In addition to being a fun interview about the future of the cinema, there's a quick shot of my old space at the Brand Experience Lab. We really had a cool space and I have to find that bumper car again!
In addition to being a fun interview about the future of the cinema, there's a quick shot of my old space at the Brand Experience Lab. We really had a cool space and I have to find that bumper car again!
William and Sydney are classmates at MKA and they're both pretty excited to be attending their first SXSW program. And we're pretty proud of them to get picked, not that many 8th graders have the chance to speak at SXSW!
They will be creating a website for their session and looking for questions and input from folks as they build their content. I'll post again when it goes live. But if you have any questions to start them going, please feel free to leave them in the comments.
And, if you're going to be at SXSW next year, please come hear them speak!
It has been said that today’s consumer is pummeled with over 3,000 marketing messages per day. 3,000. Per day. And so, here you sit, contemplating how to best tell your brand message, build loyalty, drive revenues, connect with the consumer/customer/guest/ visitor. Ready to jump on the brandwagon and do what you do best–but how? How do you cut through that clutter? How do your stake a claim in the mind of your target audience? Better yet, how do you stake that claim in their heart, making the transition from just another product / place to a product or place with real meaning? Rather than simply filter information regarding all the attributes of a brand, today’s prospective purchasers want more. They now want a visceral interaction with your product. They want to connect with it, connect through it. They want to experience it.
Take a look and let me know what you think of what's there. Still valuable? Leave me a comment about what's still the same and what's different today.
An Evernote page for social media? I would've never thought about that. But my daughter and her friends figured it out and use it every day. Kids using something in a way that it wasn't designed is nothing new. I'm sure I did that if I thought about it, I did that when I was a kid too.
Nothing against my daughter and her friends, but I just can't imagine they're the only teenagers who are using Evernote this way. Today, we look at specific channels as "social media," but my daughter is already proving that anything can be turned into a social media tool.
Another clothing controversy for Urban Outfitter's as they pull a vintage Kent State shirt from their website after people not surprisingly made the connection between what looked like a blood stained shirt and the shootings at Kent State in 1970. And while we can only assume that no one working in the design team at Urban Outfitters was alive in 1970, surely a quick Google search might have given them some hints. It is the second item that comes up (after Kent State) when you do a search, so it's not like it's a hidden thing.
And even if they wanted to somehow honor the students killed or maybe even spark some on-campus activists by helping people remember a time when Americans actually protested on college campuses against things it thought the government was doing wrong, this missed on every level.
It can be hard for brands to stay out of the minefields when so many things seem sensitive today, but selling what looks like a blood-soaked sweatshirt from a campus involved in a shooting like the one they had, seems pretty bone-headed at best. At least they had the good sense to pull it off their site.
Although I'm sadly sure that there are people who right now are saying "no press is bad press." But just as sadly, it surely won't stop them from finding the next stupid clothing item to feature on their site.
It's sometimes hard to believe that it's now been 13 years since the attacks of 9-11. Sydney was just a little baby, sitting in my lap while I watched and cried. She had no idea what was happening and I thought that was a blessing.
She's going on 14 now and as I look around, I sure don't know what lessons the world has learned from that tragic day. We still hate blindly, disliking "those people" just because they look differently or don't dress the way we do or eat the foods we do. Sadly, religion, rather then bringing us together, seems to pull us apart more. And no matter what we do, there will probably always be people who want to hurt and hate just because.
The good news is that when I look at Sydney and her friends, I see hope for the future. They question why we have to have the kind of hatred that exists in the world. Here's what Sydney has said about who should run the planet:
Children should run the world. A boy and a girl from each nation who has empathy for others and is caring. There should be 5 year olds, 13 year olds, and 18 year olds. That way you have the children who can have a major fight and then share a popsicle and be BFFs again, the slightly more mature kids who take longer to work things out but can also be understanding and able to think things through (sometimes), and then the oldest kids who are hopefully very responsible and even though you have the PMSing for the girls, it gets balanced out by the other kids. In the boy girl pairs there should be a gay and a lesbian so we truly understand every person's view on the world. The adults would be in the back making us mac & cheese and occasionally offering their wisdom (old people knowledge).
And maybe, just maybe, as they get older and have a voice in the world, they'll use that voice to make the changes needed to make our planet a great, good place.
Great, Good Places.
