Tag Archives: Partnerships

Defining User Experience Within Audience Development


Audience Development requires a different perspective on User Experience. Traditionally, User Experience relates to what the user or customer will experience when interacting with a product, but the key factor of Audience Development extends the idea to a larger conceit of the experience from all touch-points with a brand or product – what we refer to as Brand Experience. Kieron Leppard of SapientNitro posted an Evolution of UX presentation on SlideShare four years ago and, while a strong layout of the basics, it is outdated because of it’s pure focus on the User Experience design within the product and not all touch-points of opportunity within an Audience Development strategy.

Those touch-points that Audience Development factors in are; product, marketing, partnerships, customer service, overall brand, and whatever else makes sense for the particular company. Additionally, these touch-points aren’t considered to be one-way outbound features but enabling two-way communications that builds the bridge between company and audience. This strategy allows for the entire relationship to be fluid and authentic, because without it, consumers start to question the efficacy of the company/brand. Another benefit that many overlook in this strategy is the value to the employees within that corporate culture. With the clear strategic direction and understanding of how everything truly relates to each other, ambiguity and bad decisions can be left at the door.

We’ve all seen examples of the disconnects in the bigger UX picture:

  • A consumer is intrigued to sample a product after being pitched one thing, only to find a product that doesn’t match the promise.
  • Products come out hailing themselves as new and improved, yet are less appetizing to the consumer – even with strong feedback channels, the consumers are often left out of the equation.
  • Receiving bad customer service after completing a purchase on a site with a fabulous user interface.
  • A restaurant with great tasting and well-priced food, but horrible service.
  • Being on a email list for a beloved-brand – only to be bombarded with communications that are too frequent, not relevant, or even worse, both.
  • Original Content is produced and pushed out to try to broaden the audience, but only proceeds to confuse the loyal existing audience.

For companies/brands to be successful in the future, a strong emphasis on an holistic user experience is imperative to Audience Development. One can no longer develop product and then clean their hands figuring that it’s up to others to market it or relate to the customers – that will only lead to disconnects. From first-hand knowledge of a number of our clients who have come to us after falling into the trap of disconnected product; their businesses either struggled greatly to take-off, flat-lined or dipped because of such pervading methods. In many cases, the clients maintained deep insights about their audience (even developing open communication relationships with them) and understood the concept of the full user experience, but couldn’t determine how to address the disconnects effectively with limited or, sadly, wasted resources without taking a beat to delve into the possibilities afforded through proper Audience Development. Once you can look at User Experience as more than just a sum of it’s parts, a path to success and the ability to turn your audience into a tribe will come into focus.


Hot Wheels Makes Children Of All Ages Go Loopy With Excitement

While driving through downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday, my eyes lit up by something I had always hoped for as a child – a full-sized version of the Hot Wheels loop-de-loop toys.  Seeing it as an adult shines a different light on it, as I have no thoughts that I could ever stomach driving a care through the loops – like I believed I could have done in my minds-eye as a child. Other than the excitement of seeing the full-sized toy in real life, the realization of what Mattel was doing with their Hot Wheels brand made me even more impressed. Mattel is seizing on the opportunity presented by ESPN’s X-Games to introduce, re-introduce and just plain make their products more relevant in an entertaining and engaging way.

Hot Wheels Double Loop Dare being built-in a downtown parking lot. Courtesy of SpeedCafe.

Taking place tomorrow morning during the X-Games coverage, ESPN will air the feat between two daredevils.  The drivers will face 7-Gs of force as they do the loop and will only hope that they do not crash into each other.

I had read somewhere that this opportunity was a creative one that they arrived at when they realized there was no big blockbuster to sponsor.  They decided to create their own sort.  At a supposed cost of $1 million dollars to pull off, the content and buzz generated by this should more than pay off.

The fact that Mattel has already been engaged in full-scale treatments of their beloved line of toy cars provides even more reason to do such a thing. You can check out more at their site. They already have a good distribution point for video content and this should provide a wealth of content beyond just the initial viewers on ESPN.

Mattel has recently had a knack for doing strong creative partnerships, such as their program with Gallery 1988 in Hollywood – allowing artists to do renditions of the hot wheels they love. All of these help to make Hot Wheels extend beyond the pre-teen years of boys.

With less than 24 hours to go, it will be great to see whether this stunt flies high or takes a crash.  My bet would be on the former – regardless of how the stunt drivers’ Hot Wheels end up.

