Tag Archives: Four Square

My Recap of a Recap (this time CaT)

I’m getting at this a bit late, especially in Internet time, but I came across an article recapping an Innovation conference (called “Creativity and Technology“) from a couple weeks ago. As the name suggests, this is a conference that combines creative thinking with emerging technology (brought to us by Ad Age). It is very much for an agency audience, featuring some of the biggest names in the agency world. These guys are on the front lines of pushing the boundaries, enough so that they are creating new boundaries themselves.

This particular article was a recap on the topic of “Breaking Down Barriers Between Fields,” and I found even the brief recap fascinating.  I love hearing different perspectives from (smart) people.  The reporter broke it down with 5 takeaways that I’ll mirror here and give my own thoughts, as these are things I think about every day, for good or bad.

1. Don’t separate “Interactive” – This is not an easy thing to do, particularly as agencies try to expand their competencies and do more and more.  I like what Ivan Askwith, director of strategy, at Big Spaceship said here – “Our focus should not be on emerging tech, but emerging cultural practices.”  From an agency perspective, it’s not about what new technologies look like and how we can use them.  It’s about how we integrate the right talent in the right way into the organization so we can tell the story across the right platform (or “screen” in my world, “field” in this article).  The possibilities of the type of work agencies and brands can produce shouldn’t drive the ship.  The possibilities of people, fueled by the right environment, given the right tools, should always drive the work.  These are aspects that result in a particular culture.  Again, not easy to do, but the agencies who abide by this and learn how to do it first and practice it will be one step ahead.  This is the look – a mandatory – for the “new” agency.

2. Consider platform storytelling – This is the one that I wish I had more information on.  What was reported here and the actual “takeaway” topic don’t quite match up to me.  The quote here, from Patrick Gardner, CEO of Perfect Fools – “Create frameworks so people can create their own stories and pipe that back to the brand.”  True, but to me, this is only part of the story of “storytelling.”  #1 brands have to understand that their “story” is no longer only narrated by them (to Mr. Gardner’s point).  But #2, their story is no longer narrated for a particular medium (I call them “screens,” these guys call them “platforms.”)  We operate in a world that is connected and almost platform agnostic.  From an agency and brand’s perspective, understanding how the story continues across “platforms” is the first step in a new way of communicating.  Executing that story in the right way, given many authors and many platforms, is the golden ticket.  No one wants to leave part of the story on the table.

3. Partner with tech companies, not just media companies – as technology advances, so do the skills required.  We sell our thinking, but we don’t want anyone else to execute it, so we must be executioners, too.  A “new” agency has the capabilities, either in-house, in-network, or through strategic partnerships to do it all, even technical execution.

4. Game mechanics is the new marketing – My takeaway quote here is from Kevin Slavin, co-founder of social TV platform Starling and entertainment marketing firm Area/Code – “Game mechanics motivate consumer behavior.”  I see the point here, and it’s interesting, and I do believe that that there is truth to this, but only for a small cross-section of consumers.  Gaming is a hot trend right now – FourSquare and MyTown and even Kinect – but I think, today, this is more aspirational.  Gaming, especially advances like the aforementioned, doesn’t pass my mom test and while she is increasingly falling out of “target markets,” I still think it’s an aspect to think about – interacting in different ways.  I like interacting with brands, even incorporating a different type of interaction through my every day life through gaming, but I don’t believe everyone’s there yet.

5. It’s hard to laugh alone – I think the point here is that human instinct is to be connected to others.  Technology, particularly social technology like Facebook and Twitter, enables us to connect in ways like never before.  True.

This is one of the conferences I identified at the beginning of the year to go to and, of course, due to other commitments, missed it.  There should be another one coming up in November, this time in London that I’ll pencil in as soon as the dates are announced.  Anyone out there attend this past one in New York?  Or either of the previous two?  If so, I’d love to hear some of your takeaways.

Thanks, everyone, for reading!

Life is Like a Box of (virtual) Chocolates

Life is becoming more and more interactive right in front of our eyes.  Today’s installment brought to you through mobile interactivity.  One of the most popular forms of mobile interaction, centered around our lives and connections, is geo-location based services like Gowalla and Foursquare.

I personally play both of them, and I emphasize “play.”  Not only do they provide another source of social connection, but they enable a game-like experience in my life.  (I’ve also helped implement one of the first B2C experiences in Gowalla, a trend with both of them that is now picking up more steam.)

New to the game, both literally and figuratively, is Stickybits.

Stickybits is fascinating.  The technology is centered around bar codes – these “stickybits” – to which people can attach photos, videos, and/or written word.  In essence, they enable any real-world object to easily be made into social objects, ones that can be shared, passed around, commented on, connected through – anything, really, that you can imagine sharing with someone, just through a simple barcode.  (You can either buy barcodes from Stickybits or you can use existing barcodes and download the Stickybits app, which is only available on iPhone and Android right now.)

As an example, think of a birthday card (which has a barcode).  Instead of signing a long, drawn-out message on this birthday card, I can record a special video message and attach it to the card.  Then, I can pass it around to others in the office for them to attach their special message to it.  Then, when the recipient receives the card, they can scan the barcode and experience everyone’s messages.  Cool, eh?

Think now, of applying/using user reviews.  If I want to see what others have said about a new pair of tennis shoes before I buy them, I can scan the barcode and see a list of user reviews, provided someone has started the “string.”  If not, I can create the review myself and attach it to the code for others to see who come after me.

There are cool things that you can do as the initiator of this string – you’re basically the moderator of all content posted thereafter.  Anyone who contributes to the string can receive automatic updates and become even more involved in the (virtual) conversation.

