Why the vistit of the CES is still a good idea!

This year, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) numbered more than 3.800 exhibitors and over 170.000 visitors. In addition, keynotes came from companies like Netflix, Samsung and IBM. The trade fair in Las Vegas is the worldwide biggest exhibition of the Consumer Electronics Industry. Anyone who’s anyone and wants to present a new product, a new technique or just a crazy new knick-knack, makes it there.
It is, at the same time, also true if you summed up this year by saying: one might not necessarily have to take on the long journey in order to see the individual exhibits live. There are rather developments than really new, breathtaking products. And if you were pulled under the spell a little, it would be in particular for the more trial products such as interactive kitchens, the VW Budd-e or a fantastic new Screen from Panasonic, that was incorporated in a shelf unit, which at the touch of a button would be completely hidden and left behind only a panel with beautiful vases. Or a wardrobe, in which someone throws his washing, which would then be automatically folded. At least in theory, it is truly great, even though they are only trials.

Why it is still worth seeing, has less to do with the individual products that will be presented there. In reality it is the feeling that one takes away from such an event: for trends, for the state of affairs and with this what potential relevance that technologies will soon have.
For me it was decisively less about the shining individual examples from the Virtual and Augmented Reality, Wearables or Connected Everything areas, that ranged from the home, through the car, right up to networked toy ducks. This can indeed be much more conveniently gathered from the relevant trade press in a short summary.
It is more the impression between the lines – since these fields of technology were justifiably awarded a niche role, the offer is nowadays universal. Most notably, networking appliances got squeezed straight out of their niche and into the market. It is no longer only the nerds who dim their light bulbs at home with an App. Max Mustermann is now also one the verge of a Smart Home Shelf, in which the offer is no longer assessable and will also no longer be exorbitant. The masses are doing it.

These will be the impacts for us as a communications industry – if the “Internet of Things” actually arrives in our lives now, if everything is networked these days, and if we have to confirm simultaneously that it will even leave its mark on advertising.

So let’s gear ourselves up for the fact that everything is able to communicate. However it will only communicate thus far as the consumer will approve in future.

The user will want to take more and more control over which news and content reach him or at the least he wants to have the feeling of control. Advertising will then often no longer be noticed as such at all. The forerunners are perhaps InGame-Ads or Product Placements in games. In the world of mobile marketing you always should have already asked: Where is the added value? And does it justify the investments for the sender as well as for the user.

For us this means: Advertising as a Service and Digital Products and Services will be central media and formats in the near future.

After a whole generation that was “spoilt” with free Online-Content in the boom times of the stationary web, a new generation is growing up already with digital pay-worlds: Games, Spotify, Netflix and Apple iTunes to name a few examples. If the content is good, it will be paid.
In this world, brands can develop new sources of digital revenue for themselves. In the Internet of Things (IoT) there is also still abundant space for good concepts. At the same time, it must not always be the Mega-Innovation. Often the potential new use or combination of various, existing solutions will already generate a product advantage – or an especially user-friendly interface. You could smell these new chances at the CES at every turn, creating a positive mood within a market of innovations and disrupters.
Agencies that have realized this are also one step ahead tomorrow. They are very well situated as partners for these new challenges anyway. Target audience analysts, technology specialists and creatives bring with them the perfect setup for the design of the networked communication of the future.

Twitch your Brand? Check this out!

Who remembers the Old Spice Man? In 2010 the actor Isaiah Mustafa conquered the net with lots of charm and his good looks, and Wieden + Kennedy set a milestone with the Old Spice campaign Smell like a Man, Man in terms of content marketing and the social web.

In addition to an excellent creative idea, it was the clever networking to the target group on particularly trendy social channels (especially YouTube and Twitter) and the active involvement of users which contributed to the campaign’s success, which, in subsequent years, was often used as a best practice example for digital marketing.

#twitchplaysoldspice

Here we are, five years later, and we could be standing before a new highlight. But this time it is not YouTube and Twitter which are the channels of choice, but the live streaming platform twitch.tv, where you can watch others playing computer games. From April 16th to 18th, Old Spice ventures with Twitch under the crowd sourced gaming promotion #twitchplaysoldspice, a trip into nature. The viewers are called upon to direct a real man through a forest over three days using the Twitch chat control and can participate with him in prepared events and activities.

