Things I would like to be different about Nike Fuelband

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So I have been using Nike’s Fuelband for about a month and enjoying the fun motivation to be more active that it adds too daily life. I have even started regularly running again.

No doubt Nike are working on a ton of new features, here are a couple of things I would love to see in future releases of the web app and in the planned API release and the upcoming integration with Nike+.

1. More flexible goal setting

At the moment you can set a goal for that amount of Fuel you want to score in a day. One of the main things I appreciate is the daily motivation that gives me to hit that target. However some days I know are going to be more active than others because I can fit in a run or whatever, it would be great to be able to change the daily target of the course of a week. That way I would have an extra reason to go for that long run on a Saturday as I have an extra big target.

2. Ability to extract data

Pretty annoying to only be able to see the data Fuelband collects in a bog standard graph. Would be very interesting to be able to look at the data over different time scales and so on in order to see which activities generate the most Fuel. It would also be great to be able to extract the data to use in different applications. Guess we will just have to be patient and await the promised API.

3. Ability to see different metrics

The alternative to being able to extract the data would be more specific metrics. For example as a runner a good indicator of efficiency is cadence. It seems like it would be a pretty simple metric to output as Fuelband already measures steps, so it would simply be a case of showing that over a short time period like a minute.

4. A Fuelband community

There is lots of competitive opportunity with Fuelband and I like being able to see which of my Facebook friends are using Fuelband. But there aren’t many of them yet and I would love to be able to connect/compete with other Fuelbanders instead even if they aren’t yet Facebook friends. And Nike could play in celebrity fuel scores as well for some extra fun!

5. Context based sharing for games etc

I can also imagine a lot of fun could be had if you were able to connect and share with other Fuelbanders based on context. That would mean you could create all sorts of competitive games with the people near you on a basketball court or similar, you could hook it up to a big screen and see the games scores in fuel increase in real time for example.

So overall a great product that I’m looking forward to getting better and better. What do you think?

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8 key changes in entertainment

I have been thinking about entertainment recently, including reading Henry Jenkins’ Convergence Culture.

As I discussed in this previous post, in many ways entertainment is the religion of the 21st Century affording us a shared experience that connects us to our fellow man. The blockbuster still reigns supreme as the means to share entertainment at the box office, music store, bookshop or on TV as this recent article in The Economist argues.

However technology is providing new ways for us to share entertainment experiences. If brands can understand that change, they can find ways of playing a meaningful role and collaborating with the entertainment industry to cut through the clutter and better engage consumers.

Here is my summary of the 8 main changes underway.

1. FROM the explosion of content choices TO content on demand

We are surrounded by more choices of entertainment than ever before. And now added to that proliferation of choice, we can demand our favourite entertainment whenever we want it with services like Itunes, Hulu or BBC Iplayer. And although the predictions about On Demand viewing as a share of behaviour seem to be conservative for now this is sure to change rapidly as the technology and service improves.

But true content on demand will happen when the entertainment industry learns from other industries and realizes that it is crazy to deliberately hold onto inventory and wait to sell it later – that just ties up cost that can’t be turned into revenue or profit (e.g Vs. Dell Computers). Luckily the internet provides a near frictionless and instant distribution platform. The challenge of course is how to monetize that content, and more on that later, but a good start is to truly satisfy ever more demanding consumers.

2. FROM Leisure time as a limited, set time TO Leisure time as expansive and intertwined with work time

It used to be that you worked 9-5 (or more) and then had some leisure time in the evenings and at weekends. But in the same way that work time respects boundaries less and less as we are permanently connected to work through laptops, Blackberrys etc, digitally connected consumers are more able to consumer entertainment during traditional working hours.

That means entertainment is not limited to being a set specific leisure activity linked to an appointment to view. There is increasingly the opportunity to infuse peoples lives with entertainment, rather than restricting entertainment to being a discreet activity limited to a particular type of leisure time.

