Rewind: The Terrifying, the Convenient, the Super Interesting

Rewind is our weekly More post where someone from our brand experience agency curates his or her favorite news from the week before. This week’s post is brought to you by Kt M., vice president, general manager.

Living in LA, Kt would never leave her house without a stable, real-time traffic/navigational app. Waze usually keeps her from getting sucked into LA gridlock. But without FaceTime, Kt wouldn’t get to talk to her nieces and nephew in the Midwest…and she couldn’t live without being a part of their adventures. If you live apart from loved ones, travel often or just are super needy, FaceTime is the jam.

Like its vicious reptilian namesake, this is terrifying. And the fact that this drug’s effects mirror the classic rotting, shuffling horror movie zombie is not the scariest part: krokodil users tend to only live two to three years. It’s officially hit the American market, so it’s anyone’s guess how it will impact our communities over the next few years.

The dynamics of office settings fascinate me. This article examines the science behind workplace seating arrangements and rearrangements. My key takeaway insight: “If I keep the org chart the same but change where you sit, it is going to massively change everything.” We see it in both Phenomblue offices, and it’s why we are 100% laptop based with desks on wheels.

Shopping for clothes is the worst. Like having to wander from shop to shop, stepping in and out of fitting rooms, waiting in line and then going home with nothing because the world is a terrible place and no good things happen to you. Thankfully, we have ecommerce. Without it, I’d be stuck in a living nightmare of having to shop brick and mortar or forced to never leave my house due to a severe wardrobe deficiency. Refinery 29 takes a look back at some of my favorite online fashion retailers. (All hail Nasty Gal and ASOS!).

Super-interesting look at the differences in lifestyle depending on where you happen to (or choose) to live in our nation. Cost of living, when looked at through the kaleidoscope of diverse American cities, is such a complex, yet personal story.

Of course, Wired would be the publication to pilot mobile commerce in the reading experience. They’ve already partnered with Mastercard on this November’s tablet edition. We’ll see if this is the path to take for successfully integrating purchase and publishing — something the floundering traditional industry could use to rebuild revenue and craft a new type of brand experience.

Tell Me, Don’t Sell Me a Story

storytelling blog iamge new

We are raised on stories — social exchanges that communicate and organize our experience of the world. From the mundane to the sublime, stories help us navigate the various elements of our lives. And as new technologies spring up, new styles of storytelling emerge. But in every good story, some crucial change takes place.

Marketers know this. We have always tried to position our products as the magic solution that will help that crucial change take place. Often, we do this with too much dazzle, not enough substance and not enough relevance for our chosen platforms.

Today, our audiences are too smart to take this strategy seriously. Tech-savvy consumers can instantly spot a story whose sole reason for existence is to help people part with their wages. In a recent Wired article about the evolution and enduring value of storytelling, Lilach Bullock, founder of the UK Agency Socialable, nailed it. “Nobody wants to be sold to,” she said.

We couldn’t agree more. That’s why we created a guide to telling, not selling, meaningful stories via the devices consumers use every day. Download our free white paper “Big Thinking at the Bottom: Storytelling vs. Storyselling” for insights on using technology to deliver effective brand narratives, including:

  • How to create big ideas for each platform at the ground level of consumer/brand interactions
  • Why agency partners with success developing cutting-edge technology will deliver better, device-appropriate stories
  • How the stories you tell consumers, and the stories consumers tell each other, shape your brand experiences

The brands that can adapt their storytelling to new platforms stand a better chance of survival than those who just transfer their old thinking to the new technology. With global mobile coverage forecast to reach ubiquity by 2020, and with consumers’ increasing adoption of wearable technologies set to blur the line between online and offline behavior, the ability to tell effective, cross-platform stories is crucial. Consumers have certain expectations for certain devices and platforms. For instance, you can’t just condense a 30-second TV spot into a Vine. You have to develop a unique story for the medium, or the interaction fails.

The great news is, every new piece of technology in some way reshapes brand/consumer interactions, incentivizing us to push beyond our creative comfort zones and offer new kinds of utility to consumers. The best way to do that is through storytelling. Thanks to the enduring value and malleability of the narrative form, brands have more reason than ever to keep investing in and experimenting with new ways to tell stories with technology.

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Rewind: Earn Your Drink, Earn Your Mobile Experiences

Rewind is our weekly More post where someone from our brand experience agency curates his or her favorite news from the week before. This week’s post is brought to you by Andrew W., our engagement director.

