Thought Starters: social media, Apple, banking and changes to employment and income

Thought Starters provides me with a chance to review and highlight some of the more important or interesting research and opinions that I’ve read over the last week or so. This edition looks at the competing social media platforms and their roles, whether Apple can innovate, banking and its relationship with fintech and changes in employment and income among other things. 

Robinson Meyer revisits Reid Hoffman’s look at social networks and the parallels he draws between them and the seven deadly sins:

“Social networks do best when they tap into one of the seven deadly sins,” the LinkedIn co-founder and venture capitalist said. “Zynga is sloth. LinkedIn is greed. With Facebook, it’s vanity, and how people choose to present themselves to their friends.”

Research from Social Fresh, Firebrand Group and Simply Measured points to Facebook being comfortably ahead of other social media platforms in terms of ROI:

Social Media Platforms that Produce the Best ROI According to Social Media Marketers Worldwide March 2016

Whilst Snapchat is making growing inroads among younger audiences in the US, Instagram for the moment is proving a more popular medium for advertisers according to L2 Think Tank’s research:

Snapchat vs Instagram Adoption Among Brands Worldwide by Industry

Twitter recently reclassified its mobile app as a news service rather than social media in Apple’s App Store. Pew Research’s recent findings point to how the services have a different relationship with news content with Facebook driving more traffic whilst users referred by Twitter typically spending more time with the visited content:

On cellphones more visits come from Facebook

Given the increasingly important role that Facebook plays in distributing content, it’s no surprise that commentators cried foul when Gizmodo reported that Facebook was suppressing conservative news. A more careful reading of the news by Tyler Cowen and Ben Thompson suggests this isn’t quite as significant as the headlines suggest:

This, then, is the deep irony of this controversy: Facebook is receiving a huge amount of criticism for allegedly biasing the news via the empowerment of a team of human curators to make editorial decisions, as opposed to relying on what was previously thought to be an algorithm; it is an algorithm, though — the algorithm that powers the News Feed, with the goal of driving engagement — that is arguably doing more damage to our politics than the most biased human editor ever could. The fact of the matter is that, on the part of Facebook people actually see — the News Feed, not Trending News — conservatives see conservative stories, and liberals see liberal ones; the middle of the road is as hard to find as a viable business model for journalism (these things are not disconnected).

James Allworth profiles Apple’s business strategy and suggests that the company’s success is one of the key things holding the company back:

And it appears that Apple has fallen into exactly the same trap. Rather than start anew — with a beginner’s mind—what the above reveals to me is that they’ve tried to take the last paradigm and just jam it into the new one. The old has bled into the new. The result, at least as it stands now: just like Microsoft did, Apple knows what needs to be built — a phone-disrupting device. It’s just that they can’t bring themselves to let go of the past in order to do the job properly.

Whilst the Apple Watch hasn’t proved the breakthrough success for Apple that the iPhone provided, Neil Cybart’s analysis of Apple’s R&D expenditure points to something big coming soon:

Apple R&D Expense (Annual)

At the more nascent end of the technology ecosystem, Jared Friedman’s analysis of applicants to the Y Combinator programme provides a valuable window into the type of startups we’re likely to see more of in the very near future. Think more apps, SAAS businesses and platforms based on messaging, Slack and virtual reality among other things:

Messaging & Communications

For those of you working in startups looking to improve your product and people management, you’d be well advised to read Mike Davidson’s account of life as Vice President of Design at Twitter. He covers a lot of ground so I’m not going to try and summarise it, but it’s well worth checking out.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a more nuts and bolts approach to improving your digital presence, Nick Kolenda’s 125 easy tweaks provides a good starting point, even if you don’t agree with everything he has to say.