3. FROM convergence of device functions and divergence of media TO Divergence of device usage and convergence of media.

I must confess that this one is a direct lift from Jenkins. We have been through a period of device convergence, my phone is now my music player, camera, email and internet device etc etc. But what we see now is that device usage is diverging. I choose from a diverse range of devices the one that is best suited to the task. So I may well have a 5 megapix camera phone for ad hoc snaps, but I also have a 12 mega pix Digital SLR for when I am in “taking pictures” mode.

Media on the other hand has gone through a period of divergence where new channels emerged to provide specific entertainment e.g Sky Sports. Now we are seeing media convergence where my choice of media is available on any channel I choose. So I can consume my favourite shows on my Sky box at home but also through my Sky account on my computer or mobile.

And that means that all entertainment brands compete with each other. To push the argument to the extreme, imagine you are bored with the goal-less monotony of a live conference football match? – well you can fire up your Iphone and catch up on the latest Top Gear.

4. FROM Passive consumption TO immersive and interactive experiences

Last year the gaming industry made more money than Hollywood. Modern Warfare 2 has just stormed the charts. Yeah sure 20 something blokes have more disposable income than the rest of us and Hollywood still touches larger numbers of people, but these days my Mum knows what a Wii is. Entertainment used to be about sitting back and watching, now it is very often about leaning forward and participating.

Immersive and interactive experiences will become less geeky and niche and more mainstream. Technology improvements make it is easier and easier to interact and so as the barriers come down the audience will broaden.

5. FROM Storytelling in new media TO Transmedia storytelling

Not really going to write too much about this one as “transmedia storytelling” is the buzzword du jour and tonnes has already been done to build on Jenkins’ work. But in short, entertainers have more channels with which to entertain these days, and increasingly are combining those channels to tell stories, where different elements of the story exist in different channels and an engaged consumer can piece it all together to get more rewarding experience than simply just consuming one element.

Marketers have been really fascinated by the concept partly I think because integration across channels has been such a hot topic in recent years, when it come to communications campaigns. The “worlds” created by movie franchises lend themselves to readily to the type of integrated campaigns that brands and their agencies aspire to.

Whether you are talking about an entertainment franchise brand or an FMCG brand, consumers love exploring new worlds and will dive into those worlds through multiple “windows” in whatever way suits them.

6. FROM linear and controlled TO Networked and devolved.

Simple one really, this is about less control for entertainment producers. In the days of broadcast where the entertainment industry controlled both the means of production and the means of distribution, consumers had take whatever was dished out to them. But now the industry no longer has that control. They can’t be certain how or when the entertainment will be consumed.

7. FROM Brands integrating into entertainment TO Brands distributing, hosting and curating entertainment

Brands have always played around the margins of entertainment but too often the brand’s role has been to shout a commercial message in return for funding entertainment creation and distribution. There are more opportunities than ever for brands to have a more central, active and positive role. Brands can facilitate the distribution of entertainment, play host to entertainment and curate the best entertainment, engaging consumers and adding to their experience.

8. FROM Consumers paying for traditional formats TO New business and revenue models

The cost of distributing digital formats is very low, and so consumers are less willing to pay for those formats as the music industry has discovered. We have already seen lots of interesting new approaches to generating revenue from entertainment, a great example is Spotify. Ad revenue is sure to play a role, but revenue can also come from consumers paying for new formats as I discussed in this previous post. Kevin Kelly has come up with a great list of ways to innovate to add value to media so that it is worth paying for.

So that is my list, I am sure there are many more, love to hear about it if there is something I have missed…..

Branded Entertainment – doomed to failure

There is a big problem with the current buzz about branded entertainment. Branded entertainment is doomed to failure.

For sure consumers want to be entertained. And brands want to engage them. So what could be more sensible than creating branded entertainment? Well the trouble is that the phrase branded entertainment implies entertainment that is different from that which we all choose to consume normally. And by different I mean worse.

Because the opportunity with branded entertainment is to create something more engaging than a TV commercial isn’t it? And that bar is set really low. So if a brand is involved then it is OK for the entertainment to be a little less entertaining than normal right? At least it’s not an ad. Lucky consumers!

