Sunday, 1 May 2016

Who's the disabled one around hear?

I love being 'nearly' deaf (Caveat being that I have enough residual hearing to be able to hear most things with the help of my hearing aids).

But I get the option of whether to put them in or not....this means I can live in my lovely quiet World until I actively opt-in to being able to hear what is going on around me.

I sleep undisturbed, even though the flat above is apparently noisy.
I travel undisturbed, even though my fellow commuters are apparently noisy.
I work undisturbed, even though my colleagues are apparently noisy.
I live my life undisturbed, even though life is apparently noisy.
Peace and quiet is an underrated state. I love it....

I don't consider my inability to cope with a hands-free conference call a bad thing....

I don't consider the need to say 'pardon?' several times to the quietly-spoken a chore....

I don't consider gloriously mis-answering a mis-heard question an embarrassment....

And I don't consider the ongoing frustration of people (who have known me long enough to know better) over my failure to hear them if I can't see their mouth move at the same time to be my failure, but rather theirs...

To the point that I genuinely now consider ably-eared people the disabled ones (not the other way round, as I have grown up being labelled....)

Disabled from shutting off the noise.
Disabled from uninterrupted focus.
Disabled from living a quiet, peaceful day-to-day life.

A controversial opinion, of course. And never, ever to underplay the challenges met by the profoundly deaf.
But please stop defaulting to sympathy and the expectation of struggle and adversity for my condition....I'm pretty sure my life is more peaceful than yours ;)

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Is 'Omni-Channel' the correct term? I don't think so!

The term Omni-Channel Marketing has continued to gather momentum, having first been coined 3 or 4 years ago in response to the continued evolution of Multi-Channel Marketing to envelope an ever-increasing number of digital-savvy consumers, using an ever-increasing diversification of devices, to access an ever-growing online marketplace.

When I first heard the term ‘Omni-Channel’, it jarred somewhat – it didn’t feel right. Every time I heard someone cite it in a keynote or interview, it made my lip curl, but having not invested the brain cells to consider why it invoked this intrinsic reaction, I filed it away for later.

I recently had the luxury of a few hours thinking time, having been delayed at the crushingly boring Newark airport for several hours, and I realised that the issue is a simple one; its the incorrect term for the product – it’s NOT ‘Omni-Channel’ – its Multi-Channel Marketing delivering an ‘Omni-Experience’.

Marketing is no longer solely a push activity, and hasn’t been for several years; advocates of the Omni-Channel term explain it as putting the consumer in the middle and delivering a seamless brand experience (which is strategically correct) but, with regards to the terminology, putting the consumer in the middle surely means that the marketing delivery needs to be termed in line with the receiving experience, not the channel approach?

The emergence of the term Omni-Channel only serves to prove that those using it still fail to grasp the central position of power of the consumers behaviour in this increasingly digitally enabled world.

Consumers engage with your brand in different ways according to the way they choose – because the channel they select will be the most relevant to that particular  engagement – they won’t turn on their desktop to give you a call, any more than they’ll use their mobile data allowance to spend an hour window shopping on your site when they have their office desktop and a lunchtime to hand.

Omni-Channel as a noun is therefore missing the mark – it fails to grasp the fact that the tactical provision for each individual channel should actually be different; not consolidated, whilst sitting within an overarching brand marketing strategy that delivers seamless relevance (and a great Omni-Experience) to the consumer.

You need to study the user to establish the way they use different channels, and importantly, devices, according to their context and desire.

No mean feat, with more scenarios than you can shake an Omni-stick at.

Top Shelf Issues

I am 5’2 3/4” tall, and have been since I was 12. I have proportionate length arms. I don’t consider myself to be exceptionally short… in fact I would guess that there are several million similarly built people in the UK. I happen to think of myself as independent and self-sufficient… until I have to do the weekly food shop.

The ‘Big Four’ supermarkets spend millions of pounds every year on refining the shopping experience for their customers, in what is one of the most competitive retail environments in the world. Our custom is worth billions of pounds a year. They have CX consultants, cognitive and behavioural scientists, and labs to run focus groups and trials specifically designed to put the customer in the middle of their in-store experience.

So tell me this - why do they place up to 25% of their products on shelves that are so high and deep that I cannot reach them?

In the past month alone, I have visited Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, and have had to engage the help of either a member of staff or a fellow, taller, customer to help me obtain a product that I cannot autonomously reach; a multipack of crisps in Sainsbury’s; a packet of broccoli in Waitrose; a bottle of tonic water in Morrisons and a bottle of oven cleaner in Tesco.

