Category Archives: on_offline_mesh_

we are hard-wired for ‘same day’

Much of the heat around the Walmart and ‘eBay Now‘ plans to test same-day shipping has been generated through the positioning of these efforts as a ‘retail/e-tail battle royale’ with pretty much everyone against Amazon.

Rebecca Greenfield at The Atlantic writes: “Walmart will send Internet-purchased items to you the very same day as online check-out, in 5 select cities…Amazon already offers that same quick delivery time in 10 cities…Walmart [has] 4,000 stores primed for this delivery option…Amazon…40 warehouse distribution centers. That means Walmart could offer same-day delivery to a lot more people in far more obscure places.”

Game on!

There are operational and logistical hurdles to overcome (and Amazon’s done this “e-mmediate” thing before – remember Kosmo?), but with the global near-ubiquity of mobile, marketers should pay close attention: when you can impulse-buy anywhere there’s a data up/down, every brand impression is a potential point-of-sale.

Imagine: on your lunch break, you see a Coca-Cola awning – a minute with your mobile, and Amazon ‘Same-day’ has a case waiting on your doorstep when you get back from work. All the light touches that add up to our personal brand experiences – vending machines, retail signage, delivery trucks, packaging, social media, and yes, advertising – are purchase-enabled product shelving in the infinite aisle of Amazon.

(And people LIKE instant gratification – the more instant the better. We are hard-wired for same-day. That’s why 3-d printing is the next industrial revolution and all this will change again.)

Granular sales attribution to individual brand expressions may be hellish, but if Amazon, eBay and Walmart (and their partners) enable infinite-shelf impulse-buy, could this be a way for CMO’s to use their brand footprints in entirely new ways to drive revenue? Could an unintended consequence of “Same Day” be a reconsideration of the right column for ‘Marketing’ on the P&L (revenue, instead of expense?), and with it, a reconsideration of the value of brand communications in the overall revenue mix?

I think it’s cool to get stuff the same day. Or even better: yesterday.

what do you think?

 

 

Art hits Tech Hard in Rhizome’s “Seven on Seven” LHC: The Loooong Part One

The line between “artist”and “technologist” is blurring as code fluency becomes increasingly critical to the creation of meaningful cultural objects.

Three years ago, Lauren Cornell and the Rhizome/New Museum team launched “Seven on Seven“, a 24-hour “sprint-posium” pairing artists/technologist teams to create privately and explain publicly…something. A work, an idea, a prototype. Something resulting from the collision of their very different world views. Like a cultural LHC, “Seven on Seven’s” real premise is: can seven successive impacts of sufficient force throw off new cultural particles?

W+K got involved because the “Seven on Seven” platform confronts issues we tackle daily: What is an idea, now? How fast can you get to a compelling idea? How do artists and technologists productively collaborate? How do we build timeless stories in timely ways?

The teams had 24 hours to create two equally critical things: a collaboration, and the story of that collaboration. The story without the thing was fantasy, the thing without the story was unengaging.

A brief synopsis of the teams and the results:

Team #1 was Taryn Simon and Aaron Swartz, who used “the hidden spaces between cultures” as a visual root for their project: a tool that translates a query into a local language image search in fifteen countries – a “simple” act that exposes cultural differences visually (e.g., here’s “party“). Aaron described their process of considering “how supposedly neutral and statistical tools that claim to present an unmediated world carry with them biases that program us.”  The internet, they argued, has created an illusion of cultural flattening that this tool exposes.  (other examples: Liar, crazy and freedom).  Simple Formula, complex results.  So hot Clay Shirky (@chsirky) was tweeting it during their presentation. Watch their presentation here.

Charles Forman and Jon Rafman were Team #2.  They were interested in using images to explore memory and its plasticity. Charles described how looking at old photos created  “chronologically impossible” memories.  Jon has found unintended stories in images. Both sparked to the way old photos confront us with our “mistaken notion that we’ve always been whomever we’ve become,” and their collaboration generated the “Memory Box“. As described, by Jon, it’s as an “ivory box with golden circuitry” that records a reaction to any of your personal images, then serves that image and reaction back up seven years later for re-consideration. Not an archive of memories, the Box is an archive of what we’d forgotten, intentionally or not. Your chance to confront your neuro-plasticity. Without their invention, said Charles, “Ten years from now, I’ll remember that I was the funniest guy here at that you all loved me. And right now, there’s nothing to prevent me from doing that.” 20:47 video here.

