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Things that caught my eye this week

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Upcycling a Tokyo Metro train into a coffee vending machine. Suntory Coffee collaborated with Tokyo Metro on a one-off vending machine based on parts of a decommissioned train. The level of detail that they put in is amazing. Trains have a big part of modern Japanese city life. Japan has more railways and more train travel than most other countries. It was part of a concerted post war strategy that saw the creation of the bullet train and a wide range of commuter railway lines. It stands in stark contrast to a post-Beecham report train system in the UK. More Japan-related posts here.

via Sora News 24
Chipotle
Chipotle by Mike Mozart

Chipotle hosts virtual lunch hangouts amid pandemic | Contagious – Chipotle tapped into the widespread use of Zoom to develop virtual lunches. They might do food but they also realise that work lunch has social aspects. As far as I know this was the first consumer marketing campaign on Zoom and shows what an agile marketing team can do. It would be interesting to see if there is any marketing effectiveness data around the campaign in the future.

Adidas GMR tech combines sport and gaming | Contagious – interesting combination of wearable, gaming and locative technologies. It also shows the potential of what Nike Plus could achieve with this arguably wider existing customer base.

Lil Mariko’s ‘Where’s my Juul?’ blew up for a second time. The first time was due to the anxiety of jonesing for that nicotine fix. The second time is because it perfectly expresses cabin fever. Mariko Zhang is the full package in this video. The song slips somewhere between EDM and BabyMetal.

Channeling cabin fever

The guys over at Zak have launched a new video series of interviews and episode one covers young people around the world coping with lockdown.

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Things that caught my eye this week

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I’ve been listening to My Analogue Journey which has got an amazing selection of Japanese music as part of his videos. Check this out

Streaming Up From Boston – Info on how to watch here | Dropkick Murphys – what really surprised me is that enterprise software company Pegasystems stepped up to financially support this. Its an amazing concert by the Dropkick Murphys.

I am a big fan of SIGGRAPH demo videos. They are are an amazing amalgam. Reality and Daliesque surrealism. This video is very much in that SIGGRAPH vein. The physics of this video is amazing, but has a distinct otherworldly quality.

Huggies candid campaign takes on parent-shaming | Canvas8 – Procter & Gamble have built a stable of expertise in mixing ads with social purpose. This reminded me a bit of Brooklyn Brothers work for Water Wipes which hinged around authenticity around the parenting experience. More posts related to Procter & Gamble here.

ICYMI: Vanilla Ice apologises for crimes against music in this campaign from Virgin to ‘Right Music… | Creative Moment  – using celebrities and getting the balance right is always a tough one. In this particular case Virgin seems to have done a better job rebuilding up the brand of Vanilla Ice than its own brand. It was an interesting insight that consumers no longer know about Virgin’s musical heritage that gave it its original cool factor. I do wonder if Vodafone had a similar but less extreme issue with its ads that revolved around Martin Freeman.

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Things that caught my eye this week

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Really interesting extension by Nordic Choice Hotels. How do you build loyalty and revenue from customers when they aren’t at their hotels? Nordic Choice Hotels, is building on a concept pilot project it has named Hotellkänslan (Hotel Feeling).

The project, launched in October 2019, has seen two dozen members of the hotel’s Nordic Choice Club loyalty programme who live nearby to the Clarion Hotel Amaranten in Stockholm presented with housekeeping services in their homes. The hotel chain has two million members in total.

Christian Lundén, director of future business at Nordic Choice Hotels, has stated in the campaign video that the brand is thinking about what would be best for its guests in relation to loyalty. ‘If our most frequent guests are visiting us maybe 60 days a year,’ he says, ‘That’s a great frequent guest – what happens with the other 305 days? How can we become a bigger part of our guest’s life in their own town and not just when they are travelling?’

Contagious

An overly emotional but stepwise analysis of where Microsoft’s Xbox went wrong versus Sony’s PlayStation.

