LBS Notes: Part 1

Ad Biz, AKQA, Digital Media, iPhone, LBS, LOC AID, Location Based Services, Media, mobile, Web 2.0

Voice and data services have become commodities for telecommunications companies.  The result is an industry hungry for innovation to increase customer base and profit margins.

According to TeleMapics, location-based service (LBS), utilizing wireless communications and global position technologies, is poised to be that innovation.

LBS is an old term largely dismissed by industry insiders as it was uveiled almost a decade ago with huge amounts of hype and zero follow-through.  However, today is another story.  LBS could very well be the defining technology of 2008, as I have posted before.

AT&T and the iPhone are the kings of LBS at the moment, but Sprint just announced they are teaming up with Microsoft.  Verizon is not far behind.

If this is the case, marketers have some work in front of them in figuring out how to leverage LBS for their respective clients.

Here is what I/we know so far:

1. Utility Beats Entertainment…For Now 

For all the hoopla we’ve seen about being about being able to watch YouTube videos on iPhones, it turns out people are not as interested in surfing as they are searching.  Adrian from Zeus Jones writes today about an interesting finding from Google.  It turns out Google Maps usage has “increased sharply” since the release of the iPhone and “hasn’t stopped rising.”  Meanwhile, YouTube availability on the iPhone has not effected usage at all. 

Adrian analyzes this, stating “There’s no denying that entertainment is a legitimate way to engage, however this [information] does prove that the barrier to entry for a good entertainment experience is substantially higher than it is for a useful service.”

What does this mean for marketers?  Well, in a nutshell, focus on building mobile utility for your customers if you hope to get the greatest return.  Table the mobile entertainment unless you have some creativity worth a pencil – this may break through the barrier Adrian mentions above.  Or, optimally, pair the two together…just don’t forget the utility.

2. The Battle for Ad Turf

The mobile advertising space is basically virgin territory, but already people are working to carve out space and build standards for mobile marketing.  The “people” are search engines, carriers, and new platforms.

Search Engines: Google AdSense for Mobile enables online publishers to target location-based advertising to anyone using their browser from a mobile phone.  The opportunities here are endless from a marketing perspective, but they are limited at the moment.  Currently, Google only offers AdSense for Mobile on basic text ads. 

Carriers: Another player vying for space is Australian telco Telstra.  Per ITWire, Telstra has “launched a trial of location based coupons from major retailers such as KFC and Pizza Hut. In the trial, users can request a coupon to be sent to their mobile phone from banner ads on a variety of websites.

By clicking on the banner advertisements, consumers are provided with information on the promotional offer and the ability to enter their mobile number to receive a coupon via SMS. For Telstra mobile customers, information on their mobile also includes a map of their local area and the location of the nearest stores plotted on the map.”

New Platforms: ProximityMedia has built out a system that can push out relative content to Bluetooth phones.  Their demo is tacky but interesting:

3. LBS = SMS + MMS + WAP

Wonky?  Yes.  Let me explain.

SMS – A.K.A., Short Message Service – A.K.A., text messaging – can easily be sponsored by corporations.  Envision an ad on top of your text message.  In turn, you can text for free.  Lots of marketers like this idea because it seems so darned simple.

Well, LogicaCMGrecently did a study of consumer reactions to sponsored SMS (or SMS Advertising) and discovered that Northern Europe and the U.S. would be “extremely unlikely” to use the product.  The conclusion here is free SMS isn’t that important in America – after all, unsponsored SMS is only five bucks a month.

However, SMS advertising has shown success when it is paired with multimedia messaging service (MMS) and wireless application protocol (WAP).  For all you non-wonks (a group that includes me), a good example of MMS is any mobile message that includes images, videos or music, and WAP is basically a phone that can connect to the Internet.  Put all three together, and you get yourself a promo.

For instance, a radio station in Boca Raton, FL, recently teamed up with LOC-AID (a LBS technology provider) to build out a scavenger hunt called Dash for Cash.  In it, people got SMS, MMS, and had to use WAP to find clues that would lead to $10k in booty. Supposedly the thing was a hit.  You can see more here:

4. LBS doesn’t have to sit on your phone

We have all seen the LBS billboards in Minority Report.  Tom Cruise walks by a board that customizes to his presence.

