. In the same way that a business without an office address, company accounts or website that can be Googled is found suspect, so it is with their presence on social properties now. In addition, there are consumer expectations to be met in the way that they expect to be able to transact business
- Contextual technology – from the rise of search to location-based services and consumer preference for applications – much of this has been driven by consumer preference for informations and services that are contextually relevant
- Divergence – whilst smartphones and tablets may look like general purpose devices that support convergence what is actually happening is that divergence is taking place around different fault lines, understanding those fault-lines is key
- Prosumption realised – the idea of consumers being the producers, or at least being part of the process within a modern industrial context was envisioned back in 1970 with Alvin Toffler’s book Future Shock as consumers started to be more involved in the delivery of their own services and products from ATMs to phone calls made without operator intervention. The internet has extended it further
- Brands as online tribes – brands are as much totems of who we are online as in real-life. Communities allow us to self-reinforce our passions in a way that wasn’t possible before. This is further reinforced by algorithms to provide the audience with only the world view they want to see
- Web-of-no-web – the web as we know it was built on a set of underlying technologies which enable information transport. Not all information is mean’t to reside in a database to be searched, but instead relies on context like location, weather or the contents of your fridge. Web technologies provided an lingua franca for these contextual settings and mobile technologies have facilitated them further. What hasn’t been done too well so far has been the interface to the human
- Immersive as well as interactive experiences – at the moment the focus has been on interactive content. But contrary to the belief of technologists good quality older passive mediums didn’t disappear. The reason for this was that they allowed consumers to immerse themselves in them, suspend disbelief in ways that haven’t yet been done by interactive media
- Digital interruption – by the late 1950s the US civil rights movement found that discourse and letters hadn’t moved the needle meaningfully and it took events like Rosa Parkes sit-down protest and the Stonewall riots to move the process forwards towards a more equal rights for all. Underlying internet technologies have facilitated a step-change in protest; moving from vigorous discourse and petitions to website blackouts; denial of service attacks, defacement and account hacking (a digital equivalent of an effective picket line)
I was at Mobile Monday Hong Kong earlier this week listening to a mix of start-ups and travel industry insiders talk about how mobile is affecting international travel.
There was an in-depth discussion on how general ticket apps (like Apple’s Passbook) were better than using an airline’s application (like Cathay Pacific’s app).
Now Cathay Pacific’s application does need a lot of work. The agency who built it squeezed the website down to a mobile form factor but didn’t take account the fact that mobile users won’t be happy having to keep logging into the application, particularly when you have the pressures of checking bags in and getting airside in a typical airport.
In contrast to this was an app that was the ticket equivalent of the One Ring. The idea being that consumers, airlines or channel partners like travel agents would be happy to have Sauron (sorry for the LoTR references) looking after everything from concert tickets to flight tickets.
Unfortunately, consumers don’t make rational decision-makers. They think about tickets in terms of context (travel, concerts) rather than a category (tickets). That’s the reason why the like branded applications. One quote struck me as summing this all up:
If only everybody understood the value stream analysis; there wouldn’t be any airline applications, just ours
Consumers aren’t rational, they aren’t interested in consuming the least overall resources in a given process. They are interested in how it fits into their life.
JWT pulled together an interesting set of data points in this presentation about how they envision the future of mobile:
There was no real surprises in the data: m-payments, M2M, tapping consumers in the developing world (FMCG brands led the way, mobile to follow or recycling the gen-Y totally get social as gen-Z totally get mobile and data utopianism.
Mobilisation of the car – given that a car is typically engineered to last more than ten years and mobile technology engineered to last about two years; is the car as a mobile device storing up a world of trouble for future consumers?