On a weekend getaway a few years back, Andrew and his (now) wife spent a night in Miami Beach after heading back from the sandy beaches of Key West. On the night out, apparently they (she) thought it was a good idea to buy the bar rounds of Johnnie Walker Black to “get the party started.” That turned into Andrew meeting Yoji (of Miami Ink fame) where he reports they were inseparable best friends for the night. Or so that’s the story he’s sticking too. Still waiting for Yoji to officially comment and/or confirm the story.

Last week was a historical one. We all watched the first government shutdown in 17 years … and it’s still going on this week. And on a more positive note, a new Phenomblue baby was born to VP, Creative Director Derek V. and his wife Erin. Congrats to them!

I also got to hang out backstage at Shooter Jennings‘ show at The Bourbon Theatre in Lincoln, Neb. My mind is still blown by how he “walked the line” (a reference to Shooter’s godfather) of music genres between authentic rock, true outlaw country and psychedelic jam sessions. Talk about invoking the outlaw spirit. EARN YOUR DRINK as he says. They did earn it, that they did. And a quick shout-out to one of the openers, Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band. The Rev rocked out electric guitars, banjos and even a matchbox guitar with some sick sounds. He had no issues playing the electric guitar behind his head while keeping all his rambunctious energy and sound, not missing a beat. Then there was Breezy on the washboard, gotta love a good washboard. Good stuff.

Work? We say it, we live it and now AdWeek reinforces it. “To Succeed in Mobile, Keep Consumers Top of Mind.” What’s that you say? Bring utility to any brand experience. Yup, yup, agreed. No one wants more intrusion from marketers in their life and your mobile experience shouldn’t just be a filtered down version of your website. So that said, your brand’s mobile experience should extend the value and utility you bring to the end consumer. It’s your one chance to truly engage them directly and bring more value to their life. Keep that strategy in mind and your mobile experience won’t get lost in the current sea of useless apps.

Old School will always be cool. Believe it. Case and point, Nike bought Converse 10 years ago, and despite being a shoe that literally hasn’t changed much since the 1920s, Converse has been well worth the investment. In this recent quarter alone, Nike made nearly $200M more off the Converse brand than it bought it for a decade ago. Talk about solid investment. Nike would like to thank the people of the ad industry, hipsters, the rockabilly folks and old school fashionistas for your part in their profits.

Tattoos with true meaning? I know, for some it may be a stretch. I always dig industry colleagues doing work with a purpose. After all, motivating people to take action and buy products is what we do, and do well, but shouldn’t we also use our “superpowers” (AKA talent) to inspire people and better the world we live in too? After all, “the saddest thing in life is wasted talent” (yes, I just snuck in a “Bronx Tale” quote, folks. BOOM). Last week, I came across CP+B’s passion project and event going on in October, check out P.INK Day 2013. An intriguing way of doing something cool to help survivors move on and get some sense of re-claiming their lives, specifically after breast cancer. I know firsthand, after witnessing my mother’s struggle, winning the battle is only one chapter in a survivor’s story. There’s still much more to it all than just the physical victory. Well done, CP+B.

MORE MOBILE. The start-up culture is a powerful movement. The biggest hurdle for a start-up? The resources needed to really push the ideas. Queue Yahoo’s growing downtown Manhattan office dedicated to mobile product innovation. New(er) CEO sensation with a vision, Marissa Mayer, has tasked the office to explore the mobile product innovation category and create that internal sense of a young, passionate start-up. Are you picking up on the “mobile” theme yet, folks? If Marissa sees the opportunity and is driving a shift within a company like Yahoo to be be part of it, you should be ensuring your future marketing budgets also address mobile. (REMINDER: don’t forget the above advice … don’t do mobile for the sake of mobile, create true utility. It’s an investment in your customer, allows for direct interaction and differentiates you from your competition.)

Give Your Brand a Voice: New from Our Strategic Insight Series

Think of a story, poem, song or joke you will never forget. Whether it was the best thing you ever heard, or the worst, the voice — the way it presented an interesting thought in a surprising way — was what shaped your reaction. The old cliché is true: it’s not what you say, but how you say it.

To differentiate yourself, you need to give your brand a distinctive voice. Your voice reflects your products, your identity and the utility you offer to consumers. It is manifested in every piece of content you deliver. Ultimately, via the impression it makes in people’s minds, the quality of your voice determines your brand’s presence in the marketplace.