Well, we aren’t there yet, but AKQA recently got us closer.  This time last year, they built out a billboard campaign for Yell.com that was placed on the sides of London buses.  The billboards were linked to GPS that enabled them to be customized as they were on route.  Interactive, local maps were also put in at bus shelters.  Killer.  And they didn’t even use a phone.

akqa_yell_com.jpg

More later from me.  Anyone else have a best practice/insight for using effectively using LBS in marketing/advertising?

iTV now myTV

Ad Biz, Co Creation, Digital Media, iTV, Joost, Media Technologies, myTV, Web 2.0, widgets

Most people in the business of marketing know of Joost if they haven’t already had the chance to play with it.  For those that don’t, let me sum up their service as high-quality, full-length, time-agnostic television broadcast through the Internet. 

Given that it’s a web-based platform, Joost offers viewers basic Internet services as they watch.  For instance, you can instant message your buddies across the globe as you simultaneously watch the same show.  Your screen looks something like this:

im.jpg

(The IM components are in the upper-left and lower-right corners)

Joost aptly calls this IM service a “widget” that can be put on top of your primary content (the show you are watching) as add-on components.  Other examples of widgets on Joost include a news ticker, rating tools (upper-right corner), and an alarm clock.  All are made by Joost programmers. 

The problem thus far is that Joost hadn’t opened up their widget source code so that people could upload their own widgets into the system. Combine this barrier with the fact the programming available on Joost comes from broadcast corporations like MTV and you quickly realize that iTV is not necessarily “myTV”.  I don’t get the rights to upload content – like I do on YouTube – and I don’t get the rights to upload widget applications – like I do on many major social networks.

Well, Joost is opening up, and we should all rejoice.  MIT’s Advertising Lab noted today that Joost has opened their Widget API (or source code) to anyone interested in adding new features. 

According to the Joost forum (where Joost fanatics talk shop), the ideas for new widgets are pouring in.  Here is just a select few (with marketing implications in parenthesis):

  • Queuing – drag/drop/select movies/shows to go into a viewing queue similar to what Netflix offers (marketers could build target audiences by queue content)
  • Show Tagging – let people mark great moments in a show to indicate their favorite/worst moments (think 0f this as a copy test…for better or for worse)
  • Content Screener – let people take a survey that then generates content recommendations (more options for targeting, options for paid search)
  • Shopping Widget – syncs with programming so that people can buy what they see (allows marketers to advertising products in widget that are seen on show)

There will soon be a day when all content is a la carte.  Passive programming and active components will intermingle at my discretion.  TV? Internet?  Who cares?

TV + Internet = iTV

iTV + co-creation = myTV

2008: The Year of Circulation

barcode, Co Creation, Digital Media, GPS, LBS, location based marketing, Location Based Services, Media Technologies, mobile, mobile marketing, NeoMedia, Node, Ubilabs

2006 was the year of connecting.  Some call it social networking. Time named it You.

2007 is the year of conversing.  Some call it consumer-generation.  Others like the term co-creation.  Wired named it crowdsourcing.

2008 will be the year of circulating.  Some call it mobile marketing.  Others refer to it as location-based (LB) services, media and/or marketing.  It currently lacks a fancy name.

Circulation – literally meaning free movement or passage through a system – has been on the minds of marketers and media for quite some time.  Today, we call our efforts “mobile content”, and some of us have shown investing in the mobile infrastructure can pay off.  However, because the current infrastructure has so many limitations, greate examples of mobile content still elude us. 

But 2008 will see mobile devices come into their own.  The technology being unveiled today will start to impact how everyday people choose which company (and brand) to patron tomorrow.

Everyone’s favorite example of this is the iPhone.  It has a mishmash of applications that make it more of a mobile computer than phone.  People can seek out coffee shops using Google maps and GPS synchronization.  The opportunities for Starbucks to get in the middle of this are endless.  And they will…in 2008.

But the iPhone is just a piece of a larger puzzle still being put together.  Other parts include geo-positioning devices in cars, RFID tags embedded in products and places (and people), the further expansion of WiFi, mobile media access, mobile barcode recognition, and all the related applications and services that come with it. 

