The RAV4 Outdoor Website

September 3, 2013
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I’ve posted a couple of times over the years about my thoughts on digital’s ability, perhaps even need, to break free from the confines of the screen and be seem as an equal in our ‘real’ world. I’m certainly not the first to predict this obvious inevitability, and there are those (wiser that I) actually making it happen, but it has been a wonder to watch.

The logical step to this inescapable future are well underway of course. Digital has already sprouted wings, it is walking amongst us, watching us, tracking our every movement and making us feel ‘better’. It is already changing what we see, and as a consequence what we think. It has personalised our world – making a myriad of interlinking micro worlds all tailored to the individual – nodes in a wider network (sound familiar?). It restricts with one hand whilst simultaneously expands with the other, it has become (and with unimaginably rapid speed) our means of defining ourselves, expressing our emotions and the way we say all the stuff we do.

As a thing, it’s wonderfully liberating, perfectly levelling (if you can afford it that is – oops, maybe not!), really quite lovely, and horribly frightening.

And all that. All that progress. All that possibility. All that capability had led us to this…

…A real world website build in a bike park somewhere in South Africa for the RAV4. Brilliant.

Get more motivation through gameplay with Fitbit

November 22, 2012

With the current trend for Gamification and Gamified systems in today’s digital landscape, there’s now plenty of interesting examples to look to for both inspiration and to measure effectiveness.

Companies utilising these positive, motivational shaping techniques are aiming to generate greater levels of engagement with their customers through the ‘simple’ use of fun.

But what’s interesting about these emerging systems is how complicated ‘simple’ fun actually is to get off the ground. A fine line must be trod between the wishes of the customer to have a sense of autonomy and self determination, and the needs of the company to develop a system that has a commercially beneficial outcome.

It turns out that fun can be engineered, a process for gameplay can be designed, and real benefits can be achieved by both customer and company.

By baking in both extrinsic and intrinsic motivational drivers, and by structuring a system around key game dynamics, mechanics and components, highly effective gamified systems can be developed that will keep customers healthily hooked on a brand experience, as well as helping companies develop greater customer engagement and brand share.

Perhaps one of the more obvious places to find gamification is in the health and fitness sector. A sector where classically us ‘players’ are, in the main, de-motivated and require a sizeable shove to change our behaviour.

Ever since Nike cracked it with Nike+, the sector has seen a healthy nod towards the principals of gamification, and there is today several dedicated gamified systems wholly focused on bringing about positive change through motivational gameplay.

A new player in the market and rival to Nike+ is Fitbit.

Fitbit goes beyond simple running (Nike+), and looks to affect the ‘player’s’ total body. With sections including Get Fit, Eat Better, Weight Management and Sleep Better, Fifbit is using several tried and tested techniques, such as goal setting, points and badges, to drive behaviour change, generate engagement and sell product.

The system, visually designed by Odopod, looks fresh, interesting and healthily addictive. The benefits of a set of physical products supported by this digital ecosystem, as well as the ‘total body’ emphasis certainly helps the system to stand out (from the big tick), and shapes it up as a premier player in the gamification league.

Check it out, does it make you feel a little more motivated?

Bill Moggridge – R.I.P.

October 9, 2012

I was saddened the other day to hear about the death (to cancer) of the brilliant Bill Moggridge. I just stumbled across the news whilst hunting around for some data on human centered design.

Coincidently it was on the same day as the anniversary of Steve Jobs death, to the same dreadful deseas, that I heard the sad news.

This got me thinking about the perceived pecking order of creative talent that has influenced our lives today. Rightly so, IDEO present this memorial video reviewing the great man’s work, both within the company he co-founded and reflecting on his educational and curation work, on their home page – much as Apple did with the loss of their founder. Yet I didn’t see the news about Bill Moggridge set across the news headlines.

I realise that not every designer can make headline news, but Bill Moggridge was a true influencer (certainly in my eyes), and being a Brit I’d have loved to have felt his memory could be celebrated here, as one of our leading innovators in his field.

Taking nothing away from all those influential design innovators past and present, I’d just like to say – Bill Moggridge – you’ll be missed.

Re-discover your creative confidence

September 20, 2012

Inspiring TED talk by IDEO‘s David Kelley on his journey to help everyone re-discover their creative confidence.

tags: Thought

Engaging audiences via technology

August 23, 2012

I’d say that it’s pretty well accepted that the job of talking to customers in today’s mult-connected world is more than a little complex.

