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January 23 2015
"Put another way, in 2014 iOS app developers earned more than Hollywood did from box office in the US."
January 15 2015
Why I like Soylent (and examine.com)
Chris Dixon absolutely nails it in this post, and not just talking about Soylent but also about the idea of products by/for online communities.
Soylent is a community of people who are enthusiastic about using science to improve food and nutrition. The company makes money selling one version of that improved food (some users buy “official Soylent,” others buy ingredients to make their own DIY Soylent recipe). If you look at Soylent as just a food company, you misjudge the core of the company, the same way you would if you looked at GoPro as just a camera company.
It’s not just that investors don’t understand or appreciate the power of online communities, most marketers and companies don’t really understand how communities form, what unites them, how they communicate or recognise when and how opinion shifts.
Many investors decided not to invest in GoPro because they saw it as a camera company, and camera companies generally get quickly commoditized. However, investors who properly understood GoPro saw it primarily as a highly engaged community of sports enthusiasts, something that is very hard for competitors to replicate.
It reminds me exactly of why I love examine.com and all the time and effort that’s been put into distinguishing fact from fiction, collating all the research and RCTs and especially results in humans and their significance. Examine.com and Soylent (and places like Reddit nutrition) might be talking to a very small group of people who absolutely love nerding over what goes into their bodies, but that’s the beauty of online companies (who also do their marketing and advertising online) over traditional ones - their narrow interests and being helped with a product or service that will make them disproportionately happy:
Traditional food companies are primarily marketing and distribution companies. They blanket the earth with advertising and fight to distribute their products as widely as possible (while blocking the distribution of competing products).
As far as advertising goes at least, most companies and their ‘mission statements’ are at best bland and at worst absolute bullshit used to fill up space. However, at Poke we simply believe in making things better & making better things.
Traditional companies and marketing come from a world where you made whatever it is you were good at and used your budget to push out that message. Lovers of Sun Tzu style strategy and the last 20 years of business school thinking seem to be under the impression that modern marketing is about always being cleverer than the competition (or driving them out of business), which just ends up being detrimental to the people you’re supposed to be serving. There’s been no room to ‘make better things’ from scratch.
What investors can probably get onboard with is that it’s a cut-throat world out there and that results and profits are the things that ultimately matter to them - but it’s a much harder job these days to get through them through sheer brute force.
January 06 2015
Today in tabs I need to close:
- Like Unilever asking why bring a baby into this world, Fisher Price filmed the first born babies of 2015 to film an ad
- Fab CEO and Twitter shareholder Jason Goldberg goes on a 44-tweet tweetstorm that culminates in his recommendation for Twitter going forward
- Nesta has a new magazine called The Long+Short. This issue is about labs and there’s an interesting post on the emergence of non-scientific labs and RCTs in ad agencies, policy centres and many other places.
- GfK concludes most people seem to think that sleeping and ‘eating healthy foods’ contributes to physical health. The problem is most healthy-looking foods are not foods you should binge on in the first place (and don’t address the problem of getting the right balance of macronutrients). It also doesn’t help if people eat products with ‘health claims’ like “all natural” granola bars…with 20g of sugar in one pop.
- My boss Nik Roope wrote a LinkedIn post about how to create the right environment for potent creativity.
- Jason Calacanis thinks firing Marissa Mayer would be a huge mistake. She’s been under a lot of fire in the New York Times recently so he took the time to debunk some of the allegations and remind people why she’s on track.
January 05 2015
January 04 2015
January 03 2015
Branding woes: what problems do Fitbit, Jawbone and other activity trackers solve and who are they for?
At work were recently invited to pitch to a wearable device manufacturer with a camera and recording functionality (which shall not be named) and struggled with the question of selling point for a while: from a legal and consumer perspective, what is the proposition (i.e. promise)? Or in even simpler terms, what are you helping people with?
That’s one of the fundamental questions of branding, marketing and communications. What a device does is not necessarily the thing you want to or can advertise to people for a multitude of reasons.
There’s a long and interesting investigation into wearable activity trackers by BuzzFeed:
Fitbit told me that third-party tests have confirmed that its trackers are the “most consistently accurate activity trackers on the market”; Jawbone says the UP is intended to function as “an overall lifestyle tracker” with a goal to “really understand your baseline, and discover things you might not have known, so you can start to make decisions.”)
Fitbits and Jawbones sell well, but “decay levels,” to use Gandhi’s words, are high, and customer satisfaction, even gleaned from Amazon review pages, is relatively low: The Fitbit Flex and Jawbone UP24 are currently rated 3.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon.
The reason these devices don’t routinely score raves is because they lack a clear promise that they can in turn fulfil. “When you look at the marketing for these step counters, it’s very broad and aspirational,” Gandhi explained. “If you go and read the five-star reviews of Fitbit, they’re largely about losing weight, but if you read their public marketing, Fitbit still has this aspiration of being more of a health and wellness brand than weight loss.”