I shouldn’t have to deploy my problem-solving skills just to complete a mundane household chore…

… and don’t even get me started on the issue of standard-fit kitchen cupboards - but at least I can climb on a chair and retrieve the ‘best’ saucers without having to ask someone else to assist.

Happy Feet by Design

Instagram has captured the imagination of a generations – not only the newer, digital generation, but also my generation – those who grew up in the ’60s and ’70s, by which time photography was accessible to the average family, but the experience was something to savour and much less spontaneous than today’s relationship with the camera. 

Cameras used to be film-fed, and each shot was a commitment, subtracting 1 from the precious few frames remaining on the film. Once you’d finished the film – often several weeks or special events after taking the first shot – you would take it to a shop and wait another week while the photos were developed; little squares of glossy treasure.

You couldn’t tell whether you’d taken a good picture, or put your finger in front of the lens, or cut someone’s head off until after the photos were developed and paid for. The whole thing – from first shot to excited first look – was a protracted and special experience, rewarded by a handful of paper photos that you then lovingly added to a scrapbook using sticky tape or little adhesive corners.

Everyone knew someone who had a Polaroid camera, which was truly a thing of wonder – the shot was taken, and the photo gloriously delivered in a matter of seconds through a slot in the base of the camera in a magical, white-bordered flourish of (almost) instant photostatic gratification.

Kids with cameras in the ’60s and ’70s, dreaming – or not – of a burgeoning photographic career, would mostly frame the mundane; or point and shoot at anything that happened to be in front of us at the time – faces, food, pets, feet, clouds, flowers in your grandparents garden. But a finished roll of film bought you a ticket to the main event – the experience of waiting, anticipating, basking in the fruits of your creativity, reliving moments just passed and, finally, ordering them and arranging them and putting them on display. The photos themselves would, by today’s baseline standard, be considered low quality – grainy, shaky focus, poor clarity, na├»ve colours and restricted in virtually every attribute.

Fast forward 30 years; the age of (actual) instant photostatic gratification – not just mobile phones, but mobile phones that connect to the internet, and that have inbuilt cameras. No more film, no more waiting to see the shot, no more cost and time of development barring your access to the product. We can take photos in high resolution, crop them, resize them, rotate, flip and overlay them.

Instagram connected these two worlds, dragging the nostalgia of the former into the miracle of the latter. If you look at the common themes in photos published by a broad set of users, those delightfully banal object studies have re-emerged; faces, flowers, the sky, food, and a bewildering number of shots of people’s own feet. All filtered through sentimental, prefab themes that faithfully reproduce our less sophisticated, analogue output from the early ’70s – even that little square format – as if to do away with the whole magical bag of tricks afforded to today’s technology-driven, retouch-obsessed society.

In doing so, Instagram’s neatly-design technology has engaged a unique set of seemingly unconnected constituents. The result is addictive and quite thrilling; an emotional ride through nostalgia, creativity, childhood places, convenience, belonging, sharing… and, oddly, feet.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Do you know what size shoes your Agencys' Technical Director wears?

Agency infrastructures have changed significantly over the last couple of years. To over-simplify the issue: traditional agencies have had to make the first attempts at integrating digital disciplines, and digital agencies have had to adapt to the reality of trying to deliver bespoke builds against fixed price project models.
Both challenges are difficult, on a commercial and organisational level, and most will fail and fail again in their quest to achieve the holy grail of truly achieving Multi-channel integration, creativity, efficiency, quality and innovation.
The 2 challenges are inherently different from an operational point of view, but there is a significant common factor that the success of both rely on – the person who holds the role of Tech lead.
Historically (removing the relationship sales model from the equation), an Agency has defined and sold its product based on the talent and leadership of their Creative Director. Show me a Client who has hired an Agency without having met, vetted, and bought into the ideation of the Creative Director. However, can the same be said for the Technical Director?
The Technical Director is the person responsible for the big decisions and organisational, procedural and prescriptive ownership that are the key to the successful scoping and delivery of any technology product i.e. digital platforms/channels/objects. They are responsible for ensuring the product is built in a robust, scalable form; that converging technologies are compatible; that your data is secure and that your product is stable. This is a big ask. It’s also a rare person who fills those shoes successfully. As rare as the most talented Creative Director.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Starlight Walk 2011 - missing a trick?

On Saturday, I joined over 1000 other women of all ages to walk the annual Starlight Walk in support of Watfords Peace Hospice.

There were 2 route options; a 6 mile and a 13 mile.