I was at a presentation the other day, and someone was talking through some research they had done into this topic. They presented VCCP’s excellent “Compare the Meerkat” campaign as an example of branded entertainment. No doubt it is an excellent campaign and really entertaining but WTF? I cannot imagine many people sitting down at 10pm, after having done an extra couple of hours of emails/cooking dinner/caring for pets and children/conversing with loved ones, then choosing to spend an hour of their precious evening watching Alexander the meerkat go “simples” on repeat. The point is that this use of the phrase branded entertainment ensures that it comes to mean entertainment that is inherently substandard.

The real challenge is to create something more entertaining than the entertainment we actually choose to consumer. Like X Factor, or American Idol, or True Blood or The Wire etc etc. If brands had in mind being better than the entertainment that consumers do choose, rather than just being better than advertising then they might work a bit harder to create something worth watching. They might think about how they could play a meaningful role and add value to the consumer’s experience. They should think – how is entertainment changing and how can I play a positive active role in that? How can I distribute content, how can I curate, nurture and support the creation of content, how can my brand entertain? Eurostar’s role in the creation of Shane Meadow’s film Somers Town is a good example, they should be proud that they were involved and didn’t mess up the film (although for some reason they held back from talking about their role).

Another good example of an attempt to get this relationship right is the work of RSA and Ag8 with their Purefold project. I am very interested to see how that project goes. And I also found their emphasis on investment in production rather than distribution really made sense in the internet age. It is in stark contrast to the traditional P+G style approach of minimising non-working spend vs working spend. If you invest in making the content really good, and create a meme, then you might be able to spend less on distributing it (so long as you get your social media strategy right and remember that distribution isn’t as simple as just posting something online).

Brands have the luxury of not needing to worry too much about monetising the content they make if it is used for marketing or promotional purposes, but maybe this is danger as well. Perhaps we would all do well to think, is this sufficiently entertaining for someone to want to pay for it, or at least spend that precious hour of their evening enjoying it…..?

In my next post I am going to continue the entertainment theme with – the seven ways entertainment is changing

How the shared experience of entertainment replaces the church

I have often wondered why we all love the shared experience of entertainment. Nothing beats chatting to your friends or work colleagues about Susan Boyle or meeting another The Wire fanatic. I came across this quote in Alain de Botton’s Status Anxiety, and for me it sums up incredibly well that shared experience. Just replace the church description and imagery with that of The X Factor and you will see what I mean…..

“We might imagine joining an unfamiliar congregation within the walls of a cathedral to hear Bach’s Mass in B Minor. Much may separate us: age, income, clothes, and background. We may never have spoken to one another and be wary of letting others catch our gaze. But as the Mass begins, so too does a process of social alchemy. The music gives expression to feelings that had hitherto seemed inchoate and private, and our eyes may fill with tears of relief and gratitude that the composer and musicians have made audible, and hence available to us and others, the movements of our souls. Violins, voices, flutes, double basses, oboes, bassoons and trumpets combine to create sounds that exteriorize the most intimate, elusive areas of our psyches. Furthermore, the public nature of the performance helps us to realize that if others are responding as we are to the music then they cannot be the incomprehensible figures we might previously have imaginged them to be.”

What brands can learn about business from TED

Last week Campaign magazine ran a piece about what agencies can learn from TED, focusing of course on the wonderful and diverse ideas from the week.

So I thought I would write a short post about what brands can learn about business as a final comment on TED.

Firstly, I think that TED shows the power of ideas to drive enterprise. If you focus on the idea behind a business rather than money, and make that idea different, beautifully executed and accessible, then the money will take care of itself. The question shouldn’t be how do we make more money, rather how do we increase the value of what we do for consumers.

Second, I think that TED shows us that talk is cheap. It is the easiest thing in the world to talk about something. But the speakers at TED were all doing something about their idea as well. They were taking action, going out into the world and making it happen. And really that is what counts, making something of your idea, differentiating it from the rest and not letting it languish on paper. I would imagine that many banks thought up customer service like First Direct’s in a brainstorm, that there are many dowdy fashion labels who dreamt of reinventing themselves like Burberry and many sneaker brands who have quoted “Just Do It” in a powerpoint chart and then not done it. The people we admire have remembered Edison’s famous quote “genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration”.

