Indexing what is happening now: Paul McCartney in NYC on Google and Twitter

There were rumors that Paul McCartney was playing in NYC… Well he actually did play in NYC and I was really curious where he played so I hit the search engines and realized that the essence of the Google and Twitter brands have taken shape.

By default I hit Google search only to find out that the first hits did not tell me where the gig took place. Sure, I could have looked a little further but it’s clear that mixing ‘what is happening now’ with traditional search indexes is not straightforward from a user experience perspective. So, I went over to Twitter and of course found out immediately where Paul McCartney was playing.

Google, first hits not relevant
Google: everything?
Relevant hits
Twitter: all about now

So, two brands and products with a different purpose: Twitter lives up to its promise “See what is happening, right now” and found a differentiating promise in the search engine space.

Google is the search engine for everything but “now”. Even when Google indexes everything real time it will need to do some serious user experience design to stay on top of being the search engine of everything: mixing the moment of now with the past and future in one elegant interface.

What is your bet: divergence or convergence in the search engine space?

Starbucks: you make me feel good!

Over the last months Starbucks has done a fantastic job in injecting their core brand promise to the public. Ranging from NY times full page advertisement to outdoor posters the message was the same:  it’s not just coffee… it’s Starbucks. All backed up with quality & fair trade messages. I really liked this campaign and it did give me the ‘feel good’ feeling when sipping some vanilla latte at the local Starbucks.

Starbucks outdoor advertisementI mean: who would not be happy to know that the coffee beans used in Starbucks coffee come from well selected farmers and contains 3% of the world’s best beans? That must mean there is a lot of crap coffee out there! Even though I am sure nobody ever really bothers about that when drinking coffee in a restaurant or even at home: ever seen a pack of coffee in the local super market that contained the worlds 1% best coffee beans?

So, why does it work here so well? My take on it is simple: quality and fair trade is a great differentiator in the ‘fast food / fast delivery’ segment Starbucks operates in … nobody else can claim it. The Starbucks message works very nicely against local deli’s/ supermarkets, Dunkin Donut, McDonalds etc.

I am a believer: in this segment there is only place to get a cup of coffee as good as Starbucks… it’s Starbucks!

New recipes that swear off artificial...
New recipes that swear off artificial...

Update july 12: this morning an other advertisement in the New York times. Enticing title “A cup of Starbucks coffee, a brand new blueberry muffin and all is right with the world”. How cool is that!? Especially when you read that the new recipes “swear off unappetizing artificial trans fats, artificial dyes and flavors, or high-fructose corn syrop”. Now that is even cooler! I feel now even better taking a high calorie muffin with my coffee:-) Point is of course: Starbucks is hitting home run with their brand promise and differentiating at the same time and is doing it in my opinion very well.

Great hardware, trimmed software: it will be fixed by the community no matter what!

Of course we all know about hacking / jail-braking the iPhone just so it would do what the hardware enables us to do. Best example of software restriction was the fact that one was not able to record video in the iPhone 2.0: why would Apple even think to restrict something like that? Of course iPhone apps were developed to enable video recording (that is, on hacked iPhones). Technology advanced consumers know what products are capable of doing and if the manufacturer is not going to fix it, then it will be fixed by somebody else. This striving for enabling what is seen as a limitation will bring a revolution to hardware and software houses building commodity products. It is a simple fact that large groups of people are inherently smarter than an elite few! If it can be enabled… it will!

Canon 5d mark II... now hacked!
Canon 5d mark II... now hacked!

Best latest example in this category is from a unsuspected corner: the Canon 5D Mark II dSLR camera with video capturing capabilities.

Apparently Canon did not enable or include all the video editing capabilities this great camera is capable doing. So, now there is an open platform called “Magic Lantern” just doing what Canon did not deliver in the current software release… making a great video camera out of the 5D mark II. Check out their to-do list. Is this worrying? Maybe it is if you are in the business of selling video cameras like Canon is but at the other hand this might be the best opportunity for Canon to get more high end cameras sold and with that… high end (expensive!) lenses and that must be good news for Canon!

Audi pushing Diesel to the USA, starting with the basics: perception management

Diesel - no longer a dirty wordEuropean car brands are pushing Diesel to the US market. Audi is however taking a very active role.  Already at the New York International auto show in February I saw diesel versions of some of the popular models. From there it continued with a campaign site on and last weekend I saw at night an Audi Q7 TDI parked in the hot New York meatpacking district. The car had “TDI” stickers all over so it was clearly there to spark interest.

