Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Path to Infinite Return Marketing

Who the hell will be investing in traditional TV advertising in 10 years from now?

The short answer is most likely something like "very few marketers based on the dimensions that characterize their core target audience" because TV as we know it today will be a dinosaur of the past.

C'mon, let's look at the current "User Experience" a.k.a. UX with TV.  Isn't it clumsily awful?  How easy is it to find content that you reasonate with from your remote control?  How about to find new content based on a real-time aspiration that might come up?

I would argue that I am not the only one who believes that the current TV UX is to the TV industry what the Icarus' wings are to the plane industry.

The myriad of unmet consumer needs in the TV UX represent a multi-billion dollar market in the future of digital TV.

For years, I have been an advocate of new video technologies, as early as 2000 I had the incredible opportunity to be involved in the launch of the first broadband wireless Internet Service Provider in Europe.  One of our core offerings was a video conference service that was streaming live over our high speed broadband network.  It was a great window into what the future of TV carrying over the Internet could hold and what the cost benefits could be for those who operate traditional TV networks broadcasting over older types of networks.

Then, a few years later, I actually worked for a High Definition Satellite TV provider called DISH Network in the U.S.  At that time, we were still focused on our core TV programming service while trying to leverage synergies with Internet and phone service providers in the "triple play" market.

The subsequent years, I have followed with interest the swings of the Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) as the strategic forces at the software and hardware levels continuously evolved in an hard-to-predict pattern and volatile ecosystem.

These days, we hear more and more marketing buzz around the advent of such IPTV solutions.  In the U.S, the main incumbent telecommunication carrier - AT&T - unrolled its U-Verse service that already makes an interesting step towards the interaction of traditional TV with the web (Verizon offers a competitive alternative called FiOS).  Programs are streamed over their IP network and DVR integration throughout the house is simple and also leverages the easiness of wifi IP solutions.

The notion of cloud that blurs the traditional borders of personal computing is now extending to the mysterious realm of interactive TV.

The big search guys like Google saw the unmet UX TV need, big time, and are jumping two feet into the circle of IPTV:



Interestingly enough, they even sealed a partnership with my old friends at DISH Network and it clearly is the "enhanced experience" that is being promoted, the "there is an app for that" angle to highlight the differentiated TV value proposition:




Now, it will take some time.  The ad big bucks are at stake and when you own the walled garden content that flows along the traditional conduits of TV media, you are going to make sure that the ambitious cyber TV movers will put their hands into their deep pockets before they can surf your wave.

I found this interesting article on Twitter about Google discovering some of the inherent hiccups related to trying to tap into the TV industry.  But it is just a matter of time before smart win-win business models that make the pie much bigger to all actors in the value chain are worked out.

So advertisers will be investing in new forms of TV advertising that are more likely to be a mix of the traditional TV ad placements and of the social marketing/paid per click search ones.  It is also possible that new forms of layered marketing will come in.  A great concept along those lines is what Jean Touboul has initiated with Encontext Media.  How cool is that?  How large is the target market?


If we look at the current return on traditional TV, I am not so sure about the rationale.  Based on my growing marketing experience, I tend to believe that traditional TV is an act of marketing desperation.  What I mean by that is that most companies invest in TV because it was a disruptive mass marketing channel in the twentieth century as mass retailing started and it allowed companies to "get the word out there" to the masses.  Nowadays, companies still invest massive amounts in TV advertising because they think that they don't have other alternatives to drive their target audience from the stage of product awareness to the stage of purchase decision.  Once they have spent what their marketing budget allows on other channels and see that there is not much apparent scalability, they still believe that TV is the magic wizzard that is going to sustain their sales growth.

Alright, does that really make sense?

I certainly do not have worked on a sample of TV campaigns that is large enough to represent what's going on in the entire industry but I have had the chance to cross-pollinate my thoughts with leaders in the industry throughout my career and what I have seen so far is the following:



I used a cool app called syncpad on iPad to put this together, not so sure if the stamp above is readable though.  What I have tried to represent is that the correlation between your weekly media TV spend (Generally depending on the company and the type of TV campaign, weekly spend hovers around at least $500,000 a week) and your weekly revenue through your retail and direct sales channels (Generally much higher than the media TV spend otherwise, past the launch phase, it is hard to justify from a P&L standpoint) is of very poor quality.  An increase in media spend has a low probability of translating into an increase in sales, even if you don't spend anything for awhile, your sales are going to fluctuate a lot sometimes north of 30-40% from their average value without any dime in media spend...

That's another way to say that the notion of cloud expands into the TV industry :-) 

Directionally, although it is extremely messy in terms of level of investment and also cause-effect relationship over time (there generally is a lag between the time you invest in TV media and the time when this investment might have an influence on your sales), there still is some sort of volatile upwards trends though.  That's what most marketers look at when making multi-million dollar/billion dollar investment calls.

In my humble view, this is very sad and very scary to think that what is perceived as a core driver of our global economy is in actuality a volatile medium that will undergo much transformation before becoming truly accountable and scalable from a return standpoint.

But the path to infinite return marketing is near.  As companies understand the power of pull and weave in their traditional marketing new forms of social marketing that have a zero cost of production, a zero cost of media placement, and a high conversion rate on a highly targeted audience, they will gradually shift their marketing dollars to the pull media.

