Browsing articles tagged with " business"
May
29

The Xbox One is ready for us, but are we ready for it?

When Microsoft Interactive Entertainment Business group president, Don Mattrick  said “team Xbox is on a new mission,” he wasn’t kidding. The Xbox 720, Xbox Infinite, Xbox Fusion…The list of rumored names goes on but last Tuesday, Microsoft took to the podium to announce its new console, the Xbox One. Coming a month after Sony’s PS4 debut announcement, the Internet has been buzzing non-stop wondering how Microsoft was going to answer; and boy did they ever.

 

The new Xbox One is not just Microsoft’s vision of the future of gaming, but of the future of entertainment as a whole. Perhaps one of the most telling signs from the announcement was how little time was spent discussing the console’s gaming capabilities. Rather, the central focus of the announcement was on the “harmonization” of the “fragmented” living room technologies. The Xbox One aims to be the hub of everyone’s entertainment lives, all while feeding that information to marketers like us who in turn are able to help customize the experience for the individual user. The new Xbox will know what you like and will make recommendations across all platforms.

 

The New Xbox One Controller

Perhaps one of the more intriguing things about the new Xbox is that it seems to be taking into account the changing landscape of cable television within the console’s lifespan (typically 5+ years). The Xbox One has the ability to integrate with your set top cable or satellite box to allow you to access and control live TV right from your console. This experience will not only allow for easier home entertainment integration, but will also allow better tracking of viewing history for marketing purposes. The rumored ‘always-online’ nature of the console is somewhat overblown. While the Xbox One intends to base a significant amount of its platform within Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing service, it does not however require a player to always be online to use the system. I stress always because according to Microsoft VP Phil Harrison, the Xbox One “does not always have to be connected, but [it] does require an Internet connection.” Phil went on to explain in an interview with Kotaku that even single player non-Xbox Live games would require an online connection “once every day.” This doesn’t sound like good news for anyone hoping to play his or her Xbox without going online (and having to pay the monthly Xbox Live costs). This could potentially be a sore point for many consumers who may feel this to be somewhat draconian. Personally, I have no objection to an always-online system; what I do object to, however, is having to pay for it. It will be interesting to see how this plays out between now and the console’s launch. Additionally, Microsoft mentioned that games may use the cloud service to offload certain computing tasks to the cloud for processing rather than the Xbox One (which potentially could allow for more intensive gaming experiences) and for games such as those an internet connection would most definitely be required because it would be used to help enhance the experience (making the game faster, or more immersive).  This also may be a major point of concern because many gamers worry about Microsoft crushing the used game industry by restricting your ability to use used games due to the fact the game would have been tied to your Xbox Live account.

 

Another great feature that the Xbox One touts is its Windows 8 integration, specifically ‘snap mode’ which allows one app to run “snapped” to the side of the screen while your movie, TV, or game is playing. This has so much potential, as I and I am sure many of you, often find myself checking IMDB during a movie, or even checking a walkthrough for a particularly difficult part of a game I am playing. Additionally you can also use Skype with this set up too, which could be awesome for many reasons. Personally I could see it being a great boon to long distance relationships. Imagine being able to Skype each other while you watch the newest Game of Thrones without it disrupting the show, it would be almost like watching it together. Which brings us to one of the main hardware improvements with the new system, a vastly improved Kinect.

 

The new Kinect sensor is better in just about every way possible. It boasts a 1080p sensor, which provides the system with better resolution as well as a 60% wider field of view making it easier for the camera to cover a wide range of simultaneous player interactions. While Microsoft has remained somewhat hush-hush about the technical capabilities of the new motion detection system, we do know that the system has vastly improved motion detection accuracy; with Microsoft claiming it can track small movements such as a flick of a wrist. The Kinect also will have the ability to detect an individual’s heartbeat through its higher resolution sensor, however research has shown that this is not something all that hard to do with a standard 1080p camera. Microsoft also claims the new Kinect will function in complete darkness, which should be good news for gamers who are used to a ‘gaming-dungeon’ like environment (raise your hands).

 

Microsoft’s brief announcement should be enough reason to get excited about the new console. We saw, for the most part, everything we had hoped to see from an improved Kinect, to new game engines, to improved graphics. We also caught a glimpse into the console’s long term potential as a central home entertainment system. But for as much glitz and glam as the console’s announcement came with, it still left its founding consumer base, the hardcore gamer, scratching their head wondering what this means for them.

