Category Archives: Apple

A Startup’s Guide to Marketing Communications

A Startup's Guide to Marketing Communications

GUEST POST from Steve Blank

I was having coffee with the CEO of a new startup, listening to her puzzle through how to communicate to potential customers. She was an academic on leave from Stanford now selling SAAS software to large companies, but was being inundated with marketing communications advice. “My engineers say our website is old school, and we need to be on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, my VP of Sales says we’re wasting our marketing dollars not targeting the right people and my board keeps giving me their opinions of how we should describe our product and company. How do I sort out what to do?”

She winced as I reminded her that she had gone through the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps. “Painful and invaluable” was her reply. I reminded her that all the Lean tools she learned in class–Customer Discovery, business model and value proposition canvases– contained her answer.

Here’s how.
—-

Define the Mission of Marketing Communications

Companies often confuse communications tactics (“What should my webpage look like or should I be using Facebook/Instagram/Twitter?”) with a strategy. A communications strategy answers the question, “Why are we doing these activities?” For example, our goal could be:

  1. Create demand for our products and drive it into our sales channel
  2. Create awareness of our company and brand for potential customers
  3. Create awareness for fundraising (VC, angels, corporate partners)
  4. Create awareness for potential acquirers of our company

(Marketing communications is a subset of the Marketing department’s mission. Read the post about mission and intent here.)

Audience(s), Message, Media, Messenger

Once you figure out why you’re creating a communications strategy then you can figure out how to use it. The “how” requires just four steps:

  1. Understand your audience(s)
  2. Craft the message for that specific audience
  3. Select the media you want the message to be read/seen/heard on
  4. Select the messenger you want to carry your message

Audiences Message Media Messenger Steve Blank

Step 1: Who’s the Audience(s)?

An audience means – who specifically you want your messages to reach. Is it all the people on earth? Everyone in San Francisco? Potential customers such as gamers who like to play specific types of games? Or people inside companies with a specific title, like product or program managers, CIOs, etc? Venture Capitalists who may want to invest? Other companies that may want to acquire you?

What’s confusing is that often there are multiple audiences you want to communicate with. So, refer to your strategy: Are you trying to reach potential customers or potential investors and acquirers? These are very different audiences, each requires its own messages, media and messengers.

If you’re selling a product to a company, for example, is the audience the user of the product? Her boss? The person who has the budget? The CEO?

How do you figure out who the audience is? It turns out that if you’ve been doing customer discovery and using the value proposition canvas, you know a lot about each customer/ beneficiary. The first step is to put all those value proposition canvases on the wall to remind you that these are the people you need to reach.

Steve Blank Value Prop ExamplesHow do you figure out which of these customers/beneficiaries is most important? Who’s the least important? If you’ve been out talking to customers, you will have an idea of who’s involved in the buying process. Who’s the user of product? The recommender? The decision maker? The saboteur? As you map out what you learned about the role each of these customers plays in the buying process, marketing communications and sales can decide which one of the customers/beneficiaries is the primary audience of your messages. (And they can decide if there any secondary audiences you should reach.) Often there are multiple people in a sales process worth influencing.

If you’re trying to reach potential acquirers or investors, the customer discovery process is the same. Spend time building value proposition canvases for these audiences.

Step 2: What’s the Message?

Messages are what you delivering to the audience(s) you’ve selected. Messages answer three questions:

  1. Why should the audience care?
  2. What are you offering?
  3. What’s the call to action?

Your customers have already told you how to craft the first part of your message. The answer to “Why should your audience care?” comes directly from the pains and gains on the right side of the value proposition canvas.

And the answer to the second question “What are you offering?” comes from the left side of the value proposition canvas. It’s not just the product feature list, but the pain relievers and gain creators.

Once you get your audience to read your message, then what? What’s the call to action? Do you want them to download a demo, schedule a sales call, visit a physical store location or a website, download an app, click for more information, give you their email address, etc.? Your message needs to include a specific call to action.

Other things to keep in mind about messages:

Message Context

A message that is brilliant today and gets the press writing about you and customers begging to buy your product could have been met with blank stares two years ago and may be obsolete next year. In crafting your messages, remember that all messages operate in a context that may have an expiration date. Netbooks, 3DTVs, online classes disrupting higher ed, all had their moment in time. Make sure your context is current and revisit your messages periodically to see if they still work.

Sticky Messages

Messages also need to be memorable – “sticky.” Why? Because the more memorable the message, the greater its ability to create change. Not only do we want people to change their buying behavior, we also want them to change how they think. (This is often a tough concept for engineering founders who believe that if we just tell customers about the features that make their product faster, cheaper, etc. they’ll win.)

