Tag Archives: Innovation

If All Screens Are TVs, What Then?

TVolution Last week, the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences announced that they would be awarding prestigious Emmy Awards in an expansion of the short-form series category. The deeper explanation of categories and requirements is:

The Emmys has expanded the short-form series awards to four categories: comedy or drama; variety; reality/non-fiction; and animation. Series must have a minimum of six episodes with an average length of 15 minutes or less, and be shown on traditional TV or via the Internet. Awards have also been added for short-form actor and actress as well.

What struck me is the inclusion of something that was not traditionally television within a “traditional” television environment. While not completely out of line with what the academy has done in the past – they have a membership group that focuses on digital content and they already expanded the meaning of Primetime when they included cable shows that could effectively be consumed at any time (a la HBO, Showtime, BBC) nearly two decades ago, before even DVRs and time shifting came around – it certainly seemed a bit of a land grab for an organization to stay relevant in the shifting of landscapes to an unknown future.

Then, there’s a lot of noise about Facebook making a play for the streaming rights to NFL games over the past day or so that really brings to question:

What do we consider a TV moving forward?
If all screens are TVs, how are people going to interact with them and content?
When will we start gaining from data insights in making it a better experience?

Just looking at Facebook and their want for live sports content, they’ve already driven video views on the platform to 100MM per day. The opportunity to completely do away with second screen environments – where your friend’s comments appear adjacent to the video, effectively making it a huge virtual sofa – is an evolutionary game changer. And, the predictive opportunity for delivering content based specifically on what you’ve been interested in that day or even that hour is mind-numbing.

One challenge in all of this is how closely tied to the past TV – of any form -remains. Though the rising interactivity allows for lean forward video consumption, there are far more viewers sticking to the lean back model. They still might make a selection off their DVR, VOD, or even that time-worn event of choosing a channel, but why can’t we start moving toward content delivered in linear fashion based on what you would probably be interested in right now?

Why do we see a huge amount of content highlighted based on what we watched in the middle of the night on Netflix when I’m logging in with my kids mid-day on a weekend? How come I do an incredible amount of searching on Google, yet their owned YouTube only prompts videos that I’ve already showed my kids on my computer a month prior? When will Facebook come forward with a “You’ll Also Like” product based on what video I’ve consumed and not what my friends post? (To give Facebook credit, they’ve done something like this, but it comes across as being more advertising than value-add.)

I do see a time when we will be able to turn on a stream of content – both short and long-form – and predictive technologies will line up the content and you can choose to watch or skip. The reality is that there is so much data there, it’s sort of silly not to use it. Whether it is Google or Facebook that have people exploring on a daily basis – and they also deliver content – or Cable/Satellite providers who might have relationships with data providers, there should be an ability to curate in real-time what the viewer might want right now. The use of data right now is usually only good for showing me what I was interested in then. Imagine the possibilities if we could have what is top-of-mind now delivered to us.

Perhaps this thinking isn’t even breaking enough from the TV norms as we know them. As much of content is evolutionary, perhaps this will just be a step to opening our minds and experiences to enable an content distribution/consumption cycle we can’t even yet conceive of.

For those reasons, I’m excited about the question of “What Then?”

Seeing The Future Sometimes Only Needs Looking Under The Hood

The-JetsonsSome (or most) news blurbs deserve (or require) more big-picture consideration than what is immediately prevalent on the surface. Coverage of GM’s investment of $500M in Lyft is just one example. While part of GM’s hoped-for returns is based on the opportunity for providing fleet cars for Lyft’s services, a more “sexy” consideration is the development of self-driving cars. If you look with broader goggles, the implications for both are much larger than what they seem.

First off, numerous car manufacturers are developing products specifically to serve the shift to car sharing. Just this past September, I met with a representative of Citroen in Paris who explained how they are looking at alternative ways to find revenues in this new economy without selling vehicles – and they are certainly not alone. If micro-payments can revolutionize politicking, investment and charity, why can’t the same be said for larger ticket items like automotive, housing or even luxury accouterments?

