Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Has the wearable bubble burst?

A few days ago Nike put the final nail in the coffin on its Fuelband wearable-technology. Laying off the majority of the digital hardware team and announcing it is exiting the wearable-hardware business.

This follows some recent news reporting that one-third of American consumers who have owned a wearable product stopped using it within six months. In a potential U.S market of approximately 45 million adults who are regular members of a gym, this must be a clear signal of an over-inflated 'need' in the market or perhaps that the world is not yet prepared to enter the age of wearable tech.

In this case both those ideas are likely not the reason and do not paint the entire picture. There are some re-occurring principles to be observed that extend beyond the Fuelband. Here are a few:
  1. Tech moves faster than any single company can adapt. At my organization, in a typical project our technical capabilities and options will refresh every 45-60 days. Meaning, how we plan to build something is usually replaced by a better way to build it before the project has been completed. This is the reason why we have remained hardware and software agnostic - we build on the latest and adapt/evolve during the process. This is echoed with Nike, which had  several hardware and software rapidly released for the FuelBand, as well as Samsung's Galaxy Gear which seems to release a new hardware option every few months; bringing me to point number two...
  2. Beware the hardware demand vacuum. With the release of new versions of wearable tech, the speed of the release rarely is an attempt to meet increasing demand. It is an attempt to improve the product. The result creates a false demand within the existing consumer base. This symptom has a sense of half-life, as new iterations decrease novelty and cause demand to collapse in the category - creating a vacuum within the existing market. Even though wearable technology is still within its infancy, this generation of consumer largely expects the product to behave and evolve as a mature product.
  3. Perpetual infancy of technology.   In the case of mobile, wearables, and the human interface (the Internet of Things) the industry will likely remain in a state of infancy longer than consumers are used to experiencing. Evolution in hardware and software will feel more like a revolution as the platforms and delivery of these experiences changes at an increasing rate. It is no wonder Google Glass continues down the Explorer path, as the yet-to-be market ready product has gone through nine software updates since its release just over twelve months ago. For Nike, a business built on apparel and shoes, we'll see their focus on software continue to support digital sports - a market they've also created. Their return to hardware will likely be delayed until the sensors and processors reach a size that allows for true wearable integration - within fabric or within the environment around us. Samsung will follow its path that helped it succeed in mobile - it will try, fail, try, fail, etc until it launches the wearable equivalent of the Galaxy, the mobile device that finally succeeded for them. Dozens of other players will continue to enter the market and keep everyone honest. The wild west will expand.
It is a seriously exciting era in technology, as we all figure out how to move beyond the rectangular limits of our smartphones, computer screens, and televisions. The promise of interaction with the world around us, pushing us back into our communities and physical interactions will continue to fuel the demand for seamless hardware and software.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

3 wearable glasses you can use today

There's a lot of buzz about wearable technology, especially around glasses. Google's marketing machine is driving its Glass message home, but there are a few market-ready competitors that are worth knowing about.

Earlier this year, Ad-Dispatch posted a complete breakdown of the hardware options in this space covering any product that is expected to launch in 2014. By contrast, in this post the information is distilled into the quick points that are important for those looking for a wearable augmented reality solution, wearable gaming solution, or just want the low-down on these three wearable devices.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

After 5 years....

...I'm back on the wagon. I stopped writing in 2009 on this blog for one simple reason - I didn't think I was saying anything new worth publishing. What started as a mechanism to alleviate frustration became boring. It felt like the stories marketers were telling (including my own) were over-used, the bloggers all single minded, and really what more could I offer.

A lot happens over five years. I've moved from digital marketing to creative technology. From a narrow focus on client vs agency relationships to exploring the worlds of augmented reality, the internet of things (my favorite) and wearable technology.

I find myself on the road in a different city every few days and in my travels I have the opportunity to speak with some pretty phenomenal people, try some ridiculous tech, and learn about some of the motivating community minded enterprises on the planet.

So, this is Day 1 - Round 2 of this blog. I'll write when I have something to share and won't write when there's nothing great to say. You can always check-out my work in the creative technology space at Ad-Dispatch or follow me on twitter if you just want to stay connected.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Nice and Aggressive: Post 3 of 3

We've discussed the importance of pride and desire for a brand to establish confidence and consistency. For a brand to ultimately establish a tone that is direct and positive there is one last piece in the puzzle.


The last component of success for a brand to pull of being nice and aggressive is trust. You can have confidence and create desire in the mind of consumers. You can own joy and blanket the side of every bus in North America with your message, but if you break your customers trust it is all for nothing. Breaking trust doesn't just mean lying to them. It means:

  • using one price point as bate and switching it with another when customers inquire.
  • setting up false expectations for a product based on the desire you've created. If you're T-Mobile and you say "life is for sharing" but fail to offer reliable or convenient service, you've failed to backup your promise. If you say you're better, cooler, happier or faster than be just that. Don't confuse customers with clutter and detailed product messages.
  • allowing customers to wait for more than 2-3 minutes to talk to a representative.
  • calling or emailing customers who have not asked to be contacted. Getting an email address for info about Product A doesn't mean they want to hear about Product B or C.
  • failing to help a customer because you only empower your employees to follow a procedure rather than provide a solution.
  • providing a warranty* or guarantee* - no *, it is either guaranteed or it isn't.
  • Being aggressive in mass media and but not offering the price to the mass market.
  • Using contracts as excuses to keep your customers from being treated fairly and as valuable consumers
  • Using mass media to shout out offers and expecting anyone to care. For people to notice you need to build trust. If you break the points above, everything else you say will have less credibility and will reflect on your brand across the board.
What other ways to do brands break trust? I'd actually like to build a list.