The banking sector won no popularity contests over the last  9 years with its practices fueling the global financial crisis. James Surowiecki reviews moves to reform the sector suggesting improvements have been made but there’s still some way to go:

Of course, there’s much about Wall Street that Dodd-Frank has not changed. Bankers still make absurd amounts of money. Hedge-fund and private-equity managers still benefit from the carried-interest tax loophole. The big banks, though smaller, are still too big. “If you wanted financial reform to radically downsize the financial sector, or thought it was going to make a major dent in income inequality, you’re bound to be disappointed,” Konczal says. And Dodd-Frank’s work is still unfinished: many of the rules it authorized have yet to be written, and the banks are lobbying to have them written in their favor. As Ziegler told me, “The progress that’s been made is precarious. It can be unravelled.” But precarious progress is progress. Regulation involves a constant struggle to keep rules in place and to enforce the ones that are there. Dodd-Frank shows that that struggle is not necessarily a futile one: sometimes government really does regulate business, and not the other way around.

In Fintech circles there’s a lot of talk about the power of startups to disrupt the banking sector but Josh Constine suggests that these startups may actually strengthen rather than undermine your relationship with your bank:

But what many of these startups have in common is that they all rely on connecting to your existing bank to fund your accounts with them or receive money. Rather than shun the startups, the incumbents have built bridges to let you hook fintech products into your bank accounts.

The result is that while banking is changing rapidly, you might be more reluctant to change which bank you use, according to several fintech founders and VCs I spoke to.

There’s been increasingly vociferous discussions  about the impact that automation will have on employment over the long term. Josh Zumbrun’s analysis of US figures provides an indication of where things are heading.  Employment among knowledge workers and non-routine manual workers is proving much less susceptible to automation and is showing much stronger rates of growth compared to employment with routinised workflows:

The Rise of the Knowledge Worker

Pew Research figures point to the polarisation of wealth in American society as not simply coming from growing income and assets among the wealthiest but also due to the relative decline of the country’s middle-income households:

The middle class is shrinking nearly everywhere

Ed Hawkins’ data visualisation of climate over the last 150 years provides a valuable reminder that now is not the time for us all to put our heads in the sand:

Global temperature change (1850-2016)

Elisabeth Zerofsky’s profile of Marine Le Pen provides a reminder of the growing tide of nationalism in European politics and attempts to try provide a more “palatable” face on a movement that was previously at the fringe of European politics.

I am keen to hear your thoughts any of the above, whether you vehemently agree or disagree, so please don’t hesitate to use the comments field.

The featured image is a MOMO piece commissioned by the City of Sydney.

Thought Starters: Google’s AMP, FANG, unicorns and the decline of the car

Thought Starters provides me with a chance to look through the articles, research and opinion pieces I’ve read, highlighting interesting trends, developments and changes in the world you and I live in. In this week’s edition we look at Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), FANG, unicorns, the decline of the car and smartphones in Myanmar among other things.

App Annie’s analysis of mobile app usage points to Google Play downloads continuing to exceed iOS downloads but Apple’s App Store revenues comfortably exceeding Google’s. Just bear in mind that Google Play doesn’t currently operate in China (although it has plans to) with the majority of Android handsets running on a version of the Android Open Source Platform (AOSP):

Annual Worldwide App Revenue

Instagram has seen a substantial drop in both follower growth and engagement levels according to Locowise figures. Whilst both figures were higher than for Facebook and Twitter, the social network is looking less and less like a free lunch:

Instagram Growth & Engagement Rates

As noted in the previous edition of Thought Starters, Google and Apple have competing visions of how content should be distributed with Apple taking an app centric view with the enabling of in app ad blocking and the launch of Apple News. Google on the other hand is putting its weight behind the open web which is no surprise given its reliance on search for a large proportion of its revenues. Google’s key initiatives has been the launch of Accelerated Mobile Pages which will improve load times and provide a better experience for mobile users than the current set up.  Frédéric Filloux comments :

Privately, Google people make no mystery of their intention to clean the advertising mess. They want to get rid of the invasive formats that, by ruining the user experience, contributed to the explosion of ad blockers and threatened a large segment of the digital economy. To that end, the AMP ecosystem is their weapon of choice

Ben Thompson draws parallels in the business strategies of Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google (FANG) pointing out how their stranglehold on a key access point has given them near insurmountable positions in the consumer economy:

None of the FANG companies created what most considered the most valuable pieces of their respective ecosystems; they simply made those pieces easier for consumers to access, so consumers increasingly discovered said pieces via the FANG home pages. And, given that Internet made distribution free, that meant the FANG companies were well on their way to having far more power and monetization potential than anyone realized.

