Friday, December 5, 2008

Technobama: changes 4ward?

With all the grim financial news on Wall Street, Detroit and pretty much all around the World, it's a good time to take inventory of what's broken, what needs fixing, what should get tossed ... and what is on the horizon.
The election of Barack Obama, beyond a historic event validating Americas commitment to it's stated social principals, is unprecedented in it's basis online. No previous election ever got as "grass roots" as this one, with an unlikely candidate with little previous national exposure rising to the top of the heap in a contending pack FULL of political savvy. To a significant extent, the Obama campaign's use of the Internet and social networking helped clinch both regional image-building and fundraising. The rest is History.
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it" ... but clearly some things are broke, including many Americans. The US public has helped bring this on itself in our political choices and general disinterest in critical issues. (It's much more fun to read up on Paris & Britney than politics & economics!) Our banking system has broken from deregulation and a lack of public oversight. By allowing banks, investment firms and insurance companies to compete for each others lunch, we unleashed a free-for-all and we now see the spectacle as these all belly up to a buffet trough of taxpayer cash. By fashion forwarding gas guzzling SUV's and 4x4s that never see dirt roads, we let US automakers think that alternative fuel vehicles are just PR window dressing for token appeal.
Enough already! Without a change in public mindset, there will be no real change. Even the most tragically-hip fashionistas and flag-draped uber-conservatives can smell something in the air that's not right. Beyond rhetoric, hopefully the news will get through that apathy is not cool, that political intelligence is not about snooping on election rivals and that changing the future starts in the present.
The world looks to America for some important exports. Ideas, entertainment and technology to name a few. In an age when America cannot compete effectively for low cost human manufacturing, innovation and creativity holds our greatest promise. Technology and creativity combined will prove Americas greatest WMP (Weapons of Mass Production). Look around ... on every front you can find promising solutions to specific problems from business management to engineering to social interaction. Our aspirations and concerns are reflected in media and music, our energy and commitment is found across the Web ... sometimes hard to find ... but there.
Congratulations Mr. Obama ... we wish you well and support the intelligent course you seem to be setting. Please ignore the political insiders and vested interests who will invariably push their programs at you. If you can tap into the roots of American intelligence and social commitment as well as you did our political discontent, we have a lot to look forward to.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Just below the "Surface"

Those of us who are aware of the remarkable potentials for retail and out-of-home media using interactivity are increasingly excited with the array of new tools available. No longer just demo tech, Microsoft’s new “Surface” platform is a good example of this genre, now being used in AT&T stores and elsewhere. GestureTek, Reatrix and others paved the “gesture-based” way … and now BumpTop, EonReality, MicroTouch, PerceptivePixel and other sensory displays are evolving fast. Such formats allow increased “hands on” touch-screen access for a far more fluid interaction “experience”. The system understands the user rather than the other way around … good news for all of us.

A decade ago I ran an experiment on self service “kiosks” at a medical trade event … one using a computer with keyboard and mouse, one with identical content on a touchscreen system. The results were quite compelling. Many intelligent, computer oriented customers literally avoided the computer / mouse … and the keyboard was treated like the “untouchable” caste in India! The touchscreen system by contrast had even admitted technophobes playing around and exploring the media with enthusiasm.

Creating a new “transparency” for out-of-home users is a critical element. Content is also key. "Digital signage" is more than moving pictures and commercials ... it offers a two-way line of communication directly between a business and its life blood ... Customers. Rather than the traditional "guesstimating" at their preferences, interactivity allows your clients and customers to actually “tell” you what they want in no uncertain terms by their behavior.

I'm not talking surveys here, please! Personally, I find many surveys depersonalized and irritating despite incentives for rewards. There are lots of real “choice” options which quietly and subtly allow the users preferences to be clear. When customer data is unified and used properly, the evidence is clear even without RFID’s, preferred member programs (though often a great idea) … or any tech driven invasion of privacy.

By using technology to make the dialogue between seller and buyer a close, honest and cooperative one, real brand loyalty is built … which is, as MasterCard says “priceless”. In this new media neighborhood, customers will naturally turn to those brands which comfort, nurture and care about them.

Be one of them.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Unleash your hidden business online

Sometimes the obvious is invisible ... when you are too close to the subject. This is true of most small businesses who take for granted qualities that customers may think important ... and such qualities may be what define your business as GREAT.

