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Engage, Empower and Execution

Published on March 26, 2012 in Strategy

This month I would like to shift the usual outward focus of branding and media to inside the organization for some innovative management practices that a few leading companies are taking.

McKinsey just published its second of a three part competition on inspiring management practices. The complete article can be found at McKinsey.com.
Below is a short list of the most interesting management practices that Brazilian industrial giant Semco and British telecom giant Vodafone are taking.

“Devoting one day a week to personal pursuits

Why should people spend their most energetic years working for an organization’s goals while putting off their true passions until retirement? This entry (“Retire-a-Little: Enabling more fulfilled working lives”), from Brazilian industrial conglomerate Semco, proposes letting employees “buy” one day each week to spend on external pursuits, such as art, athletics, or nonprofit work. Once retired, those employees could trade back the hours for meaningful part-time work in their later years.

See also Peter Bisson, Elizabeth Stephenson, and S. Patrick Viguerie, “The productivity imperative.

—- Today more than ever, in the ultra connected world we live in, companies need big ideas from their employees. Keeping the creative passions alive in employees to pursue other creative outlets usually translates into more productivity in the workplace. Semco has discovered that unleashing the creative passions of its employees improves both employee satisfaction and productivity.

Creating a nonhierarchical workspace

In this entry (“Cutting the cord: Vodafone UK’s revolutionary approach to mobility, flexibility, and productivity”), the chief executive of the telecommunications company Vodafone UK describes how it transformed its headquarters into a more open, less hierarchical workspace. There are no offices and no dedicated desks, so employees can set up wherever they think they will be most productive—ideally, alongside the group they are working with at the time. This mobility has a leveling effect on the traditional hierarchy, since no executive is very far out of reach.

See also Andrew Campbell, Sven Kunisch, and Günter Müller-Stewens, “To centralize or not to centralize?

 
— Vodafone’s leveling of traditional hierarchical organization structure was probably very disruptive at first, but once top management was committed to decentralize the company immediately became more nimble and agile. I bet this concept can be traced back to Vodafone’s famous F1 sponsorship of McLaren where staying ahead of the competitive, innovative and failing fast are its “Formula for Success

About UX Acrobat - Marc Niola

Marc is an expert UX professional with a focus on customer-centered design principles, social media, gamification and psychology. He has developed innovative business solutions for global corporations, SME, agencies, clients and brands.

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The Potential of Big Data

Published on February 23, 2012 in Strategy

According to a recent article by McKinsey Quarterly, “Big Data” capture and analysis will be the new front-lines for companies trying to stay competitive in the Information Age. I have been following this trend for the past year as the Big Data leaders (SAP, Oracle, Microsoft and IBM) jockey for position. And as mainstream businesses start catching to Big Data analytics, by recognizing the potential to tap into their data and adapt rapidly, proactively and cost efficiently to changes in the business environment, Big Data analysis will continue to offer an unprecedented degree of foresight and business agility.

