Data

This film is worth a watch to show how WeChat-which started as a messaging app- is evolving into a one stop killer app for search,social and shopping. (And you thought Google and Facebook were too powerful.). It’s success is due not to Chinese govt support but innovation to make the user experience a) very easy b)integrated c) time saving.

You can be sure that Facebook and other are eyeing WeChat with envy and trying to emulate it

I expect the anti-trust authorities in Europe and USA to have a say on this trend

Data brilliantly presented can crystalise a complex issue and to make us think. Fans of David McCandless (information is beautiful) will find plenty of examples in this show-distillations of the world’s data, information and knowledge into beautiful, interesting and, above all, useful visualizations, infographics and diagrams. I expected to see this at the show and it certainly delivered.

But what surprised me ?

  1. Pre-digital data still packs a punch

The most powerful example in the whole show was for me not a whizzy new digital data visualisation. It was over 200 years. It was brutally simple, static and in black and white. It was a visual showing how a slave ship was packed with men and women like sardines.IMG_6443

In advertising we know that emotion is a powerful persuader. This image, though, is bald fact – yet  it is more moving that the very best of the John Lewis ads because it does not try to tug at my heartstrings or tell me what to feel with stirring music. In fact it does the opposite: it invites me to use my own empathy and imagination to conjure up what the awful scene below deck in a slave ship would have looked and smelt like. I have to think for myself, which makes it a more powerful piece of communication by being implicit, than visually explicit storytelling

2) The phrase “cloud computing”  is misleading

Cloud computing conjures up an image of something fluffy, amorphous and insubstantial. In fact it is anything but. Every time you post on Facebook you produce yet more digital landfill. Your pokes and likes end up in a data centre like this one in Alaska

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A fine example of how a label can change meaning- a bit like called second hand clothing ” vintage”

3) Controlling you own data 

Edward Snowden gets a big shout out at the show for exposing how corporations and governments control and access our personal data. But you knew that already- what to do about it? There is an intriguing little prototype demo at the show of how citizens could control and licence their own data and give selective access to some and block others. Pertinent in view of rise of ad-blocking.

But where are the businesses?

This show which runs till end feb is worth going to – but it’s earnest and arty. For example there is not space commercial organisations like Sky Sports and The Met Office- both of whom have been brilliantly creative in turning data into entertainment. Cricket and those endlessly fascination  weather fronts have been transformed into things of beauty

 

is the business model of media owners down the years- and that battle has now moved to your smartphone.

Winning apps find ways to “scratch your itches”many times a day. Facebook  is the most energetic in enticing you back to their platform with a continuous flow of digital addiction-it started with “poking” for me and most recently I have found it irresistible not to look back on “memories from a years ago” ( most recent innovation) as well as “my year on Facebook”(which was as i recall launched last Christmas). With Facebook you feel that they constantly at your elbow nudging you check out your page and anxious should you drift away and fall out of the Facebook habit. They are right to be paranoid.

Snapchat has been making moves too – originally, it was a visual messaging app with an auto-delete after viewing.( that was its launch USP).  Then they curated “content snacks” from a whole range of media brands in a section called “discover” (see below)

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But that did not take off and so they have launched a “live” channel which consists of an edited selection of videos submitted by snap-chatters in a particular locality-

“London life” gives you a window into what fellow users up to based on the video clips they submit. It is weirdly fascinating content – rough and ready , generated by ” people like you” and and a “things to do” prompt. For people who submit it is also like a competition – will my clip make it to the final cut ? somehow you can’t resist checking it out – but to work the video mash up  will need to change everyday or even several times a day IMG_6245IMG_6246In the social media app market snapchat is a challenger that has to be inventive just to stay in the game up against a well funded heavy hitter in Facebook

What happens if you don’t keep evolving your app to make it irresistible ?

The recent fate of the CEO of Twitter is a reminder that it is easy to fall off the pace. Across the web you will find the husks of former shakers and movers – like friendster or friends re-united or myspace. It will be interesting to track the innovations of both FB and Snapchat in 2016 because they teach us a lot about how to win and retain attention in “the smartphone economy”- which is shaping up to be as ruthless and competitive as the newspaper market

Just back from the Marketing Society Annual conference where much of the talk was about how technology +data are leading to innovation. It’s all about brand building through better more personal experiences, services and speed of new products to market ( with advertising getting barely a mention.)

What are good examples of this? Here is one of my favourites

Disney ‘Magic Band’: “Park guests” use the Magic Band to gain access to the park, get in priority queues for the attractions, pay for their purchases at the concession stands, and even get into their hotel room. Each family member has a wearable band with GPS and radio transmitters that track each other’s location in the park. At the end of their stay, Disney presents the family with a photo diary of their park adventures, having used automatic cameras to snap pictures when the Magic Bands are nearby. And imagine the face of a newly-turned six-year-old who just had his favourite Disney character address him by name and wish him a happy birthday. Disney made a billion dollar investment to create a wearable accessory that changes their park experience completely.imgres-1.jpgimgres.jpg

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dIvGaJZ8Cc

This is worth a watch -especially from about half way through (Declaration of interest- Lars leads the team in which i work at Google -known as The Zoo).

Lars explains what the Zoo is,what work it does and (most interestingly) introduces some of the cool stuff that we are going to see in Gaming and Filmmaking making soon. These give a glimpse what’s going to be possible and applied in other ways – such as in retail, services innovation and “brand experiences” in general

(Innovation in gaming tends flow down and out and become more mainstream in marketing communications over time)

I will do a number of posts over the next month of examples of how tech is making live experience better – easier and more pleasurable- right now. It helps explain why brands need to build creative technologists and data analysts into the way they seek to improve ” the service experience”

Age and social class are no longer a reliable way to predict to beliefs and buying habits. Identities and tastes are fluid. In truth they may always have been but now the anonymity/freedom of city life means now we feel more liberated to express who really are.People from conservative cultures like China and India hanker to live in a place where they can re-invent themselves- unconstrained by family expectations.(this describes several colleagues)

Below are some telling stats and quotes that illustrate that behaviour is now the only true measure of personal of taste- which of course plays right into the hands of the likes of Google that capture “signals of intent” in search data -rather than age and class.

(Full disclosure-I am a Google consultant)

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For brands:

For brands that want to be in touch with the zeitgeist it is open season for playing with identity – expect more transsexuals in ads and celebration of different life choices-divorcees, lesbian parents etc etc. But this will have its season and quite quickly look dated

Perhaps a better long term strategy is to make no assumptions at all about who your buyer will be – it is no accident that some of the most “in touch” brands are “everybody” brands like Uniqlo and Apple. They are not targeted at a demographic but rather they embrace and celebrate everyone from Grannies to hipsters and everything in between

Pundits say that anyone who claims to know what the digital revolution will bring is engaged in a confidence trick. My experience of publishing books and articles about digital futures suggests four things

-We can’t predict a decade ahead with any confidence

-A technology trend that is against the grain of human nature will most likely fail

-We do i think know what the shape of communications will be for the next three or four years.

-Futurology may be closer to fiction that sober analysis: but it will never go out of fashion as we can’t help wondering about the future

I have just published this slice of futurology in Market Leader. It contains five lessons learnt from my last attempt 10 years ago as well as nine predictions for the future. It is called The Surprise Generating Machine – a line stolen from Professor John Naughton.

Do add your predictions.

44-47 Julian Saunders 2nd proof