Embedded Moments of Truth

Quick Read: With some creative genius ‘moments of truth’ can lend themselves to some quirky embedded ads. Ask Banksy if you need greater proof. 

Late last year Google embedded itself in NYC with some delightful site-specific outdoor ads.

Created by 72andSunny, these wonderfully embedded site-specific ads brought several “OK Google, moments” to life.

Beer Bar Bowl Top of rockCoffee

(Images source)

The great thing about such embedded ads is that depsite the obviously limited direct reach, their creative genius transcends borders through earned media (including blog posts like this).

This month, Snickers embedded its “You make mistakes when you’re hungry” message across NYC’s outdoor “fails”. Examples include a handrail that goes up when the stairs are going down, or a door that says both “Enter here” and “No entry.”

snickers_1 snickers_2 snickers_3 snickers_6

(Images source. Agency BBDO)

Again, very limited direct reach. But the ROI from earned media stand point? It’s anybody’s guess.

To celebrate such genius, it could be worthwhile to have a seperate awards category for “embedded ads”, as opposed to just calling them “outdoor”.

And may be Banksy should judge those 🙂

(Featured Image: Banksy’s “The Street Is In Play” street art in NYC. Source)

Is Sweden a Low Context Culture?

Quick Read: Differences between high context and low context cultures in branding could just be theoretical. All it takes is some brilliant marketing to blur the lines in between.

High-context culture and low-context culture are terms coined by the anthropologist Edward Hall.

Theoretically this categorisation between culutures has implications on branding and communications associated to them.

For example, according to this recent article, in a high cultural context, inherent cultural cues (e.g, symbols and emotions) add a lot of meaning to asociated marketing communications. Think of ads that reference cultures like Indian, Latin American or Middle Eastern for example and you get the picture. 

(A great ad that references Indian culture)

Low cultural contexts, by contrast, are those where there is little influence of emotions, gestures and cultural cues over the associated marketing communications.

For example – the article goes on to state – Sweden has a low cultural context. In other words, Swedish cues and metaphors are believed to contribute little meaning to any branding/communication.

But is it? 

While differences between these cultural contexts might help us to justify to ourselves the relative decibel levels of ‘cultural noise’ that gets thrown into their respective communications (e.g., narratives in films, ads etc), communications that reflect a culture are more complex and do not necesarily confine themselves to these siloed definitions.

Let’s take Sweden for example. Why is there a stereotype that Swedish metaphors add little meaning to any associated branding or advertising?

This cultural guide to Sweden encaplsulates it well when it says “Despite the generally contented natures of the Swedes, there is an underlying melancholy most often attributed to the long, dark and cold winters.” In other words, theoretically there is nothing much beyond a brooding sense of gloom to add as ‘cultural cues’ when it comes to referencing anything Swedish.

But lately, marketers seem to have used this very subdued under tone of melancholy and turned it into a state of mind (and soul) to be celebrated as uniquely Swedish!

Now that’s not exactly how a low context culture is meant to work. Right?

Volvo ‘Vintersaga’ – Embrace the Swedish melancholy

With a montage that celebrates the miserable weather conditions of Sweden aided by some spectacular photography and echoey music, Volvo recently paid a “tribute to Sweden at it’s worst” through its Vintersaga (Winter’s tale) campaign.

By capturing the country’s bleakest weather, Volvo goes on to explain that without the harsh Swedish winters it would not have become what it is today, or make the cars that it does.

Stutterheim Raincoats – ‘Swedish melancholy at its driest’

Being melancholic is an essential part of being a human being. 

…so says the philosophy page of Stutterheim’s rain coats. What for Mr. Stutterheim was initially an art project, has transformed – with a stroke of marketing genius coupled with a sharp positioning – into a line up of raincoats that are now shipped worldwide, with a price tag between $370 –  $1,400.

