It’s TIME to change

Yesterday at the SIME conference in Stockholm I was part of a keynote session around the topic: “It’s TIME to change”. The whole theme of SIME is based around change and the DNA of change and in case of our session they had someone from the Telecom, Internet (me), Media and Entertainment sector to talk about this (hence the ‘TIME’). I’ve uploaded my presentation to Slideshare but because it doesn’t really say much on the slides, I’ll outline my talk a bit.

We each had about 15 minutes to talk so I decided not to show videos or anything, but added a slide with a whole bunch of links at the end of the presentation for more info (and credits of course).

There were 2 big elements I wanted to talk about at SIME. I know not everyone thinks about Microsoft right away when thinking about change and innovation so first I wanted to talk a little bit about how I do believe we have changed what we do and how we do that over the last years. Second I wanted to talk about the elements that I think are part of this DNA of change, specifically for digital/online.

I had to start with the Blue Monster on this one (given the topic of change) as an introduction to a few examples of how we are trying to innovate in several areas: WorldWide Telescope, Live Maps 3D, Surface computing, Boku, Photosynth, Deepzoom as used for Hard Rock Memorabilia, SenseWeb, HIV vaccination research, … For Photosynth for instance, looking at Blaise’s talk at TED, it became clear this isn’t just a new way to stitch photo’s but that there are some ideas being researched on how this might change surfing the web in general. Pretty cool stuff, you have to see that video from TED if you haven’t done so already, seriously!

But just like JP replied to Hugh, the world wants Microsoft to change as well (slide 10) and also there I think there are fundamental changes going on the last few years. The latest Silverlight toolkit is open source. I don’t remember exactly where I read this but Microsoft submitted two licenses to the Open Source Initiative in 2004. Now there are 500 and there are at least 80,000 Open Source apps that run on Windows. Another change (slide 12) is a new focus on experience and not just features – or not just about what’s in the box, but also how you take it out of it and use it ;) Think about the Zune, Live Mesh, the new Windows Live, new Xbox Live Dashboard, Office 2007, Windows7, etc.

I often use the analogy of Microsoft being this huge ship on which a whole bunch of people are working hard to make it turn, but as happens with boats of that size it takes time before you see it happen. Therefore Robert Scoble’s quote after the Azure launch was even more interesting to see for me (slide 14).

sime
Photo by http://flickr.com/photos/mathys/

So okay, talk about change in general now. First of all I think it’s important to be aware of what is going on, referring to Patrick McDevitt’s (TeleAtlas) superb talk at Web2.0 in Berlin where he talked about ‘”Detecting change in a changing world” using both research as community input to do so. Check out his talk. This is not only true for maps though. As a business you need to find ways to understand which changes are relevant to you and which aren’t. Using both research and the wisdom of the crowd is valuable for all of us. Trust (slide 16) your consumers. In an age when consumers started to trust strangers, it’s all to bad seeing some companies don’t even trust their own customers.

Another element of change, which I find very important is hackability. Make things hackable (slide 18), give people pieces to copy, to re-create, … and they might change your product, service, marketing campaign, … into something you might not have imagined. In a way the initial IBM PC is a very good example of that. You could by a white label PC, change the parts of it, build your own – and make it look like pretty much anything if you want. Same for advertising – It’s not what advertising does to the consumer, it’s what the consumer does to advertising (sorry for not remembering who said this first).

But while you change, don’t forget to keep focus on the outcome, your end goal (slide 19). Dopplr for instance is extremely good at that, pretty much everything they add to the service, adds value to the service. Not sure if could say the same for Technorati or Bloglines. Focus more on the experience (slide 20), something we might have learned the hard way but it is more important than ever. Why would people care about unboxing if it wasn’t important.

Digital also enables much easier to engage and interact in realtime (slide 21) – thanks Ag8! Take advantage of that, find out in realtime what people think, how they use things, where they are, … whatever adds value for you and your customers. Change the way you talk to your customers, or better talk with your customers. Too bad I couldn’t show the Bring The Love Back video (slide 22), SIME was after all in a movie theatre.

Think about context (slide 23)! And how you have to change the content based on the channel you’re using (rather than for the medium that is used to deliver it). Tom and David at Ag8 are bringing a strong message that is linked to this around metamedia instead of crossmedia. Be sure to check that out as well.

Change is inevitable – except from a vending machine ;) (slide 25). Which aspects about the DNA of change in this digital world do you think I forgot, I’m interested to get your opinion about that. I tried to put in as much as possible within the 15 minutes I got but would love to discuss further.

No Copy

In image says more than a thousand words, that’s no secret anymore. And I guess that people who’ve been reading this blog for quite a while have noticed that I have a soft spot for advertising campaigns that convey a message using just one (but powerful) image. Like the 2 campaigns below, note that the first one has no copy at all.

alkaselzer 
More at Buzzing Bees.

careerbuilder
More at adhunt.