The self-driving cars offer an even more exciting opportunity that comes with its own set of numerous implications far beyond individuals transporting themselves without having to focus on driving. Over coffee with Jason DaPonte, Transport For London’s Director of Innovation, we had a great conversation about the future and how self-driving cars could absolutely affect people’s normal use of subways, buses and trains. In fact, there’s every possibility that those vehicles could become an integral part of a municipality’s services – or modes of transportation. If you thought controlling buses, trains and subways was a feat, imagine what it’ll be like when hundreds or thousands of automated cars are whizzing around a congested city like London!

With all this, there are a lot of unknowns and a lot of time to pass before we figure things out. We will probably look back at the airport challenges of Uber and Lyft, or the growing legal parries with Airbnb’s lodging structure and chuckle about how quaint they were. Ultimately, with the growing shared economy and smarter use of technology to do the mundane, it requires a sense of how these pieces fit within the big picture to really grasp our future.

Who knows, maybe that kick-ass transportation of THE JETSONS is not so far-fetched anymore…

Mapping The Cost Of Innovation

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Many companies claim that they place an emphasis on innovation – and to a point, they are delivering – but when it comes specifically to marketing and buzz generation, companies set themselves up to fail in the innovation category.

Sure.  They may execute a campaign that utilizes a new technology or create a video that goes viral and generates an insane amount of views. They might even develop a marketing product that revolutionizes the industry or makes use of an existing product in ways nobody thought of before. But when it really comes down to it, most companies fail when bringing innovation to their marketing because they don’t plan or spend in the right way that lends to cost-savings down the road. Or, even worse, the execution doesn’t align with their strategy, so it hits the intended consumers like a thud.

Many innovative marketing products could be better if they were not treated as the end-all product that is oft copied, but as something that builds upon itself. Innovation done correctly is built with future iterations in mind so that products and development can be built on or added on cost-effectively. Too often, those new product are developed for one execution and then, upon its success, they do not allow for augmentation – forcing companies and their vendors to start from scratch.

Numerous factors lead to innovation that is not cost-effective.  Sometimes, due to a lack of vision or strategic planning.  Others might be due to a company’s lack of determination in supporting ongoing innovation expenditures. And then sometimes, products just don’t work out. All of those factors, are reasonable explanations for the waste of money but they don’t need to be. It really comes down to the ability to have long-term vision and communicate objectives well.

With the right executives supporting the long-term innovation play – where a specific near-term ROI may not happen – the environment can be ripe for marketing success for quarters and years to come.

Here’s how you do it — think more than one step ahead. Auto manufacturers build concept cars with the full knowledge that the car as a whole might not make it to the dealer, but components like auto-parking most likely will.  With that vision toward the future derivatives, even an unsuccessful campaign is not a waste of money. Be thinking of what components might be re-used in the future and make sure your team and vendors build those elements accordingly.

Granted, some form of smoke and mirrors is a component of your innovation process – and not in a devious way – you might think of innovation as putting the cart before the horse.  What it does is build an environment of hype that points to a vision of what the future could be. Be prepared to create assets that just show off what you are planning to do in order to effectively communicate expectations within the company. Utilize communication and spin control. If innovation is treated solely as a magic force that nobody has insight into, it is doomed to fail in the long run.  Even the major technology companies that have super-secret labs share some of their developments internally and sometimes, even externally. Maintaining to others that you are doing really cool things under a shroud of mystery will only lead to further questions on the money that’s being spent. Conversely, communicating too much without conveying the ultimate vision can be almost as damaging.

To the finance types, developing key KPIs to measure your success is a necessary component. Innovation is not an always-win proposition. You may not find huge marketing numbers to point to a winner. Come up with those elements that prove its working.  Is it money saved on future campaigns?  Is it press coverage of your marketing products? Is it related to time-to-market for future products? Is it tied to sales? Brand recognition? Whatever it is, make sure that is known to your team and management. Without those clearly understood KPIs, you’re effectively spending a lot of money on just an illusion…

When all is said and done, there needs to be an environment or atmosphere that welcomes trial and error. Intrinsically, there is no other undertaking that comes across so much success and failure with few traditional methods of measuring both. It is those corporations and organizations that truly embrace innovation (and not just tout that they are innovative) who most consistently bring successful innovations to market. Sometimes innovation can seem just outside your grasp (as an individual or an organization) but with vision, communication and execution, it will come back x-fold in marketing and revenue streams you might not have even considered at the onset.