Team#3 delivered the event’s “homeless hotspot ZOMG” moment.  Jeremy Asheknas, who enjoyed lifting “the constraint of the newsroom requirement of sticking to just the facts”, was working with Stephanie Syjuco, an artist who amongst other things, leads counterfeiting workshops. “I’m supposed to be transgressive,” she said,  “and he has a code of ethics.” Together they created an alternate “crowd-sourced” Seven-on-Seven they called “Seven on Seven, Again“.  They described their recruiting process and the resulting seven ideas – from “Hushamaphones” to a “Market of Intangibles”, but the mood shifted perceptibly in the room when the two revealed the entire project to be a fiction.  As required, they’d built a product (a website of the event) and a story – but in this case, the product was an artifact of a story that was a fiction. They raised all kinds of questions about authenticity you can watch here.

Team #4’s Aram Bartholl and Khoi Vinh were one of two team in Wieden’s NY office. While outside their office people leapt a swimming pool filled with rancid coffee and stale donuts, the two considered the ubiquity of the internet: Aram noted “it’s in pockets and cafes, but always in rectangles.” Khoi noted screens had gone from social experiences to personal ones, and wondered if you could reverse that trend. Aram didn’t buy technology deliverance – “I don’t believe in the AR thing – floating in a pool, connected to a brain…”, “or floating in a pool of coffee and donuts…” added Khoi.

They built a circular case for an iPad, then filmed Aram wearing it around NYC to see what reaction it caused. And while a circular screen “may not be culturally viable”, it was an important part of breaking cultural expectations for screens.

To see how it would change interactions. To see if people would engage with it differently. What would it mean if people could touch your content? Unsurprisingly, it took some convincing for women to engage with the gestural interface on Aram’s chest. Their video is priceless.

Team #5 was Blaine Cook and Naeem Mohaiemer, representing activism and left politics.  In wrestling with the creative process and where ideas come from, they considered the way the brain processes images and ideas, and thought about “slow” and “tactile” time. They explored five concepts:

“Don’t let me be lonely”: Naeem quoted Blaine with “poetry looks like ass on a blog.” And I can’t remember how this explained the concept, but it was so good, it’s here.

“Killing Time”: Now that people “Google” mid-conversation, everyone is an instant expert.  Or as Blaine put it, “I feel my memory doesn’t work anymore, and it doesn’t matter.”

Constellation Theory: Not a single note here. I google-ed it (see “killing time”, above) and got this blurb: “the self is organized into a stable concept, our defenses protect the self-concept and how to be aware of our defensive nature” from this book.

For the specificity of the local: you can’t flatten everything.  Local matters, illustrated by way of the German word, Doch, a hard-to-translate word roughly meaning “I affirm your negative structure.”  Also, (and I’m not sure why) they described Tacqawores, a work of fiction that described a micro-community (“Punk Muslims”) that was inspired to form because of the book.

Back to a room of my own: Naeem asked “how do we get our minds back when they are so linked into rectangles?” Blaine “we are against pecha kucha and TED. we are for the slow jam. we need our room back.”

The result: roomofmyown.org – a deliberately reflective collage-wall of ideas you can share with a limited number of people. While today’s “social” tools pressure us to expand our networks, this one forces choices to be made – and attention to be paid.  The prototype, said Naeem, is a means to an ends: How do we slow down? Watch their video here.

Team #6, Anthony Volodkin and Xavier Cha built an idea around the notion “you are what you eat” – and felt a fair proxy interactively was the twitter stream you consume. What if you could see the tweets someone else consumes, rather than projects? Would you get better insights into who they than reading their carefully curated tweets?  Boom: Peep, the tool that lets you step into someone else’s twitter feed. Xavier: “Foursquare isn’t a record of where you’ve been, it’s a record of missed opportunities – at any given moment, a friend is having a better time than you.” Peep looks for you in your incoming stream – in other words, the you you’ve chosen, not the you you create. You can watch them here.

Team #7, Latoya Ruby-Frazier and Michael Herf (also based in the W+K building) shared a concern about how technology is used – and how it affects us. Both interested in how you talk about culture and images – and how you raise visual literacy around the meanings embedded and encoded in images. Their project, Decode: A Encyclopedia of visual culture, is a collaborative platform on which users (identified by age, gender and race) can offer their cultural insights and perspectives on images in popular culture and communications. The tool would look for modifications, and layered cultural meanings. So that the font you use isn’t the one used by…say…Nazis. Video of the presentation is here.

