Thursday, August 1, 2013

Wearable Technology: A Behavioral Revolution

Wearable technology is fast creating a world in which technology is no longer an add-on. Instead it is literally attached to us. It is embedded in our lives, generating and mining data in a way that is useful and functional, both for us and for marketers.

It is no longer uncommon to see people wearing smart watches like Pebble or tracking their fitness with armbands such as UP and Nike+. And, Google Glasses are a regular topic of conversation whether it’s a skydiving tech demo or Jon Bon Jovi’s keyboardist wearing them live in concert.

The data we actively generate define who we are in the digital age and how to best reach us for marketers. This data includes stats on how far we run, what we eat and our sleep patterns. It also includes geotagging and the trove of information we upload to social media.

All of this data is going to play a much bigger role in our lives, both in terms of the benefit from the technology we wear and the ability of companies to meet our needs when, where and how we need them met.

Wearable technology is already evolving beyond just the “cool” to the beneficial:

  • Smart Diapers by Pixie Science, out of New York, detects possible urinary tract infections, kidney dysfunction and dehydration via infants’ diapers. It transmits the information directly to a physician via a smartphone app. The diaper has a small patch on the front, containing chemical agents that have different reactions depending on which proteins are present in urine. If the levels are abnormal, the color on the patches changes. At the end of each diaper use, a parent uses his or her smartphone to take a picture of the QR code-like patch which is analyzed by the accompanying app to determine whether the baby has a UTI, if the kidneys are healthy, if the baby is hydrated, and, even detect Type 1 Diabetes; thereby providing valuable information about a baby’s health. 
  • The FIDO project through Georgia Institute of Technology is developing wearable technology that aims to improve communication between working or assistance dogs and their handlers. The dogs communicate with their handler or owner by biting or tugging on sensors fitted into their collar or vests. The sensors activate either audio commands that handlers can hear in their earpiece or visual commands that appear on a head-mounted display. 
  • Finnish start-up, Uniqil, announced a new technology last week that allows customers to buy products with their face. All customers do is present their face to a camera in a store that uses their device and the transaction is processed. 
The idea of objects we use benefitting us has the ability to take the power of technology beyond the individual to the larger community. For example, adidas’ Nitrocharge “"Power Pitch" harnessed the in-game energy to generate the energy for the pitch-side lighting. And, Soccket by Uncharted Play is a regulation-size soccer ball that converts kicks and headers into off-the-grid power. With it, two hours of play produces enough wattage to light an LED for at least a night.

It’s clear this is only the beginning. In the future, it seems likely we will have devices that second-guess us or make intelligent connections for us. It is not farfetched to imagine that this will help marketers to microtarget even more. The next logical extension is to leverage things we already take for granted, such as Amazon recommendations, and send them to our devices to help make purchase decisions based on our preferences.

Wearable technology’s evolution is not only changing our behaviors, it’s changing our relationship to the world.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Manufacturing Moments and Marketing Serendipity: Welcome to the New Frontier

This is a repost of an article I wrote for Forbes in May on the idea of manufactured serendipity and marketing. ________________________________________________________
The idea of manufactured serendipity is not new within the digital world. Whether it’s finding out when friends and other interesting people are nearby or what they recommended in your current location, our apps have given us plenty of moments of discovery. You know when you “discover" that really cool coffee shop thanks to Foursquare or meet up with a friend you didn’t expect to see thanks to GlanceeHighlight, Sonar and Banjo or newer entries like quadstreaker and the updated Google Maps.

While these apps are useful, they are lacking in the most powerful element: a specific action that benefits you, the user. This gap has led to an interesting and emerging trend from marketers – combining manufactured serendipity with timeliness. And, what’s emerging is a new idea: The marketplace of moments.

The marketplace of moments is the creation of time-limited offers and deals via mobile that depend on your being in the right place, at the right time and taking the necessary action. A step beyond Foursquare deals, these marketplace moments place a premium of time and combine that with the discovery element of manufactured serendipity. Here are some examples:

  • Guatemalan sneaker store, Meat Packer’s Hijack added a time-sensitive discount feature to its existing app to steal customers from rival stores. Using GPS technology to track when a customer entered the rival store, the app pushed a notification to the customer offering a time-sensitive discount at Meat Peak. The discount started at 99% and decreased to 1% with each second that passed causing customers to rush to Meat Pack to get the best deal. In one week alone, Meat Pack took 600 customers from its competitors. 
  • Emart’s “Sunny Sale” in South Korea used a three-dimensional QR code that was placed across Seoul and could only be scanned during 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. daily, due to the sunlight casting a shadow to complete the QR code. Anybody who scanned the code was given a special discount code of 25% off that could be redeemed in store or through their mobile e-commerce site. Emart saw an enormous increase in sales during the promotion. 
  • BiteHunter in the United States is a niche daily deal aggregator site that uses a real-time location based on an iPhone mobile app. The app sets your location automatically and presents you with offers. Search results are displayed in a convenient map format. Additionally, the site offers a one-click payment option, restaurant contact information and reviews. 
Each of these apps creates a sense of urgency at a point of relevancy. But it’s clearly only the beginning. There is a great opportunity to expand the marketplace of moments.

