Monday, April 20, 2015

'We Put A Chip In It' - Relatively pointless IoT devices & ideas

We Put A Chip In It is a great collection (Tumblr) of (pretty) pointless IoT ideas like Smart Socks, Smart Beakers, Smart Yoga Mats, Smart Suitcases, Smart Cooking Pans and more.

Sadly lots of the links seem to be broken on the site - presumably the companies linked to didn't like being there, but there are lots that do work.

I'm not saying that all these things are necessarily bad ideas, but like the smart fridge and smart kettle just because you can make something 'smart' doesn't mean that there's necessarily a real need for it, or a big demand for it.

Also - the Tumblr discussed on Metafilter

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A return to walled gardens

Back in the last century we laughed at walled gardens, saying they were the bad old past, and how the web, with search and openness would kill them off.

The original walled gardens, like AOL,com saved you from the dangers and confusion of the world wide web by offering a carefully curated selection of content, like news, travel, sport, shopping and more.  However search engines like Google made it easy to find the best content in each area, and people realised that the web wasn't all that dangerous, and they'd rather choose their own content from everything out there, rather than what AOL or the other portals thought they'd want to see.

Now walled gardens, or things like them, seem to be back in fashion, particularly on mobile, where a pre-determined content, with no need for fast connectivity to move to a new place, can be a good idea.  It also works well in-app, because the app is tailored to your device more efficiently than a web experience, particularly with Apple.

The often-used stat that apps make up 86% of time spent online reinforces this - if you're spending time with apps, it's easier to stay within the app rather than to move onto the wider web, so apps are trying to drag content into their property rather than to send people off elsewhere.  (Years ago portals (briefly) didn't like search because it took people away from the site.  In the desktop world Google used to boast about how little time people spent on Google).

Here are some examples of the new walled gardens -

Snapchat's Discover area, with content pre-loaded by professional content providers seems to be working well for them, and ads that appear in the content generate revenue for both the content creator (like MTV) and Snapchat.

Twitter's cards, with extra content like the summary to a story, a video or a voting link being kept within Twitter.

Child-friendly Apps like YouTube Kids, and Vine for Kids - again we mocked AOL for being so child-friendly in the 2000s, but it makes a lot of sense, and many apps are naturally self-contained.

Finally, Facebook can be seen as 'the new AOL' (something people have been saying for at least 5 years) especially with the recent rumour that it was suggesting some news companies stories to be hosted in Facebook.  Again, it cuts down on navigating time, and a recent survey suggests that a lot of people don't think they are on the internet when they're on Facebook...  As with the Snapchat model, the content creator would share ad revenue with the host.

"Facebook intends to begin testing the new format in the next several months, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions. The initial partners are expected to be The New York Times, BuzzFeed and National Geographic, although others may be added since discussions are continuing. The Times and Facebook are moving closer to a firm deal, one person said.
To make the proposal more appealing to publishers, Facebook has discussed ways for publishers to make money from advertising that would run alongside the content."

Finally, it's the idea of a closed system, or a simpler system, that some users seem to like.  The ultimate manifestation of this is Amazon's 'commerce' button - a physical button that is being tested in the US that lets Prime users re-order items like washing tablets by just pressing a button that can be stuck to the washing machine.  Or another example - the 'Netflix' button now appearing on physical TV remotes for smart TVs, making it easier for people to watch Netflix.

If walled gardens are now back in fashion, what else from the early days of the web is likely to return?

Update - Chris Dixon of Andreesen Horowitz on Open vs Closed systems (He thinks open will ultimately win)

EasyJet's Low Fare Finder

A great bit of user-friendly data visualisation.

See easily the current cheapest price for a flight by month, and then, when you click on a month, by day.

Apologies if it's been around for ages, but it's new to me!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Marketing with Giphy & Facebook Messenger

Giphy is one of the apps that is now integrated into Facebook Messenger.

Giphy is, as the name suggests, a search engine for gifs, and has pretty much anything you can imagine from pics of places and celebrities, to brands.

The integration with Facebook Messenger makes it easy to add these to your conversation to amuse or annoy your friends.