As I write this, it’s been just three weeks since the tragic events here in New York. I have had a difficult time getting back into my normal swing of things. Thankfully I have not suffered any direct losses as a result of the World Trade Center attack, although I live in a place just outside of New York that lost many members of its community. In the weeks after the attacks, I spoke to many colleagues in the entertainment marketing field who all asked the same question: How do we go back to our business in the face of such a tragedy? What we do seems so trivial in the face of such tragedy…so unimportant. I, too, asked the same questions and wondered how I would get back to "business as usual" after these events.
At the same time, I’ve also had many conversations about Ray Oldenburg and his book The Great Good Place. I’ve talked to many friends and colleagues about what makes a community and what makes a 3rd place—the place Oldenburg talks about that is not home, not the workplace, but a place where informal social interaction happens. Places we know that we can always head to when we want to connect with someone.
During the dot-com explosion, it was clear that the 3rd place seem to be driving how offices were created—lots of recreational activities, lots of places to mix and mingle. The work place and the 3rd place had become one place. Part of this was driven by the fact that all of us seemed to be putting in more hours than ever before, with less time to spend outside of the office or home, but part of it also stemmed from the fact that those 3rd places seemed to be disappearing in the redevelopment of the American landscape.
Tragedies like the World Trade Center attack make us remember what really makes a community. People rushing to give aid without thought to their own safety, as evidenced through the almost 400 firemen and policemen who died at the World Trade Center. So many people offering to give blood and make other donations, that in New York, they actually asked people to stop donating! Even online communities came to life in this crisis. My parents were stuck in Fairbanks and one posting generated almost a dozen responses of people to help, or put my folks up or do whatever they could. People I didn’t know, in a place thousands of miles away, becoming a community in a time of crisis.
This past weekend, as I was driving into the city to have dinner with friends, I was thinking about everything and especially, what would I write about for Entertainment Management. After all, this fun stuff seemed so unimportant in the face of so much loss. But then it started to dawn on me. The 3rd Place, community and fun.
Several years ago, I was working for a dot-com looking to create a portal for the out-of-home entertainment market. As I went from meeting to meeting, I used to talk about how what we did was one of the very few things that people did that had to involve other people. It was always a social experience. How many times have we gone to a theme park or FEC by ourselves? How many people do you see waiting online for a roller coaster alone? And even when you do, you always know that the very loose social structure of the line will open itself up to embrace those alone.
As I thought more about it, the need for fun is a global experience. We may have fun in different ways, but we all like to have fun. Fun is one of the greatest tools we have to create a world of understanding and -- potentially -- peace. Hate can’t thrive in an atmosphere of fun.
So, as we gather for IAAPA and wonder what we can do and how to get our sense of fun back, remember how important what we do really is. What we do is not unimportant or trivial—it is critical. Let’s ask how can we create experiences that bring people together to share a common, joyous activity. What we need today is more ways for people to come together and share joy—and that’s what we do. So celebrate the joy that you create. Publicize it, share it and shout it out. Not since WWII have we as a country needed or deserved the distraction of joyous and fun entertainment more than today. Let us become the Great, Good Places where people gather, share and become a community. For it is only when we are a community that we can stop the hatred that creates such tragedies in the first place.
It's all exciting for me to see, as I started this phase of my life doing virtual reality back in the early 90's. I was introduced to VR by a good friend, Dave Peters, who ran a company called Absolute Amusements. Together, we worked with the Virtuality system out of the UK and a company here called Horizon Entertainment. I eventually formed my own company, the CyberEvent Group, and we produced many of the early VR events through the 90's.
Back in the 90's, I called the use of VR for advertising and marketing Experiential Advertising, the ability to let consumers step into and interact with the marketing message. As I wrote back then:
For the first time, consumers will be able to enter and, more importantly, interact with a corporate marketing message. From traveling through the human body to playing a virtual football game, consumers will be able to experience almost any marketing world. Virtual reality offers advertisers the ultimate sampling opportunity and will present a clutter free event that will draw attention to any product. Experiential advertising is an excellent opportunity to influence today's sophisticated consumer.
And what was on the bleeding edge in 1991 can be just as difficult for people to understand today. Funny, I just came across this quote from an article about VR in 1995. Kinda' amazing how little has changed, isn't it!
