Thursday, December 13, 2018

Ten Trends for 2019

Each year I write a trends report, trying to predict what the most important themes of the next year will be.  This year the underlying theme is the increasing speed of connectivity through 4G (& soon 5G), and how this is making services richer, d

Friday, September 14, 2018

New Balance uses AI at NYFW

A fun use of Artificial Intelligence.

New Blance set cameras up to record people walking down a street in New York for several days.  Then, during New York Fashion Week, then used the learning from the weeks of observation to identify people who stood out from the crowd - and rewarded them a free pair of shoes.

I suspect that there may have been human intervention in this (many people in New York can stand out for all sorts of reasons), but it's a great idea.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Monday, August 20, 2018

Trinny Woodall on Instagram

A colleague alerted me to 'the resurgence of Trinny' on Instagram.  Trinny Woodall, one of the presenters of iconic 90s fashion show What Not To Wear, is now presenting her own mini shows on her own Instagram channel.

In the clips she goes into stores - with their permission - and does some quick demonstrations of how to wear different looks.

In this one she brings her friend Chloe, to show how a dress would look on a larger size model.

This is very similar to what the Chinese site ShopShops is doing.  In their version their influencers go into stores, demo the products, and also allow people to shop along.

I'm sure Trinny (& many others) will be doing this soon in the UK.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Chompers - An Alexa podcast to brush your teeth to

Chompers is one of the best things I've yet heard of the the Amazon Echo.  It's a daily (ish) podcast that lasts less than 5 minutes, and is designed to encourage 3-7 year olds to brush their teeth for 3 minutes or so.

It's perfect for the Alexa because kids or adults just need to say "Alexa - start Chompers" for it to start; no one wants to be touching buttons or their phone screen when they're about to brush their teeth.

More here, inc some episodes to listen to.

Monday, July 02, 2018

White Castle's Chicken Rings on Facebook Live

This is an example of a brand using Facebook Live Video -

US burger chain White Castle created a fake shopping show on Facebook to promote its Chicken rings, joking that you could use them as earrings etc, with live interaction from fans watching.

More here

Friday, June 29, 2018

Teads Augmented Reality Mobile Ad for Ray Ban

Teads showed off this new ad format at Cannes this year.

It's essentially like a Snapchat lens, but it works on the mobile web, and it's available across some of Teads' partner sites.

It activates your camera, and then - hey presto - you're wearing a pair of Ray Ban's.

They say that it's the first time it's been done as a web-based ad format.  I've seen a few other versions, for example from Vyking, but they work within apps.

More here

Friday, June 22, 2018

4 Great ideas - June 2018

Image source

Here's another series that I'm experimenting with on this blog.

Now that almost everything is digital, the idea of 'digital examples' is a bit redundant.  But since I still get quite a lot of traffic to the blog it would be a shame not to keep writing it.

Every month or so I'm going to try to list some great ideas that I've come across recently, and hopefully explain why I think they're so great. 

There's a danger it might turn into Springwise, but that's not what I'm trying to do.  They probably won't be ideas from new companies, but instead ideas from existing companies, great ideas for books and so on.  Ideas that I wish I'd had, perhaps.

A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things - a book by Raj Patel and Jason Moore.  I haven't bought this yet, but it's a great idea for a book.  Often history forgets the commonplace, and it's the inventions that make things cheap that arguably make the biggest impact on consumers.  One example is the chicken nugget, which has made a big impact on diets and agriculture. 

Travis Kalanick's new company City Storage Systems.  The company, which Travis invested in and as part of the deal became the new CEO of, turns old retail space into something that better suits the new economy.  We have about as much retail space as we had before eCommerce, which means that there are lots of empty shops.  It's a great idea to find new uses for these - for example kitchens for food delivery services, or entertainment venues like VR arcades.  I can see this being really successful.

Paid newsletters.  I write newsletters, and read lots of newsletters.  In fact I have to be really strict with myself and unsubscribe from the ones I don't read regularly, or I find them clogging up my mailbox and hiding messages that I really need to read.  One great idea around newsletters that that I can really see taking off comes from the Dutch start-up Revue, which gives newsletter authors the ability to charge their readers.  I don't think it's something that I could do - but I can see lots of niche newsletters charging small amounts in the future.  Similarly, it's a great idea for Facebook to offer Group (read 'forum') owners the option to put in a subscription system, so that they can charge for access to useful communities.  Again, I can see this becoming commonplace, and it would also serve as a good way to keep disruptive people out.

