Storytelling And The Last Milliseconds

Last week, I participated in AdExchanger’s first-ever conference, which focused on the overall theme of “human-centered automation.” As a human who’s spent the past five years of her life calling for a future rife with smart humans using smart tools to run better digital media programs, “human-centeredness” was refreshing. Here are a few key things I heard for those of you who couldn’t attend in person, wrapped around three themes:

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New Nooks Quietly One-Up Amazon, But Don't Change The Game For Barnes & Noble

With a few discreet press and analyst briefings but no song and dance event (ahem, Foo Fighters), Barnes & Noble has unveiled its new Nook Tablets: the 7-inch Nook HD and the 9-inch HD+. The prices of the devices range from $199 to $299, depending on the size and memory configuration, which makes them competitive with the Kindle Fire and far cheaper than the iPad (although a smaller, cheaper iPad could erode some of the price gap). The devices are lightweight, with high-quality displays and fast performance, outdoing the Kindle Fire on several specs. They now come with a video store, with content for rental or purchase from all of the major studios, filling a major gap in the previous generation of Nooks. The Nook software interface has been completely redesigned. My favorite feature of the devices is the "Profiles" feature--when you launch the device, you see profiles that can be customized for adults or children, down to custom content, browser settings, and store recommendations. This is a long-overdue feature in tablets: Forrester's data shows that 49% of US tablet owners regularly share their tablet with at least one other person.

Walmart and Target, having booted out Amazon’s devices, give B&N exposure to customers in 5,200 retail stores where Amazon devices won’t be displayed.

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The Contexts Around Which You Build Your B2B Community

CLICK: A design framework for online communities: Context, Linkages, Identity, Conversations, Knowledge Assets

As a part of our research on building B2B communities, I recently did a whiteboard exercise with Kim Celestre and we attempted to categorize all of the different types, or Contexts, of B2B communities. The Context in which your audience wants to engage with your community is the first stage of our new CLICK design framework for building B2B communities, followed by Linkages, Knowledge assets, Identity, and Conversations; the model is outlined in the graphic on the right.  (If you’re a client of ours, check out the full report).

Your community context — defined as the circumstances and settings that determine how you and other community members interact — should be the first design point for a new community. All other decisions, including both if it should be on your own domain or part of a larger social network and the choice of technology platform, will follow.

Please take a look at these dozen different contexts and let me know what you think.  I’ve grouped them along one of the axis of our community strategy matrix; whether or not your brand is central to the community.  I’m especially interested in any contexts you think I’ve left out or that don’t fit. 

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Mapplegate: A Brief Take On Apple Vs. Google Maps

Consumers are up in arms about the "map fail" of the new iOS maps app, collectively blogging screenshots of maps that fall short (http://theamazingios6maps.tumblr.com/). Why is this such a big deal?

Maps are strategic IP because they capture consumers' intent of where they want to go, which creates the opportunity to intervene and shape consumers' paths. Apple doesn't want Google to have that data on its users and doesn't want to give Google the opportunity to serve location-based guidance. The problem is that maps are difficult to build -- Nokia and Google (the two main map providers) have been building their map IP for years. Nokia maps, for example, are on nine of 10 in-car GPS systems, each of which acts as a probe that continuously improves Nokia's maps. Apple can't catch up overnight, and it seems as if Apple was premature in pulling the plug on Google Maps -- it has produced a consumer backlash, at least among early adopters.

Consumers who claim they won't download iOS 6 are overreacting -- Google is planning to release its maps application in the App Store, and consumers can just download that app if they prefer. But if it turns out to be the case that consumers don't update their OS, Apple has a serious problem. Apple takes pride in avoiding the fragmentation that Android (and Windows) have, where consumers run different versions of the OS, which creates security gaps and problems for ISVs (app developers) creating software for those platforms. I think Mapplegate will pass, but it shows a crack in Apple's seamless veneer. When other companies launch half-baked software, they get away with calling them "beta," but consumers and journalists seem to expect perfection from Apple. But like any company attempting to innovate in this highly competitive consumer tech market, Apple is not infallible -- there's a map for that.

Preparing For The Groundswell

Today, my colleagues and I are meeting to review the 2012 entries to the Forrester Groundswell Awards. As always, we’ve got some fantastic submissions this year – which you can see on our awards site – and I’m excited I’ll have a chance to recognize the winners at our upcoming Forrester eBusiness Forum.

In the process of reviewing this year’s entries, I can’t help but think back to some of the great winners we’ve recognized in past years. In particular, one I still talk about all the time is RadioShack’s winning entry in the 2011 "Energizing" category.

The campaign for RadioShack had three components:

1.       A promoted Twitter trend for #UNeedANewPhone. Those who tweeted saw offers for the new iPhone if they'd engaged with related content on Twitter.

2.       A campaign called Holiday Heroes, connected with the hashtag #IfIHadSuperPowers. If users tweeted a picture along with this hashtag, RadioShack’s artists would draw a superhero costume over the photo.

3.       A partnership with foursquare. RadioShack created a Holiday Hero badge. To earn the badge, which held exclusive discounts and offers, consumers had to check in at two of three Holiday Hero hotspots.

