Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Social Media, Consumer Behavior and the Internet

For more and more aspects of our lives, the Internet is the "everyday
answer." For travel, almost everyone uses the Internet over a travel
agent or calling an airline directly. Surprisingly, financial services
have overcome privacy and security concerns and now most people bank
online. This follows the acceptance of the ATM in lieu of branch
visits, so perhaps is not too surprising. We see that people are
managing their careers online, whether with job search (Careerbuilder)
or resume management (Linkedin). Even finding love (Match.com) or
other relationships (Craigslist or hookup.com) is more and more the
mainstream. We read that most people buy goods in stores, but Amazaon
and other shopping sites are generally accepted. Most people do not
use Skype to call, but more people adopt it for one-on-one connections
with distant friends and family.

The power has certainly shifted over the past decade. Comfort with the
Internet has grown dramatically, as fear has subsided. Usage is
growing steadily, but that usage is not uniform. Most people do not
blog, but people increasingly "post" their status on Twitter, Facebook
or Linkedin. Indeed, for those under 18, over 50% receive their "news"
from blogs and message boards. Even journalists promote blogs as they
seek an audience and freedom from the newspaper owners they generally
despise. Blogs are no longer the online equivalent of "public access

Think about how we increasingly investigate what ails us. There is so
much information, both pedestrian and highly technical, about medicine
and our health. More and more people use the Internet to try and
self-diagnose. What does this say about our confidence in our General
Practitioner? I hear more and more Doctors complain that their
patients don't tell them their symptoms but rather tell them the
various things they think they have and why.  How will this change the
way that pharmaceutical manufacturers promote their drugs and
therapies?  Will they continue to press the flesh of Doctors with
their free samples and sales representatives?  Will they need to
change to a more direct model based upon the power of our connected

The other major change in the past decade is that we no longer "surf
the web," we "search the web." Unlike TV where people will turn on and
browse about for something to watch, going to the web is less and less
an experience without a specific purpose or destination. Let's
contrast this with our television viewing behavior.
We generally do not "watch a show; we watch TV."  A similar behavior
occurs people peruse Facebook or Twitter just to see what people are
doing and talking about.  But this tends not to be best for
advertisers because the level of engagement is shallow.
Interestingly, with "appointment video viewing," whether on demand, or
recorded, the internet behavior of "point and shoot" is slowly
migrating into our television behavior.  This has profound
implications for media and advertisers.

I am very confident that the practical aspects of the Internet will
insure continued growth -- gathering information and transacting. My
word of caution for all this is over the very nature of consumers. We
are comparative (good for the web), compulsive (good for the next cool
thing) and satiable (bad for doing the same thing over and over
forever). Basically we like choice. If we don't have something, we
want it. But once we have it, we don't want it anymore. Where this
becomes problematic is for social networks like Facebook. So long as
the community can sustain itself with interesting things, then it will
work, but like so many others...when it is no longer "cool" because
"everyone is doing it" (especially for the next young generation),
then a new "exclusive and cool" network will emerge. Remember, great
consumer marketing always seeks to segment the audience to improve
sales and margin. The social network "market" may well do the same --
consolidate and fragment. It is in the very nature of capitalism as
Schumpeter taught us in his theory of creative destruction.  Just as
we are seeing the struggles at Netflix after being the "it" streaming
company, we must remember that true barriers to exit and entry are
difficult to maintain in a digital world.

So how are we consuming entertainment and media? Initially, when we
accessed the Internet with dial-up, media usage was limited. Today,
with broadband "always on" and with high speed service, we see that
media consumption is rapidly changing. There are several interesting
trends. First, young people are watching TV and movies on PCs, laptops
and Tablets (legally with Netflix and illegally with Surf the
Channel). This is a natural evolution from the "time shifting" of
DVRs. We expect to watch what we want when we want thanks to TIVO.
Second, more and more people are watching television with an iPad,
smart phone, PC or laptop in the same room or literally in their hand.
Call it multi-tasking, but for more and more people, the Internet can
enhance the TV experience (answer questions, communicate with other
fans, etc). Third, the future of TV is that TV will become more like
the Internet. Next up will be tCommerce, where we will be able to
purchase directly from our remote control. All the cable and satellite
companies are working on this. Fourth, there is no good news for news.
All demographics are getting information from the Internet and their
mobile phones. Newspapers will need to drop "papers" from their name
soon enough. Radio is ok because of the car, but that's about it.
Internet radio is even better at discovery, the key to radio's
success. Magazines may be ok for a while, but now that iPads and
Tablet PCs can give us the big photos and big ads (interactive), they
too will be forced to exit the "cutting down trees and printing with
ink" business.