Unfortunately, many brands spend most of their marketing resources developing individualized visual and experiential signatures, yet weaken their voice through mediocre writing filled with business clichés, buzzwords and a derivative tone that fails to showcase the originality of a brand’s thinking.

You can break through the clutter by packaging your content in an authentic voice that expresses your brand’s own values, viewpoints and narrative, all without sacrificing professionalism. In our latest free guide, “Give Your Brand a Voice – 12 Ways to Write Better,” gain insights and try exercises to help you:

  • Give your brand a distinct, tangible voice
  • Offer authentic, relevant and useful written content
  • Distinguish your brand as a credible information source

If your products are indeed innovative and useful, but your message has a dull voice, the audience will overlook you. Some aspects of a brand’s voice are determined by a company’s culture, its industry and audience, which all have certain expectations for relevant content. But the aspects you can control — what you say and how you say it — can be refined to make a more meaningful impression.

“When we listen to a person speaking, we hear a particular music unlike any other. The stamp of someone’s voice is as individual as a fingerprint; if we know someone well, we instantly recognize the tone, pitch, resonance of that voice whenever we encounter it.”

– from The Poet’s Companion, by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux

If you don’t offer captivating music they can’t find anywhere else, the audience won’t listen. Download our latest from the Phenomblue Strategic Insight Series (or share it with whoever’s responsible for your content marketing efforts) to start writing better content now.

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Rewind: Why Drunken Facebooking is Still Not a Good Idea, and Other Links

Rewind is our weekly More post where someone from our brand experience agency curates his or her favorite news from the week before. This week’s post is brought to you by Ryan P., director of technology.

Ryan traveled to Europe earlier this year. There he visited the catacombs in Paris, which was among the strangest and most incredible places he’s visited – “there’s nothing more metal than walking through corridors lined with human bones while listening to metal.”

Microsoft released an open-source tool called BrowserSwarm that automates testing of JavaScript across devices and browsers. It integrates with GitHub and is targeted at open-source frameworks, allowing you to run tests against your own code or view test results for top frameworks like jQuery and Backbone.js.

Facebook is now allowing users to edit posts after sharing. Don’t get too excited though – the shame of your poor drunken grammar or auto-correct mishap will still be documented in the post’s edit history.

Netflix is rolling out “Super HD” streams which are still 1080p but use less compression than their standard HD streams. They’re providing a platform called Netflix Open Connect to ISPs to deliver higher quality streams at lower cost. Will ISPs who provide data caps offer exemptions for content streamed over Netflix Open Connect?

We were blown away by “Box” by Bot & Dolly, a short film designed to serve as both an artistic statement and technical demonstration. They use robotic arms to control two projection screens, as well as the camera. Images are projection-mapped onto the moving surfaces as well as the floor by a 4k projector, maintaining perfect perspective. We’re interested to see some more applications of this technology.

The team over at Sencha dug into the new version of mobile Safari on iOS 7, running a battery of HTML5 tests and comparing the results to iOS 6. The results are a bit disappointing: “Save to Home Screen” apps are largely broken, performance has actually decreased in a few key areas and there are a host of bugs. It’s not all bad news though, some features like SVG path drawing have had a dramatic improvement in performance, and hopefully the bugginess of the first release to be corrected over the next few minor updates.

Now on PhenomblueTV: Living in a Glass World

Google Glass is a lightweight, wearable computer now available to a select few “Explorers” who have pledged to build innovative new experiences that the geniuses at Google X couldn’t even envision. So rare, novel and controversial is Glass that its simple presence on the face of a leading brand experience expert is enough to coax many New Yorkers out of their proverbial shells and get them interacting like Midwesterners. (Watch “Google Glass Privacy” for anecdotes of our firsthand experiences with the device, plus in-depth discussion of Glass’s broader impact on the consumer technology market, privacy and our online lives.)

Stylistically, Glass updates the Geordi La Forge look for a generation steeped in digital devices and multi-platform interactions. Technologically, the device allows users to “seamlessly” move between the real and digital worlds with minimal distraction, a functionality that pioneers like Thad Starner have experimented with for years. And from a business perspective, opening up Glass to a hand-picked demographic of top talent allows Google to cultivate the next generation of developer geniuses as they explore the horizons of the platform.

But socially, Glass raises privacy, security and even existential concerns. Groups like Stop the Cyborgs have already formed in response to what they see as a multipronged threat to our personal and interpersonal lives. The group advocates Glass-free zones with a kind of “No Smoking” sign specific to the device. And a slew of bills banning Glass from certain public establishments have already started taking hold.