Whilst there’s been a recent readjustment in the valuation of a number of tech startups, Spoke Intelligence and VB Profiles research calculates there’s still 208 startups that are worth more than $1bn and 21 worth more than $10bn:

Categorisation of startups with over a $1bn valuation

Europe has had some success with GP. Bullhound’s research pointing to 40 European startups reaching the $1bn valuation mark. Where the region falls short is in building these startups to the level of Facebook, Uber or Airbnb:

Cumulative Value of European unicorns

Adam Davidson looks at the phenomenon of corporations hoarding cash rather than using it to invest in acquisitions or return to shareholders:

Which leaves one last question: Why? The answer, perhaps, is that both the executives and the investors in these industries believe that something big is coming, but — this is crucial — they’re not sure what it will be.

Licensed drivers as a percentage of their age group

The automotive sector is beginning to enter a transition phase. New technologies are emerging (notably move to electric drive trains and self driving technologies) and consumers are beginning to think more in terms of transport solutions (eg Uber) rather than simply car ownership.

An interesting indication of change in the latter was a University of Michigan study of state driver’s licensing statistics that showed in the number of under 25 year olds applying for a driver’s license in the US.

Clive Thompson takes an interesting look at what the implications for cities where car ownership declines, aided by growing indifference to car use among the young and the growth of  ride sharing services.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that auto manufacturers are dead in the water. Automotive manufacturers are experimenting with service based models such as Ford’s FordPass and GM has recently made a large investment in Lyft. That being said, it wouldn’t surprise me if many of these firms increasingly get reduced to makers of commoditised hardware much like the PC manufacturers of today.

Tech in Asia figures point to the phenomenal growth in smartphone penetration in Myanmar (see below) as the country leapfrogs over the PC era. A useful complement to the Tech in Asia article is Craig Mod’s account of ethnographic research in Myanmar which looks at some of the fundamental differences in the way that smartphones and Facebook are used in developing countries:

Percentage of Myanmar population with cellular subscriptions

Consumers are spending more of their time with their smartphones, but the mobile user interface in its current form places limits (as well as advantages) in what users can do.  Scott Jenson looks at where mobile’s user experience falls short of the PC and provides some suggestions on how they could be addressed:

Most businesses still use desktops/laptops for the simple reason that people get more work done on them. If you say that “business use” no longer matters, you’re just confusing the new and old market effect. I’m not saying desktop will beat mobile. I’m also not saying we’ll have desktop computing forever. But there are nuanced differences between desktop UX and mobile UX, and they have important implications.

There’s more evidence of the shift in the global economy from emerging to developed world markets. Emerging markets experienced an estimated $735bn in net capital outflows last year with all but $59bn of that coming from China according to recently released figures from the Institute of International Finance:

Net capital flows to China

Timothy Taylor has pulled together data visualisations which allow readers to compare the relative strengths of different economies including this one from the How Much team:

The World's Economy Divided by Area

Oxfam released research during the recent World Economic Forum claiming that the world’s 62 richest individuals have same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorer half of humanity. There’s been some interesting critiques of Oxfam’s calculation, notably from Felix Salmon,  but I would argue the figures provide a valuable catalyst for conversations about the concentrations of wealth:

Share of global wealth

One illustration of the impact of growing concentration of wealth can be found in Jane Mayer’s profile of the Koch brother’s political campaigning in the US:

A new, data-filled study by the Harvard scholars Theda Skocpol and Alexander Hertel-Fernandez reports that the Kochs have established centralized command of a “nationally-federated, full-service, ideologically focused” machine that “operates on the scale of a national U.S. political party.” The Koch network, they conclude, acts like a “force field,” pulling Republican candidates and office-holders further to the right. Last week, the Times reported that funds from the Koch network are fuelling both ongoing rebellions against government control of Western land and the legal challenge to labor unions that is before the Supreme Court.

