Download the award-winning Brandheld presentation

As mentioned in my previous post, I had quite a successful experience at the Media Research Group conference in Malta.

My presentation on Brandheld: Unlocking the potential value* of the mobile internet, which won the IPA/Simon Broadbent award for Best Paper can now be viewed and downloaded on Slideshare. I’ve even included an amended version of my speaker notes, although due to the terms and conditions our research participants agreed to I am unable to show the three (frankly awesome) videos we produced.

The presentation is embedded below (RSS readers might need to click through to see it)

Additionally, most of the other presentations from the conference can be downloaded from the MRG website. It’s definitely worth checking out, though the presentations that were speech accompaniments rather than slides/handouts don’t make a lot of sense without the accompanying notes.

Any feedback or (constructive) criticism would be appreciated. My contact details are on the final slide, or on the “About the blog” page if you don’t want to do so publicly.

sk

* The title occasionally switches between “potential value” and “value potential” – the former comes to me more naturally but the latter is probably better

MRG Malta 2010 Conference

The IPA/Simon Broadbent Award for Best PaperI now have my first conference presentation behind me. And my first (I’m hoping there will be more) conference win.

The event was the Media Research Group 2010 conference, held in Malta.

The presentation was on Brandheld: Unlocking the Potential Value of the Mobile Internet (go here and here for more information on the project).

And the win was the IPA/Simon Broadbent Award for the best conference paper. The award is pictured to the right (photographed under a light – it is actually silver) – I get to parade it around for a couple of days before sending it back to Lynne Robinson at the IPA to have it engraved.

Winning this award was particularly satisfying as it was voted for by the conference delegates. I’m very appreciative of all of the nice comments I’ve received over the past couple of days.

On reflection, I think there were three key reasons behind Brandheld winning:

  1. Flattery – I started my presentation by taking a photo of the audience, and called them beautiful (they were, and still are)
  2. Subconscious Suggestion – I spoke to a fair number of people in a restaurant and bar the night before the voting. Since no-one can really say anything bad to my face, I received a lot of nice compliments. As the night wore on, memories of the conversation, and indeed my presentation, would become fuzzier, with people only remembering that they mentioned that the presentation was good.
  3. A fantastic project – the award is for best paper, not presentation. Brandheld is unquestionably the most interesting, challenging and rewarding project I’ve worked on. As such, it is a team award with Alex, Kat, Daniel, Carolina, Rebecca and Lee-Ann all deserving of recognition for their massive contribution

As for the conference itself, I had a good time and met some really interesting, friendly people – some of whom I knew already, some who I knew “virtually” and some I didn’t.

I’d never been to a foreign conference before. Prior to attending, I was quite against the idea, since the cost makes it more difficult for smaller companies such as Essential to attend. After attending, I’m more ambivalent, if not totally sold on the idea, as there are clearly some advantages to holding the conference abroad

  • Few people had any reason to do any socialising outside of the conference group. Even if the event were held in Cornwall, the Highlands or another far-flung UK location, there would be more excuses to temporarily leave
  • A totally new city/resort encourages exploration and additional socialising among attendees
  • Continental bars are open later than British pubs during the week (and the warm weather means everyone can stand outside)

While I felt I got involved in the networking with vim and gusto, I didn’t make many notes for the sessions I attended. The reasons being

  • Prior to my presentation, I was making last-minute amendments in my head. As much as I tried paying attention to the speakers, I ended up getting distracted
  • Immediately after my presentation, I was primarily relieved but also going through things I should have said, particularly with the Q&A
  • My subconscious suggesting went on for longer than it probably should have done, which meant I missed the early speakers on Friday