Could that pull media have legs in IPTV?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Mysterious Marketing Matrix

How can we represent marketing?

Over the past few years, I have tried to challenge my thinking on how to best represent how a target audience responds to a marketing stimulus.

At a high level, if you investment money as a company in marketing it is because you believe that it will eventually drive sales for your organization that will deliver and sustain an ongoing level of profit margin.

From a distance, this is fairly easy to understand.  However, if you want to understand the underlying dynamics of delivering profit margin through an integrated set of marketing channels, it is a different ball game.

Most phenomenon in nature are not linear, they actually are more likely to be quadratic with a significant level of statistical noise that makes any modeling attempt quite tricky.  Nonetheless, human nature likes to believe that business can fairly be represented in a linear way.

So, to keep it simple, if you keep the range of your marketing investment within the bounds of reasonable, there is a way to linearize marketing.

Let's start with a simple example.  Let's assume that you invest $x in a direct marketing channel like paid search (Google, Bing or other) to promote a new book called "The Marketing Matrix".  You'd set up your campaign and would use your $x on a cost-per-click basis when consumers click on your ad displayed in the search engines:


From this investment, you would deliver $y in sales (hopefully $y > $x at least).  A high level way to determine the effectiveness of your investement is to look at your return on marketing investment a.k.a. ROMI=y/x

This linear metric represents what you supposedly got from paid search conversions for having invested in paid search.  In this case, I am going to call the ROMI of paid search via a paid search investment r(ps,ps).

Real marketing life is more complicated than that though.  Most of the time, people naturally tend to look at their marketing investment in isolation, believing that each investement in a given channel returns revenue from this same channel only.

This is not true.

As always, the art of business blurs the lines of channel isolation and value overlaps among all channels...

Let's assume that you are investing $Xtv in a TV campaign to drive sales through your call center and your online assets and that your have $Xps to run your paid search campaigns at the same time (to promote the same product/service).

If we stuck to our one-point linear vision of marketing, $Yps representing the revenue generated by the PS campaign, we'd be inclined to believe $Yps = r(ps,ps)*$Xps

This wouldn't make much sense because the first thing that your target consumers do when seeing your TV commercial is to look up your core keywords from the spot in the search engines, and often times, click on the related paid search ads.

What this means is that a portion of your total paid search budget is specifically going to be used to capture some of the traffic generated online by your TV campaign.  Assuming that your TV landing page or microsite or website has had time to be optimized from an search engine optimization standpoint and properly referenced, you will also organically capture some of the online visits generated by TV without paying a dime.

Well... we need to introduce new value drivers here:
- Xps|ps the portion of your total paid search budget (Xps) that is truly used by your target consumer looking for information on the search engine and clicking on your ad
- Xps|tv the portion of your total paid search budget (Xps) that is used because people saw your TV ad first which caused them to go online to look up core keywords and click on your pay-per-click ad

All in all, in this example:
Xps = Xps|ps + Xps|tv

Your apparent total revenue from "paid search" will therefore be:
Yps= r(ps,ps)*Xps|ps + r(ps,tv)*Xps|tv

Reciprocity applies here.  Let's assume that the consumer saw and clicked on your paid search ad first, withtout converting, then saw your TV which sold him on your product/service and called your call center to buy.  This is much less likely but can occur.

In that case, using the same notations:
Ytv=r(tv,tv)*Xtv|tv + r(tv,ps)*Xtv|ps

Where Xtv=Xtv|tv + Xtv|ps and good luck in real-life to accurately determine Xtv|tv -the portion of your TV budget that directly converts in to sale from TV exposure , and Xtv|ps the portion of your TV budget that closed the deal for your product/service on people who had seen your paid search without converting first.  LOL  How is that for art as long as we are not able to track what's going on in people's minds?

With this example, if we stick to the 2 channels aforementioned (TV and Paid Search) we see that our vision of marketing is a 2*4 matrix from the R2*R4 vectorial space.  If we look at our revenue as a vector from R2 and at our marketing investment as a vectror from R4

Y = RX

Where:

Y=  |Ytv
       | Yps    

X=  |Xtv,tv
       |Xtv,ps
       |Xps,ps
       |Xps,tv   

and R=|r(tv,tv)      r(tv,ps)        0              0    |
            |    0                0       r(ps,ps)   r(ps,tv)|


This is the easy part, if we throw a 3rd channel in the mix like Direct Mail, it becomes a tad more complicated and it becomes almost impossible to model if you assume that someone can receive your Direct Mail, see your ad on TV that promotes the offer that was on your Direct Mail, and decide to go on the web to click on your paid search ad to finally buy your product/service...

I could have some fun modelling this in N dimensions where N is the number of marketing channels where you are investing your marketing dollars, I am not so sure that it would be of tremendous value.  The point is that the marketing matrix is a mysterious one where hops and bounds among channels eventually result into bottom line results.

Therefore, I believe that it is important to feel the matrix "like a splinter in your mind"



and understand that the only way to determine if marketing campaigns are successful is to look at the overall power of integration.  The continuous hops and bounds of your target audience among all channels weave a solid fabric that holds the keys to the success of your marketing campaign.

If you don't create this fabric or pokes holes in it by isolating channels, your success will slip through the holes of lower returns.

In my next post, I will value feedback on how we can apply digital signal processing techniques to better understand the marketing value drivers behind noisy mass marketing campaigns such as DRTV.  We will also try to determine if it is possible to make media placements calls based on facts rather than subjective impressions on these highly volatile random marketing signals.