Laurence Dodds profiles the Hatton Garden raid in London and suggests it may well be the end of an era as criminals look for new ways for parting people from their worldly possessions:

It doesn’t quite have the romance of Hatton Garden. But while the age of John Dillinger and the Great Train Robbery is over, a new, digital lawlessness has come into being which is every bit as lucrative. It has its own romantic myths, its own folk heroes, because as long as someone is getting away with what the rest of us can only dream of, the cult of the outlaw will stay alive — in whatever form it can.

PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman’s Reply All podcast is a regular appointment in my listening schedule providing an irreverent look at the internet. A recent episode looks at the lack of diversity in the tech world (coverage from 11:50) and how this ultimately handicaps their performance. Informative and entertaining.

The featured image is the mural Mr Rooster by Etam Cru, located on the corner of 8th and Wall in the downtown Flower District in Los Angeles and published in Sour Harvest.

Thought Starters: Facebook’s M, Privacy, Driverless Cars, the Dating Apocalypse and more

The following is a collection of articles and thought pieces highlighting interesting trends, developments and changes in the world you and I live in, with an emphasis on technology.

Research from Flurry profiled by Yahoo points to the dominant role that apps have in the mobile ecosystem. The following graph doesn’t tell the entire story given the ability to reach web pages within a mobile app but does show the comparatively marginal role of the mobile browser:

Time_spent_on_Mobile

Facebook has launched its M virtual assistant as part of its Messenger offering and was recently profiled in Wired.  It has been rolled out to only a limited audience at this stage and what’s particularly interesting about the service is its use of humans as the system’s artificial intelligence develops a robust knowledge base:

“In the larger world of AI-driven personal assistants, M may seem like a regression. And as Facebook tests the tool with the public, it’s unclear whether this human-machine partnership can keep pace as the project expands to an ever-larger audience. But in a counterintuitive way, M may actually be a step forward for AI.”

Instagram now offers consumers and brands the opportunity to share photos and videos that are rectangles and not simply the iconic squares that we’ve become so used to.  Advertising Age has a look at the likely impact for brands:

There has been an awakening… #StarWars #TheForceAwakens

A post shared by Star Wars (@starwars) on

WeAreSocial follow up their profile of China with a profile of the world’s other fast developing behemoth with topline digital, social and mobile statistics for India:

A lot of noise has been made by commentators and critics about the cost in privacy that consumers are paying for the free services provided by Facebook and Google (“If you’re not paying for it; you’re the product”). Andrew McAfee jumps to their defence arguing that consumers are getting a fair deal, particularly given the plethora of consumer information already available to marketers:

“It’s true that all the information about me and my social network that these companies have could be used to help insurers and credit-card companies pick customers and price discriminate among them. But they already do that, and do it within the confines of a lot of regulation and consumer protection. I’m just not sure how much “worse” it would get if Google, Facebook and others started piping them our data.”

Maxwell Wessel looks at how the introduction of driverless cars is likely to restructure the auto industry, with the car forecasted to become less of a personal luxury and more of a utility.