Stutterheim

(Source: Stutterheim’s philosophy on Melancholy and Creativity)

Apparently Swedish gloom seems to have a tremendous market demand with the brand today seeing strong growth in Europe and the U.S., with sales estimated to reach $4.8 million in 2015, up from $180,000 in 2011. (source)

After all as its philosophy goes on to say …

Through our melancholy we come up with new ways of seeing the world and new ways of being in the world. Let’s embrace Swedish melancholy. Embracing rain is a good start.

Now that’s some smart marketing that has converted something as monochromatic as Swedish melancholy into a unique (and dare I say sufficiently loud) motif of the Swedish culture.

Bonus Links: Check out this Volvo campaign that celebrates Swedish wilderness and this recent one by Grey London that celebrates Swedish….. (hold your breath & drum rolls)…. air!

Now, do you still believe Sweden is a low context culture?

Any classifications exists only as long as marketers allow it to.

Isn’t it?

(Featutured Image: Sutterheim – Swedish Melancholy At It’s Driest)

Imagination. For Selling and Unselling

Quick Read: Evoking imagination has always been a classic trick in the marketers’ book. Let’s see some recent examples where it’s been used to sell. And to unsell.

Man-eaters and the ritual of imagination

For four years, Dutch designer Daniel Disselkoen made the same journey on the same tram route to his art academy, and realised that he had stopped looking out of the window and being curious about what he might see. So he developed a simple little real-world hack called Man-eater.

Predicated around the idea that familiarity with a subject, our environment, surroundings or routine can limit discovery, Man-eater is a simple yet compelling call to action to invoke our imagination to make extra ordinary out of the ordinary.

Is at about seeing the world through a child’s eyes? 

Museum of Childhood

Museum of Childhood (yes, there indeed is a museum by that name!) says exactly the same thing in its recent campaign – wherein with a bit of imagination, the medium and the context become the key parts of it’s message. spaceman_aotw

whale_aotw

(Check out the other executions at this blog post)

Banana Bunkers that look like…um.. bananas?

It appears that it doesn’t require a hell lot of imagination to see why this particular product of GroupOn turned to be its most popular post on Facebook ever! Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 11.28.33 PM But GroupOn’s real imaginativeness came to the forefront in what happened after the post went live.

Knowing full well of what is to come, they decided to stay ahead of the hilarity and replied each and every one of the comments on their Facebook post. Check out this snapshot of the epic comments that followed!

Now that’s some great imaginativeness to combat (and perhaps even abet) imagination!

And meanwhile else where..

Can imagination be used to ‘unsell’?

The Gun Shop‘ had recently popped up on Manhattan with a store front that read “First Time Gun Owners” in big, bold letters. The catch? Each gun in the store had been tagged with its history: from shooting a mom in Walmart to the Sandy Hook massacres. The result: imagination that just ‘unsells’!

This video captures it well.

The Gun Shop has been a pop-up demonstration created by New Yorkers Against Gun Violence – a partner of States United Against Gun Violence that seeks to make families and communities safer.

Can you think of any other examples? 

(Man-eater –  H/T Neil Perkin | Museum of Childhood – H/T L.Bhat)

Featured Image: The Gun Shop store front on Manhattan, Source

Sonder And The Art Of Photography

Quick Read: Perspectives can be valuable.  A Kickstarter campaign shows us how to create value out of them while a multi million dollar campaign from a global brand shows us what it can learn from the former.

Sonder is a fascinating word.

It is the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you. (source)

At a fundamental level, Sonder for me is a shift in perspective that makes me cognizant and appreciative of the tens of thounsands of stories unravelling around me, in all their characteristic diversity and profundity.

It’s sonder that makes Street Photography fine art. It’s sonder that makes Vernacular Photography artistic to our eyes.

In fact, it’s sonder that can even help us put a price to perspectives.

Heard of Tribe Photo? James Kell is a photographer and sailor. In his words..

Recently during my work in Haiti I had an opportunity to put my subjects on the other side of the lens – to give them the chance to experience the pleasure of photographing people.  I found the perspectives of the locals – when they were making the photographs – was completely, strikingly unique. This was the kernel of the idea that is now Tribe Photo.

Read more about the business model of Tribe Photo on its kickstarter page.