Fox has put lots of Game of Thrones gifs on Giphy to promote the new series.  If you search for #CatchDrogon (not a typo - Drogon is the name of a dragon) on Giphy you see pictures like this:

Which you can share in Messenger like this:

Thursday, April 09, 2015

If Carlsberg Did Posters...

Amazing work.  & of course far more people will hear about it now that it's finished

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Lidl's #Zayn Tweet

Love this - on a day when so many unimaginative people were making jokes about Zayn Malik joining Top Gear (& Jeremy Clarkson joining One Direction), Lidl tweeted this.

Genuinely funny, and if you read the small print they're actually going to do it - they are agile enough to be able to have a marketing idea and then change the price of an item in-store across all their branches.

(& lets people know that you can get Easter Eggs in Lidl for 99p)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

'Hidden Camera' Ads

Last year, one of my trends was borrowed formats - ads that borrow the tropes of TV formats, most notably hidden camera reality formats, for example 'The Big Red Button' and 'The Devil Baby'

Here are a couple of recent examples - an advert for gun control in the US uses a hidden camera to film people's reactions when they hear about the history of the gun they're about to buy

& here's one from the Netherlands, actually made by Lifehunters, a YouTube prank show - art experts (OK, gallery visitors) are asked to assess the value of art prints for sale in Ikea...

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Victoria Pendleton is Switching Saddles

This is a very ambitions idea from Betfair.  They're sponsoring Olympic cycling gold medal winner Victoria Pendleton to 'switch saddles' to become a jockey, hopefully to ride in next year's Cheltenham Gold Cup.

It'll be interesting to see how it works. There's every chance she can do it, given her skill and determination, and it should generate lots of video for Betfair to tease out over the months, plus some great PR coverage if it comes off.

More here

Hot Dudes on Instagram

I suppose it's only natural on a service which is skewed towards women (see recent Pew stats for the US here), but there are suddenly lots of 'Hot Dudes' accounts getting lots of followers on Instagram -

For example...

Hot Dudes Reading - 465,000 followers since February

Men & Coffee - 140,000 followers since November 2014

Hot Dudes with Dogs - 56,000 since early March

It's fun (& potentially lucrative) to imagine what will come next.  It's also interesting that a couple of years ago these would have been Tumblrs.  (But just to prove that Tumblr's not dead, here's Tinder Guys With Tigers, and Guys Holding Fish on Tinder)

(Yes, I'm well aware that there are *lots* of quite dodgy accounts aimed at men on Instagram)

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Brands using the Meetkat App

Meerkat is a new app that lets you livestream video onto YouTube.  Launched on February 27th, after the founder closed down his previous app, it's suddenly become very buzzy and inevitably brands are starting to see what they can do with it.

It's for streaming live video, and nothing remains after the live stream, giving it a bit of Snapchat ephemeral quality.  It's easy to see how individuals - this footage was posted of a storm in Sydney - and even news organisations could use it - for example Laurie Segall of CNN has shown people the newsroom - it's great for showing people an authentic, unedited view of what's happening now.

It currently feels very 'ham radio' - shaky quality, and generally just people saying 'hello world', but like lots of these things (& ham radio), there's potential to do interesting things.

One brand using it is Starbucks.  Starbucks has used it to stream from their Roastery - quite a good way of letting people into their world.  However I'm not sure it would have been better than doing a video on a more established platform, like Vine or Instagram.

CNBC has also used it, for example to show the ringing of the opening bell at the NYSE.  Again, there's not much reason why this had to be live only - footage that could be saved would be (I'd argue) better.

I'm also surprised that none of the fashion brands has used it at this week's Paris Fashion Week.

More examples to come as I find them - in fact I've been searching all day without success - it's certainly not as easy as finding brands who used Hyperlapse in the early days.

(You can find new ones by searching Twitter for - click on the most recent ones and the chances are they'll still be live)

More background on Meerkat here

Plus - Twitter is rumoured to be buying Periscope, a similar service

Thoughts on the Apple Watch

Some thoughts on the new Apple Watch.  With the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad I could see that they were going to be very successful products, but with this I'm more conflicted.  On the one hand it's a beautiful product from one of the world's most loved brands; on the other hand it's a ridiculously expensive gizmo ($17,000 for a gold one) that doesn't address any need that people have...