For example, what happens if you take this marketplace of moments a step further and pair with it predictive apps that are based on emotion? Let’s say you use Happstr (a mobile app that lets users mark geographical locations where they’re feeling happy.) When you walk past one of these happy places, a restaurant where you had a great first date for example, and you are served a discount that you have to use within the next hour.

Suddenly, you’ve combined an emotional memory with a marketplace moment. The relevance of such an action is sure to increase positive feelings and potentially boost loyalty for your product or service. There are many powerful opportunities that have yet to be explored combining emotion, timeliness and technology. It’s just up to marketers to act.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

B2People: Humanly Relevant Marketing

This is a repost of the latest article I wrote for Forbes on the idea of B2People.

The lines have blurred throughout the historically “distinct” macro-target markets. Traditionally, marketing is broken down into three key areas, B2C, B2B and B2G. Each one has essentially marketed to different groups: the first, clearly, to another business, wholesaler or retailer; the second to consumers directly; and the last to government entities.

However, this approach is problematic, especially when targeting the B2B and B2G audiences. Yes, there is certain language that resonates within each group. For example, a manufacturer needs to use language that is directly applicable to a wholesaler. And a defense contractor ought to know the correct language to approach the Pentagon. But, as marketing professionals, we must go beyond the basics. It appears that a fundamental component is lost.

We have forgotten that regardless of the target market, the key decision-maker, whether he or she is a financial adviser, a hospital administrator, a CEO, a mom buying a toy for her child, or the head of a large contractor for the military, is first and foremost a human. Such decision-makers have fears and joys; trials and tribulations; and moments that bring them happiness. This is true both professionally and personally. Ultimately, that means our approach to communications needs to evolve.

We should no longer look at communications purely from a B2B, B2C or B2G angle. It is now B2People.

So, what is B2People? B2People ensures that messaging, regardless of the audience, is humanly relevant. Therefore, as we approach each key challenge, we need to ask ourselves key questions and try to stand in our target audience’s shoes: What is important to our key target audience? What is keeping them up at night? What is important for them to feel successful? What are they feeling about their industry, about our product, about the cultural climate? How can we shift these perceptions in a meaningful way? Once we determine the answers to these questions, it’s our job to connect the dots.

B2People is about recognizing we are speaking to real people who do real things and then communicating with them in a language that is relevant to their real lives. Marketing that achieves this goal is the most impactful, most engaging and by far the most effective.

For the New Year remember who your true target is: human beings.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Why Brand Experiences Matter

This is a repost of the latest article I wrote for Forbes on the trend of experiential branding.

This year I made a promise to myself. Each week I would try something new that expanded my view and forced me to step out of my comfort zone in some way. In other words, I would become a collector of experiences. At first I started small, trying out new restaurants and then I moved into bigger things. I learned to surf one week. The next week I had dinner with a Buddhist monk in a Buddhist monastery. I tried out capoeira. I had my astrological chart read. I went to a saloon jazz club on my own. Each experience expanded my view and helped me grow as a strategist and a marketer.

As marketers, it is important for us to be able to empathize with multiple, diverse audiences. We need to understand their mind-set, their goals, their challenges and their lifestyle in order to shift perceptions and to help our clients’ brands resonate. In other words, we need to connect to our target audience’s lifestyle in a way that fits into their natural behaviors. Here are some recent strong examples of connecting target audience interests to brand experience in unexpected industries:

  • Sephora Sensorium recognized the need to connect the importance of scent with the value of tactile experiences. The “pop-up” museum set in the fashion-oriented meat-packing district of Manhattan mixed education and entertainment in an appealing manner for their fashion-conscious key target audience.
  • To promote itself in reality life, online glasses retailer Warby Parker launched the Warby Parker Class Trip, an old yellow school bus retrofitted as a Warby Parker show room and taking a six-month cross-country road trip to nine cities. The pop-up shop is decked out to bring the brand and its vintage-inspired mode of transportation with a contemporary twist aesthetic to life for their hipster target.
  • Aloft’s Play and Stay campaign connected their guests’ love of music, their passion for discovering new talent, and their excitement for live performances with emerging music talent. The campaign enabled Aloft to further solidify the brand’s image as a brand that “gets” and celebrates the lifestyle of their guests through helping them explore music and find cool new artists.

