Archive for category Digital

RockMelt. The ultimate browser goes local (but not hyper-local)

RockMelt is a browser based on Google Chrome that’s pretty revolutionary. There are lots of reasons why several of the Digital team use it – mainly because it’s simpler and easier than Safari, IE, and even Firefox. The main feature is that it’s integrated with social media, which means that you can add RSS feeds and updates from Twitter or Facebook in a nice little organised side bar.

Although it sounds like RockMelt’s ‘always on’ features will distract you fundamentally by pushing all the distractions further into your view, it doesn’t. It shows you a count, so that you don’t get stuck in that process of going back to check what’s going on all the time (Fear Of Missing Out). If your FOMO gets too bad, now there’s a feature that let’s you go into ‘quiet mode’ – so you can ‘pause’ the distraction temporarily and get on with the task at hand.

Then there is the ‘View Later’ button. On all of your feeds, and all of the pages you’re browsing, you can use the ‘View Later’ function to collate all the bits and pieces you’d like to save until you have the head space. So useful.

But most importantly, now you can search in browser and select which country’s search results you want to see. So for example, if I want to see how high in the results Tesco is when people in Russia search for ‘Tesco’, I can do that easily, without having to use a masking site or other weird and wonderful tools.

So this browser (like all browsers) is not giving me hyper-local search results unless I tell it to in my search terms, but it’s helping me see things from another country’s view. And if RockMelt can build it for country level search results, maybe default regional or hyper-local search results filters are around the corner.

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New Cars are like Local Marketing

When you buy a car, suddenly you start noticing all the other cars that are the same as yours, so much so that you’re convinced that there are more than there were before.

The transition between marketing ‘generally’ and then marketing ‘locally’ is similar. When you’re working in an agency that specialises in Local Marketing, suddenly you wonder how you missed all the stuff going on in the Local Marketing space. It’s so fundamentally obvious that in the battle for relevancy, proximity matters.  Everywhere you look, people are talking about local – and not just as an intangible theory, but as an actual ‘thing’.

An actual ‘thing’, you say?

A highlight of the series of Maroon Peugeot 307s is the launch of a new US hyper-local industry trade publication StreetFight a few days ago. They’ve positioned the service as a collection of everything that’s happening in the hyper-local space, including vouchering, check in services, and local news sites. Then there’s the super-massive Patch.com hyper-local news service based in the US run by Arianna Huffington. EveryBlock (US) and StickyBoard (UK) community noticeboards have redesigned and launched respectively. Talk about Local‘s community efforts are ongoing and the Big Society ideas continue to generate meaningful conversation. These are just a few of the bigger things that are going on, but community activities and new ways to use technology to help communities engage are popping up every day. So too are hyper-local, hyper-relevant marketing opportunities.

People continue to have debates about the definition of the words hyper-local, localisation, local marketing… whatever we end up calling it in the history books, we’re part of a shift.  The UK’s take on local is a little different to the US’s as pointed out wonderfully by Joni Ayn Alexander, but the main point is the same. It’s a thing.

A thing with big agencies predicting daft numbers like 42.5 billion dollars by 2015.

You can’t even escape it in the pub! This poster for Venue Magazine (the local Bristol/Bath magazine that’s recently been under fire but lives to fight another day) was up in the Portcullis.

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Frank Rose: The Art of Immersion 12/04/11

Frank Rose is the author of soon-to-be-released bookThe Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation Is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories‘. He attended the Festival of Ideas at the Bristol Watershed to introduce the concepts in the book.

Frank led with a throw-away comment ‘Stories are to humans like algorithms are to machines‘. We use stories to make sense of our world and share that understanding with others. Our human instinct to find the story means that we’ll find the story even when there isn’t one – he showed us an experiment performed by Fritz Heifer and Marianne Simmel in 1944 where subjects were shown a video involving triangles and a circle, and asked to interpret them. Inevitably, the subjects humanised the shapes and created a narrative for them.

