2011 predictions are hot right now so it seems appropriate to take a guess at what creative trends we might see come to life in the near future. Below are my thoughts and observations. Enjoy!
1. We’re entering a new Romantic era
Creativity, like everything else in culture and nature, follows a cycle. It may be best understood as a Baroque to Romantic to Baroque to Romantic, and so on, model. The Baroque era in music was defined by an emphasis on structure and convention – Bach was a master of making amazingly intricate and mathematically precise music using traditional Western scales. Beethoven ushered in the Romantic era with new chord progressions and epic movements designed to evoke human emotion, rather than logical sensibility. Today this cycle continues in the arts, think Disco (Baroque) and Prog Rock (Romantic) of the 70s or the transition from Gangster Rap (Romantic) to top-40 Hip-Hop like the Black Eyed Peas or T-Pain (Baroque) in the last 20 years. The intention of the remaining predictions is to illustrate the coming of the latest Romantic era, and some of the technology that will help us get there in 2011.
2. Movies defy narrative logic and story convention, instead focusing on sensory and emotional experience
This is already playing out in a few ways. Think Inception, Avatar and 127 Hours. The success of these films in the last few years is setting the stage for more to follow in 2011. Look for movies that play with our perception of time and space, overwhelm us visually and aurally in theatres, and evoke tears, laughter and joy through the unconventional use of plot, narrative, characters, relationships and environment.
3. Blogazines go mainstream
If you haven’t yet seen what’s happening with “blogazines,” you’re not alone. I just came across this trend last weekend. Wow! Does this make more sense than anything I’ve seen on the web in a while. Until recently, blogging has been extremely standardized. Thanks to templates and conventions like posts, pages, headers and sidebars, it’s been super easy for anyone to become a blogger. As a result, most of them look the same. Like mine.
Enter the blogazine. Usually a full-screen visual experience, breaking through the unnecessary 500-600 pixel walls of regular blog posts, and totally overtaking your browser with classic magazine-like layouts, illustrations, images, multimedia and big vibrant fonts. They literally jump off the page. Since they seem like a perfect match for the iPad and other tablets, the timing is also in favor of widespread adoption.
4. Indie content producers become cross-platform publishers
Not too long ago, getting on TV was a big deal. Only the elite, the beautiful, the highly skilled or uniquely talented, could land a coveted spot on the tube. Now you can upload a video to Youtube and be on any TV that’s hooked up to an Apple or Google TV. The three-screen paradigm (TV, computer, mobile device) is moving towards a screen-agnostic paradigm where the same content can be consumed regardless of which device you’re using.
Savvy content producers will look to get in early on interactive TV, potentially with apps that will be accessible through the emerging devices. Just like you can access Netflix on the Apple TV now, you may be able to access your next door neighbor’s basement home repair show as an app too. This is not new to mobile, but the opportunity to be on TV will draw more creative-minded entertainers, educators and engage-ers into cross-platform distribution, landing them on your laptop, iPad and TV, with medium-appropriate content at each stop.
5. Creative learning goes virtual
Much of the creative learning process has traditionally required live, in-person interaction. You send your kids to your piano teacher’s house. You learn improv or painting or creative writing in a classroom. You have to do this because these creative skills require a high level of tactile and interpersonal resolution. Meaning you have to see the keys of the piano up close, or you have to stand face to face with the person you’re doing improv with.
Thanks to innovations like Cisco’s Umi, which allows people to interact real-time in high-resolution from anywhere in the world, the traditional constraints of creative skill-based learning will diminish. This opens doors for creatives with a teaching bug (like me) to offer their expertise to a global audience of students, following in-step with wide-spread adoption of new communication technologies.
Your creative plan for 2011
Look for opportunities to break traditional conventions and challenge the status quo. With new platforms for the distribution of your creative ideas – iPad, Google TV, Umi, etc. – comes a blue ocean of opportunity. Consider that many of today’s stars of Twitter or Youtube are no more talented or insightful than you, they just got there early. Be on the lookout for low-cost (dollar-wise, time-wise, learning-curve-wise) ways to get in front of a mass audience you haven’t had access to before, and research what that audience wants in terms of entertainment, education and engagement.Read More
Either way, do you look at their gameplay as something you have to have control over, something that requires moderation?