Plus, a lot of ad agency people I've spoken to are intimated by the process of creating a VR experience. The trick is understanding the non-linear aspects of VR. And in the advertising world, that's an enormous, cognitive leap.
Randel Walser, then with Autodesk, took a cyber spin on that Confucius quote by saying Print and radio tell; stage and film show, cyberspace embodies. When asked about VR back in the 90's, we wrote:
It's the combination of immersion and interaction that makes virtual reality so exciting for the event industry. Never before has this combination existed in such a dynamic form and with such unlimited potential. As we all know from our own learning experiences, retention is much higher when we're involved in the learning experience and not merely acting as a spectator. The experience-enriched retention is the effect provided by virtual reality. By entering the computer-generated world and controlling their experience in that world, participants will carry that additional retention concerning your product, message or event away with them. It has not been unusual for us to over-hear conversations about a VR experience several days after it occurred.
We were very successful with that approach and when we brought VR to the consumers, we frequently attracted up to a several hour wait for our experiences. The problem back then was that the tech hit a wall and didn't continue to progress. In addition, content was pretty sparse, with many companies just turning VR into "Doom in a head mount."
But while at SIGGRAPH last month, I attended several sessions on VR and one thing that struck me was that they were having the same conversations that we were having 20 years ago. Still lots of discussions on latency and field of view and "cyber sickness," but still not a lot of conversations about the content. I have to say, I did hundreds of public presentations of VR for thousands of people and very rarely saw anyone complain about those things. And, when they did, it was in the context of how cool the experience was, not how they wouldn't do it until those things were fixed.
So I'm excited to see VR making a comeback and look forward to seeing what will be happening with VR in the future. I hope that the industry will focus more on what's important to the consumer - the experience - and not keep focusing solely on the technology. And as a Google Glass wearer, I'm also a huge fan of AR and as the two come together, well, the future will be pretty cool!
I've rousted up some old photos of my earlier work below, it was fun to reminisce about those days. Back in March of '93, I also brought a VR system to Live with Regis & Kathie Lee. I remember it being a lot of work to get set-up on time and then we only had a short segment to get it all done. We had lots of fun and it sure is nice to see myself without grey!
A few years ago, while speaking in Amsterdam, I also gave an interview talking about AR, VR and the future of tech.
Max Lenderman wrote about my earlier work with the CyberEvent Group and the Brand Experience Lab in his book Experience the Message a few years ago.
This is the Virtuality system that started it all for me. I actually owned the 1st two systems that came into the US.
The CyberEvent Group was the tour producer for the Cutty Sark Virtual Voyage and was on the road for 18 months.
CyberEvent Group produced a 26 seat Immersive Animation theater that won a top trade show award in the mid-90's.
The first VR installation on a Disney property, the CyberTron at Pleasure Island.
So we do we do in a world where we have an abundance of information and a scarcity of attention? Create just in time marketing that allows us to deliver the right information to the right person at the right time. When I'm shopping for a car, I want all of the car information I can find. Once I've actually bought a car, I don't want any more car information.
I believe that just-in-time marketing creates a huge opportunity, especially for placed-based media (like at retail), that we haven't even begun to explore. This is not just digital networks running content we don't really pay attention to, this is creating ways to give people the information they need to make a purchase decision when they want to and how they want it.
But that takes a lot of work and really, for the most part, I think that too often we don't really think it's worth the effort. We've got to find the balance between the abundance of information and a scarcity of attention. That's why I believe in just-in-time communication. Get people the information when they want and you'll find that people will give you the attention you want.
Today, people talk about real time marketing, but the mainly talk about reacting in real time to what's happening in the world, which seemed to really take off with Oreo's very funny tweet when the power went out during the Super Bowl. That was well done (and I'm a huge eater of Oreos!), but did it help people with their decision about whether or not to eat Oreos?
See I think the more powerful version of real time marketing is actually delivering information when and how people need it. I'd love to see more brands doing that.
The third phase will focus on the "co-creation of stories," which researchers believe will be the future of ad communication. During the co-creation process, consumers receive an ad message, incorporate it with their "existing thought structure, and "create new meaning," said Zaltman, who gave a rousing presentation during the ARF conference that seemed to inspire a good amount of thinking among the ARF attendees.Of course, there were people back then who worried about how the creative aspect of advertising would fare in the future:
In a follow-up presentation, Keith Reinhard, chairman of DDB Worldwide, and a chief guardian of Madison Avenue's creative process, bristled at the notion that neuro researchers might create a "new set of rules" for ad agencies to create ads around. While he said he welcomed "new learning," he argued the creative process should be left to the creatives. "Artists have always intuitively known this. That's why they are artists," Reinhard countered, referring to Madison Avenue's implicit understanding of the role between emotions and advertising.