He took us through various examples of immersion – when the original media used isn’t the only place that people can interact with the story. He says that ‘digital’ gives everyone the opportunity to tell stories in many different ways, because the internet can be all types of media – video, text, audio, or all.  For example, Lost fans created Lostpedia to help them understand the story, Star Wars merchandising gave fans ways to create new sub-stories including comic books, Nintendo games and even fan movies.

He touched on co-creation too, and gave the example of Apple/Nike’s chipped running shoe where the brands don’t create the story – they give the users the tools to create and share their own.

When asked how immersion is affecting marketing and advertising, he said that the 30 second TV spot is dying and cited ‘rising costs, falling viewership, ever-proliferating ad clutter, and viewers’ TiVo-fueled power to zip through commercials‘ as reasons. But he also said that history shows us that cultures take 20 – 30 years to figure out how to use technology, and that we’re only part-way there. Examples like the Old Spice commercials, where co-creation was embraced to great viral success, and failures such as the Harry Potter Wars (where the studios failed to recognise and utilise/facilitate or allow co-creation attempts on a massive scale) show that we’re still learning, but also that the opportunities are endless.

Frank believes that advertising is another kind of story, and to be effective it should be non-linear, participatory and above all, immersive.

Personally, I found the talk quite hard going but definitely thought-provoking – Frank Rose is clearly a brilliant thinker and writer but the ideas presented were bigger than a 40 minute slot. I’ll be getting the book and adding it to the library once done!

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Think BR: Are big agencies failing to engage in local?

The Local Social Summit, hosted for the second year last week by co-founders Dylan Fuller (Ebay’s UK head of adcommerce) and Simon Baptist (group head of syndication and social media at European Directories), was billed as “an independent platform for knowledge sharing and networking for global thought leaders driving local social innovation and success”.

Local Social SummitAn international audience from local search, local social, vouchering, business directories, tech start-ups, trend analysts and entrepreneurs gathered to discuss the intersection between local, social and mobile.

Or to put it another way, to understand how local sales outlets can make use of the increasingly available location-aware, social and mobile platforms to enhance their sales and deepen their relationships with customers.

That the event is happening, the content insightful, speakers passionate and tweet count high (#lss10) is no surprise – the mounting movement behind the convergence of the elements explained above is clear and unavoidable.

I read around this subject daily but still learnt a great deal. What did surprise me, though, was the lack of mainstream representation at a conference discussing an increasingly important and effective space.

No big marcomms agencies, no big media agencies, no big brand advertisers. Come to think of it, no small or medium sized ones either.

I’m troubled by this. It feels like a ’head in the sand’ approach to a complex yet effective route to building closer ties and real relationships with customers, as well as more effective sales in the channel.

Due to their absence, there was little opportunity for counter points or arguments from the brands and their trusted advisors as to the application and intricacies of the technologies and techniques discussed and their real world applications. Which is a shame, but in no way the fault of the organisers.

What do I take from this? In part, I think there is some inevitability about it. This is an area of hard graft and, although transformational results are possible, it currently requires big companies and their sales networks to think and act like small, agile, passionate SMEs (we heard from three such case studies during the day).

Scaling local is hard, measurements come in micro-integrations and small incremental engagements, and empowerment of local staff is often required.

These are all challenging things for large organisations, whose natural tendency is to centralise not devolve, and to those whose metrics are share of voice and volume of page impressions.

What was clear from the Summit was that success in the local space (where big brands’ customers actually live) will be driven by the passionate, driven and authentic actions of empowered employees working in the sales channels, acting like owners of their own businesses.

Sales networks that currently shun empowerment will need to embrace it. Staff that currently might not even have a marketing budget may soon need to have a voice and some control over their own promotional, tactical destiny.

They need training, guidance, help and content support, but they are the ones that will create a personality for otherwise faceless, voiceless corporations. And they will make a difference, locally.

The pace of change in this area is such that predictions are almost impossible, and brands need trusted advisors to be investing time to help them understand and execute within their sales channels.

One prediction I can be certain of however is that, as these devices, tools and techniques become more recognised and understood, the mainstream will be well represented at Local Social Summit ’11.

Originally published in Brand Republic – bit.ly/aLQIav

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