Some exotica for the end of the year: Yesterday I did an interview with the French publication NouvelObservateur on Google's recent robotics acquisition Boston Dynamics. Google has been acquiring robotics companies hand over fist during 2013, and it's quite a reveal of how they are planning for the Google of tomorrow - something of interest to almost every brand. Here is my short take:
Brands deals with human needs and wants. Leo Burnett, the advertising executive, said: "The work of an advertising agency is warmly and immediately human. It deals with human needs, wants, dreams, and hopes." Smart brands know not to initially focus on what they have to sell but rather on how it meets consumers' needs. If you can address a strong consumer need, you will get those consumers to act. If you can get them to act, then you have opened an all-important channel of dialogue.
The fulfillment of consumer needs, however, is not always a linear hierarchic approach as proposed by Maslow and effectively debunked by Forrester analyst James McQuivey in his book Digital Disruption. Human needs take place simultaneously and are fuelled by a mix of short- and long-term motivations — some conscious and some unconscious. As a student, I would sometimes forgo food on a Friday so I could afford to go to a concert that night; or consider a Spanish couple postponing the short-term comfort of a much-needed upgrade to their central heating so they can put their child through the next year of college.
The pyramid diagram below shows how the foundation of this needs-based thinking is built from the ground up, from customer descriptions through to the technology and KPIs applied.
Maps are only growing in importance as they become the primary portal on mobile phones for a growing list of information and services. As Apple showed us last year, it's critical to own maps - and to do maps well, particularly as a growing percentage of time is spent discovering, accessing, and engaging content within maps. With that said, it's not immediately clear to me what justifies a $1B+ (reported) price tag for Google’s acquisition of Waze, but I'll assume they did great due diligence or offered a high price to get a deal done.
For instance, many companies do acquisitions for audience, but Google's audience - even just on Android or Google Maps is substantial. Waze's website says 30M users; other sources say 50M. Apparently, engagement among users is high ... but is it well distributed? Are there enough active users in each market for the same excellent experience?
However, Waze does add new features that Google Maps doesn't already have e.g., the ability of users to report traffic issues, police cameras, broken down vehicles - you name it. Layering user-generated content into maps in real time in a way that makes sense and is useful to everyone at that place at that moment is not typical. Mobile needs to be highly contextual in ways people are beginning to understand, but are really struggling to implement well. It also increases speed to market if Google/Android team were otherwise developing this on their own.
With maps integrated into every retail, travel, banking, insurance, (ok go down the list) app on your phone, I don’t think any company can have too much map technology, or too many engineers/developers for maps and navigation technology.
The SF 49ers will soon have a new stadium in Santa Clara, CA. This May 30th article from the SF Examiner describes the new stadium as "entirely cashless and ticketless." The assumption is that "... the fans will be carrying around smartphones." "Software engineers are already building apps to order food, watch instant replays, listen to play-by-play and check bathroom lines from the seats."
As a mobile analyst, I love the concept. Has anyone every been to a conference though with thousands or tens of thousands or 68,500 people? How's your Internet connection?
I was lucky enough to spend some time in Kerala working with Indian classical musicians many years ago. I first arrived during the monsoon season, and along with the world-class thunderstorms that I watched from a thin rubber bath mat on the roof, I could see the jungles getting greener and the people happier. For thousands of years, monsoons have had significant economic, emotional, and cultural importance in India. Rain determines whether there will be food to eat, and monsoon season typically used to signal the long-awaited return home of soldiers to their wives. Classical music in India, unlike its Western counterpart, is always very attuned to time, place, and mood. Rāgas, the name given to Indian classical forms, have rules to help guide improvisations in the moment and the monsoon season has inspired the Malhar group of ragas, a formulation specifically attuned to the emotions, environment, and context of the monsoon season.
Marketing and advertising, like Indian music, has always been contextual. As far back as 1867, billboards were being rented by marketers in dense urban areas outside train stations, and even earlier, direct mail took demographics into account to determine which regions and people to deliver flyers to. The truth is, though, that targeting brush strokes were broad, with flesh and bone staff doing a much better job of understanding a moment, a customer’s intent, and what the best thing to say would be.
I saw this article today on augmented reality. It doesn't use the phone — it uses Google Goggles, but you can imagine it as an application on a mobile phone.
The AR glasses makes the food products you see look bigger through the lenses so users eat less. [See article.] You can imagine more scenarios, though, with a mobile phone along with its processing power and contextual information about the user. If I walk in to a sandwich shop, for example, I can scan the options with my phone to find a sandwich that fits my calorie and nutritional requirements. (I spend a lot of time in airports so would love this). Certainly if I pick up a candy bar, I can read the nutritional information or calorie count.