To recap, for a brand to be positive and aggressive they need to be confident and consistent in each consumer touch point (product, advertising, customer service, etc)

To be confident and consistent, a brand needs to build on three pillars:
1) Pride
2) Desire
3) Truth

If all three pillars are covered, consumers will grant the brand permission to reach them at higher levels of engagement and will ultimately make choices to choose this brand even in the absence of a promotional campaign or even with the abundance of a rational alternative. This brand will own the consumers share of mind and stand for something greater than the features its product delivers.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Nice and Aggressive: Post 2 of 3

We started this discussion on the premise that the ability for a brand to succeed requires confidence and consistency. One of the first pillars to ensure that a brand to reach this level of confidence and consistency was for it to emit pride. The second pillar is desire.

Rule #1 in sales is to build desire with your prospect. The same goes for brand development. If consumers feel that there is pride and confidence in a brand they will start to pay attention. Step two is to ensure that the brand offers something they desire. This can tangible, like an innovative product. It can be communications based, like excellent customer service. Or it can be in-tangible, like a promise to be better or a connection to an emotion (i.e.: Life's for sharing - T-Mobile).

For 90% of the brands out there, the product or service they are selling is not massively different from its competition. The employee (if they have pride/confidence may say it does) but to most consumers it does not. This is the biggest reason why finding a desire point that is bigger than the product you sell is essential to delivering a positive and aggressive message to consumers. If we look at Computers, Soft Drinks, Mobile Phone Carriers, Furniture, Cars, Clothes - in every major product category you can find a core offering and match it to a set of needs and wants within the consumer market. It just so happens that if someone is looking to show the world that they are worth more than their neighbor, they'll buy a Mercedes instead of a Buick. Although Apple is innovative as an organization, as a brand they dominate cool. The core message they deliver is that they are cooler than everyone else. Regardless of how innovative HP is able to be, they will never (at least within the current branding landscape) be cooler than Apple.

Think about this...does your brand own a desire that is greater than the tangible features of its product?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Nice and Aggressive: Post 1 of 3

Can a brand be positive and aggressive? Can it hit hard but come off as nice in the minds of the consumer? The simple answer is yes.

The complicated answer has to do with confidence.

The next three blog posts will explore three pillars of the pillars to build a brand that will allow a brand to be positive and aggressive in brand communications and actions

If the nature of a brand is to be positive and optimistic - think Pepsi (joy), Coke (open happiness), Apple (experience) - it will have a hard time pulling of assertive messaging unless it shows consistent confidence. The brands I've mentioned have the distinguished fortune of providing exceptional products, however the core of any brand does require confidence and consistency so that consumers allow their message to be heard.

Emit Pride
The first step for a brand to combine positive and aggressive messaging is to show pride. Pride in itself, its people and its products. This should not be confused with self-centered advertising. It means that if the brand is going to communicate, each image, message and media will reflect the pride and confidence this brand believes in.

If we dig one foot deeper, the core of any brand are the people that stand behind it. Employees require pride and confidence in the brand for this to end up as a believable proposition in the minds of consumers. If an executive team/customer service department/marketing team/etc. cannot decide on a unifying message that describes the brand, pride will never resonate with the consumer, regardless of the clever tactics or creative advertising that are thrown at them.

There are a few industries that are often picked on by consumers and marketers for being wolves in sheep's clothing. They attempt to be nice but the core brand is focused on aggression. Think about some used car companies, insurance companies or telemarketers.

Look through your organization - do your employees show pride in the brand? Does your brand reflect this pride in its communications?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Traditional strategy bring traditional results

Last year at about this time I wrote about how advertisers and brands are working together to kill the online click-through ad industry. My point was that, as with all new media, brands who have always been concerned with impressions (i.e. yelling at consumers) have misused the power of the online ad space. My thought was that this was training consumers to lose trust in online ads, ultimately sabotaging the major benefit for advertisers - tracking. The argument from those looking to keep online ads as an attractive choice was that these ads would serve as a branding medium and reach people 'where they are' - the same model traditional advertising has delivered for seventy years, wrapped up in a digital package so that marketing budgets could go to this 'new interactive' stuff and make everyone look good.

A few weeks ago, Marketing Vox confirmed this trend. "The number of online Americans who click on display ads has dropped by 50% since 2007 - and now stands at only 16% of all US internet users..." (thank Mitch). It seems that our inability to resist the traditional way we've thought about communicating with consumers has once again burned a bridge with them.

We've seen the same thing starting to occur with Twitter, Facebook ads, Youtube ads and most Social Networks revenue models. This shift has decreased the value of these tools for advertising. I'm not saying they can't be properly used to advertise, nor am I saying that they are poor marketing channels. You can see the jump in Youtube channels and Facebook Business Fan Pages as proof that relevant and permission based marketing can be greatly beneficial for brands. I'm all for relevant, engaging, memorable and permission based content. I just need help understanding why brands continue to advertise the same way they always have (but have just changed media) and still expect different results?