But the essential idea that underlies Tribe Photo is insightful and impactful in many ways than one. It gets to the heart of the “art in photography” by transcending the narrative of the camera gear. It puts a value to perespectives as seen through the photographer’s eyes and thereby puts the photographer first, celebrates the art of photography and gives back to the community.

Tribe Photo

I Am Generation Image

Now, contrast that to the campaign that Nikon is introducing this week timed for the Christmas shopping season. This campaign with an estimated budget of $ 5 – $7 million themed “I am Generation Image“, is essentially a plea to the generation Y – the millenials –  to shoot more with a DSLR than with their phones. (source)

So what is this campaign all about? Check this video out.

This attempt at speaking to the millennials by asking them “Are Your photos good enough?” loses out on two counts:

  1. In putting people first: in fact it challenges them in a way that might actually provoke them to go out of their way to shoot outstanding photos with their phone camera
  2. In celebrating the art of photography: While the campaign does have at it’s core this page being promoted through this video audaciously titled “See Through The Eyes Of This Generation”, the content on the page tries hard to dumb it down for their TG. Sample this: “Zoom out as wide as you can, and you can even do selfies on a DSLR”

Really? All this from the brand whose theme has been to be proudly “At The Heart Of The Image”?

(Featured Image: IamGenerationImage.Com)

Rationalising The Emotional

Quick Read: At one end we have ads with heavy emotional messaging and at the other we have those with hardcore rational, persuasive messaging. And then there are those that make interesting attempts at occupying the space in between.  

My contention is that truly great advertising does something far more important than deliver a rational message, and far more important than entertain: what it does is to establish associations. (Heath, 2002)

Seducing the Subconscious is an acclaimed book by Robert Heath on how advertising works. A key argument that he makes in this book is that the best advertising actually works through emotive as opposed to persuasive messaging, and emotional content is processed most efficiently at low levels of attention, not high.

Read this great post by Steve Genco for a more detailed commentary on Heath’s theory. He says..

..a substantial body of research has shown that emotional associations established at low levels of attention lead to longer-lasting influences on attitudes and behavior than rational arguments (i.e., traditional persuasion).

This is because they facilitate the memory activation mechanism of recognition rather than recall.  Recall requires effort, fades relatively quickly, and has to be reinforced regularly.  But recognition is triggered effortlessly and lasts indefinitely.  So recognition, unlike recall, is more likely to result from low attention processing.

(So the thumb rule?) Combine a brand with an emotionally engaging ad, repeat the association under low attention conditions like TV watching, and you will get both recognition and a favorable default attitude toward your brand.

That’s probably why the new John Lewis ad works. And that’s probably why we have attempts at advertising like this one for Obsession by CK.

While this ad and its iconic print campaign by Robert R. Taylor are said to be some of the most memorable advertisements of all time, it is also billed by many as “the ultimate in abstract and meaningless advertising”. (source)

Arguably it does take a strategic leap of faith for a marketer to ride on just emotion and disband the century old model of ‘rational’ or ‘persuasive’ messaging that much of marketing communication still cleaves to. So it’s not uncommon to see many ads that – while narrating an emotional story – also ensure they rationalise it and close the spot with a persuasive messaging for the viewer.

Interestingly, almost as if to exemplify the above point, Pfister‘s new ad on its touch free range of faucets called REACT takes a dig at ‘Obsession’-isque narratives by attempting to unwrap the enveloped message for us.

Talk about rationalising the emotional.

(H/T this nytimes report)

(Featured Image: React Faucet by Pfister)

Inspiration From Across The Category Fence

Quick Read: Sometimes, the best idea for a brand campaign might be just around the corner, albeit with another category. Even when the core of the campaign idea is ‘Originality’. And perhaps rightfully so.

Inspiration from across the category fences is no new news. But that’s no excuse why we should take such instances for granted. Some recent examples of brands taking inspiration from other categories and appropriating them in a way that is relevant to their campaign idea/ brand personality. Virtual High Five (Coke – KLM) In May 2013, Coke had this huge hit campaign that ‘connected’ people from different countries (India – Pakistan) through what it called as ‘Small World Machines’.

