Brand death by a thousand cuts

Brands don’t usually die because of some apocalyptic event/mistake (though it can happen), rather they suffer death by a thousand cuts, each of which seem innocuos enough, even sensible. But they chip away at the magic and by the time sales have suffered enough for someone to notice, the negative brand equity momentum has long become unstoppable.

This post by Seth Godin today summarises this point terrifically, where he explains the magical, intangible elements  that make for great marketing, and how easy it is to kill them. Referring to a great little restaurant, he says:

…it’s the hand-fitted gestalt of thousands of little decisions made by caring management out to make a difference. Usually, when a business like this gets bigger or turns into a chain, marketers make what feel like smart compromises. The MBAs collide with the mystical, and the place gets boring. “Why do we need 14 free salsas when we can get away with six?”

The advent of little brother

There have been two incidents recently, “big man” and the “tram rant”, where a member of the public has videoed a disturbance of sorts and it ending up being seen widely and the police getting involved.

Twenty years or so ago, the Rodney King beating video was a sensation. Now, with half the population owning smartphones, and most of them having video recording abilities, its clear there are interesting times ahead.

The police already routinely film the view from traffic cars, and YouTube is full of cyclists’ footage from helmet cams.

Imagine a scenario where people start routinely filming, storing or even live streaming from wearable cameras. It won’t be long before they’re cheap as chips and as discreet as a button. We could all be constantly filming our own CCTV.

What would that mean? People recording all their conversations with officials or colleagues; footballers all mic’d up to capture episodes of abusive language (or prove innocence thereof)?

Given we all routinely say things we haven’t thought through, or didn’t really mean, there’ll be a lot of sticky situations and a lot of messy legal and social ramifications to work through.

Everyone having a kind of personal black box recorder is quite a potent thought, and doesn’t feel good for society. However, the kind of routine sharing that happens on Twitter and Facebook would have been similarly unpalatable just 10 years ago.

Maybe it’s not Big Brother we ought to be wary of, but his distributed younger sibling.

Launching the Guardian’s websites 1998

I was brand manager at the Guardian when the “Guardian Unlimited” websites were launched in the 90s. As part of the launch, I was tasked with creating a CD-ROM called Get The Net which had starter ISP software and this video of the editor, Alan Rusbridger, giving his thoughts on the internet revolution. I think his thoughts stand up pretty well.

 

Death of the middle man

My money is on this being the decade of disintermediation. The technology, trust and social graph is now in place to allow people to deal directly with each other and cut out the corporates.

  • Brent Hoberman (my former boss) and Stelios have just announced plans to make EasyCar a person-to-person car club
  • HouseBites is attempting to revolutionise takeaways by providing a platform for chefs cooking at home
  • AirBnB is a global network of accommodations offered by locals
  • Comedian Louis C.K. is getting a lot of love for selling his video simply and directly to his audience
And there’ll be more to come.
Could this give rise to the ‘nano-business’? Millions of people like you and me turning on/off supply of services we provide to suit our convenience. By day: accountant, on Sundays: curry chef

Why Instagram works

There are many photo editing apps and many offer some kind of sharing.

Yet Instagram (see my previous post) is way ahead of the pack in popularity and buzz. This fantastic article goes into why. My favourite aspect is about how it deliberately limits its functionality. you can only load one image at a time. Imagine how natural it would seem to add many at once. But that would detract from the product’s simplicity and delight.

Design is finished not when there’s nothing left to add, but when there’s nothing left to take away.