I was asked this question the other day: “Do you think we’ll let our kids play video games?” Well I don’t know if we have a choice. In the near future, being a savvy gamer may be a serious competitive advantage in the workplace. This paradigm isn’t true today for most businesses (excluding the obvious – game design, Mountain Dew marketing), but it won’t be long before our CEOs and VPs will have grown up interacting with their whole world through interfaces like that of Farmville.
Two Year Olds are Better with the iPad than You
Have you ever watched a toddler breeze through the iPad interface, playing videos, opening and interacting with apps from games to storybooks? Like phones, radios, tvs and computers before them, tablets and smartphones will be indispensable to the next generation. And this means the ubiquitous tools of the workforce like Word, Excel, email and so on will have to be redesigned for a quarter-millenial employee used to rich tactile and sensory experience. Between the rate of change we’re experiencing now in information technology and the pervasiveness in our schools of these new gadgets, I’d place a bet that this same generation is the one who will redesign it, leaving us in the dust if we don’t accept and embrace it first.
It’s Already Happening
Don’t believe it? Think Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook. While some companies still don’t let employees access Facebook at work, others base their whole business on the site. It’s been three years since Coke entered the virtual reality space with advertisements in the online game Second Life. And when the next wave of innovation hits, not only will we be trying to figure how to reach our customers within whatever game or app-like context they’re familiar with, we’re going to need to relate internally to our employees in the same manner of communication.
Farmville as a Marketing Dashboard
About a year ago I was presenting a new marketing strategy for an online community-based start-up. And as I was looking for an analogy to explain the proposed growth model, the concept of farming came to mind. Every new community member was a seed, that required nurturing to take root and grow. We thought of member support, user experience and e-mail marketing as the essentials: sunlight, water, soil. But you can’t take individual engagement very far when you get into the tens of thousands of members.
To scale our growth, we had to turn over “the farm” to our early adopters: teach them how to plant their own seeds, reward them for nurturing their crops and constantly provide the tools and raw materials they needed to build and grow their own farms. The two processes – bringing in new members and then teaching them how to build their own communities – was largely automatable. Finding our audience online, delivering messaging, the conversion path to registration, each interaction in the user experience, user sharing functionality – supported with a database filled with links, user data, messages and search parameters, it all could easily have been replaced by a child playing Farmville and triggering automated marketing processes in the background.
Your Next New Hire
Next time you interview someone for a job, learn about the technology that they’re used to, the interactions they have on social networks, the games they play to kill time, the apps they use most. How do those interactive experiences translate into potential innovations in your organization? And instead of looking the other way when they log on to Facebook or bust out the iPhone at work, take notes.
Take a gander at some of the Farmville Youtube videos out there, with “farmers” delivering strategic and tactical advice to game players through tutorials. This guy would make a great corporate trainer, don’t you think?
The panel, moderated by Dana Todd, CMO, Newsforce:
Joe Gregorio, Developer Relations, Google | Rod Smith, VP Emerging Internet Technologies, IBM | Bob Young
The Future of Content, Commerce, Devices and Technology
Dana: Content has been king for a while, what is next?
Bob: Before “what’s next?”, what have we already done? Think through daily life, how much do you read on paper vs. on the screen? Kids don’t read anymore, well actually they do, but its interacting with text online and devices.
People are understanding that good content will not be created unless people begin paying for it. Where will the next War & Peace come from?
Dana: How does this intersect with traditional publishing?
Rod: We’re trying to dig in for insights, understand what’s popular – publishers and enterprises are thinking, what can I learn from this content and trends? I can use insights to adjust business in many ways.
Dana: Are blogs dead?
Joe: Look at Alexa.com. WordPress, blogspot, the traffic is there. There are different channels now though, Facebook/Twitter. They’re being used in other ways, less long form.
Dana: Should marketers’ strategy be diversified then? Can you be good in all?
Joe: You should probably be in a mix, at Google we have specific blogs/twitter accounts for different products.
Bob: But you’re Google! You can dominate them all. The rest of us do have to pick.
Dana: Smartphones are set to outpace PC purchases by 2012. How will that change our media consumption?
Rod: Some examples, in commerce and content. Many people don’t browse, they look for an app. The other part is that the amount of content will pass an exobyte by the end of the year. My iPad? I favor apps that make me more productive.
Dana: How can advertisers participate in this?
Joe: There’s a lot of innovation in the mobile ad space, pay attention to the ad platforms that are being developed.