I go back to trying to answer this question, "how does access to real-time information improve our lives — and not simply addict me to accessing information constantly like checking email or Facebook updates?" Health, wellness, and financial services among others are where I see some bigger opportunities.
One of the key things that differentiates mobile phones from any other device is their ability to deliver a constant stream of real time data coupled with the processing capability to help consumers make a wealth of decisions based on this information. Tablets — we're going to leave home without them, and the majority of connections are over Wi-Fi. Wearable technology collects real-time information and may have applications/display, but we aren't yet seeing devices with the same flexibilty as the phone. The highly anticipated Pebble may yet be the device, but for today, it is the phone. (My colleague Sarah Rotman Epps writes a lot on these devices — see the rest of her research for more information).
With that fact established, my open question is, "Who is making my life better with this ability to process information near instantaneously to help me live a better, healthier life . . . or at least how I choose to define it?" I think the key to measuring mobile success must lie here — from the perspective of the consumer first before mobile will deliver huge returns in the form of revenue or lower operating costs.
Let’s take a step back, first. You started as the “mobile person” two to three years ago. You siphoned a hundred thousand dollars or so from the eBusiness team budget and got a mobile optimized web site and maybe an application or two built. You measured your success by engagement – web traffic and application downloads. Maybe you measured direct revenue. Life was easy.
Two to three years later, as eBusiness professionals, you’ve got some experience with building, deploying and maintaining mobile services. You’ve added tablets to your portfolio. Hopefully you’ve convinced your organization that you need at least a 7-figure budget. Most industries have seen clear financial returns on these investments so that hasn’t been too hard. As eBusiness professionals working on mobile, you were feeling a lot of love.
In 2011, you benchmarked yourselves versus your competition. You looked at native applications by platform and key functionality on mobile web and applications. You took a deep breath and said, “ok, we’ve done it. We have mobile services. We’ve checked the box. Mobile web traffic and sales are growing. We’re good.” Perhaps others with fewer services are thinking, “I can see what we need to do. I think we can catch up if I can get some budget.”
The thing you are seeing though is – the finish line is out of sight. Mobile has only gotten more complicated – not less. No one feels comfortable. No one feels they can slow down, stop spending, or rest. Anxiety levels are high.
What am I even talking about? Think about how you use your mobile phone. Do you contact your closest friends? Do you shout and swear at your local telecom provider's IVR because your new home Internet service isn't working as advertised? Do you shop? Bank? Read books? As a result, your phone knows if you are happy or sad. Your phone knows where you live, how fast you drive and where you spend money. Creepy? Maybe if your phone tells you your wife isn't going to like that shirt you are buying. Less creepy if your phone knows you are a Starbucks addict and they are giving away free coffee today. What defines creepy to some extent lies in how much value you perceive in a service. We call this context - what an individual's situation, preference and attitudes are. How you use it will define how creepy it can be.
Your phone will know more and more about you based on some technology that will be in the phone that can sense what you are doing or your feelings, for example. Your phone will also understand your preferences based on how you use the phone. We wrote a lot about this in 2011 - re what is means to you as an eBusiness professional. (See report)
I've written a lot about the notion that the "Future Of Mobile Is Context" this year at Forrester. Since publishing this research this spring, I've been searching for examples and case studies of innovative uses of context. (See how marketers and eBusiness pros can leverage context.)
Coca-Cola is allowing consumers in Hong Kong to enter a sweepstakes by virtually collecting bottle caps from a 3rd screen (TV, movie theather). The audio signal from the commercial triggers the application/ syncs the user's motion with the video. The acclerometer is used to assess the quality of the motion of the user's mobile phone — the device that is used to catch the bottle tops virtually. See video.
Why is their use of context sophisticated?
In the research, I describe the four phases of evolution.
Phase 1: the basics — leveraging location, time of day, etc.
Phase 2: layering intelligence — so, not just time of day, but time of day relative to an event
Phase 3: using new technology in phones (e.g., sensors, two cameras, etc.)
Phase 4: more sophisticated use of the sensors and technology to control the device
Coke's campaign is what I would call a v 2.0 use of mobile (they are enhancing another touchpoint - see research) with some Phase 3/4 context. They enhance the video/commercial experience by getting the consumer to be active. The act of collecting the bottle tops gets the consumer off the couch and to interact with the ad directly. I think it's very cool.