With this in mind ... take the extra time to find out why customers are loyal, keep coming back and send others. This knowledge is priceless! When you put in the extra effort it shows and customers respond ... when you don't your business dies a slow death. But you may not even be giving yourself credit where credit is due, and may actually be missing out on key business that is just waiting to land in your lap!

A quick case in point ... we helped design a wedding photographers website to show the quality and help with bookings. One piece of our strategy was to put proofs of each wedding in a "private" review area where both family and guests could see all of the proofs. Amazingly print sales soared, and we discovered that nearly as many guests bought prints from the gallery as family, creating a whole new circle of customers ... some who later also had THEIR weddings done by the same photographer.

This is typical of what online marketing can do for small business ... tap into a whole new class of customers. Websites that started out as "online brochures" grow into internet businesses. All thats needed is to keep an open eye and ear to what makes your customers tick ... and the willingness to try something new. Call us for a free evaluation at 212-604-0666

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Fifth Dimension in Visualizing Business

These days many businesses are so focused on "the bottom line" and acquiring new clients that they remain blithely unaware of 2 critical cues that are right at their fingertips. Information over time. In architecture, adding time and data to the 3D visual landscape of horizontal (x), vertical (y) and depth (z) ... allows us to sense where issues will arise that need anticipation.
We call this "5D visualization".

For a long time now I have had a hard time impressing upon clients the value of their customer data ... especially when reviewed over time in context with business activity. Wall Street knows this well ... and pays religious homage to "historical" market trends. Looking at the past does not always translate to a vision of the future ... but at least it frees us from duplicating past errors.

For example; in working with commercial architects, developers and realtors it became clear that much of a property's worth is not visible to the naked eye ... but is critical to it's value nonetheless. Tax rate fluctuations, changing traffic patterns, economic trends and even styles of design "fashion" can make or break a commercial property investment. Infrastructure such as plumbing, air conditioning and amenities (health spa, public spaces, parking) are changed and updated over time ... for better or worse.

As we look at other industries, there are also "unseen" values at work. Good marketers and managers seem able to anticipate trends ... not by accident but instinct based upon a feel for these intangibles. Colors & styles come in and go out of fashion. The public appetite fluctuates for media and music, autos and political messages ... but can be at least partially anticipated by stepping back and taking the "long view" and taking personal emotion out of the equation.

Try a "5D" method on your own business if you don't already ... besides sales, inventory and competition, sit back and take a moment to see the time and information trends in your own gains or declines. Look across external factors that you may not have looked at before. Politics, fashions, music, technology ... all reflect undercurrents that have to be reviewed in context to your unique situation. Trends need to be isolated from the background noise we get caught up in for us to understand the "why" of where we are.

Friday, January 11, 2008

2008, The Year of You and "Force Feedback"

Whew ... wasn't sure we would make it but here we are ... 2008 in all it's glory. (well at least it's here, glorious on not!) Let us all hope that 2008 becomes a turning point for us all personally, politically and socially. On a Global level we deserve better, but it's up to us to demand it!

This is a new Blog and I've been quiet for quite a while ... but by no means inactive! I've been immersed in the New and have a lot to share. The world of audience experience has been deeply on my mind and is where I have been putting my focus. Not just large group audiences but audiences of one ... like you. Not just in theatres, the living room, events and online, but in permutations across daily life which are radically expanding the ideas of what is "out-of-home" media such as digital retail and smartphones.

The bad news is that audiences like you and me have been getting short shrift from advertisers and media moguls
The good news is that it looks like 2008 is the year when some major shifts are in motion to change all that. From retail stores where customers are insisting on a better level of customer information, service and value ... to "user intelligent" Web 2.0 websites ... to digital games where "force feedback" on player motions has made the Wii platform the far and away winner in the gaming console arena ... audiences are taking control of what they watch, buy and do. No longer willing to be passive recipients, customers and audiences are insisting there is more and they want it. Consumer brands, media companies and everybody else ... take note.

I'm going to be taking a journey across experiences large and small where the audience, large and small, is being cherished and nurtured. Come back and join me once in a while.

For starters, take a look at TED and some "Ideas worth spreading"... ( ... we'll be visiting TED a lot) ... this one is about digital interfaces and what will be the beginning of a new era in user experiences.

Happy 2008 to All!! Keep coming back ...