Cut to this year (Sep 2014),  KLM gave a reason for Amsterdam and New Yorkers to ‘get connected’ through this Virtual High Five campaign.

As this article says, KLM’s deployment of this idea is clever because it underlines the message that while technology has the power to interactively connect people like never before, it’s airlines that have the ability to physically connect people faster, easier and more effectively than we have ever experienced in the past. KLM-Live-High-Five-1-640x340

(Source: Creative Guerrilla Marketing)

Unique, Original & Extraordinary (Absolut – Coke) In Sep 2012, I wrote about Absolut’s brilliant execution of their limited edition design series called Absolut Unique. A story of carefully orchestrated randomness powered by 35 different colors, 51 different pattern types all governed by algorithms meticulously devised to induce a method to this madness of design. absolut-unique-vodka-bottles-02

(Source:Absolut)

Result: A first of its kind design spectacle at a massive scale resulting in over 4 million bottles where no two bottles are alike. See the video here.

And then in 2013, Absolut followed this up with Absolut Originality. Video here.

Cut to this year (Oct 2014), a new campaign for Diet Coke in Israel revolves around the concept “Stay Extraordinary,”  as part of which it produced over 2 million different bottles using a printing system that printed every bottle with a different look. Video here.

Any other examples of well executed campaign ideas inspired from different categories?

(Featured Image: Absolut Originality)

Making And Breaking Memory Structures

Quick Read: Generating awareness or influencing consideration, driving distinctiveness or establishing differentiation, the key is to effectively leverage memory structures.

Distinctiveness is said to be the key in driving penetration and hence growth. But what sort of distinctiveness is most effective? 

In other words, when a brand is launched/re-launched, how do you strike that elsuive balance –  between being rooted in the current to drive enough familiarity, yet bring in an element of newness to drive differentiation along a chosen set of dimensions to drive favorability. 

The key lies in memory structures. 

As this insightful paper says, while driving distinctiveness for a brand, a key consideration is how much of your mix should reflect the existing perceptions of your brand locked in consumers’ “memory structure”, and how much should break with this.

And why are memory structures important?

This is because, as per Phil Barden in Decoded, we are known to first process any new stimulus from a brand (advertising, packaging, activation) “implicitly”. This is a subconscious reaction based on our intuition & past experiences locked in our memory structures. And that’s where most of the heavy lifting is said to happen before the rational mind kicks in for decision making.

Blog Decision Making(Implict and Explicit processing of stimulus, Source)

So it must come as no surprise that some of the smartest techniques in creating awareness for new brands are those that do a great job at playing with our existing memory structures.

Two recent, notable (and slightly non traditional) examples.

Dumb Starbucks Coffee

Dumb Starbucks Coffee(The Dumb Starbucks Coffee store in LA. Source)

No it’s not a joke. This has been an actual store with everything from the signage, menu, the cup sizes, right till the music CDs sold by the cahsier looking exactly like that in a Starbucks Store, albeit with one small modifier – the word ‘DUMB’ as a prefix.

And why DUMB? Parody law. 

As this awesome FAQ reads: “Although we are a fully functioning coffee shop, for legal reasons Dumb Starbusks needs to be categorized as a work of parody art. So, in the eyes of the law, our “coffee shop” is actually an art gallery and the “coffee” you’re buying is considered the art. But that’s for our lawyers to worry about. All you need to do is enjoy our delicious coffee!”

Rated as one of smartest Guerrilla Marketing stunt by Comedy Central to generate buzz around their new show, this attempt created a social media sensation in just 2 days before it faced a ‘notice of closure’.

Despite being a shortlived ‘experiment’/art installation (or whatever we chose to call it), by playing smartly on our existing memory structures “Dumb Starbucks” proved itself to be an ingenuous idea from a venture that wanted a big bang for a small budget.

And boy did they get it!

CitizenM Hotels

Can you create awareness by challenging our existing memory structures of a category?

