Monthly Archives: July 2011

The Color of Crazy?

When branding or doing product design, color is a major factor.  Colors can evoke emotion and tip-off direction. 

Green Can evoke Acceptance, Nature, Harmony, Communication…

Orange points to Optimism, Productivity, Creativity…

Violet lends itself to Creativity, Imagination, intuition…

Since well before people tied a yellow ribbon ’round the old oak tree to signify that a family member was welcomed home, color has been used to signify many things, and ribbons have become pervasive over the past decade in association with causes.  It seems that every organization has laid its claims on a color.  When I saw this list, I was blown away by all the causes that have attached themselves to the colors for awareness purposes.  With that being said, I was surprised by a report that was just published saying the one of the best known cause colors – Pink for Breast Cancer – was counterproductive.

The study by Rotterdam School of Management professor, Stefano Puntoni, suggests that:

The problem is not that some women are turned off by the traditionalism and underlying stereotype of a pink brand, but rather that too large a proportion of women directly identify with the color. Read more: http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/07/28/study-pink-ads-prove-counterproductive-for-breast-cancer-awareness/#ixzz1TWmfc2IB
 
I am left shaking my head about some of the findings.  In this case, I can see how they might be true on individual levels, but if you’re looking at an icon that best conveys a brand, product or event, its got to work somehow – I don’t know how much people – specifically women – disregard the message and meaning of the pink ribbon based on what is talked about in the study.  Perhaps the scientific numbers work, but we don’t know what the group consisted of, and it certainly did not seem to make any suggestions of what’s better…
 
Having been involved in a number of Susan Komen Breast Cancer walks, it seems oddly funny to me that anyone would have a bad response to the cause or its color of ribbon.  They have worked hard to create a solid brand that is absolutely clear from first sight.
 
With the import of color in any identity or logo, it is advantageous to analyze the choices of color.  Just don’t overdo it…
 

The True Zen of Social Media

As “Social Media” is becoming the ubiquitous catch-all flashpoint of digital marketing – and perhaps all marketing – it is becoming more apparent that the speed of development and change increases the challenge of just keeping up. The true Zen of Social Media is understanding that you don’t know all the answers and can only really develop the resources to continue gaining the knowledge.

Many companies are just scratching the surface when they decide to “have a Facebook or a Twitter” and the breadth of possibilities in the space could be overwhelming beyond that.  As such, its a good thing that there are more and more “specialists” coming to the forefront who can help guide the way through Social Media. But, I am of the belief that it is almost silly to call anyone a Social Media Expert as there are so many ways to skin this cat and it really comes down to someone who can marry what your product or brand needs and what are the best solutions at the time. 

Certainly, you can set a course for social and start down that path, but it is imperative to constantly tighten and refine based on available resources, outlets, environments, audiences and audience response.  But from the individual level through the organizational level, it must become part of the culture that Social Media is a constantly evolving and therefore; learning environment.  To set a course, communicate that course and then just follow it exactly to the letter in the Social Media realm will probably do more damage in the long run.  And, the person who intimates that they have all the answers is pure folly.

The beauty is that there are enough people sharing ideology online to enable anyone to do some research – if they have the time.  Even with a specialist on staff, I would suggest having the drive to get some of the basics. The three main components are Owned, Earned and Bought.

In this case, Josh Dreller covers some of the main ways to execute the Bought  component of Social Marketing in his iMedia entry. He provides a few basics, but is certainly not giving a full overview as he does not include some of the other options and suppliers.  I also think his posit that these pieces are overlooked is either not true or off the point.  What is overlooked is the machanics of how you can effectively use Bought to move people to Owned and Earned. But, ultimately, by reading this blog, you can gain a stronger basic understanding of what is available and what is needed.

The adage that the journey is the important part is a necessity when talking about Social Media as it seems that we are never going to be able to keep up with the incredible pace of development to be able to master the field and call ourselves experts. Those with the drive to experiment, experience and expand their knowledge will be the ones who just find themselves ahead of the others in that quest.

