Protected: Hardman Christmas Newsletter 2014

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What I learnt from your photos…

So lets get this straight first, I haven’t seen or looked for any  pictures of any celebrities since the current cloud scandal hit, but like everyone else, it was impossible not to hear the news.

Now we could spend all the time in the world discussing the merits of the different options for cloud storage, but the bigger challenge is getting people to understand the value of content.

Pictures are a great way to capture memories, fun, impactful… even intimate, and the devices we use to capture them have meant we can do so immediately sometimes too easily. With that in mind, these devices have increasingly provided us the ability to capture business information, photos of whiteboards, architecture, and now even moving beyond pictures to files such as word or excel documents, many of which contain information which is both sensitive or competitive in nature.

All of this information has an inherent business value, and its important that we address this. I see this playing out in two ways.

  1. Educating users on the value of information
  2. Providing an easy to use yet secure environment to collaborate

Educating users on the value of information

This is probably the toughest area to address in this space. Helping users understand the value of content they have created is a challenge, you cant simply charge by the letter, word, or cell in a spreadsheet. So how do you quantify the value of a document, well unless you are talking about a document that contains a quantifiable value to the company i.e. a business plan for an incremental $10 million revenue, or product marketing plan to generate $50 million in pipeline opportunity, we need to think about the qualitative. Users need to think about what is the risk if a competitor got this information, what is the impact if this information got leaked to the press. There is no simple way to add a $ to all of this, the only thing that can be done is to drive awareness and education on the problem, unless there is some type of business intelligence way that could evaluate the dollar value of content.

Providing and easy to use yet secure environment to collaborate

Companies can and must take an active role in providing safe and secure environments to collaborate, that integrate in to the users natural work motion, especially as that work motion has changed so rapidly since the consumerization of IT. There are plenty of solutions out there in the marketplace, at VMware we have some amazing technologies from our Air-Watch team with the Secure Content Locker offering (http://www.air-watch.com/solutions/mobile-content-management).

It is essential that information be treated with a level of security that is inline with its sensitivity. In that regard we need to start thinking about content lifecycles, expiration, tracking, encryption… all of these sound incredibly complicated, but increasingly necessary, but at the same time, it needs to be done in a way that is intuitive to the user. IT can try and roll their own solution in this space, but with the increasingly complex environment of devices and content, its easy to get out of touch with all the demands, as well as just running your current IT services.

The thing is, its not a matter of if we should implement this, its a matter of when, and later is not an option, as massive amounts of content is being created every minute, as was shown in the infographic here http://mashable.com/2012/06/22/data-created-every-minute/.

In closing, IT departments need to be thinking about ways to help solve the problem of information leakage, after all its not just the value of the information you know about, but the unknown value of the information you aren’t aware of.

Innovation in Consumer Marketing at Sony with DraftFCB

Hats off to Sony and the team at DraftFCB for this amazing piece of marketing you can see in the video below.

This is the amazing sort of marketing innovation which draws eyes and product recognition.

There are two things that really make this work

  1. The placement of the product is being put right in front of the consumers that are more than likely going to purchase it, in a location where many of their consumers actually interact to buy drinks.
  2. Packaged in a very innovative manner that not only draws the eyes and piques the interest of the consumer, but also demonstrates the prime functionality and differentiator of what this gadget can do over others.

You might look at this and say, “This is amazing, but it must have cost a fortune, and only a company like Sony could do this!”, and yes I would agree, but innovation and eye catching marketing need not be expensive, it just needs to be creative and purposeful.

I harken back to the experience I had in my marketing days in Microsoft, when we were heading in to the launch of Windows 7. Even for a large organization such as that one, you still had to be frugal about your marketing expenses, and you always look for the biggest bang for buck. We did advertising and your standard things, which cost a lot of money, but it was the “scrappy” things we did that got the recall we were looking for.

There were two things we did, which when I look back, its with fond memories…

Fast Windows, Fast Cars

This was a fairly simple thing we did to align with the research we had done with our user audience, and trying to understand what was more important to our customers in our region of Singapore. While worldwide the message around Windows 7 was on simplicity, we understood that the majority of the Singapore audience saw value in the speed of the operating system even more.