A friend’s birthday

It seems to be quite appropriate that the 2nd anniversary of the Blue Monster coincides with Steve Clayton’s birthday as Steve has been crucial  in getting the Blue Monster where it is today. Hugh Macleod has a nice little write-up about the Blue Monster history, well worth reading. For me this story started at a similar time that I got to know both Hugh (we met for the first time at LeWeb 2 years ago) and Steve and that’s how I got affected by our little blue friend. It was good getting to know all three of them.

In his post Hugh refers to what David Armano had to say about the Blue Monster, something he wrote after he and I met at MIX08 in Vegas:

“What’s to be learned? Blue Monster shows us that no matter how big or small the company that the world is a bigger place. And external influences can become internal influences. And it teaches us that if we are interested in the evolution of corporate culture, that symbols are important. If we don’t find our own—someone will find them for us.”

bluemonster Even more, the Blue Monster became an example of how companies can embrace social media. It has become an example of how a company (or anybody for that matter) can benefit from letting go of control. Just read through Rohit Bhargava’s “Personality Not Included” for instance, or the more recent “Crowd Surfing” from David Brain.

Hell no, the Blue Monster is not dead – it’s alive and kicking, not only within the spirit of many Microsoft employees but also outsiders are starting to see change. And did you read Hugh’s 7th point? Well the Blue Monster is going to Paris… but more on that soon ;) For now, it’s just happy birthday.

Personality matters

PersonalityNotIncluded Last April in NY during the Blogger Social, we all received a bunch of goodies, most of it small promotional items, but also some marketing related books. One of those books was ‘Personality not included’ from Rohit Bhargava, also present at the event. We had a little chat about the book, which was pretty interesting for many reasons but one thing Rohit said made me more curious about reading it than anything else and that was part of a chapter talking about Microsoft and The Blue Monster. So I started reading on the plane back already, it just took me a while to write down my thoughts.

In the introduction Rohit already makes it very clear what this is about:

“Personality matters. Being faceless doesn’t work anymore. The theory of PNI is that personality is the answer. Personality is the key element behind your brand and what it stands for, and the story that your products tell to your customers.”

Rohit defines personality then as:

“The unique, authentic, and talkable soul of your brand that people can get passionate about”

Chapter 2, that talks about The Blue Monster, interested me for two reasons. One, it’s The Blue Monster (see earlier posts) and two because it talks about ‘The Accidental Spokesperson’. The reason why that interested me more has to do with the revealing of corporations who get social media, lists you can find all over the place these days. Microsoft who used to be mentioned a lot in the beginning as a company who ‘gets it’ is hardly ever in those lists. Why? Because they look at corporate blogs, corporate twitter accounts etc. And we don’t have that – at least not like a CEO blog or something. But there are some hundreds of Softies on Twitter, a few thousands that blog and those are not to be ignored – the chapter shows it well.

Last point I wanted to highlight is something about transparency. Rohit says ’transparency is overrated’ and talks a bit about transparency and authenticity. I pretty much agree with his point and it reminded me of something David Weinberger said during the Euroblog event in Brussels, about how transparency and authenticity are too often used in the wrong meaning, or even terminologies that are sometimes mistaken for one and other. Now David was a lot more articulate about this than I am here now, but I’m sure you know what I mean.

Rohit is a smart guy, he writes one of the better marketing blogs you can find and is a great person to discuss with about the changes in consumer engagement. And that reflects on his book, you can see the personality. The one thing I didn’t like (much like Jennifer) is the ‘Guides and Tools’ section of the book, which is too much repetition for me re the first part. That said, good book, go check it out.

Open Game Format

When you read about an Open Game Format in most cases it is about games such as GTA in which you can wonder around freely and play missions in any order you want. Sometimes when Open Game Format it’s referring to game modes such as Free For All in Call Of Duty 4, where everyone plays against everyone – no rules. When I was thinking about what I would call an Open Game Format earlier on in my car I was thinking about something totally different than what I described in the intro. I do think it follows a bit of gaming experience (although probably not much) to follow my thinking but here we go…

rainbowsix

Let’s say you like the COD4 multiplayer gameplay but you got a bit bored of the maps by now. But maybe, just like me, you still prefer it over Rainbow Six: Las Vegas 2 because the controls are easier, feel more natural. What you miss in COD4 though is that when you get shot, you only get a snapshot of how that happened, whereas Halo3 offers this ubercool 3D scene that you can view from all angles giving you a better idea of what happened. But then again, fighting aliens is not your thing so what you do?

Let’s imagine all these game elements where created in layers, all based on industry standards. Let’s imagine there’s a layer for the scenery, characters, weaponry, type of games, effects, … and let’s imagine that you could combine each and every one according to your liking. So let’s take on map from Gears Of War, the controls and weaponry as well as type of games from COD4 and combine that with the 3D scenes from Halo3…. mixing, loading… there’s your game. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

I think it would be. It’s never going to happen of course but a man can dream no? I must admit I was surprised that there wasn’t a conversation about something like an Open Game Format going on already, similar to ODF etc.