The inspiration for the campaign seems to have come from Spring 2014, when thousands of gamers converged to play together on a virtual Gameboy Pokemon in a live stream. The control commands were received in the game characters chat, processed in a short time and then passed on to the game – with correspondingly unpredictable consequences. A completely absurd idea, which is probably why it spread like wildfire within a few days over the net and thereby also brought every facet of Twitch to the fore: gaming, community interaction, live entertainment and a good deal of chaos.

Live-Streaming is in

Currently live streaming is arguably one of the most important trends in the net. With Meerkat and Periscope two companies struggle for dominance in mobile streaming and it was no coincidence that Amazon paid almost a billion US-Dollars in August 2014 for twitch.tv and thus outmanoeuvred competitors Google.

How seriously Google takes twitch.tv can also be seen in that a few weeks ago it became known that the YouTube live streaming service plans to strengthen its position in gaming and eSports and thus become a direct competitor of Twitch.

This development is also interesting in that in recent months Twitch has carefully made first attempts to broaden its fairly strict gaming alignment through transfers of film and music events without alienating its important core target group and damaging the essence of its brand.

The success of Twitch is attributable, alongside the transmission of popular eSports events, to a loyal fan base of many small and large content producers who broadcast their gaming sessions on a daily basis. Meanwhile streaming has become much more than just fun for bored teenagers: If streamers achieve stable numbers of regular viewers, they can participate in the Twitch Partner programme and fans can support them by subscribing to their channels for five dollars a month – about half of the revenue ends up with the content producers, the other half goes to Twitch. Loyal fans can thus provide, in contrast to the often fluctuating ad revenue for moving image ads, an additional, stable revenue base for streamers, a number of whom have already made their hobbies into professions and who provide elaborate productions on a daily basis.

Meanwhile Twitch hosts regular gaming talk shows, live coverage of gaming conventions like PAX or  Gamescom and numerous gaming publications have discovered the platform as a way to interact with fans and readers.

Pioneer work: streaming platforms marketing

Twitch now reaches about 100 million viewers worldwide per month. In Germany, according to AGOF internet facts 2015-01 it has about 1.7 million unique users in an average month. Unsurprisingly for a platform with a strong focus gaming, a good 90% of users are men under 30 years.

Twitch has now become an indispensable platform for many gaming companies for promotion of new games. Many manufacturers of hard- and soft-ware, as well as consumer goods have also long been active on Twitch. But it would be a big mistake to use Twitch only as another placement location in the media plan for display and video advertising because the true strength of the platform lies in the relationship between the streaming personalities and the audience.

Tech-savvy young men are not usually distinguished by their high acceptance of advertising. It is thus even more important for brands to develop stream sponsorship, events and promotions together with the streamers and tailored to fit the special culture of the platform. The related expenses may seem daunting, as many channels have only a few thousand viewers per day. However many experiments can be implemented on a small-scale with a manageable budget to gather experience for larger promotions. You do not have to dump a man in the forest for three days and leave his fate to the sometimes anarchic Twitch-chat. But it is definitely worth taking a look at.

Mobile World Congress 2015 – the “Outernet” is coming

Once more, the mobile industry has got together in Barcelona for the annual Mobile World Congress. The beginnings of the congress reach back to the year 1987.  I myself have now been there ten times as a visitor. In the early years, the event was primarily a technological performance show of, at that time, pure mobile and infrastructure providers. So companies such as Nokia, Sony, Alcatel, Samsung and co. presented their latest models, and T-Mobile, Vodafone, Telefonica and co. did some purchasing. On the sidelines Cisco, Qualcomm and other system vendors showed their servers, masts and the like.

Especially in recent years, since smart phones have taken over the mobile phone market completely, the event has increasingly evolved from a technological to a technical performance show. This year it is particularly noticeable that manufacturers such as Sony, with a wide range of devices from TVs to cameras, are showing us every possible application scenario and operation of their devices.