Aside

The growth and breadth of items showcased annually at CES has led to the attendance of more than sellers of electronics – it’s caused an ever-growing onslaught of entertainment marketing folks to jet over to Vegas. Wayne Friedman of MediaPost … Continue reading

Navigating The Cost Of Innovation

It’s a new year and we are all on the continued lookout for things new and innovative. The Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2014) kicks off every year with many promises of innovation and they often deliver. Walking those halls provides a course in one way to look at innovation – which we’ll delve further into later. Many companies claim that they place an emphasis on innovation – and to a point, they are delivering – but when it comes specifically to marketing and buzz generation, companies set themselves up to fail in the innovation category.

IMAG0422

Sure.  They may execute a campaign that utilizes a new technology or create a video that goes viral and generates an insane amount of views. They might even develop marketing product that revolutionizes the industry or makes use of an existing product in ways nobody thought of before. But when it really comes down to it, most companies fail when bringing innovation to their marketing because they don’t plan or spend in the right way that lends to cost-savings down the road.

It would seem clear in the writings on this blog that I am all for marketing innovation and have pulled off some executions that I am quite proud of.  The buzz and impressions they generated were phenomenal and have often brought on follow-up coverage in the press. But they could have been better.  Many innovative marketing products could be better if they were not treated as the end-all product that is oft copied, but as something that builds upon itself.

Innovation done correctly is built with future iterations in mind so that products and development can be built on or added on cost-effectively. Too often, those new product are developed for one execution and then, upon its success, they do not allow for augmentation – forcing companies and their vendors to start from scratch.

Numerous factors lead to innovation that is not cost-effective.  Sometimes, it is due to a lack of vision or strategic planning – you were only looking to do this one creative vision and didn’t think how it could be used or grown beyond that.  Others, it might be due to a company’s determination to support ongoing innovation expenditures. And then sometimes, products just don’t work out.

All of those factors, and more, are reasonable explanations for the waste of money but they don’t need to be.

It really comes down to the ability to have the long-term vision and communicate objectives well. With the right executives supporting the long-term innovation play – where a specific near-term ROI may not happen – the environment can be ripe for marketing success for quarters and years to come.

Here’s how you do it.

Again, think more than one step ahead. Auto manufacturers build concept cars with the full knowledge that the car as a whole might not make it to the dealer, but components like auto-parking most likely will.  With that vision toward the future derivatives, even an unsuccessful campaign is not a waste of money. Be thinking of what components might be re-used in the future and make sure your team and vendors build those elements accordingly.

You need smoke and mirrors to be a component of your innovation process – and not in a devious way. Going back to the CES reference, you might think of innovation as putting the cart before the horse.  What might surprise many is that a lot of the hyper-cool technologies shown at CES are not real or ready for prime-time. Sometimes features are faked in to prove the concept. Other instances show content that is not optimal or canned to showcase a technology. An example of this is the content that is shown on 4K monitors.  No broadcaster is filming in 4K yet and they started showing those monitors two years ago with dummy content to show clarity. What they did was build an environment of hype that pointed to a vision of what the future could be – with no true revenue stream to show for it immediately. Be prepared to create assets that just show off what you are planning to do in order to effectively communicate expectations within the company.

Utilize communication and spin control. If innovation is treated solely as a magic force that nobody has insight into, it is doomed to fail in the long run.  Even the major technology companies that have super-secret labs share some of their developments internally and sometimes, even externally. Maintaining to others that you are doing really cool things under a shroud of mystery will only lead to further questions on the money that’s being spent. Conversely, communicating too much without conveying the ultimate vision can be almost as damaging.

Develop key KPIs to measure your success. Innovation is not an always win proposition. You may not find huge marketing numbers to point to a winner. Come up with those elements that prove its working.  Is it money saved on future campaigns?  Is it press coverage of your marketing products? Is it related to time-to-market for future products? Is it tied to sales? Brand recognition? Whatever it is, make sure that is known to your team and management. Without those clearly understood KPIs, you’re effectively spending a lot of money on illusion…

When all is said and done, there needs to be an environment or atmosphere that welcomes trial and error. Intrinsically, there is no other undertaking that comes across so much success and failure with few traditional methods of measuring both. It is those corporations and organizations that truly embrace innovation (and not just tout that they are innovative) who most consistently bring successful innovations to market.

