Experiences Shaped

Quick Read: 3D replicas can make a killer demo of not just products but also experiences.   

Vincent van Gogh’s bedroom in Arles, France is arguably the most famous bedroom in the history of art.

It also held special significance for the artist, who created three distinct paintings of this intimate space from 1888 to 1889.

(Van Gogh’s Bedroom Painting, Source)

Earlier this year, the Art Institute of Chicago was to throw open an exhibition called Van Gogh’s Bedrooms containing 36 of his works including paintings, drawings, illustrated letters as well as a selection of books and other ephemera known to have been in his possession.

As part of the promotional campaign for this exhibit, the institute did something innovative.

It recreated his famous bedroom in Chicago’s River North neighborhood and threw it open for rent on Airbnb.

Result: the first block of nights sold out in 5 mins on Airbnb. It helped generate massive buzz about the exhibition that saw 200,000+ visitors in just a few weeks making it the highest attended exhibit in 15 years.

See this video for a sneak view into this initiative.

Commissioning 3D replicas to drive awareness and trial of a product is nothing new. Examples like the above show that they can also make for a killer demo in the realm of experience marketing.

For these are professional grade art works at the intersection of consumer psychology, complex 3D modeling, con art and story telling.

Or take the world of shokuhin samples – the hypnotic world of fake Japanese food. 

In Japan, fake food can look very, very real. It’s called “shokuhin sample” (食品サンプル) or “food sample”, and it appears outside restaurants so customers can know what they are ordering.

And it is a damn big deal.

Shokuhin samples have become such an intricate part of the Japanese dining experience that many people stop in front of glass cases filled with fake food, decide what they want, and then enter the restaurant. Some Japanese even complain about the lack of fake food when dinning abroad—that they don’t get to see what they are ordering beforehand!

shokuhin-sample
Shokuhin Sample (Source)

Most shokuhin samples are still hand made by highly skilled artisans whose painstaking craft – honed over several years of training – results in textures and colors that are so precise that it’s often difficult to tell real food from the samples.

Today shokuhin sample manufacturers fiercely guard their trade secrets as business is lucrative; the plastic food industry in Japan, by conservative estimates, has revenues of over 10 billion yen per year.

Unsurprisingly there are also stores that sell this fake food. Ganso Shokuhin Sample-ya  is one such shrine dedicated to all things fake food. It has been producing plastic replicas for display in restaurant windows since 1932, but in recent years it’s even wisened up to the tourist trade by selling fake food keyrings, magnets and phone straps as souvenirs.

640px-food_samples_1
Shokuhin samples in a restaurant, source

Journalist Yasunobu Nose has a theory that links the plastic replicas to the visual aesthetic of Japanese food appreciation. In his book titled “Me de taberu Nihonjin (Japanese People Eat With Their Eyes),” Nose writes that food samples are part of the Japanese tendency to “first ‘taste’ dishes by sight, then eat with their mouths and stomachs.” (source)

With such a strong visual aesthetic underpinning the Japanese way of food appreciation, it would be a massive opportunity lost if the food brands (all kinds from ingredient brands to ready to eat brands) in the Japanese supermarkets do not leverage the power of shokuhin samples in their visual merchandising on the shelves.

After all, this is serious performance art that seeks expressiveness of deliciousness and a sincere pursuit of reality as its objectives. While being rooted in local culture.

Can you think of any other multi sensory experiences that can be brought to life with the help of 3D replicas?

Other than sex dolls, I mean 🙂

(Featured Image:  Van Gogh’s bedroom replica as listed on Airbnb)

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)

Commodities and Fakes. Branded

Can fakes be branded? 

Can fakes be differentiated and charged a premium for? Two recent examples show they bloody well can be!

1. Fakes with an accompanying personal escort flying first class  

A 24 hour escort is the norm for valuable paintings when they are transferred between museums. But a set of forged paintings have been recently extended security arrangements that rival that of the originals. Why?

Because these are not just any other fakes. They are imitation paintings by the world’s most notorious forger Han van Meegren the world war II era painter and master forger – who so well replicated the styles and colours of the legendary artists that the best art critics and experts of the time regarded his paintings as genuine and sometimes exquisite. His wikipedia page says that he is considered to be one of the most ingenious art forgers of the 20th century, so much so that his paintings including his signature have been subsequently forged as well!

Van_Meegeren_signatures(Source, Wikipedia. A collection of genuine and fake signatures of Han van Meegeren)

Today his forged paintings are a brand on to themselves and are treated as prestigious artworks that require the same measures of security as the authentic ones.

2. 3D printers being used to fake Vincent van Gogh 

Now this time, the story to brand the fakes of none other than the works of Vincent van Gogh comes with  its own coined term and a trade mark! Introducing Relievo™

Relievo

(Source: PDF on the Relievo Collection by the van Gogh Museum)

Interestingly this initiative to develop and sell the fakes of the legendary artist is being led by none other than the official van Gogh museum.  Accordingly to this post, the museum is hoping to increase access to pictures which, if they were sold, would go for tens of millions of pounds to Russian oligarchs or American billionaires.

The replicas, called Relievos, are being created by the museum in partnership with Fujifilm, with which it has had an exclusive deal for three years. Such is the complexity of the technology, known as Reliefography, that it has taken more than seven years to develop. It combines a 3D scan of the painting with a high-resolution print. The “super-accurate” reproduction even extends to the frame and the back of the painting. Every Relievo is numbered and approved by a museum curator. And best of all – there is a limited edition of 260 copies per painting.

A limited edition of fakes with each copy uniquely numbered and approved by the curator!! 

Clearly, some fakes are more equal than others!

Commodity Branding 

On a related note, even among commodity products, some brands can be more equal than others. And when they are, as always they make for an interesting marketing case study.

Double A – the paper brand for office supplies and photocopiers has an understandable challenge. Drive user preference in an extremely commoditised category.

So how did they do it? The recent ad campaign by Double A is a case in point. Read the full story here and see all the 4 featured ads in the post by L.Bhat. My favourite 25s spot below. (For email subscribers the URL to the video here)

(Turn on closed captions for subtitles)

So, a paper is a paper? Or is it? 

[Featured Image: Wheatfield Under Clouded Sky by Vincent van Gogh. One of the paintings to be reproduced using the 3D printing technique Relievo™]