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Friday, July 28, 2006

Mobile lifelines

A study commissioned by Carphone Warehouse this week reports the finding that more than 90% of UK mobile users can't get through the day without using their phone. Hardly surprising for us … we've been asking people 'deprivation' questions in mobile groups for years- and have been getting responses like 'Oh my god, a day/a week without would be awful! My whole life is in there' (incidentally this is a line used by Nokia in the US, one of the few markets where people are less enamoured with mobiles…). Mobiles have developed, even more so than PCs into THE technological tool in our lives - and yes, that includes the lives of many people in developing markets too. My colleague Kirsty has termed them our essential 'techno-hubs' bringing together various functions beyond calling (communication tool, phone book, alarm clock, camera and, albeit possibly more slowly than anticipated, more advanced functions like web access, music and email). However, the thought of doing without your mobile seems particularly daunting given their emotional dimension. Whilst PCs and PDAs are seen largely functionally, mobiles are of course much more personal; carried with us and with the potential to work as fashion acccessories and/or status symbols but they also work as 'lifelines' - to our friends, family and increasingly connect us to the things that make our lives pleasurable, games, music, photos etc. Mobiles work as security blankets as highlighted in the study but can also be company, comfort, entertainment, memory banks…

McDonald's turn around?

Good news for not quite everyone's favourite fast food outlet! I'm intrigued to know what is happening to their brand - it seems that they're engaged in a very interesting experiment…If they really managed to lose some of their more negative and bit outdated associations and were to establish themselves as a more wholesome and modern food brand it would be no mean feat! Incidentally, in developing markets where they are competing with what the locals can see as hygienically a bit dubious indigeneous fast food outlets, McDo's have had a more positive and more premium image. See below for the brand extension 'McCafe' which I spotted in an upmarket Beijing shopping arcade yesterday. Highly dubious as to whether McDonald's could get away with this in the UK - but looks almost chic, doesn't it?!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

How to: Live well in the digital age

Wired magazine gives advice on how to live well in the digital age here. With tips on how to optimise your work-life, social-life and virtual-life and expert advice from David Allen (productivity guru) & Q-Bert (turntablist) amongst many there should be something here for everyone. My personal favourite is a great justification for speaking to yourself - it helps us to process multiple strands of information more efficiently apparently. And I though I was just mad...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Networks for networks

Jeff Jarvis, former US TV critic and now author of the popular blog on emerging media trends Buzz Machine, proclaimed in Monday's Media Guardian (free subscription required) that “Today, everybody’s a network”. The bulk of the article focuses on the challenges facing the established media networks if they wish to survive in a “post-scarcity media economy”. Basically, his advice is that they “need to learn to find and recommend not just their own good stuff but good stuff from the world, from other creators’ because ‘in a world with unlimited content, there is an unlimited demand for such networks that filter and recommend”. He goes on to say that “the big guys need to see themselves not as the owners of a network but as members of a network” – a network that also involves the little guys, presumably including Jeff Jarvis. But we should be careful not to overstate that fact that “Today, everybody’s a network”. Because we’ve all always been networks. All of us exist in relationship to other people - our friends, our family, our colleagues, society as a whole, special interest groups – and symbols which help us make sense of our surroundings – language & beliefs but also brands & products, music & films. Within these relationships we have always expressed our likes and dislikes and made recommendations. The fact is that now, for some of us, these networks have gone digital. But for how many? According to research conducted here at Thinktank, very few people are yet writing blogs. This is backed up in a study reported by the Guardian itself, which claims that for every 100 people online, 1 will be creating media, 10 interacting with it by commenting and the other 89 just viewing. Whilst it seems there is a trend towards more online interaction, the popularity of sites like MySpace paying testament to that fact, the figures show that maintaining a true digital network is a calling of the few and not the many. One thing I’ve noticed from speaking to people about choice in the course of my work is that too much of it turns consumers off. On the whole, people want options and they want their interests to be catered for but they also value ease and simplicity. There certainly will be a need for guides to the increasingly fragmented media world and the major media networks will need to shift their role to reflect this. As the big media networks become more porous and offer access to material sourced from outside their own immediate confines, there will be opportunities for a few motivated individuals to take advantage, by providing niche content or offering their own informed views and recommendations. However, for the majority of people it will be business as usual, as they make use of this improved moderation to find the content that really matters to them.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Easy, Breezy, Beautiful Thinktank

Tired with overpaid ad execs coming up with slogans you could have thought up yourself? Well now there's an easier way to come up with your brand's strapline: just press a button and sit back - the Advertising Slogan Generator will do the rest for you! (Disclaimer: Thinktank does not condone the use of the Advertising Slogan Generator if you wish to maintain any kind of brand integrity)

American Apparel's Second Life

The rise of interactive online environments is creating new branding opportunities for tech-savvy businesses like American Apparel. Their rapid expansion in the real world is being complemented by a foray into the virtual world of Second Life. Participants in this massively popular online role-playing game can now purchase AA outfits for their online representations (or avatar) from the new Second Life AA store, an exact virtual replica of one of their real world stores – faux-porn advertising and all.
With in-game items selling for $1 a piece, it’s unlikely that online sales will make much money for AA. However, it is obviously hoped that the online store has the potential to tempt virtual consumers into making real-life offline purchases. The offer of a 15% (real world!) discount to those who have made online purchases should help to ensure that that is the case. Beyond purely driving sales, there are other uses for a virtual shop. AA is planning to release their new range of jeans into Second Life two months before they hit real stores. The ease and low cost at which this can be done creates brand new opportunities for test-running potential products. Alongside this is the prospect of getting mouths watering in anticipation of the real world release of previously online only products. Of course, this raises the prospect of an online persona being more fashionably dressed than their offline counterpart leading to avatar-envy with us playing catch-up with our own virtual selves. OK, so there’s still a way to go before things go that far but as companies big and small look to develop an online presence, it is those who meet the needs and desires of the user best that will reap the biggest rewards. And seeing as even online avatars need clothes, American Apparel is making moves to capitalise on this whilst securing their brand presence in cyberspace at the same time.
Source: BusinessWeek