Sometimes innovation can seem just outside your grasp (as an individual or an organization) but with vision, communication and execution, it will come back x-fold in marketing and anywhere else.

The X Factor Of Being Heard

 

Sometimes, you see a technology that is extremely cool and can’t wait for it to hit the market. And sometimes, you see something like Headphone:X from DTS that feels more like a pipe-dream that leads you to imagine where it might make the most sense. Could this X-Factor ever really be heard by more than a select few? Which got me thinking that DTS and Headphone:X is a prime technology candidate for marketing and experiential sampling.

HeadphoneX

We first experienced Headphone:X at CES 2013 and blogged about it in the recap. They put people in a room with 11 speakers placed about and did a white noise cycle.  Then they asked everyone to put their headphones on and seemingly repeated except they did not use the speakers, all the directionality was via the headsets alone.  They then went on to showcase a bunch more music and sound effects and challenged you to take the headphones off to kill your disbelief.

 

Needless to say, it sounded amazing – but the questions were:
–          What content was engineered in 11.1, and
–          Was a new receiver required or was it backwards compatible with existing DTS receivers.

 

The immediate response on site was that you would need new hardware…

 

To me, its an incredible sounding gimmick that might never really find real momentum, just like 7.1 is hard to come by because very few elements are engineered for it, nor do most consumers have the required 7 speakers in their music room. Headphone:X is a great solution as you can use most any set of headsets, but that processing and source engineering poses some release challenges.

 

Now, if we’re talking about experiential environments that can truly transport someone through audio alone, there’s a huge opportunity – but you’ve got to find the client or content creator with a need and wherewithal for such a thing. Creating that environment that truly tickles the senses in a way people aren’t accustomed to is much stronger than just re-purposing video or an experience the consumer could easily have elsewhere.  With the right utilization, Headphone:X could be the X-Factor that differentiates your message being heard rather than ignored.

 

Has Apple Gone Too Far In Their Packaging?

As we know, Apple has established itself as the preeminent purveyors of great technology design.  They have that strong history of not only making great hardware and operating systems, they make them actually look great. It’s no coincidence that their competitors have borrowed from some of those designs.  While some have gotten close on product design, none have really matched the beauty of their actual packaging. Half the fun of opening a new apple product is the unraveling of the packaging as if it were a beautifully intricate flower. The design always served the product, until now. With the opening of the Apple Store in Santa Monica, CA, they might have tipped their hat and gone too far in packaging their product to be beautiful at first sight – but it fails to place the product in the best light.

AppleSantaMonica

When the store opened in December, you could already get a glimpse of the inherent issues.  In a video capture of the opening by YouTube personality, iJustine, they mention the heat and the noise near the end of the video.

Apple places a strong emphasis on marketing and innovation in everything they do, but this direction in store design did too much innovation while adversely affecting the product.  When you enter the store, it is especially beautiful at night, but still loud due to the flat walls and glass ceilings – it is a veritable noise chamber. When you visit during the day, it has that same loudness but the glare and heat are almost unbearable.

Now, months in, the issues are very clear. If you are trying to check out the products, you can’t see a lot because of that glare, and if you are waiting for the Genius Bar or getting individual instruction, the loudness and heat make you not want to stick around.  One woman even brought a box for her one-on-one to place around her product as she was well aware of the issues.

While this is not the first Apple store with a glass ceiling – there has been one in the Upper West Side of Manhattan for a number of years – it seems they did not really take everything into consideration and aimed for looks more than substance. Perhaps the bigger Santa Monica store concerns were never an issue in Manhattan due to more limited direct sunlight and extended cooler weather. It’s a shame that they didn’t take into consideration that there is more heat and sunlight in the beach city of Santa Monica.

AppleSM

I hate seeing Apple miss and I hope this is just a hiccup and not more indicative of what’s to come. If they continue to make decision based more on looks than substance, we will all lose out.