We Are Smarter Than TV

1963 ... television eyeglasses

Back in 2007, Drew McLellan and I embarked on a journey of crowdsourcing discovery. Inspired by the We Are Smarter Than Me collaborative writing project, we wanted to see whether the collective intelligence of marketers across the globe could make sense of the emerging social media landscape. Three months later, the first edition of The Age of Conversation was published. It brought together over 100 writers from 22 countries and captured the mood of the time.

Three editions and six years later, working on these collaborative publishing projects has made me a firm believer in the power and insight that comes from focused communities. In fact, working on the latest edition – Age of Conversation 4 – is again reminding me of the breadth and depth of insight that comes from a diverse – yet focused – group of professionals.

The one consistent theme through all of the four editions, however, is the role of inclusiveness. From a brand perspective, we tend to think of this as a “loss of control”, but through the lens of the consumer, it’s a different story. Rather than seeing this transformation in terms of a shift of power, we should view it as a fundamental mark of mutual respect. And rather than thinking about limitation and even copyright, we should think of generosity and awareness. Effectively this shift means a transformation of what we consider the “marketing funnel” with “conversion” being less about sales and more about shifting our customer relationships away from transactions and closer to longer term engagement. This in turn requires an understanding of customer lifetime value.

The publishing industry has faced this transformation for decades and continues to struggle. The music industry is now making a much better fist of the challenge, but TV seems resolutely trapped in the quagmire of industrialised thinking. This makes the entire industry ripe for disruption. And platforms like Netflix and Hulu are well placed to deliver this kind of broad disruption. And as Oscar winner and artistic director of the Old Vic theatre in London recently said, it’s time for TV to learn from other industries. It’s time for them to learn from the crowd. After all, we are smarter than TV.

1963 ... television eyeglassesCreative Commons License James Vaughan via Compfight

Mid-Year Digital Marketing Trends 2013


Report-2013trendsAs we begin to ramp up our efforts for the second half of 2013, it’s always worth taking a moment to reflect on what has emerged, what is emerging and the gaps that are becoming obvious in our marketing strategy and tactics.

For me, one of the things that has solidified is the notion that consumers are not only king, but the entire universe. As such they have become the centre of gravity around which brands now orbit.

Understanding and navigating this new “consumerverse” is a core requirement for any marketer.

My snapshot report on Succeeding in the New Consumerverse reveals four strategies to help marketers win in a state of disruption as usual:

  • The shift from participating to serving with purpose
  • Becoming connected and connectable
  • Realising that channels are dead
  • Embracing tech sector innovation

Register and download the report from the Constellation Research Inc website.

And if you would like to learn more about how this connects to real businesses, some of the interesting proof points that are emerging and how businesses can embrace disruption as a business imperative, take a look at my interview with Which-50’s Andrew Birmingham.

Bridging the Social Chasm

Customer Experience Chasm

When IBM’s Center for Business Value released its 2011 report into the relationship between social media, marketing and brands, it revealed a “perception gap”. On the one hand, marketers had an understanding that their connected consumers “wanted” or even “expected” a certain style of interaction through social media. And on the other hand, there was the hard reality of what those customers actually wanted. The gap between the two was the distance between two competing realities.

But is anyone listening?

In reality, we are not really dealing with a gap. It could be better described as a “mismatch” – after all, a “gap” would indicate some alignment. But the problem for brands is that the distance between the two sets of expectations is growing. We are now dealing with a widening chasm in the world of customer experience.


Two years after IBM’s original report, even a casual investigation of most branded social media would indicate that the chasm is becoming more pronounced as brands continue to shift their marketing spend and resources into digital and social media (Gartner’s US Digital Marketing Spending Report indicates that 25% of the marketing budget is now devoted to digital).

But when it comes to business effectiveness, more budget is not necessarily always the answer (though there would be few marketers who would refuse an increase, I am sure). To bridge the social chasm, business must begin to re-think, re-action and re-calibrate their organisational approach to social:

  • Re-think: Start with what you know. Create a new social baseline and audit all your activity for assessment. Real time analytics and dashboards such as those from Anametrix can provide the kinds of decision-ready data that is essential to informed decision-making
  • Re-calibrate: If you have started a social business program in the last two years, it’s now worthwhile assessing its impact. Have you achieved the original milestones? Has the program had the kind of impact that you expected? Take a look at R “Ray” Wang’s 50 use cases that help demystify social business and think through the business processes and workflows that are business critical. Are your social programs impacting business results? If not, it may be time to recalibrate.
  • Re-action: This is no time for social business fatigue. No one ever said that change was easy. And equally, no business achieved competitive advantage by being complacent. It’s time to re-action the business programs that are core to your strategy.