Courtesy of Chris Tedesco/ESPN

[UPDATE] The stunt was successful – with the only thing shocking me was that they only reached a top speed of 52 MPH. I would have thought you would have needed to go faster than that to go upside down.  Does that mean I can go straight from the end of a CA highway on-ramp into a loop?  Check out the video on ESPN.


Launching product campaigns and watching trends, it is easy to see marketers shift quickly from one new technology or platform to the other without really gleaning all that they can from what they have already done.  Perhaps this is a … Continue reading

Proliferation of Second-Screen Screams Entertainment

I would be so baffled if I didn’t have any idea about the entertainment industry. The intriguing issue – which makes that much more sense when knowing how the industry works – is related to second-screen Apps and their proliferation. What strikes me as typical entertainment game-play is the fact that, while Twentieth Century Fox’s FX Network and Home Entertainment groups planted a second-screen flag in the ground with their release of a SONS OF ANARCHY App powered by Technicolor and its MediaEcho product, Fox’s FBC just announced a partnership and equity play with upstart second-app Actv8.me. This would make more practical sense from a non-entertainment standpoint if it were different companies who were launching these partnerships, but because it is the same parent company  entering both partnerships, we’ll have to chalk it up to “That’s Entertainment!” even as some corporate accountants are screaming in some room in Century City.

Certainly, both deals make sense on their own.Fox Home Ent and FX are able to leverage technology back-end that is already being used for the production of product and FBC is not only partnering with a company who can support many shows AND provide an equity deal. But it represents the growing issue as more and more players enter the fray and the consumers become more and more confused about the option and less-likely to want more and more apps on their phones. The FBC deal’s big tout is for activation with their breakout show, THE NEW GIRL. Actv8.me offers contextually relevant opportunities to play along with the show and receive rankings that relate (i.e. Roomate Level.)

Actv8.me has made quite the stir in the past few weeks with the launch of the CELEBRITY APPRENTICE App and now this partnership. Though its CEO, Brian Shuster, seems to have begun the company in 2009 and started marketing in 2011, they were still relatively unknown until the recent announcements. While trying to find out more, I could only find an announcement from November of ’11 and one of the leading reporters in the second-screen space, Chuck Parker, didn’t even include them in his latest Second-Screen Ecosystem chart dated March 2nd.

I commend Shuster and his team for not only coming out of nowhere quickly, but launching with some big catches. I also commend Fox (FBC) for stepping in and taking advantage of the opportunity to receive a piece of the company in return.  Both of those could help Actv8.me move quickly to gaining market share.  It’s a good story for those who are not first to market and a cautionary tale for everyone about the importance of not only product, but connections.

But, back to the larger issue and the proliferation of second-screen and its partnership with Entertainment… Just as the battle between Blu-ray and HD DVD, the current confusion about Ultra-Violet and what that means and the different tools for different networks dilemma that is currently in place, how long can the market bear all of these different options offering different capabilities?  And how long can entertainment conglomerates have their own groups work in vacuums when developing new technologies? I’m sure something will shake out in the end to make it all sort-of OK.  I know that this is normal when new ways of doing things come about, but at first glance the disconnection surrounding connectivity really makes me want to scream.

Volkswagen, Kraftwerk and MOMA – an Über-Smart Partnership

To me, nothing screams art, movement and German like Kraftwerk. Whether it is because of Kraftwerk’s first international success in 1974 , Autobahn, through their last studio album, 2003’s Tour de France Soundtracks – their music has always been a sublime blend of machinery and movement. The fact that they are from Germany sort of fills in the German factor. As such, it seems like a no-brainer for Volkswagen to sponsor the electronic music collective’s retrospective at MOMA/PS1. The partnership is a very smart match made in Autobahn heaven.

Man Machine. Image courtesy of Sprueth Magers, Berlin and London. © Kraftwerk

This doesn’t seem like a forced partnership of entities that don’t necessarily match. Volkswagen has leaned heavily on the technology bent of late and is well known for the use of compelling music and creativity in all of its marketing. This partnership brings them back to a core – if you can transplant yourself from the 70s directly to this millenium.

Rather than doing a boring giveaway, they enmeshed technology into the very act of entering the ticket contest. They enhanced the contest mechanic, and the show itself, by having each person applying for the already sold out shows do so by entering a GIF. The only thing slightly wrong is their terming it as a GIFaway, but the dorkiness sort of fits.