We’re living with and working through innumerable channels, each with their own ‘rules of engagement’ and each with an ever increasing demand for our constant attention. Neglect one, even for a short period of time, and the others can tumble around you. Choose the wrong one and you’ll be literally whistling in the wind.

All of this, coupled with the still remaining truth that a brands success is built on the stories they tell, is leading to many a brand owner wondering just how they can effectively engage with their valued and precious target audience through busy consumer chosen channels.

Far from cutting through the clutter, digital has simply fed the beast. There is now more noise than ever, and the voices are only getting louder. Today even the smallest body can shout an ear bursting yell, given the time, effort and the right tools.

And it’s having the right tools that’s really becoming the only way a brand can stay ahead of the consumer conversational curve, and both start and maintain meaningful connections with the people that matter to their business.

LBi‘s Audience Engagement Platform is just one such tool.

By helping their clients focus on building long-term relationships with the most valuable people, and by distributing amazing content to the right places while continuously measuring performance to reveal actionable and immediate insights, LBi have developed a technology that can talk to people through their preferred social channels – sharing personalised messages, which are timely and relevant.

For me, key to the success of tools such as these are their ability to be timely, relevant and trackable. It’s no longer enough to have a good story to tell, you have to seed that story at the right time and place for it to resonate, you have to link that story to the customer in a way that brings meaningful benefits, and you have to watch that story’s impact like a hawk.

So given the complex nature of the world in which we chatter, the use of technology is really the only viable way we can harness the power of our use of technology.

They are watching: Sensors Are Out There

July 18, 2012

Sensors Are About To Disrupt Your Industry.

In a recent Fast Company articleBruce Kasanoff & Michael Hinshaw explore, and shed a future light on, the–some might say–dark world of wireless sensors and their use in today’s data obsessed world.

It’s a great read, and one that could, I’m sure will, impact all our lives in the none to distant future.

Wireless sensors are starting to unleash a wave of disruptive innovation that will bring with it immense entrepreneurial opportunities.

They write…

There will be more wireless sensors in our world–by far–than there are smartphones, dumb phones, tablets, laptops and PCs combined. Billions upon billions today–and trillions tomorrow.

They will give us superhuman senses: to see “through” walls, to “hear” sounds many miles away, to “know” things we never could have known before.

No matter the size of your company, the ability to look at this new sensor-enabled world through the eyes of an entrepreneur is the price of admission. Already, thousands of startups around the world are laser-focused on implementing new business models that disrupt the status quo…

In there book: Smart Customers, Stupid Companies: they write…

Today, digital sensors can: monitor your tire pressure and avoid dangerous blowouts; analyze the gait of elderly citizens and warn of falls before they occur; follow the gaze of shoppers and identify which products they examine – but don’t buy – in a store; monitor which pages readers of a magazine read or skip; float in the air over a factory and independently monitor the plant’s emissions; detect impacts in the helmet of an athlete and make it impossible for them to hide potential serious blows to their brains; reveal when a dishwasher, refrigerator, computer, bridge, or dam is about to fail; trigger a different promotion as a new customer walks by a message board; analyze the duration and quality of your sleep; warn drivers that they are about to fall asleep; prevent intoxicated drivers from operating a motor vehicle; warn a person before he or she has a heart attack; detect wasted energy in both homes and commercial buildings; warn a parent or boss when anger is creeping into their voice, to help prevent them from saying or doing things they will later regret; tell waiting customers how far away the pizza delivery guy is from their house; analyze the movements of employees through a factory to detect wasted time and efforts; trigger product demonstrations or interactive manuals when a customer picks up or examines a product; congratulate an athlete when she swings a tennis racquet properly or achieves an efficient stride while running. What can they do tomorrow?

So where will all this take, and do we fully understand or even care about the impact this technology will have on our lives?

One thing’s for sure, it would be naïve to expect that none of the many bright, well-educated entrepreneurs out there are targeting your industry. Sensors are one reason you should think like a startup, or else.

Read: Sensors Are About To Disrupt Your Industry

Digital Talent: Less Rain

June 7, 2012

One thing is for sure, this industry is brimming with talent. And we need talent in the industry. The pace of change is relentless.