Happy turkey to all!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Paplet will also disrupt electronic marketing

A few days ago, I had a brief, yet interesting, exchange of tweets with @loic a.k.a. Loic Le Meur, ceo @seesmic www. seesmic.com and great blog for any marketer who wants to get powerful social media insight www.loiclemeur.com 

Here is the thread:



As a matter of fact, a few weeks ago, I did buy a tablet computer.

Originally, I didn't want to because I couldn't figure out what the value proposition truly was. As a mobile passionate since my childhood and early GSM engineering days, what I have always valued about a mobile technology solution is that it's conveniently mobile. You can easily carry it around with you and can engage with the mobile applications while being as free as a birdie flying in the blue skies of wireless ubiquity.

That's where my first tablet hiccup came from. The form factor and the weight seemed to be way out of range in my perception for being considered as a wireless, painless device to be carried around. On top of that, unlike most women, I do not carry a purse with me, at least not yet, and I had a hard time to picture myself stuck with a tablet in hand every time I am running out and about while needing to freshly pick real-time data from the net.

On top of that, I realized that even if I were to decide to narrow down the scope of use at home only, which would solve the nomadic catch 22 that I just mentioned, it wouldn't make much sense neither. Why on tablet earth would I bother squinting on a small screen at home when I can complete the same computing tasks on a much bigger screen from my every day computer?

The third hiccup came from the availability of production tools and the inherent memory space needed to save their output on a local drive.

Well, looking at the tablet beyond it's huge commercial hype pushed by brilliant experience marketers didn't bring much decision making incentives for me to become an early adopter.

However, because of a niche need and the prospect of co-creating digital drawings with my babies as they are about to fall asleep at night, I challenged my stiff thinking and bought one.

A few weeks later, as evidenced by the tweets above, I no longer use any regular computers even when I am at home.

Why?

The short answer is that the user experience is stellar.

I am touchtyping this blog post (without looking at the keys as @loic does on a regular laptop apparently) by using my tablet horizontally, it simply lies on my knees as I am enjoying spreading out on my couch as a Sunday potato. Yes, the touchtyping is slightly more intuitive as, for the moment, you no longer have the volume of each key to give you valuable insight as to where exactly is each key positioned. It did take me a few days to adapt to this new spatial challenge. However, I do recommend to everyone starting working on it as Google recently bought BlindType that has an interesting keyboard solution that is only reliant upon the relative spatial position of each keystroke. In other words, just imagine that you can type in a more open minded zone as long as your typing pattern is kindda consistent with the keyboard that is installed on your computing device.

It's even easier to remove the blindfolds from my words by just checking out this short video:


Furthermore, as evidenced in the Morph concept by Nokia (see very first post on this blog if interested), this "glasstyping" experience is very likely to be enhanced by smarter electronic and hardware that will create volume on demand. As the keyboard application is selected, instead of keys just showing up visually as on a regular tablet, the forms of the keys will emerge from the electronic substrate. Imagine electronic chickenpox in a way! :-)

But wait, I still haven't addressed the production issue that really stood in my purchase decision way originally and... there's more.

If you want to use a few minutes well spent, check out the OpenVibe video:


The principle is not new and is already used in very advanced segments of health care. What this means is that as opposed to leveraging a mechanic interaction that is subsequently transformed into an action-triggering electronic signal, it will be possible to use the source signal in the human brain to directly trigger the electronic action.

That's huge and the future applications are like a universe of disruptive innovations!

If we look at the evolution path, the future is clear. The traditional keystroke on a traditional computer is extremely mechanical and puts two pieces of conductors in contact which create a current (electronic signal) to trigger the key information. The next step is tablet computing, starting with touchscreen applications awhile ago, where either more subtle resistive interactions or capacitive ones map out the target information from the screen and convey it to its intended destination.

So the logical next step could be BCI: Brain Computer Interface where the mechanical interaction totally disappears, the command is purely virtualized.

It is then just a matter of time before we can start the disruptive experience of "thinktyping". Gosh, I would have already finished typing up this novel blog post! I should have asked my parents to have me a few years later ;-)

By then, I am not so sure "laptops" will have any sort of market share, or at least it will shrink exponentially because the tablet experience will be boundaryless and we will have extremely light tablets as all users will be used to saving their data on cloud computing services like the many incumbents these days that are making significant growth inroads (even FaceBook actively considers becoming one of the key players in that space soon).

To a greater extent, as the Internet access networks will be much faster, most applications will be cloud-based too and we can very well imagine that the tablet will evolve into the new concept of "paplet", see it as a tablet as thin and flexible as a piece of paper.

Fun... I hope to see that soon, much sooner than most people may want to think because singularity is not that far.

How will BCI-driven e-commerce and other marketing applications look like?
How will we ensure that our dreams do not interfere with our social actions from the conscious part of our lives?

By living our dreams?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Quantum innovation in Marketing

On my way to an innovation conference last week (that's how I use many of my few days of vacation a year - I am crazy!), I had voiced my concern about the huge marketing inefficiencies stemming from the traditional, broad forms of mass marketing that most companies generally embrace.

Sad.

I wish only 10% of the estimated wasted annual dollars would go to creating new learning and personal development opportunities for children around the world.  This would already make a big difference and certainly open the doors for a better future to many.

