5 Things I’m Thinking About Right Now

Dan Hon and Duncan Gough did it; here are the 5 things I’m thinking about right now (better late than never):

1. The evolution of crowdsourcing: I started a wiki to document the many examples of crowdsourcing when the phenomenon was at its peak over a year ago, but I think it’s time for crowdsourcing to evolve and become something bigger. The criticism of the latest Peperami ad, the creation of which was thrown open to the public on the Idea Bounty crowdsourcing site a while ago, is an indication that it has seen its heyday. Crowdsourcing per se isn’t bad – but it needs to make sense in context. I think initiatives like FrogMob by Frog Design and Open Ideo by IDEO are part of this evolution: sponsorship of ideas (vs. products) is a big part of getting things made, and Frog Design and IDEO are leading the movement by providing this platform. It isn’t about brands like Peperami or Walkers crowdsourcing ads or flavours for their own benefit anymore, it’s about a body of people trying to create something good for the larger public. Therein lies the difference. That’s where I think crowdsourcing is rightly headed.

2. Transmedia experiences will be a regular part of our overall entertainment experience: I have a few thoughts on this bubbling away in my head, on which more at a later date, but I think the days of TV watching as a solitary activity are over. Whether it is LOST or Alice in Wonderland, fans want more than just the uni-dimensional TV or film experience. They want to suggest a twist to the tale and actually see it play it out on screen so they can share it with their friends and family, they want to cut an episode into scenes and tag their friends on Facebook saying that they thought of them when a particular dialogue was exchanged on screen. (No, those possibilities don’t exist – yet!). We will begin to expect our entertainment to be where we want it to be, as opposed to us being where they want us to be – namely the traditional venues of the cinema theatre or our drawing room.

3. The battle for supremacy amongst location-based services: Once upon a time (3 months ago to be precise), it was between Foursquare and Gowalla, but this week onwards the giant of social networking entered the fray and boy is there going to be blood. Whose, it’s too early to say – reports say that Foursquare membership actually shot up as a result of Facebook Places, but with 500 million ‘citizens’ versus Foursquare’s 2.8 million, will it be just too easy for the big guy to trump the little guy, or does the little guy have a secret weapon they’ve been labouring away at in their New York headquarters? Only time will tell.

4. Whether Apple truly believe the iPad and iPhone 4 will keep them going for the next few years as Google plays catch-up.

5. When data roaming charges will be low enough to allow me to check in to places on Foursquare with a clear conscience, when I travel abroad.

So that’s that.

Apple’s iPad

Easily THE tech news event of last week, the release of Apple’s iPad led to already vocal people being even more vociferous with their opinions, the Apple fanboys salivating with pleasure, and everyone else forced to have some sort of opinion about it one way or the other. And that includes me. Where I work, Apple rules the roost – indeed, I use a BlackBerry and as the only non-iPhone user, am the victim of constant ‘oh you poor thing’ digs. I use a Mac in the office though, and it is an infinitely superior experience to the PC. And I also own an iPod Touch.

So when PSFK asked the Purple List to air their views about the iPad, I chipped in, buoyed by a very interesting talk about it pre-release with James Higgs and Simon I’Anson. Here’s what I said:

The iPad will not fundamentally change the way data creators work, i.e bloggers, tweeters – the active web population like us. It will, however, change the way the large proportion of data consumers work; people like our parents who have minimal use for the web (surfing, emailing, perhaps booking tickets and so on). For people like us, the iPod Touch and the Macbook are necessary – I see the touch screen as not being very conducive to use for epic blog posts, for example! The iPad will be an addition to a suite of internet-enabled accessories that a person may have. It will be very useful on the go.

Go read the rest here.

Will Google’s Time Also Come, As Apple’s Has?

With Google Wave being mentioned by every second person I follow on Twitter, which closely follows the launch of Google Sidewiki (which I really like the concept of, never mind that it is also from Google and has its detractors), I wonder if Google will get to the stage where people will start actively displaying their dislike of what looks like a monopoly in the making. 

Apple has clearly reached that stage. DoubleTwist, a company which lets you use iTunes seamlessly with other devices (kudos to them – the iTunes model is seriously flawed), has made this excellent spoof of Apple’s landmark 1984 ad to mark the launch of a new product on October 6th. What irony that Apple, once decrying IBM’s huge market strength, has now got to the stage where fingers are being pointed at them. Such is life, in this case completely warranted (I’m talking of iTunes). Will Google’s so-called hold over users’ details cause such a video to be made about them, then?