The whole “bringing Diesel to America” exercise is very interesting as it requires US citizens to change their perception of Diesel to succeed. Here is how Audi is doing it.

Step 1: fight the negative perception of Diesel by focussing on:

  1. Take away the no power perception: “I’ve always thought that diesels were sluggish and slow” (using a TDI at LeMans was a really cool!)
  2. Take away the being dirty perception: “I thought diesel engines were noisy and dirty

Step 2: add a whole bunch of feel good messages focussing on the environment and social responsibility:

  1. “I wish there was an easy way to make better use of our resources” (example)
  2. “I wish we had more stability when it came to the cost and supply of fuel”
  3. “I’m ready to do my part to reduce global warming”
  4. “I hope the U.S. can begin to move towards a more sustainable future”

Will it work? I think so. It has been in the works for some time. In 2006  American refiners were for the first time pumping “clean diesel”. Now 3 years later we see the first serious cars hitting the market. I would give it still another three to five years for the infrastructure to build up but after that Americans will drive like Europeans: in the premium/ high end segment on clean diesel.

Twitalyzer (Twitter) vs Interbrand and the power of the real time web

I just love Twitalyzer! After having used for a long time I really cannot say anything else… it’s GREAT! Twitalyzer offers  “a unique tool to evaluate the activity of any brand in Twitter”. Why I think it’s great? Because it is real time!

Twitalyzer measures:

  • brand strength – the likelihood that your brand is being discussed in Twitter
  • signal-to-noise ratio – likelihood that a brand mention will be coupled with a URL or a hashtag of some kind
  • favor – ratio of citations that are generally positive to those that are generally negative.
  • passion – likelihood that individuals talking about your brand will do so repeatedly
  • clout – unique individuals referencing your brand divided by the total number of possible references

Results could very well vary day by day but hey… it’s real time after all! Below the top 10 from time and date of this post.

Twitalyzer top 10 on June 9 7:50PM EST: do you know them all?
Twitalyzer top 10 on June 9 7:50PM EST: do you know them all?

It’s really interesting to go through this list… sure some of the “brands” are actually not in the context of brands, twitalyzer just picks it up that way (e.g. heroes, ti) but never the less these are the “brands” being discussed, play a part in peoples live and/or their conversations… right now!

Now… compare that to the Interbrand 2008 list… none of the brands made it to the Twitalizer top 10… sure all of these brands are being discussed and used in conversations on Twitter but you see the difference.  Exception is Intel. In twitalyzer you find this brand on spot 16, with 2.46 mentions per minute from 1,097 unique authors.

Interbrand 2008... compare with the Twitalyzer top 10!
Interbrand 2008... compare with the Twitalyzer top 10!

I understand it is in a way comparing apples with oranges but you can see where this is going: the power of real time web with real time brand measurement will rule. And frankly it’s just great to see if a brand is part of the conversation… right now!

Tropicana: ‘back to the future’ transition completed. Simple lesson: test!

Find the differences
Find the differences

I remember the day when my wife came home from shopping in the local supermarket complaining that she had a hard time finding our favorite Tropicana juice. “They have changed the packaging and I cannot find anything anymore! Almost took the wrong one!”. She was not complaining for a wrong reason. Take a look at the two Tropicana juices on the left. Yes: they are actually different but it is really difficult to spot: ‘high pulp’ and ‘some pulp’ in a different color, different caps and some other small differences. Surely this might work when you have just two packs next to each other but it gets totally different when you see a whole shelf full of similar looking packs! Other consumers realized this too and after less than 2 months and a 20% drop in sales the new pack was replaced by the old one!

Today I noticed that in the supermarket all the ‘new’ packs are finally gone and replaced with the good looking, differentiating ‘old’ packs with the new redesigned cap. Below you see an image of the ‘new’ pack in supermarket context and the ‘old’ pack. Surely the old pack helps consumers to navigate much much better!

New and old
New and old
Old and new
Old and new

But it was not navigation what was the issue. Reading the original pepsi message and press coverage( 1 and 2) it was about “It’s time to remind consumers that Tropicana Pure Premium is pure, natural and squeezed from fresh oranges,”. “In order to reinforce this message, we focused on the health benefits of the juice but showed it in a more emotional way than ever before in this category. We want to remind consumers how it should feel to drink this juice every morning.”

