Archive for September 2009
In May 2009, General Electric announced that over the next six years it would spend $3 billion to create at least 100 health-care innovations that would substantially lower costs, increase access, and improve quality. Two products it highlighted at the time—a $1,000 handheld electrocardiogram device and a portable, PC-based ultrasound machine that sells for as little as $15,000—are revolutionary, and not just because of their small size and low price. They’re also extraordinary because they originally were developed for markets in emerging economies (the ECG device for rural India and the ultrasound machine for rural China) and are now being sold in the United States, where they’re pioneering new uses for such machines. We call the process used to develop the two machines and take them global reverse innovation, because it’s the opposite of the glocalization approach that many industrial-goods manufacturers based in rich countries have employed for decades.
I admit it. I’m old fashioned. That may seem a silly statement coming from someone as deeply steeped in the digital realm as I, but when it comes to certain things this Silicon Valley geek likes to roll old school. I believe in charcoal barbecues. I believe in hand-writing thank you notes. I believe that white shoes have no business being worn after Labor Day. Most of all though, and to the great amusement of many I know, I believe in daily newspapers.
Neuroscientists have found patterns in brain activity that correlate with single digit numbers. They can literally watch your mind count. Research into the physiology of how our noggins work has advanced mightily in recent years, especially when it comes to witnessing perception and memory. Technologies like fMRI -- an imaging tool that notes differences in water pressure, sort of -- have been heralded as objective ways to measure what happens in brains when things that were once believed to be solely subjective occurred in minds. The numbers recognition happens in the intraparietal cortex, and suggest that there are unique "signatures" for single digits, at least. The idea is that we possess some ancient ability to understand groups of things we'd encounter in an average day of gathering plants or running away from mastadons. The researchers thing they'll eventually figure out how brains make calculations, as well as learn more about how people learn. Marketers get really excited about this stuff.
The roles that brands play in people’s lives are not static but evolving. While brand names once were used to differentiate basic commodity products and provide a promise of consistent formulation and quality, now they confer a whole range of other benefits, including status, emotional well-being, and a sense of belonging. The importance of these different benefits and emotional rewards varies according to a number of factors, including the cultural norms of different countries and the development of specific categories. In order to survive in today’s crowded and complicated markets, brand owners and marketers need to stay abreast of these changing needs and expectations. But those that want their brands to do more than survive—those that want their brands to succeed and thrive in the future—need to stay one step ahead. They need to anticipate the next set of needs that brands will satisfy for their consumers.
I’ve been doing research on some companies and have spent quite a bit of time looking at companies’ corporate reports – e.g., annual reports, official statements, corporate presentations, etc. I’m amazed at how many companies completely overlook these reports as touchpoints through which people experience their brands. Often the reports are dry and pedantic or fluffy and full of corporate-speak – they don’t communicate or reflect what is differentiating or compelling about their brands. What’s ironic is these reports are becoming increasingly important brand touchpoints.
I was watching Stephanopoulos yesterday morning and I saw this IBM ad. And I thought, "hey, I've seen that guy somewhere before." And sure enough, he's in a Castrol Motor Oil ad. I think it's the same guy, right down to the wrinkles in his forehead. Does this matter? Maybe what happens in an ad for Castrol Oil stays in an ad for Castrol Oil. Or do actors have "transmedia" properties? Do they carry anything with them between ads? Here's what the "meaning transfer" theory says.
Today, nearly 3 million users access Netflix's instant streaming service, watching an estimated 5 million movies and TV shows every week on their PCs or living room sets. They get it through Roku's player, which was successfully launched in May 2008. They get it through their Xbox 360s—Microsoft added Netflix to its Xbox Live service last fall. They get it through LG and Samsung Blu-ray players. They get it through their TiVos and new flatscreen TVs. By the end of 2009, nearly 10 million Netflix-equipped gadgets will be hanging on walls and sitting in entertainment centers. And Hastings says this is just the beginning: "It's possible that within a few years, nearly all Internet-connected consumer electronics devices will include Netflix."
Three months ago I did something that many considered virtual heresy. After five years and 5,300 posts I shuttered my blog, Micro Persuasion, in favor of a lifestream which you can find at SteveRubel.com. I thought I'd share why I went this route, what I learned these past three months and the implications for brands. As I have written many times, the world is facing a quiet crisis of attention. There are more shiny objects and information vying for our attention than ever -- with no end in sight. We're coping by making choices.
In April, when Domino’s suddenly had to grapple with the fact that a YouTube video of a couple of employees doing disgusting things with the company’s food was circulating rapidly across the Web, it was bad for the pizza chain’s business. But Domino’s problem turned out to be good for business for a fast-growing segment: companies that track Web chatter. Text mining, which is already used by some Wall Street traders to track issues that could affect stock prices, is now employed by many top marketers, including Cisco, Hormel, Microsoft and Intuit, as a sort of blunt instrument to gauge online sentiment about a brand.
It is hard to imagine that five years ago, neither YouTube, Facebook nor Twitter existed. But even then, as sites like Google, Amazon, Wikipedia and craigslist flourished, the characteristics common to successful second-generation Web businesses were becoming apparent: Their value was facilitated by software and created collectively by and for a community of connected users. These sites leveraged the Web not simply as a means to publish static documents but for the first time as a platform--which was significant in its generative properties as the personal computer was for desktop applications. The new sites also sparked a revolution in business, culture, society and, most recently, government.