Welcome to the new Windows world…or not

The first Microsoft teaser ad with Gates and Seinfeld didn’t leave me shouting ‘Wow!’. The second one was a bit better, if longer and slightly protracted. What you need to know is that there are going to be many, many more – but not with Seinfeld. For now, he’s going to be kept on the back-burner and apparently we’re going to see the likes of Eva Longoria, Deepak Chopra and Pharrell Williams advocating Microsoft instead. All of these people are just a small part of a much larger campaign that Microsoft has set in motion to buffer Apple and their ‘I’m a PC‘ ads that poke fun at the software giant. As I wrote those words – software giant – I realised that when I think software, I still think Microsoft and Windows. Apple only really comes to mind when I think of fancy gadgets. (Google would be a different monolith altogether). And Microsoft has clearly taken the stance that they want to go head-to-head with Apple, not Google, through this campaign, ‘without taking them through the mud’

Anyway, ‘life without walls‘, the theme of the campaign, is soon going to be taken to the next level by allowing users to submit photos depicting the idea that they too are PCs (the new Microsoft-defined PC’s though) on windows.com, some of which will be chosen to be displayed on electronic banners on Times Square, and others on Microsoft web banners. 
And that’s only the beginning of their new marketing journey. Read more here. 
Clearly, this is a strategy that is so tightly tailored to ending, or continuing rather, the ‘PC-not PC’ war, that I can’t help but wonder if in all that planning, they’ve forgotten that Apple’s not really their only competitor. They have to go up against the bad name they created for themselves – that’s the bigger demon. Whether the increased number of web mentions of their campaign will get them the larger consumer base they’re looking for (or should be looking for) is questionable. For me, all this is just entertainment. At the end of the day, if the product isn’t friendly, I’m not going to use it, no matter what Seinfeld or Longoria say. And that’s the hard truth, $300 million campaign or not. Perhaps it would have been a more prudent strategy to come up with something creative that told me why Microsoft has now changed for the better, not why the phrase ‘I’m a PC’ is yours and not Apple’s. Apple may be fancier, but does that make their products better? If it does, you’ve got a problem, Seattle. 

It’s all about the consumers, baby

I own an iPod but I’m not an Apple freak – I don’t own a Mac, for example. And I don’t like the concept of iTunes somehow. Something about the way Apple sort of forces you to to things their way sometimes gets to me. 

Apparently, a group of entertainment studios including NBC Universal, Paramount Pictures, Sony and Warner Bros. have teamed up to develop a ‘buy once, play anywhere’ standard for music and video sales. This Wired article mentions the first thought that will strike anyone who hears about it: Apple is conspicuously missing, and Disney as well – the two have legal obligations to iTunes. The group is called the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem. The president of the group, Mitch Singer, quite rightly said that it’s about giving the consumer the right to play legally acquired music on an instrument of their choice. I’m wondering if and how iTunes and Apple will respond now. 

The argument for digital strategy in a consumer-facing world

The New York Times has a piece about how the Obama campaign has been executing an intelligent, targeted social networking strategy to bring more voters into its fold, and succeeding remarkably. This may be a rather obvious fact but the truth is that today no person or entity that has its ultimate aim as getting more people to back them (if an individual, like Obama) or promote them (if a company/brand) can afford to ignore the importance of social networking and having a digital strategy of some sort.

If you are an artist, for example, it will be useful to start a blog and have a Facebook or MySpace page to speak about your work and interact with your fans. You can also send email newsletters to them to publicize new work and ensure that your name stays in their minds. People have a very short attention span these days because there are so many things when they step outside that clamour for their attention, so the mere power of recall will be a very useful tool to have as the world moves forward. Artists and musicians didn’t have such widespread options to get more business for themselves even five years ago – you can read about the experiences of my friend, fellow Tuttle Club member and musician Steve Lawson here – and if you feel that as an artist you don’t get enough recognition, then make sure it’s not because of your own shortcomings in the online sphere.