What’s your experience?

Interestingly, this recent workplace research study by Microsoft revealed that there is also a chasm between business management and the workforce. Teams not only expect or demand more collaboration – about 17% of people are actively ignoring IT policy and installing social tools independently. This is delivering some value to the business – with 60 percent of participants in the Microsoft study indicating that their use of social tools has increased productivity – but this would be a far cry from the billions of locked-in value that McKinsey Global Institute’s 2012 study revealed.

If businesses can’t work to unlock the value in the low hanging opportunities within their own business, how long will customers have to wait?

It seems like there are whole industries on the brink of disruption. Social may not be the driving force, but it could be the trigger.

Microsoft Social Tools in the Workplace Research Study by Mark Fidelman

Did the Job You’re In Exist When You Were Studying?

Got a new job

Got a new job Stéfan via CompfightPredicting the future is incredibly difficult. Ask any psychic. Or marketer. We don’t need research to tell us that the world is changing, or that the future will be different from the past. The challenge is magnified not only by the amount of change that we are seeing in almost every industry, but by the rate at which those changes are taking place.

Futurist, Tim Longhurst says to predict five years into the future you need to look back ten.

Is it any wonder that younger generations entering the workforce are finding it hard to plot their future careers?

As it turns out, I don’t think this problem has changed that much. Marketing was my fourth or fifth career, and I fell into it by accident. But even within the broad field of marketing, I have rarely held a role with a fixed job description. There have always been large grey areas in which I operated most effectively – whether as an incubator of new business units, a strategist, marketing director.

The thing is – I don’t think my career path with its twists and turns is all that different than others. But tell me. Did the job you’re in exist when you were studying?

Got a new job Stéfan via Compfight

A Minute is a Long Time–On the Internet


They say that a week is a long time in politics.

That was certainly the case when there was a “daily” news cycle. Any announcements or revelations needed to be revealed in time for stories to be written, edited, photographs to be prepared, processed and newspapers to be printed. Breaking news was the domain of the more instantaneous broadcasters like radio and TV. And even then, only the most explosive news items would break programming.

But the web changed all that.

It has taken two decades at least, but the internet has now thoroughly transformed the way that we source, gather, verify and consume news. There has been a breakdown between those that produce the news, those who are the subject of the “news” and those who consume it. And the structures which once provided certainty, built trust and way points for navigation in a chaotic and busy world have, in the process of this disruption, been swept away.

These structures have been replaced by data.

Data about data.

In a way, it was ever thus.

And the new arbiters of this data – our navigation beacons are themselves built of data. Google. Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. Pandora and Amazon. They sound like the names of ancient gods straddling the primordial chaos – but they are massive enterprises designed not to serve, but to create value. Revenue. Share holder returns.

So think about what happens in an internet minute (see the infographic from Intel). Every minute of video. Every byte of uploaded photo data. And every tweet costs someone somewhere something. The question for you today is what does it cost YOU?


Consuming Big Data–The Internet in 2015


Everything that we do on an internet connected device leaves a digital trail. Whether it is an internet enabled refrigerator, a PC, smartphone or tablet – somewhere there is a log file recording of what your device did, what it connected to and when. And if that involves sending files, or creating or consuming content – then that data grows – for those files would be copied, replicated or cached in each location.

Google’s Eric Schmidt famously suggested that from the dawn of civilisation through to 2003, the human race had created roughly 5 exabytes of data. But in 2010 (and beyond), the equivalent is being created every 2 days.

Clearly the proliferation of data since 2010, the growth in devices and digital data consumption has skyrocketed. Not just in Australia. Not just in the US or Europe. But across the globe.

How BIG is big data?

Understanding the scale of data on a massive global scale is challenging. But this infographic from the folks at Cisco provides some great examples (see the “Great Wall of China” quote”).