Consider that if you were told you were going to pay for cold, dead fish wrapped in seaweed you might not be too hungry. But when we call it sushi people line up.

The same goes for a hamburger. You may eat a lot of them, but if McDonald’s message was “dead cow, slaughtered by the millions, butchered by minimum wage earners, then ground into patties, frozen into solid blocks, and reheated when you order them,” instead of “You deserve a break today,” sales might be a tad lower.

Product versus Company Messages

There is a difference between detailed product messages versus messages about your company. At times, you may have to communicate what the company stands for before a customer is ready to listen to you talk about product messages. For example, to outflank a competitor who had faster products, Intel moved the conversation about microprocessors away from speed and technology to create a valued brand. They created the “Intel Inside” campaign.

Apple was trying to resurrect a then-dying company by reminding people what Apple stood for with their “Think Different” ad campaign:

Both Apple and Intel were selling complicated technology but did so by simplifying the message so it had broad emotional appeal. Both Intel Inside and Think Different became sticky corporate messages.

Step 3: Media

Media means the type of communications media each audience member reads/listens to/watches. Is could be print (newspapers/magazine), Internet (website, podcasts, etc.), broadcast (TV, radio, etc.) or social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.). In customer discovery, you asked prospects how they get information about new companies and new products. (If not, get back out and do so!) The media your prospective customers told you they use ought to be on top of your target media.

The online media your company controls (your corporate website, company Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) should be the first place you experiment finding your audience(s) and message.

Typically, you pick several media to reach each audience. It’s likely that each audience reads different media (potential customers read something very different than potential investors.) You’ll need a media strategy – a plan that describes the mix of media and how you will use it. This plan should include the category of media; print, internet, broadcast and then identify specific sites, blogs, magazine, etc.

Step 4: Messengers

Messengers are the well-placed and highly leveraged individuals who have influence over your audience(s). Messengers convey and amplify your message to your audience through the media you’ve chosen.

There are four types of messengers: reporters, experts, evangelists and connectors. (Each audience will have its own unique set of messengers.)

1. Reporters are paid by specific media to write about news. Which reporters you should talk to comes from discovering which media your audience has said they read. Your goal is to identify who are the reporters in the media your audience reads and what they write about, and to figure out why they should write about you. (Wrong answer – because we have a new product. Very wrong answer – because my CEO wants to be on the cover of publication X or Y.)

2. Experts know your industry or product in detail, and others rely on them for their opinions. Experts may be industry analysts in private research firms (Gartner, NPD, AMR), Wall Street research analysts (Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs), consultants who provide advice for your industry or bloggers with wide followings. Experts may even be potential customers who run user groups that other potential customers turn to for advice.

(Today some reporters are experts – product reviewers in the Tech Section of the Wall Street Journal, or the Technology section of the New York Times (or its product review site Wirecutter)).

3. Evangelists are unabashed cheerleaders and salespeople for your product and, if you are creating a new market, for your company vision. They tell everyone how great the product is and about the unlimited potential of your product and market. While nominally carrying less credibility than experts, evangelists have two advantages: typically, they are paying customers, and they are incredibly enthusiastic about what they say. (Evangelists are not customers who will give a reference. A customer reference is something you have to twist arms to get; an evangelist is someone you can’t get off the phone.)

4. Connectors are individuals who seem to know everyone. Each industry has a few. They may be bloggers who expound on the general state of your industry and write magazine or newspaper columns. They may be individuals who organize and hold conferences where the key industry thought leaders gather. Often, they themselves are the thought leaders.

Founders ask me all the time whether they should hire a PR agency. I tell them, “The question isn’t if. The question is when?” Influencing the messengers is what great public relations firms know how to do. They may have their own language describing who the messengers are (e.g., “influencers”) and how they manage them (e.g. “information chain”), but once you’ve done a first pass of the audience > message > media > messenger, a competent PR firm can add tremendous value.

Customer Discovery Never Stops

Understanding your audience(s) is important for not just startups, but for companies already selling products. It helps you stay current with customers, get ideas for other needs to fill and to create new products. In addition, the audience > message > media > messenger cycle seamlessly moves this learning into getting, keeping and growing customers. Today, Marketing Automation tools (customer analytics, SEO, and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms) generate customer behavior history about what messages worked on which media. These tools generate data that companies use to feed AdTech tools (demand-side platforms, ad exchanges and networks) to automate selling and buying of online ads.