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Mobile Marketers: I'm Looking For You!

Those of you who know my research won’t be surprised to learn that I’m currently working on a collection of mobile marketing reports that will eventually make up our mobile marketing playbook. (For more information about Forrester’s new playbooks, check this out.) But what you probably don’t know is that the report I’m working on right now isn’t about mobile marketing — it’s about mobile marketers.

My hypothesis is that as a company decides to commit to mobile marketing, experts either emerge or are hired to shepherd programs specifically designed to engage the mobile audience. It sounds easy enough, but there are a couple of things that complicate this seemingly straightforward evolution. First, mobile isn’t really just “a” channel. There's more than a dozen mobile tactics that a mobile channel manager could be responsible for, including mobile display, mobile search, and mobile messaging, in addition to mobile sites and apps. Second, for a lot of those mobile tactics, there are already embedded non-mobile counterparts, like digital media buyers, email marketers, and search specialists with whom the mobile marketer may need to collaborate.

So, for this report, I’m hoping to speak with several of you mobile marketers out there to understand things like:

·         How you got into your current role and what it entails.

·         Where you sit in relation to other marketers at your company.

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iPhone 5: High Expectations, NFC, And Consumer Experiences

A year ago, we stated that despite being only an incremental improvement to the iPhone 4, the iPhone 4S would maintain Apple’s leadership in the high-end smartphone battle.

A lot has changed in a year. Samsung sold 20 million Galaxy S III devices this summer, while Google recently announced that more than 1.3 million Android devices are activated each day — and that it would soon reach the milestone of 0.5 billion Android users. The San José court’s recent decision to fine Samsung $1 billion for copying Apple raised a number of complex questions regarding what exactly innovation means in the smartphone era. While it badly affected Samsung’s brand image, Samsung has a larger portfolio of mobile devices and has also proved it was able to innovate with the Note.

Even more so than a year ago, Apple’s product strategists face an ongoing paradox: maintaining premium leadership with an annual product renewal while tapping the rapidly “mainstreaming” global smartphone market. Consequently, expectations were extremely high — often irrationally so — that Apple would once again truly innovate with hardware design and features.

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What iPhone 5 And The New iPods Tell Us About Apple's Post-PC Vision

If Apple had a motto for its product strategy, it would be, "Don't take anything for granted." The new iPhone and iPods are re-formed from the guts to the skin: Faster processors, faster connection speeds, better cameras, more microphones, new connectors, taller displays, and they're thinner and lighter to boot. iTunes and the App Store are redesigned to feel more modern and help with content discovery. These product improvements are aimed at convincing consumers that there's enough value to upgrade from their current Apple products, as well as growing market share by convincing non-iPhone users that it's finally time to trade in their BlackBerrys, Droids, and flip phones and join the iOS fold. Apple will be successful on both fronts -- not just because its products are well designed, but also because Apple's product marketing is on point. It will be the fastest iPhone rollout ever, available in 100 countries on 240 carriers by the end of the year. Older models of the iPhone will be cheap (4S for $99 with contract) or free (4 with contract)--including on Verizon and Sprint in the US, not just AT&T, which will positively impact market share.

But I think there's a more interesting story to be told than just market share. These products tell us a lot about Apple's vision for the post-PC future. Apple has sold more than 400 million iOS devices through June 2012, and it has more than 435 million iTunes accounts with one-click purchasing, so it will certainly have great influence over the post-PC experience of many millions of consumers. And here's what that experience is likely to be:

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Amazon Fires Up A Strong Tablet Lineup For The Holidays

At its event in Los Angeles today, Amazon announced five new Kindle models: an ultracheap E Ink Kindle; a new "paperwhite" Kindle with a touchscreen and LED light to compete with Barnes & Noble's Nook with Glowlight; an update of its 7-inch Kindle Fire with improved hardware and software; and two "HD" models, with 7-inch and 8.9-inch screen options. Amazon also announced that it would offer its own basic data plan (through AT&T) for its 4G Fire--a very disruptive move that puts pressure on OEMs and carriers to offer their own lower-price plans, and sets the stage for an expected Amazon smartphone launch next year.

With these products, Amazon is:

  • Upgrading its devices to match its service. Last year, Bezos emphasized the service over the device, and that was key to Amazon's success--consumers buy tablets for what they can do with them, which helps  explain why Amazon is the No. 2 tablet brand in the US. This year, with features like Dolby Digital Plus sound and what it calls a "Retina-class display," Amazon is bringing up the quality of the hardware to match the service, which is good for customer satisfaction and good for perception of Amazon's brand. Adding features like a front-facing camera, gyroscopes, and location APIs make Amazon's devices more appealing to developers, too.
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The Deadline For Forrester Groundswell Award Entries Is Today!

Just a reminder that you've got less than 24 hours to enter your submission for the 2012 Forrester Groundswell Awards - we'll be accepting entries until 11:59pm Eastern Time (EDT) tonight.

More details on the awards, and how to enter, can be found here. Good luck, everyone!