As a fun way to drive recognition and drive connection between speed and Windows 7, we created some large magnets branded Windows 7 with an associated fast message, and asked some of our luckier colleagues with a passion for performance vehicles to take a drive around some of the more busier areas in a cavalcade type parade.  They didn’t speed, or do anything stupid either, and this wasn’t 100s of cars, it was about 10 or so, but the imagery was priceless, and it picked up some great press. For us that was better publicity than any advertising could buy.

Taking it to the streets

The other thing we did, was instead of trying to get customers in to showrooms and IT stores to see Windows 7, we decided to take Windows 7 to the masses. In order to this we worked with a number of our awesome OEM partners at that time to loan us some of their launch machines around Windows 7 and we had some t-shirts made for staff, and sent them out on to Orchard Road in Singapore (this is probably the busiest consumer location in Singapore) to demonstrate Windows 7 live.

This gave us a great opportunity to show people Windows 7 in action to people on the go, we got to wow them with the features, and then asked them to take a picture with the laptop and a Windows 7 sign. It was immense fun, and got a lot of interest.

The Important of Staff Participation in Marketing

The big lesson I got from these types of activities is that the execution of these sorts of “scrappy” campaigns, is that your colleagues love to participate. As marketers we seem a little too close to the coal face in terms of execution and sometimes forget that some of the things we do are actually fun, and people want to support it. So if you can come up with activities that can use additional hands you sometimes don’t need to look further than your own company, they will be happy for the opportunity.

Marketing is fun, innovative and invites the opportunity to take risks, sometimes it doesn’t always pay off, but you learn, refine and get better at it. Then sometimes, you hit the mark, like Sony.

Crowd-funding: Generating a new level of development transparency.

When my parents bought me my first PC in 1994, it came with a Creative Labs bundle pack which included Syndicate Plus, Ultima VIII: Pagan, Strike Commander and Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi. It was the final two which really captured my imagination, and got me forever entrenched in to PC gaming, thank you Chris Roberts. Fast forward to 2013, and I am excited to see that Chris Roberts is back developing an new game called “Star Citizen” (http://robertsspaceindustries.com/star-citizen/). What makes things interesting is the fact that they are driving a serious crowd-funded investment to get the game development up and running, which by all indications has been incredibly successful. To date the effort has raised over $9.5 million USD (approximately $2.1 million via Kickstarter and another whopping $7.5 million via their own website).

What this means for companies like Cloud Imperium Games, the company which Chris Roberts leads, is a commitment to delivering everything that they have promised to the people committing funds. Now are they legally bound to deliver, it wouldn’t appear so, based on the wording of the commercial terms on the site (http://www.robertsspaceindustries.com/commercial-terms/), and I quote;

“3. For the avoidance of doubt, in consideration of CIG’s good faith efforts to develop, produce, and deliver the Game with the funds raised, you agree that any deposit amounts applied against the Game Cost as described above shall be non-refundable regardless of whether or not CIG is able to complete and deliver the Game.  In the unlikely event that CIG is not able to deliver the Game, CIG agrees to post an audited cost accounting on its website to fully explain the use of the deposits for the Game Cost.  In consideration of the promises by CIG hereunder, you agree to irrevocably waive any claim for refund of any deposit amount that has been used for the Game Cost in accordance with the above.”

While we hope that Chris Roberts and team do deliver, what is interesting is the level of transparency that the team is committing to during the development process. Even if it’s part of an overall marketing effort to continually generate awareness, it still makes people feel a lot closer to being part of something that is being created, and not just anything, something they feel incredibly passionate about. This is in stark contrast to the approach many other product developments have which is typically “It’s done when it’s done.”. In fact, the development of Star Citizen is actively taking people on the journey of the development process itself, going through every step from storyboards to community engagement (can be seen in more detail http://www.robertsspaceindustries.com/category/comm-link/).

Has this same approach been taken by other crowd-sourcing projects?

Let’s take a look at a poster-child project “The Pebble” (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/597507018/pebble-e-paper-watch-for-iphone-and-android/posts?page=1). If you take the time to read through the blog, you will notice the same level of transparency. The development team at Pebble had blog on Kickstarter as they went through the process, and one of their blogs made special attention to how communication was delivered to their backers, and what level of transparency would be delivered (the entry can be seen here http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/597507018/pebble-e-paper-watch-for-iphone-and-android/posts/221074).