The launch of UberPool brings Uber into closer competition with public transport with users picked up along what are being labelled as Smart Routes.  Given this, it was encouraging to see Nate Silver and Reuben Fischer-Baum argue that Uber and public transport are complementary and will hopefully get more cars off the road in urban centres:

Uber and Public Transport versus the Car

China’s economy seems to have hit the skids recently with Tyler Cowen giving a good overview of some of the key reasons for the downturn.  The BBC put together the following infographic which show why China’s economy isn’t significant just for the Chinese and investors in the country’s economy:

China's central role in world trade

Nancy Jo Sales‘ report on the impact of Tinder on relationships kicked up more than its fair share of criticism. Moira Weigel rightly points out that there’s been a long list of societal and technological changes that have created significant changes in courtship rituals without human society falling apart. Looking at the issue from another angle, Jon Birger’s analysis points to imbalances in education levels among men and women as creating a source of growing tension in relationship patterns.

Europe’s refugee crisis has deservedly dominated news headlines recently and the following infographic from the Washington Post illustrates why the scale of the crisis in Syria is so tragic. Please show your support:

Syria_popIf you’re in London between now and the 20th of September, I’d recommend a visit to the Photographers’ Gallery where the Shirley Baker exhibition Women Children and Loitering Men is well worth a view:

Hulme, May 1965 © Shirley Baker Estate Courtesy of the Shirley Baker Estate

The feature image was produced by Eko and published in his Flickr stream.

Messages That Resonate

This is part of an irregular series of blog posts looking at marketing and digital communications which have caught my attention. This will complement Thought Starters which will look more at trends, strategies and ideas.

BMW has joined the wide array of brands looking to use Vine as a branding medium with a series of short videos to promote its  new i3:

Monster Energy isn’t one known for using subtlety in its brand communications and their latest video is no exception:

The launch of the new iPhone has prompted a lot of talk on what is the appropriate size for a smartphone. KPN in the Netherlands has looked to take advantage of this buzz with an experiential campaign offering to enlarge the size of customers pockets:

Whilst we’re on the subject of Apple’s iPhone 6 launch, KitKat showed a smart piece of real-time marketing to suggestions that the new handset was prone to bending:

Etienne de Crécy has looked to promote his Hashtag My Ass album with a music video which integrates users Instagram and provides users with the ability to share their personalised video:

There’s been a lot of talk about multiscreening over the last couple of years and we’re beginning to see interesting possibilities emerge although I would argue, we’ve still got a long way to go. Kenzo have released a microsite which asks users to synchronise their computers and smartphones as a means of navigating around their fall collection:

Kenzo

Orange have attempted to give consumers a window into their future with a campaign which imagines what you will look like in 20 years time. Interesting to see how you might look although the microsite is let down by poor voice recognition:

User generated campaigns are seemingly everywhere, but it’s not often you see a site as well executed as McDonalds‘ which looks to celebrate 40 years in the UK. Great use of typography, user input by voice or text and a webGL based site that provides users with the ability to readily filter content by time period or theme.

Celebrating 40 years together The Topography of Terror Foundation and the Warsaw Rising Museum have commissioned a wonderful website commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising:

Warsaw Rising

Creative Review profiles the work of TrenchOne, Elph and Purshone as they use giant projection covers a house, a barn and group of log cabins in the lead up to the Scottish Referendum. Dazzling stuff…

Leyden Farm

Whilst vinyl has made something of a resurgence in sales lately, music is now increasingly a digital medium, so why isn’t cover art animated GIFs? The Inspiration pulls together a collection of covers from jbetcom’s Music:

Random Access Memories

Stef Lewandowski has pulled together an interesting illustration of the Internet of Things by visualising the digital signals around you. You can see a demonstration of the process below although go to his website to see this demonstrated in your own environment.

The featured image is a piece by Nelio in Besançon

 

Thought Starters

A mixed collection of materials looking at societal trends and the impact of technology on the way we live.