Some of the things I did jot down include

  • Nigel Walley from Decipher made some interesting references to issues with the continuing convergence of the web and TV. The first was that device manufacturers such as Sony and Samsung are generally terrible at services, since their business models are based around replacement devices. Without things such as backwards compatibility, their web TVs become obsolete very quickly. And secondly, the fragmentation of innovation in this area is making it hard for media agencies to plan campaigns – for instance, should they go for a platform campaign (all of the different ad formats on Virgin) or a channel campaign (VOD formats on all platforms)
  • Guy Holcroft from GfK NOP (disclosure: a former line manager of mine) said that we are spending roughly half of our waking hours (7 hours and 5 minutes actual but 8 hours 48 minutes when deduplicating simultaneous consumption) per day on media or communications
  • Richard Maryniak from the Conspiracy Group channeled David Ogilvy to say that the pirate is not a thief; she is your girlfriend and that, ultimately, piracy is about sharing
  • James Myring of BDRC Continental drew the distinction between primary (using p2p or streaming sites) pirates and secondary pirates (via mixtapes/shared drives) and said that ethics weren’t really a barrier to people pirating. Instead it is IT issues – concerns over viruses or a lack of knowledge on how to find the relevant materials. It was probably missing because it is too hard to find people who admit to it, but it would have been good to have seen primary pirates split out into uploaders, seeders and downloaders.
  • There was supposed to be a big debate on piracy but sadly, there wasn’t much heated discussion as researchers at media owners were either unwilling to go on the record or unsure of their company’s position with regards to piracy, and so the conversation remained polite
  • Charlie Gordon from TNS Kantar Media said that the most tweeted game of the World Cup was Japan-Denmark, but that he has been unable to rationalise the reason why
  • David Hulbert of Ravensbeck said that researchers shouldn’t look to explain the past but to predict the future. Researchers should seek to redefine the problems businesses face, and position themselves as people able to provide decision-making under uncertainty
  • Paul Goode from Comscore advocated panels over site metrics, since cookie deletion meant that site metrics are too over-inflated. He said site metrics can be fine for single day campaigns, but unfortunately there aren’t many single day campaigns

For more details, go to Robert Bain‘s updates on the Research website

In sum, it was an enjoyable couple of days and it will probably take me an equal amount of time to fully recover. The conference programme ran without a (noticeable) hitch so big congratulations to Stuart McDonald and Neil Mortensen for an event that clearly required a lot of blood, sweat and tears to put on.

Thank you once again to the people who voted for me. And congratulations to the other award winners – MediaCom for Best Media Agency, BSkyB for Best Media Owner, Ipsos MediaCT for Best Research Supplier and The Guardian for best research initiative.

I hope to upload a “Director’s Cut” of the presentation within the next week (without the 20 minute restriction, I can expand on a few areas I had to gloss over, and I should also remove some of my bad jokes).

I’m not yet sure what is happening with the videos of the event, but if they are put online I will link to them.

sk

Mobile internet adoption isn’t an inevitability

To tie in with the MRG conference, Mediatel is running a series of opinion pieces from the speakers.

Mine is on the diffusion of innovation with regard to the mobile internet (I’ll be speaking about Essential’s Brandheld mobile internet project at the conference). I’m not sure if it will eventually go behind a paywall or not, but the article can be found here.

In it, I say that the majority of people will eventually have powerful internet-enabled phones, but that adoption of the mobile internet isn’t guaranteed as

  • Ownership doesn’t equate to usage
  • The mobile shouldn’t seek to replicate the computer
  • Needs and behaviours vary across the adoption curve
  • Usage does not always correspond to value
  • Seek to surprise

Each of these points are explained within the article, which even has a photo of me adorning the page.

sk

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The general public doesn’t need an iPad

iPad - evolution by Steve JobsSteve Jobs’ powers of presentation and salesmanship have been well remarked upon. However, one statement in his recent keynote address launching the iPad jarred for me.

All of us use laptops and smartphones now

Who is this “us”? The people in the audience? The people in Apple’s target market? Because it certainly isn’t everyone.

Data from Brandheld indicates 24% of UK mobile phone owners aged 16 or over think they have a smartphone (given our consumer-friendly definition of one), while 59% say that they have a laptop with wireless broadband. 17% say that they have access to both.

To an extent, this is just me being pedantic. Of course everyone doesn’t have a smartphone or laptop. Not everyone has a phone of any kind, let alone food, clothing or shelter.

A device doesn’t necessarily need 95% penetration to be ubiquitous; it merely needs to be the most desirable. Look at the iPhone. While sales are still increasing, probably no more than 1 in 20 people in the UK currently own one. Yet it has defined the category.

But I think the turn of phrase is interesting because it indicates the scope of the iPad. It is not a mainstream device. Not yet, anyway.

More so than the iPod and iPhone, the iPad is a disruptive technology. The market for tablet computers isn’t yet fully defined. There is no well established pre-cursor like the Walkman or Nokia series to create consumer expectation, for Apple to then surpass. The Kindle, the e-reader et al are nothing more than niche.

Unlike the iPod and iPhone, there is no obvious unique selling point to differentiate the device. Certainly, nothing to rival “1,000 songs in your pocket” or touch screen mobile web browsing. It will be a tough sell.