Here are some of the most interesting findings from the article:
  • Over the last few years, the volume of data {generated} has exploded. In 15 of the US economy’s 17 sectors, companies with more than 1,000 employees store, on average, over 235 terabytes of data—more data than is contained in the US Library of Congress.
  • Emerging academic research suggests that companies that use data and business analytics to guide decision making are more productive and experience higher returns on equity than competitors that don’t.
  • Over time, big data may well become a new type of corporate asset that will cut across business units and function much as a powerful brand does, representing a key basis for competition.
  • Earlier waves of technology adoption, show that productivity surges not only because companies adopt new technologies but also, more critically, because they can adapt their management practices and change their organizations to maximize the potential.
  • Information hoarding within business units also can be  problem: many financial institutions, for example, suffer from their own failure to share data among diverse lines of business, such as financial markets, money management, and lending.
The article ends with the following 5 key questions business leaders should be asking themselves about Big Data and how it could affect their organization. As I have been saying for the past year Big Data has “Big Potential” as it transforms business as we know it and ushers in a whole new level of efficiency. Companies will grow incredibly agile from Big Data allowing for quicker turn-arounds and lightning –fast market corrections.
Below is a list of the five questions the McKinsey Quarterly article enumerated. Below each question I offer a brief summary with bits from the article when my contributions were not warranted.
1. What happens in a world of radical transparency, with data widely available?
Companies with proprietary or privileged data will be increasingly under the gun as Big Data reveals the King really does have no clothes on. Gate keepers and closed networks will suffer as Big Data erodes their competitive advantages that were previously guarded. This will spur innovation, are winning companies, and hopefully make a better product or service for the consumer. Big Data will also usher in a new era of competitive intelligence and corporate espionage— that’s a thin red line.
2. If you could test all of your decisions, how would that change the way you compete?
Big data ushers in the possibility of a fundamentally different type of decision making. Using controlled experiments, companies can test hypotheses and analyze results to guide investment decisions and operational changes. In effect, experimentation can help managers distinguish causation from mere correlation, thus reducing the variability of outcomes while improving financial and product performance.
3. How would your business change if you used big data for widespread, real-time customization?
This is the scary part and it is well under way (think Google…. ever wonder how Google knew, by populating a suggestion, you were interested in a certain topic/product/service) Companies that track consumer’s behaviors will be able to make faster more accurate customized preferences possible. Individualization is what the consumer wants. Or so the marketing experts say. But Big Data will bring tracking consumer behavior to new heights. Some will love it and some will hate—- I really went out on a limp there.
4. How can big data augment or even replace management?
As margins become increasing tighter, any reduction in waste that boost productivity will be extremely valuable. The ability to measure a myriad of metrics in real-time, with the added capability to adjust for maximum productivity will have tremendous cost-saving potential.
5. Could you create a new business model based on data?
Big data is spawning new categories of companies that embrace information-driven business models. Many of these businesses play intermediary roles in value chains where they find themselves generating valuable “exhaust data” produced by business transactions. One transport company, for example, recognized that in the course of doing business, it was collecting vast amounts of information on global product shipments. Sensing opportunity, it created a unit that sells the data to supplement business and economic forecasts.
Finally, with all this talk about opportunity Big Data is not without its complications. Talent is one shortage the article mentions, as engineers and analysts are in short supply in the USA. The ability to think laterally while making the connections across business units and industries will be in highly sought after skill-set.
Privacy will be another hot-button issue for Big Data has the potential to misuse or mismanage personal info will exist. Safeguards will be in place, but accidents or crimes will happen as law-makers race-up to keep pace with the technology.
In the end though, Big Data has arrived and there is no putting this genie back in its bottle. I believe the change Big Data will introduce will be truly revolutionary. Some might quid whether this is progress, others will capitalize on it’s commercial potential, while others will just lap in the convenience of all things digital, but for me Big Data is one of the biggest game-changes to come along and one I hope to shape.

About UX Acrobat - Marc Niola

Marc is an expert UX professional with a focus on customer-centered design principles, social media, gamification and psychology. He has developed innovative business solutions for global corporations, SME, agencies, clients and brands.

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The Evolution of Branding: How Brisk Ice Tea taps the Power of Customer Participation, Social Media and Collaboration

Published on February 8, 2012 in Business

There has been a fundamental shift in the way branding and tradition business principles are practiced. The internet, social media and the increasing power of mobile devices has turned many accepted business approaches on its head. No longer are the Four P’s of marketing (product, place, promote and price) delivering the value it once did. In that older paradigm the customer’s role was to listen and buy. But in today’s customer-centric marketplace, winning companies are using the power of customer participation, social media and mobile to create meaningful relationships.
One brand that understands the shift in business is PepsiCo, the makers of Brisk Ice Tea, (of the “That’s Brisk, Baby!” fame) with its new Brisksaber mobile app for Android and iPhone. For the new release of Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace 3D PepsiCo has partnered with Lucasfilm, and developed a new mobile game experience aimed to foster customer engagement and brand awareness with the millions of sci-fi fans of the Star Wars Trilogy.

Check out the video below to preview the app.