A Window On The Future?

How cool!  How real?!

This LA Times article about some cool developmental technologies that are being developed for interaction with car windows like never before.  It is cool to see them in their own right and even cooler to think of future implications.

The first product is a concept being worked on by Toyota Motor Europe and the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design.  It allows the passengers to “interact” with the objects that pass by on the journey. The technology will (hopefully) be built into the window.

The other is a product that Cadillac is rolling out that enables users to interact with an “interactive window sticker” that requires a window film, a CPU and rear projection. It was developed by Fusion92.

Both are shown in video as part of the online post by Tiffany Hsu- you can check it out in further detail there

Obviously, the latter brings the marketing implication into full view, but the technical capabilities of the former concept opens up huge opporuntities – especially if both are coupled together. 

The same technology can help market the car prior to purchase while helping add value for those inthe backseat to play – or even better, do computing while on the move.  Could the same technology also allow owners to tint the windows to their tastes or skin their car for their own marketing messages – or even remove the need to draw on their windows to celebrate graduations or cheerleading?  Would these also have the capability to make the headrest monitors for the backseat passengers obsolete?

Again, it is truly exciting as we get closer to things we might have only seen in films as mere science fiction fantasy.  The possibilities are endless.

And The Challenges to Apple’s App Practices Have Begun…

In what has been an issue-in-the-making since Apple first took 30% of every transaction within the App – and perhaps since they simply took 30% of every app purchase – there is now movement that could force a true stand-off between Apple and App Publishers.

Beginning in February of this year, Apple started taking a 30% slice of in-app purchases.  A solution that some publishers resorted to was the inclusion of a link that spawned a Safari browser to send people to complete transactions on their sites – which Apple felt they should still get a piece of.  As a result, some major players have caved to Apple’s heightened pressures last week by removing that link entirely.  You can read more about it at MediaWeek

What’s interesting to me is what that next step is.  I don’t believe that the move that Amazon, Google and others made is the way to go in the long run.  I also question the HTML5 route as a long-term solution due to the trade-offs on the UX side. But, something will have to give.

I can see this causing a more official questioning of the flat commission policies by organizations and governments.  The commission on a “distribution” fee of 30% may make sense upon initial download.  Receiving that on all transactions seems to be excessive.  If most people make in-app purchases or purchase subscriptions based on the work and quality of the app publisher, does it make sense for the original distributor to take a percentage at the same rate as the initial download?  I do feel that there is a need for some type of charge – just like credit cards charge on every transaction, but they charge considerably less – at a lower rate or perhaps even a volume-adjusted rate.  Android apps allow transactions to be completed by other means such as PayPal, but there is also an option to go through the Google In-App purchasing mechanism for that same 30% fee.  The Google payment is not as ubiquitous as Apple’s, but is slowly making inroads due to its ease of use with credit cards.

My hopes are that this forces a change from Apple – its better to get something than nothing – and they reduce the 30% on in-app purchases.  I can see Apple getting 30 on initial purchase, but the assumption is that people will complete in-app purchases based on the work of the app developer means that Apple should not get the full 30 once people are inside.  Granted, a change like that could force Apple to charge on every download of an app that includes in-app transactions– which could be a better return for them when you look at how many downloads of “lite” or basic free apps there are.  If publishers are looking to use Apple’s distribution to essentially get a free marketing tool for further purchases later, it only makes sense that Apple should get a nice piece of that return.  But if those are all charged up-front – even with a nominal fee – the volume should create a win-win for both sides.