Rod: Consider this, how big are the pipes? Streaming information through GoogleTV, Netflix, etc. You need serious connectivity. We have to see the infrastructure grow in-step.
Bob: At Lulu.com, we’re trying to rethink what books are in the age of the internet. Paper books are a 500 year old medium. Computers don’t care if its a book, or video, or training course.
Dana: We’re actually way behind in mobile commerce (the US vs other nations). Soon we’ll have Isis from Discover Card and Verizon so we can make purchases with our phones. What does next year look like as a shopper?
Joe: You can learn a lot by looking at two Google products: boutiques.com and hotpot. Boutiques you can go in and set up a high-end boutique, we’ve got celebrities and fashion bloggers creating their own virtual boutiques. Now of course, anyone can go in and set up a personalized storefront. HotPot is GooglePlaces, you can go in to brick and mortar stores and rate, review, give recommendations, etc.
Dana: What else are you seeing?
Rod: You have to wonder with different vendors, what’s in it for them (how are they benefiting from new innovations)? There are tons of ways people are going after mobile commerce, why would we want to put a rigid framework around it too early?
Bob: Fraud is a massive problem on the internet, there are whole industries behind it. A couple of years ago I ended up in the Internet Retailer conference, talking to executives from JC Penney and Home Depot – commerce is in the billions for them online.
Audience: What is your take on net neutrality?
Bob: I’m a huge advocate of net neutrality, we need a fair playing ground for entrepreneurs to succeed against the larger guys that can buy the cable companies. We need to write the correct laws, educate our congresspeople, and vote in politicians that get it.
Rod: Net neutrality drives innovation.
Audience: As a developer, do I build a mobile app or mobile site?
Rod: Because devices are essentially like PCs today and can read browsers, you don’t necessarily need an app. Think about your customer, what do they need?
Bob: I like IBM because every answer starts with the customer.
Joe: A native app gives you more features, but you’re bound to that. Unless your coding on an open-source platform like html5.
Bob: In 95, Larry Ellison and Scott McNeeley announced the “net device” – and now everything is within the browser for a lot of computer users. Now the apps model is taking us back the other way (towards non-browser software).
Rod: We’ll do what we always do: make content for the device.
Dana: In my opinion: build sites that work for mobile. Let’s continue the device talk. Lightweight communication technology is here, like the movie Minority Report. Where are the next developments, opportunities?
Bob: In 1976 a reporter for The Economist made a prediction about the future of computers: If everything will eventually be created by robotics, then the future will be everyone being able to create their own custom devices (in the article, the reference is automobiles created custom per person). So consider the internet, and the question, do I build a site or an app. You can do it all with the web services that are there now. And eventually, instead of an iPhone, in the future, you can design and manufacture your own phone through web services.
Dana: What else are you seeing?
Joe: Consider “the web of things”. At Google, I’m on APIs. All these devices, they’re interacting through APIs, there’s a tremendous opportunity there.
Dana: As developers, what are some of the way marketers can manage all of these opportunities?
Bob: I’ve learned that everything I do to manage a successful technology business, does not apply to regular business models. If you’re running a tech company or team, its like running an art class. You have to get your team to want to create the right solution. You have to lead by example.
Rod: For most of us, you shouldn’t care about APIs, you should just give your dev team an idea of what your market wants. Let them figure out how to solve your problem.
Dana: What is Google doing to help advertisers, educate us as marketers.
Joe: Analytics is a huge part of this. There is so much data out there. Data sets that are bigger than a computer; that you can’t crunch with a desktop machine. Statistics is key.
Audience: What do you think about building out the web with new top level domains? .ibm, .jobs, .xxx, etc.
Rod: I don’t hear a lot of customers talk about it. They’re talking about how they can produce content.
Joe: Search-wise, we do take site name into consideration, but not sure if top level domains matter.
Dana: My opinion, anything other than .com is second-rate.
Audience: From a local perspective, as an advertiser, how can you have the most impact.
Dana: Start with GooglePlaces, its free. 80% of people haven’t even done the basic level of localization, free listings on CityGrid, Yahoo, Yelp.
Audience: Some people see localization and personalization as removing the “world” from world wide web. Its making us myopic.
Joe: Search’s function now is narrowing down, filtering results.
