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Google’s brilliant ploy to get people to pay for testing Google Glass

on Mar 29 in advertising, branding, business, geolocation, google, marketing, products, strategy, technology, trends posted by

Google’s co-founder, Sergey Brin models the company’s new augmented reality device, Google Glass.As a technophile and early adopter, I am as excited as anyone else by the prospect of trying Google Glass, the new augmented reality device coming from Google in the coming months. Augmented reality apps have been around awhile. You point your smart phone at something and by mashing up geolocation and image recognition the app supplies additional information about what you are looking at.

Augmented reality is a powerful idea, and one that is taking root, most prominently with Google Glass. Google have been tremendously successful in generating hype about the product, which allows users to interact with their surroundings and the Internet with unprecedented ease and intimacy. But the new device is also a big gamble for the technology giant.

The system requires a seamless integration of hardware and software, and we don’t know yet if Google has it right, despite awesome promo videos and gigs of hype. Existing augmented reality apps are still buggy, and limited to large cities where the appropriate infrastructure can support an acceptable user experience.

The company has invested a great deal in their brainchild, and Google Glass is coming. It’s a bold and innovative move for a company that is mostly focused on software. Indeed, just as clever as the device is their testing and marketing strategy.

It seems to me that Google is applying a software testing model to their new hardware. Allow me to explain. When we buy a car or washing machine, or a smartphone for that matter, we expect all the pre-market testing to have been done. The glitches should be ironed out and we expect to receive a good product for our money. Companies invest hugely in testing products to ensure as few expensive recalls as possible.

However, with software, we have become conditioned to accept a post-market testing model. Users do much of the testing after a product is on the market and then happily report bugs, many of which could probably have been picked up in pre-release testing. With an operating system or app, we routinely and unquestioningly download the latest update, assuming it is a necessary and worthy improvement to something we have already paid for.

Google now seems to be bringing the software testing model to the Google Glass hardware. Here’s how they did it. With their initial announcement of its release, the company announced the Google Explorer program. Prospective users had to apply by posting a message on Google Plus or Twitter consisting of fifty words or less, accompanied by the hashtag #ifihadglass. If their application was accepted, the lucky applicant had to pay $1,500 to receive the device.

That is, Google has very cleverly found a way to build a cadre of testers and have them pay for the privilege privilege of being among the first among the public to use the gadget.

What is more, these users are early adopters, and most likely influencers, who are undoubtedly going to feel considerable loyalty to the company, to forgive initial problems, and to become evangelistic brand ambassadors. So Google neatly solved two problems — how to test the product in the market place while minimizing testing costs, and at the same time generate buzz among technology mavens and enthusiasts. Well played Google, well played.

But things did not go as smoothly as expected. Just a few days ago, the technology press was reporting that Google was retracting some invitations. According to reports, Google tweeted: “We’re gonna need to disqualify a few non-compliant #ifihadglass applications that snuck through.” Oops. The retractions certainly bolster the idea that Google is using buyers to pay for testing, rather than magnanimously sharing their new technology with the deserving few, as they would prefer us to believe.

HootSuite Goes Mobile – Preview

on Dec 10 in products, tools, Twitter posted by

HootSuite for iPhone is available in the iTunes store starting today. If this doesn’t wean people away from Tweetdeck (which Hootsuite beats hands down, IMO), nothing will.

HootSuite for iPhone has most of the functionality of the browser-based interface (see screen shots in my series Ten steps to becoming a Twitter power user with Hootsuite) including:

  • Viewing statistics of clicks on your linked URLs
  • Sheduling your tweets in advance
  • Sending tweets to multiple accounts simultaneously

None of these features are offered by other iPhone Twitter apps.

HootSuite for iPhone also has additional features including the ability to import your Twitter lists, upload and share photos or files over Twitter using and read explanations for why topics trend on Twitter.

Hootsuite claims the app is “the most robust, intuitive user interface of any iPhone Twitter client.”

The cost of the app is $1.99 and it rates four out of 5 stars with 19 votes. Negative reviews include:

  • The app doesn’t have a “landscape” mode (where the screen orients horizontally when you turn the phone)
  • No email function unlike Tweetdeck which is free (This reviewer said “Kinda feeling ripped off… Lame”)
  • The app crashes when viewing stats. (I expect this glitch will soon be fixed in an update.)

5 Worst Twitter Disasters of 2008 (Twisasters)

on Dec 16 in branding, business, marketing, politics, products, social media, strategy, Twitter posted by

2008. What a year for social media. The Obama campaign’s consummate use of social channels and subsequent success highlighted social media’s power to engage and motivate practically anyone. But the year was also marked by severe drubbings received by corporations trying to capitalize on social media or not understanding the space. Jeremiah Owyang offers a list of brands “punk’d” by social media during 2008. Here I focus on the worst Twitter disasters (Twisasters) of the year.

