An old friend from my CyberEvent Group days was cleaning and found some of our old files. It was a lot of fun to reminisce about the work that we did back then. We learned a lot about what makes VR work back then and much of that learning is still applicable today. Have fun looking through a little history!
I've been spending time back in the world of VR again and have been looking at what's happening today through the lens of 20+ years of VR experience. I feel like we're where we were in the mid-90's with VR. Lots of talk, media coverage and experimentation. People trying to figure out how to move beyond games or very short form content. With many of the major film festivals adding some kind of VR event, we're starting to see some interesting content being developed. Although much of what I saw at Tribeca FF was interesting, edgy and experimental, it wouldn't have the mass audience appeal needed to drive VR mainstream. That's not to say artistic experimentation is bad or shouldn't be done, just that it's not the content that drives big, consumer engagement.
And while the tech needs to be further developed, it's not what's holding VR back as much as I think people feel it is. I have put tens of thousands of people through VR experiences and I rarely heard complaints about refresh rates or field of view. Not to say it doesn't happen, but people are much more excited about the possibilities than they are frustrated by the limitations. The average consumer is still much more excited about the potential. They key is for the content to be created with those limitations in mind. For example, I see many VR experiences where the action takes place in front of the viewer, rather than taking advantage of the 360 degree experience VR affords. So people don't understand the unique value that VR can bring to content.
Today, we're also focusing mainly on the visual elements of VR, with some 360 sound starting to come into the experiences. People like Jacki Morie are starting to explore how smell might be added to VR experiences and as tactile feedback gets better, that will increase engagement within VR experiences as well.
By next year, we should see some significant additions to the content available. Google Daydream launched this fall, bringing with it a new set of tools to create VR experiences. They're also looking at hardware like camera rigs, that will make it much easier for companies to create VR content.
Ready Player One in production for 2018 release, and that should drive a great deal of interest and hype into how VR will impact our daily lives. I would also guess that other movies will come with some great promotional efforts, helping to drive VR more into the mainstream. As with production tech in general, the cost will decrease and the quality will increase, making it much easier for people to make and share content.
On the plus side, you also have a group of Gen Z'ers coming up that played Poptropica and the online version of Beanie Baby's (I know our household spent heavily for my daughter to play this online) and who totally understand what VR can do. As Google, the NY Times, NatGeo and others continue to build content for education, we will continue to train future audiences about the power of VR. Waag Society in Amsterdam built a cool education experience a few years back that allowed students to go to specific spoke in Amsterdam and see what that spot looked like in the past (I believe the 1600's). We'll see lots more of those educational experiences in the future as well.
As for what it needs to overcome, first is the stigma that it's a gaming tool. If people are primarily hearing about game applications, they won't be looking for ways to incorporate VR into their everyday lives. Yes, the HMD'S need to get better and smaller, there is still some resistance to put it on for some segments of the population. The biggest obstacle is compelling content that takes us from gaming into education, training, virtual tourism and other areas where people see real value.
A lot of ad agency people I spoke to in the past were intimated by the process of creating a VR experience. The trick is understanding the non-linear aspects of VR. And in the advertising world, that's an enormous, cognitive leap for people used to building stories that go from a to b to c.
Yes, VR has really come a long way since I first got involved and it's really exciting to look at where it will be in the very near future.
A few days ago, another video surfaced of a woman berating a cashier at Michael's. She went on for quite some time and the video has been viewed over 4 million times since it was put up. Later, David Armano asked if it was appropriate to continue to shame her and what the appropriate response was to what she had done. Many people were passing around her name, address, etc., and people have raised over $22K for their cashier involved.
In part because I was part of the Glass Explorers program (I wore Google Glass every day), and in part due to all of the privacy debates happening right now, I’ve been thinking about Big Brother vs. Little Brother in today’s society. Now, I don’t remember where I first saw the term Little Brother, but it was used to describe what happens when regular people are recording everything you do, not the government. And that started me thinking about the role of context in this discussion.
I’m not going to debate today whether or not the government should be doing what it clearly has been doing, that’s for a much longer post, but let me start with this premise. It is the hope, that the government is doing what it’s doing with some sort of context happening. That it is using the data it’s collecting and reviewing to look for patterns that might indicate potential problems. Yes, I know that there are a lot of issues with this and I do not mean to gloss them over. But for the sake of this discussion, think about the patterns they’re looking for. It’s about putting your actions into context, so that they have the opportunity to make us safe.