Are these concerns merely the reactionary concerns of people slow to adapt to new technology? Or do they represent something more fundamental than a late-adopter mindset? Is Glass simply a misunderstood innovation with lots of potential, or a harbinger of a terrifying/awesome cyberpunk future?

Watch “Google Glass & Privacy,” episode 10 of Genius Treats for Top Dogs, to find out. Then chime in on Twitter @Phenomblue.

Rewind: Gaming, Rockets, Google Glass & More

Rewind is our weekly More post where someone from our brand experience agency curates his or her favorite news from the week before. This week’s post is brought to you by Scott Faith, director of project management.

Scott’s childhood dream of becoming a Harlem Globetrotter ended after puberty and his vertical leap was barely enough to clear the Yutan, Nebraska phonebook. He went with his second greatest childhood fantasy instead … managing large scale, complex and highly technical projects. Scott’s favorite app is from the guys behind Break.com, “the #1 Humor Site on Earth…it delivers the very best in awesome,” because it makes shopping trips with the family much more enjoyable.

It was a huge week for gamers! The reviews are in and looks like Grand Theft Auto V is living up to the hype of being a transgressive, action-packed good time.

I’ve been wondering for some time how, or if, GPS companies like Garmin would be able to evolve their product offerings so they could still compete with mobile apps like Google maps and simply not go the way of the VCR. It appears they may have received a stay of execution! I haven’t been this excited about GPS since I downloaded Mr. T’s voice to my TomTom. I pity the fool who doesn’t check this out. Finally, the countless hours spent memorizing lines from the movie Top Gun will come in handy while tooling around town in my Sonata.

The next great space race is heating up! NASA is waining due to lack of funding, but the private sector is thriving when it comes to the relatively new frontier of space exploration, travel and commercialization. This week, a privately held company called Orbital Science Corporate, launched an unmanned rocket with commercial cargo to the space station. I know that astronauts are too busy to unload this cargo, and let’s face it, these guys are scientists, so I can’t believe offloading heavy cargo would be their thing. Therefore, I foresee space-bound cargo shipment evolving into a long-haul trucking type of industry in the next five to 10 years. The clean-cut astronauts of yesteryear like Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong are soon to be replaced with surly, well-inked, types.

The heights of Google’s ambitions never cease to amaze me. Google not only plans on controlling the universe (ostensibly), but now it’s taking preliminary steps to control mankind. (Insert evil genius laugh here.) By 2045, all of our thoughts will be readily available to the NSA, courtesy of Google.

Augmented Reality (AR) geniuses at Metaios have developed a surface recognition technology for wearable devices. This article is about an interactive 3-D car manual via an app for Google Glass. You look at a part on the car and a 3-D image comes up with instructions on troubleshooting or repair. Now that AR has cracked the code for surface recognition, it opens up endless options to use any device with a camera to manipulate what you are looking at. Imagine what this technology could do when combined with virtual reality and/or gaming. Combine this with Google’s mind-capture and virtual vacations and Total Recall is right around the corner.

Bonus Day Recap: Phototrippin’ the Fantastic World

When you find yourself faced with enough free time, disposable income and life, you might decide to take a vacation. But how do you decide where to go?

You might take the USA Today approach and prioritize your option by dividing the number of hours you will spend in transit by the total number of hours you will spend on vacation in order to come up with a percentage that gives travel time a more tangible, visible heft.

Or you could take the Phenomblue approach and enter some attributes of what you’re looking for into our Phototrippin’ prototype to discover a more weekend-friendly destination that still provides a breathtaking view.

Phototrippin’ is a Bonus Day website created for people to identify their ultimate trip destination by funneling down options through user-submitted photos and destination attributes. Start with broad categorizations such as “beach,” “desert,” “foodie” or even “nerdy.” And work your way down to other characteristics that spark your attention like “nightlife,” “active” or “hot.”

Once a user lands on a manageable selection of destinations, keywords and activities are also displayed for each location, as well as a map and option to book a trip. Unlike other online planning tools, which focus more on the logistical aspect of vacation strategy, Phototrippin’ lets users explore destinations through images and motions, not just attributes, attractions and flight times.

With millennial travel and tourism spending to boom in the next 5 to 10 years, Phototrippin’ perfectly complements the digital habits of younger generations (and, more and more, older generations as well) who rely on new technology to easily complete routine actions their daily lives. That’s the beauty of Phototrippin’. It’s just as logical as the USA Today approach, but a lot more attractive, intuitive and relevant.