Communications as a Force Multiplier

  • Smart CEOs treat communications as a force multiplier for sales, a tool to dramatically increase valuation and the vehicle to get acquirers lined up at the door. Not so successful CEOs treat it as tactic that can be handed to others.
  • Hiring a PR agency too early is a sign that the CEO is treating this as someone else’s problem. In a startup, the first pass of understanding Audience, Message, Media, Messenger can only be done with the founders/CEO engaged.
  • Getting publicity for a product that does not yet exist is how startups get noticed. But don’t fall victim to your own reality distortion field and hype a product that can never be made (think of Tesla versus Theranos.)
  • Figuring out who the possible audiences are, what messages to send, and what media to use, feels overwhelming at first. The temptation is to try to reach all the audiences with a single message and a single media. That’s a going out of business strategy. Use Customer Discovery, and your customers will teach you who they are, what to say to them and how to reach them.

Lessons Learned

  • Marketing Communications = Audience, Message, Media, Messenger
  • Use the Value Proposition Canvas to understand who your audience(s) are
  • Craft messages to match what your audience has already told you
  • Pick the media they said they read
  • Find the right messengers to amplify your message

The full article originally appeared on Steve Blank’s blog

Image credits: Pixabay, Steve Blank

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Is Now the Time to Finally End Our Culture of Disposability?

Is Now the Time to Finally End Our Culture of Disposability?Quality used to mean something to companies.

A century ago, when people parted with their hard-earned money to buy something, they expected it to last one or more lifetimes.

Durability was a key design criteria.

But, as the stock market became more central to the American psyche and to executive compensation, the quality of available products and services began to decline in the name of profits above all else.

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Ford Quality is job oneThere was a temporary consumer revolt decades ago that resulted in companies pretending that quality was more important than profits, but it didn’t last long. In the end, Americans accepted the decline in quality as outsourcing and globalization led to declining prices (and of course higher profits) and fewer goods carrying the “Made in the USA” label, quickly replaced by Japan, China, Mexico, Vietnam, Bangladesh and the rest.

An Inconvenient TruthAround the turn of the century we had the birth of the Cradle-to-Cradle (C2C) movement followed a few years later by Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. Perhaps people were beginning to wake up to the fact that our planet’s resources are not infinite and our culture of disposability was catching up to us.

But these movements failed to maintain their momentum and the tidal wave of stores stocking disposable goods continued unabated – dollar stores and party stores spread across the country like a virus. States like New York began shipping their garbage across borders as their landfills reached capacity. Unsold goods began being dumped on the African continent and elsewhere (think about all those t-shirts printed up for the team that didn’t end up winning the Super Bowl).

Is now the time for the winds to shift yet again in favor of quality and sustainability after decades of disposability?

Will more companies better embrace sustainability like Patagonia is attempting to do?

People have been complaining for years about the high cost to repair Apple products and the increasing difficulty of executing these repairs oneself. Recently Apple was FORCED by shareholder activists to allow people to repair their iPhones. Here is their press release that tries to put a positive spin on what they were pressured into doing.

This is the moment for shareholder activists and governments around the world to force companies to design for repairability, reuse and a true accounting of the costs of their products and services inflict upon the populace and the planet. The European Union and Mexico are working together towards this not just because the planet needs this, but because The Circular Economy Creates New Business Opportunities.

Meanwhile, Toyota recently announced that starting this year (2022) in Japan that they will retrofit late-model cars with new technology if the customer desires it. The company aims to let motorists benefit from new technology without having to buy a new car. The LoraxToyota calls this “uppgrading” and defines it as retrofitting safety and convenience functions, like blind spot monitoring, emergency braking assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and the addition of a hands-free tailgate or trunk lid. Remodeling will also be an option and will include replacing worn or damaged parts inside and out, such as the upholstery, the seat cushions, and the steering wheel.

Are these two companies voluntary and involuntary actions the beginning of a trend – finally?

Or will the culture of disposability continue unabated until our natural resources are exhausted?

Do we truly live in the land of the Lorax?

Image credits: Wikimedia Commons, OldHouseOnline

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Can You Be TOO Strategic?

Can You Be TOO Strategic?

GUEST POST from Howard Tiersky

While the lack of a clear strategy can create problems in any business, there is another end of that spectrum.

Having a strategy means having clarity on what you want to achieve and a plan on how to get there. These are good things, but it’s also possible to be too strategic—too focused on a single goal and plan.

When Being TOO Strategic is a Problem

1. You Have an Ineffective Plan

What if you have a plan for reaching your goal but it doesn’t work? You could be putting all your eggs in one basket.

