Story Tellers, Super Powers And Second Lives

Quick Read: For the first time in the history of story telling we seem to be having the means to explore the dimensions of *actual* time and space in building narratives. Story telling might just be at an inflection point.

Andrew Stanton while talking about The Clues to a Great Story quotes an incredibly insightful definition of what constitites drama.

Drama is anticipation mingled with uncertainty.” 

Now, while keeping the uncertainty element constant, what if you can build anticipation at the rate of actual human experience?

Wouldn’t the drama get amplified?

Let’s elaborate.

World’s Most Boring Television 

Stick a camera to an ordinary train on an ordinary day. Shoot the entire 7 hr + footage of this ordinary journey as the train pulls from station to station, and put it on national TV with almost no editing.

Sounds like the most boring television show in the history of mankind. Right?

Wrong.

The results of this Norwegian TV show were extra-ordinary, fascinating and even bizarely insightful.

Welcome to the world of ‘Slow TV‘.

What began as a pilot by the Norwegian TV producer Thomas Hellum and his team turned out to become a national phenomenon leading to more shows such as an 18 hour fishing expedition, a 5.5 day ferry voyage along the coast of Norway and many more.

These went on to receive extensive attention in global media, and were considered a great success with coverage numbers exceeding all expectations and record ratings for the NRK2 channel!

But why were these ostensibly boring shows so popular?

To paraphrase Thomas Hellum from the following must watch TED Talk..

Slow TV is so popular because it builds drama by letting the viewer make the story themeslves. 

In otherwords Slow TV is an amazing example of a narrative that rides on building anticipation at the rate of actual human experience in time.

Not to be left behind, the advertising/marketing world has also begun to experiment with the concept.

Virgin America has produced a six-hour-long commercial (!) about how unbearably dull the average plane ride is. The video shows passengers on a flight across the US, playing out its events in real time.

And it has clocked around 850K views till date!

Now moving over to the other dimension.

A New Photographic Language Is Born 

..so says dronestagram – an instagram for footage shot with dones. We even have drone film festivals celebrating the art of films shot with drones.

Meanwhile, YouTube this year has begun supporting 360 degree videos.  And we already see several brands experimenting with this format to create truly amazing ads like the one below by Nike that lets you be Neymar on the field as you check out the action in all its 360 degree glory.

And then you have the likes of Oculus and Google Cardboard pushing the envelope in bringing immersive VR experiences to life. The Economist in its recent feature has in fact taken a serious take on VR and believes that its time may have truly come.

This year the Tribeca Film Festival has even called for ‘virtual reality’ submissions.

So why are we raving about films shot with drones, 360 degree videos and VR experiences?

It is possibly because they all have one thing in common.

Thanks to these, for the first time ever, we see possibilities in constructing narratives that can build anticipation at the rate of actual human experience in space

So what’s next?

From Story Telling To Crafting Experiences To Creating Parallel Lives

As story tellers build increasingly immersive narratives that progress at the rate of actual human expereince in time and space, it ceases being just a story and moves on to becoming an experience.

Now throw in sensory elements to this and you suddently have multi dimensional multi sensory experiences that could possibly shift the business of story telling to that of building parallel realms of existence.

What does that mean?

I don’t know.

But at the least it could herald a second life for the likes of Second Life.

(Featured Image, Source)

Is The Classic Purchase Funnel Flawed?

Quick Read: With most products in any given category tending to have total functional parity, the only way to drive trial could possibly be through a singular route – curioisty.

Often times I am curious why “curiosity” doesn’t even figure in the classic purchase funnel.

In fact I tend to believe that without inciting a threshold level of curiosity in a consumer, awareness and consideration could end up proving to be moot pursuits.

Let’s take Kaviar. (or Smörgåskaviar to be specific)

Kaviar is a Scandinavian spread – a paste consisting mainly of lightly smoked cod roe that has a salty/sweet/fishy taste and a gooey pink/orange colour. Packed full of omega-3 goodness, kaviar can be eaten at anytime and practically spread on anything edible – breads, eggs, meat, cheese etc. (source)

Mills Kaviar

(Source: Mills Kaviar)

No wonder the Scandivaians swear by them, with the category that is sufficiently crowded with brands like MillsStabburet, Kalles, Kavli etc battling out for market share by commanding fierce loyalties.

However kaviar supposedly has one catch – it is an acquired taste and a first timer might find the taste disgusting

Now that’s where the Kalles Campaign proves to be a genius. (Kalles is a Swedish Kaviar brand)

The campaign holds a mirror to other nationalities’ incomprehension and their reaction at having something that tastes – let’s just say – strong and funny.

It starts with Los Angeles where obviously the Californians don’t hold back their feelings upon tasting something weird.

As it moves to Switzerland, the taste test yields more hand and eyebrow gestures than actual verbal responses.

“It tastes … ” a serious looking man in a tie says. “It tastes … ”

“Fantastic?” the Swede asks.

“No,” the Swiss man replies, with a resolute firmness.

In Budapest, the reaction is icier. A woman takes a bite, exchanges cold glances and upon being asked if she likes it, she smiles, and says “yes,” with a look that clearly says no.