In summary, people are increasingly living their lives on and through
the Internet. My advice to advertisers, publishers and businesses is
to think of the Internet no differently than any market. Focus is
better. Keep it simple and effective. Understand that every consumer
is unique, that segmentation is required, and that choice is good.
Next, everything we expect from the web on a PC will move to mobile
phones, tablets and our big-screen television.  Finally, I share two
words of caution.  First, the most technically advanced are already
beginning to push back against too much tech and intrusion into their
lives. People are becoming reflective about being tethered to devices
24/7. Many are saying "enough already." As a consequence, advertisers
must be careful to establish when and where they will be so people can
understand and accept. Control must remain with the individual.
Second, the medium for media is rapidly becoming the application.
When content is completely immersed within the application (see
Oolaya.com) then how people become aware, consider, share, form
preferences, purchase and are serviced radically changes.  People get

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Why are Brands Obsessed with Youth (and why should we all be)?

What is youth? Why does it matter to marketers? The following article addresses both of these questions, and in doing so, will provide an introduction to some of the strategic brand thinking we do at Tangible Worldwide. This discussion is not about marketing to young people. Quite the contrary, we are exploring why so many brands targeted at adults consistently draw upon elements of youth to present their brands.

So let us begin by considering what makes youth so appealing to adults. Why does youth have such a tremendous emotional appeal to all human beings? We are naturally drawn to babies or toddlers and even adolescents. We obviously love the real thing, but we are also drawn to images of youth, and are fundamentally moved by what we perceive youth represents. I believe there are five fundamental reasons why we are attracted to the image and reality of youth. These are:
  1. The innocence of youth – also known as naiveté; the lack of sin; the curiosity and inquisitiveness of the young
  2. Vitality and health – there is a virility and strength that comes with youth; there is also the natural competitiveness in play and sport and the classroom
  3. Relevance – popular culture is generated by youth, and youth amplifies trends.
  4. Rebelliousness – this generally takes the form of “stick it to the man” and there is also the bad boy element
  5. The desire to protect the young and everything for which it stands.
Yes, it is true, there are also painful memories and associations from growing up – being teased or bullied is never pleasant; being rejected by the first person you found attractive; or going through that awkward stage where you felt like you never fit in. But it is because we hope for the better outcome that we look past those negatives and focus on the positives; or at least marketers do.
Great brands, and the very best agencies working to build brands, love to focus upon youth BECAUSE THESE FIVE ELEMENTS POWERFULLY EVOKE EMOTION. They are the basis for great story-telling. These key elements are found in every cultures myths, histories and religions. As we shall see, focusing upon youth is a major reason behind what make brands powerful and what make work great.

Innocence and Youth
One of the most interesting parts of being young, and the feature most adults find endearing in youth is naiveté. Youth exhibits an honesty and innocence which touches most people. We expect for the young to be sheltered from life’s uglier truths – primarily sin, and mortality in particular. We find the association of innocence and youth in Hinduism, Buddhism and Judeo-Christian stories. For example, when we read the list of seven deadly sins – Gluttony, Sloth, Lust, Greed, Wraith, Coveting, and Vanity – we do not associate them with youth. But neither do we associate youth with the pretentiousness of the Cardinal Virtues. With a general lack of awareness of the “evil that men do,” comes an aura which once observed , makes us reflect on the very best a human being can be. When a child asks a question like, “will Fido go to dog heaven?” or they say “let me kiss that boo boo to make it better,” we all know that it is from a natural and pure love born of naiveté.

We also enjoy the curiosity of youth because it is both playful and naïve. There is honesty in the questioning of children, even to adolescence. As adults, we admire the courage of asking a question. While children are oftentimes called “clean slates,” it is not that they do not know an answer; it is that they have the trust and the courage to ask questions without the taint of age and experience. They do not know what it is like to be embarrassed.
It is the innocence of youth which forms the foundation of some great communications platforms. On the one hand, there are those moments that elicit from the viewer “aaahhhh” with a deep sigh. We see a child gently kiss another child on the cheek after the first receives a candy from the 2nd and we all get that feeling. But it does not have to be a communications platform which shows children. When Prudential shows people doing a “good turn” and inspiring other to do the same, Prudential moves us in a similar way.