Slate looks at separatist movements in Europe in light of the recent decision by Scotland to maintain its ties with the United Kingdom:

Separatist

McKinsey’s forecast for the luxury market points to the growing role of emerging economies. Luxury brands shouldn’t count on a free ride though with Chinese consumers proving less receptive to Western luxury brands than in the past according to a report in The Guardian:

Luxury

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, venture capitalist Bill Gurley has raised concerns about the ‘burn rate’ of startups and the potential risks of a tech bubble  bursting. We may not see this happen in the immediate future but a correction does look increasingly inevitable.

The Financial Times profiles the emerging FinTech sector and the challenges it poses to the incumbents in the banking and financial services sector.

Bitcoin is one of the technologies that is providing a disruptive force in the financial services sector, with Fred Ehrsam from  Bitcoin wallet provider Coinbase giving an introduction to the cryptocurrency:

GlobalWebIndex figures confirm the commonly held view  that tablets are frequently shared whilst mobile phones are more closely associated with the individual:

Devices

Comscore research points to mobile apps taking a dominant role in the time  American’s spend with their smartphones with pointers on the when where and why of app usage:

Mobile App Usage

Results from Shopify points to  50.3% of traffic coming from mobile and just 49.7% from computers among customers using their eCommerce solution. Whilst this doesn’t purport to represent a  statistically sound sample of all eCommerce transactions, it does provide another data point supporting the need for companies to adopt a mobile first strategy:

Mobile Commerce

Code and Theory’s Dan Gardener and Mike Treff call for an approach to responsive design that goes beyond the screen size of device use, encompassing factors such as location, time of day and duration:

Responsive

The social network Ello launched in March of this year but is now beginning to reach critical mass, with consumers attracted by the promise of a system that isn’t based on pervasive tracking and surveillance. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its critics with Andy Baio pointing out the funding provided by venture capital which may see its more ethical policies watered down with time.

Ello

eMarketer figures point to social media taking a growing overall figure and share of UK’s advertising spend, with Facebook dominating brand’s spend on social networks:

UK Social Ad Spending

 GlobalWebIndex figures on Instagram users doesn’t provide any great surprises with steady growth, younger audience and strong indexing among middle and higher income earners:

Instagram

GlobalWebIndex also provide figures for the often overlooked Viber with 12% of the mobile audience use Viber each month,  providing a valuable reminder of  the diversity in the mobile messaging space.

ReadWrite looks at which countries have the fastest internet with South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong taking the top three places:

Fastest Broadband

Ezekiel J. Emanuel provides a fascinating opinion piece arguing that we should be placing more emphasis on quality rather than quantity of  life. Putting this into a more personal context, he stresses that we would like only palliative rather than curative care after the age of 75:

But here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.

Mark Buchanan, drawing on Jaron Lanier’s Who Owns the Future, warns of societal problems associated with the internet with the concentrations of power and the disenfranchising of large sectors of society. Another book to add to the reading list.

We’re seeing telecommuting increasingly promoted as providing flexibility to employees with the potential to better combine the demands of work and home, but it’s not a one sided coin. Lenika Cruz provides a personal account of how working from home aggravated her agoraphobia:

To be clear: Working from home didn’t cause my agoraphobia, it just enabled it. As someone who already had latent anxiety issues, I lacked incentive to prove myself wrong about all the imagined catastrophes that could occur if I were “trapped” somewhere. Telecommuting offered me the retreat I craved, but it helped to reinforce my avoidance patterns. And so the agoraphobia blossomed.

The featured image is a DALeast piece that was created as part of the Dunedin Mural Project and found on Arrested Motion.

Messages That Resonate

This is part of an irregular series of blog posts looking at marketing and digital communications which have caught my attention. This will complement Thought Starters which will look more at trends, strategies and ideas.

Guinness has launched a new brand campaign using Kanye West’s Black Skinhead, looking to cement the brand’s strong presence in Africa. It’s an interesting celebration of black culture for a brand that is closely associated with Ireland in the rest of the world.

Gap’s latest campaign is imploring consumers to ‘Dress Normal’ as the brand looks to align itself with  normcore whereby people look to blend in rather than stand out.