From the changing interface to an absence of a start button, the analysts came out with reasons that felt unsatisfactory. It isn’t a lack of quality, if you look at the reviews by the technology press of Windows’95, you’ll see a product that sucked in a way that made Vista look perfect by comparison; yet it went on to be the best-selling Microsoft product ever. Windows 8 has its problems, but in comparison to Vista its a really well made product. The fundamentally-flawed Windows 95 was the acme of Microsoft’s position in the marketplace. Given all this spurious debate, I thought I would throw some ideas out instead:
- The economy – China now has single digit growth, economists generally agree that India isn’t living up to its economic potential. Brazil has problems, Europe is still going through the great restructure. The US is growing slowly but full of turmoil as government spending is causing uncertainty. All of these factors will affect purchases across IT and consumer electronics
- The web – the biggest thing the web did was negate operating system specific file formats. You no longer need to write a document in Word or a spreadsheet in Excel. Enterprise applications no longer need to have a client piece of software running on a PC. This also means that you don’t need to follow software release cycles to keep your PC relevant. Given that the killer app for the PC is the web, replacement cycles for computers have lengthened. A friend of mine, recently had their iPad, iPhone 5 and PowerBook stolen in their house. Yes, that’s right I said PowerBook, their laptop which they were happy with was about seven years old…
- Opportunity costs – So you have a computer that’s a few years old, but you are still happy with it and smartphones moving forwards more rapidly, so need to be replaced every 18 months to two years. The new PC purchase will get put on the back-burner
- Substitute products – This is the classic butter-margarine example that economics teachers used to trot out before low-fat spreads caught the awareness of coronary wary consumers. But in a web-based world tablets that provide a PC like web experience are a substitute for a full-blooded personal computer. An iPad can run Myst, show video and communicate with others via the internet
- A lack of a compelling reason to upgrade – Robert X. Cringely wrote his book Accidental Empires back in the early 1990s, had a whole chapter on the future of computing. One of the most striking parts of this chapter for me was a paragraph with a quote from Ken Okin who worked at Sun Microsystems at the time: Ken Okin, who was in charge of hardware engineering for the Lisa and now heads the group designing Sun Microsystems’ newest workstations, keeps a Lisa in his office at Sun just to help his people put their work in perspective. “We still have a multitasking operating system with a graphical user interface and bit-mapped screen, but back then we did it with half a mip [one mip equals one million computer instructions per second] in 1 megabyte of RAM,” he said. “Today on my desk I have basically the same system, but this time I have 16 mips and an editor that doesn’t seem to run in anything less than 20 megabytes of RAM. It runs faster, sure, but what will it do that is different from the Lisa? It can do round windows; that’s all I can find that’s new. Round windows, great!” So even back as far as the early 1990s there was a lack of a compelling reason to upgrade from machine-to-machine. This is even more of the case now. Cringely claimed that in order to have a radical jump in software appearance you would need a corresponding jump in the hardware. The last big jump that we had in personal computing was the tablet PDA
- The declining power of the IT guy – between BYOD (bring your own device) and the rise of small or freelance businesses there are less traditional corporate users. The power of the Microsoft Certified system is diminished and with that decline has gone the ability to specify a Windows-based computer
- The law of big numbers – Microsoft already has a huge installed user base, most sales will not be won from its competitors but from itself. That’s a tough place to be if people are looking for stellar growth
- Paradigm shifts mean deskilling people – Metro represents a new way of using a computer. It threatens consumers current computer literacy knowledge. For many consumers there was no on-ramp
- Divergence, convergence and the sitting room – a perfect storm of dedicated media server substitute products (Roku, Boxee, Apple TV), smart TVs, games consoles and tablets have squeezed the laptop, media PC and gaming machine in ‘lean back entertainment’ scenarios. We are seeing traditional brown goods being replaced by other goods (often providing a more convenient but poorer quality experience) in the living room that have also subverted multimedia computing
Does this all mean Microsoft is doomed? No.
Jonah Berger breaks down the factors into a number of areas that has its own acronym STEPPS:
- Social Currency – status by association
- Triggers – repetition and cues provide repeated opportunity to discuss
- Practical Value
Of course, just because you can list these things doesn’t mean that making things catch on is easy, but that’s a whole other series of blog posts for another time.
The video is on YouTube and may not be available to all readers.
Last November a breakfast with Wadds meant the usual 45 minutes of dealing with big questions. That morning Wadds asked me had the social web failed to live up to initial expectations?
My take on this was that conversation online isn’t aligned to the communities which it purports to influence; despite the common perception that it is the vox populi. It isn’t, technology doesn’t change thousands of years of human software. I pointed Wadds to ancient Rome where you had a large population of the proletariat who were kept happy with ‘bread and circuses’.
Rome had democratic structures broadly reminiscent of what we currently have in the west and spaces where there were public debates. But in general these debates only touched a small proportion of the population; a bit like the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4.
Technology is powerful, it can make the world smaller, it can provide access but it can’t engage an apathetic audience. This is why the status quo carries on despite massive upheavals.It generally takes a black swan moment to move things on.
By comparison, active social media communities are an elite of sorts, a bit more democratic than the chattering classes of yore; but still a definite minority.
I heard a talk recently about the news media recently; it covered research that Vice Media had done internationally and one of the key themes that came out was that younger people were disengaged from the big issues that mattered because they weren’t engaging with the ‘elite’ culture of the quality news media.
It wasn’t that there was a lack of interest, but that the content wasn’t framed in a relevant way and of sufficiently high quality. All of this means is that the active group is likely to skew older and shrink unless they were provided with alternatives.
Monocle magazine’s mix of style, design and quality news analysis targets a slightly older group and has challenged the media status quo, but in media terms both Vice and Monocle are small but perfectly-formed businesses targeting a small minority of engaged consumers.
VICE News – an attempt to provide more engaging content for young (and not so young people)
WDS released this report on the first day of Mobile World Congress and it makes depressing reading for UK mobile operators.
The consumers who are sticking with their operator are likely to be resigned to their operator and consider the competitors to be of the same standard. The aggregate NetPromoter index is just 5%, whilst not as bad as financial services it isn’t great.