Rod: Turn your history off on Google and then go see what you get. There’s a trade off, sometimes you want personalized, sometimes you want general. You can’t expect search engines to do both, there are other apps you can use for that.Read More
When you’re driving to work and pass a billboard that you notice for a split second, or you have to sit through a 30-second ad during Glee, the advertisers paying to get in front of you call this an impression. It’s basically the foundation of how media people price their outlet. Lately, new metrics like time on site, pageviews, click-through rates, and interaction have been created to measure and monetize the internet. I have nothing against metrics and making money off of great content and site traffic, but there’s a critical flaw in my opinion.
They all measure what the audience is doing – watching, clicking, commenting – not what the advertiser is doing.
The VP of Brand Creativity for Blackberry, Paul Kalbfleisch, gave a presentation yesterday in the Research Triangle Park on the mobile phone giant’s continual quest to align their offering and message with the shared values of their audience. Simply put, audience loves music = Blackberry loves music. Audience loves sports = Blackberry loves sports. One of the more creative ways they’ve expressed this mission in the past is with their partnership with Will.i.am of The Black Eyed Peas, and the genesis of the “BBM” song.
The video below was captured by an attendee at a Will.i.am concert in Chicago, and it shows how Blackberry and the artist were able to integrate their communal text messaging platform into a live, crowd-sourced freestyle rap.
What a terrific display of a brand reflecting the values: love of music, love of participation, desire to share their own voice of their audience.
So what would happen if advertisers measured the frequency and volume of moments which made a lasting impression on someone, rather than measuring when someone received an advertising message on someone. I propose that this framework fits more closely the emerging marketing model that brands, advertisers and the media are already adopting within social media, branded entertainment, community development and social responsibility initiatives.
The Challenge: Assigning Value to a Reflection
The funny thing about an impression is its ambiguity. I could watch a 30 second commercial or see a display ad on Mashable, and while the cost is drastically different, the true value of the impression is essentially the same (you may disagree, I’m saying this is my feedback as a receiver of advertising messages). I’ve been in many conversations hypothesizing the value of someone leaving a comment on a blog or joining a Facebook community versus an impression, and wonder how we might measure and assign value to “brand reflections”.
Consider something like a video contest, where the brand is actively saying “What do you think about us?”, this is a great example of a reflection model. So when 200 people spend 20 hours of their lives devoted to thinking about a brand, getting their friends involved, sharing their work across their social networks, and committing their pride, creativity and potential career advancement opportunities into the project – what is the value of of those 12 million+ seconds just dedicated to sharing their values with that brand.
Is it worth 12 million people noticing a billboard for a split second?Read More
The future of books and reading are top of mind for me since Seth Godin, best-selling author of a dozen must-own books for marketers, sent a powerful message to the publishing industry with this announcement:
“I’ve decided not to publish any more books in the traditional way. 12 for 12 and I’m done. I like the people, but I can’t abide the long wait, the filters, the big push at launch, the nudging to get people to go to a store they don’t usually visit to buy something they don’t usually buy, to get them to pay for an idea in a form that’s hard to spread … I really don’t think the process is worth the effort that it now takes to make it work. I can reach 10 or 50 times as many people electronically. No, it’s not ‘better’, but it’s different. So while I’m not sure what format my writing will take, I’m not planning on it being the 1907 version of hardcover publishing any longer.” Read the MediaBistro article here.
I’m not reading this as “hardcopy books are dead” as much as “the system sucks, I’m going to find a better way.” And this leaves me to reflect on some of the trends in the book publishing industry that are paving Seth’s way.
Kindles and iPads and such
It’s no ephiphany that reading is headed the way of the e-reader or tablet. Amazon’s sold a billion dollars worth of stuff through mobile devices, a lot of it books on the Kindle or through the Kindle.app.
What surprises me about this market is one of the ways digital reading offerings are being positioned. I recently worked on a creative campaign for Zinio, a digital newsstand for interactive magazines and books with their own iPad app, and one of their selling points is the 60,000 issues of magazines available. The Nook ad hanging on the entrance to B&N touts over 1,000,000 titles. Same goes for Amazon and everyone else, “We’ve got x number of things you can read, isn’t that mind blowing?”.
To me it seems counterintuitive to where everything else digital is headed – curation, personalization and customization – to avoid massive information overload. Sure, I want to know that if I invest in a digital reader, I can find whatever I want. I get that. But never will 1,000,000 books be of any more value to me as a reader than the couple thousand books that I’m going to read in my lifetime.