What about another one? The Ouya (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ouya/ouya-a-new-kind-of-video-game-console?ref=most-funded), the development of a games console, trying to penetrate a market which some would say is already tough enough with the likes of Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft. The development process which would be a closely guarded secret to ensure maximum impact when it launches, and yet, the process seemed extremely open, even down to specific hardware components (as posted in the blog here for the controller http://www.ouya.tv/its-all-about-control/#more-970).

So does crowd-funding ultimately make the product development lifecycle better, certainly the open communication process that is committed to backers makes it appear so, especially in terms of feedback through the process. What is clear, is that the consumer has had the opportunity to be more closely involved in the development process, and its the responsibility of every organization that participates in crowd-funding to ensure they commit to what they are doing, to ensure that this new approach, continues and thrives.

Marketing lessons from “Let’s talk iPhone.”

There is no doubt that the netizens of the world felt a little cheated by the recent Apple event. Announcing an iPhone 4S, when the world expected an iPhone 5 announcement, left a pretty bitter taste in a lot of fans mouths. The question is, did Apple do the wrong thing? Or do we blame the raging blaze that is the internet for over-promising something that they had no right to promise?

The rumor mill these days has never been stronger, those with an imagination can now drum up not just whispers but all sorts of lengthy stories, images, even videos, and now with the internet, it has one of the most effective distribution channels ever known. The real challenge is that there tends to be a lot less diligence in the separation of fact and fiction, so much so it becomes like a game of  “Chinese Whispers”, one person starts rumor, another person retweets it, another links to it, someone blogs about it, and somewhere along the line, the fiction transforms to fact as it gets in to the mainstream media channels. At that point it creates unrealistic expectations on companies to deliver.

End of the day, every company wants to be loved by their consumer audience, but the consumer can be a fair weather friend. We have already seen people sharing their own consumer reactions, reality or parody, it does demonstrate a particular undercurrent…

image

Is this fair, well its consumers choice I guess…

End of the day there were also a lot of cool technologies that were showcased at the Apple event.

  • The announcement of iOS5 with features like

I must also say the announcement of the different watch faces for the iPod Nano were very cool as well.

Apple had a lot to talk about at this event, but with the build up in anticipation for an iPhone 5 announcement, should they have just focused on the business updates and iPhone 4S announcement only? It would seem the lack of an iPhone 5 overshadowed a lot of the other exciting technologies that Apple would have liked to announce. On the flipside would it have been a good idea to announce these other technologies if there really was an iPhone 5 being announced, because that too would have overshadowed the others.

I guess it comes down to a no win scenario whichever way you look at it. We know that we want to keep the media and consumer excited about all the cool stuff we have, but I think its important to at least do some work on trying to predict how your biggest announcement will be received, and evaluate if it’s a good idea to announce more, or announce less, and evaluate other ways to create a viable platform to talk about your other technologies, at least then it will get its own stage.

Thanks to Mr.Brown for being an example & Engadget for the links

Make a move

I have recently made a pretty enormous step with regards to my own career development. One which involved in making some pretty tough decisions. In this regard I have made the leap to step out of Microsoft and try my hand at a new position in a new company.

I’ll keep details on the actual move under wraps for now, but will surely make sure I announce it when I get started. I am really really excited about the new opportunity that lies ahead of me, and am enthused by the support of those that I am about to start working with.

There will be many people asking why…

Why did I leave Microsoft, was it

  • A bad review… nope, just had a great review
  • Not enough money… I guess you can always say you are never paid enough, but I was doing ok from this regard.
  • Job got boring… errrrrmmm Windows 8 anyone?

Absolutely none of that, the fact is, it was none of those things, it was that a pretty fantastic opportunity was offered and it would have been crazy to say no.

That being said Microsoft has been and still is an awesome place to work, and I am pretty excited about all the work that is going on over there especially with Windows 8.

But the biggest thing I will miss, and its cliché to say, will be the people, man we had some awesome times, with some awesome projects and events, they were a blast. You guys all know who you are, and this is not goodbye, more a see you later.

There is no better song I guess to some it up, then by those crazy monkeys from Incubus with the title track from the movie Stealth (I actually really liked that film, watched it a lot, have it on DVD and Blu-Ray).

Here’s to making a move…