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.

News Analysis: Google Takes on Financial Services

In the UK, Google is set to launch a new financial services division with a new credit business the first product to market. As Adam Clark Estes reports, the initial offering will provide businesses with a small line of credit linked specifically to Google’s AdWords program.

A number of items within the announcement are worthy of attention:

  • It’s a new product within a new division of Google
  • The plan is to expand to countries beyond the UK in the “next few weeks”
  • Credit cards will be issued with very competitive rates

Why This Is Important

  • Financial services is a fresh field ready for disruption: Disruption in the financial services sector has been a long time coming. The sweeping tide of digital has washed through most sectors but has been held back from regulated sectors like financial services, healthcare and pharmaceuticals. Innovators are seeking a way into these lucrative markets
  • Google understands speed to market: Many industries rollout new offerings over extended time frames. It can take years for innovations in one national market to reach another. Google’s intention clearly intends to move very quickly to cement a foothold
  • The loan book is the thin edge of the wedge: As I suggested at a recent personal lending conference, disruptive competition is likely to come from outside the financial services industry. Cash Converters in the UK last year saw 154% growth in their personal loan book; in Australia they experienced a not insubstantial 28% growth. This is not about bit players – it’s about trends – and there is a wave of change coming. Google plan to be surfing this wave

The Bottom Line: Connected Consumers Shift to Where their Sense of Trust Takes Them

Despite advertising and branding blitzes over the previous 24 months, most financial services companies are viewed with suspicion by many of their customers. Long term lock-in has allowed FS companies to claw back GFC losses and to grow. This move by Google (and the accompanying announcement by Amazon) will capture the imagination of Connected Consumers – the tech savvy early adopters of a disaffected consumer world. Google has been building trust with Connected Consumers for years, turning every search result, every click and every app login into a brand experience. This may be the first step in what could truly be a transformative monetization strategy.

Your POV

Would you take a loan from Google for AdWords? What about cash? Where do you see this leading? Add your comments or send us an email.

Please let us know if you need help with your digital strategy efforts.  Here’s how we can assist:

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Going Social: CEOs Leading By Example

In most businesses, social media starts its life in marketing. Tucked away in the corner, a Facebook page here or a Twitter account there, staffed during the lunch hour when your brand manager gets a moment, these efforts are truly grass roots.

But the levels of consumer use (and dare I say it, “love”) of social networks have dragged social media out of the corner desk into the corner office. These days, social isn’t so much about media as about business – and this shift has put social on the CEO radar.

But it is one thing to be “on the radar” and quite another to put “social business” into a context that works for your brand and for your organisation’s broader goals. Not only are CEOs exceptionally busy, so too are their direct reports – so making time for social media training, executive support or active participation can be a challenge.

All executives, however, understand the principle that CEOs set the culture that drives business results. And in an increasingly connected world, “social” is moving from a “nice to have” to a “game changer”. A recent study from IBM indicated that high performing companies are 30% more likely to identify “openness” (as characterised by social media) as a cultural driver.

Furthermore, with a vast pool of ready-to-harvest customer data available within enterprise systems – when coupled with the unstructured sea of social network information, 73% of CEOs are making significant investments in the area of analytics and customer insight.

SocialCEOsBut at the end of the day – how many CEOs are making a shift towards social at a personal or practical level? The 2012 Fortune 500 Social CEO Index indicates that 70% of CEOs have NO PRESENCE on social networks.

So it seems – that despite entrenched consumer and customer behaviour – businesses are lagging behind. And yet, CEOs like Rupert Murdoch and Meg Whitman are embracing – albeit experimentally – and building large personal audiences and direct connections to their business stakeholders. Are they anomalies or the very beginning of a trend? For while 70% of CEOs have no presence, 30% do. And that means, according to the theory of diffusion of innovations we are already into the “early majority” audience.

And that to me is the key.

We don’t need to see the volume now – we just need to see the trend. And it smells like disruption to me.

2012-Social-CEO-Index-Infographic

CommBank Reaches For a Piece of the Mobile Pi

commBank-albert We have all been there … a crowded table, a busy restaurant and service staff under pressure. On the one hand there’s orders for the bar, on the other new customers ordering meals. The challenge for most restaurants and cafes is to maximise the yield – to get your customers in, fed and out as efficiently as possible.

But then comes the bill.

Everyone wants to pay by card. Some want to split bills. Some want to tip – others don’t. Eyes start to roll. A great experience has come to an end – and all you want to do is give someone some money. It should be easy, right?