The app is promoted by the widely successful Brisk Ice Tea TV ads. Brisk has released some hilarious new commercials for its app, featuring Yoga and other Star Wars characters. Customers are encouraged to buy Brisk Ice Tea to unlock additionally gaming functions. To increase the gaming experience Brisk has also integrated a Facebook page where users be compete and share with each others.
Below is one of the new commercials from Brisk featuring the wise if not lovable Jedi knight Yoda.

Brisk hits all the right touch spots for business in the new customer-centric marketplace by:

  • Driving customer participation through its free mobile Brisksaber app that seamlessly encourages sales of its Brisk Ice Tea to unlock more content. I don’t view this as the usually up-sale strategy of, say a Go Daddy, Verizon or Best Buy; I rather see this as a clever, yet justified, way to drive sales by giving customers something free and meaningful with the promise of added fun with the purchase of a drink that also satisfies their thirst.
  • Integrating customer sharing via social media with its Facebook page, which already has over 1 million followers. More and more customers want to share what they are doing with their friends. By empowering Brisk customers to share their experience with their friends, Brisk can expect to gain quick traction and a wider audience.
  • Offering the Brisk app for free not only persuades customers to collaborate with Brisk, but also raises Brisk’s brand awareness in a new digital platform (mobile gaming). And by successfully bridging its TV ad with a mobile gaming experience Brisk should see brisk (pardon the pun) downloads and increased sales.

So if anyone is looking for a strategy guide for a thriving business in today’s hyper-connected, customer centric marketplace, take a look at Brisk. By successfully integrating customer participation, social media and collaboration Brisk has captured the currency that is driving today’s marketplace.

About UX Acrobat - Marc Niola

Marc is an expert UX professional with a focus on customer-centered design principles, social media, gamification and psychology. He has developed innovative business solutions for global corporations, SME, agencies, clients and brands.

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Smart Companies are Realizing Social Media Needs Vigilant Risk Management

Published on January 15, 2012 in Strategy

Many business owners often start a social media engagement without a clear strategy for handling bad publicity when it happens. The operative word here is “when” not “if”. Having a plan in place before bad publicity occurs can often make the difference between a public relations nightmare or a marketing hiccup.
In the age of instant communication and viral social media, consumers are no longer passive recipients of corporate advertising and marketing jingles. Consumers now have the capabilities to express and share their satisfaction and displeasure about brands and companies with blinding speed.
Companies that identify customers by ethnic stereotypes or try to impose dubious convenience charges are being exposed to the masses instantaneously. Case in point: Papa John’s Pizza and Verizon‘s recent social media melee were immediately sensationalized over the leading social media networks. In response, Papa John’s announced an immediate apology and dismissal of the liable employee. While Verizon caved under the pressure of social media to implement a new surcharge for customers who pay their bills online. We could also count Bank of America ATM surcharge reversal, but I’ll just concentrate on the two recent episodes
What makes the above two cases interesting is the fact that both companies immediately responded and turned what could have been a major PR crisis into mild customer dissatisfaction. Both companies, Papa John’s and Verizon, realized very quickly they had a real problem that needed immediate attention. But realizing there was a problem is only half of the story. Crafting a measured and well thought-out response is equally important and was something both companies should be commended for.
The response in both cases was quick- within one or two days. This is important because by publicly acknowledging there was a problem it kept the crisis to a manageable pitch. The rapid response also sent a message to customers of both Papa John’s and Verizon that they are listening and trying to understand their customers.
Now without knowing the internal social media management policies of Papa John’s and Verizon I can only assume that they both had a pre-existing strategy for dealing with bad publicity via social media. Though it is feasible that both companies do not have a risk management strategy in place, it is a stretch to imagine they both performed so well, under fire while shooting from the hip.
These two cases illustrate that having a prepared risk management plan for the inevitable unflattering Facebook post or dissatisfied customer tweet can go a long way into turning a major public relations issue into a minor publicity irritate.
It does not matter if you’re a national company that has its own social media management division or a small family owned business managing a few social media channels; there are a few best practices that should be considered when crafting a social media risk management strategy.
These practices include:
  • Being vigilant – social media never sleeps, so keeping a watchful eye on how your brand is perceived is vital to catching bad publicity when it occurs;
  • Consistency counts – this cannot be emphasized more. Allocating a certain amount of time per day allows you to check for updates and generate posts. Scheduling time for your social media involvement, improves your awareness and engagement of your brand on social media;
  • Respond don’t react – when trouble hits, it’s important to evaluate the situation as rationally as possible. Certainly if someone is making disparaging remarks about your brand it will obviously get your blood pumping. But taking a moment to exercise a bit of prudence should ensure you respond in a meaningful, professional matter;
  • Have a plan ready – response time can often stop an incident from becoming a full blown PR catastrophe. If details aren’t clear simply acknowledging there was an incident can buy you some time to gather more info. A prompt response that conveys you understand there is a problem is usually better than a detailed press release a week later.
For some SME owners having your finger on the pulse of your social media channels can be time consuming and difficult. If you find that you cannot dedicate the required time to be on up of the social media buzz its best to hire a social media management firm that can handle the job. Being on social media and not saying nothing is worst than not being on it at all.

