Friday, 19 October 2012

Friday, 19 October 2012

Genius Content Marketing from FreeAgent

Following on nicely from my last post about Red Bull Stratos I got another genius emailer today from FreeAgent.

I regularly use Freeagent in my Gamification talks as an example of how effective incorporating "fun" can be in marketing. Freeagent are a company that provide one product/service: a software as a service online accounting system. Yes... it is just as boring as it sounds, but... by using a little bit of irreverence and a strong sense of fun, somehow Roan and the team manage to make thier product interesting to me.

Take the example here... many companies would have just sent out a simple email saying "we now support custom email templates" and actually their email actually says just that, it's just that it does it in a very silly - irreverent - manner which is perfectly pitched for their target audience of freelancers and small creative studios.

So yes... small businesses and dry brands can do a Stratos, and this is how!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Lessons to learn from Red Bull Stratos

People that know me may well agree that sometimes I have a tiny bit too much to say for myself, it's something I'm trying really hard to address :o) Something I do have an awful lot to say about though is Red Bull Stratos which - in my opinion - is one of the most brilliant bits of activity we've seen from a brand in decades, it was beautifully executed from start to finish.

Luckily for me, eConsultancy have already done a really good job of covering a lot of the key points on their blog.

You should read it.

For the time being I'll keep my comments on the subject fairly simple and say that it's this kind of activity that makes me proud to work for Red Bull and... frankly... that's something that a lot of brands could learn from. In the same way that people buy from people they like, people tend to work harder for people they like...

It's just a good job we love all our clients huh?!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Apple TV 2013 & Beyond

In my last post I talked about how Apple sometimes get things wrong but that when they get things right, they get them very, very right indeed But, there's an elephant in the room here... If Apple only create huge successes and moderate failures, what then is Apple TV? It's certainly not one of Apple's glorious successes yet but neither does it feel like a cock up.

The official line from Apple CEO Tim Cook seems to be "We do it because we think it can lead us somewhere" so it seems safe to assume that the device will be further developed in the near future but how?

Current Predictions:

Thus far, most predictions I've seen or heard about concern either the integration of a screen or Apple TV getting its own app-store. Whilst either could be true I'm not totally convinced, If I were Apple I'd view the hardware of screen as being a necessary peripheral - let someone else do the hard work of making the damn thing, shipping it, dealing with faults and the fact that the features you shipped it with became obsolete within months of it going on sale.

On the other hand, whilst the idea of Apple TV getting its own app-store is intriguing, would that not be somewhat in conflict with what the device already does with AirPlay? (Which theoretically enables people to use games/app on thier iPhones via thier Apple TV) and I'd guess that there's also been some discussion at Apple HQ about how to ensure a quality & stable experience - people tolerate apps on thier phone crashing now and again but they'll be much less prepared to tolerate those kinds of issues in a TV context where they tend to expect things to work much more reliably.

So, what will it be?

Okay, so if it's not TV hardware or an App Store the question is, what are they going to do that's going to change the device from being an intriguing hobby to being the next must-have digital accessory? Well, I have a few ideas which I'd like to share with you:

1) Remote controls are shit:

Apple are really into interfaces and improving user experience. It therefore seems logical that they might try and integrate some of the technology or approaches that they've used in thier other devices to improve the current (shit) solution of the IR remote control. Given the living-room context It's unlikely that this'll mean touchscreen but it could mean voice control or perhaps even gesture control as is currently being developed in the current range of Samsung TVs.

2) Integrating cameras:

Gesture control could be done with accelerometers in a device of some kind but a more flexible solution might be to use stereoscopic cameras (as per Samsung's approach and the Kinenct).

3) Integrate FaceTime:

Okay, so now we have an Apple TV that uses gesture control via stereoscopic cameras. Once you've got that it seems like a no-brainer that you'd integrate FaceTime too no? Video conferencing isn't a particularly satisfying experience on an iPhone, it's a little better on an iPad but on a TV it makes a lot more sense which is why it's done that way in the board room. The increased distance from the screen means that you don't tend to notice that people's eyeline isn't perfectly fixed on you and therefore the experience feels significantly more natural.

4) 3D FaceTime!

Right... Now we have an Apple TV with gesture control driven by stereoscopic cameras and FaceTime. Lets assume that this is also attatched to one of the newer generations of television many of which support 3D. It seems like a no-brainer therefore that the next thing apple might try to do is utilise the stereoscopic cameras once again and introduce FaceTime in 3D?

Now, 3D is a technology that has challenges. Firstly, people don't really like having to wear glasses (although screens that don't need glasses are beginning to appear) but frankly, I think the main issue is that - for a film - it's a bit of a pointless technology. I don't think people need the increased realism of 3D to enjoy a film, watching films is largely an escapist activity and is all about suspension of disbelief. Like the Uncanny Valley theory from robotics, there's a point at which increased realism becomes distracting and actually degrades the experience.

With video conferencing however this could be different. In today's modern distributed society many, if not all of us, have friends and loved-ones that are distant from us and therefore we rely on communications technologies to enable us to maintain those relationships. In this context the greater realism afforded by 3D could improve the video conferencing experience significantly and therefore could well become the killer app in this area.

So... There you go, that's what I think they'll do and the reasons why but, if they don't, someone else surely should!


iPhone 5 - Game Changer?

Sometimes you look at Apple and wonder why it is that everything they touch turns to gold, it feels like everything they do is flawless in execution.

And then you remember some things that are/were less than perfect: Ping, the iPhone 4 antenna, battery life on the 4s, MacBooks overheating and Maps on iOS 6 to name a few. Apple do, therefore, screw up occasionally... It's just that when they do get it right, they get it so right it hurts.

Take the new iPhone for example. On paper it could be viewed quite negatively - a new connector which (if like me you need cables for home, work, travelling, the car) forces you to fork out for a bunch of expensive replacements, battery life which barely lasts a day if you use it, a wider screen which (as a developer) forces you to rethink many of your apps and of course Maps which is just total crap.

But somehow, despite all that, it's still brilliant. you only need to hold the device for 2-3 seconds and you understand what it's all about. It's so thin, light, and fast that within seconds of using it you feel like Tony Stark and, frankly, that's worth £700 of anyone's money :).

So, then you start to rethink your opinions on it the negatives: The new connector is a vast improvement on both the old connector and micro USB, since I also have an iPad and our trains have power sockets I can manage with the battery life and Maps...? Well, a minor inconvenience compared with the benefit of being Iron Man every day!

The iPhone 5 then? Brilliant. Buy one.