Legacy effects

Earlier this week Seth Godin blogged about legacy issues. He stated that “The faster your industry moves, the more likely others are willing to live without the legacy stuff and create a solution that’s going to eclipse what you’ve got, legacies and all.”

That might be true, but legacy effects are just as prevalent on the consumer side as the production side, and they should be recognised and incorporated as far as possible.

For instance, early digital cameras didn’t contain a shutter sound. After all, it doesn’t need one – the noise was merely a byproduct of the analogue mechanism. Nevertheless, early users felt a disconnect – the noise had let them know when their photo had been taken. Hence digital cameras all now have the option for the shutter sound to be incorporated.

Legacy effects are also present in our naming conventions – records, films and so on. I suspect this may also soon apply to the device we carry around in our pockets and handbags.

Our contracts and pay as you go credits are currently with phone companies, and so the “mobile phone” name still makes sense, even when on smartphones the phone is “just another app” (and not a regularly used one at that). But with Google looking at unlocked handsets, and the introduction of cashless payments through NFC, the business models may soon be changing. I suspect that if Visa starts selling devices that allow you to make payments as well as contact people, they will initially call it a “mobile phone” rather than a “mobile wallet”.

Behaviours are also subject to legacy effects – our habitual purchases that we continue to make without consideration. Some companies (like AOL) benefit from it, while others can suffer. For instance, I have only recently purchased a Spotify subscription and am considering a Love Film trial. From a purely economic standpoint I should have done this a long time ago, but I’ve been wedded to the idea of needing to own something tangible. Digital distribution means this isn’t necessarily the best option anymore (I type this as I look at shelves full of DVDs that I will need to transport when moving flat).

Consumers on the business-to-business side aren’t immune from this either – witness the continued reliance on focus groups or a thirty-second spot. These are undoubtedly still effective in the right circumstances, but some budget holders can be extremely reticent to leave traditional tried and trusted methods even when faced with reliable evidence than an alternative could prove more effective.

So while some companies can benefit from removing their legacy attributes early, doing so too early may be counterproductive. The comfort of sticking with what one knows can be very powerful, no matter how irrational it can seem.

sk

Perspective bias and the anchoring effect

Anchoring is a cognitive trait that causes us to rely too heavily on certain pieces of information when making a decision, such as an up-until-then trusted brand name selling us a lemon.

Perspective bias is a form of subjectivity or self-selection where we are unable to divorce our own prejudices and experiences from a decision.

Both exist. Both are prevalent. And both cause problems.

When you are a researcher, you need to ensure all information is communicated clearly. This could be rewording technical jargon, removing colloquialisms or introducing cultural as well as literal translation for foreign language work. For instance, if you want to know about the video on demand market and the effects of Hulu among US residents then you shouldn’t use the phrase video on demand. That’s pay per view. Hulu is online video.

When you are a design engineer, you need to realise that someones opinion of your new product is going to be rooted in what they already know. While this new flat-screen TV may be twice the size of my old CRT, it takes a bit longer to start. This new laptop may have high-speed wi-fi and bluetooth, but the keys are a bit harder to type on. This car has great handling, but where is the cup holder?

When you are a metropolitan advertising buyer looking after a mass market brand, you need to consider that while you may hate that prime time “drama” on ITV1, it appears that 7m of your potential customers don’t.

When you are a social media expert/rockstar/heavyweight champion of the world (delete as appropriate), you may think that your actions cause ruptures into the fabric of society. But do they? Motrin don’t think so.

When you pontificate that a brand is dying, have you taken a health check out of your immediate eyeline?

Incidentally, I like that tech companies are based in a valley – it acts as a nice metaphor for the echo chamber and short-sightedness of so many of the “end is nigh” kool-aid drinkers that seem to have a voice disproportionately larger than the size of their other senses.

Anyway, I think that is enough snark for one post. The point I want to make is that we should do our best to identify a frame of reference – it could be a good thing in the case of designers trying to improve their product or a bad thing when a researcher is trying to design a survey for a country that they have never visited, but it should be sought.

Some in advertising may disagree as it promotes the rational over the emotional – it suggests we methodically compare products rather than be captured by a glass and a half full of joy. My subjective opinion is that emotional advertising works only when we are overfamiliar with a product. I know what a chocolate bar is, and I know what Dairy Milk tastes like and the ad does a good job at reminding me of these facts.

But when it is a new product, that emotion isn’t enough. The ad wouldn’t have had the same impact if it were advertising an everlasting gobstopper. I need to know the functional benefits – why should I change my behaviour? What do I get out of it? The reason is the key.

Of course, the best campaigns can combine both the functional and the emotional. “1,000 songs in your pocket” tells me why an iPod is an improvement on a walkman in a memorable soundbite.