As with all markets, these questions and challenges arise.  For the continued growth of the industry, and the hopes that politics do not come into play on this, something’s got to give.  Hopefully, a solution that benefits all those involved will be found in the end.  We all just have to wait and see…

The Structure of Opportunities and Wonder

Last night was the latest installment of KCRW’s World Music Festival at the Hollywood Bowl. Every year, there are six shows in this series as part of the larger Hollywood Bowl season and every show provides the opportunity for something special.  Last night’s show celebrating Global Soul attempted to be just that.  Varying from the norm of a few acts with a clear headliner set, this show was curated by Ricky Minor of THE TONIGHT SHOW and AMERICAN IDOL and it featured far more than a few acts with the headliner being Stevie Wonder.  The reason why I’m writing about it here is not completely because of how the show went, but what it offered and the lessons that can be culled from it.

It was immediately evident at the start that this was going to be an abnormal show.  Minor came out and talked about his vision a little bit, did an impromptu welcome of Wonder to the stage – where Wonder talked for a short bit – and then the show began.  Each performer came out and performed two to three songs backed by Minor’s phenomenal band.  In some cases, the band didn’t get to rehearse with the performers for more than a short period – one of the performers didn’t arrive from Africa until earlier in the afternoon – and you wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference as the only thing that seemed to take away from their great sound was a power outage.  Effectively, with this band and the array of performers he recruited, Minor set up the evening with a structure where the possibility was set for magic to happen.

Many times, expectations are set coming into a show like this and when things veer from the norm, they can obviously be welcomed or dismissed.  Some of the things that were great about the night were also part of the bad things – with performers only doing 2-3 songs, the best ones couldn’t go on long enough.  Examples of that were Charles Bradley, Janelle Monáe and Wonder.  It seemed that Minor tried to pack so much into the show that it didn’t really have any opportunity to breathe.  There were definite sparks that could have set the night on fire, but they were extinguished before they could get going.

Most people had probably never heard of Charles Bradley – he has just released his first album at the age of 62 – but his spirit was infectious leading to one of the few standing ovations of the evening.  Janelle Monáe had performed in the KCRW series last year as one of the openers for Grace Jones, but it seemed she took notes from Jones and her command of the stage and challenging Bowl dynamics belied her diminutive frame. Stevie Wonder came out and set off into his personal recollections of soul through his life and performed seemingly impromptu covers of those songs.  I could have listened to him do that for hours, but as quickly as that started, he segued into his hit, Superstitious, leading everyone to believe he was going to work through a number of his hits.  Unfortunately, that was the only one.  The tone changed when everyone came back on stage, including the YOLA youth symphony, to cover Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On?.  There was so much going on with the kids in the back and a seeming power struggle between the opening performers to trade vocal riffs with Wonder, it just took away from the “soul” or emotionality of the event.

So, throughout the evening, it was an ebb and flow whether it was a success or not.  I recognize that it is only a show, but it does have a correlation to business.  Some of the best companies set a foundation or structure for effective and optimized business, but also allow for some innovation and improvisation as part of that structure.  But that is only part of the equation – guiding that spark once it begins is the key.  Just saying that you support innovation and experimentation and then letting things end abruptly at the origination phase is actually counter-productive.  In the case of the show, it manifested itself in starts-and-stops and stilted flow.  In the case of business, it manifests itself in lost opportunities and stilted morale – or even worse, loss of talent.

There are absolutely reasons for everything.  Minor did a great job in setting the stage, but there was too little room left to allow for things to really take off.  Business leaders should provide the structure for basic business PLUS innovation and growth AND be ready for it so they can help lead that opportunity to reach its full potential.  If anything, the show proved that having an air-tight plan is not the whole measure of success.

The San Diego Comic-Con Match

Yesterday, I dipped my toes in the madhouse called Comic-Con.  What has been contiuously growing beyond just comics, fantasy, sci-fi and geeks has become an annual destination for Hollywood Studios and gaming companies to show off their upcoming releases.  In the past, there were a lot of titles represented that made no sense – last year’s convention was the worst for that.  Luckily, it seems that everyone collectively understood that and scaled it down to relevant genre material – except the ubiquitous GLEE panel on Sunday…

To be honest, the inside of the convention center is packed where people have to give up on the idea of personal space – and unfortunately, sometimes, the ability to really take in what’s in the booths.  Everything starts to look the same from year to year with the same folks in the same areas.  With that being said, the convention could really happen just about anywhere – which brings up the quesiton of “Why San Diego?”