Instead, we must focus on creating a scintillating...encompassing...dramatic...novel "customer experience." We must understand that experience is not only a very big word with gigantic connotations...but it is nothing short of the basis for a...Totally Revised Organizational Lifeform.
- Value added for most any company, tiny or enormous, comes from the Quality of Experience provided.
- An experience is holistic, total, encompassing, transforming...and emotional.
- A service is a transaction. An experience is an event. An event (happening) with a beginning...a middle...and an end. An experience-event-happening leaves an indelible memory.
- This "experience" thing is...extremist. Not just a dab of delight here; not just a pinch of amusement there. But...an Entirely Different Way of Parsing Life. (Emphasis mine)
It was a lot of fun to take the trip down memory lane and revisit those posts from so many years ago. I'll repost some of those older articles that I think still resonate today. Let me know what you think.
Here's to another 10 years!
Neighborhood Changes (Originally published April 24th, 2004)
You know, a few years back when it was announced that Canal Jeans, an institution in SOHO was closing & Bloomingdales, Bloomingdale’s for heaven's sake, was moving in, you could hear the folks in SOHO lament the end of their neighborhood.
Tonight, as I left my office to go home, I passed a line that was almost around 3/4 of a NY block - folks waiting to get into Bloomingdales for their grand opening event. Now, if you don't really know NY, you might not think that's a big deal, but it's a darn big block!
In the conversation about experience, we're frequently speaking in terms of brands & commerce, but there are many experiences that don't have anything to do with either of those two issues. At least not directly in any case.
For years, SOHO was the place to find lots of trendy & unique boutiques. There were almost no large chains there, but there was a great deal of unique charm & personality. That's not to say that all small stores have charm & personality and that all larger stores don't, but you know the kind of neighborhood I'm talking about.
Soon, of course, the small, trendy, hip stores starting seeing the kind of rent increases that only larger stores could afford & before you knew, many of those stores were gone. Replaced by the same stores that we see in malls across the country. In fact, to many older resident's, SOHO became a large, open-air mall.
I once remember talking to a business colleague who had moved from the States to Greece. She was actually complaining about the lack of chains in Greece! She missed walking into a chain store & knowing exactly what they had and even usually where it was in the store. Sometimes I guess our drive for comfort and familiarity are pretty strong!
Recently, during a discussion about the potential move of the EXP3 conference to NY, Doug Rushkoff, a commentator, futurist & author (and, by way of full disclosure, an advisor to BEL), reminded the group It could be valuable to bring the notion of "experience" beyond the idea of retail place. He pointed out “As I've come to understand it, experience is something that occurs in time more than space.”
What happens to the experience of a place like SOHO when it changes dramatically? How do you create the appropriate urban renewal opportunities for businesses, while striving to maintain the 'personality' of the place that made it so special in the 1st place?
Speaking of places that should have been truly special, have you been to the new Time Warner Center? Here was a project that could have been an incredible gateway to the upper West Side & Central Park, and instead is usually described as a mall! Talk about a place w/o a sense of place! I mean, it's beautiful throughout & it does have the best Whole Foods on the planet (if not the galaxy), but it seems almost devoid of a soul. To me, it doesn't make a unique statement on it's own, nor is it particularly a uniquely NY experience. It's a very pretty mall. Now, to be very fair, I hear that some of the stores are doing quite well -- is it possible that creating a place with a soul isn't necessary to be successful?
I’m happy to say that a new neighborhood, Nolita, has become the new SOHO in many ways. It’s filled with many great, small boutiques, lots of cool restaurants and kinds of places that make it become a unique experience. And, of course, new “SOHO’s” are appearing in many new neighborhoods throughout the city. That’s the great thing about the world. We’ll always find a time and place for great experiences!