Combined, they allow us to take our social networks and desires to co-create to the streets.  We will commune, we will converse, and we will do it without constraint.

Examples of Location-Based Services/Media

Mobile Touring by Ubilabs

mobiletouring.png

MobileTouring is an authoring tool for tours. Anybody (you, your company, a city’s convention/visitor’s bureau, etc.) can set points of interest online and enrich them with a photo and short text information. In turn, anyone that has the system uploaded on their mobile phone can create customized tour specific to their needs.  No more dirty headsets at museums.  No need for three+ travel books fore each city you visit.

Bar Code Scanners by NeoMedia

Scanner:                                                      Phone with Code:

scanner.jpg                   camerawithcode.jpg

Neomedia has deployed mobile phone scanners at concerts around Europe. Fans and concert goers purchase electronic tickets over the Internet and instantly receive a text message containing a two dimensional code (Data Matrix or 2D) on their mobile phone. The code can easily be scanned at the concert’s point of entry by mobile scanners for immediate event access. In doing so, NeoMedia demonstrates the use of optically processed mobile codes for real-world financial transactions.

Explorer v3 by Node

node.jpg

The Node Explorer is a small handheld computer with stereo headphones which is connected to a central server.  The Explorer’s integrated GPS location sensor is able to pinpoint the exact location of its user, triggering images (still and video) and broadcast sound and video, in a targeted format (e.g., content can be customized by language, age group, particular interests, special needs, etc.)

Examples of Location-Based Marketing

Got any?  I’m sure all of us will next year.

Multi-Dimensional Facebook

Design & Creativity, Digital Media, Facebook, graph, Social Marketing, social network, Web 2.0

Jeff Berg of the Interpublic Emerging Media Lab posted a great article on the growth of Facebook applications (3,000 and counting) that have been developed by third-party developers since the system went live a few months ago. 

One stood out: Interactive Friends Graph

 interactivemap.jpg

As you can see, my entire network (not that big, really) is posted in this application.  When I scroll over a friend – in this case, Ed Mahon – I immediately see how our networks overlap. 

The name “Interactive Friends Graph” is terribly boring, but this visualization tool is something I have been wanting for a very long time. 

A major problem I have had with social networks from the beginning is they have been programed not as networks but as linear streams of data.  MySpace posts my friends in rows.  Facebook posts my friends in columns.

Now, with this map, I can finally see a representation of my social network much as it exists in my head – a mishmash of loose connections that encircle my little slice of the world.

This same type of mapping (e.g., multi-axis and multi-dimensional) will play a key role in Web 2.5 (yes, I just made that up).  More to come, I’m sure.

Ingenuity Trumps Consistency for Jones Soda

Brewtopia, Co Creation, consistency, Cultures & Fringes, Digital Media, ingenuity, Jones Soda, Trends, User Generated Content, van Stolk, Web 2.0

Dino Demopoulos, author of the blog Chroma, uncovered a great article about Jones Soda published in Beverage World this past Friday.

The article starts out with a brief, inspirational history of the company followed by a mission statement:

Peter van Stolk, CEO, Jones Soda, has an “ability to straddle the line between corporate head and maverick—he maintains the attitude of a creative entrepreneur while steering an 11-year-old company to strong double-digit growth in a down CSD market—is reflected in the brand itself. With youthful flavors like Blue Bubble Gum and Fufu Berry and eccentric black-and-white photos of consumers on its labels, Jones Soda retains a quirky, scrappy image. Yet the brand that got its start in tattoo parlors and skate shops now can be found in Panera Bread and Barnes & Noble, retail environments more likely to attract soccer moms than fans of the X Games. So how does a brand that built its fan base on a simple premise—“Run with the little guy…create some change”—stay relevant when it has a highly publicized [contract with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks and Quest Field] and is predicted to be a global company by the end of 2008? 

Image 

“We’ve got to make sure we stay core to our roots,” asserts van Stolk. “Our mission statement is, ‘It doesn’t matter about soda. It matters about our consumers.’ We have to stay true to our goal to create emotional connections and be relevant to our consumers.”