The Vitality and Health of Youth
Another key element of youth is health. We expect that younger people are more fit, have more stamina, and desire to compete to distinguish themselves among their peers. This vitality and virility is again one of the mainstays of many advertising and communications programs. As Bob Hill, creator of Fox Sports once said, “Every man views himself in the mirror as being 21. Those under 21 want to be that age so they can drink and get girls and every man over 21 wish to return to that age to be free and get girls.” Some of our fascination with youth is that young people play. As we grow older, we don’t go to the playground and swing nor climb on the jungle gym. And to be honest, we miss that vitality; that plain and simple joy. We see the faces of young people when they chase a dog or a kite, and we remember how that felt. We see a toddler laugh as she pops bubbles blown by a parent, and we long for that discovery. We see two teenagers holding hands for the first time and we remember how it felt when we were that age. We also remember when we had the energy to take up a cause and to fight for what we thought was right rather than just go along for the ride.

Marketers use youthful images to convey this energy, this joy, this power and this spirit in many campaign ideas. It is in the use of color and light. It is in the use of movement, including dance. Most carbonated beverages, whether Coke, Pepsi, Sprite or Mountain Dew, all play upon the joy and vitality of youth in their marketing campaigns. Even Nike’s emphasis on “just do it” is about effort. Indeed, it is a competition against laziness, and it is a competition to do one’s best, not necessarily beat others.

The auto category is especially fond of youthful vitality. Mazda’s Zoom Zoom campaign launched with the image and voice of a young boy for this reason. When Toyota noticed that its average owner age was increasing by more than 1 year each year, it knew it needed to appeal to younger people. It launched the Scion with a campaign focused upon hip hop music, street dance and raves. While Scion’s demographic is younger than Toyota’s, in the end, they still have an average over 35. It seems that middle age people want to be perceived as young too.

Being Relevant to Popular Culture is Defined by Youth
As a quick precursor, I define popular culture as a blend of music, entertainment, technology, sports and fashion. In each of these areas, youth play a critical role.
  1. Music – when we think of music, we think of youth. The charts are defined by the sales of music to young people. Hip Hop, Rap, Electronica, Dance, Alternative and Emo are all modern genres from the youth of the last 20th and early 21st century. Having been to Sasquatch and Bumbershoot for the past few years, trust me, the mosh pit is not populated by 50 somethings. Just as video killed the radio star; YouTube killed the video star, sings MGMT. Adults are not trolling YouTube for the latest music video, young people are. And they discuss it, and define what is in and what is out. Adults look to the young to decide whether today’s music is even possibly relevant. The good news is that most of us grew up with rock and roll, and therefore we can hear the Ramones in Green Day, and the Talking Heads in Modest Mouse, and David Bowie in Arcade Fire. This is also a reason by music is so prevalent in all marketing campaigns. It not only sets a tone, it demonstrates relevance.
  2. Entertainment – this is less clear, because it is true that youth does not make Crazy Heart an Oscar winner nor a blockbuster, but Disney and DreamWorks make their living on the very young. More towards adolescence, Reality television shows like the Hills, Jersey Shore or Nickelodeon bring shows which both reflect and guide (much to the horror of parents) the norms for behavior for young people.
  3. Technology – young people don’t wear watches because they use their cellular phones to tell time. Young people do not have CDs because all of their music in on iPods and their PC. Young people use Wikipedia for homework, and the web broadly for all research. Young people used texts and tweets first. Young people adopt touch screens without the baggage of past experiences. Young people are the beta test users of nearly everything new.
  4. Sports – people love the games they play, and when they cannot play them anymore, they watch them. So goes the development of soccer, football, baseball, basketball, and hockey; collectively known as the “Big 5.” Yes, women and men can play golf and can ski more or less their entire lives, but only with Tiger Woods (who doesn’t seem that youthful anymore) has golf become cool, and it is Shaun White, a snowboarder not a skier that has made the winter sport hip. We love to see new stars emerge. We love their stories because they are fresh and because a “new star” means that there is a process of renewal that fulfills our need for faith in immortality. When we see a young star like LeBron or Reggie Bush or Tiger or Shaun White, we begin to dress and act like them. Moreover, they tend to become spokespeople for all kinds of products and services.
  5. Fashion – Granted, young people don’t define the garb on the cat walk, but they are the reason why tattoos and body piercing has moved from bikers to the mainstream. Young people mix and match, and quite frankly quickly scale what is “in and out.”
Not only does each of these major categories of popular culture rely upon youth and youthful images, but they are parlayed into the marketing of other products and services. Young people “get it.” They are in touch with what is in and what is out. Because they are going through socialization as teenagers, they guide the greater society into understanding what makes someone acceptable and unacceptable.