The Real Privacy Issue
Online privacy. It's in our headlines every day. We talk about it at trade shows; over lunch and even the government is getting involved. How can it controlled? Who can use your information? Whose information can you use? The Child Privacy Act has gone into effect and it will have a major impact on how we collect information online. The recent outcry over Doubleclick's collection and use of user information is a testament to how we feel about our information and what people do with it on the net. All of this activity being built around the information that we can gather about what people do; like; click and buy. We know all about them and they seem to be sending us a message that they don't like that.
But is that the message? Are we are looking for answers to a question that might not be being asked. Is privacy the real issue? Are consumers really upset that we gather information about them?
A few years back, well maybe more then a few years, one of the most popular shows on TV was set in a bar "where everyone knows your name." Each time Norm walked through the door, the whole bar yelled "Norm!" and Sam or Woody poured a beer and got it ready at his stool. In fact, Sam knew everything about the people in that bar. He knew their likes and dislikes and used it to serve his customers well.
Another TV icon from even further back, and one that represents at least the myth of how we viewed America in an earlier time, was Sam Drucker. He always knew what the residents of Hooterville liked and ordered. His hello was usually something to the effect of "Got those lemon drops you like so much." Everyone in Hooterville appreciated that Sam knew what they liked and had it ready for them.
TV shows might not be the best examples of this phenomenon, but how many places to you know like this? My wife & I used to visit a small Italian restaurant in the Village where the food was great and the service and attention was even better. The first time we ate there, after I asked for butter for the bread, the chef/owner gave me a long lecture about how bad butter was for me and then brought me out some olive oil. Not only did we not get upset about his invasion of my privacy, his interest in us was the central reason that we went back time after time. And each time we ate there, he always prepared something for us that wasn't on the menu, but was based on what he knew we liked.
Who doesn't like to go to a store or restaurant where "everyone knows your name." In fact, how many times have you paid more for something or driven further to get it, just because a particular place gives you better service because that store "invaded your privacy." Don't you consider this a positive experience in the offline world? In fact, we get such a warm feeling from the invasion of privacy, that we usually make sure that we take our friends there, just so they can be impressed when the bartender or store clerk knows our name!
See, I think we're dealing with the wrong question. While we certainly need to protect privacy online, I think that we should be focusing our efforts on how can we bring a value to the consumer that translates into a better online experience? What will make the consumer feel as though everyone just called their name when they walked in? How can we create an experience where the owner comes out to greet each visitor and thanks them for being there, while pointing out that they know what the consumer likes?
Right now, we all know that the focus of gathering information from the consumer online is for our value, not theirs'. Sure, we pretend it's for them, but everyone knows better. Is it really a consumer value proposition that we can give them targeted ads? Is getting unsolicited e-mails about products that are similar to something they've purchased a value proposition for the consumer? No, of course not. It's a value proposition for us. If you look at how we generate revenue online, how much of it comes from the gathering, use and sale of consumer information?
The consumer knows that they're not getting anything of value for the information we ask of them. They know that right now, we're the only ones who really benefit from the knowledge we gather. Don't you think my wife and I would have stopped going to that little Italian restaurant if the information that he gathered from us was for his sole benefit? If we had walked into a restaurant around the corner and found that he had sold our information to other restaurants, how would we have felt? The reason we didn't mind telling him what we liked and disliked was because it always gave us a better meal and a better experience. And that, in turn, created value for him as an owner.
I think that's what the consumer wants from their online experiences as well. They want to see value from the information they give up. They want to know that if they give us something, they'll get something back. They want a place "where everyone knows your name." We need to create that place and do it pretty quickly.
There are two ways for us to create a value for the consumer. I guess the simplest way would be to cut the consumer in on the value of the information they give to us. Giving them great strike prices on stock would certainly entice the consumers to share themselves with us.
Of course, the better way would be to figure out how to put Sam Malone or Sam Drucker into every web site. To make sure that the consumer is the one who benefits from the giving of information, not us. Our benefit should come from the experiences that we create for the consumer, not from a quick sale of their information.
Consumers all want their experiences to be authentic and that's why my wife & I liked our Italian restaurant. And that's why we wouldn't want to walk into another restaurant that had received information from ours and acted like we were old friends. It would not be an authentic experience! And neither is getting e-mails and ad-specific banners. We're all consumers ourselves, we should know better.
Now, we are the creative industry, so perhaps we could at least come up with some better terms! I mean, can't we make 'data mining' at least sound warm and fuzzy? At least that would buy us some time while we wait to see whether or not either of the Sam's is available for our sites!