Friday, November 17, 2017

Bose, Indiegogo & the noise-masking sleepbuds

Do you buy stuff off Indiegogo, Kickstarter or any other of the crowdfunding sites out there? Or have you ever tried raising funds that way either successfully or unsuccessfully? I've only dabbled as a buyer a couple of times for things that friends have been raising money for. I've looked plenty of times but I've never been sufficiently tempted to part with my cash.

I'm not a huge buyer of stuff these days but I do like to see campaigns like this one from Brita Hirsch and her mission to produce British bred and woven top quality merino wool fabric. It seems to me that that was what these sites were built for: small companies, often start-ups, raising cash via buyers interested in their products. It's a useful way to find new customers and raise finance at the same time. Plus you can test market sentiment and get some initial feedback. In fact, I'd say it was an elegant solution for the likes of Brita.

I do feel a bit uneasy when I see the likes of Bose Corporation crowdfunding their latest new product on Indiegogo - a pair of noise-masking sleep buds. I see Bose as a very well-established brand and corporation with decades of experience in designing, producing and distributing new products. I would even go as far as to say they're one of the best audio brands out there, so why on earth are they on Indiegogo?

I get the commercial rationale... friends have reminded me that it's a good way to test the market and to make sure they're on to a winner before going into production. The customer feedback they get is invaluable to improve the product before finalising it. And it derisks all of that.

I'm still uncomfortable with it. Maybe it's an Indiegogo problem in accepting such a large company on to the platform. They know their commission is going to be great when a company like Bose gets on board and they need to make money. At the time of writing, they've raised $445,951 which is almost 900% over their initial goal. And that commission will help subsidise the products that fall by the wayside and the start-ups, that just don't make the grade. Nevertheless, I can't help feeling they're hijacking something that was meant to support and promote a completely different type of company. If you have big bucks to begin with, you can invest much more to promote your Indiegogo campaign. You can use it to generate new consumer interest in a way that advertising alone would struggle with. Arguably, it's great marketing that with the best will in the world a small company cannot compete with.

But is Bose's success at the expense of the underdog? And if so, does that matter?

I'm interested to know your thoughts.

Day 17/30 NaBloPoMo

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thursday Thoughts

I'm half-way through NaBloPoMo. It's harder than you think to write a blog post every day. It shouldn't be that difficult, but sometimes it just is. Sometimes, the words just don't come very easily. Sometimes you start a post and it's not the right time to publish it or you need more info or time to work on it before publishing. Today is one of those days. I have a couple of posts in draft that need a lot more work than just commenting off the top of my head. So today, I'm going to share some links with you and things I'm thinking about at the moment instead. You'll have to wait for the meatier posts!

Terence Eden's testcard set up for Shambala Festival
Use a Test Slide
Terence Eden, a fellow member of the NaBloPoMo club, has written today with some very simple top tips on presentations with the main point being about using a test card at the beginning of your presentation. It's a genius idea actually on a couple of levels. By using a test card, if you happen to have to test your AV when some or all of the audience is in the room, it's neutral in content and, Terence says 'easily ignorable'.

I would add that for those of us of a certain age, it will bring back lovely nostalgic feelings and may put me in a more receptive frame of mind to hear from that speaker. It also occurs to me that brands and companies that have nifty graphics, could put together a similar type of testcard using their own graphics. You can read more of Terence's presentation tips here and he's made his testcard available on github too.

Free university courses
Quartz magazine has been keeping track here of the 800 or so universities globally that are offering free or partially free online courses. And in the last quarter, 200 universities released 600 more courses to the general public. That's an incredible resource and goes some way to democratising education.

I don't know about you though, but I find online courses really challenging. My attention wanders, I find it hard to be disciplined about it and I miss the collaborate nature of working with other students, or at least having that personal contact. I think there's also something to be said about going to a specific place to do something. There's something intentional about that that helps me, at least, with the learning process.

But with university fees on the rise in the UK and the cost of living increasing, the demand for cheaper ways to get the same level of education has to increase. I'm no fan of university fees or the debt that lumbers the student in for many years to come. There is an emotional burden that comes with that alongside the financial one. So the future for some kind of online learning looks healthy but maybe the format needs to evolve. Or maybe I just need to get my head down and do one of these online courses. If I can do a daily blog post this month, then I can surely manage to complete one of these courses. Maybe that'll be my next challenge...