So I was interested to learn more about the Commonwealth Bank’s “revolutionary” solution that they are claiming will be the “future of business”. Based on CommBank’s platform known as Pi, it allows developers (including retailers, businesses and vendors) to create business apps that run on the Android powered secure device unimaginatively named “Albert” (they claim links to Einstein).

The fact that CommBank have engineered a finance focused software platform should be enough to send chills up the spines of software vendors around the world. With an already trusted relationship with their merchants there’s a real chance for simplification of business systems here. In fact, the launch video suggests ways forward – inventory and stock management, customer relationship management and customer loyalty.

Interestingly, they’ve taken a mobile first strategy which puts them ahead of the game – not just locally but globally. There’s even a touch of “social” potential in some of the “out of the box” apps – with a micro-donation option available for those times where customers want to “round up the bill” and donate to a worthwhile cause.

Leading the Sector through Technology Innovation

1342483960 Over the last two years or so, I have liked the market positioning that CommBank have been taking. Their aggressive use of consumer technology with apps like the Property Guide App and Kaching have differentiated them from the rest of the sector. So this announcement follows a pattern of technology innovation … with the main difference that we’ll have to wait until 2013 to see Albert up close.

An App Store to Rule Them All

Effectively, CommBank are creating and delivering their own App Store for a proprietary device. It’s an interesting move up the vendor chain – working with Wincor Nixdorf on the hardware and IDEO on the human-centred design. In a clever move, this will lock-in Commonwealth Bank merchants across the country and will also serve as a platform for product cross- and up-sell.

It’s still unclear how the App Store will run, but it seems that it will follow the model set down by Apple and Google – with developers registering and having their apps certified before release. I presume there will be options that allow developers to create apps for specific merchants – I’m thinking of the larger retailers like Myer or David Jones – but there is huge potential here for franchises as well.

Thinking Outside the Square

Apple pioneered the “own the ecosystem” approach – connecting data, identity, analytics, content and proprietary devices via the “cloud” – and CommBank seem to be reading from the same hymn sheet. And when it comes to banking and security, there’s a clear case for this sort of approach.

But the question has to be asked … why not just partner with an organisation like Square – the card reader that turns an iPhone into a mobile payment gateway? It seems that the answer is Leo (yes, as in DaVinci) -  a “strap on” or cradle for iOS devices like iPods and iPhones. This allows for access to the secure Pi platform.

And while this works for the bank – I’m wondering does it work for the customers of the bank’s customers. John Pironti, security and risk advisor with the Information Systems Audit and Control Association in the US suggests that smartphones may well be more secure than our PCs:

It’s pretty easy for banks to use GPS co-ordinates, SMS text messages, phone calls or some combination of these things to make mobile access to your bank account more secure … Plus, banks can in turn use the smart phone as a type of Swiss Army knife for security — employing the various apps and embedded features in their authenticating mechanisms.

Evolution or Revolution?

There may be a kernel of a revolution here … though it’s not in the device. For all its sleek lines, Albert is an evolution of the ubiquitous EFTPOS device found in most stores across the country.

The real value lies in the platform. As we know from social networks, power always accrues to the platform – and the underlying data – the patterns of purchase, customer relationships, business process enablement – could represent significant value to small businesses. And if CommBank could swim up the value chain a little further to deliver customer experience analytics not ONLY to the small business but to the consumer, then they may be onto something.

The thing to remember, is that in a world where business innovation arises out of the customer experience – it’s your customers who are creating the demand-pull for business innovation. And that’s where disruptive technology like Square come into their own. So, if I was the CommBank, I’d be already thinking of version 2 – and wondering just how I could put the power into the hands of its customers customers.

Internet Trends 2012

Each year, venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield Byers release their research and analysis into the trends they are observing across the web. Compiled by Mary Meeker, it’s packed with statistics and pithy one liners – and will provide plenty of fodder for your upcoming client presentations – especially where you need to reinforce the reports key themes – “internet growth remains robust and rapid mobile adoption is still in early stages”.

There were a few items that caught my attention:

  • Growth in internet user numbers is being driven by emerging markets – with China, India and Indonesia in the top 3, with the USA down the list at number 8
  • Australia ranks 14th in terms of mobile 3G subscribers – with 76% penetration and 21% year-on-year growth
  • While iPad adoption is astonishing (3x the iPhone) – Android is outpacing all devices currently running at 4x the iPhone
  • Mobile web traffic now accounts for 10% of all internet traffic

And while the statistics are fascinating – especially for the data nerds out there – the compelling part of this presentation is the focus on the “Reimagination of almost everything”. The report covers a wide variety of consumption habits, technologies, cultural and artistic production, information and so on – announcing what many of us already know – that the magnitude of change that is coming (or is already upon us) will be stunning.