It is old news now that many companies are Web 2.0 savvy and have a Twitter account in addition to a blog and perhaps a Facebook or MySpace page, if they are that involved. Some, of course, aren’t. I recently spoke to some people who work with PR firms, who said that some of the companies that were approaching them as clients had no idea what social media was or how it could help them. Those are the people who are late to the party, and if they don’t buck up now, they will soon be too far behind to catch up. The traditional forms of advertising can only take a brand so far today. I can’t put it better than this piece from Wired (emphasis in bold mine):

“The future of media is the future of advertising; the future of advertising is the future of media. The fundamental difference, however, is that the design philosophies of digital media will exert a greater influence on traditional advertising than traditional advertising will hold over the design philosophies of the digerati. In other words, tomorrow’s soft-ads are going to reflect the values of the Net more than tomorrow’s Net will evolve into a digital regurgitation of today’s advertising.”

At the end of the day, however, a digital strategy will only be useful if you have a product that people want, and that works well. If the Mac was not a viable alternative to machines that run Microsoft and offered only its sleek good looks, then no amount of ads would have helped it sell. (The way it’s going, for example, it looks like the Macbook Air may not be as successful as its original Mac brother even though it has a nice ad to bolster it, because users are beginning to feel the lack of basics like a DVD drive). So if Obama wins in November, it will not be just because he is perceived as a viable alternative to Clinton and McCain, or even because of his brilliant online presence. It will be because he is a candidate that people truly believe will deliver the goods (and he better!).

Lenovo vs. Macbook Air

This is a Lenovo spoof on the Macbook Air ad which I mentioned here a while ago. Many of you may have already seen it, but I thought I’d post it anyway. It’s funny stuff.

As an aside, I met someone yesterday who recommended the 7″ screen Asus over his Macbook Air because – yeah – it doesn’t have a basic DVD drive!! I’m slowly noticing more people have that particular Asus than I thought. Is this indicative of a trend where people prefer smaller to thinner?

Ads I love – and how to better use ads like them today

I just read this piece about how Israeli singer Yael Naim’s song ‘New Soul’ which overlays the Macbook Air ad has shot the artist to the top 10 list in the U.S, making her the first Israeli to achieve this recognition. Apparently Steve Jobs handpicked the song for the ad himself. I, like countless others, loved the song the minute after I saw it on air a couple of months ago, and began humming along to it the very second time I caught it on TV.

What brands should do today is leverage the success of a song and ad with social networks to get the buzz flowing. Some of my initial thoughts on this:

1. Use Facebook, Bebo, hi5, MySpace, Orkut, Friendster. Create groups like, for example, ‘I love the Macbook Air ad campaign, don’t you?’ and invite friends to join. Feature the video on the group page. From my experience of Facebook alone, people will easily start joining a group like that because all they need to know is that it is not something they are being forced to join. That’s one reason I don’t join ‘Show your support for XYZ cause’ groups – it feels a bit hollow to me because it’s supposed to be philanthropic and you’re not really doing anything to help. As long as it is for fun, I don’t mind joining groups and I’m sure others won’t either.

2. Run competitions. A film festival I worked on did this and got lots of responses. Basically they uploaded images from different unreleased films and asked group members to identify them. Winners got free tickets. Great way to build momentum for the brand. You’ll get plenty of people participating- even more if the prize is something as desirable as a Macbook Air!!!

3. Building further on point 1, create a widget or badge for people to upload on their blogs. If they like it enough, they are free to put it on their page. It may surprise you how many will 🙂 . I would. Badges would work so much better for those ‘show your support for XYZ cause’ type of things as well, in my opinion.

Digitized DVDs on iPods

Last year, Wired told its readers how to put their DVDs on an iPod, with the caveat that it is illegal.

Today, I read that independent film studio Lionsgate is partnering with Apple to provide digitized versions of its movies that can play on iPods and similar devices legally, through iTunes. In fact, if you buy a Lionsgate DVD you automatically get an iTunes version of it. As the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would say (OK, so I’m not a teenager anymore – the TMNT are not very in, nowadays, I suppose!!), ‘Cowabunga!!!’.

Lionsgate president Steve Beeks said (and I quote): “Digital Copy for iTunes is a perfect example of how packaged media and new digital technology can work hand in hand for the benefit of our consumers.”

Couldn’t have put it better myself.