If you’ve made it this far, wow. Buckle up – travelogue is over. Next stop: key takeaways

in

post….2.

(and here’s the liveblog stream of the event from Rhizome. Nifty.)

Everything has an app – even kids

I was at the playground with my two boys yesterday.

We began a game of tag.

As I closed in on the older son, he shouted “magnet charge”.

Beeping loudly, the younger son came at me from the side, wrapped his arms around me and clung while his brother scrambled to the top of a jungle gym.

With my younger son still beeping triumphantly around my ankles, I asked the older about the ‘magnet charge’ move.

From atop the junglegym came the answer:  “It’s one of his apps.  He’s got ‘move silently’, ‘night vision’, ‘minigun’ and a whole bunch of others.  We downloaded all of them.  Isn’t that awesome?”

“Beep!  Beep!” came the shout from my ankles. “Beep!”

Turns out amongst his friends, you don’t have ‘skills’ or ‘superpowers’ on the playground anymore, you have ‘apps’.

From the top of the jungle gym came the closer:

“You can activate the apps across the playground with Siri – you just need to know their names!”

Retro-nology, John Bacone and cardboard

Had the opportunity to sit down with Portland artist John Bacone, who brought by some recent examples of his work.

cardboard sculpture of music device
Artist John Bacone's cardboard sequencer and pedal

He’s been building gorgeous intricate cardboard sculptures of musical instrument/devices.  In addition, he’s been experimenting with machines/motion contraptions, to explore the limits of his chosen material:

Moving Sculpture from John Bacone on Vimeo.

My favorite learning: “cardboard gears don’t hold their teeth well.”

Seven on Seven

W+K is collaborating with Rhizome.org and the New Museum on the upcoming Seven on Seven event –

“Seven on Seven will pair seven leading artists with seven
game-changing technologists in teams of two, and challenge them to
develop something new –be it an application, social media, artwork,
product, or whatever they imagine– over the course of a single day. The
seven teams will unveil their ideas at a one-day event at the New
Museum on April 17th.”

Who’s in?

On the “technology” team

And on the “artists” side of the floor:

Why is W+K there?  Because the future of storytelling, narrative and human experience lie at the crossroads of art and technology.

Seven teams of two will offer you a glimpse of the future.  And they’ll make it real in twenty-four hours.

And then they serve cocktails.

Sweeeet.

All Currency is Social. So what’s in YOUR wallet?

I was looking up the definition of currency on Wikipedia, when I came across this line: "modern currency…is intrinsically worthless".  I'm no economist, but the info there indicated that the dollar, euro and other currencies have no value beyond the government declaring them to have value, and markets effectively betting on their future value.

So it's kind of funny that there is a distinction between hard currency (cash) and social currency (as in "net promoter value", WOM recco, blog readership or twitter followers, etc.).  Because both are effectively social constructs (for the cash, at least, since the 'Nixon Shock' ended convertibility of US dollars for gold).

But faith in institutions, like faith in people, can be fragile. 

What the hell does that have to do with marketing?

Well…

I'll go out on a limb here.  The era of the one stop shop, or agency network, or do it alone communications company – or brand, for that matter, is dead.

No brand is an island.  No agency a one-stop shop.

Brands ask for multi-year communications plans in 2010, when in 22 months between February 2005 and November 2006, YouTube went from startup to $1.65 Billion Google acquisition.  One thing you can count on is guessing wrong on the right tactics to employ in three years' time. Many of them simply don't exist yet.

So here's where the currency/social currency comes in:

Agency and brand "currency" will be a reflection of their social portfolio strategy. 

The most successful brands and agencies will be driven by a net value comprised of actual sales of goods and services + the "stored value" of their social currency (in the form of their networks of collaborators).

The key will be how quickly and effectively they can convert stored value to real value, by unlocking the power of their collaborators to achieve mutual goals. 

Darpa-network-challenge_1
DARPA's "Network Challenge" was just such a test to see test the value of networks in real world problem solving.  An MIT team used a tech-fueled "inverse pyramid" scheme to solve in nine hours a problem DARPA assumed would take significantly longer.

The trick is identifyng mutual goals.  Creating a shared vision – and shared risk.  Opportunity – and accountability.