Connecting these dots is necessary for marketers to generate brand engagement and ultimately, loyalty. This approach remains especially important among harder-to-reach targets. For example, adidas needed to address the fact that sales of running shoes in France among its hard-to-reach target demographic of 14-to-19-year-olds were down. Through research they learned that not only did this target not like to run, but they were also so uninterested that they weren’t even trying on the shoe and were definitely not purchasing them. However, they also learned that this was an audience that loved action movies. Traditional ad campaigns weren’t resonating, but an out-of-the-box experience might. Partnering with Sid Lee, adidas realized the need to connect this love of action movies to the young audience’s Climacool shoes and created an experience that gave teenagers in France a reason to run — by making them the hero of their very own Mission Impossible-esque adventure. And the results show the success of focusing on the experience: adidas saw a 500 percent jump in Climacools tried during the campaign. Here's the case study video:

So whether it’s adventure or astrology, it’s important for marketers to expand the brand experience. The only way to do this is to develop a real understanding of the target audience. So what are you planning on doing first? Maybe it’s time for that skydiving lesson, ceramics class or trip to the C├ęzanne exhibit.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Happiness Runs in a Circular Motion?

This is a repost of the latest article I wrote for Forbes on the trend of tracking your emotions.

The ability to quantify many areas of our lives has led to the emergence of a new trend – the trend of tracking your emotions, specifically happiness. These apps allow people to track their emotions much like they would track fitness, calories or spending. But, can this focus on tracking happiness actually undermine us, especially in our career or business successes?

The idea of quantifying our activities using technological tools is not new. Many of us use apps like Nike+ or RunKeeper to track our runs, calorie counters such as Meal Snap to track our caloric intake, and financial tools like Mint to track our spending.

Launched in 2009, Track Your Happiness is a mobile research project that allows users to track their happiness and find out what factors – for them personally – are associated with greater happiness. According to data from the app: “46.9% of people's time is spent thinking on something other than what they're doing. In fact, what activity a person was engaged in only accounted for about 5% of a person's happiness, whereas whether that person's mind was on- or off-task accounted for over 10%.” So, in other words, a wandering mind is an “unhappy one.” Some apps are taking this idea even further and are looking at the idea of happiness through a person’s social network. Happstr is a mobile app that allows users to mark geographical locations where they’re feeling happy, and to see others' "happiness spots" on the map. It’s purpose is to get users to focus on and record the best moments of their lives. It enables them to benefit from the well-being of others by sharing that happiness with their social network. The app is based on research that shows a person’s happiness can be easily elevated by the network effect of happy people near you.

While the idea of sharing and recording personal happiness is interesting, these apps are problematic since they lead to counterfactual thinking. Happiness, like all emotions ebbs and flows. It can depend on any number of factors such as whom you were with, when you were there, and even the weather. Additionally, by tracking your happiness, it causes you to always be looking backward through rose-colored glasses rather than staying in the present.

As noted in a 1995 study, “When less is more: Counterfactual thinking and satisfaction among Olympic medalists,” published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: "People's emotional responses to events are influenced by their thoughts about 'what might have been.' The authors extend these findings by documenting a familiar occasion in which those who are objectively better off nonetheless feel worse."

Apps like these drive us to compare ourselves and our emotional state with others, causing us to focus on what we don’t have rather than what we do have. It undermines our successes.

Interestingly, this applies across the board. Successful business leaders as well as Olympic winners even fall prey to this. For example, the same study found third place Olympic winners are sometimes even happier than second place because the "silver medals winners did upward comparisons to the gold medal winner, while the bronze medalists did downward comparisons to people who didn't win medals." And, this is evidence among business leaders in competitive fields as well. According to Jena McGregor’s Washington Post article, “The psychology of how Olympic gold, silver and bronze can go to your head,” “Leaders in competitive fields are always comparing themselves to those who came in first, when they might enjoy their success a little more if they learned to compare themselves to those who didn’t come close to winning at all."

This trend of tracking our emotional states leads us to focus backward rather than forward. To quote Daniel Gilbert, one of the creators of the Track Your Happiness Project, in his book, Stumbling on Happiness: “The fact that we often judge the pleasure of an experience by its ending can cause us to make some curious choices.” Happiness is a raw, human emotion—not something that can be tracked like calories and purchases.  Much like a mood ring one might find at a toy store, such apps shouldn’t be taken seriously. The very thought of it makes me sad.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

How Busy is Too Busy?

Ok... I'm ironically delayed posting this (work, vacation and life in general may have interfered), but here is my Forbes article from July. It is focused on the trend of "being busy."

It feels good to be busy. After all, it means that you are tackling tasks, making progress, moving forward. There is a sense of accomplishment that comes with being busy.

But the question arises how busy is too busy?