The Costa Ricans laugh and gesticulate.

And the Japanese are very polite even as they appear to be gagging at the taste.

 The Kalles commercials began in 2012 and were made by the Swedish ad firm Forsman & Bodenfors.

As this NYTimes article says, if nothing else these ads are a whimsical cultural excursion into manners.

Now, can anyone get me a Kalles Kaviar please?

I want to try my own gag reflex.

I am really curious!

Now, where am I in the purchase funnel?

(Featured Image Source: My Guilty Pleasures)

The Allure Of Being Limited: Part 1/2

Quick Read: Value as a concept to a consumer has 2 key dimensions: perceived benefit and perceived cost (of a product). But the moment a third dimension called ‘availability’ is introduced, the equation becomes intriguing and interesting, especially when the former is limited – in reach or time.

Value is an interesting concept. It can be defined as  the consumer’s perceived benefit derived from a product in relation to its perceived cost, and can be represented by the equation:

Value = Benefit / Cost 

What generates value? Dial up the benefit and/or dial down the cost of your product for the consumer. Simple. Isn’t it? But that is conventional.

Let’s take the concept of Limited Availability. When something becomes limited in availability, the concept of value can become a bit unconventional and even compelling – almost as intriguing and compelling as the concept of turbulence is for physicists.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take 3 examples.

What if the sun were to become limited edition?

Difficult to imagine, right? But for the 3,300 odd people living in the small Norwegian town of Rjukan they don’t have to. Because sunlight for them is literally limited – to just 6 months in an year. The towering peaks that surround the town rise to almost 2,000 meters above sea level and block out the sunlight for 6 months, meaning Rjukan residents live in a permanent shadow from September to March. Every year.

So in October 2013, the town of Rjukan created history by getting sunlight to shine on the town.

And the day that happened, the town square was reportedly abuzz with cheering families, delighted children, sun loungers doning shades and drinking cocktails while waving Norwegian flags as TV cameras flocked from around the world. It was almost like a spectacle, an epochal moment for the town.

How did they do it? 

NORWAY/(Giant mirrors reflecting sun light into the Town Square of Rjukan. Source)

Giant mirrors.

At a  cost of 5 million Norwegian kroner, they installed giant mirrors on a mountainside to reflect the sun into the town. Using computer controlled technology, these mirrors, called heliostats are powered to shift every 10 seconds to track the movements of the sun and reflect sunlight into the town square throughout the day.

Regardless of the cost involved per capita for Rjukan, this unique solar project stands out as a sculpture, an installation that makes us think about the value that we attribute to something as fundamental as sun especially when it becomes limited. Limited in reach and time. 

An insanely irritating game with bad graphics = a viral hit?

Flappy Bird is a 2013 game developed by Dong Nguyen – a Vietnam based developer. For the uninitiated, the following lines from this Verge article can give you a quick sneak view into the ‘Flappy Bird Phenomenon’:

..the game goes as follows: you tap the screen to propel a tiny, pixelated bird upwards. If you hit any of the green pipes on your way … the game is over. The goal is simply to accumulate the highest score possible. The catch? You’ll very likely spend an hour even reaching a score of five. The app has been downloaded 50 million times, and has accumulated over 47,000 reviews in the App Store — as many as apps like Evernote and Gmail. Mobile games studios generally spend months coding up deliberately addictive and viral titles, but Nguyen did it by spending a few nights coding when he got home from work.

See the video of the game play here:

But for many gaming industry experts Flappy Bird is an enigma. Huffington Post described it as “insanely irritating, difficult and frustrating game which combines a super-steep difficulty curve with bad, boring graphics and jerky movement”. Despite that by early 2014 it was  one of the top free games on the App Store and Google Play in the US and the UK and was touted as “the new Angry Birds.” And was reportedly earning around $50,000 a day in revenue through its in game advertising. But that’s not the most interesting part.

On the 8th of Feb, when Flappy Birds was soaring past stratospheric heights in popularity and cult status, Dong Nguyen tweeted the following.

Flappy Bird

With this single tweet (dutifully reported by the likes of The Wall Street Journal, Guardian, Forbes, Reuters etc. and aided by the existing popularity of his game) Dong was instantly catapulted to a status of cult guru trying to pull an act of ‘Limited Edition’ to his game.

This promnise of limited availability has unleashed an instant panic in the gamers, fuelled debates among gaming experts globally and even invited suspcisions that this could just be a marketing stunt.

Not surprisingly, the game was taken down on App Store and Google Play within the next day while the whole phenomenon has become a viral hit globally. And spectacularly, following the removal, many media outlets reported that several merchants on eBay were offering phones that had the app pre-installed for US$1499 or more, with some receiving bids of over $90,000!! (source 1,2, 3)

As mind blowing as this might prove to be, the story nevertheless tells us two things:

  1. That Flappy Bird is proof that no one really knows what the audience wants. (Do read this article by the same name)
  2. And that the promise of limited availability can sometimes stretch the definition of the word irrationality or insanity (depending upon who you are)

So that’s two examples so far on how compelling the perception of value can turn out to be when driven by a promise of limited availability.

The third example is my personal favorite and deserves a seperate blog post.

To be continued..