Newcastle Brown Ale is asking consumers to send in their ‘mediocre’ photos in an interesting spin on user generated content that continues with the brand’s cheeky tone of voice.

A mixture of strong gameplay and fond childhood memories of petanque has made Swag 2014 curiously addictive.  You don’t need an elaborate virtual environments to create compelling gaming experiences.

Swag2014

Greggs faced a public relations crisis when a derogatory image turned up on Google’s search results for the brand. Digiday profiles how some nimble footwork from the brand turned around a negative situation and ultimately shone the brand in a positive light.

Greggs Crisis

Instagram launched Hyperlapse over the course of the last week providing consumers with the opportunity to create tracking shots and fast time lapse videos for iPhone . Adweek profiles how brands including Bud Light, Burton, Mercedes-Benz and Mountain Dew have responded quickly to this new opportunity.

Twitter is enabling increasingly rich interactions for consumers and brands via the social media platform with Acura’s car configurator probably the most advanced yet. An interesting case of a brand transporting itself to where consumers although would love to see what the engagement levels are for the campaign.

Acura Tweet

The eyes dominate how consumers experience digital environments, so it’s interesting to see brands using other senses to engage with consumers.

GE has commissioned electronic musician Matthew Dear to create music using sounds from GE’s research centres from around the world which is downloadable from Soundcloud.

IBM on the other hand  has commissioned musician James Murphy to convert data from tennis matches at the US Open into ‘music’, creating somewhat more random output.

Muji is looking to help consumers relax in a seemingly ever accelerating world with a mobile app (Android and iOS) incorporating audio recordings of nature. A simple idea that ties in nicely with Muji’s  uncluttered brand aesthetic.

Amplifon is looking to enrich Google’s Street View offering with a sound framework to enable sounds in 3D to be embedded into Google’s mapping offering. 

Zach Hamed provides a valuable comparison between Citymapper and Google Maps, pointing out how the former provides a better experience in many use cases with a series of short videos and animated GIFs. Another valuable lesson in the importance of understanding the consumer and aligning your user experience around the relevant insights.

The Cronulla Riots in Sydney marked a sad day for Australia with racially motivated riots over a series of nights. Almost 10 years later Australian television channel SBS reflects back on the events with an interactive documentary. Powerful and rather disheartening viewing.

Cronulla Riots

There has been a lot of talk about how digital tools are enabling the sharing economy but Pumpipumpe has taken a distinctly analog approach.  People are encouraged to put stickers on their mailbox letting neighbours know what household goods they’re willing to lend their neighbours. A simple solution to a simple problem.

Pumpipumpe Stickers

The featured image at the top of the page is a piece by Pejac in Paris and found on StreetArtNews.

Digital Diet: life without a smartphone

I have been using a Samsung Galaxy S2 as my mobile phone for the last couple of years and is currently running the Jelly Bean version of Android. It’s hardly at the cutting edge of handset technology lacking BLE, NFC, 4G or a quad-core processor but it does provide the fundamentals we associate with a smartphone.

Unfortunately my phone decided to get stuck on the Samsung logo splash screen  on Friday leaving me suddenly without a functioning smartphone. I am currently making do with a Nokia 1209 whilst the Samsung gets repaired. The Nokia phone was first launched in 2008, although its range of functionality suggests the date could easily have been the turn of the century.

This change of situation has provided an important illustration to me of the fact that my phone is rarely used for the traditional uses of phone calls or text messages. Below are the functions I’m really missing:

Pocket: Having a long queue of articles means that I don’t need to carry a book around with me for those downtimes when you need something to read.

Tinder: For me, Tinder has injected a bit of fun back into online dating compared to the more traditional alternatives (OkCupid etc). There are some key differences  that stand out for me:

Less information is provided on users profiles so there’s less opportunity to spend hours pondering ‘is this the one’ (flip side to the coin is you do end up sometimes reading too much into people’s profile photos).