Theoretically you could work every waking second in the day and age of the mobile device. gyro’s @Work State of Mind report, conducted in conjunction with Forbes Insights, thoroughly examined the fact that work comes home and home comes to work. It’s just the way things are in today’s connected world.

Contrary to what we expected, many executives said this made them feel more empowered and agile. The minority of the 543 executives surveyed said they felt overwhelmingly negative about this “always on” life. In many ways, we’ve gotten used to the pace work and communication that didn’t exist less than a decade ago.

According to Tim Kruger’s recent New York Times post, “The Busy Trap,” excessive busyness is an emerging, yet central, value of American culture.” Kruger asserts that the very idea of busyness makes us feel important.  It gives us a sense of worth – defined through endless activity.”

As Kruger states: “Almost everyone I know is busy.  They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work. They schedule in time with friends the way students with 4.0 G.P.A.’s make sure to sign up for community service because it looks good on their college applications.”

gyro and Forbes Insights found that 98% of executives work nights and weekends, 97% work on vacation and 53% will leave the dinner table to handle work if need be.

Some executives said they make better decisions at home because they had time to think. Others, just wanted to be kept in the loop in case a problem arose.

Either, there needs to time to relax, recharge and rebalance.  Without that necessary “down time,” our ability to innovate lessens. Playing as well as working is necessary. Through playing, we discover new ideas. Through resting, we take the time needed to approach problems from new angles.  The key to longer term success and ultimately, being content, appear to be finding the balance for yourself between being busy and taking the time to rejuvenate.

As noted in my earlier article, The Rise of Digital Detox, the constant flood of information can become overwhelming.  So much so, that unplugged vacation packages are surging in popularity and free apps are on the rise that actually block us from working,

As technology evolves so will we and the how much is too much debate will continue. As will the discussions about the new work life balance. All of these conversations will, well, continue to keep us busy as well.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Rise of Digital Detox

This is a repost of the latest article I wrote on the trend of digital detox.
Sometimes the constant flood of information and the “always on” mentality can become overwhelming. With the rapid new developments in smartphone, notebook and tablet technologies, people have the ability to continuously send and receive information at the touch of a button or swipe of a finger. As a result, the trend of vacations from digital technology has emerged.

Digital technologies are central to every facet of modern Western life. According to research from Pew, currently 88 percent of American adults have a cell phone, 57 percent have a laptop, 19 percent own an e-book reader, and 19 percent have a tablet computer; about six in 10 adults (63 percent) go online wirelessly with one of those devices.

We aren’t simply using these devices, but they have become integral to our lives. As noted, in gyro’s “@Work State of Mind” report: “[business] executives resemble 24/7 news networks—constantly receiving, processing and sending information.” In addition, 2 percent of business decision-makers never work on weekends or nights, and 52 percent receive business information around the clock, including weekends. This mentality has permeated our broader culture:
  • 50 percent of Americans prefer to communicate digitally rather than in person (Pew)
  • 81 person browse the Internet, 77 percent use search, 68 percent use an app, and 48 percent watch videos on their smartphone (Google)
  • 72 percent use their smartphones while consuming other media, and one-third are on their smartphones while watching TV (Google)
  • 93 percent of smartphone owners use their smartphones while at home (Google)

Interestingly, people are now even using technology to take breaks from technology itself. One app called Freedom can be downloaded and set to block Internet access on a Mac or PC for up to eight hours to allow users time for offline productivity. Digital Detox is a free app for Android smartphones that was inspired by Adbuster’s Digital Detox week and irrevocably disables a user’s phone for a user-specified period of time.

Disconnecting from technology has not stopped there. The trend has manifested itself as a sales tool in the travel industry with the creation of digital-detox vacation packages:

  • St. Vincent and the Grenadines is asking travelers to leave their technology at home as part of their digital-detox vacation package. Included in the package is a pre-mailed guidebook explaining how to function on a trip without technology and features an onsite life coach who provides advice on how not to let technology control one’s life. 
  • The “Be Unplugged” option at the Quincy Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C., provides guests the ability to surrender their laptops, tablets and smartphones at check-in. The staff then locks away these items during the guest’s stay. At the end of the stay, the gadgets are retrieved with a special code. 
Other resorts with similar packages include the Teton Mountain Lodge and Spa in Teton Village, Wyo., the Lake Placid Lodge in Lake Placid, and Via Yoga, Seattle company that specializes in luxury yoga and surfing retreats in Mexico and Costa Rica. The digital vacation trend is positive, even for the most digitally connected and savvy people.

A break from digital communications (whether for hours or days) can refresh us, enabling us to become more productive in human relations and work. This break clears our life from noise and allows us the space to reconnect with ourselves, relax and return to the digital world recharged.