If you log on to an Xbox forum and put your ear really close to the computer you can actually hear the fanboys rattling their sabers over controvers

ial topics like the online requirements and the potential death of the used gaming business as we know it. These are the people to whom the system must appeal if it is going to have any success. As much as Microsoft is attempting to make the Xbox One more than just a gaming system, they need to remember that in the end that isexactly why people have been excited about it in the first place. People want the Xbox One because first and foremost it should represent the next step in gaming; the fact that it could become the center of your home media center is, to many consumers, ancillary at best. Expect to hear more complaints and worries as the release date edges closer, but expect even more to see every one of those decenters still buy One anyway.

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Jan
10

How Much Are Ads Worth These Days?

If you allow me to be honest, I have more questions on this subject than answers. Just telling you this from the get-go, as I would hate to disappoint you for not responding to the question in the title.

Two pieces of info that came out this week really got me thinking. The first one is from Adobe, a chart displaying the results on a survey of what catches their attention the most. I’ve posted it for you here below:

After you’re done picking up your jaw from the floor, let’s think about this for a second. Consumers pay more attention to posted speed limits than every form of traditional advertising. Oh, and yes, I’ve included Online Ads and Ads in Apps & Games under the banner of traditional advertising, as they are now as ubiquitous as any other form of ads… And sadly, those two both lie whimpering at the very bottom rung.

Also this week, we learned that CBS has already sold out their ad placement for this year’s Super Bowl, and at a nice $4,000,000 per 30 seconds (that’s “Four Million,” in case you don’t want to count the zeroes). Oh, but if you still want it, they’ll find a place to stick your brand around halftime if you come at them with, oh, $5 or $6 milloncitos.

You already know where I’m going with this.

Some of my colleagues will sneer at me for even being skeptical at the disparity between how ads are sold, and how much value they have for grabbing people’s attention these days. Why don’t we reschedule the burning at the stake for another day, and just have a nice conversation for now?

Let’s be clear: I completely acknowledge that well crafted, placed, and most importantly strategized advertisement can be very effective. However, it’s clear to see that in our present time, a lot more than a huge production and placement budget is required to make advertising work.

Going back to that chart from Adobe, it seems obvious that we’re fully immersed in an era where as a species exposed to advertising since we peeked out of the womb, we’ve been masterfully trained to expect and tune out ads of all sorts, in order to keep focus on things that actually demand our immediate attention.

On the other hand, for over a decade we’ve heard about the concepts of “permission marketing” and the strategy of “targeting influencers,” and yet this all seems to have made little, if any, of a dent on the market perception of the value of big advertising.

My mind is completely open on this subject. As I said, I have more questions than answers, and am eager to learn. However, rest assured, I don’t think neither you nor I should be satisfied with blanket theories learned in an advertising textbook. Let’s discuss, but let us at least attempt to make sense of the data.

Your turn… What do you think about this subject? Is advertising dead, grossly overvalued, about to evolve, or as alive as ever?

 

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Aug
31

In Defense of Ogilvy

Yesterday, my friend and colleague, Samantha Morris, took an old Ogilvy book quote and shared it as a point for contemporary debate.   It was a great read and I felt moved to reply.   Instead of just going for the comments section,  I thought I’d give the discussion a little more meat with a full counter-post.

Just to recap, here’s the Ogilvy quote Sam offered as the catalyst for discussion:

“I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information. When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.”

Please read Sam’s full take on the quote.  She recognizes advertising’s power to deliver those transcendent moments that touch us all.    However,  when it comes to the core point of the quote, I’ve got to stick with Ogilvy on this one.   Advertising can be artistic.  It can be entertaining.  Both are possible approaches – a means to an end – but not the thing itself.

Remember “Head On – Apply directly to the forehead!” ?   That ad campaign was certainly not artistic., and it could only be deemed entertaining in a twisted, end of the civilized world kind of way.  Yet, the actual message worked.  Hideous.  Yes!  Reprehensible?  Perhaps!  But no one would deny its effectiveness or its power as a medium of information.    What is Head On and how do you use it?  Need I say more?

The opposite would be true for, say, Nike.  In order to sell the new $180 – $315 Lebron X sneakers – then art and entertainment have to be the name of the game.  I’m going to wrap those bad boys up in pure, raw, testosterone-fueled emotion.   These aren’t overprice hunks of rubber and cloth marketed to consumers who really need to get their priorities straight.   No.  They’re a way of jumping closer to heaven.   Cue the high-contrast monochromatic images of physics-defying athlete, set to hero music.

