Spinning a line

My friend Cliff pointed out this cartoon from the New Yorker.   It’s very funny, but the humour comes from wondering why people buy vinyl when it is more expensive and less convenient than digital formats and streaming. Surely it makes no sense?
For me, this shows the limitations of thinking about marketing propositions in rational terms. People by and large don’t make logical choices and in the case of vinyl, as always, it’s worth thinking harder about what they really are buying. 

They might articulate that they prefer a warm sound, or they appreciate the larger artwork, but I suspect on a deeper level they’re buying into how it makes them feel and how it fits their desired self image. 

Do they long for a taste of their formative years? Or maybe it’s an oasis from an always on digital world. 

Whatever it is, vinyl continues to sell and it’s a reminder that rational thinking and rational messaging can only ever scratch the surface. 

What the hell is digital?

There’s an old zen tale that goes like this:

“..There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”

Now replace the word ‘water’ with ‘digital’

Businesses continue to think of digital as something separate. Consumers don’t see it like that. To them, it’s just part of their life. It’s all around them and just something that is.

Let’s stop referring to digital marketing. It’s marketing in a digital world.

You are not so smart

A brilliant, readable and humbling guide to the way our brains work. And the ways they don’t.   

Mad Men finale (spoilers)

Don’t read this if you’ve not seen the final episode.

I’ve just finished watching the finale and what an unexpected finish. But yet it all makes perfect sense and we’d been given clues all along the way.

Don has spent the final series trying to find love and family life and been rebuffed at every turn. He gets divorced, Sterling Cooper leaves him, his dying wife rejects him and even the daughter of the woman who’s husband’s name he steals is too messed up to be family for him.

In the final episode, he only connects with his inner pain through a stranger’s dream – the tale of how an ordinary man thinks everyone else is having fun and he’s left on the fridge shelf locked away – like an unwanted product.

Don’s can’t find inner peace by chanting Om with the seekers on the clifftop, but he recognises how such moments move other people. His sudden smile is not soulful enlightenment, but for a marketing insight. It literally dawns on him, “Well this would make a great Coke ad”

He has failed at finding true happiness, so he goes back to selling it to other people.

He leaves the retreat, goes back to McCann and makes that Coca-Cola ad.

As Peggy says, he’s gone home.

Apple Watch and remote control eject buttons

We didn’t have tech culture magazines back in the 80s. There were things like Computer Shopper and probably Tandy catalogues, but, with perhaps the exception of nascent video game mags, no-one loved the change of experience that was coming – it was all about hardware and tech specs. God, it was dull.

I distinctly remember reading an article about a new CD player in a solemn hi-fi publication. The reviewer found it hilarious that the remote control had an eject button. He thought it must clearly have been an oversight as what was the point in ejecting a CD from across the room? You had to go to the machine anyway, so who needed such a button?

Of course, all remote controls now have such buttons. No-one needs them, but little, marginal conveniences all add up to a better product experience.

But people don’t like change. It makes them uncomfortable. And it’s much easier to direct that inner discomfort externally with left-brain scoffing about why something won’t work and asking whether people realy need them.

The Apple Watch reminds me of that review. I took delivery of mine this week and I know this is the start of something.

The killer benefit of the Watch is that you spend less time needing to fish your phone out of your pocket, unlocking it and navigating to the app you need.

Now text messages, sports scores, walking directions and more are a simple glance away. Leave the phone in your pocket, your bag or on the kitchen table.

That doesn’t sound like a huge existing problem being solved, but when you experience the simpler, smoother experience, you don’t want to go back.

It’s a bit like having the CD already ejected by the time you’ve walked over to the player.

An authentic brand tone of voice

Bob Dylan, speaking at Musicares

Sam Cooke said this when told he had a beautiful voice: He said, “Well that’s very kind of you, but voices ought not to be measured by how pretty they are. Instead they matter only if they convince you that they are telling the truth.”

Charging for services : value v cost

A guy wakes up one Sunday morning to find the kitchen flooded. Water is spurting everywhere and things are getting ruined. 


He tracks down a plumber who arrives to a fraught family scene. ‘Thank god you’re here’, says the dad. 

The plumber surveys the situation, pulls a tool out of his bag and stops the burst immediately. 

‘That’s fantastic’, says the guy, ‘how much do I owe you?’

‘£100’ says the plumber. 

‘£100?’. says the dad. ‘It only took you two minutes!’