The  process of approving or rejecting a user for mutual communication is easy to do and has a game like quality (did someone say gamification) .

You don’t hear whether a user has seen your profile and you are only notified if a user approves of the match, which removes some of the  waiting on tenterhooks I sometimes associate with online dating.

Another characteristic that makes it stand out is the fact that the service is mobile only. This makes for a difficult situation if you need to get a message to a fellow Tinder user when your mobile stops working, as I found over the weekend. Asking friends whether you can borrow their smartphone and download the Tinder app got some interesting responses…

Camera: I’ve long since given up on carrying my compact camera around. The camera on the Samsung Galaxy S2 is far from brilliant but it’s more than good enough in most situations and its integration with Google+ Photos means that photos are quickly available from your desktop – something that Apple looks to be moving towards with its recent announcements at WWDC.

Instagram: My Instagram account, provides a complement to Google+ with photos that are typically more visual and less social in nature.

Google Maps: After having Google Maps for the last 6 years on my phone, going back to the old A-Z paper maps seems like going back to the dark ages.

SwiftKey: Predictive text has a comparatively long history but technology has come a long way since the T9 of early mobile phones. Android’s embracing of third party keyboards has led to a flourishing array of different providers and its encouraging to see Apple now embracing this approach.

Fingers crossed, I will be receiving a phone call soon confirming that my smartphone is now back up and running, but in the meantime I am readjusting to life without being constantly connected.

The featured image is a collaborative piece by Okuda and Remed in the Wynwood district of Miami, Florida and was found on StreetArtNews.

Messages that resonate

This is part of an irregular series of blog posts looking at marketing communications which have caught my attention. This will complement Thought Starters which will look more at trends, strategies and ideas.

Dick’s Sporting Goods has launched a look book to promote their running offering,  bringing together interactive video with ecommerce in a visually appealing microsite.

Dick's Sporting Goods

Schipol Airport is using an Instagram game to encourage users to fly more from the Dutch airport. The game asks users to identify destinations using user generated photos filtered by location and hashtag from the Instagram API. Users can ask for hints which include local time, flight duration if departing from Schiphol and a list of airlines that fly there. More information over at DigiDay.

Schipol Airport Instagram

Mercedes-Benz has launched a campaign in the Netherlands aimed at connecting its brand with hard working van drivers. The microsite uses a computer’s webcam to detects blisters, calluses and bruised thumbs in consumers’ hands which are then used to access the discount given to potential customers. A good use of a computer’s ‘eyes’ in a new way.

Mercedes BenzTeleport is a new startup which has recently launched that aims to help individuals relocate to where they can get the best quality of life. Whilst the exact details of the company’s offerings remain to be seen, the company’s website provides enough information and interactivity to leave users intrigued.

Teleport Effective example of branded content is the U.S. Air Force talking about how they would deal with Godzilla, capitalising on the publicity for Warner Brother’s latest blockbuster.  See the video over at BuzzFeed.

Coca-Cola attempts to bolster its green credentials in China with 2ndLives.  This sees the company providing a line of 16 caps which can be screwed onto bottles after consumption, transforming them into fun and useful objects, such as a paintbrush, water squirter and pencil sharpener among others.

Another case of rethinking product packaging is Chipotle giving consumers something to read when chowing down on their burritos. Commissioned authors include Toni Morrison, Malcolm Gladwell and Sarah Silverman among others with materials also available through the Cultivating Thought microsite.

Sometimes the simple ideas are still the most effective. Here Milan based art director Marco Sodano reinterprets Michelangelo’s Mona Lisa. You can find more examples of great artworks reinterpreted in a Lego style over at The Inspiration Room.

lego-mona-lisaLet me know in the comments field if there’s any creative work that has caught your eye lately.

The featured image is a piece by Polish due Etam Cru in Italy for the Memoire Urbane festival and found on StreetArtNews.