The top theme of 2015 is the Internet of Things: smart wearables, smart home, smart PoS, Smart Car, Smart City, Smart-anything And the message on the side — yes, we still have a few very chic, new smartphones!

But at the time when smartphones are only being tweaked. Features such as waterproofing,   powerful processors, NFC, Dolby Surround and the like have almost become standard everywhere.

The shape factor has also been resolved; it stays with the touch / slate format. The screen diagonals have grown, but should stabilize at about four point seven to five inches as everything else is somewhat unwieldy.

Depending on manufacturer and model, there are a few special features in the high-performance camera direction such as 4K recordings on Sony, curved display at LG or casing upgrades such as the S6 devices from Samsung, which are now delivered in high-quality aluminium – but all this is still only fine tuning. There have been no major innovations this year.

We will need, however, to get used to being flooded in the coming months by smart watches and smart bands. Every manufacturer has dozens of different models on offer, from pure fitness trackers to the fashion statement. Even the classic watch manufacturers such as GUESS watches or Kronoz  were there, showing their smart watch interpretations. The crux of the matter is, however, that most people currently don’t actually see any benefit in smart wearables.

Fitness trackers can obviously record their own movement and provide data for analysis, but beyond that things get vague. The development of these devices will depend on what benefits are attributed to them by end users.

 

Megatrend: The Internet of Things

What was really new at the show was that manufacturers have comprehensively adopted the theme of cross-linked life and the Internet of Things. How do I network my living room, control the TV or manage audio, video, and photos? How can I dock my phone, for example, on the Playstation 4 and take my games directly from the large to the small screen without much effort? Where will it all lead to and whether every toaster really needs a Wi-Fi connection remains to be seen. But as so often, manufacturers tend embrace the theoretical possibilities with their enthusiasm for technology leading them to overdo it at first

The central device, which breathes the intelligence into all the new IoT (Internet of Things) gadgets,  remains the smart phone. We all take it for granted and it stands at the centre of every application. It is the basic prerequisite which allows watches, toothbrushes or houses to be smart at all.

Further innovations are expected in the coming years on the software side. The device itself has developed into a swiftly changing tool. The operating system, the Internet and a couple of particular apps bring it to life.

As in previous years, the Google’s green Android bot was almost omnipresent. The operating system dominates the smartphone market in an almost frightening way. However young, fresh operating systems like the Linux-based Ubuntu Phone or the Firefox OS are more than confident. But for users it continues to be a major to impossible effort to change the operating system on their smartphones or to change so as to have about an alternative to Google’s Android.

Real competition for Google could develop in the coming years – from Samsung, which currently produces about 70 percent of all Android smart phones.  Samsung is a company with healthy aspirations which feels its dependence on Google as rather suboptimal. Not least for this reason, Samsung has become a major developer of the independent operating system, Tizen. It has presented a complete Tizen Eco System ranging from smart phones and smart watches up to apps and cameras in Barcelona. It is only a matter of time until Samsung feels strong enough to consider turning their backs Android. At least then the balance of power caused by a reshuffle in smart phone operating systems will make it really exciting again.

 

The Potential of the Outernet

The question arises for us today what these developments will mean for us, but more importantly for our customers, the advertisers.

Well, first of all we need to understand that the Internet is no longer trapped in a box called a PC or laptop. It is small-scale, colourful, exciting and “happens” absolutely anywhere, anytime. There are devices that generate data or content (e.g. wearables, clothing, etc.) and there are devices (e.g. TV, screens, sound boxes, etc.), the process or output such content. Mobile terminals have brought the Internet to places that have been completely analogue to date. Many speak in this context of “Outernet”.

This trend was particularly clear in Barcelona at a side event of the exhibition, “4YFN – 4 Years From Now – Connecting start ups,”.

The current generation of business founders work in some cases with completely undeveloped markets and will develop business models that will appeal to new audiences and which we still do not dare to dream of today.

Already disruptive business models have emerged from these developments, such as car sharing á la car2go or DriveNow, which were made possible by the mobile Internet. Also services such MyTaxi or Uber have completely overthrown old business models. It’s no longer about digitization; it involves mobilizing – and we are still at the very beginning of it.

