Growth Hacking and Marketing: All I want for Christmas is a sense of perspective

With a week to go until Christmas the silly season is now in full swing – the annual prize fight between the big British brands for the best Christmas TV ad has already been won by John Lewis (in my opinion), and the remaining contenders for the Christmas single steeplechase are putting in their final sprint to the finish. But in the Techtopia, the world looks a little different, and a couple of things that appeared in my Twitter feed last week have prompted me to do some thinking. The first has been the growing buzz around the concept of Growth Hacking and its impact upon Marketing in general, and the second, seemly disconnected, was this absolute (Christmas) gift from Canadian airline, Westjet.

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OmnicomPublisaurus – Adland spawns a big new beast

So the big merger has returned to the ad world. The merger of advertising groups Publicis and Omnicom will see the formation of a $35bn new entity that assumes the number one spot from the $30bn incumbent WPP. With so much interbreeding between adland and the tech world over the last 15 or so years, what will be the ramifications for tech?

Firstly let’s look at what sort of a beasts we’re dealing with. To start with, neither Omnicom or Publicis (nor WPP, Havas, Interpublic, or the handful of other players) are ad agencies as they are sometimes erroneously referred to in the tech world. Instead they are large portfolios groups comprising a full array of subsidiary marketing companies, who individually and collectively provide a range of marketing services to clients. The parent groups are constantly acquiring and divesting portfolio businesses as they seek to fine tune their offering to clients. The enmeshing of tech into their offerings in the last decade or so was part of this development. (It was also one of the drivers behind the development of tech in Silicon Roundabout).

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Windows taught the difference between UX and UI

So it seems one of the bravest – and possibly most reckless – user experience (UX) changes in recent years has failed; Microsoft has announced that it will reinstate the Start Button to its desktop layout.
The announcement is an acknowledgement that it has failed in its attempt to migrate desktop users from their familiar Windows to the tiled layout first seen in Metro for mobile devices and later developed for all devices and called Windows 8.
 

Facebook Home: Clearly someone wasn’t thinking

Honestly, you can’t blame Facebook for thinking new Facebook Home is going to change the world… for them it probably seemed like an excellent idea (for them)… just think of all that wonderful data they could capture by being permanently on a user’s home screen… all… that… data. It’s the stuff Facebook drools itself to sleep about.

But there’s just one problem. What’s in it for the user? Facebook’s promotional materials say we’ll have a constant stream of our friends fab photos and posts… how cool is that?! But they clearly haven’t thought this through because Facebook Home dramatically fails the ‘real world’ test.

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Advertising is dead; long live advertising

Whilst watching TV last night I saw something pretty special, it was this ad from Southern Comfort. Now I’m a little slow off the mark here – the ad was released last year, but after just one viewing I was hooked. This extremely simple ad displays what advertising does best – in the course of delivering a commercial message it is simultaneously insightful, humorous, soothing, self-fulfilling and above all, highly charismatic. The direction of the ad is a spot on; the deliberate lack of pace, the lingering shots, the rich colour palette, the brilliant casting… it hit the mark on all counts. This is what advertising does when it really does its job. It’s also the reason why advertising (and yes, even TV advertising) will remain a vital tool for marketers for a long time to come.

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Listen Facebook, just take my damn money!

When Facebook purchased Instagram last year part of the rationale was that Facebook was lousy with mobile and the acquisition would help. This was no frivolous thing, with mobile uptake and activity on Facebook outstripping browser-based action, and a majority of ad revenue coming from its browser-based activities Facebook could see writing on the wall.

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Quit whining, Instagram are a business

The response to the news that Instagram have changed their integration with Twitter has me puzzled… really puzzled. I’m not puzzled as to why Instagram chose to do so, as they see it, they want more control of the data and user experience for themselves. I’m also not puzzled that Twitter have done similar things in the past, for example to LinkedIn. No, what really puzzles me has been the response from the tech community… the community normally so enamoured with the idea of being an entrepreneur and making a truckload of cash (and possibly saving the world in the process).

In defence of skeuomorphic design

(Author’s note: I am not a designer, and don’t pretend to be. However I am a believer in customer focus, so the opinions expressed here reflect this fact.)

Scott Forstall has been pushed out of Apple, and the wagons have circled behind him.

That’s pretty rough for the man responsible for iOS – the operating system beloved of (nearly all) Apple acolytes. However with the passing of Steve Jobs, Forstall always was on borrowed time. His management style and ambition to build a power base were probably the main reasons behind his departure, but there’s one group of people who will celebrate his departure with unrestrained joy – design purists. Scott Forstall was (gasp) a devotee of skeuomorphic design; on screen use wooden and leather textures, elaborately turning pages, files that get “shredded”, all Forstall. He wasn’t the only one to carry a torch for these real world touches though, Jobs was as well. Hence as long as Jobs was in power, Forstall’s approach held sway. However with Jony Ive assuming responsibility for the design of iOS we can expect a different approach. The question is whether this is such a good idea, my belief from a customer perspective is that it isn’t.

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Determinism, Chaos Theory and Klout

Firstly, let me clarify, I’m not a mathematician or a physicist, I’m a marketer who has a side interest in science (closet geek). The following post derives from my belief (yes, belief, I can’t actually quantify this) that a certain element of hubris has taken hold in the tech community, driven by the genuine incredibleness that is Big Data.

A couple of centuries or so ago, following the development of Newtonian physics, humans got it into their heads that it should be possible, given the right grasp of the variables, to predict the future using mathematics. The Enlightenment brought with it the entrenchment of scientific Determinism, a belief that took a couple more centuries to shake (thank you Chaos Theory).

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iPhone 5 – Smart, fast, elegant, well-made… and obsolete

So the waves of hype have crashed upon the shores of California and carried with them a new iPhone – number 5 as it turns out. As the hype recedes it’s been interesting to see what they have left behind. First impressions of pictures online show a smaller slimmer and lighter phone, which we’re told is lighter and more powerful as well. Smaller, slimmer, lighter, faster… sounds like lyrics from a Daft Punk song. In any case, for a phone that’s a pretty compelling sales pitch, but will it work for the 5? Along with the release there’s been some interesting aspects of the Apple narrative that are worth addressing, this narrative seems to be summed up in a general feeling from a portion of Apple’s fanbase of disappointment, a sort of “Really? Is that it?” It’s worth taking a look at this in more detail.

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