1. Motrin Moms
Top of the list and best known is the debacle suffered by Johnson and Johnson, parent company for the brand painkiller Motrin. A too-clever video targeted at moms who carry their baby in a sling offended a number of Twitter moms. The moms felt the vid implied that their use of baby slings was merely a fashion statement rather than a practical alternative to a push-chair. The word got out on Twitter, spread to the blogosphere and in a matter of a few hours the company was backpedaling and eventually chose to pull the campaign entirely.

2. Exxon brandjacking
Anyone can set up an account on Twitter, and use any pen-name (pseudonym, avatar). Exxon Mobil was caught with their pants down when someone registered an account, claiming to be a representative of the company and tweeting very candidly (perhaps more candidly than one might expect from a giant oil company). Once the ruse was discovered, the account was quickly shut down. It seems that Exxon is still failing to manage its Twitter presence (see @exxon). Rodney Rumford lists 33 brands that have flubbed their use of Twitter, including notable brandjackings: Disney, Marlboro, McDonalds, Sprint

3. John McCain
Constantly playing catch up, it’s not surprising that @JohnMcCain failed to make the most of Twitter. After a mere 25 updates, the Republican candidate for president stopped updating his Twitter feed. Perhaps it was just too much effort, or perhaps he had nothing worth saying in 140 characters, or maybe the 72 year-old did just not “get” the power of social media.

4. Barack Obama
What? you say, but @BarackObama used Twitter to such great effect. But note, Obama (or his campaign) has failed to Tweet a single 140 character message on Obama’s page since Nov 5th 2008 — that is, the day he won the election. His last word? “Thanks.” Where are you, Senator Obama? After setting such a great precedent, we have no idea why Obama has not continued to maintain his unique connection with the Twitter community. Now for an that’s a disaster.

5. IBM
I don’t want to pick on Big Blue (surely easy pickings!) but they really dropped the ball with Twitter. @ibm is a dead page. No brand icon, no posts, and only 12 followers. Representatives of the company explain in Jeremiah Owyang’s blog post that this was an executive decision, saying the company has “opted for a decentralized approach” and “realize this has some significant limitations.” Nevertheless, it still seems the company is missing an opportunity to connect with the techies and geeks who make up its community and many of whom are on Twitter. Other notable dead or inactive (parked) brands from Rodney Rumford’s post: Delta, Verizon, Nike, Budweiser

Links to referenced content
Why Brands Are Unsuccessful in Twitter
33 Brands That Suck on Twitter
Motrin commerical (YouTube)

What is QR code? Answers and possibilities

on Dec 05 in branding, business, marketing, personal information management systems, products, technology, tools, trends posted by

What will be next big thing? It’s impossible to say of course. One possibility is QR code.

Wonder what the black and white square on the left side of this Web page is about? That is QR code. It is a 2-dimensional barcode. (The familiar black and white lined strips are basically one-dimensional.)

QR code enables you to encode much more information than the bar code. The bar code (or UPC) can contain only numbers. But QR can contain so much more, including text and even pictures.

You may even have seen QR code on product stickers, notably USPS postage stamps dispenser from automated machines. So what’s the big deal now? Well, smart phones such as iPhone and the G-phone can run software which, combined with the built-in camera, can read the QR code. Anywhere. Anytime. Anyplace.

Scan the code to the left into your iPhone. It will yield the URL of this Web site that can load into the phone’s browser.

With the growth in smart phones, combined with the ease of generating the little squares with online apps (best is, they are sure to become ubiquitous.

Imagine strolling down the street and seeing a poster about a sale at a nearby store. Scan the QR code into your phone, and it will automatically load a URL with a Google Map location and directions to get there.

Or you see a piece of street art. Scan the code and find out the name of the artist and where you can purchase it online.

Or if you have kids, in case they get lost, put their name, address and location info on their shoes or clothing.

Any advertisement could include QR code to provide access to more product info and a URL, enabling advertisers to track offline to online metrics with much greater accuracy than possible today.

Of course, there are countless other possibilities. Expect to see more QR code in 2009.

Info links
How Stuff Works UPC bar code
Wikipedia: QR Code

The tangibility of media

on Dec 03 in business, products, quote of the day, technology, trends posted by

Quote of the Day, Dec 3, 2008

Steve Rubel’s interesting prediction stands in stark contrast to a previous Quote of the Day from James Gleick. Gleick believes that books in particular have stood the test of time and will meet the challenge of digital media. So will books and “tangible media” go extinct, as Rubel predicts? Or will there always be “relevance and value” for such channels, as opined by Gleick? I expect that, as always with such things, the reality will end up somewhere in between. Yes, digital media will come to dominate, but there will still be strong demand for tangible media. There’s something special about holding an object in your hand, whether it’s a book or nicely designed magazine. And there’s the darker side too—the desire to possess and own. It’s harder to fulfill that desire with digital media.

“I want to make a bet with you. I wager that by January 2014 almost all forms of tangible media will be either in sharp decline or completely extinct in the U.S. I am talking about not just print but all tangible forms of media — newspapers, magazines, books, DVDs, boxed software and video games.”

— Steve Rubel

Five Years From Now, Media Will Be Totally Intangible