Little Brother, however, is not about context at all. It’s about taking a moment in time and making that the whole story. So it’s the woman who videotaped her experience in Dunkin’ Donuts and ended up making herself look bad. Who knows, maybe she had lots of bad experiences there (although everything indicates she did not), and this one time, she was not being herself. But that’s now we all see her. There is no context at all.
And that's what happens with your brand too. You can have thousands of great customer interactions, but thanks to Little Brother, that one bad experience is now how everyone see's you. And without context, the audience doesn't know what lead up to the experience they're watching.
Are you prepared for Little Brother? Thanks to everyone having cameras on their phones and things like Google Glass coming into the mainstream, Little Brother is growing every day. As I said in Really, You Do Control the Message:
People amplify the message you start. Start with a great message and that's what people will amplify. Have a bad message and that's what they'll pass along.
And thanks to SM, people can really amplify that message today. I use to enjoy watching people on "Smile, You're on Candid Camera" and watching all of those crazy reactions. Well, today, you still have to keep smiling, but the camera is no longer hidden! Are you ready for your candid close-up? Is your brand?
As a new home-owner, there are things I needed to get to take care of the house. One was a lawnmower, which we purchased from a large retailer near our house. I decided to get an electric mower and finally found the one I was looking for after going to several of their locations. Got it, brought it home and was able to cut almost the entire lawn off the charge that was already in the battery. Put it in the charger and waited for the battery to recharge so I could finish. Never did, so I went back to swap the battery out. Although this should've been a simple task, it wasn't. The first location I went to, where I had not purchased the mower, told me the only thing I could do there was to return the mower. They didn't have any more of the one we purchased in stock. Other locations did, but not once did they offer to have it shipped from another store so that they could just swap it out.
So I went to the store where I made the initial purchase and they had the mower in stock. But even here, they didn't offer to do anything but let me return the mower and then buy another one. Not even an attempt to try and help me in the least. They could've offered to swap the batteries and handle the return themselves, but they just seemed to want to get me out of the store.
So, although I did get it from the same store, I ended up ordering a different model. And I even did that on my phone, they weren't much help with that either. I'm waiting for that one to be delivered and hopefully, it will work better than the last one.
I buy certain items in store because if I need help, I want to be able to just go back to the store. If that's not going to happen, then there's no reason for me to buy in the store. If all you're going to do is tell me to return it, I can do that from an online seller. I came to you in case I needed service
If you don't have the item in your store, but another location does, don't make me drive all over town to get it. Have it sent from that store, make my life easier.
Retailers continue to keep stores open, but they don't really support them as they should. They're usually grossly understaffed and the staff they do have don't seem to either know much or even want to be there. I'm a big believer in physical stores, but they have to actually have to serve a different purpose. They can't just be crappy versions of an online store.
If you want me to buy in store, instead of online, you need to give me a reason to do that. It could be price, although honestly, that's a losing proposition. Someone can always sell for less. Or you could provide me with superior service. But not giving me a great price and giving me lousy service? That's just a recipe for failure.
So very proud of Sydney & William as they once again presented their Conversations with Digital Natives session for the NY Daily News during their recent Conversations event. Eric Hunter covered my role during this session and did a great job handling the many questions they received during the program. We understand that they had more questions at then even than at any other event they've presented! And Sydney & William handled it all! We're going to continue updating the content and we'll let you know when we're doing our next event.
I do a fair amount of shopping at Duluth Trading Company and always enjoy their products. In fact, I just got an order of their jeans today and, their Buck Naked underwear was featured in Business Insider today.
But, like all companies, sometimes something goes wrong. So, a while back, I ordered some new versions of pants that I have been wearing for some time. I didn't check size or anything, they're pants I usually live in, so I know how they fit. Took them to the tailors and had them hemmed and I was all set to wear them when they came back.
To my surprise, these pants didn't fit me at all. They were the exact same size as my previous pairs and I wear them weekly, so I knew I still fit in them. But something was wrong. Reading through the comments, it seems that a few people complained that they seemed to be cut tighter than the previous versions. Normally, I would just return them, but I had already had them hemmed, so I figured I was out of luck.
I reached out to Duluth to see what my options were, if any. I told them very clearly that I had already taken them in to get hemmed, so I wasn't actually expecting much. To my surprise, here's how they responded:
Here at Duluth Trading, we offer a "No Bull" Guarantee – if you are not 100% satisfied with any item you purchase from Duluth Trading, return it to us at any time for a refund of its purchase price - even if you have had them altered.