How many times have we heard that one?  It matters about our consumers…create emotional connections…be relevant…etc…etc… 

It brings out a bitter strain of cynicism in me whenever a CEO speaks like this.  The talk is rarely walked. However, van Stolk and Jones Soda are truly delivering on their mission statement.  Here are just a few things they’ve done:

Find and audience:

  • To build a cult following, van Stolk placed Jones Soda in unconventional retail outlets, such as tattoo and piercing parlors, skate and surf shops and clothing stores.
  • To back up this produce placement, Jones Soda was one of the first to enter extreme-sport sponsorships – Tony Hawk was the company’s first athlete – and is now sponsoring cutting-edge tattoo artists like Kat Von D (the woman behind the TLC’s new show L.A. Ink).

Let that audience co-create the brand:

  • Jones Soda solicits suggestions for the next off-beat flavor from their loyal customers.  For example, Whoop Ass energy drink was a result of consumer-generated branding long before Doritos took the plunge.
  • Even the quotes found under the bottle caps usually come from Jones Soda loyalists.
  • Customers can go to myjones.com to create personalized labels for 12-packs of soda to be shipped directly to their homes.
  • As part of its deal with the Seahawks and Qwest Field, Jones Soda will have photographers roaming the stadium during games taking pictures of fans and players. Those images then will be available for fans to buy and customize their own 12-packs through Jones’ patented process. In addition, Jones Soda is releasing specialty packs with Seahawks players and team logos on the bottles.

 myjones.jpg

There is a lot going on here.  I applaud van Stolk for being on the cutting-edge of integrating customers into the process of branding, but it doesn’t look like he is slowing down.  His decision to tap into the popularity of tattoos puts him at the front of a changing culture (I think I read somewhere that over a third of all people ages 18-30 have a tattoo and the numbers are rising). 

Additionally, his decision to take co-creation to the stands at Quest Field is an amazing idea.  The idea of co-created bottles is not something Jones Soda owns, Brewtopia has been doing it for a while, but I have never seen a company move beyond the digital space to bring co-creation opportunities to customers in the real world.  It will be interesting to see if these photographers roaming the bleachers generate more interest in co-creation.  The very concept of co-creation alludes much of America – Jones Soda may help change that.

The final thing I’ll note is van Stolk seems to approach everything a bit differently.  Whereas Coke is focused on protecting their special sauce (and even make commercials about how much it is protected), van Stolk states “The thing I really like about Jones is that we’re not a flavor. Nobody associates Jones with a single flavor. So we can do anything we want and the limitations are what we put on ourselves.”

For the world of beverages, ingenuity has never reigned supreme over consistency.  Perhaps the this is a sign things are changing.

Auto Industry Driving a New Form of Capitalism

Co Creation, Community Marketing, Digital Media, Fiat, Fiat 500, mass customization, Scion, Trends, User Generated Content, Web 2.0

Sorry for the pun.

As you may have noted from my previous posts, I’m big into mass customization and co-creation (MC/CC).  Although consumer-generated media is the buzz term of the moment, its impact on the fundamentals of capitalism will be limited.  CGM is an evolution of company/customer conversation, not a revolution of company/customer transaction.

The transactional revolution will begin on the production lines and in the boardrooms of major corporations.  Currently, the very idea of letting a customer manipulate a product prior to purchase goes against much of what we were taught in school (protect the brand, be “on” brand, be consistent with your branding efforts, etc.) 

But within the automotive industry, we are seeing some great efforts at opening up the production- and marketing-models to customer control. 

The revolution began in 2003 when Toyota’s chairman, Hiroshi Okuna, uttered the words “I can’t offer any relevant input.  This is a vehicle design and concept that is clearly not for anyone in this room.”

With those words, Okuna admitted that it was time to consider a new model of car design (and a new brand) if Toyota hoped to appeal to a new, younger and more demanding demographic.  Toyota would have to give up partial ownership of the brand to the customer.  Acting as a leader and visionary, Okuna gave the idea a seal of approval.