Digital media innovations seem to flow at the speed of imagination, no longer constrained by the shackles technological invention, today’s true creative thinkers are free to focus on the user, their needs, hopes and desires.

The challenge we all face today, is less about how to convince the user to use that new digital ‘thing’, more how to keep up with the user’s insatiable appetite for using new digital ‘things’. This has led to a desperate need for creation of the new. But, I believe, new has to be new with a purpose, not just new for new’s sake, not just new because the old is old, but new because the new beats the old, the new brings real benefit.

In this respect we must never stop learning. Learning from the user and their experiences, learning form the projects we deliver and their effectiveness and learning from the talent we have in this industry and their progressive thinking.

Fortunately some of the talent out there are free with their thinking. Vassilios Alexiou of Less Rain for example.

Maybe 11 or 12 years ago I was fortunate enough to meet up with the Less Rain guys in Berlin. It was a little random I have to say, I’d been charged with finding ‘creative talent’ by the agency I was working for at the time, and bringing back inspiration for the rest of the team. So a trip was planned to Berlin, and with the help of an online translation service (Oh dear!) I emailed a couple of the agencies I respected. A little to my surprise, but perhaps more due to their intrigue as to the purpose (that online translation service again!!) most said – yeah pop in, say hi.

Even back then, and this was around 2000 – there just wasn’t the same kind of creative digital community there is today, the guys were brilliantly inspiring. Obviously talented (that’s a no brainer) but open, willing to chat, happy to impart nuggets of wisdom earned from experience. They welcomed us into their studio. They showed us their work and talked about their thinking. They even took us for lunch and told us the best places to go in Berlin. I reckon that’s pretty nice.

And yes, I’m a Less Rain fan. Always have been and continue to be to this day. So it was great to see Vassilios openly chatting about his view of the future direction of digital on Getty Images Digital Talent. There’s some interesting thinking in his world, some great insight, and certainly a wealth of learning material for us all.

“…Technology is helping us do more, it should also help us do less if, it can…” a great sentiment and a point very well made. Helping people to achieve more with less effort – that’s the point of what we do isn’t it?! There’s a lesson in everything.

Velocity: A Review

June 1, 2012

So, a while ago I popped a post eagerly awaiting the arrival of my new read: Velocity – a conversational styled creative business book, that tracks the thoughts, observations and reflections of AKQA’s Ajaz Ahmed and Nike’s Stefan Olander.

The first thing to say about the book is that if you’re a designer looking for ‘creative inspiration’ then this isn’t the book for you (try: AKQA Ideas: Vol 1). Or if you’re a digital marketeer looking for a templated process workflow, this book isn’t going to help (try: Digital Marketing: Strategies for Online Success). Okay, that’s who it’s not for – although if you are the above I’d still recommend a read.

So who is it for? Well, if you’re interested in how the essence of great business should be done in today’s digital world, then you’re in luck – you have some great insights to absorb in the seven laws.

The second thing to say is it’s well worth the read. And that’s not just me saying it, of the 12 customer reviews it has on Amazon today, eleven have committed to the full 5 stars, with one 4 stars. Already the book is following the path of its laws!

The next thing to comment on is the book’s written format. It’s been crafted as a conversation between the two digital experts. They point out themselves that this is a little unusual, and I guess it is, but it certainly doesn’t get in the way of the massages. I found it made the whole experience a lot more personal that the typical business book.

I’m sure some might comment that the style of the book is simply a chance for the two to showboat their digital greatness, a self indulgent pat-on-the-back, but I’d disagree. Yes, some of the conversations seem a little self congratulatory, but you can’t really argue with the facts – Nike+ and Fiat eco:Drive have been sector, digital, possibly even life changing ideas.

Ok, not everyone is working on groundbreaking global digital accounts, but there is plenty in there for you, whatever your standing. Learning from and translating their lessons is the real power of this book.

Then there’s the Seven Laws themselves. From ‘A Smith & Wesson beats four aces’ to ‘Have a purpose larger then yourself’, they’re all both inspirational and practical. And they’re not just laws for digital communications either, they’re more like laws for life. Following them would be more akin to making you a fully rounded person, that a great digital leader – again, one of the powers of the book.

For me, it’s as easy to translate “Make meaningful connections” into having a true respect for others, as it is to fully understanding you client and their audience’s digital requirements. In that way the book seems to transcend any specific media, and position itself as a source of vision-shaping richness. Inspirational stuff!