It is Apple more than any other brand today, which stands as the definition of what is relevant in popular society. They are not only the way in which cool people should access music and entertainment (and information and communication), but they do it with a design which sets the standard for fashion, and they deliver everything with an elegant interface which sets the bar for technology advancement.

The Rebelliousness of Youth
Perhaps starting with Rebel with a Cause we have consistently accepted that young people need to resist the norms and beliefs of their elders. Age represents society’s Institutions. The reality is that no matter how good we think we have it today, we also see real issues of poverty, crime, inequality and injustice. That means the present state, created and run by adults, needs to be improved. Young people are the catalyst for that change. As the writer Jorge Ortega y Gassett pointed out, young people go through a generation where they explore ideas in order to develop their generation’s beliefs. In turn, those beliefs dominate society until the next generation arises.
In modern marketing and communications campaigns, we see this motif frequently. The underdog fighting against the market leader (most famously portrayed in Apple’s 1984 advertisement) is perhaps the most common use of this youthful image.

This idea of fighting for justice against either a flawed or corrupt system is very powerful. Combined with innocence, and a competitive spirit, we quickly arrive at virtue and heroism. We readily accept young heroes and heroines who overcome older villains. Yes we do have older heroes, but they are nearly always redeeming themselves for past sins. And let’s face it; we all either consciously or unconsciously hope that things will get better. We want someone to make things better, and while we wish to “respect our elders,” we also know that they have had their chance.
We hope that youthful heroines and heroes will save us. This hope for salvation is a metaphor no less powerful that of resurrection or reincarnation. If adults are sinful and sin is death, and youth is sinless, then youth may deliver us from evil and even mortality.

Perhaps the brand most associated with the rebel is Harley Davidson. It is very focused upon youth, even though its average customer’s age is over 45. Many sports brands, especially in the action sports arena, work to have rebelliousness as a centerpiece to their DNA. We see it in brands like Oakley and Billa Bong. In one of the most classic images of the late 20th century, BASF showed a young man in a comfortable chair getting blasted by stereo speakers. This represented both the rebelliousness and vitality of youth.

Protecting our Youth
As the above review suggests, adults hold powerful if not romantic views of youth. The innocence, the vitality, the relevance and even the rebellion (so long as it is just) are all things we wish to protect.
Many brands assume the role of protector or use this story arch as the basis for their brand. Michelin is a protector of families, with a special focus upon mothers and children in their ads. The same can be said of the Coca-Cola “re-visioning” of the Grand Theft Auto story where in a world with Coke, the protagonist does only good deeds. Staying with videogames, in our work for Gears of War, we specifically set up that the war being waged was to protect all that was innocent and good

In Financial Services, we have two interesting examples of using youth to market. ETrade uses talking babies to convey that their system is easy to use. Fidelity, on the other hand, wants to show adults (with a green path) the way to financial security, and references protecting assets for both the children’s and grandchildren’s future. But perhaps the best example we have of protecting what is right is the quirky reverse psychology of the Ally Bank campaign. In it, an adult male mistreats and deceives children (stealing their Easter eggs, denying them ice cream, keeping them from playing with toys). The slogan, “Even kids know when something is wrong” is a literal application of this underlying concept of protecting the young.

Brand and Communications Strategy: Why Youth Matters

As we have seen, there are five basic reasons why people are powerfully moved by the images of youth – our attraction to its innocence, our desire for its vitality and energy, our belief that the young define popular culture, our respect for youth’s rebelliousness, and our need to try and protect all of these things from being lost. Each of these elements powerfully evokes emotions when marketers use them in creating great brands and telling stories about those brands. The creative execution can be consistently excellent when given this archetype and definition.

As a wise man once told me, "great brand marketing is telling the same story over and over, and never telling it the same way twice." This is especially true in the realm of youth marketing.

Everything old is new again...

A friend of mine was recently in London and visited a “Steam” museum, and Bletchley Park, and a conversation wandered into old computing devices.

We talked about the first computer electrical computer Colossus http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colossus_computer and then to the first conceived mechanical computer a Difference Engine http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Difference_engine

It struck us as pretty amazing how old computing technology really was. Including the original binary storage http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacquard_loom

Of which there is a working loom at Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn Michigan. I learned from a wizened old volunteer about the loom and its influence on IBM punch cards. This reminded me that I had read about an implementation that was developed in Little Big Planet, and found some blog posts and videos, which just blow me away: http://agreatbecoming.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/little-big-computer-a-modern-day-difference-engine/

This brings us a full circle with regards to implementation of analog methods using an all-digital workshop environment.