Anyway, it's like in politics, those who criticize generally do not have the guts to drive change themselves.  I am not one of those, and even if these are just words in essence, I hope that these few marketing thoughts will evolve towards actions that can help make marketing investments much more focused on contribution margin efficiency and scalability.

As a matter of fact, I don't believe that marketing is a continuous channel.

What I mean by that is that on the other side of any marketing channel there are people.  Psychology plays a key role in marketing as the core driver of any marketing result is the ability to shape the target audience's perceived value of your product or service to trigger the intended strategic action.  The objective of a marketing campaign along the funnel of purchase decision making can generally take six forms: awareness, consideration, liking, preference, persuasion, or purchase.  The value pricing model is a great one to consider to understand how direct marketers are sculptors of perceived value and how cost of good sold, total economic value, perceived value, and price interact and come together to influence sales behaviors.

Nonetheless, all models appear way too smooth and continuous when scalability in the marketing world is much more discrete.  I am speaking to this from experience, not theory.

The most successful campaigns that I have seen around me, or led in some of my marketing positions, were intimately related to their ability to tap into the irrational zone of the target audience's minds.

It's all about quantum in the end as there is no linear path to this mysterious interactive universe.

Energy is a lot about quantum too when we think about it.  I remember from a long time ago the discrete levels of energy in the materials that surround us are not continuous, they also are discrete.  The Schrodinger's Equation is a classical way to represent level of energies, it's about spots, not flowing streams.




It's actually fun to play with that equation.  When you solve it under a few basic conditions, it's quite artistic to see how the density of the orbitals come along.

It looks a bit like tribal signs from another world, a world where modern art and quantum science come together in perfect unison.



So how does quantum of energy relate to innovation in marketing?

There most likely is no equation to tap into human "irrationales"; however, I believe that design thinking in marketing is the key to unleashing the viral power of irrational emotions. 

As creativity is able to spawn irrational emotion, through what I call design content, the target audience's reaction is of quantum importance, and so are the bottom line results.

There is a slew of fresh minded entrepreneurs who have started to understand that marketing scalability and sustainable growth is coming from that angle.

I met a few of them last week in San Francisco, it was like a breeze of fresh air arousing my constant entrepreneurial dreams.

One of them was a young guy from a College near Boston that is very active in the area of entrepreneurship.  He created VS (ViralSkool) http://www.viralskool.com/ 




Another one was more experienced and it was a pleasure to discuss his vision with him.  This guy understood that one of the key dimensions that any marketer should excel at is loyalty.  Loyalty is complex.  Way too often, the true potential of creating engaging loyalty program with target consumers to build sustainable lifetime value is overseen, most marketers barely scratch the surface by distorting the true long term value of consumer advocacy on the sake of short term financial incentives.

Badegeville got it: http://www.badgeville.com

They empower marketers to leverage a much broader spectrum of motivators, beyond the rationale, to spur a new level of viral loyalty fan interaction.



Real-time video is also an area where we are just scratching the surface of something big.

It's getting late, I have to go to bed but, I'd just like to share "Brandlive" with you, they rock:


All of this is pretty cool and exciting but there are many more pending question marks.

How do we take these great ideas and ensure that they are scalable over time?  
Are they just a few minuscle steps towards new quanta of disruptive innovation?


Sunday, September 26, 2010

First "Spacestreamed" post from Virgin flight

I am on my way to San Francisco for my 3-day "vacation".

It's actually fun to be able to blog 30,000 feet up in the air. That's also where the word "Tweet" takes on a much deeper meaning despite the metallic wings of this A319.

Nonetheless, I have limited blogging features on my iPad browser. I cannot even upload a picture!

Well should I really say upload here? The servers that Google uses to host that post are definitely on the ground... The cloud computing thing in the sky is quite confusing, I guess I am totally losing my bearings.

In a few decades, when mankind will have sufficiently wasted natural resources the servers will most likely migrate to some other planet, hopefully powered through solar, and we may no longer specify the direction of the digital stream.

Will we be saying "Hey babe, I just finished spacestreaming my blog post"?

Where will the kernel of the Internet be located at that time? The interco among the various GSPs (Galaxynet Service Providers) will certainly be much different from the current one. Will we still be talking about Border Getway Protocol (BGP) routing among the varioous Autonomous Systems (AS)? What will the Domain Name Server (DNS) be like?

Donno...

Maybe that BGP will become GGP (Galaxy Border Protocol) and that the association of Domain Names with GP (Galaxynet Protocol) adresses will be stored in the Plasma Name Server (PNS)???

How will the architecture of the net will have evolved? The notion of "packet mode" will have disappeared in the darkness of the remote universe and so will the "circuit mode", the traditional views of the OSI model will have morphed into new co-created architectures where physical boundaries make no more sense to code... Who knows?

It's getting bumpy heeeeere. I'd better put my feet on the new grounds of how I believe new forms of interactive marketing will be much more scalable than the prehistorical ones that most branded marketeers nowadays use.

How many Billions of Dollars are wasted in advertising that doesn't work every year?

It's gotta be a lot, and it's gotta change!

If we just look at the TV medium, the ambassador od the hit society as described by Chris Anderson, how dumb is it?

First, when you want to to TV advertising, you need to invest a few hundreds of thousands of dollars just to cover the production part of what you want to brand or sell (in the case of DRTV).