Domino's PlacesDomino's is allowing people to order pizzas to places that don't have proper postal addresses, for example beaches or park benches.  A great idea, because sometimes you just fancy an impromptu picnic.  I'd imagine that there was some objection when the idea was floated - you must get more prank calls and hoaxes to random locations - but since it's done through their app, and they can see an identity and payment details, it's much less risky than when people just ring up. 

Until next time - here's to great ideas!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Deals in Media & Tech - April and May 2018

Another look at recent strategic M&A deals:  I think that these provide a good indication of the future direction of both the large tech companies, and also society.

Mobility - 

This is one of the areas that seems to be moving fastest, both with improvements in autonomous driving (also an AI problem), and new ways to move around cities.

Bikes are the flavour of the month, with at least 3 new dockless schemes now in operation in London, for example, and the new that Uber has bought electric bike company Jumpmay buy the company behind Citi Bike and Ford GoBike, and will be incorporating bikes into its apps in some cities.  In Asia Meituan Dianping has bought MoBike for a staggering $3.4bn making it one of the two biggest Chinese bike sharing companies.  Bikes are clearly going to be very central to how we get around cities in the next few years!

Payments - 

Lots going on - There is a trend towards vertical integration, with Square buying both Weebly, the site that lets people create their own websites, and Zesty, the food delivery app.  Food delivery is growing fast, and this gives Square a stake in the market, while the purchase of Weebly is a good way to meet new companies setting up a commerce platform for the first time.

Elsewhere, Paypal has bought iZettle, the 'European answer to Square' which gives them access to lots of small merchants, including market traders, and also Jetlore, an AI-driven marketing company.  Paypal has so much data on payments, so buying a company that specialises in analysing it seems like a good move.

Food - 

Pet food - Nestle Purina has bought a majority stake in, a direct to consumer pet nutrition company that sells food personalised to the pet.  In a way it's a bit like Unilever's purchase of Dollar Shave Club, because must have lots of knowledge about owners, digital innovation, and selling directly.  Pet food is a massive market - in the UK, for example there are more dogs than babies - and this deal makes lots of sense.

Technology - 

Saving the biggest deal til last, Microsoft has paid $7.5bn for GitHub, the 'library for software' site.  In a way it's a hard deal to work out - GitHub had taken lots of investment, but never really made much money as it's fundamentally a free service for developers.  However it puts Microsoft at the heart of the developer community for the first time in years, and gives them access to a comminity that they want to encourage to develop for all their new platforms.  Lots of intangible benefits here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

BK's Instagram Stories Burger

A great example of using a new media format -

Burger King in Spain used the polls feature in Instagram Stories to help people to design their own Whoppers.  Once you'd made your choices you got a voucher to go to order the burger in-store.

They also took the most popular burger, created from the most popular poll answers, to create a limited edition burger, sold at Burger King restaurants across Spain.

Really well done!

Monday, April 30, 2018

NSDU's 'Human Test' on Amazon Echo on Google Home

Love this -  Series 3 of 'Humans' is starting soon on Channel 4, and they've produced this 'Human Test', from the NSDU - National Synth Detection Unit - to see if you are a human or a 'synth'.

Just say 'Start Human Test' to your Echo, or 'Talk to Human Test' on the Google Home.

Very well done!

See the site here

& see an example of someone taking the test here

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Product Placement on Netflix

Netflix is on a roll at the moment.  New shows or movies seemingly every day (or actually two every day - they have announced a plan to commission 700 this year), stats that kids in the UK prefer it to BBC iPlayer, and their shows are generating lots of buzz.

One recent show that I've seen is Queer Eye, the re-boot of the NBC make-over show from the early 2000s.

It's a good show, if a bit focused on showing that all of life's problems can be solved by having a haircut, re-modelling your house, and spending lots of money on a new wardrobe.

What's really interesting is that it's the first Netflix show I've seen to openly use product placement.  Nothing that blatant, but you'd assume that the car company has paid, as have other manufacturers whose logos prominently appear during the show.

Netflix has a policy of no advertising breaks and no sponsorship, but I suspect that this shows that they are now more open to commercial deals.  I don't think ad breaks will come any time soon, but the increasing breadth of content, including chat shows, uses formats that people would be more willing to accept sponsorship for.  It's hardly like they have a charter for no ads or no sponsors, unlike the BBC.

I'll update this when I come across other examples of commercial activity on Netflix.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Deals in Media & Tech - March 2018

A quick look at some of the biggest deals in media and technology last month, with some explanations for why the deal took place.