And all these new and in some cases really fascinating business models will attract more people to a more intensive use of smart phones. So many more target groups will be devoting more and more time to the screens in their hands!

Until now brands have presented their messages on their websites and other media channels. In future this will be complex. Users or customers are using the Internet increasingly and the diversity of devices continues to grow. Critics see this as an even more fragmented device market, which makes mass communication more difficult. I see it more as a great opportunity for companies to take their first steps with the likes of Branded Services or Content-Marketing and to live the much-vaunted customer relationship. That is because the “bombard everything with advertising until the last person knows the claim” approach is not about customer relationship! Whereas so far a company website optimized for desktop or laptop was the focal point, now it will be the “touch-friendly” website or apps for smart phones and tablets.

At the moment, many companies see mobile Internet as only just another media channel for bannering or search. In my opinion this is a fatal miscalculation that ignores the vast potential of the mobile Internet. Many smart people are currently worrying about how to connect the analogue world of brand communication, i.e. print, radio, OOH or TV, to the digital world, and then invent such great things such as the Red Button on TV. The problem is: No one needs this Red Button. Why? Because we already have one in our pockets: our smart phone. It can see (camera, image recognition, etc.), hear (microphone and sound recognition, is always connected to the internet and, moreover, is absolutely personal.

But also the other way, i.e. from the network to the analogue world, can and should be ventured by companies. A major area is, for example, “ROPO” (Research Online – Offline purchase). Consumers can use their smart phones to get “Real World cookies”, e.g. digital loyalty cards with which customers can take their search and purchases history from the online store into the dealer’s shop.

This could finally give each channel its proper meaning in the customer journey! This in turn will lead to massive structural changes. Dividing retail stores and online shops into separate channels or even companies will, in future, make a lot less sense. Instead, intelligent, networked solutions are required. We have already shown how some examples of this can work in our weShop (www.weshop.vision) – but there are still many other ways. The “Outernet” will be the big trend in the coming years.

My tip for the advertisers: mobile marketing will permanently change the way we have, till now, communicated with customers and call into question ecosystems, billing models, departments, etc. which have evolved over the years. For this reason, it is advisable that mobile receive complete “management attention”, as that is where foresight is required, not to miss out on such developments, but to position ourselves and our companies for it.

Google is overtaking Apple and that’s a good thing

According to the “BrandZ” study, Google is replacing Apple as the most valuable brand – and that’s a good thing as everyone knows that competition is good for business. And if we’re honest, it’s high time that Apple be dethroned: Where are the great innovations since the introduction of the iPad? Apple’s concept for success – reduction down to elementary features, simplification by paternalism – simply no longer adds up. And the arrogance of Apple’s market identity, which may have been justified in the beginning, is not as popular any more.

The older target groups have also learned and do not want to be dogmatically locked into a closed system; that didn’t matter to Apple in the past. iAds – in short, they failed. iRadio – not really. B2B-Appstore – still not available. Larger displays, NFC – so far, they’ve been snoozing.
Google has recently been much more dynamic, and not just when it comes to its Android operating system for smartphones or the Nexus devices: Google has started many smart services and has tried to understand the user in the process. Google Music, Google Movies or Google Now, for example.

All of this – plus its market position in the area of search services and the resulting advertising income – are points contributing to Apple now being overtaken: Resting on their laurels, ignoring customer preferences, missing innovations and an arrogant communication policy toward end users and business partners has lead the market and customers to punish Apple.
The “Beats” purchase will not stop this trend for now – a headphone system can be replaced. Android is spreading quickly and already supports the “wearables” trend. And Microsoft is also increasing the pressure with the slowly but steadily increasing prevalence of Windows Mobile.
The expectations for the iPhone 6 get higher every day – it still remains to be seen whether Apple can meet them in the end.

For us as an agency, this confirms what we’ve been observing for a long time: Google is currently the more dynamic and innovative partner. To put it positively: Apple, it’s finally time to put the pedal back to the metal!