Gene Kelly was usually associated with the golden age of Hollywood. With amazing song and dance routine. Kelly also had a seldom seen serious actor side to his work. His best performance came during the second world war. Kelly was the main protagonist in a film on PTSD.

Apple has spent over 30 years doing product placement in film and television. Apple Japan put together a film showing Apple laptops in anime. This takes a different slant on product placement programmes that Apple used, but didn’t go public on. More Japan-related posts here.

Knix aims to celebrate the bodies of women over the age of 50. With this film they make Dove’s work seem crass and money grasping. Dove didn’t embrace race as part of body positivism in the same way that Knix have.

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Playlists and mixtapes

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Working as a remote team got me thinking about playlists and mixtapes. One of my colleagues started off a themed playlist on Spotify. The playlist creativity was based around a narrative. The narrative is driven by song title.

cassette tape
Thegreenj / CC BY-SA (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Spotify made it easy to collaborate on putting more in there.

Its a form of surface data, easy to see. Easy for machines to grasp.
It is easy to analyse. Hence Spotify’s ad campaigns and pitch to advertisers based on data.

Initially, I thought it was this data treasure trove that made me feel uneasy about music streaming services. Where other people felt Spotify’s ads were clever, I felt they were intrusive, even voyeuristic. It felt voyeuristic reading some of them.

Music curation is a very personal thing. But in the end I realised it wasn’t the data that bothered me. Now I realise its the nature of curation and consumption on the platforms.

Music is something that exists in everyone’s lives. For some people it was background wallpaper. It occasionally took on ‘sound track’ starring roles at important life moments. For instance, the track the bride and groom choose to dance to at their wedding. Or a one-hit wonder attached to holiday nightlife memories.

For some people it moves beyond being a trigger. It stirs a passion. Myself and some friends have collections of records. Owning a thing has a power of its own. Digital services don’t really understand this drive.

iTunes organisation

iTunes in its day revolutionised digital music. It made music accessible in way that consumers wanted. But it wasn’t a perfect experience.

For instance, someone like myself won’t necessarily follow an artist. Electronic music often sees artists change names as often as changing an overcoat.

The producer or remixer becomes important. Tom Moulton back in the days of disco, Danny Krivit’s famous edits or London’s Nicolas Laugier (The Reflex). All of them have distinctive sounds that bring tracks to life.

A record label becomes synonymous with a particular sound. Blue Note Records’ jazz, Strictly Rhythm’s New York tinged house music or the early rock of Sun Records. This is a mix of a curators ear, in house studios, producers and engineers.

Yet in iTunes you could never search by remixer, or record label in the way that you could search for an artist or group name.
Even the way iTunes treated DJ names indicated a lack of understanding. Someone like myself would treat DJ, the way rock fans would treat ‘The’ in a band name. So DJ Aladdin would come before The Beatles. But DJ Krush would come after.
In iTunes, it ignores ‘The’ so The Beatles sit just behind The Beastie Boys. Both of them come before DJ Aladdin who is grouped with with all the other DJ names.

Playlists and mixtapes

iTunes introduced the concept of playlists with the iPod, but the marketing around it was creating lists for how they made you feel. Music to run by, a chillout list etc.

In design, this was closer to a mixtape than a typical Spotify playlist. Apple worked on making them social. At one stage artists could share playlists of tracks that influenced them. Apple tried to create editorial content around it. It was an interesting idea, but discovery in iTunes was problematic.

A mixtape is about careful curation. You take the listener on a journey, it is often meant to convey a feeling or an emotion. One of the few people that I’ve seen do this within Spotify has been Jed Hallam’s Love Will Save The Day selections. A non-verbal message.

A mixtape was often time bounded by its medium.

  • Cutting your own vinyl record which was done on 78rpm discs might give you 2 minutes. Enough for a short voice mail home, if the record survived the postal system.
  • Reel to reel tape might give you up to 90 minutes at reasonable quality on a 10 1/2 inch reel of tape.
  • Cassette tapes were typically 30 or 45 minutes per side.
  • CDs could provide up to 80 minutes, depending on the disc. But the original ‘Red Book’ standard capacity was 74 minutes

The playlist has no capacity considerations. No limitations that force choices or prioritisation.