Thirdly, TED shows the value of a diverse range of influences and inputs. Creativity, innovation and enterprise are stimulated by applying ideas from field to another. Consider the work of one of the TED Fellows, Frederick Balagadde . He has developed an innovative way of reducing the costs of HIV testing by applying the principles of semiconductors and micro computing to lab testing and so automating the process. It is very hard to learn something new if you are surrounded by the same influences every day.

Finally, TED shows the importance of collaboration and team work – A very obvious point but again worth remembering. On stage at TED, we saw a succession of individuals on stage talking about their work. But in the majority of cases that work had been done or made possible by the efforts and skills of a team of people. Individual genius is very tempting to believe in, but very rare. Teamwork is important, not because it makes people feel better or it is part of being a good manager, teamwork is important because that is the best way of making amazing things happen.

Day 3 at TED – the day of criticism

So Day 3 at TED seemed to be the day of criticism, both the speakers and the listeners seemed to have embraced a slightly more cynical side than the usual exuberant optimism of the other days.

There was one notable exception, the response to a young guy from Sudan, Emmanuel Jal. Emmanuel was a child soldier, rescued by an aid worker Emma McCune. Emmanuel told us his story, and then sang/rapped about Emma and his plan to build her school in her honour. It was powerful stuff, and many people were moved to tears during the course of the standing ovation. Over lunch the National Postcode Lottery, offered a 10 grand prize for the audience to donate to a charity of their choice and Emmanuel’s school was the unanimous choice. This is typical of the TED experience, unbounded optimism and positivity and it is great to be wrapped up in it.

However there were a few strands of negativity and gloom throughout day’s talks.

The most light hearted of those negative strands was Rory Bremner, who, as is his wont took the piss out of everyone from the organiser of TED Chris Anderson to Gordon Brown. It was great to be reminded of Brown’s hypocritical side as Rory pointed out a few of the ways that he has failed to act to solve the world’s problems when he has had the chance which nicely punctured the two standing ovations he had received 2 days earlier. Seeing the other side of the story was a theme in many other of the days’ talks. We saw a range of photos from Taryn Simon that captured people who had suffered false imprisonment as a result of mistaken identity, where very often they had been indentified in a very suspect way cooked up by the police. We heard a story about stories from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, based on her upbringing in Nigeria. Chimamanda pointed out the importance of where you choose to start the story in how history gets remembered. And we heard from both an economist and a journalist about the unseen economics and organisations of crime and terrorism and their direct link to the global economic crisis.

There were also few strands of negativity and gloom from the listeners too.

We also heard from Jim Balog of the Extreme Ice Survey, a photographer who has captured, using time lapse cameras, the retreating of glacial ice around the world. His point was to try to visualise and make tangible the impact of climate change to convince people of how real the problem is. Jim didn’t get a standing ovation, which was nothing to do with his work which is obviously extremely valuable and relevant. My suspicion is that part of the reason is that most people accept that climate change is an issue and people are kind of fed up with having the problem thrust in their face with no attempt to suggest any solutions. It is a deep and complex problem, and simply raising awareness of it is too shallow a response. Or maybe that’s just me?

I spoke to a couple of other fellow audience members who voiced a little negativity as well. The rarefied atmosphere at TED can get a little cultish at times, and the negativity being voiced was a reaction against taking the ideas in the talks at face value rather than as a starting point for enquiry and debate. I think most people loved the exposure to such a wide variety of fascinating topics, but also felt the desire to go a little deeper into those topics.

For me that was the biggest lesson of the day, the pursuit and sharing of knowledge is obviously a good thing, but only when it is the start of something, not the end. You can never really know the whole story, and first impressions can be misleading. And while positivity and optimism must be good things, it mustn’t be mindless optimism, ignoring or sidestepping the challenges, trade offs or side effects of the actions we take. Finally, at the risk of seeming tenuous in the extreme, I think the lessons for marketing are clear too. We must always try to understand the situation as well as we can and work hard to develop deep consumer insight. If we don’t our work will appear shallow, vacuous and un-engaging, you only need to glance at a commercial break to see how easy a trap that is to fall into.