But the most interesting part of this infographic is not that scale – but the patterns of consumption. Sure we know that video is hot, and will continue to be so. But I like the way that types of video have been broken down. Here are some brief thoughts on each:

  • Short form: This is much like our current viewing behaviour – short clips on YouTube and Vimeo are consumed as entertainment snacks. As we shift our attention from the TV to the device, we will also dedicate more time to longer forms (as suggested in the data)
  • Long form: We will see an explosion not just in entertainment content, but in education and other forms of interactivity. Connected Consumers will challenge production houses, brands and broadcasters to adapt their content to be more interactive, engaging and yes, social. Longer form video will drive demand for those with storytelling and narration skills and experience. Look to see specialist practices and capabilities growing in the areas of short and longer form video.
  • Live internet TV: What live blogging did for events of all kinds will translate to the web. We’re seeing small experiments with apps like Vine, but we can expect this to accelerate in the next two years. If
  • Ambient: The use of music and sound to influence buyer behaviour in retail environments has been long understood. In the coming years, we will see the same sophistication applied to video. This is likely to prompt a deeper connection to analytics products that can measure retail and behavioural impacts.
  • Mobile: For many people, the mobile experience will be the FIRST SCREEN and ONLY SCREEN. This will drive greater innovation in storytelling as well as in the use of location based targeting and services. Video without big data will become irrelevant (not to producers) but to consumers. Video will need to become strategic.
  • Internet PVR: We are already seeing this happen – but can expect moderate growth. But with a growing on-demand culture, the focus will shift away from patterns of collecting to patterns of consuming and sharing.


You Thought Siri Was Cool Until You Got Google Glass

Water Drop ~ Explored ~

I can remember my first bulky personal digital assistant (PDA). It was cumbersome, hard to use and ugly. Very ugly. But I loved it. It felt like a ripple in the fabric of the future.

While at university, I took notes on this PDA, scrambling to jot bullet points into the slim LED screen and save them before we moved onto the next subject. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes I lost whole lectures when the AA batteries failed. But even then I realised that there was serious value in being able to search through lecture notes on-the-fly.

And then along came the Palm Pilot. I thought the handwriting recognition was a breakthrough. As I skimmed my stylus across the plastic screen I really felt that I was experiencing another of those ripples in the fabric of the future. It was the right device at the right time – a bridge between my analog and digital worlds. But it wasn’t just a PDA, it was a phone too. And it was changing the world.

With each new innovation, the barriers between me and my device would evaporate. They became easier to use, smarter, friendlier – and dare I say it – more human. Each iteration would be less about the device and more about the experience. My experience. It was like the technology was disappearing before my eyes.

Recently, when Siri came along, we celebrated as if the world had turned on its side. Apple had somehow, again, not only innovated on top of its already innovative iPhone platform – they trumped themselves and changed our relationship with the technology. Now you didn’t even need to swipe and type, you could speak. You could ask questions.

And we all loved Siri. But, for me, Siri was a constant reminder that I was using a device. A particular device. It called out my own reliance on that device and its manufacturer – for always in the background, there was that awareness that the experience was being delivered only by Apple. In many ways, Siri wasn’t just a ripple in the fabric of the future, it was the rock that caused the splash.

But Google’s Glass project fascinates me – partly because it is literally transparent.

As you can see from this video, it’s freshly intuitive – and that’s saying something considering Google’s usually clunky interfaces. But the thing that excites me most is the way that experience – human experience – is front and centre. For decades, technology has drawn us away from the body and focused our minds on the screen. But here, we are celebrating, not the technology, but the body in action. It’s technology taking a back seat. It’s the always on Kodak moment.

And its the closest we’ve yet seen to the future.

At least until the next ripple.

Water Drop ~ Explored ~ Sergiu Bacioiu via Compfight

Advertising in 2020 – Let’s Hope There’s Fire


John Willshire and Mark Earls make you think. They chisel and shape ideas until they are sharp enough to be carved into your mind.

As part of the Wharton Future of Advertising program, they put together this presentation that provokes a conversation around advertising and what it might look like in the year ahead. Take a look through, it’s quick and it will challenge you. Then read on below …

One of the things that caught my attention was a simple statement. “Make things people want [is greater than] Make people want things”.