Consuming playlists and mixtapes

A mixtape often brought a deeper experience to the listener. Whether it was an expression of love, passion or nerdiness. A playlist tends to operate much more at a surface level. This changes the dynamics of consumption. A playlist doesn’t require active listening. Its like drive-time radio. A backdrop to life.

A playlist is often found, again rather like tuning into a radio station. It is usually a more passive consumption experience. The audience has less invested in it.

Playlists and mixtapes business models

This difference in attitude helps explains how music changed in fundamentally in business model. When you’re more passive, you don’t need to own your music.

You don’t mind if tracks disappear due to licencing disputes. Music becomes a utility that you pay for each month. In this respect Spotify looks a lot like the post-war Rediffusion service.

It’s an operating expense rather than a capital outlay for young consumers. It facilitates algorithm as taste maker which leads to a reductive path. Apple Music has tried to keep away from this. They’ve got specialist curators in niche genres. Want to hear the best of bluegrass and outlaw country? Apple Music likely covers you better than Spotify.

If I am following your playlist, it opens up opportunities for payola. Artist brands become less important than a steady stream of releases in popular genres. Music plugging becomes an arbitrage play; streams versus promotional costs RoI. Traditional artist development no longer makes sense. Instead you end up with a model that looks closer to a fast-failure production line. More on media related topics here.

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ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우에 대비해서

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Chinese attitudes to immigration. Some really interesting interviews done by Inkstone. Inkstone is part of South China Morning Post. Whilst the attitudes seem shocking, you do see them mirrored in other monocultural countries.

Marketing in times of upheaval | LinkedIn – cites Beeston’s Law and then fulfils it

The 1970 Osaka Expo: Looking back at the past to gauge where Japan sits in the present | The Japan Times – some of these pictures are fascinating

SMS In Emergency Situations: SF COVID19 Updates Via SMS | Forrester Research – mature platforms work well

Coronavirus Is A Headwind For Search Advertising, But The Outlook Remains Promising – not a terribly surprising analysis given Baidu’s recent financial performance in the Chinese New Year period

Innovation of the Day | Heineken – alcohol free beer aimed at drivers without running the risk of drunk driving

Augmented-Reality Startup Magic Leap Is Said to Weigh a Sale – Bloomberg – interesting that Johnson & Johnson are mulling an investment in Magic Leap

Introducing Fluent Devices – System1 Group – is it fashion or is it a lack of effectiveness?

cyberpunk « Adafruit Industries – Makers, hackers, artists, designers and engineers! – great series of posts on cyberpunk and its impact on culture

Innovation of the Day | Time – letting exhiibition attendees get some sense of the experience involved in the 1963 civil rights march on Washington DC and experience Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘I have a dream speech’. VR’s real power to engage audiences is emotional experiences rather than storytelling in the way that we usually understand it

Persona Spotlight: Generation X – GlobalWebIndexWhile younger audiences are actively trying to regulate their digital activity – nearly 3 in 10 millennials and Gen Zs track their screen time each month – only 1 in 5 Gen Xers have done the same. Another possible reason is that, compared to Gen X, younger age groups are now using social media more passively. When on these sites, 4 in 10 Gen Zs fill up their spare time or search for funny content, while Gen Xers still flock to their social accounts with a greater emphasis on socializing. – this bit feels like they’re throwing hypotheses against the wall, planners pick your favourite

In February Smartphone sales in China Crashed more than 50% – Patently Apple – not terribly surprising, Apple’s increase in iPad sales probably didn’t compensate for the drop

The Public Interest and Personal Privacy in a Time of Crisis (Part I) – Google Docs – translation of a Chinese blog

Is busy the new stupid? – hustle porn etc.

SoftBank Vision Fund’s Rajeev Misra: 18 months will prove I’m right | CNBC – it will be interesting to see how this plays out

Measure your distinctive brand assets | Ehrensberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science – well worth downloading and reading (PDF)