The Other Side Up

Quick Read: Invert the traditional workflows, dispel orthodox notions and see lateral thinking come to life for newer ways of going about things.  

Every once in a while there come initiatives and executions that turn the tables on traditional concepts that we have always taken for granted. Such instances compel us to re-evaluate our existing notions of what we consider to be the norm and thereby make great fodder for some lateral thinking.

Three such recent examples.

1. Photography

Trevor Christensen is a photographer who shot to international acclaim with his recent series called Nude Portraits.

What is interesting about this project? In this series the photographer is naked, the subjects are not.

According to himThe photographer/subject paradigm is one of inequality. Nude Portraits is about leveling the playing field in an unorthodox way. Instead of focusing on bringing the subject to a place of ease–where I am, this project brings me to a place of vulnerability.

Nude Portraits

(Source: Nude Portraits by Trevor Christensen)

The results are an interesting commentary on the photographer/subject paradigm and hold a thought provoking mirror to the subject and photographer’s feelings around vulnerability, shame, guilt and self composure.

Talking of portraits, meanwhile elsewhere…

Samsung had an interesting set of executions that reframed selfies as Self Portraits.

2. Painting 

Rainworks is a project  by Peregrine Church.

What is interesting about the project? It is art that appears when it rains! Check this video out:

This cool project challenges our notions around negative space and opens up newer possibilities of creative expression.

Talking of negative space, meanwhile elsewhere…

Volvo introduces Life Paint to promote safety for those both inside and outside its cars.

According to this must read post, Life Paint is a unique reflective safety spray aimed at increasing the visibility and safety of cyclists, and other vulnerable road users.

What makes it special? It is invisible by daylight, but glows brightly in the glare of car headlights, making the invisible, visible at night.

Life Paint

(Source: Life Paint by Grey London for Volvo)

The Life Paint concept was developed by creative agency Grey London, in collaboration with Swedish startup Albedo100 and is one of a series of projects to highlight the key product innovations of the all-new Volvo XC90.

3. Reviews

Online reviews have become both a boon and a bane for many a marketer. As this HBR post says,

The idea that a new (reviews) website or app can undercut years of careful messaging may be deeply frustrating to marketers—but it is a reality they must face.

But what if we turn the tables around on the traditional concept of reviews. Australia based Art Series Hotel Group has recently initaited what it calls Reverse Reviews‘. 

What is interesting about the concept? While you review their hotels, you would also be reviewed by the hotel. Get five stars and get a free night to stay again (applicable between April 17 until May 31 2015).

Reverse Reviews AU

(Source: Art Series Hotels )

Talking of reviews, meanwhile elsewhere…

Today’s new world of ‘on-demand everything’ is being touted as The Shut In Economy.

Read this brilliant piece on why this is so and you would probably agree that institutionalising a ‘Reverse Review’ system could just be what the doctor would have ordered to make our world a better place.

Result: People behind the doors (who use the apps, platforms and services to place their orders online) and the people outside the doors (those that deliver) could live in a world that is more inclusive and respectful of each other.

Isn’t it?

(Featured Image: ‘This Side Up’ table design by DEDE DextrousDesign)

The Allure Of Being Limited: Part 2/2

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.

Imagine someone unboxing a case of 20 blind boxes – each box contains a sealed wrapper that holds a mystery toy within.

For each foil he unwraps and realises the actual toy within – a miniature character –  he lets out an exclamatory ‘aah’. The look and feel of this miniature character makes him marvel at the detail and the exquisite craftsmanship that must have gone into its make, while he also makes a mental note to himself regarding its probable name and where it fits in the larger family of its ‘toy clan’.

And this goes on for each of the 20 blind boxes containing a mystery miniature character within.

Box after box.

And did I tell you that he is an adult in his 30s?

Difficult to imagine, right?

No worries.  For there are thousands of videos here showing this very story unfold. Box after box.

This video here is a good representative version. (strongly recommended dose of some infotainment before you read further)

What did we just see?

Adults –  acting like kids on a christmas morning, unable to contain their excitement as they hold their breath while they unwrap a foil to discover a pretty little toy character within.