From a brand’s perspective, this should be really exciting.  Any packaged good that they produce has a barcode.  They can easily attach a brand message or a special call-to-action or exclusive content for all who come into contact with that product to experience.  You want to attach a special message from a thought-leader, or an executive at the company?  No problem.  You want users to vote on a particular flavor of soda (Mountain Dew)?  No problem.  You want Tom Hanks to deliver a Forrest Gump-like anecdote on that box of chocolates?  No problem.

I talk often about the power of merging the offline with the online.  It’s really what the 11th Screen is all about.  This technology not only enables that real-time merging, but it provides connection, interactivity, and a little fun.

My Behind-the-Scenes Observations at SXSW

I have finally been able to catch my breath from the SXSW trip enough to reflect on everything I observed and share it here.  First of all, my perspective of SXSW is different than any other conference I’ve attended, just from the standpoint of how much work I was doing to make things happen for our client.  It was, by far, the most intense, condensed (if that makes sense) working situation that I’ve been in with an agency.  I liken it to my time working on films – in many respects it felt like film production.  Late nights, early mornings, always on the run (and I emphasize run), going from one thing to the other so quickly that you’re just reacting.  I like that kind of work, that kind of pace, that kind of “doing,” but it’s not something I could sustain at this time in my life.  Short periods? Sure.  Every day?  No way.  Anyway, my involvement at that level “behind the scenes” prohibited me from experiencing the conference in a way that I am accustom to.  I didn’t go to any panels, I didn’t go to any parties, I didn’t spend time networking at length with people.  It really was strictly business on behalf of FH & Chevy, not Mike or The 11th Screen.  That said, I was involved enough in what was going on, specifically around the convention center, to come away with some good, pretty fair observations.

1.  Value, value, value – it really does work.  Brands can accomplish a lot and shift perceptions by providing value to people.  To me, this is all about relevance.  How are you, as a brand, communicating & engaging with your audience(s)?  Are you engaging in a meaningful way?  Is it mutually beneficial?  Does it provide value?

2.  Don’t talk to, talk with – it’s all about 2-way communication.  Listen first.  Then, talk.  It’s so simple.  It’s what we do in our normal, everyday, real-world lives.  At least what we should be doing.  Effective communication and engagement is not about talking to people, it’s about talking with people.  Try this with your spouse, with your kids, with your co-workers, family members, friends – just talk with them.  It’s a dialogue.  A give and take.  When you do this, you can both have productive, fulfilling conversations.  Brands who do this, particularly in the social space, create advocates and build trust.  Advocacy and trust are sustainable and those types of relationships don’t go away easy.

3.  It’s not what you know, it’s who you know – people are smart.  And people have connections.  In an ideal situation, the best people to know are smart and connected.  I say this because if you talk to the right people (smart + connected) in the right way (2-way communication), they will talk about you.  You as a person and/or you as a brand.  And when they talk, many people listen.  I could rephrase this observation to “it’s not how many people you know, it’s how many right people you know.”

4.  QR codes & LBS are a ways away from mass adoption – I think SXSW majorly failed at their attempt to introduce QR codes to the masses.  They had a prime audience, one who could actually warm to the use of them, yet they failed to educate and create an easy experience with them.  Their codes virtually went unused.  By the time attendees came to our booth, no one knew what QR code reader to load on their phone and/or exactly what to expect from them.  I think QR codes, specifically SXSW’s use of them, was the most overrated technological story that came out of the conference.  Again, this is from my limited point of view.  (I heard that Twitter’s announcement of their @Anywhere feature was less than stellar.)  I just had such high hopes for the QR code story.  But QR codes aren’t the only emerging technology that is still immature over here.  LBS, like Gowalla and/or FourSquare, are used consistently by such a small segment of people.  But there is a huge group who have no idea what “LBS” stands for in this context, much less how to use them on their phone.  There was a vast difference between the interactive attendee usage of Gowalla and the music attendee usage of Gowalla.  I think a lot of this is attributed to the penetration (or lack thereof) of smart phones still in the US.  The opportunity here is to continue to push these types of technologies – because I believe that they still have a life – and experiment with them in various ways.  We’ve really only scratched the surface in how we can use them in relevant, meaningful ways on behalf of brands.

5.  Last but certainly not least, I work with some amazing people.  We were a relatively small team, but we are like family.  Matt, Valerie, Cindy, Jodi, Marc, Herb, Rob, Miker, Jessica, Penny, Sarah B., Sarah F., Lane, Chris, Chrissie, Brad, Warren, Christian, designer Jessica, Matt W – you guys rock.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on SXSW.  Shout back.

Interactivity is all Around

I haven’t had a chance to stop by all of the booths on the showroom floor, but it is safe to say that interactivity is all around us.  Last year, my biggest observation was the lack of interactivity.  From both hardware and software providers.  Now, it doesn’t seem like there is a booth that doesn’t have an interactive solution.  On the surface, this is awesome.  I’m worried about over saturation.  I don’t know who does what better than the next company, so that’s going to be my task.

Initial photos:

This is the entrance to the tradeshow floor.  Cool stuff here, but no interactivity.  Each screen (and you’re not seeing 2 of them) shows something different and actually, relevant.  The vertical screen on the far right is a Tweet stream of #dse2010.

And this is the foursquare, Locamoda, digital signage integration that gained a lot of buzz before the conference.  Look at the top right hand corner,  from SalmonKangaroo3 (that was me??) – I was here.  But this is cool.  It lists the mayor of the Las Vegas Convention Center, # of check-ins and tips.  Truly integrated 11th Screen material.  “Digital” sign that allows you to interact with it via an enabling technology (mobile) phone and share it with like-minded individuals (social). 

Waiting on Keith Kelson, “father of the 5th Screen” now.  Hope he makes the session….