In my opinion, the future of the digital reading experience is all about personalization. A smart reading list, delivered to me chapter by chapter from different books, based on my cultural and social needs for entertainment, education and professional development.
If you’re fascinated in where the digital reading experience is headed like me, or you have a long list of gripes about the form and function of e-readers, I recommend this incedible essay “Embracing the Digital Book” on the future of e-readers by Craig Mod.
There is No Book
So what about the word “book”? I hadn’t thought about the nomenclature until I came across Bob Stein and the if:book project by the Institute of the Future of the Book.
In this article, Bob imagines a future where “app” is the most likely term to replace “book”. Who knows what will happen here, I mean we’re still saying things like album and record despite the complete overhaul of the music industry. I personally think “book” has resiliance in spite of the medium. On a side note, I think “TV” is here to stay also, no matter what device we watch it on.
The most compelling quote from Bob Stein’s article I thought was this:
“The distinction between media types was a lot more important during the analog era of the mid-twentieth cenury. In 1950 no one would confuse a novel with a movie or a song with a TV show. But today we have e-books with video sequences, and movies published with extensive text-based supplements. Is Lady Gaga a music star or video star?”
Is he envisioning a future where everything is sensory-rich and our need to categorize media dwindles? Will there no longer be audio-only, text-only, image-only art and entertainment?
Fundraising for Books with Kickstartup
The dusty economics of 20th-century publishing have no doubt accelerated the massive shift in how books go to market. Just like movies and music, the hyper-connected entertainment landscape allows individuals with a good idea to find success without a corporate backer. Case in point is another great essay by Craig Mod on how he raised capital for a book project through Kickstartup.
Through the innovative micro-funding startup, Craig and his partner raised $24,000 to produce and distribute a new edition of their book thanks to the wonders of the internet. Not alone by any means, Writer 2.0 editor Pagan Kennedy documents similar success with the crowdfunding for publishing model here.
Book Promotions through Crowdsourcing
My final consideration for this post is the promotions aspects of books in the new millenium. What better case than a crowdsourcing campaign for a book about the transformation of the publishing and printed media industry, Richard Hine’s Russell Wiley is Out to Lunch.
The fiction-based-on-real-life novel (like a Devil Wears Prada for the print industry) authored by a veteran of the print world and published by Amazon Encore is sourcing video trailers, digital print ads and online banners by leveraging the power of social media to engage potential audience members in the creative marketing process. Below is the video brief for the Russell Wiley is Out to Lunch campaign on Zooppa (disclosure, I work with Zooppa).
I imagine a future where this kind of reader interaction in the marketing process and funding process (as noted above) extends into the entire creative and publishing model in ways difficult to imagine today.Read More
When you’re looking at the packaging of, say, a few different cereals, how much do you think the way you feel about the packaging has an impact on your purchase decision?
Whether or not you think it makes an impact (though I’d guess most people acknowledge packaging sways decisions), a number of hi-sci market researchers like Neurofocus, for example, think they can tell what you’re going to like about a package or advertising image by digging deep into your brain.
By monitoring your neuron activity through biosensors while displaying series’ of images, these neuromarketers are giving ad agencies something to cheer about, while at the same time infuriating a handful of special interest groups. This Lawnmower Man meets Matrix meets Clockwork Orange stuff fascinates me, and I’ll admit, I think the level of benevolence or malevolence of neuromarketing applications is decided by the end goal of who’s paying for the research. Here’s some video to get you started on making up your own mind.
Popular Science’s The Future of Pleasure
Excellent overview of the applications of neuromarketing AND you get to see the “wires on the head, multicolored graphs and look at the pretty pictures” process that you might imagine. The key takeaway for me is neuromarketers’ claim of what they can measure: attention, retention and emotion. If you have a big, fat research budget and want to go all Orwellian on that new product ad, that’s what you may be able to impact.
Dr. Neurofocus: Listen to Your Brain
I threw this one in for fun. One of the leaders in neuromarketing, Neurofocus, put out this attempt at a viral video to raise awareness for their company. If you visit the Neurofocus Youtube Channel you’ll find a wide variety of more educational videos by their founder.
If you’re serious about learning more about neuromarketing, this hour long video should catch you up to speed.
The other side of the argument, by someone who probably believes “corporate social responsibility” is an oxymoron.Read More