That's a company that stands behind it's products. It's not a 10 day return policy, or a 30 day return policy. It's not a "merchandise must be in its original condition" return policy. It's use it, don't like it, return it policy. Now, for these policies to work, both companies and customers have to work together. Companies can only offer policies like this when the great majority of their customers respect it. And that mutual respect is what makes great, retail relationships.
BTW, here are other retailers that also have excellent return policies. It's so much better to spend your money with companies who deliver great experiences!
This post started when I saw a tweet about this article on Econsultancy on being customer centric and how important it is for companies today. I thought that article was well done, so my issue is not with their content or the position it takes. My problem is that it's 2015 and if you're just starting to ask how you can be more consumer centric, it might already be too late. I mean seriously, how can you be running a business today and think that being customer-centric is a new idea???
Back in the day when most businesses were local, this was just how you did it. If you were the local butcher, you served your customers. The local florist or grocer, you served your customers. If you didn't carry the goods that you're audience wanted, you didn't sell things. If you didn't treat your customers well, they didn't buy from you. It wasn't some big, mysterious thing that required consultants teaching you how to do it, You just did.
My gut is that as companies stopped being local, that's when this change started. And, as I've written about before in No Man Can Serve Two Masters, I think it was really accelerated when businesses changed who they were serving, going from the customer to the shareholder. As I wrote then:
And unfortunately, these two masters are diametrically opposed to one another. The biggest challenge comes from the fact that shareholders, as a rule, don't really care about anything other then very short term results. Need to make the numbers for the month, just cut expenses. Quarter looking soft, layoff a bunch of people. It's all short term for them. And their only concern is making money, nothing else matters.
But, this is how most companies think. Their C-level staff is trying to serve those two masters and, not surprisingly, they're devoted to the shareholders and the customer ends up being despised. Too often, the C-level staff doesn't even care what the brand is. Didn't a study show that the average tenure of a CMO was 18 months? Well, that means they're only working about 14 month, because they're spending the last 4 months looking for their new gig. And when the C-level staff doesn't really care about the brand, there's no way the frontline staff is going to care.
What's interesting is that there are great examples out there of companies that do well for their customers and that's what drives shareholder value. I don't think that just focusing on shareholders will ever create the same value, not in the long terms anyway. I don't know how to change this focus, but one would think the large number of companies who have gone out of business trying to make Wall Street happy instead of their customers, would be enough incentive for companies to look at customers first.
We're very excited to be heading back to Norway next week to bring our Conversations with Digital Natives presentation to the Media Forum. They have a great line up of speakers, as well as some great evening events, so we're really excited to be invited to participate. Plus, we get to stay in both a cool resort in the mountains as well as spending the weekend in Oslo. Let me know if by chance, you'll be there too!
Media Forum is an industry organization that will work purposefully and visibly to display advertising and ad media's role in wealth creation and build an attractive venue for networking and professional development with a focus on marketing and communication. Media Forum will contribute to skills development and knowledge sharing that gives each individual member dividends and benefits in the workplace and in their careers.
We're still having some video issues, but here's the video for our presentation at SXSW 2015. We'll do more editing and break it down into smaller segments, but if you have an hour to spend, it'll be well worth your time!
Yes, the Panel Picker is now open for SXSW 2016 and we're getting together our proposal for Teens Talk 2, More Conversations with Digital Natives. We had a great session this year and we're looking to make 2016 even better. And we'd like your help!
We want to add 2-3 people to expand the panel beyond Sydney & WIlliam, to get better geographic and demographic diversity. So if you know someone under 18 who would be a good addition to the panel, please let me know. They don't need to be tech geeks, we're looking to really understand how teens of all kinds are using tech.
Any new participants will need to be prepared to put in the prep time if we get picked and help us expand the survey to their friends. And, of course, they will need to join us in Austin next March for the session! If you know anyone, please email me with why they would make a great addition to our team!
We would also love your input for additional topics to cover during the session. If you'd like to see what we covered in 2015, you can click here to download the full presentation or go to here to see a quick overview of what they talked about. What topics would be important to cover? What are the trends you'd like them to discuss? Please feel free to leave a comment here or again, email me with any ideas.
We got a really great response to our session this year and want to make our 2016 even better. We appreciate your help and thoughts and hopefully we'll see you in Austin again next year!