It means that a lot of the effort put in by the carriers to give their customers priority access to concerts, cinema tickets or back-up their address books are pretty much for naught.
The low trust levels also have implications for services like m-payments.
2013 WDS Customer Loyalty Audit
Great four-minute interview with DJ Sneak which talks about some of the seminal people from the house scene like Julian ‘Jumpin’ Perez, Frankie Knuckles, Frankie ‘Hollywood’ Rodriquez and the Hotmix 5 who used to play on a radio station based in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park. People who I used to hear about as legends in record stores like 3Beat and on well-worn duplicated cassette recordings of mixes.
What is is interesting is the way Sneak talks about tangible aspects of vinyl:
As as a key way of accessing his mental catalogue of knowledge about the music. This is something that digital media currently doesn’t provide, we need artifacts to trigger memories through the physical senses. It probably explains one of the reasons why Apple is incorporating locative data into is file journaling system on iOS in a recent patent.
- Get your fill of early house mixes via the Deep House Page – which has been like the Internet Archive of house music sets since the mid-90s
- More details on Apple’s incorporation of geotags into file system information
Interesting interview with Paul Oakenfold and TechCrunch, its a weird combination I know but bear with it:
I am not sure if this player will work in all countries and all devices let me know if it doesn’t and where you are.
I came across this research on American attitudes by Penn Schoen Berland for the Aspen Institute.
What I found fascinating about this data was that it emphasised how different American values are to Europeans and the slow social liberalisation of US respondents at a generational level:
- Healthcare was considered to be a government responsibility
- I was surprised that two thirds of younger respondents didn’t think that free enterprise didn’t contribute to strong American values – which I think will have implications about how implement corporate (and social) responsibility programmes in the future
However this social liberalisation doesn’t extend to gun control or freedom of speech beyond a narrowly definition, meaning a move away from the more traditional libertarian view of speech.
There was consensus that the current US economic system was unfair to working class and middle class Americans.
Considering all this change I was a bit puzzled the rise of the right and the move away from old style Republicanism in politics? The only things that I could see in the data that supported the schism is that the majority of respondents thought lobbyists had too much power in politics and that too much political money is spent by small groups and individuals on campaigns (guessing that’s Super PACs).
The presentation is on Slideshare so may not be available to all viewers.
In the early 1990s I lived in Merseyside. I worked in the petrochemical industry and indulged my passion for music through DJ’ing. A couple of people I knew at the time were involved in the local pirate radio scene on Zee100. Out of the radio station came club nights, a Channel 4 news report, magazine interviews and careers in DJ’ing and music production for my friend Ronnie.
These were an early ‘Facebook wall’ with listeners phoning in shout-outs community notices were read out. Some local businesses were able to reach the audiences directly – I can remember local shop Seeds Records advertising on the station.
Promotion was analogue, with flyers and posters being critical to getting the word out. I invested in my first down jacket from McKenzie (at the time this was American collegiate sports style label which later became a house label of JD Sports) because fly posting for my own events in the middle of winter was no fun and there are few things as soul-destroying as putting your flyers in clothing shops and keeping them topped up. Buying Facebook adverts is much easier.
More details including some show recordings here.
Trendwatching.com put together an interesting presentation on how Chinese consumption, manufacturing, domestic brands and marketing are evolving to provide better products for a more discerning Chinese consumer. This vibrant industry at the moment is invigorating Chinese consumer demand; but is likely to grow into international demand soon. From Tencent Weixin to BYD electric cars.
The presentation is on Slideshare which may not be available to all readers.
My Dad has been using a sat nav device for a few years now and has recently upgraded to a TomTom device, so I decided this time when I was home to show him Google Maps, Satellite view and Street View. This was a revelation to both my parents. They checked out:
- Their house
- Our old house
- My Uncle’s farm
- The site where my Dad served his apprenticeship
- My Mum checked out the houses of some of the extended family and tut tutted when she didn’t see net curtains covering the windows
- My Dad threatened to take my Mum on a return tour of their honeymoon which was a drive around parts of Ireland from the comfort of their sitting room
My Mum told me that I would have to be careful about the way I went out in future in case I disgraced the family when the satellites and the Google cars took pictures.
I asked them about how they felt about this from a privacy point-of-view and my Dad shrugged ‘Sure with Facebook and all that there’s no decency or privacy left anyway; people won’t realise what they’ve lost until its too late‘.
If you had seen the ragtag nature of the Occupy protests in the UK, the orderly city tents underneath the HSBC building Hong Kong looks genteel by comparison.
It seems to be part of a wider social concern springing up there which manifests itself in concern about local independent shops, the power of supermarkets and the excess produce thrown away by supermarkets that could have been beneficial to the less fortunate in Hong Kong society.
Hong Kong: are you a friend of the earth? Not if you shop at a supermarket – Jessie Tao’s blog