Digital Disruption
Apparently 50% of companies don't care about digital disruption. And 10% of them don't think this will affect them at all according to this post by friend and fellow mobilist, Monty Munford. He's citing some new research from Dell EMC. This chimes with a conversation I had with a friend a couple of days ago. He's recently left a large oil company and the main reason for his departure was their utter lack of acknowledgement of the digital world in which we live and the changes required to adapt to that. It's not so much about the nuts and bolts of the software requirements, but the culture change within the organisation. The latter point is so important and the one that so many organisations are missing.

There are plenty of businesses that are rely much more on word of mouth and personal contacts than anything else. And that's absolutely fine. And absolutely right for them. Not everyone needs an all singing all dancing website or mobile app. And some industries may not be affected as quickly as others by the ubiquity of digital. However, internal processes, monitoring and management are increasingly digital or algorithmic and, whatever the size of your organisation, you probably need to adapt to changing customer needs and changing ways in which customers want to connect with you or be served by you. And that's going to mean digital in some shape or form.

Global Mobile Awards at Mobile World Congress 2018
If you want to enter one of this year's 38 categories, you need to get in quick. Entries close next week on Wednesday 22 November. More information about the categories, costs and how to enter here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Love Theatre Day is Today!

Action shot from the fabulous School of Rock
Blimey, I nearly missed this. I've just discovered that it's #LoveTheatreDay and if there's one thing I do love, it's the theatre. I was even at the theatre last night to see Son of a Preacher Man in Wimbledon - great performances and music, the writing - not so much, enjoyable nevertheless. But I digress. What is this #LoveTheatreDay thing, I hear (some of) you ask?

This is an initiative run by Mar Dixon in association with The Stage newspaper according to this article. It's a social media initiative to encourage us to celebrate theatre around the world on Twitter and other social media platforms, hence the hashtag and it's happening today - Wednesday 15 November 2017.

There are three themes throughout the day:

1. #Backstage between 10am and midday to go behind the scenes and see parts of the theatre you would never normally get to see. I guess we've missed that one, but you can check the hashtag for what happened. I love backstage. There's a certain smell to it. It's very hard to describe. It's a nice smell and I'm guessing it's a mixture of wood, workshops and people, but it's unique to a theatre and unmistakable if you've ever experienced it.

2. #AskATheatre between 3pm and 5pm where you can talk direction to the creative teams about their shows and ask the questions you've always wanted to.

3. #Showtime between 7pm and 10pm when people will show what they're seeing at the theatre and what happens off stage during a show.

This campaign is for theatres, performing arts organisations and the general public to celebrate what they love about theatre and to encourage more people to go to the theatre. I think it's a great idea. And one that just wouldn't work without mobile phones. The ability to take pictures, write down our thoughts, record video and audio and distribute it easily and quickly to a wide audience is amazing. This certainly couldn't have happened 10 years ago. Technically, we could do all these things, but the uptake wasn't big enough to reach the mainstream. But today, it's a whole other story. One thing to be grateful for with the ubiquity of the technology.

There is something special about the theatre that keeps drawing me back and anything that encourages other people to enjoy that special something is a good thing in my book. So check out the hashtags, take pictures and share your stories from backstage, off-stage and in the audience and have a great #LoveTheatreDay.

The Safety Curtain from The Ashcroft Theatre in Croydon.

Day 15/30 NabloPoMo

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Mobile Campaign Best Practices 2017

I've always been one for best practice. We don't see enough of it enough of the time unfortunately, especially when it comes to mobile advertising. The amount of time we're spending on mobile devices at any time is not decreasing any time soon and so it should follow that the ad spend follows the eyeballs to mobile screens. It's not quite the case yet. But as an industry, the more we can inject creativity into campaigns and best practice into targeting and running those campaigns, the better chance mobile will have and the sooner the ad dollars will cross over.