Second, you need to do a media test. A.k.a you throw in a few extra dozens of thousands of dollars just to get a feel for how way too broad of a medium TV is, your target audience is most of the time much narrower than any targeting metrics that any TV network may want to share with you (including GRPs).

Bottom line, before you know it you throw out the window $1,000,000 to get a fragile idea of what might work or might not work actually.

It's funny to see that most TV investments are generally extremely high, yet the ability of the company to track the effectiveness of this capital intensive mass marketing is extremely blurry.

Very few companies have an idea of how their true target audience respond to the mass message.

All in all, some smart guys say that over $400,000,000,000 (yes, Billion) are blown out every year in the U.S. on advertising that doesn't move the result needle by a nanometer.

$400,000,000,000!

Line up 400,000,000,000 $1 bills, that's more than the distance between the Earth and planet Mars.

We need to stop this nonsense. How?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Bina48 in the Spot Bemes

"Friendship is when you team together to accomplish something important like building a better future"

In these words, Bina48, a body-less humanoid robot modeled on the real Bina Aspen, defines friendship when interviewed by a New York Times' journalist:




This definition of friendship, while engaging, seemed to me profoundly messianic when compared to the Merriam-Webster's: "the state of being friends".  I was wondering if the people behind Bina48 couldn't be led by a broader sense of purpose edging idealism.


After some research, I realized that the brain behind Bina48 was Martine Rothblatt. I didn't know anything about Martine (actually Martine Aliana since 1994) until a few days ago when I started laying out my thoughts for this blog post.


In a nutshell, this guy is very impressive yet scary.  To get a feel for the depth of his genius, a few seconds skimming through this video about Legal Rights of Concious Computers should do it:




There are many reasons why I believe Martine Aliana can be criticised and come accross as an utopist excelling at the art of wishful futuristic thinking.  Nonetheless, beyond the religious and philosophical debates that his "transbeman" vision may bring about, I'd like to stick to the power of his original intuition and how this may relate to the high growth Social Networking wave.

A bunch of concepts are introduced in Martine Aliana's presentation above.  I found most fairly interesting and one stood out in my view.  The concept of "Beme".

As opposed to "Genes" which are units that code our physical differences and thereby set the basis for the notion of apartheid (to summarize Martine Aliana's words), "Bemes" are fundamental, transmissible, mutatable units of beingness.  They embody our unique elements of beingness: our mannerisms, our personalities, our feelings, our beliefs, our recollections, our attitudes, our values.  Rothenblatt claims that they are much stronger than genes and to support his point of view she says that identical twins turn out to be much different persons.

The much broader scemantic reach of the "Beme" leads to a much broader charaterization of the traditional Human, the Beman.  At that point in the presentation, I realized that I was losing an increasing volume of hair off the top of my head because of overheating, TweetMaps like the following one were intensely populating my sight:


Yet, this new insight was starting to raise my continuous learning curiosity.

A Beman turned out to be a bio-electric human, structured around his BNA (Beme Neural Architecture).  As a much broader driving force stands behind the Bemans, a non discriminative one, the Beme, Rothblatt insists on the strong underlying inclusiveness of Bemanism.

As I was reaching my last hair count, Rothblatt transgressed into transhumanism and transbemanism.  So much for my last piece of hair, I had to reach out to Bina48's Tina Turner-inspired wig to make up for the loss.

Two brand new domains, seemingly frightening ones to me, were opening up before my bewildered eyes like dawn would break on the hazy wee hours of the morning.

Once again, I jumped on the digital cloud to hastily patch my non existent knowledge of these weird concepts.  A few clicks later, I had read the basics of transhumanism and realized that it was a widely followed movement, they even have their magazine and their H+ symbol that stands for "enhanced human" intended through technology and science.

Of course, this couldn't be simple enough for Martine Aliana.  Transbemans (B+ as they seem to be designated), like transhumans (H+), "push the enveloppe of life" but they are more focused on the sociological than on the technological evolution of life.  

Wow, at that point, my wig had already started to melt down and although Martine Aliana was further pushing the enveloppe of legal rights for US, humans and conscious computers united as a whole and not as segregated DNA-ists, I had to pull the plug.

Now, as the temperature started to cool off, I began to ponder the ever expanding social networking footprint on the digital cloud.  I thought again about one of my older posts "Digital Love is Forever" where I had touched on potential mindfiles of ourselves that would continue to interact with our descents through online social networking. 

What if our rising online social networking activity was the premises of our bemes, our unconscious sense of purpose to become universal transbemans?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Check-in Reality Check

FaceBook Places up on iPhone this week is another check-in reality check for Location Based Services (LBS) growth.

The interesting thing about this new launch is that Facebook partnered with the two leading LBS players of the moment - Foursquare and Gowalla.  Yelp who is famous for its local reviews LBS service and Booyah have also jumped into the Facebook's Places party.

From the outside, it's all about the beauty of physically connecting with your friends thanks to the power of location-aware social networks.  This video posted by Facebook sets this friendly ambiance all along:



However, in my view, beyond this friendly facade filled with plenty of 360-degree, fine-toothed smiles begins the non so friendly standard war for social check-in ownership.

Check-in growth means big bucks.