As an agency, it's a good idea to treat partners well, and treat everyone you meet as a future collaborator.  If entire alliances are forming because you are ridiculously awful to work with, you have a serious problem.

And collaboration prevents legacy investments (or entire company acquisitions) from dictating your solutions – a dev shop full of C sharpies not so useful for your Ruby project.  A search shop with an a state-of-the-art proprietary tool yields decreasing returns once that tool gets dumped onto an overall dev list across an agency holding company.  Flash devs on iPhone/iPad?  waaa waaaa.  Or in our case, it helped to have access to the right folks when we wanted to build a robot.

Victor & Spoils promised crowdsourcing as a creative model.  Meh.  What they have done is built a seriously impressive network of freelancers.  The danger is that that network is built on unstable bonds -  bonds that consist of the promise of hard currency.  Hard currency buys you loyalty with an expiration date (the better offer). 

And while money can't buy you love, earned social currency just might.

The agencies and brands that win will build networks of shared inspiration and mutual goals.  Bonds of social currency.

Because an inspired network, a network built on passion and trust, not submission forms and "friend requests", has the power to move mountains.

Toilet Paper Users and Facebook Users

We social media wanks often earn our fear money through hyperbolic/histrionic presentations laden with "you're business model is f***ed" slides, typically including a gasp-inducing image that compares the population of users of Facebook to the population of actual countries.

But Facebook isn't really a country.  Individual users of Facebook have as much in common with each other as individual users of toilet paper. 

And come to think of it, there may be more TP than FB users for a little while yet.

Facebook-heat-map

(FB heatmap when they were limping along with 200MM users back on april 8th,2009, stolen from Dave Know's HardKnox life blog…and interesting to note that if in April they were "admitting" 200MM, and in December Zuckerberg claims 350MM, HOLY HOCKEYSTICK, batman.)

If FB were a country, it would be an interesting one – a preselected technological "upper" class who have sufficient material resources to at least guarantee access, so they probably aren't hurting for basic needs – food, shelter, etc. 

They'd be the world's third most populous country – 350MM+ people, all a few rungs up Maslow's ladder.

And in spite of various valuation discussions, this "country" of tech "haves" wouldn't be a G-7 or G-20 candidate.  Various estimates peg the FB "GDP" at about a billion for 2009 – with about half that coming from ad revenue, the other half from monetization of the FB platform via third party developers.  that puts them at #169 for global GDP, a few steps behind St. Lucia, and just edging out Dijibouti.

The smartest, wealthiest, tech saavy folks in the world, 350MM strong, barely edging out a win on Dijibouti?  Golly.

But there is something much more interesting and a little sad going on here.  A real country has many things that make for an engaged citizenry.  The two I think are relevant here are

  1. economic/social/emotional barriers to leaving, and
  2. a national mythology/narrative

Friendster, MySpace and Facebook are cheap, easy, and addictive, but their glue is driven by the critical mass of friends (network effect) and the difficulty of porting your entire life onto the NEXT BIG PLATFORM.  Facebook Connect is a brilliant way to deflect the need to re-port, but at the end of the day, FB loyalty will be proportional to its perceived utility.  Like toilet paper.  If there is a softer better cheaper toilet paper, I'll use it.

Tpjoke

(stolen from extremefunnyhumor.com)

But none of these social nets has an embedded narrative or mythology.  they have a perceived "cool" factor, or not, but they are social tools, little more.  FB is doing its best to become the Leatherman of social nets, with a tool, port or app for every need, but I question the loyalty of its users and the longevity of its position.  Because they have no narrative.  The US Army/Marine Corps CounterInsurgency Manual (available as a pdf here – Download COIN-FM3-24) defines a "narrative" as:

"a story recounted in the form of a causally linked series of events that explains an event in the group's history and expresses the values, characters, or self-identity of the group.  Narratives are means through which ideologies are expressed and absorbed by members of a society."

There is no common purpose to FB, no shared mission, no shared narrative. 

Like Toilet Paper. 

We flush (TP) and upload (FB) our crap every day.

When will a virtual social net nourish our souls?

W+K+Schmidt+Birkett+N900+OneDotZero = fun

As part of our effort on behalf of the Nokia N900, W+K London partnered with computational designer  Karsten  Schmidt and software architect Gary Birkett in conjunction with OneDotZero to demonstrate what happens when

per Birkett:

“we are using a 3 inch display to try to control a 70 foot
display”. Based on the N900’s accelerometer, the software uses an
interface that takes movement data from the handset and sends it to the
projection app, created by Schmidt.”