A new campaign from CitizenM hotels shows how. See the ad here

I liked how it evokes all the memories that we have of conventional hotels untill it just shatters them, thereby piquing our interest levels in the brand. In fact – depending upon the viewer’s context –  I would argue that it does a briliant job at more than just generating awareness.

All managed by neatly piggy backing on our existing memory structures of a category.

(H/T to L Bhat for the CitizenM film, and to Robert for this riff on Dumb Starbucks. Featured Image: source)

Diffusion – Of Ideas, Infections and Innovations

Quick Read: Why do certain ideas spread faster than others?  Diffusion – a social process where people talk to people is still the way that ideas and inovations spread. Stories from diverse fields like health care and ethnic foods provide further evidence.  

Did you know the story of the humble Doctor’s coat?

Till a major part of the 19th century, a doctor’s coat used to be black in color. Why? Because a visit to a doctor had an air of ‘finality’ attached to it, almost like the solemn nature of a funeral. As per this historical account, until the late 19th century, seeking medical advice was usually a last resort and frequently a precursor to death. The reason? Poor hygiene standards in medical practice.

In fact, back in those days,  a doctor’s badge of a busy practice was their black coats stiffened with blood and remains of previous operations. Practices like washing hands, sterilising instruments were virtually unheard of in medical practice during those days.

Naturally infection became the curse of surgery – becoming the single biggest killer of patients who underwent even uncomplicated procedures. Infection was so prevalent that the discharge of pus from a surgical wound was thought to be a necessary part of healing!

Ever since then, many medical practitioners tried hard to conceive of and spread the idea of basic sanitation as an effective means to combat preventable life threatening infections. But failed.

For e.g, Ignaz Semmelweis published the earliest known studies that showed basic hand-washing to be effective at reducing mortality rates of surgery patients. His findings were known to have offended the doctors! Even Louis Pasteur’s Germ Theory or Joseph Lister‘s concept of antiseptic surgery techniques contributed little to the mainstream propogation of the idea of sanitation in health care.

grossclinic(“The Gross Clinic,” by Thomas Eakins, 1875. Source)

The break through in seeding this key idea came over the course of several years as follows.

It turned out that the key message to teach surgeons was not how to stop germs but how to think like a laboratory scientist. A few pioneering German surgeons siezed upon this idea – of the concept of surgeon as a scientist – and seeded this in their students’ minds, many of whom were young medical practitioners from US and other countries.  The result?

The students swapped their black coats for pristine laboratory whites and returned to their home countries as ambassadors not only for the use of antiseptic practice to kill germs but also to prevent germs.  Evangelising through their own students and colleagues, they finally spread the ideas worldwide.

So, the idea of basic sanitation and sterilization for health care and germ prevention spread not because of academic journals or publications, but because of social diffusion – where people (medical practitioners) talked to people (students).

Spreading a Miraclous Solution. One Person At a Time

In many parts of the world, Diarrhea remains the world’s biggest killer of children under the age of five. ORS (Oral rehydration solution) has been known to be a simple yet effective cure for the illness which required a miraculously easy formulation that can be made at almost every home around the world  (water + sugar + salt).

In 1980, a Bangladeshi nonprofit organization called BRAC embarked on a nationwide ORS adoption drive. How did they go about this? The organization didn’t launch a mass-media campaign. It attacked the problem in a way that is typically dismissed as impractical and inefficient: by going door to door, person by person, and just talking.  

ORT(Door to door ORS Education by BRAC, 1979 . Source)

They hired, trained, and deployed thousands of workers region by region who went door to door through more than 75,000 villages and showed 12 million families how to save their children with this simple solution. Eventually, the knowledge became self-propagating and child deaths from diarrhea plummeted more than 80%  between 1980 and 2005. The program was stunningly successful. (source)

Shifting gears a bit and moving over to Ethnic Foods..