Global mobile ad spend is estimated to grow from $108.9 bn in 2016 to $143.5 bn in 2017. However, according to my friends at On Device Research, most of that cash is wasted on ads that are ineffective that consumers don't engage with and don't recall. That's a lot of money to waste...

It's not all bad news though, as the top 20% of mobile ads in terms of ad recall record an average uplift between the exposed and control group of +20% points. The remaining 80% of mobile ads achieve an average percentage point uplift of just +3%. Similarly the best performing 20% of mobile ads in terms of purchase intent are six times more effective than the remaining 80%. So there are clearly some advertisers and their agencies getting it right.

So what are these key things that they're getting right?

  1. Logo presence on every frame is crucial
  2. A human presence can engage
  3. Product shots catch the eye
  4. Placing branding at the top of the creative boosts ad recall
  5. Be cautious with dual branding as it can distract and confuse
  6. A single clear message beats a text heavy ad overloaded with information
  7. Video grabs the user’s attention
  8. Inject a little humour in to your creative
  9. A bit of interactivity hold’s the user’s attention
  10. If you want to drive purchase, then unsurprisingly having a strong call to action helps
  11. There's a bonus point to consider too and that's emotion. If you can connect emotionally with the consumer, you will do better.

ODR tells me that the top performing adverts adhere to six of these principles on average yet few advertisers adhere to these rules. I'll be honest, this is pretty much advertising 101 for any visual channel, be that print, outdoor or TV with the exception of the interactive points around video and interactivity which specifically apply to digital.

The bad news from the UK's High Streets has seen October retail sales fall at their sharpest rate since the height of the recession in 2009. That suggests there will be a tough run-up to Christmas. We don't yet know what the knock-on effect to the digital ad market remains to be seen but this time of year typically sees robust ad spend and mobile can have a great impact.

Typically, Q4 campaigns outperform the rest of the year when it comes to unprompted and top of mind awareness. This is perhaps no surprise since well known household names tend to advertise heavily in this quarter. These brands will always have high baseline levels of awareness anyway so although they'll get a boost in Q4, it is not as much as some of the lesser known brands can achieve.

That said, the team at ODR have noticed that Q4 mobile ad campaigns are underperforming in terms of boosting ad recall. This is likely down to even higher ad clutter than usual and being bombarded with a greater quality of brand communications overall. That means you might struggle to recall specific ads compared to quieter times of year.

That means that best practice is needed even more than ever, especially if you don't have the same kind of budgets that the big guns have.

If you need some inspiration of some good campaigns, then it's worth tracking ODR's quarterly winners on most effective ads. This one from Blis for B&Q for Father's Day ticked 7 of the boxes from the Best Practice list.

You can get the full mobile creative best practice guide here (it's free and includes some nice examples for each point). And if you're wondering about how On Device Research measures brand effectiveness, you can find out more about their methodology here.

Can you remember the last mobile advert you saw? I can remember one and that's for the Business of Software event tomorrow to hear Eric Ries talk about his new book, The Start-Up Way. And that's where I'll be tomorrow afternoon lending a hand. Maybe see some of you there.

Day 14/30 NaBloPoMo

Monday, November 13, 2017

On this day...

I'll be honest, I was struggling a bit to think about what to write today. So for some inspiration, I thought I'd take a look at what I and fellow mobilists were writing about on this day in previous years. In doing that, I was reminded of the Carnival of the Mobilists. It started in 2005 and the idea was that a blogger would do a write up of the week's writing about mobile. If you were a blogger, you could submit your article to be considered for inclusion. In this way, readers could discover more blogs and writers could attract more readers and followers. And it worked I got to know many other bloggers as a result and it was a good discipline to read beyond your normal remit.

So let's take a look back at what we were thinking and writing about back in November of years past.

November 2006. Rafe Blandford, writing his All About Symbian blog back then, wrote CoTM #52. Links include thoughts on Ajax, java and flashlite. Youth trends are covered. There's an review of the Opera Mini browser (we had smaller screens and less capability back then, remember). There's also a review of the Nokia E70. And of course there's talk about advertising, this time embedding them in ringtones. Check it out.