Lego Bricks It

NYT's Andrew Newman reported today that Lego prohibited the makers of the Spinal Tap "Unwigged and Unplugged" tour DVD from using a two-year-old stop-motion animation video of "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You" (below) created by Coleman Hickey that they had been using on their tour.

And why was this piece of content disallowed?

"We love that our fans are so passionate and so creative with our
products,” said Julie Stern, a spokeswoman for Lego Systems, the United
States division of the Lego Group, a Danish company founded in the
1930s. “But it had some inappropriate language, and the tone wasn’t
appropriate for our target audience of kids 6 to 12."

Cluephone, Julie – 6 to 12 year olds aren't the only ones who love Lego products.  Nor are they the ones, typically who BUY it.  Their parents do.  The same parents, probably dads, who love Spinal Tap.  And loved Lego.  And would have loved to see this little mashup – maybe as much as the Spinal Tap guys themselves, who worked it into their stage show for their recent tour.

Lego is making a classic error.  They don't own their brand anymore.  More than anyone, they should know that – they've been giving their brand to their fans to play with for years, in the shapes of those little bricks and every other shape they make.  And we have played with them – making things Lego never dreamed up, including an entire genre on YouTube of stop motion animation.

Which is of course where my five-year old got his first intro to animation.  through legos.  on YouTube.  Unfortunately it was watching this classic:

When other brands would KILL to get the kind of mashup Lego was just handed (Lego + stop motion + YouTube + SpinalTap Tour + DVD) rolled into a compilation DVD as a free ad for their product to adoring fans, why did Lego kill the fun?

“YouTube is a less commercial use,” Ms. Stern said. “But when you get
into a more commercial use, that’s when we have to look into the fact
that we are a trademarked brand, and we really have to control the use
of our brand, and our brand values.”

Darn, Julie. 

You can't control your brand anymore. 

You can choose who to spotlight though – and Coleman Hickey LOVED you. 

Loved you enough to take the time to build a movie using your product.  So what did the now sixteen-year-old Mr. Hickey have to say about the silliness?

“In a way I’m disappointed that it won’t be forever memorialized in a
DVD.  It’s not like I was going to get
any money for it, but it’s too bad. Lego has the right to do that, but
it’s unfortunate that they don’t have a little more of a sense of
humor.”

You nailed it, Coleman.

This is so cool, it must be 37 degrees

OK – so that's a reference to the "perfect pour" temperature of Coke – 37 degrees Fahrenheit – that optimizes the drinking experience to the point you have to sit down to drink it or your brain will explode with pleasure.  And frankly, that'd be a mess, what with the bubbles and all.

I know that because (disclaimer) I have the pleasure to work with Coke.

Read about Coke's "interactive fountain" in Fast Company today.  Touch screen + 46-ounce concentrated flavor cartridge = your perfect Coke.  That in and of itself is pretty neat.

Coke machine

But I like it for two reasons – one that was stated in the article, one that wasn't:

(1) According to the article, "Another perk is the business data the dispenser sends back to Coke's headquarters in Atlanta.
The machines upload data about beverage consumption, peak times, and
popular locations. Coke can also talk back to the machine, letting it
know if a particular flavor needs to be discontinued or recalled and
causing it to stop serving the drink immediately."  This is FANTASTIC.  The machines become real-time focus groups and interactive sales terminals.  As long as the info generated isn't left in the hands of the inventory department but rather feeds the broader marketing organization, this has significant implications.

(2) This machine will feed a fundamental behavior intrinsic to Coke's target audience – sharing.  you can't create a witch's brew flavor without the friend next to you asking for "just a sip" to compare to their concoction – and you'll probably see an uptick in sales as people 'experiment' with different flavors.  Expect different flavor combinations (the more esoteric the better) to form fan groups and passion communities online.  Expect #Coke flavored hashtags cropping up on Twitter, etc. etc. etc.

The machines don't just mix flavors, they start conversations.  probably not unlike the ones that mmay have happened at soda fountains.  Even better?  Good-natured arguments.  And THAT is cool.

Sodafountain
"My Diet Vanilla Black Cherry Bomb is tastier than Biff's Crap-tastic mix…"

Kudos to Coke for harnessing a technology that speaks to both their heritage (the soda fountain) and their future.  And for turning their product into a participatory experience. 

Win.