What's the point?  I'm not alone in questioning the purpose of the watch.  It's had the hardest reception for an Apple product in recent memory.  It has to be said that the iPod wasn't greeted enthusiastically by a lot of the fans back in 2001 - e.g. this wonderful comment:

"It's now at the online Apple Store! 

$400 for an Mp3 Player! 

I'd call it the Cube 2.0 as it wont sell, and be killed off in a short time...and it's not really functional.

Uuhh Steve, can I have a PDA now?"

The price: As with the iPod in 2001, the Apple Watch seems expensive - unless you wander round somewhere like the watch department of a store like Selfridge's where a £10,000 watch would be one of the cheaper ones on offer.

The Emperor's new clothes:  Was there anyone in the senior team working on the Apple Watch who wasn't a millionaire?  I really believe that the genius who coined the word 'glasshole' did more to kill the Google Glass than anything else - was there anyone in the team who was removed (& funny) enough to say it wasn't a brilliant idea?

Battery life:  The battery will keep it going to 18 hours - but this means that 18 hours is as good as it will get.  After a few months it'll be down to 14 hours.  Plus, if you're charging it when you go to bed then you're not wearing it in bed, and it can't act as well as a health monitor than something that you can wear 24/7.  

The need:  Often products are created to address a problem - but is there a 'problem' with current watches?  Or is it a problem with phones?  Part of what the watch does is to give you alerts so that you don't need to look at your phone so often, but is this a need that many people will be willing to pay hundreds of dollars to solve?

Apps & killer apps:  There are a few apps like Facebook, Instagram, and WeChat (see China, below) already working on the Apple Watch, but it's the ones that come out in 6 months time, that use the unique qualities of the watch that will be most interesting.  Angry Birds was so successful because it was designed for the iPhone, with new capabilities like a touch screen, rather than just adapted from other hand-held gaming consoles.  Same for Instagram.  Apps like these made people want iPhones because of what they could do, not because they were attractive objects.  The apps released later this year might create a genuine need to get the watch, rather than as a shiny bit of hardware.

Obsolescence:  My 2010 iPad doesn't really work any more.  The OS won't update, most apps won't run on it, and all but a few web sites crash.  It seems likely that the Apple Watches bought this year won't really work well in 2-3 years.  Maybe they'll still tell the time.  

First Edition:  Related to this, Apple puts out products when they're ready at a minimal level of performance.  The first iPhones didn't have 3G, and no apps, but they worked as phones and pocket internet machines.  These are going to be the worst Apple Watches to buy

Tethering:  Watches need to be connected to an iPhone 5 or above, so no one who doesn't have an iPhone will buy one.  It's a good get-out for me, as an Android user, to say why I haven't got one.

China:  Lots of people in China have got an iPhone though - maybe 100m of them.  There won't be another significantly different iPhone until 2016, so maybe a lot of them will buy watches.  If the newly rich middle class want a luxury watch, the Apple Watch is probably the most desired already, over traditional brands like Patek Philippe or IWC (with little to differentiate themselves in usability).

The Newton:  The Newton was Apple's first handheld device, first shipped in 1993.  It was a flop, but many of the things that weren't right in 1993 are assumed normal now - a device completely independent from the desktop, that was personal to the user, and capable of being used on the go.  At the time it was mocked as being pointless 'Why replace a $5 notebook with a $700 computer' (sound familiar?).  So...  Maybe the proof of this will only come in a few years.

To summarise:  Yes, it's mad, yes, it's pointless, yes, it's expensive, but for several reasons - especially the Chinese market - this might not matter.  I'd expect Apple to sell 25m or so this year, but for it to remain niche, but to make better and better versions over the next few years.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The first TV ad for the Apple Watch

Whatever you think of the prospects for the Apple Watch (& I'm very undecided!), it looks lovely in this ad.

(The Mickey Mouse bit at the end is very clever)

Official site here

Here are some apps as they'll look on the Apple Watch - inevitably WeChat is one, as China must be a priority market
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