You will never find a review for Jawbone or Fitbit that says ‘works as advertised’ because no one knows what they’re advertising.”
There are many things happening in the wearable space that are interesting from a communications or marketing perspective. Peter F. Drucker said in 1955, ‘the purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer.’ A lot have been created as far as we can tell, but what for and whether they’ll be staying is a different problem.
If no one knows what you’re advertising but they bought the product anyway, it leads to a lot of possibilities, to name a few:
- The people who aren’t the audience you intended are now using your thing (for its original, intended purpose). It’s great that they found it without being advertised to directly, but raises all sorts of interesting questions for your business model and whom you should decide to focus on next; who are they, how did they find you and are they the people you want in the future? Are they even likely to stay with you? Sometimes this is deliberate (also known as an influencer strategy, whereby the person it’s intended for is not the person advertised to - e.g. advertising Old Spice to women to get the men in their lives to use it) but when it’s not there are some juicy research questions to be answered.
- The people who are the intended audience are using it, but not for what you want (or designed it for or thought they needed); if you’re not speaking to them right now to figure out what they’reusing it for, you’d better hurry up. This should help inform, not guide, future actions and communications. If people have discovered a way of using the thing that you don’t condone, it can give a way in to others just like them: they’ve got a use case that is extremely personal and relevant, there are more like them out there, and even better, that’s the key: to make a small audience or market disproportionately happy with your service.
- Another one is that the audience you intended it for is using it for the right reasons, but probably not as often as you’d like them to. There’s a bit of the first case scenario in here as well: the judgement may have been wrong from the outset and it turns out they’re not the heaviest users. Alternatively they could be heavier users but they just haven’t figured out how. If the ‘thing’ is being used out of the box with not much guidance, setup or on-boarding then people are missing out on features they don’t know they have; you might be getting ‘meh’ reviews or not generating a lot of enthusiasm. The good news is there’s a lot that can be fixed here (especially through relevant messaging).
In superficial terms for the sake of argument, the Fitbit promises 'the most accurate tracking', which could suggest it’s aimed at people already into the idea of tracking, solving a problem of inaccurate tracking from other devices, e.g. hard to understand metrics (Nike Fuelband) or imperfect technology (mobile apps reliant on having a phone on you). It can help ‘make fitness fun’ (looping into an existing habit but suggesting it’s for people who are not fitness inclined) or let you ‘take charge and energise your day’ (addressing some of the symptoms but not the source itself).
In just as superficial terms, the Jawbone promises to ‘show you things you didn’t know’ about yourself, which suggests it’s aimed at the kind of people who might be making health and lifestyle commitments (e.g. losing weight, exercising more, being in better health - see How fast you’ll abandon your New Year’s Resolutions on FiveThirtyEight). A sizeable audience, but with goals and paths to those goals so different your work has only just begun the moment you landed that customer.
This brings you to the second key question: what sort of people are you for?
In discussing the characteristics of monopolies, Peter Thiel noted that companies with large cash flows far into the future “usually share some combination of the following characteristics: proprietary technology, network effects, economies of scale, and branding.”
Branding (also in superficial terms) happens when the answer to the previous two questions is clear in everybody’s minds. Do mainstream wearable devices have branding? I seriously question that at the moment. Skinny Bitch Collective and Barry’s Bootcamp have branding that the gym round the corner from you doesn’t have (you know where you stand with them). Wearable devices don’t yet - Beats has more branding in the world of headphones and laptops than all wearable devices put together.
January 02 2015
Tom Peters and the 21st Century Organisation
On women in management and the (ongoing) importance of face-to-face meetings and hierarchies
"Put more women in management. They know how to do a work-around. Men don’t know how to do work-arounds, because the only thing we understand is hierarchy. That’s an exaggeration, of course, but then again the neuroscientists tell us it’s not that big an exaggeration. The male response is, “I can’t do anything about it ’cause my boss is really against it.” And the female response, by and large, would be, “Well, I know Jane who knows Bob who knows Dick, and we can get this thing done.” They do it circuitously."
December 31 2014
December 19 2014
“ During the interview Called by the Universe: A conversation with Neil deGrasse Tyson in 2009, Tyson said: I can’t agree to the claims by atheists that I’m one of that community. I don’t have the time, energy, interest of conducting myself that way… I’m not trying to convert people. I don’t care. ”— Neil deGrasse Tyson - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
December 10 2014
December 03 2014
November 20 2014
“ A strategy is a cohesive response to an important challenge. It is a set of coherent actions, not to be confused with details of the actual implantation of that strategy (that would be ‘goal setting’). A strategy tells everyone "this is how our organisation is going to move forward". ”
November 17 2014
What voting looked like this weekend.
"More than 300,000 votes cast by Romanians living abroad, were decisively in Mr Iohannis’ favour when the official count was completed on Monday morning. The government had been criticised for long delays in voting at its foreign embassies in a first-round run-off vote on November 2. In that poll 160,000 Romanians voted abroad, with a strong majority breaking for opposition candidates.”
November 12 2014
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