This is a great objective but hard to imagine that the execution should result in very blend and non differentiating design within the Tropicana range! It was so blend that even consumers were not able to navigate in the store to find their favorite juice! In fact: over the last 3 months I have had at least 2 times that I took accidently the wrong juice home! Something that never happened with the ‘old’ sales pack! Why? The various colors that would help me to navigate (orange=no pulp, green=some pulp) were difficult to find as the overall pack looked so much the same.

Then on the objective to remind consumers that Tropicana is pure, natural and squeezed from fresh oranges. Why change from the fresh oranges with the straw to difficult to see orange juice in a glass? Is it not better for consumers to know that the oranges used to create Tropicana were the best on the planet? Showing them on the sales pack with a straw (so fresh you can drink from them!) did a perfect job!

So here are the lessons I took from this disaster:

  1. Identity which elements in your visual identity drive consumers to purchase your product. In case of Tropicana it could have been the image of the fresh looking orange and the straw that strengthens the feeling of freshness even more.
  2. Identity which elements in your visual identity help consumers to navigate in your portfolio. In case of Tropicana it is for sure the use of colors for the different variants of juice.
  3. Identity which visual elements consumers feel belong to your brand. In this case: the happy font, the straw, the fresh orange.
  4. Any changes you make to #1-#3 you test in a retail environment with consumers who are in hurry to grab their favorite product and do not have time to admire individual design details.

Watching TV through cable versus internet: how long will we pay for convenience?

With great internet services like Hulu (European readers: see this image) that help you to “Watch your favorites. Anytime. For Free”  you must have been wondering why we still pay for cable TV? The answer is: convenience.

The fact that cable prices are still going up (at least here in NYC) will for sure help to accelerate  the transition as more and more consumers will try to find alternatives to reduce the large amount of dollars we pay to cable companies every month. Example:  in New York City, USD 111.95 per month will give you internet and cable TV at Time Warner Cable… that is a lot for convenience… especially knowing that virtually all TV shows you would like to watch are available on In fact: you do not even need a hard drive recorder since all the shows are available on Hulu for quite a long time. If  news is your cup of tea then you just go to e.g to watch Live TV. It is all there… on the net… for free!

So, you are convinced that paying for convenience is kind of weird since you can get it all for free on the net? Read further…

Things are still a bit complicated. Last year it was possible to use media center software (boxee) to stream Hulu content on an Apple TV box connected to your TV. Unfortunately the pleasure was for short: content providers did not want their video to go straight to the TV…  As with everything I am sure that hackers, plugin writers will fix this issue and as a bonus will be able to get the Hulu desktop (image) on your media box. I think it is just a matter of time…

Now, once you can use Hulu on your Apple TV or an other media box you might wonder: would Hulu’s 480p content do any good on a 40inch screen? I think you have a point there. The alternative is easy: buy HD content for 2.99USD an episode on iTunes.

Let’s do the math to see how much convenience is worth:
– random internet connection through provider, 25USD per month
– AppleTV, USD 299, (let’s say: 13USD per month over two years)
With a 110USD Time Warner Cable contract you can still buy 24 HD episodes of your favorite TV shows or rent about 18 movies before you would spend more than your current fixed costs!

When will you switch to free?

Virgin Megastore (almost) gone from NYC – digital era starts officially!

Virgin Megastore Union SquareVirgin Megastore is leaving New York City and the USA altogether! To me this truly marks the end of the physical music era and the beginning of digital for the masses. Surely, digital music sales have gone up for a long time already and many (independent) music stores have closed over the last years but the fact that Virgin stepping out is a big thing. Virgin did after all start as a record shop called Virgin Records and Tapes!

Personally I am sad that Virgin Megastore is soon no-more. Why? I just loved going there to browse around, touch the physical CDs/DVDs and above all watching people in the store. Did I buy in the store? Yes! I found myself buying every time I came to the store. Will I continue buying physical CDs/DVDs? Yes! That is for most albums… I just really like to rip CDs in the quality I want. The most important part of a physical CD is however for me the album art work and the booklet.

Thinking about the art work: when moving from the big Long Play records to the small CDs I felt a bit similar: nothing was going to beat the big cover and booklet. It just was part of the whole music experience. And it was art! I somehow learned to live with the small CD booklets and so, maybe I will learn to live with digital art too.

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