Innovation

“Don’t take a designer and tell them to build a bridge. Bring them to the canyon and see what they come up with. (Claudia Kotcha)”

Taken from the “We need change” presentation on Slideshare: “A loosely structured collection of quotes and references regarding the (mediocre) but promising state of market research”.

Famous Jaffe

Last Friday I was invited by Famous to come to their annual BBQ at the Africa Museum in Brussels. They also had arranged for Joseph Jaffe to come and talk about The Conversation to the audience of marketers and advertisers. I had wanted to see Jaffe present again as last (and first) time I saw him was in November 2005 and it was good. Given the post about that presentation was only the second one I had ever written on a blog, it’s fair to say it was part of the reason that I got into blogging to begin with (just like reading “Naked Conversations” was another one). Another reason why I was interested to go was because it would be a good opportunity to finally meet face to face, after several conversations online.

And just like in 2005, Jaffe never seems to disappoint as a presenter. Reading his books always leave me somewhere in the middle, I like them because they’re well written but most of the content is not new to me so that makes them less interesting. But then again, I don’t belong to the core target audience for these books either. The marketers and advertisers invited by Famous do belong to that audience though and I really hope they will read the book. Since everyone received a free copy that shouldn’t be too much of a challenge :)

ConversationalMarketingConstruct

One of the slides that interested me most was the one above about “The Conversational Marketing Construct”. I thought it was an interesting exercise on defining the innovation process, and something we ought to use to check on our own progress with Bring The Love Back.

Overall, very good presentation and glad to finally meet Joseph in person. There were a lot of good statements being made during the presentation but since Clo captured most of them in her Twitter stream, I suggest you check that one out. My favorites:

… And this is my social security number and my bank account. Since you’re all marketing professionals I know you’ll be too lazy to use the data to get into contact with me anyway” (when showing his AMEX, bank account, etc details on his ‘who’s Jaffe’ slide)

Or this one…

It’s not enough to get your foot in the door. Consumers are now so powerful they would break it. They would have to ask you in.

Photosynth: it’s here!

I can’t count the number of times I’ve written about Photosynth anymore, but trust me when I say the number of times I wanted to say even more is even bigger. I remember how the first reactions (the oohs and aahs) were quickly followed by questions about the computing power that would be needed to create synths your own. Well, we’ve been having access (I work for Microsoft) to the tool that allows you to create your own Synths for a while and yes your personal computer will do just fine. And since yesterday, you can all give it a try for yourself (only on Windows for the moment though).

Synther

Explore the nicest Synths right here or start creating your own right away. Here’s how to do it. Read more about this fascinating technology on the Photosynth blog, or read some of the reviews that are popping up: Mossberg, Scoble, Webware, O’Reilly Radar, …

New power to Powerpoint

I seriously start thinking that the various Microsoft labs are getting up to speed lately. There’s one innovation after the other, see that new 3D viewer I blogged about some days ago, but know that there’s even a lot more than just that: Sphere Surface, Touchwall, Popfly, DeepZoom, … etc etc.

It aren’t always big-ass tables though ;) A couple of days ago I noticed pptPlex on my buddy Steve Clayton’s blog. pptPlex offers an interesting way to make slide decks less linear and makes it possible to add visibly very small data to slides that can easily be shown by zooming in and out of slides while in a slideshow. I had to see this for myself first of course and it really is quite an interesting add-on for Powerpoint. Download it and let pptPlex do some of it’s work on an existing slideshow and you’ll quickly discover what the possibilities are once you really build a presentation to make the maximum use of this.

See it in action:

pptplex

More videos and download of course at Office Labs. Check out the other projects while you’re at it ;)

Out of Focus Reply

Why complain about email overload? Take advantage of the fact that you get a ton of email every day, especially when you’re away. It’s interesting that hardly anyone uses a creative “Out Of Office” message these days (I admit, nor do I).

Today I got an interesting OOF message that immediately caught my attention, from an agency using it to promote one of their clients.  Here’s what I got from Tom De Bruyne (Boondoggle Amsterdam):

Bye,
I am currency out of the focus. I will make my comeback on Tuesday July 28th. Please contact my comics at Boondoggle for surgeon matters. I will cancer your male asap.
Kind rewards,
Tom De Bruyne

Below this message it had a small banner for Berlitz:

clip_image001

The banner obviously referring to the fact that people say strange things whenever they are not good at foreign languages.

I just loved it! Berlitz is known for creative advertising (just thinking about the ‘What are you sinking about’ video makes me laugh) but I never had seen such an original auto-reply just yet. Great stuff Tom! Just tell them Berlitz people to do something about their website, it looks horrible.