Thursday, February 24, 2011

Magazine apps fail to stack up (Via Design Week online)

For those of you without a Design Week log in - here's the copy from my vox pop on magazine apps. No copyright infringement intended

"At a time when print media is having to pull its socks up on the digital front, most magazine apps fail to stack up to their digitally-native competitors. The Net-à-Porter magazine looks great and is regularly updated with new fashion tips, but many of the things that an app interface offers have been neglected. It is not possible to ‘shop the look’ by tapping on certain elements, nor can you share pages to your social network or through email. It’s not even possible to pinch in to get a closer look at the clothes. With iPhones and Blackberries now as much as an accessory as a piece of tech, fashion magazines have a real opportunity to collaborate with brands to develop profitable apps that mix great editorial with the chance to share, comment and buy."

Monday, February 21, 2011

Then I saw his face, now I’m a Belieber

Last night I went to see the Justin Bieber movie – Never Say Never. In 3D. Now, before you forever delete Camilla’s Store from your Google Reader, please give me a few paragraphs to explain myself.

I’ll admit, it just sounded like a fun thing to do with @celialikesbooks on a quiet Sunday night. But more importantly, as a digital strategist it’s important to know what’s going on with the kids (da kidz) and millions of hysterical teenage girls worldwide can’t be wrong.

Bieber may be a study in poorly managed ADHD but he is also a carefully curated, expertly executed, cross-platform brand who rose from a few YouTube videos to an 86 gig tour culminating in a sell-out show at Madison Square Gardens. There’s got to be some social media strategy lessons in there somewhere. And if they’re delivered in 3D, so much the better.

Firstly, The Bieb. He’s alright – ticks all the boxes of cute, non-threatening, triple threat youth dynamo. But it’s his team – consisting of Mom, grandparents, vocal coach, costume designer, manager and “jester” (their words, not mine) – who really run the show. This is pushy parenting taken to whole new levels, and you are left wondering whether stardom is an excellent outlet for Bieber’s effervescent energy, or a depressing theft of his youth.

In the film, Justin is joined on stage by other celebabies Myley Cyrus and Jaden Smith (“my papa is a guy named Will”), both of whom have an unnerving world-weariness. Poor Jaden only found out his parents had made the helicopter to NYC moments before he went on stage at The Garden. And to think I freaked out if I lost my mum in the supermarket.

Secondly, the film. I hate to admit it, but part of me feels it belongs in the “Films of our era” drawer along with The Social Network. It’s by no means as beautifully crafted, but it’s the first example of large-scale storytelling via YouTube videos, Twitter updates and comments sections I’ve seen.

Justin is the perfect product of the “Digital Instinctive” generation – discovered, followed, and loved by a dedicated online community. And he gives the love back – tweeting his fans to let them know how he’s feeling, giving away front row tickets to kids outside the venue, and regularly updating his YouTube diary. His hit “Baby” has had 468,497,309 views on YouTube. 21,665,394 people “like” him on Facebook”. And he has 7, 481,097 followers on Twitter. That is power. That is a massive slap in the face to any brand who thinks it doesn’t need to engage its customers – and most importantly its future customers – online.

You may not feel a slow-motion hair flick in 3D is an entirely necessary part of the cinema experience, but if you’re wanting a crash-course in the art of digital strategy driving both brand and comms, Bieber is your guy. Never say never.

Photo credit: @celialikesbooks - you keep me real.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sorry – not available in your country

I thought the days of being the odd kid no one wanted to play with were over. But no, turns out that just living in England can keep you out of the metaphorical sandpit of tech start-ups popping up Stateside. Already this year, I had to suffer the indignity of asking an American what The Daily app interface was like. Ok, it was the guy that designed it, but still.

And today I find out that app-based payment service, Venmo, has added an incredibly exciting feature which, you guessed it, “isn’t available in my country”. Sometimes I wonder why my ancestors couldn’t have just stayed on the boat from Russia for another couple of stops across the Atlantic. Show me the apps Granny!

Anyways, enough whining. Until I get the call from MB SF, I must live vicariously through Mashable and Fast Company. And that new Venmo feature? Location-based payment publishing.

“The Venmo apps for iPhone and Android make it super simple to settle the bill evenly (to the penny, if you like), and given the number of people that are using Venmo to split the bill when they go out, we have integrated with Foursquare and Facebook places to allow you to attach a location to every payment you make.

Venmo Places also makes it really easy to see how often and how much you are spending with your friends at your favorite spots.”

The money shot? This: “Plus, when you publish a payment tagged with a place, it’s a fun way to share your experience with any of your Facebook, Twitter, or Venmo friends who might not have been there. We like to think of it as the “check-out” followup to a Foursquare or Facebook “check-in.”

VERY exciting. Watch this space.

Friday, February 04, 2011

New post now live on Eye Magazine blog. Click HERE.

Re-posted here...

The Self as Brand

I recently wrote a post on the Moving Brands blog about living in the era of the over-share, about how, with so many life-casting tools at our fingertips, we are able to share anything and everything as we go through our day. But just because we can, does it mean we do? Or do these platforms actually allow us to create a rich brand around who we really are by carefully curating and broadcasting a life that is, in fact, a slightly heightened version of the truth?

Most users probably don't think of themselves and their behaviours in terms of 'brand', but that is exactly what social media enables. Apart from those deviants and sociopaths, we've evolved from creating entirely new selves online - like the Barbie and Ken avatars on Second Life. Today, most of us have learned how to portray a pretty accurate interpretation of reality through who we follow, what we 'like', what links we share and the content we post.

As social networking platforms proliferate and the lines between our different selves (the work self, the friend self, the family self) blur and break, it is no wonder that we feel compelled to control how the online world sees us. We wouldn't go to a glamorous party in a pair of old pyjamas, so why would we project anything other than our best selves online?

Today I came across a blog with the mission statement 'This is a blog intended to trick strangers into thinking my life is more exciting than it actually is'. The blog may be called "Slutever…" but the author's frank admission is not so shocking. Who isn't guilty of de-tagging the odd Facebook photo to ensure we look cool, fun and attractive in every picture in our profile?

The location-based check-in services FourSquare and Facebook Places has added an interesting element to personal content curation. The privacy activists may well be concerned about broadcasting their exact location to strangers but, for the self publicist, there are bigger concerns at play, namely where to be "seen" online. The average Londoner could dutifully check in at their tube stop, their place of work and Pret a Manger day in day out, but what's aspirational or taste-making about that? Better, surely, only to check-in at the more exciting places. The places that tell your followers something about you and the kind of person you want to be seen as.

Furthermore, as we identify the self as 'brand' via our allegiances to brands, so companies are reflecting our choices back. More than ever, brands are listening and watching our moves online and rewarding their biggest advocates. From the people who start great Facebook fan pages, to those who become Mayor of their local Starbucks on Foursquare, brands are reaching out and giving them the tools to do the selling for them. As Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, said recently, - "What marketers have always been looking for is trying to get you to sell things to your friends".

From the Middle Eastern beads found in ancient burial sites in Suffolk, to the tribal people of Papua New Guinea using Pentel pens as nose decorations, to the young people of Berlin whose first goal, once the wall came down, was to eat a Big Mac, we have used trading, shopping and brands as a way to enlarge our sense of self. So, is this digital age turning us all into products? Or is it simply another platform on which to communicate a very basic human urge - self-expression? Are the selves that we can create and control online in fact more 'ourselves' than in real life?