Over the next few months, developers brought Okuna a revolutionary concept – a car that could be mass customized to customer specs prior to delivery.  It would be a production- and distribution-system that would come with a new brand: Scion.  Since it launch, Scion has been huge success, and many other car manufacturers are following Toyota’s lead.

Read more about the Scion and its impact on the basics of capitalism here (another chapter of my book):

the-custom-class-chapter-7.pdf

The latest example of a car company driving a new form of capitalism is Fiat and their 500 (or Cinquecento in Italian).  This story has gone largely ignored in American circles because we won’t see the car on our streets before 2010 (and we’re ethnocentric, but I digress).

classicfiat.jpg    classicfiat2.jpg

The Fiat 500 has been around for a long time.  Much like Beetle (German) and Mini-Cooper (English, until recently), the Fiat 500 was designed for congested Italian roads in the middle of the 20th century.  It was a popular and practical car throughout the 60s and 70s, but it’s influence tapered off as the 80s approached.  The production of the 500 ceased in 1977. 

Because of the international brouhaha over car size, Fiat is bringing the 500 back from a 30-year hiatus.  It’s small, sporty, and cheap.  It’s also the most mass-customized and co-created car to come out of Europe.

For quite some time Fiat has had a really cool, multilingual website up for people interested in the 500.  See it here.

John Todor, contributor to the Customer Think blog, recently wrote up a summary of Fiat’s efforts to both engage and respond to customer demands:

Fiat has engineered a way to get customers engaged on- and offline. I believe they are on their way to nurturing mutually meaningful relationships.Customers are:Engaged in the design. 500 days before the launch Fiat invited potential buyers to a web site to design accessories for the car. 8000 did so! Now there are over 100 accessories available. Accessories customers find relevant and appealing. The most popular, a clear glass roof. Second most popular, Italian colors as racing strips. Italian pride (emotion).config.jpg

Engaged in the Launch. Customers generated the themes for advertising. Think about it! Who knows how to reach potential customers in a more meaningful way than customers who are already involved?

launch-welcome.jpg    launch-2.jpg

Engaged in Customization of their Car. Ford and Chrysler offered online “build your car” tools for years. Fiat has taken it a step further. They add emotions.

feelings.jpg   

Engaged in their Web Presence. Each visitor to the Fiat website can customize the look and feel of their own web site. This isn’t just appearance. It enables customers to get the information that is meaningful to them—front row and center. (All the bubbles I added into this post from Fiat’s website are stand-alone widgets that can be drag/dropped anywhere on the site…very cool technology.)

Customer involvement helped sell 57,000 cars in the first month (July ’07). I predicted the way Fiat is continuing to involve customers in the ownership experience will lead to a growing customer base. Perhaps more importantly, they are nurturing highly engaged and committed customers who are very likely to be passionate evangelists.

The one area Todor didn’t touch on was the fact Fiat opened up the advertising and marketing of this product to consumer generation.  I love it.  Product and promotion. Complete exposure to customers.  Here is one of the two winning campaigns:

“Many of the great ones who had change the world are gone forever. 

Luckily, some do come back.”

1.jpg    2.jpg

What a great approach, no?  Buzz?  Yes.  Demand?  You bet.

The first 500 sold out in two hours.

Fiat’s sales goal- 57,000 500s over the course of year – was tapped in 30 days. 

THEY ARE OUT OF CARS.

Its a problem anyone would be glad to have.  Fiat has mass customization and co-creation to thank for their enviable dilemma.  Capitalism, as we have known it since the dawn of industrialization, is on the verge of major change.

M&Mass Customization

avatar, Co Creation, Digital Media, M&M, M&Ms, mass customization, Simpsons, Web 2.0

M&M has been taking some bold moves into Web 2.0 over the pas 6 months.  Their first notable effort was to build out web-based system whereby I could customize a an M&M to look like me.  This effort was supported with traditional media.

The interface looked like this:

mmavatar.jpg

It was a little rough around the edges, but the system worked. 

Still, it never struck me as profound.  Frankly, people aren’t in love with the M&M guys to the point they want to be one.  Yes, they are huggable and edible, but I wouldn’t put them up there with Stay Puft Marshmellow Man.