 The Greek Yogurt Revolution In The US

Till 2005, Greek Yogurt was a niche segment in the US with a market value of just about $60 million. But in just 5 years a new brand, Chobani has gone to become one of the most explosive food start-ups ever to hit the market netting more than $1 billion in annual sales and rejuvenated the entire Yogurt category in the US. How did that happen?

Ofcourse, Chobani, under the visionary founder Hamdi Ulukaya,  had a brilliant execution of its mix – from clutter breaking packaging, category defying in-store placement (he is known to have insisted that Chobani packs be merchandised in the main dairy area, not in the specialty section), competitive pricing and appealing flavours.

Chobani(Chobani Ad Campaign extolling its fruity goodness. Source)

But fortunately for Chobani – the timing was just right. Consumers were adopting healthier snack options into their busier lifestyles. So much so that when someone opened a pack of Greek Yogurt, it inadvertently became an instance of conspicuous consumptiona prominent scenario of social diffusion enveloped in a message of healthy tasty snack. 

So each time a pack of Greek Yogurt was opened, it created awareness and generated talkability around Greek Yogurt’s health benefits and unique taste. And this was even before its first mass media campaign. As Niel Sandfort, Director of Marketing at Chobani says..

“Before you even think about mass media or paid media, you have to have your ducks in a row on a number of fronts.”

So by the time, the company embarked on its first mass media campaign, the size of the population that was aware of or bought Chobani at least once, reached a “tipping point“, allowing the product to take hold widely. The result? An explosion in the growth of the Greek Yogurt segment. 

Today, the Greek Yogurt category – once a niche segment –  now accounts for 36 percent of the $6.5 billion in total U.S. yogurt sales (source) with Chobani being the number one seller in the category, with nearly 52% market share in the US!

Perks Of Being A Party Food

Guacamole – is an avocado based dip that originated with the Aztecs in Mexico. But in less than a generation, it went from an unknown Mexican delicacy to becoming part of everyday cuisine as a dip, condiment and salad ingredient. This growth of gacamole  was partly because it’s a party food. i.e., people discovered it when others shared it. 

So in essence, while we yearn for frictionless, technological solutions, people talking to people is still the way that ideas and innovations spread. In fact,Diffusion of innovations – a theory by Everett Rogers that seeks to explain how, why, and at what rate new ideas and technology spread throughcultures – says diffusion as a social process of people talking to people is central in spreading an idea or innovation among the members of a social system.

Meanwhile Sabra – a PepsiCo owned company that sells Middle Eastern food products in the US  – is fretting that 80 million Americans have never heard of hummus

(H/T: to Seth Godin for this riff on Guacamole, to Atul Gawande for this valuable article on idea diffusion in medical practices. Featured Image source 

Selfies And The Art Of Sky Diving

Quick Read: Selfies as a mode of expression via pictures, videos or 3D shapes is gaining main stream traction. GoPro is a fascinating company that took an unmet ‘selfie need’ and expanded it to encompass newer grounds with great success, while gaining a cult like status.   

It is believed that Robert Cornelius took the first ever selfie in the year 1839. 

Ever since then, over the span of  175 years, the humble selfie has evidently made spectacular inroads into our popular culture. Today we see world leaders, hollywood celebrities, protesters in police vans and even the Pope having all smiles for the selfie. No wonder then, today we have:

In fact – given our recent advancements in 3D printing – it is inevitable that we even have the 3D printed selfie today!

twinkind_window_5126(3D Selfies. Source, TWINKIND)

According to this paper, while selfies have been called different names like  a symptom of social media-driven narcissisma way to control others’ images of usa new way not only of representing ourselves to others, but of communicating with one another through images, or even as the masturbation of self-image, the one that stands out the most for me is the concept of selfie as a device to control others’ images of us. 

This primal urge to control others’ image of us seemed to have proven to be a gold mine for a company that is now on its way to a hotly anticipated IPO. Think Video Selfies. And think about all the exciting activities like surfing, skiing, snowboarding, auto racing, river rafting, sky diving etc. And you get the picture.

Hang on. Did we just say ‘Video Selfie’?