In the end, LBS is just a new marketing tool to create a new depth of marketing segmentation, one that traces our social habits from the real world back to the check-in owner's databases.  By overlaying some sort of loyalty or incentive marketing program over our digitalized real-world consumption patterns, as a marketer you are likely to get higher return on your marketing dollars than what you would traditionally achieve through mass media.

Now, back to Places.  It sounds that the check-in ownership definitely helped to shape up the structure of this new LBS deal.  Not all stakeholders have appeared to strike the same kind of agreement with Facebook.  It doesn't look like check-ins are co-owned all the time.  What I mean by that is that you may check-in through Places but that information may only belong to Facebook and may not trickle back down to the LBS originator.  Say that you are an heavy Foursquare user and that you transfered all your check-ins to Facebook places through the new Places API (that one-way transfer is allowed apparently), if you check-in Places after the transfer, I am not sure that Foursquare gets that informaton back...?  Yelp did get a two-way deal, not sure Foursquare and Gowalla did but they may have agreed on a one-way deal as it gives them great exposure to the 500M+ Facebook users for greater service awareness.

Are we on for a check-in standard war on the socnets?

It seems like we are headed into a mosaic-patterned LBS horizon.  What if you start building points for a given brand using Gowalla?  Do your branded check-ins apply in Foursquare or do you have to build two seperate collections of check-ins?

I don't believe that there is any check-in standard in place so far.  On top of that, overlay the segmentation at the mobile phone hardware/software levels and you get a supper dupper LBmeSS.

What about open standards?

Wouldn't the check-me-in pie be much larger should standard check-ins be discussed and shared among all major players of the LBS market?

This reminds me of the GSM days in a way.  Back in the beginning of the 80's, in 1982, a new digital wireless group composed of super smart wireless experts came to life.  This was the "Groupe Special Mobile".  It took about 10 years for the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) to become the "2G" standard which gave birth to the first 2G network in Finland in 1991.

Today, GSM is the technology that is most globally adopted.  One of the main reasons why it has known such a phenomenal penetration is because the target audicnce (the wireless carriers in that case) had the flexibility to build their GSM networks from different GSM equipment suppliers.  For example, you could elect to build some of your radio sub-system with Nokia while your network sub-system could be bought from Siemens.  The GSM standard guaranteed that the different pieces within the network could openly talk to one another.

Yes, it did take some time to get to the GSM standard, but in the end it openly fluidified the target audience value proposition by lowering long-term risk and reducing acquisition cost, as a result, the technology adoption rate went banana around the world.

That's why, I am wondering...
Shoudn't all of the current LBS players step out of their walled garden and raise up their heads to the formidable potential of future check-in open standards?

Consumers would tremendously benefit from technology-agnostic check-ins and so, I believe, would the LBS ecosystem as a whole.  LBS would be turned into Location Be Sustainable!  :-)

As I was laying out my thoughts on a napkin for this post this morning, I came accross a tweet from @loic.  It struck my attention as Loic mentioned the iBody appstore.

Loic takes the stale one-dimensional physical "check-in" dimension into a richer multi-dimensional approach where other sets of data, related to our biometrics, could flow into the socnets through relevant APIs.

You can check out Loic's blog post on the subject.  Here is the video that he posted:



So, if more and more digital dimensions from our lives are bound to flow into the future streams of the emerging social networks, don't open standards make even more sense?

Open platforms, open standards may be the sustainable routes to open innovation.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Digital Love is Forever

What happens when Artificial Intelligence (AI) meets Social Networking (SN)?

By 2035, the supercomputer power will be such that AI might be becoming a tangible reality.  The IBM Blue Gene project certainly represents a contemporary step along the path towards that intriguing horizon.



Over the past few weeks, as an exponentially growing number of Internet users around the world are increasingly digitalizing the stories of their physical lives, I have come to ponder what will happen once we are able to upload our minds into the SN clouds.

AI is an old concept, it actually dates back to the ancient times of Greek mythology.  As I was trying to find more recent representations of AI, my friend Jorge made me aware of a movie released in 1986 called Short Circuit starring Ally Sheedy and Steve Guttenburg and directed by John Badham.

$9.99 later I had bought it on iTunes for my viewing pleasure.  The movie is definitely cheesy, yet insightful for its time.

The concept of AI is a leading anchor of the movie's plot.  The hero is "Number 5", a military robot that is hit by lightning which causes him to escape the lab where it was created, and, to keep it short, engage in a light adventure with an animal-lover (Ally Sheedy) and the PhD who created him (Steve Guttenburg).

"Number 5" develops impressive Emotional Intelligence (EI) capabilities.  Dancing being the ultimate form of human communication and a highly emotional pillar of most cultures around the world, I thought I would share how our hero stimulates its electronic neurons dancing to the tune of a well-know Saturday nigh hit from the 80s' (Go directly to 1 min and 35 sec in the video --> I can't get to have the time tag work to do it automatically for you...):




How is that for AI?

The movie was produced at a time well remote from the Internet era, Number 5's EI looks more like an app downloaded from the human world surrounding him.  The other way around, an upload, wouldn't have made much sense at that time.

Now, what happens if around 2035 we are able to upload our mind to our Facebook (or the prevailing mobile optical SN at that time) page and give it free reigns to manage our social interaction with our family and friends?

In 10 generations from us, how will our grand, grand ... grand (9x) children feel about having the opportunity to interact, even dance in real-time with the AI entity that backed up the mind, culture, personality, and life history of their grand, grand ... grand (9x) parents?