To use an old cliche, we need to walk a mile in other people’s shoes. Look through someone else’s eyes. To take a recent example, a few of my colleagues recently held a session where they showed people who had never before used a computer how they worked. Can you conceive of that? I can’t. These people had never picked up a mouse. Seeing how they interacted with it, and how they overcame the initial trepidation to complete a few simple tasks would have been a fascinating reminder into how what we take for granted is completely alien to another group of people.

Ultimately, it is the little things that matter. Just because we think something is fine doesn’t make it fine. Second, third and fourth opinions should be canvassed. Different perspectives sought. New angles explored.

We shouldn’t be complacent.

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ranopamas/

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Links – 1st March 2009

Firstly, thanks to everyone that read, tweeted and commented upon my previous post on “Research vs Planning”. It’s dispersal backs up Ana Andjelic’s point on how word of mouth spreads through random spikes within overlapping spheres, and not through concentric circles of influence.

Reading material from the past week to consider include:

  • Noah Brier muses on ratings systems, and how we each have our own idiosyncratic interpretations of them
  • Are some brands, products and companies unsinkable? No matter how inferior or dated, they will carry on indefinitely? This look at Wimpy fast food “restaurants” would suggest that it is possible. Incidentally, I live 10 minutes away from a Wimpy and despite a nostalgic desire to visit for a lime milkshake, I haven’t yet managed it.
  • A Business Insider post contains Videojug’s ideas on why web adverts should be more like TV commercials. Essentially, they argue moving away from the print notion of wallpaper ads to a TV notion of interruptive ads. This goes against the “engagement vs interruption” advocates, but that school of thought, in my opinion, is a slightly Utopian mindset that won’t scale to the entire marketplace.
  • On a related theme, an Advertising Age blog wonders whether it is time to forget measurement in digital campaigns. A slightly misleading title, as it really refers to DR metrics, but a thoughtful post on how the internet has changed over the past 15 years, yet measurement hasn’t.
  • And finally, a couple of interviews worth reading – Robin Wright in the Guardian, and James Murdoch in More Intelligent Life

sk

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Links – 22nd February 2009

Some of the things I’ve read over the past week and would recommend:

  • A thought-provoking article in the Atlantic on the future of TV. It argues that TV’s USP is immediacy. While there are still cultural reference points via TV, scripted shows will increasingly see TV as just another distribution pattern. TV will therefore move to concentrate on news, current affairs, live reality shows and sport. This makes sense to me given my research – TV excels at events which are essentially DTR-proof, and the most popular shows online are dramas and comedies that can be viewed at leisure and shared/discussed asynchronously. However, I would argue that successful scripted shows still need TV as that anchor point for mainstream cultural crossover.
  • Ana Andjelic has a great post on our general failure to accurately predict the future. Not only does she argue that a lot of campaigns will fail, but also that our limited perspective means we will often follow the same patterns (potentially of failure)

sk

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Is TV advertising responsible for Apple’s success?

I was in a meeting a few days ago where Apple was described as a company that had retreated from large-scale TV advertising, despite TV advertising being responsible for its success.

I disagreed at the time, and remain pretty sure that this is a fallacy. Am I right?

Buttressed by Wikipedia and recent “25 year of Mac” posts, my broad perception of the history of Apple runs like this

  • Set up in the 1970s to moderate success
  • Macintosh launched with ads in cinema and during the 1984 Superbowl (watched by 97m) – initially sells well and ad is regularly cited as one of the best of all time
  • Computer market slumps and Steve Jobs is fired in May 1985
  • Incremental success for the rest of the 1980s
  • Windows 3.1 and – more importantly – Windows 95 take the PC to the next level and nearly kill Apple
  • Jobs comes back in, ends most of the product developments and places his faith in the iMac
  • iMac becomes a success and a design classic
  • iPod launched – the aesthetic of white earbuds and “1,000 songs in your pocket” become ubiquitous
  • iTunes overhauls an outdated music distribution system
  • iPhone brings touchscreen technology and simple web surfing to the masses
  • Halo effect of the Apple range boosts the computers – Apple is currently the number 4 computer manufacturer in the US
  • Jobs’ ill health and the rise of netbooks raise questions over Apple’s continuing success in the computer market

To my mind, TV advertising doesn’t play a particular big role in this rise, fall and rise of Apple. There have been iconic campaigns – 1984, Think Different, the dancing silhouette – which have contributed to the success. But they have not driven it.

That is the Cult of Mac.

The iPod may be mainstream, and the iPhone may be getting there. But Apple is not traditionally a mass market company. Their computers appeal to a niche audience. They may be the no.4 manufacturer, but the choice is PC or Sony. It is not Dell, Acer or Mac.