Surrounding last year’s convention, there was a lot of talk about changing venues or splitting up the convention entirely.  It seems that in continuing with San Diego, some changes have begun to make it much more palatable to the huge crowds.  Being there on Thursday – historically the lightest-trafficked day – was more comfortable than last year’s even though there were more people there on this Thursday of the convention.  One of the biggest changes having an effect on the “perceived roominess” is most-likely the allowance by the city and organizers to allow brand and product experiences outside of the convention center.  While there were some grand executions outside in the past, they were limited and challenging to pull off. 

This year has a recreation of South Park in a parking lot where last year it was filled with cars and just had a food truck giving out some branded ice cream.  This year also showed a greatly enhanced shuttle system that made it extremely simple to get around the area.  As a whole, it really seemed that San Diego came to its senses and truly embraced the onslaught of fans, costumed folks and executives.  They changed a lot of street signs to resemble the comic text bubbles with the correct font and, in addition to the shuttle service, really had some foot traffic solutions in place to make things safer and simpler.

It now comes down to “What’s Next?” and what are the opportunities that have been missed?  A group of sat down to a nice dinner last night, hosted by Jenny Stiven.  The dozen people were a nice mix representing multiple agencies and studios.  Jenny’s husband, Tim – who probably represented the non-industry fan at the table posed the question, “What makes this uniquely San Diego?”  Certainly, the weather is beautiful.  There’s great opportunities to do cool events outside and in key venues – if you’re in the industry and have good connections.  And, with some of the new systems in place, its a great little city to host this type of event.  But there was one opportunity that stood out:  With the space immediately surrounding the convention center, the city can really create an atmosphere that will imprint San Diego and Comic-Con completely on the minds of the attendees. 

Perhaps they should take notes from Miami’s Art Basel.  There, they provide a huge amount of events across the city to enable attendees and residents a fuller experience – regardless of whether they were able to get a convention ticket or not. Here’s a few examples:

 

A lot of the space around the convention center goes unused and there is a huge opportunity to extend the spirit of the convention creatively throughout the town to really infuse the beauty of the city, its weather, its people and the key elements of Comic-Con.  Currently, the outdoor experience is all about marketing.  If a festival could be around the premises and city focusing on celebration – with multiple creative iterations -, it could make a big event even stronger and more memorable.

If San Diego could pull something like that off, there would never be a question of whether the Con is going to be in San Diego or not…

He’s Mad As Hell And Not Going To Take It Anymore

Steve Smith’s post are enjoyable – especially when he gets pissed and goes on a rant.  It’s what many people do amongst friends, but not as part of their regular blog.

Most of Steve’s rant centers on the incredulousness that marketers seemingly expect consumers to jump through hoops to engage with brands – often with very little to show for it.  We sadly see this more often than not, and really, marketers should know better.  Perhaps it’s because of laziness, lack of concern or greater interest in just telling superiors they did something rather than do it well.

In the one post that focuses solely on mobile issues while he was waiting in airports, the targets of Steve’s wrath vary from “Like”ing faceless corporations, horrible banner creative, poor mobile ad design, cheesy film promotional partnerships, bad UI commerce linking, pain-in-the-butt sweepstakes entries and requests made of the consumer that don’t take the act of using mobile phones into account. 

There’s more and it just adds to the fun of reading this post that seems like it could have been so much longer.

While I don’t agree with Steve’s conceit that Brands should be working for me, not me for them, is my policy – Brands should be working WITH in addition to for the consumer – please feel free to read his post as 98% of it is spot on.

Sometimes, airports just suck…