‘No’, says the plumber, ‘that took me 25 years’ 

Ogilvy on the unconscious

I totally love (and belive in) this:

Asked about where he gets the big ideas of his campaigns, he replied that “big ideas in all fields come from only one place: the unconscious. Nobody’s ever had a big idea by a process of rational thought.” He described his process of digesting as much research material as possible, followed by “a good dinner and a bottle of claret, and then I got the idea from my unconscious. I won’t say I was totally unconscious after the claret, but I wasn’t at my best — except my unconscious mind was working and sent a telegram to my conscious mind.”

Source

Tech wishlist for 2015

10. A Whatsapp client for Mac 

9. The Instagram app to allow multiple accounts

8. Twitter to let good developers use the APIs again (we love Tweetbot)

7. Apple Messages to play properly with SMS

6. The FT to make friends with Apple and release a native app

5. Zynga to fix the bugs in Words with Friends

4. An Apple TV app store

3. Pocket/Instapaper to allow offline video capture

2. iTunes to get a proper redesign

1. Things 3 to finally be released

MotU #6: Babel fishes, colour clocks and really secret santas

Stuff you knew you needed to know… and stuff you didn’t

What colour is it? 
Specific colours are described by hex numbers. This is a neat way to catalogue 16.7m possibilities in just six characters. But what colour is #063551? Wonder no more with this web clock that constantly changes its background to match the hex equivalent of the current time. Put it on your second monitor and see when it’s time for teal.  
 
 
Douglas Adams foresaw our tech future perhaps better than anyone else. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy was itself a premonition of Wikipedia, and contained wondrous – but surely impossible – concepts such as the real-time translating Babel Fish. Well, hang on to your comfort towels because the resurgent post-Ballmer Microsoft has had a go a doing this with Skype Translator – described by some as the most futuristic thing I’ve ever used.   
 
Fascist dystopian iPad game of the week 
Papers Please really shouldn’t work. In this showy, freemium era, charging $8 for a totalitarian border guard sim with 8-bit graphics from the ZX Spectrum era sounds crazy. But the game works by disconcertingly putting you in the shoes of a lowly passport checker, making life-changing decisions under pressure whilst protecting your family. The moral dilemmas hit home hard.  
 
 
Privacy international has created a neat bit of content marketing to highlight issues of personal freedom in an era of government spying. Santa has been ordered to turn over his nice or naughty list and has discovered unsettling modifications to the children’ presents he’s delivering…  
 
Mails of the Unexpected will be back in the new year. Merry Xmas.

MotU #5: Beautiful, untranslatable words

Stuff you knew you needed to know… and stuff you didn’t

It’s probably testament to the dangers of pride, but aren’t we often told how wonderful English is, how rich it is, and how its speakers are the only ones who really get puns? That is, of course, nonsense. The human condition consists of far too dense a weave to be defined by any single language. This humbling incompleteness is demonstrated brilliantly by Lost in Translation: an illustrated catalog[ue] of beautiful untranslatable words from around the world. How many of us recognise the bittersweet pleasure of Trepverter? 

Coca-Cola is getting into milk. If this feels slightly startling, it’s worth remembering that the Real Thing does far more than just the Real thing. It’s already a market leader in carbonates, energy drinks and water. The nationwide launch of premium priced Fairlife is due next year. 
 
Still on the topic of beverages, can the colour of cups affect your perception of flavour? This coffee-tasting study suggests that it can. Apparently, that flat white will seem more bitter in a white cup. Smileys are taking over the world. Emojis, those colourful little characters we add to messages, have become so popular that the gatekeepers of text standards arehaving to evolve their thinking to keep up. Not only are there now more diverse characters available, but a new system will ensure the Unicode standard is quicker at responding to new suggestions. Check out the wonderful Emojipedia (yes, really) for the most requested new characters.

Blockchain is bigger than you think

Blockchain is looking like a seriously transformative technology – maybe as big an idea as http or bittorrent. 
 

Here’s a great primer. It looks techy, but is very readable.

 

Sample wow quote, “Companies like Ebay, Facebook and Uber are very valuable because they benefit tremendously from the network effects that come from keeping all user information in centralized in private silos and taking a cut of all the transactions. Decentralized protocols on top of the blockchain have the potential to undo every single part of the stacks that make these services valuable to consumers and investors. They can do this by, for example, creating common, decentralized data sets to which any one can plug into, and enabling peer to peer transactions powered by Bitcoin.”