Now, I'm all for Charity events, and understand the need for a novelty factor to ensure these events stand out in the crowd - starting at midnight on a Saturday cannot in my mind be construed as 'novelty' in the fun sense (as surely 9pm is a more sociable hour and prevents the unavoidable hurdles of negotiating the drunken hoards of Watford Town Centres' tequila generation), but it certainly reflects the Starlight theme accurately.

However, the second core theme to this event has left me slightly bemused....

It's a 'women only' event.

Why? Watfords Peace Hospice is as appropriate a cause to both men and women equally. It's very being is non-prejudice as to the gender of people it cares for - both the residents and their loved ones.

It's not like Breast Cancer Awareness which disporportionately afflicts Women, so money raising events therefore often use this as their novelty factor.

The Starlight Walk suffered a drop in participants this year, and they had to employ extra PR to drum up a last minute subscriptions to the event, plus adding the 6 mile route option, fearing the longer 13 mile route may be a deterrent.

Surely the key to populating this event is far more obvoius - open it up to the other half of the population that may also have an emotional or physical affinity to the cause.

Or am I missing something?

Thursday, 28 October 2010

What is Foursquare and why is it important for your business?

When I talk to people about Foursquare, I am somewhat surprised by the amount of otherwise commercially-minded people who don’t ‘get’ it, and ask “but what’s the point?”

So I’m going to position it in the world of B2C SME businesses.

Firstly, a quick summary of what Foursquare is without using the geotagging/microblogging jargon of the digital day:

Foursquare is an application that users download onto their smartphone. It enables the user to ‘check-in’ to locations that they visit, a bit like putting a tick next to the yellow pages listing of the bar they happen to be sitting in (let’s name is X Bar). When they check-in to the X Bar, it can instigate a number of stimuli that have different purposes, including the collection of points for adding new venues, travelling geographically from your last check-in, number of check-ins that day etc.

However, the 2 most significant user experiences are:

1. As gameplay – they can collect badges in response to certain check-in behaviours. For example, if their check-in at X Bar is their 4th check-in at different bars that evening, they earn the questionable accolade of the ‘crunked’ badge. It’s a bit like collecting Boy Scout badges, but they sit on the users Foursquare profile page instead of sewn onto their shirt sleeve.
They can also compete to become the ‘Mayor’ of that bar – if they are the person who checks in to that bar most frequently over a certain period of time, they are crowned the Mayor of that bar until they get toppled by a more frequent foursquare visitor.

2. As a social network – users can link themselves to fellow Foursquare ‘friends’ in the same way as you do on Facebook; as opposed to tracking the mood/comments/status updates of your Friends, Foursquare enables you to track their actual physical location. This means you could be sat in X-bar, and be able to see (via your Foursquare dashboard) that your best mate is there in the bar too, but out of sight; in the beer garden maybe. However, in a nod to privacy, this functionality is also easily cloaked – the user has to select as part of the check-in whether their location is actually published. They have to opt-in to the Foursquare update appearing on their Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare status, so if you can see where they are, it’s because they have specifically chosen to tell you.

So that’s it from a user interaction perspective, but it’s the commercial insight and marketing opportunity that this platform provides that is so incredibly powerful.

Now imagine that you are actually the owner of X Bar.

Foursquare gives you the visibility of:

• Who your customer is; in real life – it even shows you their picture, and in many cases, their real name

• How often they visit your business

• Who they are with when they visit your business

• What time of day they visit your business

• Through the use of the ‘tips’ part of the application, they can even tell you (and every other Foursquare user) specifically what they like (and, crucially DON’T like) about your business

All of the above are valuable, tangible channels for customer insight, interaction, Marketing and loyalty initiative opportunities. A good example of an early adopter of Foursquare as a loyalty platform is Domino’s Pizza – they offered free pizza to the ‘Mayor’ of that branch every Wednesday.

The future possibilities of applications such as foursquare are incredibly exciting for businesses, and SME’s should adopt it as a low-cost, highly targeted tool, and ignore it at their absolute peril; in the world of publishable feedback, they can easily damage your online and offline reputation by posting examples of bad customer service/product or any other B2C fail specifically to your actual listing in the user generated and ever growing directory. If you have several branches, a user can publish that the branch at, for example, Westminster, has a rude Manager, or that the coffee isn’t good.

Equally, people can applaud your service/staff/product and become a champion of your business. This feedback works in a similar way to your website’s Google ‘natural search’ rankings – people trust other people’s opinions/content more than paid-for marketing messages.

Technology enabled social applications such as Foursquare are here to stay – they are portable, as they exist on peoples mobile phones; they are payment and subscription-free, and useful on a personal and social level for the user. They are also, in their nature and relevance to today’s world, highly integrative into the Users lifestyle.

‘Get it?’