This is part four of our featured Bonus Day projects from the third quarter of 2013 (check out CONTROL(ling) Malaria, Energizing and Pop Perks). Bonus Day is an internal, agency-wide flash-exercise in innovation, where ad hoc teams of dreamers, innovators and creators carry a passion project from conception to completion in a day.

Rewind: Award-Winning Photos to Gas Savings

Rewind is our weekly More post where someone from our brand experience agency curates his or her favorite news from the week before. This week’s post is brought to you by Chriss Springer, studio manager.

In high school, Chriss had an accounting teacher named Mrs. Bellinger who responded to a disruptive class by “quitting teaching.” She stuck to her word and didn’t teach the class for a week. The six students, including Chriss, decided to carry on the class by teaching themselves. All six students majored in accounting or mathematics in college and work in the field today.

One of my hobbies is photography. I have been shooting film and digital since I can remember. My high school graduation present from my grandfather was my first 35mm camera prior to a trip to the former Soviet Union and England. From the 1000+ photos and 40 rolls of film from that trip to my current Canon T1i and iPhone, I’m always capturing a story. Thanks to See.me three of my photos were chosen to be included in a digital exhibition in New York City this past summer. The exhibition titled “The Story of the Creative” included artists from 103 countries across the globe. To be included and have my photos exposed to many across the globe was an amazing experience. See the photos included here, here and here. Ironically – all three photos were taken on my iPhone.

One of my other favorite photography sites is Photojojo. Here you can be inspired and discover ideas, as well as find unusual, but perfect, accessories for shooting photos.

I drive an average of 800+ miles a week so I’m always looking for ways to save on fuel. Between Fuel Rewards and the Hy-Vee Fuel Saver Card, I save on average $.50 a gallon on gas. The two can be combined together and voilà, $$$ saved.

In the good news department, this is why I’m proud to be a Husker Fan. Nothing compares to being in Lincoln on game day. The fans, players and coaches are the best in the nation.

Just in time for Halloween, the Uniface face mask is apparently the new cost-effective alternative to plastic surgery. This just creeps me out that people would even consider this.

More importantly, wise words from Mr. Genius Treat’s other self. SoDA is always a great resource as an accountant/HR-minded individual working in the creative world.

Bonus Day Recap: Pop Perks

How often do you take receipt surveys: always, sometimes or never?

According to GfK Research, less than one percent of shoppers ever respond to receipt surveys. Not even free cookies or the chance to WIN A FREE TRIP TO A BEACH RESORT in a banana republic is motivation enough to start a Banana Republic receipt survey.

So, this past Bonus Day, we found a better way to do store surveys, using an obvious platform (mobile phones) and a less-than-obvious demographic (young dads with cell phones).

Dads with children under age 18 are increasingly taking equal or full responsibility for buying home goods (29 percent) and food and beverages (32 percent), according to a 2013 Gibbs & Soleil study. Smartphone-owning “Digital Dads” are more likely than “Mobile Moms” (sorry, not our vocab terms) to volunteer personal information in exchange for savings and discounts, with 7 out of 10 of these dads choosing to enable mobile alerts from retailers, according to 2013 Harris Interactive research. They are also more likely to act on the offers they receive.

With this in mind, we created an opt-in survey app with incentives and other perks that pop up on pops’ phones. Pop Perks gathers consumer survey data in real-time from all shoppers – not just those that make a purchase.

Pop Perks experiences are short, direct and rewarding. Let’s say a geofenced survey comes up on a user’s phone when he enters the cereal aisle. After answering the standard demographic questions, participants answer five or six questions about their favorite brands and buying habits. A status bar at the bottom of the screen lets users know how close they are to done, an easy visual solution to the “how much more time is this going to take” conundrum.

Upon completion, the participant can scan their easily earned mobile coupon at the cash register for a nice, fat discount. Pop Perks is a win-win solution for brands and dads — dads get the immediate value of a relevant coupon, and brands gather the consumer data they need to survive.

Of course, Pop Perks can be redesigned and tailored to any demographic, but there’s only so many hours in a Bonus Day.

This is part three of our featured Bonus Day projects from the third quarter of 2013 (check out CONTROL(ling) Malaria and Energizing). Bonus Day is an internal, agency-wide flash-exercise in innovation, where ad hoc teams of dreamers, innovators and creators carry a passion project from conception to completion in a day.