This seems to be self-evident, but in practice it requires an alternative way of thinking. Almost all of our marketing theory and practice centres on the stimulation of desire. We deliberately create items, objects and experiences that are limited in their availability and then we amplify not only the fact of existence, but the fact of their scarcity.

And yet, we live in an age of abundance. We all know it. Yet we still play out this game of scarcity. I find it interesting. I find it fascinating that we are complicit in this form of cultural production that we call advertising. But I also predict a seachange ahead.

We are going to have to work a whole lot harder to generate the kind of engagement and interest that advertising once commanded. Our connected consumers have outflanked, outranked and even out-performed us. Mark and John are right. We will need marketing and advertising that is bolder than we have been in decades. And decidedly more primal. We’ll need to relinquish the calculator and the paperclip and step out from behind the mirrored glass and meet our customers face to face.

Big data may hold the answers – but we’re far from understanding the most basic of questions. Mark and John have lit a signal fire but it’s not off in the distance. Look down, it’s right under our arses.

Disruption is the New Normal – The Internet @ December 2012

Meeker Internet Report 2012

Meeker Internet Report 2012There are few trend reports that generate the kind of excitement that Mary Meeker is able to elicit. The well known partner at VC group Kleiner Perkins Caulfield and Byers has just released a year-end update to her 2012 internet trends presentation. It is an 88 slide information overload that will provide plenty to ponder during your holiday break.

There are, however, some key meta trends that can be expanded upon:

  • Mobile computing adoption is accelerating. As previously noted, the use of mobile phones to consume internet services and content is accelerating – with western countries lagging the kind of adoption levels seen across Asia Pacific. While mobile computing has surpassed desktop computing in countries like India and China, the US is playing catchup – with 29% of US adults now owning a tablet or eReader
  • Disruption is the new normal. Almost every industry, product category and service is under threat. The shift to digital as characterised by the five pillars of enterprise disruption are highlighted throughout the report.  Formerly dominant players are struggling to adapt as new entrants sweep through, claiming markets and customers with imaginative solutions to old problems. Fuelled by “fearless and connected” entrepreneurs and consumers, the magnitude of disruption will be unprecedented
  • Capital chases opportunity. In the rush to re-imagine this connected future, capital will flow – and flow quickly – towards those businesses exhibiting business model innovation. And where capital flows, expertise follows. Look to Asia Pacific and to South America for emerging and fast moving opportunities.

A Palpable Dis-Ease – Graham Brown’s Mobile Youth

We don’t have to look far to see that we are living in a digital world. On my desk sits half a dozen connected devices, wifi enabled, flashing, beeping, spewing updates from sites, friends and acquaintances thousands of miles away. But for me, this is a world that I have chosen to participate. For many in the Gen X and Baby Boomer demographics, adoption of technology has been a conscious choice. We grapple with this changing world for work or for pleasure – sometimes for both … but always with the knowledge that the off button is only a short distance away.

But for succeeding generations – the always connected Gen Y and Gen Z groups, there has never been a time of “non-connection”. A battery or wifi failure is not just a technical issue. It’s an existential crisis.

In May 2012, when young Chinese student, Xiao Zheng, sold his kidney in order to buy an iPad2, the headlines around the world amplified the outrage. From the outside it’s easy to point a finger and call out the insatiable materialistic desires of a morally bankrupt generation. But surely there is something deeper going on.

Graham Brown’s new book The Mobile Youth digs below the surface to reveal a compelling story of dis-ease. Peppered with statistics, insight – and most importantly – an anthropologist-cum-storytellers eye for observation, Graham reveals a hard truth that we all share in:

The rise of technology isn’t undermining the social fabric of society. Technology’s rise is a response to our loss of a meaningful social world.

As a reader of a lot of business communication (books, blogs, papers, presentations), I am often disappointed that the power of the writing doesn’t match the power of the ideas. This book is the opposite. It’s a business book written in the style of a page-turning blockbuster. For anyone interested in the changes taking place in our society and the collision of generations, culture and communication, it makes for compelling reading.

But most importantly, it provides an insight into the seemingly disconnected nature of our ever-more connected lives. Download your copy of The Mobile Youth and let me know what you think. I found it fascinating.