My opinion was confirmed when this technology was applied to the Simpsons.  As part of their movie promotion, the Simpsons crew built out a similar system whereby you could create your own Simpsons character.  This was brilliant, and it played directly to what many of us have dreamed about at least once over the past 15-or-so years: getting a cameo on a Simpsons episode.

simpsonsavatar.jpg

Since this battle of avatars, M&M has changed coarse.  Their newest campaign (I saw it on TV last night) is promoting a new web-based system whereby you can add custom text to M&Ms.

mmcustom.jpg

To me, this is much more on strategy.  I wrote a few months ago about another company, MyMuesli, that opened up their production model for mass customization. If M&Ms (and it’s ad agencies) want me to emotionally connect with the M&M brand – thus making it “my” brand for candy – then they need to let me make “my” bag of M&Ms.  Let me pick the colors, let me pick the type of chocolate (dark, light, white), let me pick the packaging and let me pick the text that will be written on the back of each thick candy shell. 

M&Ms still has a way to go with their system (you can see it for yourself here) as currently you can only choose two colors from their palate and the text comes in only one font, but they have taken the right approach.  To date, I know of no other food company with American presence that allows a customer to customize a product.  Unlike the avatar system, this is profound.

radmm.jpg

M&Mass Customization

avatar, Co Creation, Digital Media, M&M, M&Ms, mass customization, Simpsons, Web 2.0

M&M has been taking some bold moves into Web 2.0 over the pas 6 months.  Their first notable effort was to build out web-based system whereby I could customize a an M&M to look like me.  This effort was supported with traditional media.

The interface looked like this:

mmavatar.jpg

It was a little rough around the edges, but the system worked. 

Still, it never struck me as profound.  Frankly, people aren’t in love with the M&M guys to the point they want to be one.  Yes, they are huggable and edible, but I wouldn’t put them up there with Stay Puft Marshmellow Man.

My opinion was confirmed when this technology was applied to the Simpsons.  As part of their movie promotion, the Simpsons crew built out a similar system whereby you could create your own Simpsons character.  This was brilliant, and it played directly to what many of us have dreamed about at least once over the past 15-or-so years: getting a cameo on a Simpsons episode.

simpsonsavatar.jpg

Since this battle of avatars, M&M has changed coarse.  Their newest campaign (I saw it on TV last night) is promoting a new web-based system whereby you can add custom text to M&Ms.

mmcustom.jpg

To me, this is much more on strategy.  I wrote a few months ago about another company, MyMuesli, that opened up their production model for mass customization. If M&Ms (and it’s ad agencies) want me to emotionally connect with the M&M brand – thus making it “my” brand for candy – then they need to let me make “my” bag of M&Ms.  Let me pick the colors, let me pick the type of chocolate (dark, light, white), let me pick the packaging and let me pick the text that will be written on the back of each thick candy shell. 

M&Ms still has a way to go with their system (you can see it for yourself here) as currently you can only choose two colors from their palate and the text comes in only one font, but they have taken the right approach.  To date, I know of no other food company with American presence that allows a customer to customize a product.  Unlike the avatar system, this is profound.

radmm.jpg

Photovolution

Co Creation, Design & Creativity, Digital Media, digital photography, Geek Culture, innovators, Social Marketing, Trends, User Generated Content, Web 2.0

I went out and picked up a new copy of iLife this past weekend.  I’m not one to review softward, but the new iPhoto was a welcomed departure from the cumbersome version still found on most Macs today.  The new features are great – such as being able to view the photographs within a folder simply by dragging your cursor across that folder – but my overall impression is this version of iPhoto is more of an evolution than a revolution. Something seems to be missing.  You should definately see the online demo of iLife/iMovie/iPhoto for yourself.

Then today, after some inspiration from a friend who sent me the link to Philip’s new Drag & Draw, I began looking online for other software applications that could help me navigate my ever-growing list of photographs on Flickr, iPhoto, my cell phone, my work laptop, my laptop, my wife’s laptop, etc.

I came across this.  It is the first YouTube video that actually compelled me to raise my hand to my mouth in astonishment:

This is a photo revolution. Mr. Jobs, you still have some work to do.