November 2007 and it's Mark Hooft's Ubiquitous Thoughts turn to host CoTM #99. His specialism is mobile learning which he looks at but he also covers Google's Open Handset Alliance which was the previous week's big mobile announcement. He also talks about mobile marketing - needing simplicity and also a link to Jan Chipchase and thoughts about design based on what you know about your consumer. Check the links here.

Mark Hooft also hosts CoTM #149 in November 2008. There's been a US Election and Barack Obama is the President. There's been a conference about Handheld Learning in the UK and the Mobile 2.0 event in San Francisco. Round-ups of both are included. Money and the economy is a key theme this week also. We were right in the midst of the credit crunch at the time. Survival was key, and arguably, still is key. More here.

November 2009 and it's CoTM #200 at Jamie Wells' The main theme in this week is Google buying Admob for $750m. Wow, 8 years ago. Time really does fly. Anyway, there's lots of chat as to why it's a good thing (or not) and why Google got a bargain. There's also some good thoughts about the uptake of mobile banking. And some other stuff too. Check out the edition here.

In November 2010, Andy Favell of MobiThinking takes the helm. He must have had a reorganisation of his website as it's dated December, but according to Volker Hirsch, this was from mid-November 2010. Here's that week's Carnival. There are some interesting posts covered with topics including mobile music, network operators struggling to own the social graph, thinking about branding and marketing on mobile, mobile commerce and fragmentation and the legal issues around films on iPhone.

In stepping back in time for this post, I'm astounded about how much good writing and thinking about mobile was going on back then. But also sad to remember that at least two of the prolific contributors to the carnival have now passed on - Judy Breck of Golden Swamp and just last month, Carlo Longino of Mobhappy and TheFeature. I'm also sad to see some of the blogs linked to are no more, including the site that used to be the home of Carnival of the Mobilists. I think the history of our industry is important. We need to know where we've come from to help us work out where we're going and where we don;t want to revisit. Hey ho. Such is life.

Until tomorrow.

Day 13/30 NaBloPoMo

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Complex writing is good for you (or why I'm writing every day this month)

There isn't a lot of routine to my home life. I'm not rigid when it comes to meal times (although I do like to cook from scratch). I'm not a morning person at the best of times so work related tasks drift into the evening, especially now that the weather is cold and miserable. My work tends to come in fits and starts - it's the well-known feast or famine scenario. I think that suits my personality most of the time but not necessarily all of the time.

In very busy times, or particularly stressful times, I can and do adopt a more regimented routine and I've used the Fabulous app successfully to help me with that. One of the tasks that it has you doing every day is a to do list. They recommend strongly that you write this down by hand and not on a computer or phone. There's something about the act of writing by hand that is perhaps more mindful than typing. And maybe it connects to the brain differently. I'm not sure. Either way, when I've done this routine, it does work and has helped me maintain focus and manage a heavy workload. 

Writing by hand is also a key part of the famous book, The Artist's Way. A friend recommended the book to me some years ago. I've never managed to work through the whole thing as it takes commitment and I'm not quite ready to commit to being an artist (What is my media? Will my work be good enough? How will I pay the bills? And lots of other questions immediately spring to mind. And yes, I know that's what the book can help you answer!). 

One of the key tasks of The Artist's Way is to write your morning pages, by hand, stream of consciousness style, until you have written at least 3 sides of paper. This can be about anything at all but it's a recognised way of dealing with whatever is on your mind at the time whether that's what the weather's doing or because you've had a run-in with someone. There are times when I've started the process and done a few days or a couple of weeks, but never stuck with it. And once I've dropped the ball on it, I've never picked it up. Oliver Burkeman writes more about how he used them and how they're being used by business people too.

Despite my penchant for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, I have held on to this blog over the years and still see long form writing as important. That's one of the reasons why I committed to doing the NaBloPoMo thing this November by writing a blog post every day. I think it's healthy for me to write something every day, partly down to the routine and discipline of it but also because it helps me think things through in more depth.  

It turns out that complex thinking is inextricably intertwined with writing. According to this article from TES, if you discourage extended writing, you can damage deeper thought. And if we need anything right now in this age of instant gratification and algorithms making decisions for us, it is deeper thought! So on day 12 of this NaBloPoMo experiment, I'm reassured that I might just be on to something.

Day 12/30 NaBloPoMo