Google bought the 'gif keyboard' platform Tenor
Tenor is one of the biggest media companies that you'd never heard of.  While Giphy had bigger brand recognition, Tenor has a similar offering, and has a similar reach. 

When users search for gifs to use in messenger apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or even Twitter direct messages, they get either Tenor or Giphy assets.  These companies make money by allowing brands to own keywords or phrases like 'Happy' or 'TGIF', and Tenor has billions of these searches each month to monetise. 

Unlike a lot of other searches, these are from people searching based on emotions and feelings, rather than intentions.  The deal also allows Google into the Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc ecosystems - until they block Tenor (which they presumably could do). 

I love this deal though - and in retrospect I should have seen it coming!

Grab bought Uber's business in South East Asia
This deal is about both regional consolidation in the taxi and logistics industries, and a recognition by the Uber board that they can't be big everywhere and that they need to focus on their core markets. 

It also seems possible that Uber is getting out of the business to business delivery business - Uber Freight - again to focus on taxis.

Apple bought the 'Netflix for Magazines' app Texture
Texture is an iOS app that gives you unlimited access to about 200 magazines for a $10 a month subscription.  Android versions are available - try Readly - but this one for iPhones and tablets must attract a good, affluent audience base, the sort that Apple wants to keep loyal to their devices. 

I suspect that Apple won't change the app much, but might be able to offer combined subscriptions with Apple Music and other services.  As Apple starts to focus more on content, this seems like a logical buy.

Foxconn bought Belkin
Foxconn is well known for making lots of the tech that we use, from phones to gaming consoles, for companies like Apple and Nintendo.  The purchase of computer accessories and peripherals brand Belkin shows that they may be looking to make more goods for themselves to brand and sell - which would presumably be a more lucrative (but risky) strategy.

Monday, March 26, 2018

HQ Trivia x Nike

HQ Trivia was possibly the only real breakthrough app of last year.  It's a live quiz show, running for 15 minutes twice a day, with 12 multiple choice questions to answer.  I feature it a lot in presentations, because it's a great example of digital media creating shared experiences, rather than one-to-one or long tail ones.

I've been waiting for them to take ads, but what they seem to be doing instead is doing special sponsored games.  The first of these, with Nike, runs today:

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Tomb Raider's Live Game on Twitch

Using Twitch, Amazon's live game streaming service, to promote the new Tomb Raider film isn't that creative an idea - but how they used it was very innovative. 

In Raid The Tomb players were able to explore a virtual tomb and solve puzzles using chat emotes in a live Twitch stream with thousands of viewers all working together to unlock a prize for the Twitch community.

Very well done!  Live today and tomorrow only.  Final day is Friday 16th March 2018.

One element I love is that it is completely word free - with instructions in 8 languages.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Deals in Media & Tech - February 2018

Each month I look at the biggest and most interesting deals in media and technology.  I think that these deals give a really good steer to the future plans of these companies, including a possible glimpse of future services.

February was quite a quiet month for deals, but arguably the best was saved for the end - Amazon's purchase of Ring, the smart door lock company.

Amazon & Ring
This deal has the potential to solve the oldest problem in eCommerce - what to do if you are out when the delivery man calls.  Ring makes a smart door lock that allows the owner to let visitors in remotely, either if they are 3 stories up in their apartment, or nowhere near their home.

It will allow Amazon to extend their 'Amazon Key' service, announced last year, that would essentially do the same thing, but without the reach and brand name of Ring.  As a home owner, you could give Amazon the right to enter your property (the device would either use a scanned code or - maybe - face recognition), and even put fresh produce into the fridge.

Amazon has also announced plans to launch a stand-alone delivery business, competing with people like DHL.  This will give them an enormous competitive advantage.

Looking a few years ahead, given Amazon's interest in health care, it could also be the means by which doctors or carers get access to the home.

At an estimated billion dollars, it's Amazon's second biggest deal, reinforcing how potentially game-changing this is.

Bosch & SPLT
SPLT is a B2B ride-sharing service, and by buying it Bosch gets more credibility in 'mobility' space, which it already dabbles in via COUP, its scooter rental business in Berlin, Paris and Madrid.  It's part of the trend of manufacturers trying to move into services.  Maybe, like Dyson, Bosch has plans to make its own electric vehicles?  It just shows how demarcations and boundaries between different industries are breaking down.