About UX Acrobat - Marc Niola

Marc is an expert UX professional with a focus on customer-centered design principles, social media, gamification and psychology. He has developed innovative business solutions for global corporations, SME, agencies, clients and brands.

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A Brief Overview of QR codes and AR Marketing

Published on December 12, 2011 in Technology
Augment Reality (AR) and QR (quick response) tag marketing- one of the hottest new interactive features innovative brands, are using to engage their customers and supplement their products/services.
One of the latest brands to use an AR app with QR tags is Moosejaw, a clothing retailer, with its new Moosejaw X-RAY app. The app, available on iPhone, iPad and Android platforms, uses AR technology to reveal fashion models in their skivvies that appear fully dressed in the catalog. The app uses a mobile device camera and when placed over certain models it exposes the models in their bare essentials.
According Lauren Indvik at Mashable, sales have jumped-up by 37% since the release of the app; and it has created quite a buzz on several social networks. But Gary Wohlifeill, Moosejaw’s, creative director, is not impressed. Stating that considering the amount of time people interact with the catalog using the new app, the fact that sales have increased is only natural. Modesty or over-confidence aside the conversion rate has been rather stellar. A QR code with a link to the app download is available at the end of the video.
Another example of the interactive AR marketing potential was probably the December 2009 issue of Esquire featuring Robert Downey Jr. By downloading an app from Esquire and holding the magazine cover up to your computer’s camera Downey would pop-up and introduce the magazine. The video below previews the AR app:
Until recently there have been two different QR tags (the traditional 2D bar-code type and Microsoft Tags) that require two different types of readers.
traditional QR
Microsoft Tag
However, this week Microsoft released an update for its Microsoft Tags app which now reads QR codes, Microsoft (MS) Tags with the added capability to network with NFC (near field communication) enabled devices. This convergence may help spend this technology to larger audiences, especially during the time of rapid smart-phones and tablets devices adaption.
QR codes and MS Tags have wide application for both large enterprises and small businesses. You may have already notice the tags on the corner of some ads on the subway, on billboards or in store fronts. Tech savvy individuals are putting QR codes on their business cards and others are including them in their e-mail signatures.
Moreover, entrepreneurial restaurants are using QR codes on their menus to offer more details about their menu items. One of the best examples is from a restaurant in Boston that uses QR codes to highlight recipes of certain dishes and introduce their chef through a QR code via smart-phones or tablets. Updating QR codes is easy through a back-end QR editor that allows you to change the QR link without having to print new menus every time there is change.
The time for QR codes, Microsoft Tags and AR has arrived and if your business is not using this technology now your competition will be using it tomorrow. To learn more about QR codes, Microsoft Tags and Augmented Reality check out the links I provided below. Generating the QR codes is fairly easy, but AR tags or the supporting AR technology is a little more complicated, usually requiring production cost and development time. For further help creating QR codes or developing a marketing campaign around them for any business you can contact Digital Cunzai for a free consultation.
Please feel free to leave comments or add additional details. This brief overview is by the last word on the topic.
Reference:
Augment Reality Browser: Layar

About UX Acrobat - Marc Niola

Marc is an expert UX professional with a focus on customer-centered design principles, social media, gamification and psychology. He has developed innovative business solutions for global corporations, SME, agencies, clients and brands.