Day 2 at TED, the spectacle of an ad man and a 90 year old woman winning over the audience…

Another fascinating day at TED, again impossible to summarise it all and I wont try, but we heard theories about the internet and extraterrestrial life, about neighbourhoods, bio diversity and bio mimicry, and symmetry in maths and the world from Marcus de Sautoy.

The highlights for me however were the quintessential ad man Rory Sutherland winning over the audience, and the antithesis of a scientist archtype, 90 year old Welshwoman Elaine Morgan enchanting the audience. Oh and rubbing shoulders with Cameron Diaz and getting smacked in the head by Meg Ryan’s bag added to the fun too.

I will start with Elaine Morgan. An author by trade she turned to evolutionary biology 30 years ago and has spent that time developing and championing and alternative view of our ancestry – Hardy’s aquatic ape theory . There is something very appealing in the idea of a self-educated, relative outsider challenging the entire scientific community. And Elaine definitely played up to that idea, being at pains to point out that practically no one agrees with her (notable exceptions Attenborough and Dan Dennett!) but that “history is strewn with occasions where everyone has been wrong”. That didn’t stop her argument being highly compelling. Basically the debate centres around the question- if we share nearly all of our genes with chimpanzees, why are so very different from them in phenotype?

The traditional theory is that our ancestors descended from the trees of the forest and started living in the savannah and so started walking upright on two legs. But that leaves a lot of stuff unexplained. Like why do you need to walk upright on the savannah when most other animals are quite happy on four legs? Like why are we naked? Why do we have fat under our skin? Why are we the only mammal to have conscious control of our breathing that lets us, among other things, hold our breath?

Elaine’s answer is that we evolved to be able to flourish in a wet environment perhaps forced on our ancesters by flooding. So we evolved to wade on two legs through shallow water, to swim unencumbered by hair, to be warmed by a layer of fat, and to hold our breath to dive. I’ve never heard of the aquatic ape theory before and I maybe you haven’t either, but it makes all sorts of sense to me. Humans seem drawn to and calmed by water. We love to build habitats by water, love swimming and exploring the oceans right from birth. It feels right that this psychological experience has some deprooted evolutionary explanation. Of course none of this has got anything to do with marketing, and in this blog I am trying to take interesting new ideas and technological changes and see how they inform marketing, but who cares – this sort of stuff is just plain fascinating…..

Rory Sutherland’s talk, on the other hand, had everything to do with marketing. To be honest I was worried that he was going to go down like a lead balloon, an evil ad man in a room filled with social entrepreneurs and do-gooders. But he played a blinder getting off to a great start with a gag about how he had just come from TED Evil, the conference run in China with talks about how to get teens smoking again.

Rory positioned marketing and advertising as a means to create intangible value. And that creating intangible value is a way of creating economic calue and growth without needing to increase material consumption. Not to mention the fact that it is easier and more effective to change perception than reality. He used some fun examples of rebranding to demonstrate the power of perception over reality. Firstly Frederick the Great’s rebranding of the potato as a royal treasure that needed guarding in order to encourage the population to eat more of them. Secondly Kemal Ataturk’s discouragement of veil wearing by making it compulsory for prostitutes. He also talked briefly about the role of the interface through which you make a decision in infiuencing the decision you make, a theory developed by Thaler and Sunstein in their book Nudge , on which I drafted a separate post a while back so watch this space for that.

But his main point really was that this intangible value or change in perception is not as critics might want to try to convince us, hollow and meaningless. But rather a totally valid way of seeing, experiencing and enjoying the world. It chimed in many ways with Alain de Botton’s TED talk from yesterday (see my earlier post) and in fact it turns out that the campaign to celebrate giving new meaning to humble things, the www.reallyrichlist.com, is something that Rory is involved in. He ended with a great quote from GK Chesterton. “We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders”

So another thought provoking day, and don’t forget to check out the music of Imogen Heap live music that sounds like the work of months in a sound studio……