However this niche audience is passionate. They follow. They promote. They evangelise. They attend(ed) Macworld every year and hang on Steve Jobs’ every word.

That community is what has driven Apple’s success. Apple concentrate on the product – usability, design, experience. That leaves the marketing to the community. Alan Wolk has an interesting post on this – good advertising can accelerate success, but a decent product to win over the public is vital. In the case of the iPod, the evangelism changed an industry.

TV advertising has made plenty of products successful – from Hofmeister to Barclaycard to Cillit Bang. But Apple isn’t one of them.

Unless someone like to correct me?

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sigalakos/

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Classic blog posts #4: Randall Rothenberg’s manifeso on digital advertising creativity

Unlike previous classic blog posts – transparent attempts to compensate for a lack of attention to this blog by shamelessly republishing old bookmarks (which, nevertheless, are still brilliant) – this edition is to highlight a post made a couple of days ago.

Because it is brilliant. And everyone should both read it and engage with it:

Randall Rothenberg on “A Bigger Idea”: A Manifesto on Interactive Advertising Creativity”

The article is incredibly informative and well-reasoned. Furthermore, “R2” displays a level of passion and candour that few bloggers display, particularly those that are President/CEO of a major trade body.

He names the four enemies of online branding as

  • A direct-marketing culture and tradition that devalues creativity and its long-term effect on brands
  • An interactive agency business model that disincentivizes greatness and fails to penalize mediocrity
  • An unwillingness by mainstream agencies to integrate technologists as full partners in the advertising creative team
  • Media industry values and habits that malign and depreciate our own products, and by extension our customers’

The piece contains such great quotes as:

“Attention to beauty is more the exception than the rule in a marketing-services segment (Direct Response) that prizes today’s response to today’s offer over long-term brand lift”

“What’s the biggest difference between a traditional creative agency and a new-age digital agency? Answer: Traditional creative agencies are named after human beings. Digital agencies are named after inanimate objects or nonsense words.”

“This evolution of the creative partnership [integrating technologists] is as transformational a moment as was the invention of the copywriter-art director partnership exactly 60 years ago”

“Our seller-buyer-driven culture is devaluing not just the pricing but the potency of our medium”

Go check it out now

sk

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Online video working with TV

Far from being a replacement to the traditional broadcast model, online video acts as a strong complement. Online video can be used to increase both reach and frequency, and the highly immersive environment offers multiple benefits.

2008 was a watershed year for online video. Ever faster and more reliable broadband connections are improving the online experience, with people now more likely to view the internet as a source of entertainment as well as information. This has helped fuel massive growth in video consumption across the year, both in long form and short form video.

As online video consumption becomes more common, we are seeing an increase in diversity among those viewing. Online video is no longer the sole preserve of tech-savvy students – two thirds of the online audience aged 55 or older have ever watched a video clip, while a third have ever watched a full length TV programme.

The distinction between clips and full length content is an important one to make, as each offers a different proposition. People watching TV shows online are catching up on content that they have missed. This is not replacing TV viewing – the online experience still has some way to go before it can match the widescreen, surround sound, HD offering of the living room. It is instead about taking control of the schedule. People catch-up on content they missed – either because they were away from their TV or watching something else. This suits some content better than others. Sport and reality entertainment are about the live experience; while the frequency and habitual nature of soaps are also best suited to TV. However, entertainment and drama flourish. Particularly shows that have a strong word of mouth following or ones that are aimed at an active segment difficult to pin down to a TV schedule. Ultimately, catch-up is about improving reach.

Short-form content, such as clips of outtakes or interviews, is about increasing engagement. Those that watch additional content online are likely to be the biggest fans of a TV show and heavily invested in the plot and characters. Short clips, with instant gratification, can be enjoyed multiple times and are very social, with people sharing links and commenting on them. This level of social recommendation adds further interest for the viewer.

Online video is a different platform to broadcast television, and thus the effects of advertising change. TV benefits from the powers of event broadcasting – shared experiences among masses of people at the same point in time, creating watercooler moments. Online viewing is just as social, but it is asynchronous. With closer proximity to the screen and people actively choosing to interact with certain content, levels of attention are generally high.

Preliminary lab tests indicate that advertising around short-form clips perform stronger than long-form content in traditional advertising metrics such as awareness, affinity and purchase propensity. Furthermore, advertising around identical long-form content performed stronger when broadcast online than when broadcast on TV. This doesn’t mean that online video is better than broadcast TV. It simply means it is different. It also highlights their complementary nature. TV excels at mass reach and watercooler moments; online video has a smaller but highly engaged audience eager to share content and information asynchronously. The next step involves quantifying these complementary benefits.

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lollyknit/