Would Digital Love be Forever?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Time to dive in the pull!

Social Networking (SN) has overpassed pornography as the #1 web activity!
That's insane.

A decade ago, I had the great opportunity to be part of the team that started the first ever broadband wireless ISP in France.  We were targeting SMBs at the time, and although some of the trend may be cultural and our target audience was purely professional organizations, I do confirm that we had about 80% of the our traffic related to pornography.

SN has grown at a 48% compound annual growth rate in 2010 over 2009, and a slew of indicators seem to point us toward the feeling that singularity definitely apply to the long tail of SN too.

Sometimes, some of the SN videos posted around the Internet may seem way too flashy, like this one:



Nonethess, it is undeniable that the sooner marketers will understand how to leverage the pull power of SN and forget about the dusty ways of wasting hundreds of billions of dollars in traditional marketing, the better off they'll be.

Getting there will certainly be a bumpy ride for many.

There definitely is no magic recipe in my view as an entrepreneurial mindset may be the key to getting it right, and it will certainly involve tapping into the unexpected opportunities of serendipity.  Marketers should become VC-minded, investing in a diversified portfolio of SN strategies and converging towards what makes it a win-win for both the communities and the brand.

I believe there is too much binary thinking going on associated with the latest SN craze.  C'mon, it's a learning process and it's not because you have some sort of brand face on Facebook that you are instantaneously moving the needle in the right direction.  You may actually be moving it counter-clockwise if you have not taken a few steps back to think out long term expectations from the communities and operational implications, therefore cost, to your organization.

A few weeks ago, I came across this post on TechCrunch.

I am not the kind of guy to generally react to push marketing; however, I went ahead and purchased the electronic version of the book.  Pretty cool...

In a nutshell, the authors are advocating the fact that "small moves, smartly made, can set big things in motion".  To do that they claim that there are three key levels in the pull, three diving boards:
- Access (resources through communities)
- Attract (the organic resources from the communities)
- Achieve (I would parallel this to building the sense of common purpose between you/your brand and the communities)

I paused for a moment and I realized that this is pretty much what my bro and his team have learned the hard way as they are growing their community-based film production company touscoprod.com

From the onset, they built the tools to access the film lover communities.  There were no barriers whatsover as the only moderator was my bro alone.  It was a few years ago and the fancy features offered by some fancy user moderation companies these days didn't exist.

Well, it was actually a great opportunity in disguise not to have these digital tools firsthand.

As a matter of fact, while interacting directly with the unsensored communites, my bro was able to understand the power of real-time pull interaction.  Yes, they definitely found themselves in extremely delicate situations where consumers were extremely irrate about things that are normally being dealt with in a private "consumer service" kind of setting. 

It took time, a lot of time, a lot of patience to publically address these consumers' points of pain.  But integrity and openess were the key ingredients to turn around what would primarily look like brand/consumer adversity into sustainable brand/consumer friendship that virally propagates through the communities.

In a word, negative pull interaction is the long term open door to sustainable consumer loyalty.

The problem is that quite a few marketers don't seem to understand that.  You cannot push your marketing in a SN right off the bat because it is going to bounce back in your face and make you loose trust.  Build the trust first, and sollicit the value, don't push it!

Once brands get that, sooner rather than later, they will be able to attract advocates from the community that are going to act as exponential pull powers.  I wouldn't be surprised that in a few years from now, brands will actually start hiring based on the added value of each individual as a contributing entity to the community.  Imagine some sort of Foursquare hiring mayorship for your brand based on added value behaviors.

At that point, the overarching "sense of purpose" will achieve unprecedented return on your marketing dollars, this will be a quantum leap in relation to the famous 10x return on direct marketing investment touted at any Direct Marketing Association conference around the world.

It's about time to dive in the pull!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

rEVolution

It was 1995, for the first time in my life, as a previledged student at Supélec in France, I had the opportunity to drive one of the very first EV (Electric Vehicle) designed by the French car manufacturer, Renault.

This rEVolution, at least in my dreamer's eyes, was the Clio Electrique and it looked like that:


 Beautiful...  Isn't it?

As far as key characteristics, check this out:

MotorAsea Brown Boveri Separately Excited DC
21 kW 2100 U/min
ControllerABB BA 20
Batteries19 Saft STM - 100, 6.00 Volt, Nickel-Cadmium, Flooded
System Voltage114 Volts
HeaterVolvo ( Ardic ) Benzin Standheizung
Top Speed60 MPH (96 KPH)
Range45 Miles (72 Kilometers)

If you want to learn more about this disruptive product at that time, go there.

And, yes, you read that right: top speed of 60 MPH and amazing range of 45 Miles.  Just enough to go buy a few fresh eggs at the open-air market in the next town and come back home, then you needed three days to reload the battery!

Well, innovation doesn't happen overnight and I was so thrilled about this first EV driving experience that I have kept on dreaming about owning an EV since then.

The BP oil spill this year, the swings in oil prices, the increase in clean tech investments, and many other economic realities such as the poor performance of traditional car makers have begun to gradually shift consumers' attention and interest towards EV.  This is not a U.S. thing, it's a global thing.

Nonetheless, as a key driver of innovation, the U.S. is playing a key role in the development of the next generations of technologies that will redefine the way we are used to transporting ourselves.