And as well as inspiration within its pages, by reading Velocity you’re going to get a wealth of eminently repeatable quotes. From “Digital is the means, not the end”, to “…at the far side of an app, a Tweet, an anything, there’s a person”, to “Never have anything to apologise for”, to “Get going. Then get better”, there’s plenty of fodder there for pitches, proposals or simple client conversations.

So, overall, in a landscape awash with ‘how to’ books, Velocity is a refreshing change in its ambition to set a ‘tone’ rather that simply dictate a process. Velocity isn’t a reference book, and the two author aren’t pedagogic in their musings, but the book does position a clear vision of the future, and looks to inspire its readers into truly thinking about their digital actions.

Have a purpose larger then yourself – the seventh law, certainly seems to be a guiding principal for the two digital trailblazers. Velocity isn’t just an inspiring read, it’s a positive guiding light into the best ways to think, feel and act in world gone digital.

I just want an honest cup of coffee

April 26, 2012

Saffron have posted an interesting view point on Starbucks ongoing efforts to connect with their coffee loving audience. It made me think…

As well as being an interesting observation, the post also adds to the growing body of evidence that the coffee corporate is willing to try anything to positively position themselves in the minds of their customer, despite the tide of negative publicity they receive from certain quarters.

As with any business there’s an imperative need to keep existing customers happy. In this respect the global corporate is no different from Cathy’s Coffee House (some local high street). The issue becomes, just how do you keep the love going?

Where Cathy can honestly say she passionately cares about her customers and the coffee they drink, can this really be true about the global corporate?

Cathy’s coffee house is her life, and coffee beans are her passion. She first brewed up her first pot of 100% organic java 10 years ago and served it, with a smile and a knowledgable chat, to John – who owns a design studio a mile away from the coffee house and simply lives for quality coffee.

Ask John what he loves about Cathy’s Coffee House and he’ll reply Cathy and her passion for coffee. Cathy believes that it’s her mission in life to educate and excite her customers in the diversity and wonders of the java, so along with every cup of perfectly prepared latte you get and piece of coffee lovers knowledge free of charge. And although it would be far easier and quicker for John to stop off at one of the big chains that have swamped the area recently, he always makes the trip to Cathy’s for his quality coffee kick.

Cathy knows John, she knows about the pitch he’s just won and the holiday he’s planning to take the family on (the same place they went to a couple of years ago she remembers), she knows the date of his birthday and always gives him a free cup to celebrate. Cathy also knows Jane – mum to Jessie, David – retired accountant, Sarah – the florist, Mike – the builder…. Cathy really does know all her loyal customers.

It’s a great story and one that so many brands are looking to emulate in today’s highly personalised world. But can brands really tell the same story? And would it be believable if they did?

In Saffron post they highlight – At my local Starbucks, there’s a giant banner delivering their (Starbucks) new manifesto “Our promise to you – every cup, every day”. It goes something like this:

We promise that only perfect espresso shots will go into your drink. (What’s the alternative?)
We promise perfection through innovation. (What?)
We promise never to settle for good enough. (It’s a cup of coffee!)
We promise that your espresso will not only taste great, but will do good too. (Really?)
We promise to make your coffee just the way you like it. (Thank you.)


All this goes to show that you can brand yourself up like this, and promote yourself like that, you can even un-brand yourself if that’s what you believe in. But one thing remains true – you have to live up to the words say, be honest by your actions and have a brand proposition that’s truly believable.

We no longer fear big ‘brand’ brother

April 18, 2012

New research from Experian reveals 84% of consumers would no longer buy from a brand that didn’t take into account their preferences and purchase history. (NMA article here)

It was always inevitable that the fear of big ‘brand’ brother controlling your digital life would fade, mainly because it’s so useful having some personalised filtering on all that information we get pushed.

Personalised marketing campaigns and the single consumer view (SCV) has, in a reasonable sort amount time, been accepted as a good thing by us – the digital consumer with little time to ‘sift’. And it’s great to see attitudes changing.

Ironically the fear should now be back with the brand, that they don’t mess up their golden opportunity by implementing a substandard data strategy. If we now trust brands to use their data wisely, then brands need to fully appreciate the responsibilities they have to ensure they use that data in a manor that’s solely focused on the customer need.

Brands – don’t get it wrong, you could feel the full force of the furious consumer…

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by____ Gavin Johnson