I guess my take is this.  As advertisers, marketers and image makers, we do, in fact, engage in the medium of information, first and foremost.  Our goal is to serve the client by exposing their brand, product and service, in the most favorable way possible, employing the most effective means possible, either in a targeted or mass-market approach or, hopefully, a brilliant combination of both.  If, along the way, we happen to inspire, amuse, entertain, educate, create new visions, touch hearts or win minds…  then good for us!   I consider those moments perks of the job: motivational and personally gratifying, but not the end goal.

Again, this is just for purposes of friendly debate.  I could probably shoot down some of these points if I needed to argue the other side.    Thanks again Sam for putting the question out there to begin with!  Gotta go buy some LeBron X’s and then dull my debt-laden headache with some Head On.

 

 

 

 

 

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Aug
28

Computer, Think for Me

With the advent of Cloud computing, increased Internet speed and continuing development innovative interfaces, computers are becoming more accessible by the day. read more

Jun
14

Your Image in the Cloud

This is either extremely cool, or somewhat disturbing (or both).   It’s called the ‘Cloud Mirror’.

Upon arrival, party guests are given a special coded badge.  They’re then asked to sign in, either with their Facebook, Flicker or Twitter ID.  The Cloud Mirror then goes online and mines their social media presence for all kinds of tidbits that form a profile of sorts.

Now, imagine yourself as one of the guests:

With the badge hanging around your neck, you then proceed to one of the Cloud Mirror installations around the room.   The installation is a a combination of LCD screen, video camera and a reader that picks up on your badge’s code.  The  camera is pointed directly at you.   That’s the mirror part.  Meanwhile, the reader is scanning your badge.  That’s the cloud part.  Suddenly, random entries from your social media past start popping up on screen in the form of cartoon thought bubbles, superimposed next to your live image.  

As a party tool, this is a fun conversation piece and an instrument of extreme potential embarrassment.   As the creator points out in the video, it’s amazing that people subject themselves to this, even though they’re forewarned of the potential mortification factor.  In a broader sense, this shows, yet again, how the intersect of social media and emerging technologies will redefine how we play and interact.  It also gives pause to all of us caught up in the grand unfolding anthropological experiment that is social media. Careful next time you look up and observe a shape in the cloud.  The image you see might just be your own.

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Feb
22

An Honest Take on Social Media

Just taking a quick minute in between speakers at this year’s Social Fresh series in Tampa.   Even though we’ve only heard from one speaker so far, my head is already swimming with ideas.

Brian Simpson with Vikram Chatwal Hotels had some great things to say about his experiences  in the social media arena.   While there’s a lot to go into, honestly, it can all be boiled down to one thing:

Honesty

Social media is the newest boomtown, and as such it can potentially draw in every manner of opportunist, drifter, grifter and snake oil salesman.   I think the SM public, in general, is savvy to that fact.  As such, you can imagine there’s a lot of intuition and gut-checks  being applied by your potential visitors and fans.

Honest communications and a true desire to foster a community are key.  Otherwise, as Mr. Simpson so ably pointed out, you’re simply developing a base of spectators.   The difference?  Spectators may follow you, but they’re indifferent to your well being.  They have no passion for your standing.   A community, on the other hand, is more of a family.  Yes, you may witness some disagreement, and airing some of that dirty laundry can be occasionally problematic and embarrassing, but there’s also a mammoth plus side:   When push comes to shove, a portion of that community WILL rally to your cause no matter what.

In his presentation, Simpson admitted that all this doesn’t amount to a clean “sell up” that you can readily explain to the CEO with solid guarantees.  But watch what happens when the going gets tough.  Your spectators desert you.  Your community supports you, even before you’ve developed your own response plan.  And when it’s time to spread some good news or share a new initiative, your spectators remain indifferent.   However, if you’ve treated your community well, and with honesty… well, those community members are already out there spreading your message, without you even having to ask.

Bottom line – don’t be exploiters, give as much as you’re taking, and, above all, respect the fact that when you start a community you’re actually part of the community, not the unilateral owner.  Adhere to these basics and you’ll prosper in the boomtown.

And that’s my honest take.

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Jan
3

An Alternative ROI for Social Media

Social Media in business is constantly confronted with the challenge of proving ROI (Return On Investment), and very understandably so. Any responsible business is concerned with every type investment — money, time, energy, focus, or whatever — providing some type of benefit.