Given that the seats were limited to begin with – only 500 tickets were available for each show – the carving out of 50 tickets of each performance for this promotion made it even more worthwhile. They ended up being able to create a truly fun and contextually relevant partnership and promotion – a good guide for others to follow…

Hulu and Partners Score with AdZone

As we’ve seen in this year’s exciting NFL postseason, its extremely challenging to get to the big game – the Super Bowl. It could be as simple as a young player filling in for the injured regular and turning the ball over or a seasoned veteran just flat-out missing a chip-shot field goal that keeps the team out of the championship. Those who have made it are in elite air and the same could be said about the commercials.  There’s only a limited number of slots (thankfully) and the price gets steeper and steeper each year. Hulu’s AdZone returns again this year to showcase how strategic programming can celebrate those who have been there and enable brands to get extremely close at a fraction of the cost.

Hulu just launched Hulu AdZone 2012 as a platform to provide access to over 250 Super Bowl ads from years past and even preview some ads that will run in this year’s Bowl on the 5th of February.  On the night of the game, fans will be able to view ads in an embeddable widget, rate them and share them across all social media channels – with a live leaderboard tracking results in real-time.

Volkswagen's Dark Side spot (Dogs Barking to Vader's Theme)

But here’s where things get interesting… Through sponsorships and partnerships, Hulu is able to generate even more cachet – and money – where they might not have been able to without a program built for this event.  They also provide opportunities for a brand to effectively be a part of all of the Super Bowl spots.

You can see in the image above how Toyota secured persistent branding across the experience through their “Brought to you by” placement.  So, even though they won’t hit the number of viewers the telecast will have, they will be there for everything from the old Apple “1984” spot through the Volkswagen  Star Wars spots – and all other spots running during this year’s game. There is always a plan by the publishers to latch on to key cultural and sporting events to monetize them and Hulu built a strong product to do just that in an elegant way.

Helping Hulu to up the ante is in partnering with Advertising Age to editorialize groupings of “best ofs” over the years.  Through this partnership, Hulu is able to bring their game to a higher level as a news – or at least curatorial – offering. AdAge also gains a platform to reach entertainment consumers who may not otherwise care about a trade publication – further spreading their brand recognition.

All in, this platform and others – like what YouTube and USA Today offers – provide defacto built-in long-tail benefits of placing ads in the Super Bowl.  Unless, of course, the ad sucks. Those usually only live on for a few days, mired in a heap of negativity.

It is hard to get into the game as a player, advertiser or even a fan.  Many try to get there or be associated in one form or another.  Hulu seems to have found a great solution to check off and score on all of the above.

Yahoo! and ABC News Buzzing About Tying The Knot… Or Just Domestic Partners?

Many are quick to downplay Yahoo’s relevance as Google and Facebook make large gains in revenue while Yahoo’s growth is relatively flat.  They have been working hard to temper the charge from their competitors and announced their latest salvo yesterday by forging a larger partnership with ABC news.

Ross Levinsohn, EVP of the Americas at Yahoo!, intimated that he thinks the partnership can “revolutionize the online and digital news landscape.  On the other side of the partnership, ABC News president, Ben Sherwood, wanted to do something “transformative.”  It remains to be seen where the “revolutionary” and “transformative” shows itself in this equation as Sherwood even said himself that the network was already providing a quarter of the video streams on Yahoo! News.

Part of Yahoo’s strategy of late is to provide more exclusive video content and this partnership would certainly help if it extended to other parts of ABC beyond news.  A byproduct of the relationship will be a new joint site for Good Morning America.  This could lead to some interesting content opportunities on both the site and in the broadcast show if they do things right.  Beyond that, they are looking to produce some more original series with news talent.

The reach of a combined 100 Million users each month that was touted in the press release is all fine and good if they manage the relationship properly and make full use of the available resources.  There is already a concern about having both sales teams with a hand in the selling – supposedly ABC will handle sales as part of upfront and Yahoo! would handle all other sales.

Whatever excitement there might be over this, it is essentially deflated when watching the video they posted – you can see it through the link above – which leads you to wonder whether this deeper relationship was necessary.  If Yahoo! was already showing the content and ABC has had its site around for so long, was there really much to gain from this?  Could this just be the first step of ABC/Disney acquiring Yahoo! like it has been rumoured for over a decade?  I think that’s probably not the case, but its interesting that they would forge such a formal relationship at this point.  One thing is for sure, whether Yahoo! is desperate or not, at least they are making some decisions that at least make relative sense.  They have to do something because their revenues that are higher than Facebook (for now) doesn’t get the buzz it might deserve and buzz is what it has become all about.