GoPro

2002. On a surfing trip to Australia, Nick Woodman wanted to take a selfie. Albeit with a twist. He wanted to capture quality action photos of his surfing. Having met with limited success, his desire for a camera that could capture him surfing in ‘professional angles’ started to take shape. And thus the name ‘GoPro’ was born for his company that would subsequently go on to sell small, waterproof, wearable cameras that you can use while doing exciting stuff.

GoPro-surfing-longboard-600x400(How to take kickass selfies with GoPro. Source)

Today GoPro makes what it calls ‘smaller, lighter, mightier still’ HD video cameras with a 170-degree angle view under their line up of HERO series to capture and produce high quality content along with an entire ecosystem of mounts, accessories, software and applications.

But what makes GoPro an extremely fascinating brand is the street cred that it earned for itself as an unconventional media company. Sample these..

The GoPro Ad: Instead of advertising, the company aggressively hands out GoPro cameras to extreme athletes asking them to simply shoot and bring back their footage. A small in house team then edits the footage, slaps a hip sound track, throws in the GoPro logo and boom – A stunning free GoPro Ad! (Interestingly – given the versatility of the GoPro camera – a lot of footage that they get from users is so astounding that people are known to insist it had to be fake.)

GoPro on YouTube: GoPro’s YouTube channel ranks among the top 100 with nearly 2 million subscribers and 455 million views of its 1600+ videos posted till date. In fact as per this article, the number of videos with “GoPro” in the title has grown so much—60 percent from 2012 to 2013—that watching 2013’s crop alone would take you 2.8 years. Reportedly GoPro is expected to make about $1.7 million per year from its YouTube channel alone.

The GoPro Channel: In CES 2014, GoPro announced plans to unleash its unique brand of action sport videos on Xbox Live for both the Xbox One and 360. In fact, Virgin America inflight entertainment system already lists this channel that features curated GoPro content where users will also be able to purchase GoPro products directly online.

Expanding cultural footprint of GoPro’s media content: GoPro has strategically carved an outsized cultural footprint for itself by being part of several high points in recent history. Take the recent opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympics, where many athletes were seen filming themselves with GoPros or Felix Baumgartner‘s record-breaking jump from 128,100 feet for the Red Bull Stratos mission. Chances are that you must have seen the footage filmed by one or more of the seven HD GoPro cameras used in the mission.

(GoPro Super Bowl Ad 2014 featuring the Red Bull Stratos mission)

GoPro, Apple and Red Bull: While some observers see GoPro as a company that clearly wants to create a kind of ecosystem, similar to that of Apple, with a devoted fan base addicted to its hardware and software and a thriving core of creators and consumers, there are also those that think, GoPro could make for a new sort of hybrid company, the way Red Bull is both a drink maker and powerful media brand.

Jason Stein, founder of Laundry Service, a digital media agency in New York even says:

“Red Bull has become this media entity, created around the lifestyle of people who drink Red Bull, GoPro is doing the same, but the reason I think they have more potential is that their product is an actual media device.”

Hence analysts expect that GoPro could create revolutionary possibilities in content creation and consumption in the days to come. This article even speaks about a future possibility where the company could sign agreements with sports leagues to place GoPros within the games. So when you tune into your NBA or NFL or IPL, imagine getting a live feed from whichever player you want!

Beyond Hardware

Evidently the GoPro story is no longer about a hardware maker that had captured two-thirds of U.S. sales and 45 percent of the global pie of the pocket digital camcorder segment (source).

It’s about software and experiences. It’s about enabling awesome creative expression and adrenaline packed content production – the non traditional way. It’s about brilliant marketing that is inspired by this unique culture. All borne out of one key human need – to be able to influence other’s image of us by showcasing those fleeting experiences and moments that (we think) could define us.

Like perhaps a selfie.

3D Printing, Value Chain and Lawyers

Quick Read: 3D Printing as a technology can can have revolutionary implications on all the 3 key stages of a value chain –  Manufacturing, Distribution and Retail. And not to forget lawyers!

Let’s Start With Manufacturing

Today Lego finds itself going to war with the 3D Printing technology. Why?