KPCB Internet Trends 2012

Mobile Youth: Cigarettes, Cell Phones and Cars

I first came across Graham Brown many years ago when I was working in youth marketing. I loved the way that he applied serious, insight driven analysis to the fast moving youth markets. And I loved the way that he understood and articulated the tribal nature of youth culture.

In this video introduction to his new book The Mobile Youth, Graham reveals an astonishing connection between the reduction in smoking in young people and the rise of smartphones. Despite widespread public health advertising, it was not until the social value of cigarette smoking (ie not the product but the social by-product of the act of smoking) was able to be released towards another social tool of similar or greater value, that young people began to shift their behaviour.

And this – for me – is the important lesson. So much advertising and marketing is directed towards product with very little focus on the desired behaviour. It’s like we are constantly pushing a “message” without any regard for the “context” in which our audiences live and work. This applies not only to youth segments but to any and all. Until we start to address what Graham calls “the social meaning” we will continue to see advertising and marketing failing to do its job.

You can start to remedy this situation by asking two important questions. Where do you customers belong. And what is the significance of that (to them)? The answers you find will tell you a whole lot about your marketing. You’ve just got to be sure to listen for the answer – even when it’s not what you want to hear.

Be the CMO of Your Own Team

I’ll get this out of the way up front – I have never been a CMO. But I have always had an interest in making sure that Marketing has a seat at the strategy table – and that really means one of two things – you need to drive revenue or your need to manage costs.

In all my professional roles – certainly covering the last 15-20 years, I have been interested in understanding the business decision making process. I dug through the jargon and pushed to determine the real situation. I even threw out the old metrics by which we measured success – choosing instead the same measurements that applied to those I supported (usually sales). It didn’t matter whether I was working agency or client side – it’s always the same goal. Grow business by delighting customers. Drive innovation and manage costs. Do your best work and encourage the same in your team.

Now, the reason I mention all this, is that it is never too late (or too early) to apply the same principles to your own role. No matter whether you are an intern or early in your career – or whether you do, in fact, hold the role of CMO. Your challenge and opportunity is to step up. Become the CMO of your own team. It might be a team of one, but it will be noticed. Systematise your work and your outputs and allow creativity to flourish where it can. Have an agenda, have a plan and measure your own success. And learn. And ask questions. And talk to your customers.

Is 2012 Your Year of Doing?

In my very first job out of school, I worked as a trainee accountant. It was often mind numbingly boring – it was an era when cashbooks were still written by hand and then later encoded by “data entry specialists”. I once spent a week writing up the books for one business and then spent the following week reconciling them – and I can still remember the hand cramps and the calices on my fingers.

At the beginning of my second year my manager, Wayne, called me into his office. He explained that we all mark turning points in our lives. 1987 was going to be his year. It was the year that he would make the big progress in his career – and he was consciously making an effort. He was being deliberate.

At the time – in my naiveté – I was completely oblivious to what this meant. I was much more interested in hanging out with my friends, coasting through university and working just hard enough to keep from being fired (yes, it was a fine balance). But his words have stayed with me.

Over the years I have put Wayne’s words into practice. For me it is not so much about setting goals, but in the process of striving. And 2012 will be no different.

For me, 2012 will be a year of action. I will be DOING things. There will be no trying, only doing. What about you?

Social Media & Content Marketing in 2012

At the end of each year, we look behind us at the year that was and ahead to the year that will be. Now, I am not a huge fan of predictions – they are statements bravely made and rarely revisited. But I am ALWAYS interested in connecting the dots – in the broader trends that help us understand our behaviour a little better.

Crowdsourcing is an excellent way doing this.By focusing on the opinions of people with knowledge and expertise in a particular topic, you effectively create a prediction market. And prediction markets can be surprisingly accurate.

Each year, Joe Pulizzi and the Content Marketing Institute crowdsource ideas for content marketing in the year ahead. As a prediction market of ideas it can be a very useful way of generating ideas for your 2012 planning. Just make sure you cross-check with your own knowledge and business expertise. After all, the Future is a notoriously unpredictable place.