The five (original) steps in Everett Rogers diffusion of innovations model are

  • Awareness
  • Interest
  • Trial
  • Evaluation
  • Adoption

With disruptive technologies, the challenge is getting beyond the second stage. Aside from going to the Apple store on Regent Street in London, the only opportunity people in the UK will have to trial the technology is by testing an iPad that a friend or associate purchased. The path to adoption will be very slow.

Additionally, interest piques if, in general terms, a device is able to demonstrably save someone time, money or effort. The iPad appears to be a jack of all trades, but is it a master of any?

  • Web browsing: Web browsers themselves are optimised for mouse and keyboard navigation. Nevertheless, touch-screen specific web applications can modify and improve the experience
  • Video: Video is passive, so a touch screen isn’t really relevant. For lengthy programmes, the iPad will also become uncomfortable unless some sort of docking station is purchased in addition
  • Reading: This is where the potential lies. Somewhat unfairly, the iPad is essentially a glorified Kindle. But as with the Kindle, the high outlay and the ongoing costs render it worthwhile to only the most avid readers
  • Music: There seems to be little discernable additional benefit
  • Gaming: There is some real opportunity for multi-touch gaming but there is also a danger the iPad gets caught between the more portable iPhone and the more immersive Project Natal/Motion sensitive in-home gaming
  • Photos: There are certainly advantages to storing and displaying photos, but the lack of camera on the iPad is a startling omission
  • Brushes – an application that could be genuinely useful, but it is not a deal-breaker. Unless you want to pay $500 for a glorified etch-a-sketch.

Admittedly, the first generation iPod (bulky, mac only) and iPhone (2G, no GPS or cut, copy & paste) were relatively poor. A killer feature could emerge on the 2nd or 3rd generation iPad. But at this stage, it appears to be little more than a status symbol for a small niche of technology enthusiasts to store next to their minidisc, neo geo and em@iler.

sk

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The selective truth

There are two sides to every coin, but nuance is difficult to convey in a headline or summary. A clear and decisive statement is far likelier to catch the eye. It is important to question the motives of both the source of information and the reporting when making a decision as to the veracity.

I’ve noted this during my experiment to alternate my news sources. Similarly, I’ve tracked the early responses to a recent project I’ve worked on with interest.

SIDENOTE: The project is Brandheld – an extended study into consumer perceptions of the mobile internet, and both their current and intended behaviour. The press release is here and a topline slide deck will be released shortly. If you want more information about the report, contact me at [firstname]@essentialresearch.co.uk [/sales pitch]

The press release for the project can basically be split into two sections. The first section is a reality check, noting that adoption of the technology is perhaps lower than those in the London-centric media sector might think. The second section is a call to arms, suggesting a pathway to make the mobile internet seem more relevant to the mainstream.

SIDENOTE: The comments on The Register article nicely illustrate the reason for our first section. Most comments seem to fall into the “I do this, therefore everyone else must be doing it as well” category.

Several of the outlets picking up the story (to date) are only reporting or emphasising one of these sections. The reality check grabs the attention, and the call to arms supports the relevant sectors.

There’s nothing wrong with this – reporting a single side makes it easier for readers to digest, while many of us have an agenda we seek to push and any supporting evidence we can get is gratefully received and promoted.

This is fine for external communications and reporting. But for internal knowledge, it can be dangerous to be reliant on one side of the story.

The best clients I have worked with are those that recognise that while research may be commissioned in the hope of proving something, it is necessary to start with the unbiased and unvarnished truth, even if that might be difficult to hear. Even if only half the findings are externally reported, the other half should still be included in internal briefings.

This requires a strength of conviction if there is pressure coming down the chain of command for a particular result but there is clearly a need to avoid self-delusion. If the results are “bad”, it should be made clear why. If the desired outcome is achieved, it is unlikely that there won’t be a single caveat. And these caveats are important to understand when designing or promoting a strategy.

A similar principle is required when collating secondary research. Even if the findings are sourced or quoted as evidence in external communications, it is important to understand the biases or reliability of the data for your own internal knowledge. Recognising the nuances or limitations of something can only assist your efforts to improve it.

News articles remain a fantastic way to distribute information, and are often the first place that research or data is discovered. Nevertheless, it is vital to go back to the original source if you plan to do something with the findings. That way, an informed decision can be made about the accuracy or reliability of the information (for what it’s worth, Brandheld is an independent study conducted with no prior agenda aside from us thinking the mobile internet would be an interesting area to research). Even if this doesn’t affect the way the information is collated, it is still an important facet to consider.

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/colin-c/200867665/

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