Welcome to the world of Urban Vinyl and Designer Toys – a world where toys become prized possessions and collectibles because of two reasons: 

  1. They are works of art designed by prominent international pop culture and graffiti artists.
  2. They are produced in limited quantities  – some as few as 10 to a maximum of 2000 – thereby becoming some of the rarest toys of that kind to be ever made.

Qee series produced in Hong Kong by Toy2R,  Be@rbrick from Japan and the Dunny series produced by Kidrobot are some of the most prominent examples of Designer Toys and Urban Vinyl.

Let’s take Kidrobot – known to be the Mecca of Designer Toys enthusiasts – founded in the US in 2002 by Paul Budnitz. It calls its limited edition Designer Toys as an innovative cross between sculpture and conceptual art, offering not only a powerful medium for today’s international fashion designers, illustrators and graffiti artists, but also the creative canvas for emerging street trends and pop art.

And due to these toys being ‘limited edition’ in design and make they retail anywhere from $5 to $25,000, and many appreciate in value over time. (source)

Kidrobot Dunny(At the intersection of Art and Cult –  The Kidrobot Dunny, Source)

A few more fascinating details regarding Kidrobot and its Dunny Series Designer Toys:

  • Packaging: Each Dunny Designer Toy comes in a foil wrapped inside a blind box. These blind boxes are identical in every way to any other box in a given set so nobody knows which toy is inside. A foil is used to wrap the toy so nobody can open the box and peek inside. (also shown in the unboxing video above)
  • Product Assortment: While the outer case would have some indication of what characters to expect inside, not all of them can be expected to be contained within. Each toy character would have an odds ratio indicating its probability of occurrence within a set. Interestingly there are some characters called ‘chases’ with unknown odds called out as ‘?/??’, while a few are shown mysteriously only in silhouettes. Occasionally, they also include ‘super mystery figures’ that aren’t even indicated on the box, which tend to be some of the rarest ever made of the kind!

Kidrobot Official Dunny Series 2012 Checklist & Ratios(The odds ratios as printed on the cases of Dunny Series 2012, Source) 

  • Kidrobot’s approach to marketing is anything but ordinary: Read here a short interview with Paul Budnitz where he reveals how he has taken a marketing approach opposite to that of most companies.
  • How Kidrobot manages its creative capital: Kidrobot’s approach to distribution of decision making power within the company, its open source design strategy, and how it regularly commissions rock star designers rather than in house artists in order to let a sort of ‘fluidity’ permeate the entire company makes for a fascinating read.
  • Tie ups and Partnerships: Given the cult level popularity and the artistic appeal of Kidrobot’s limited edition toys, it naturally makes for a very coveted partner. For e.g., in Jan 2014 CES, Samsung Galaxy partnered with Kidrobot to land the message about the brand being a new touch point in artistic expression.

samsung_kidrobot_0235wtmk-1280x878(Samsung partners with Kidrobot in CES 2014, Pic source: Slash Gear)

And so it goes on – a fascinating story of how a bunch of unassuming tiny vinyl toys have grown to become icons of pop culture that regularly pull in rabid fans and ardent collectors, who neither mind queuing up for hours outside its stores nor forking out hundreds or even thousands of dollars to buy these designer toys while making its company a multi million dollar brand that it is today.

And when one reads this, sometimes all one can manage to say could be …

…while perhaps even wondering on a wishful note to oneself  damn! where can I get one myself!!”

(Featured Image: Set of Huck Gee’s Night & Day Raku 8” Dunny released in 2011.These were a limited edition of just 500 sets.source)

Video Games As Disruptive Innovation?

Quick Read: Today’s video games like Grand Theft Auto V, are more than just stunning life like gaming experiences. We could have some exciting possibilities here – where experiential & interactive branding can be embedded in games. And more interestingly, a world where video games can be virtual beta testing grounds for new product and UX design. These could be potential disruptive innovations for fields like Market Research and Product Design. 

Visit Los Santos & Blaine County – where plastic surgery, bad movies and big sharks rule the roost – see for yourself.

So says the landing page of Grand Theft Auto V – the super hit block buster action adventure video game that has been rated as the fastest selling entertainment product in world history.