The huge dead end many managers find themselves in is to expect a direct profit return from an investment in Social Media. In the best of cases, serious budget reserves are directed towards Community Managers and varied tools and systems, and in the end, that direct return is nowhere to be seen.

My first thought is that much like in all forms of PR and awareness-type advertising, Social Media’s benefits are indirect and cumulative. Indirect, in that the benefits can be analyzed by looking at traffic and other types of action generated from your brand’s own activity. Cumulative, in that this activity isn’t simply 1:1, but requires action and patience for results to sprout organically.

Yet the main point I want to press is that in Social Media, there is another essential type of ROI that may be often overlooked:

Real Online Interaction

Real: By utilizing Social Media to its full potential, you can quite inexpensively speak to hundreds, or even thousands of current and potential customers.

Online: Your customers are not required to walk into your store, make an order, or be cold-called by you in order to gain a glimpse of what your brand is all about. Whenever and wherever they are, they can have a dialog with what you seek to represent.

Interaction: Social Media is a two-way road. Your audience can speak and listen to your brand, and they can (and will) be very honest. The good thing is, the higher their level of honesty, the greater likelihood they will be expecting a response as well. A captive audience is any business person’s dream come true.

How much is Real Online Interaction worth to your business/brand?

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Dec
10

Influencers: Mike Wargo

In our past interviews we focused on influencers in the entertainment realm such as Shane Carwin and Ami James. In this installment we looked an influencer within the business sector, Mike Wargo, the digital guru for Fox Sports Florida. If you’re a fan of any professional or collegiate sport in Florida, chances are you get your games and news from this source. Mike’s role is to dish up a never-ending stream of opinions, news and content to topic-hungry fans, while always seeking out new ways online audiences can engage in the age of social media.

Mike Wargo

Mindomondo (MM): So Mike, tell us a bit about what you do.

Mike Wargo (MW): As Digital Content Manager, I manage the day to day operation of FOXSportsFlorida.com.  Overseeing a team of writers, graphic artists and editorial assistants, I manage content and implement strategies designed to reach sports fans throughout the state of Florida and across the country.

(MM): How have you personally seen the social media landscape change in sports over the last few years?

(MW): The emergence of Twitter has probably made the largest impact on the way that sports news is delivered. Websites are no longer the quickest way to break news. Fans follow their favorite news sources via Twitter and get instant updates on their phones. This forces media outlets like ours to use social media as their first response, and web sites as our home for exclusive analysis.

(MM): How long ago did the network launch it’s social media efforts and did you see an immediate growth in your online audience?

(MW): About two years ago, FOX Sports put forth a national initiative designed to launch and grow our social media platforms across the regional networks.  The response was impressive. We now have approximately 225,000 followers across all of FSN’s Facebook and Twitter platforms.

With our social media network already in place, we launched our new regional web sites with great success in November of 2009. We continue to see increased web traffic directly tied to the news alerts that we send through social media.

(MM): What are some of the positive and negative effects with social media usage in sports marketing?

(MW): There are several positives to having an active social media community. It gives us another outlet for fan interaction, and another avenue in which to promote our exclusive content.

It also comes with an additional workload, expectations and responsibilities. It can be a bit much to manage, but overall it has been a positive for our network.

(MM): In a way your role at FSN is “managing” what the user sees and hears on your digital channels, how often are your topics influenced by the audience feedback and can you really “manage” social media?

(MW): Social media helps us take the pulse of the community. If a topic generates a lot of interaction on social media, we know that it’s something that we should probably pursue further on our traditional platforms.

No, you can’t really “manage” social media.  You can control your messaging, but ultimately the fans’ voices speak the loudest.

(MM): Social Media is relatively still very new as a communications strategy, how do you see it growing in the coming years compared to other ways FSN connects with audiences?

(MW): It’s clear that social media isn’t going away any time soon, but predicting the future of the medium is nearly impossible.

Will Facebook and Twitter continue to lead the way or will something new emerge? What exciting features will new technology provide?

The only thing that I can accurately predict is that we will continue to pursue ways to reach our fans regardless of platform. Advances in technology will play a huge role in determining our strategy.

(MM): Social Media is very much about allowing the conversation to take place and connecting to fans on a much deeper level. Was it difficult in the beginning to adapt to this style of communication for such a large company?