In 2004, one of the guys who created PayPal - Elon Musk - co-founded Tesla Motors ( http://www.teslamotors.com ) with the purpose to drive mass EV adoption in the U.S., and globally.

From the inception of this new venture, I have been an active fan, a brand advocate as some marketers may call us as I found their mission profoundly deep and worth promoting for a better future.

Apparently, they noticed from my activity on their website that I was quite engaged, and a few weeks ago I received a call from them to test drive their Roadster.   They didn't have to ask me twice, I invited my dear friends Gilles and Jorge to join in the fun, and together we went for a drive into the future of personal human transportation.

Here are Gilles' impressions after his test drive - hire a French translator if you need one :-)

video

For those who couldn't find a French translator, or if the video doesn't want to start, in a few words, Gilles was amazed by the quality of the experience that you can actually touch and feel as you interact with the materials of the car.

I am not quite sure Gilles would have said the same had he driven the 1995 Clio Electrique right after his Tesla Roadster test drive...

As a matter of fact, the key characteristics are quite different:

Motor

375 volt AC induction air-cooled electric motor with variable frequency drive.
Roadster Roadster Sport
Torque 273 lb-ft at 0-5,400 rpm 295 lb-ft at 0-5,100 rpm
Horsepower 288 hp (215 kW) at 5,000-6,000 rpm 288 hp (215 kW) at 4,400-6,000 rpm
Max rpm 14,000 rpm 14,000 rpm

Acceleration

Roadster Roadster Sport
Top Speed 125 mph 125 mph
0 to 60 mph 3.9 seconds 3.7 seconds

Transmission

Single speed fixed gear. Reverse drive uses reverse direction of motor, limited to 15 mph.
Overall Final Drive 8.28:1
Final Drive Ratio 3.12:1

Range 245 miles
Expected battery life Seven-years or 100,000 miles
Battery heater for cold weather charging to -20 degrees Celsius Standard

How is that about to support Ray Kurzweil's singularity principle?

Elon Musk adopted the strategic approach of targeting high income early adopters with a premium positioning product (they did the same when they launch the first GSM digital cellphones back in the 90's...) and then go down market with more affordable models and some lean operation to ramp up production.  By the way, they recently announced a partnership with Toyota to just do that as they are now also pushing pre-orders on their amazing Model S.

So the comparision with the Clio may not be apple to apple because the Clio is the traditional "Monsieur Tout Le Monde" (Mr. Anyone) car in France, but still, the difference is quite "singular":
- From 21 Kw to 215 Kw, over 10x from a power standpoint!
- From 60 MPH to 125 MPH, over 2x from a top speed viewpoint!
- From 45 Miles to 245 Miles, over 5x in driving range!
- From 3 days to reload the battery to about 2 hours!

It sounds like singularity it is...
Where is the limit?

If Ray Kurzweil is right again, as he claims it in this video, we should soon be able to combine the benefits of the cloud with the disruptive breakthrough of physical technologies.

Can you imagine when we will be driving down I-95 in our Model Swhatever and download a batch of 300 extra battery miles off the solar Internet?

Fun!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

14 in 2020

How will it be to be 14 in 2020?

In 2006, Cheryl and I had the pleasure of welcoming ilana, our first daughter, to this world.  It's been amazing to see her personality develop since "daddy ordered me on his iPhone" as she would genuinely say a few weeks after speaking.

What has amazed me the most so far is how ilana has been intuitively connected to the current forms of technology.  Very early on, she enjoyed coming up with new digital paintings on the screen of my phone as a way to fall asleep at night.  She got a "touch" for it right away.

The other day, I realized that she was able to browse princesses' videos off YouTube by herself (which urged me to think content control earlier than I would have ever anticipated...).  Any form of mouse, the legacy one with an electronic tail, or the fingertip one which is poised to becoming the regular way to go, has not managed to escape from her use for too long apparently.  She also figured out on her own how to unlock my phone by swipping her finger across the screen, browse the many panels of apps (before 4.0) by sliding them out one after the other from her fingertip before getting to her favorite Sponge Bob apps, clicking on them and playing with them!

Do kids have the notion of Singularity intuitively coined into their DNA, or instead, are the Steve Jobs and co. driving disruptive innovations that make the user experience intuitively simple, even for kids?

Or could it be a combination of the two?

Well, I would vote for both, and I believe that the forms in which information will be delivered to us will increasingly look like electronic Play-Doh that will meet the unmet of our long-tail socio-cultural specificies as humans.

What's amazing about this electronic Play-Doh, let's call it "epdo", is that not only will epdo allow us to shape it the way we want, create its color the way we want to enhance and adapt its daily physical usability to our needs but also will epdo empower us to assign an ambient scent to each app, a seasonal temperature and proper level of epdo humidity, and other untangibles that will take our daily emotional usability to unprecedented heights.  Let's dream!

A few years ago, as I was having that train of thoughts in a boring class as I was studying in Boston, I realized that some people already had overlapping ideas to some extent.  The Morph concept was one of these representations:

Morph Concept by Nokia

In 2020, ilana will be 14 and she will still be playing with epdo!

She will never have known the complexity of the Email tyrannosaurus that drove the adoption of the Internet almost three decades before, she will be openly and securely living her physical and digital social lives flipping from one to the other through body language connectors.

Is that a dream?