It broke industry sales records by earning US $800 million in the first 24 hours of its release, and US $1 billion within its first three days.

gta-5-grand-theft-auto-99

One of the key features of the game is that it has an Open World game level design – i.e., a world where a player can roam freely through the fictional city of Los Santos and is given considerable freedom in choosing how or when to approach objectives. So as a character in the game you have the freedom to spend your time pursuing adventure sports, lounge about by the beach, go shopping, visit the local artisan, enjoy music and other such entertainment options.

Los Santos(The Landing Page of GTA-V that lists the possibilities and features of Los Santos city and Blaine County)

But Fernando Pereira Gomes – a street photographer by passion and a game enthusiast who went to the midnight launch of the game and played the night away, noticed something even more interesting.

He noticed that the characters in the game had phones with cameras at all times during the game play. This means the players can practically take pictures from within the game(!) and upload these. So with this new tool, and the huge world of Los Santos and its streets, he started experimenting with the camera and went on to take some truly stunning photographs that he has started to share on his blog. Ever since its launch, his blog and the pictures have been rapidly climbing up the popularity charts – thanks to the ingenuity of his idea and the beauty he captures from within the game’s landscape. See a demo video on how he does it here. Now that is Street Photography taken to a completely new level!

He goes on to say..

What I found was remarkable. The game is so realistic that it felt like being in the streets outside, running around for shots, anticipating passersby’s movements and reactions. In a way, it was also incredibly frightening that these algorithms could look so real, or is it that we ourselves are becoming ever more algorithmic?

StreetPhotoV(Los Santos Street Photo by Fernando Pereira Gomes sourced from his blog)

On first look this is fascinating for two reasons:

  1. For the GTA V’s rich media, content and the game design that enables such  interesting possibilities (makes a definitive commentary on the evolution of game design).
  2. And for the creativity and ingenuity of someone like Fernando Gomes who has ventured beyond the apparent possibilities in the game and went on to make a mark for himself.

On second look, and from a marketer’s and a product designer’s stand point, I thought there could be even more compelling possibilities dormant here waiting to be realised. Two things I could think of:

In Game Experiential Branding

In game branding is nothing new. But how about adding an experiential / interactive angle to this ‘in game branding’? More specifically, how about, say a brand like Samsung, tying up with the game franchise and embedding its full camera functionality in the game’s camera phone? Wouldn’t it be an interesting way to let the gamers – many of whom tend to be tech’s early adopters and thereby potential customers of “the latest phone out there” –  try out the phone’s exciting new features?

The opportunities of ‘customer involvement’ here could be limitless – almost life like with little risk involved while affording an almost first person experience of the phone and/or its camera to the user. The best part is the free marketing that these early adopters could do for the brand if and when they share these pics on their social network.

A Virtual Beta Testing Ground For The Upcoming Wearables  

Let’s take Google Glass as an example  (one among the most awaited wearables in the market for 2014). As we speak now, it is in its Beta testing phase with some early adopters signing up to use, explore, develop and test new possibilities. In fact an Android developer Mike DiGiovanni looking to test the concept of using Glass as a second screen, has managed to capture Grand Theft Auto’s crucial in-game GPS interface, beaming it to the player’s Google Glass eyepiece in real time (source).

But how about embedding the functionality of  something like Google Glass within the game and let the players use it and explore its possibilities by themselves? I would guess something like this could give a treasure trove of real time feedback and insights to the product designers in order for them to refine its design and functionality.

Google Glass

Implications

Ben Hammersley  in his must read WIRED article on Wearables as the 3rd wave of computing, rightly says that when it comes to something like Google Glass, how our social progress plays out will be just as interesting as the technology itself. The social component of the implications would probably need to be tested and tried in real life, but the technology component and its possibilities can perhaps be tested in the game’s ‘reel’ life already today.

And may be when the game design becomes so smart to be able to reflect life like social dynamics – a not so unlikely prospect in the near future –  we might not even need the good old focus group or the hordes of beta testers!

Now, that could be a disruptive innovation for market research and product design!

Market research agencies and product designers of the world – hope you are investing in video games. No?

(Featured Image: Source, Fernando Pereira Gomes Street Photography on the streets of Los Santos within the game Grand Theft Auto V)