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Branding Opportunities for Info Savvy Companies

Published on December 8, 2011 in Business

A recent study by the Wheaton Business School reveals the challenges businesses face from the exponential growth of data, knowledge and social media with their ability to capitalize on the utility of turning these new information streams into actionable profit-making strategies.

 

Data is now being generated at increasingly astounding rates; and the amount of data stored is doubling every 18 months. This advance is unprecedented in human history and finding out how to cope with this new dynamic has only just begun. These new floods of data (not necessarily information, an important distinction) hold some important nuggets of information for companies with the talent and resources to mine it and turn it into commercial success.

 

The new sophisticated insights gained through quantified analytic algorithms are uncovering some rather amazing patterns in customer preferences and behaviors. These new pattern recognitions can be individualized to very specific consumer bases that yield incredibly personalized marketing and branding opportunities for companies.

 

The challenge for companies will be to sift through the data tsunami and quickly determine what info needs to be brought to the top of the wave for project development and which needs to be left to the wayside. Finding this “balance” will not be easy and some trial and error will have to be performed to find specific information categories that are more relevant than others. Analytics will be a great help, but they should not be the final arbiter. Professional research analysts with applicable business and market knowledge should act as stewards in the process to ensure a human or real-world presence in the system.

 

Some companies will not have the capabilities to perform such sophisticated analysis as say an Amazon or Google and turn competitive intelligence into competitive advantage. That is why building information, marketing and interactive design partners will be critical for achieving success in the information age. With the right partnerships companies will be able to develop rich customer insights through several touchpoints. Partnerships with expert information architects, leading marketers and innovative interaction designers will harvest, package and execute the insights to a specific consumer audience through the most appropriate digital viaduct.  

 

With the advances in analytic technology coupled with expert research analysis companies now have a tremendous opportunity to create meaningful and memorable brand awareness that builds both customer loyalty and satisfaction. 


References:

About UX Acrobat - Marc Niola

Marc is an expert UX professional with a focus on customer-centered design principles, social media, gamification and psychology. He has developed innovative business solutions for global corporations, SME, agencies, clients and brands.

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Why Angry Birds is so successful and popular: a cognitive teardown of the user experience

Recently clients have asked about the phenomenally successful casual computer game Angry Birds, designed for mobile phones, tablets and other platforms.

Angry Birds - Cognitive Teardown src: http://ow.ly/hHt8Y

Angry Birds – Cognitive Teardown – src: http://ow.ly/hHt8Y

Interesting analysis from Mauro New Media into the popularity of the addictive game Angry Birds.


Take-Aways:

  • Simple yet engaging interaction concepts: the simple design of Angry Birds creates a low learning barrier to entry, while the game mechanics of unlocking levels and progressive challenges make the game engaging. I would also add novelty. Angry Birds is truly one of a kind game for smartphones. 
  • Cleverly managed response time: Angry Birds instant feedback provides a rich interactive experience. The maneuverability of the slingshot and dynamic sound create an engaging experience that few games master. But the article focuses more on the time delay as the bird fly through the air and whimmer to a slow death.

The bottom line on how Angry Birds manages response time: fast is good, clever is better.

  • Mystery: the element of discoveribility or whats on the next level is other compelling reason Angry Birds is so successful.
  • How things sound: anyone who has played Angry Birds can probably hum the tone, but there is much more subtle yet complex sounds being employed the enhance the user experience

These consistently applied audio elements reinforce the player’s interactions and deepen engagement by emphasizing the anthropomorphic qualities of the main characters of the game and providing clever enhanced feedback during critical on-screen behaviors.

 


Check out the complete article at: http://www.mauronewmedia.com/blog/why-angry-birds-is-so-successful-a-cognitive-teardown-of-the-user-experience/

About UX Acrobat - Marc Niola

Marc is an expert UX professional with a focus on customer-centered design principles, social media, gamification and psychology. He has developed innovative business solutions for global corporations, SME, agencies, clients and brands.

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