All this all invokes a thought that I use to level set many of our more complicated technical implementations.

When developing web pages and the underlying systems, and trying to meet web standards and ADA compliance, what we are typically doing is writing different ways to print text. In the end the internet is still about text.

The Cloud Part 1 -- What is "The Cloud?"

You may have heard by now that Digital Lifeboat offers cloud-based online backup systems. But you’re probably wondering just what is “the cloud” and how is it better than backing up to an external hard drive, for example?
Let’s start with how your PC works. You open an application, like Microsoft Word, and you type a letter, and save the content on your hard drive. The application (Word) and the data (your letter) are on your PC. Cloud computing is an approach which involves the creation and deployment of services and applications over the internet, supported by a coordinated infrastructure. When you open your email, the application is “in the cloud” and when you send the email to a friend, the email is stored “in the cloud.” Lots of services like search engines, YouTube, Flickr and Facebook operate this way.
The popular buzzword, “cloud” simply means storing digital files on someone else’s computer and accessing it by internet.
What people like about “the cloud” is that they can access content on-demand. What businesses like about “the cloud” is that it shares computing resources (networks and servers), that requires minimal management and effort to both access and release. With cloud computing, it’s easy to partition resources for you to use, and when you’re done using those resources, it’s easy to re-integrate those resources back into the cloud for others to use. Cloud computing is an efficient way to increase network capacity and utilization, without having to go out and purchase more equipment that – in the end – will just contribute to the growing problem of e-waste.
With all the different methods and applications used in cloud computing, it would be more accurately described as “sky computing”, with little grouped clouds for each application or service – one for Facebook, another for Salesforce.com, another for YouTube, etc.

More background...
Walt Mossberg has my favorite column on the subject, “Learning About Everything Under The ‘Cloud,’” where he says: “at its most basic level, the cloud is the Internet.” When considering this simple definition, one might conclude that calling the Internet the cloud is merely marketing hype – creating a new term for something we’ve all been accessing for years.

However, as Walt also explains in his column, the concept of the cloud is far more than the worldwide backbone of servers that create the Internet—it’s all the possibilities of what can be done using the Internet due to the latest technologies and lightning-fast speeds that let you access large files and applications from web servers instead of solely storing them on your computer or phone. For example:
  • Businesses can manage customer relationships, schedule appointments, run sophisticated marketing programs, backup server images, restore corrupted data, or remotely monitor networks using web-based Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions that enable real-time updates and allow many simultaneous users.
  • Consumers can access their email accounts, edit their photos, watch streaming movies, manage their personal finances, access saved files, or play multiplayer online games from any Internet connection.
Given the possibilities, the cloud is clearly worthy of much of the attention it receives. But anyone who has lost an Internet connection can also appreciate the limitations of the cloud. When connectivity is down, your local drives or servers are where you go to access your data. This is why you want your most important data—that is, any data you can’t afford to lose—in a hybrid cloud environment.

The Cloud Part 2 -- Hacking the Cloud: When Your Data ISN’T Safe…

If you’re a Play Station “fan boy” (or girl), you probably received an email from Sony offering you free games (in exchange for something about account security). The PlayStation Network shut down it’s cloud after “an external intrusion” that resulted in the theft of personal information belonging to 77 million customers. In fact, PSN said they’re moving their network infrastructure and data center to a new, more secure location.

Or, you might remember when Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud and Elastic Block Storage platforms were offline during an April 21 outage that had major websites unavailable for three days.
Outages and security breaches like these have inspired fear that the Cloud may not be secure – or is less secure than a traditional data center; however, eWeek.com points out that major security holes are not unique to cloud services. PSN uses both cloud services and traditional data centers. Amazon’s outage drew attention to data availability issues and reliability. Security concerns exist in both cloud and traditional data center environments. Cloud security is not inferior to data center security, where information can be accessed by a slew of hacking techniques.

eWeek adds, “People generally [haven’t heard] about outages in [traditional] data centers because they affected only one organization and were smaller scale, but they often add up to far more lost time, money and business…”

The problem traces back to encryption. EVERYTHING should be encrypted in both traditional data centers and on the cloud, from network traffic to S3 storage to file systems. And the sensitive data? That information should be especially encrypted. The tools are out there, but companies might not realize just how secure their data needs to be. An article by George Reese on the O’Reilly community adds:
“You should create a security system with the assumption that someone will gain unintended access to your data. It’s not that the cloud makes it more or less likely; it’s simply that a) there are attack vectors in the cloud that you have less control over and b) it’s a good idea anyways.”