Niantic & Escher
We didn't hear a great deal about Pokemon Go maker Niantic last year, but 2018 looks to be a very busy year, with the launch of a new Harry Potter game.  The purchase of Escher reportedly gives them access to technology that makes AR objects more 'permanent' between different users (if I move a table, you also see it in its new place) which will add interesting possibilities to multi-player games.  

Amex & Mezi
Bots haven't really set the world alight, but there are still lots of companies using them, and trying to make ones that are useful.  Mezi already supplies the tech behind Amex's 'AskAmex' personal concierge, so their purchase must surely be a vote of confidence and a sign of the importance Amex sees in the project.  

Monday, March 05, 2018

The 'Brewdog Million' & GDPR

Craft Brewery Brewdog has just introduced a new promotion.  They are giving away one million pints of their Punk IPA to anyone who registers on their site, and signs up for an email.  The pints have to be claimed at a Brewdog bar, and presumably most people won't just stay for one.

Very clever marketing, but also I think it's very clever in the light of GDPR.  Brewdog get an opted-in database of 1 million names of people who have stated explicitly that they are willing to be re-contacted.  (Or as many as they want, to be honest - they could keep it going as long as people keep signing up).  I suspect that more brands might start doing this, to ensure that everyone is legally opted in with the most up to date terms and conditions.

Update - it's been pointed out to me on LinkedIn that since you have to opt in to newsletters to receive the free drink, it is not freely obtained consent, so it is not GDPR compliant after all.  But anyway, this is a more interesting example to discuss the practicalities of GDPR than most.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Nike's #LDNR Half Term Takeover

Everyone seems to love the new Nike ad Nothing Beats a Londoner

What's also really clever is how they have created a whole series of events, shown on this map, that people in London can get involved with over half term, using the Nike Plus app.

A map showed events you could sign up for - 3 days in the map has gone and almost all the events are fully booked.

A great idea, brilliantly executed.  Lots of sharing on Instagram too

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Deals in Media & Tech - January 2018

Image source
I will be reviewing some of the deals in media and tech every month.  I'm fascinated these deals because one way to analyse the future direction of the big companies is to look at what sort of companies they are buying.  When I write my trends reports, I often look back at these, as proof that certain fields are generating lots of interest.

Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and others are currently very acquisitive.  Each is using their large profits to buy companies that can help them gain competitive advantage in areas like AI, commerce, and delivery, to fill in gaps in their capabilities, and to (maybe) stop others from getting hold of the companies or key employees.

Nothing in January was as high profile as Disney’s deal proposed deal to buy Fox, or Westfield’s sale ot Unibail, or even Apple’s purchase of Shazam, which all happened in December.  However there were still lots of M&A action, and here are some of the more interesting.

Facebook bought, a company that uses biometrics to quickly verify people’s identities.  Real identity is at the core of Facebook’s value - while MySpace let you choose an identity, Facebook knew that real IDs would be far more valuable to other users (& advertisers) - and this will help them verify people better.

Google bought Redux, a flat panel speaker company.  Flat speakers have attracted lots of attention over the years.  NXT, a UK speaker company, was part of the tech stock boom in the late 1990s, as people get very excited by the idea of how much space in devices, cars etc could be saved if speakers could be flat.  My guess would be that Google will use Redux’s tech in its new devices like phones and smart speakers.  Will everything suddenly get flatter?

‘Mobility’ is a big trend at the moment.  Lots of car companies have bought into, or created their own car sharing schemes, and now BMW has bought Parkmobile, the largest mobile parking operator in the US.  As mobility and cities change, parking is likely to become more important - figures estimate that 30% of traffic is caused by people looking for somewhere to park - and so this is a good, if initially surprising buy.

It’s not a full purchase, but by buying 10% of What3Words, Mercedes will strengthen their position in mapping.  In 2015 Mercedes, together with BMW and Audi, bought Nokia’s mapping technology.  Now this deal takes Mercedes further into location, especially into places like Africa that has less developed maps.  Navigation is vital for lots of things like satnav and autonomous vehicles - I wonder if others will also try to buy into W3W.

Finally, two purchases that show that having an app is increasingly important.  Delivery company InstaCart bought Unata to help it get deeper into the ecommerce ecosystem.  Unata is a Canadian service that helps grocery stores easily build their own storefront app.

Meanwhile, Apple bought Buddybuild, a suite of tools that helps developers rapidly build and debug their own apps.  People always say that Apple’s business is all about selling devices, but on top of this they make an estimated $100m a day from the app store.  Again, anything that will make creating apps easier, and give Apple more control over the ecosystem can only be good for them.

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