Because, what has happened over the last decade to music, newsprint, film and photography now seems to be threatining the world of shapes and objects. As this Washinton Post says..

Soon hobbyists…. will be able to craft their own (lego) bricks, thanks to 3D printers that make fabricating those plastic parts as convenient as going to Toys R Us. With such technology, entire structures can now be reverse-engineered, reduced into a pile of components and snapped together in minutes. 

Lego’s sophisticated molding process that currently enables it to produce 55 billion Lego pieces a year is probably not under an immediate threat from the 3D printers. But once the technical challenges like being able to meet the established tolerance levels for finish, texture and fit of various materials and being able to operate at scale are solved, which –  many experts believe is just a matter of time – Lego might be at a major  risk.

lego_ironman(Lego Ironman, Source)

So the recent remarks from Lego’s CFO John Goodwin who said “3-D printing is a fascinating development and certainly opens up a lot of new avenues” gain significance as a first ever major acknowledgment by Lego about the impending storm.

This has even led to some analysts predicting that the future for Lego could be as an Intellectual Property publisher of the digital models of their blocks, not unlike the modern record company which doesn’t actually create physical tracks anymore but just owns the IP rights of their music.

Moving Over To Distribution

Distribution (and inventory management) are known to be Amazon‘s expertise. But faster shipping can come at a price. For e.g, in Q1 2013, Amazon’s shipping costs were 4.7 percent of revenue (source). So it has reportedly been testing the grounds for newer, cheaper and faster delivery methods like drones.

But here is – what could potentially be – the billion dollar question. 

What if the whole value chain starting from maintaining inventories of raw materials, industrial scale manufacturing, packaging, palletising, shipping, bulk breaking, transporting, warehousing to distributing were to become redundant? What if we manufacture goods just in time near the final destination?  

As this article says, that’s where 3D printing comes in –  by producing goods in exactly the ordered configuration precisely when they’re needed, 3D printing is ideal for filling gaps in the supply chain (which reduces uncertainty), keeping inventory low more generally (which saves companies money on shelving) and reducing waste (which occurs when the goods aren’t sold).

Called as Just In Time manufacturing, UPS has already started to venture into this business model in a small but significant way. And the initial results are reported to be more than encouraging.

3D Printer UPS Store(3D Printer at a UPS Store, Source)

So when the largest shipment/logistics company in the world begins such seemingly ‘odd’ experiment around On demand 3D printing, it can only indicate one thing.

Even the distribution behemoths are swearing by the mantra – if you can’t beat them join them. 

And Finally Speaking Of Retail

This year’s SXSW – the annual music, film, and interactive festival being held in Austin as we speak now (from March 7 – 11) has been generating a good amount of buzz.

Oreo‘s Trending Vending Machine is an example.

Envisaged by Mondelez as a fun experiment with Twitter, the concept is a mash up between the vending machine experience and social media based real time marketing. Named, Trending Vending Machine, it has been offering the SXSW attendees Oreos with 3D printed flavours picked from trending tweets and delivered to the attendees in 2 minutes (source). This marketing effort includes the hashtag #eatthetweet.

While this certainly makes for a pretty good engagement driving initiative by Mondelez where the world of social media hashtags meets cookie cutter biscuits – literally, the underlying story here could be that of the emergent possibilities of 3D printing in the retail sector where:

  • Inventories for the retailer are non-existent and limitless at the same time!
  • Shopper engagement becomes the norm, in fact the key enabler for the whole set up
  • And finally personalisation becomes a category code, and not just a fancy differentiation strategy

In fact, going by this logic, 3 D printers could even upend the very concept of retail sector as we know it today!

After all, why would anyone even bother to walk down an aisle when all they need to do is perhaps just download a design, chose a nearest 3D printer and click PRINT?

Or shall we call it MAKE?

Some food for thought on a related note: Thanks to 3D Printing, professions like Intellectual Property and Law can be in good demand for a long long time to come!

(Featured Image: 3D Printed edible Lollies at CES 2014, Source)