(MW): It was definitely a challenge, but it was a welcome addition. We are always looking for ways to get our fans involved in our telecasts, and social media has allowed us to reach people on a whole new level. The biggest challenge was understanding the possibilities and then learning how to integrate this new technology into our daily workflow.

(MM): We all know how passionate fans can be when sharing their opinions, what’s your “line” that can’t be crossed during these conversations?

(MW): We don’t allow the bad language and the name calling. Other than that, fans are free to voice their opinions.

(MM): What insights have you or the network gained by becoming part of the conversation?

(MW): Where do I begin? For nearly two decades, our networks have worked tirelessly to try and give our fans what they want and expect. Now, with so many interactive platforms at our disposal, we know exactly what fans want to see.

It truly has been an enlightening process for our entire organization, and it has helped us target our audience more effectively.

(MM): How do you handle negative feedback? Do you usually ignore it, or do you think it’s better to openly respond to it?

(MW): If the negative feedback has merit, we do our best to address the issue. However, most of the negative comments we see are not network related.

Covering sports means interacting with a passionate group of fans, and they need a place to blow off some steam after games. In those instances, we are happy to provide a platform through the web site and social media for fans voices to be heard. But there is no need for us to interject.

(MM): How would you define the “tone” that FSN uses in social media conversations, does that tone differ on other platforms such as on-air?

(MW): We are definitely more casual on social media. In order to provide a world class product in our game telecasts, there’s a formality with our coverage that is essential.  The web and social media provide us an outlet for some of our strong content that may not be as heavily produced.

(MM): How deep do you see the future integration of social media into live games or programming?

(MW): If the loudest voices in our production trucks belong to our directors and producers, the next loudest voice belongs to the fans interacting with the telecast.  We will continue to look for ways to integrate the web and social media with our game telecasts, and our fans will have an increased role in deciding what they get to see in our games.

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Jun
8

Power On!

It always amazes me.  There’s the world we all think we know, and then there’s the hidden layer, full of surprising revelations we’re simply not privy to in our daily myopia.   I’m thinking specifically of Vology.

What does Vology actually do?  Well, I had the pleasure of working with the Vology team a few weeks back, creating an inside peak at their facilities.   By clicking on this virtual tour, you’ll learn a lot about Vology in little time (plus, you’ll enjoy some pretty cool visuals thanks to the work of Mindclay photographer Horse Hardesty).

Short story:  Vology is home to one of the nation’s largest inventories of new and pre-owned networking and telecommunications equipment.

If this isn’t your world, then just think about what your IT department is up against when trying to transition to a new data system.  Network hardware costs can be a considerable chunk of change for any company.  However, because Vology not only sells new systems, but also reconditions and reconfigures existing equipment, suddenly, top-of-the-line systems become affordable and accessible to a broader range of businesses.   Brilliant!  I guess that explains the whole meteoric growth thing.  As they say in their logo tag line, Power On, indeed!

Mindclay photographer, Horse Hardesty, shooting in the Vology lab

The interesting thing is, I wouldn’t have known about Vology had they not given us an opportunity to tell part of their story via that virtual tour video.   (For that, I thank Jayne Hollerbaugh, Vology’s Director of Marketing, and, an awesome creative force in her own right)!

So, here’s the question: If I drive down Tampa Road in Oldsmar and remain oblivious to a thriving, fast-growing player such as Vology, then how many other cool things am I missing on a daily basis?    I think it’s a reminder to all of us that it’s not always about the hyped names in front of our faces. Often, it’s about those best-kept secrets that suddenly come out of nowhere and, before you know it, become new major influencers in the world we think we know.

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May
27

Eyeballs, Numbers or People?


Tasty (Chocolate) Eyeballs

Image by Sifter via Flickr

One of the things that drives me crazy about my fellow marketers is a habit that has turned into part of their daily glossary: referring to viewers or audiences as “eyeballs”. For example, when something gets mass visibility, it is said to have attracted “lots of eyeballs.”

Now I know that this is meant as a funny way to put an image to a number. A way to make something as abstract as a statistic into a concrete image.

But… could we just refer to them as “people”?

There comes a point in which marketers speak in such removed terms, that they risk losing sight of very crucial matters: principles of attraction, emotional triggers, two-way communication opportunities, etc..

After all, eyeballs don’t think, feel, or wish to communicate.

If your message is attractive to others, don’t be a bean-counter. You didn’t earn anything by attracting people, aside from an opportunity to serve and give value.

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