In some cases, you may be able to determine very quickly if your strategy isn’t working. That’s one of the beauties of digital. For example, with ecommerce, you can try a new email subject line and within a few hours (or even minutes) you can see whether people are responding to it.

There are other strategies, however, that demonstrate their effectiveness over time. A program that is designed to build relationships to drive more long-term customer loyalty is an example of a strategy that you won’t be able to determine the success of overnight.

Regardless of whether your plan can be evaluated quickly, if you put all your eggs in one strategic basket, there’s always the possibility that you’re wrong about the method to achieve your goal.

2. You Set the Wrong Goal

There’s also the possibility that you have either the wrong goal or a goal that’s not optimal.

No matter what group of consumers you choose to target, things can change quickly; it may turn out that you haven’t chosen a good target at all.

For example, think about when COVID-19 first disrupted our world. Consumers’ needs and habits changed because of the pandemic, which caused many companies to adjust their goals because their original goals were no longer going to bring successful outcomes. If you stayed laser focused on the goal of increasing the number of shoppers coming to your store each day amidst the pandemic, you were a little too strategically disciplined.

Even in less extreme cases, there are still situations where leaders fail to see new trends and opportunities for growth.

Blockbuster VideoBlockbuster is a great example of a company that had the wrong goal in mind. They were so hyper focused on putting a video rental store in every neighborhood that they failed to see the potential opportunity in digital streaming services.

Netflix, on the other hand, did an excellent job seeing that opportunity and successfully transformed from the DVD rental by mail service to the popular digital streaming service consumers love today.

There’s always the risk that either you’re pursuing the wrong destination or the wrong means to get there. And what do you do then? You have the opportunity to say, “Maybe I shouldn’t be 100% strategic.”

Often, mistakes and variability promote evolution and growth in a company, so it’s important to determine what percentage of your business should be based on strategy and what percentage should be based on trying new and different things which may not align with the current official strategy.

3. Consider a Balanced Approach

Ideally, find a balance of mostly strategic activities, but carve out some time for non-strategic activity to allow employees to be creative and freely come up with new ideas that just might turn into something great.

An example of a company who does this well and has seen success come out of this strategy is Google. Google offers “20% time,” which allows each employee to spend 20% of their work time on independent projects they feel will benefit Google in the long run without having to justify it to anyone.

This freedom promotes innovation and creativity, making employees feel like their work and input really matters to the company. Many of Google’s widely known products have come out of this non-strategic time, such as Gmail and Google Maps.

Another area of business that often takes a balanced approach to strategy is Research and Development (R&D). R&D teams are typically made up of creative and original thinkers; they may be faced with problems that they’re fascinated by and are trying to solve. It’s not always clear how solving that problem is going to help the company right away, but some of the world’s greatest innovations have come out of R&D departments.

For example, at Bell Labs, the transistor was invented by people who were fascinated by the way materials could be used to control electricity. It wasn’t clear when they were doing that original research exactly how the product would be used; it was much later that the potential was realized for commercial applications such as the microchip

Another example is Steve Jobs in the early days of Apple. When the Apple ][ computer was at its height, it was the main focus of the company and where all the money was coming from. The long term success of the Apple ][ platform was the strategic focus of the company.

At the time, in order to politically sideline him, Jobs was assigned to work on a seemingly non-strategic project, which was the Apple Macintosh, originally intended as a product for the education market. As successful as the Apple ][ was, ultimately, the innovation that came from launching the Macintosh massively eclipsed the Apple ][ and is a key product line to this day. Thank goodness for a non-strategic project.

4. It Might Be Worth It to Pursue a “Moonshot Idea”

It can be beneficial to allow a certain amount of time to work on complete “moonshot ideas”—
ideas that are highly risky but could change the company or the industry as a whole if they’re successful.

While these grand ideas have only proven to be occasionally successful, the payoff can be so huge when they do succeed that they are worth pursuing.

The bottom line is that you want to be good at being strategic, but not get so caught up in being so strategic that you miss out on a great opportunity for growth and success in your company that may not align with your strategy.

Parting Gift

My Wall Street Journal bestselling book, Winning Digital Customers: The Antidote to Irrelevance, contains a blueprint for developing a successful strategy for your company as well as practices to aid in identifying new trends and opportunities to explore. You can download the first chapter for free here or purchase the book here.

Image credits: Pixabay and Unsplash

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Friday Funny – Unexpected Blackberry and Apple Problems

Thanks to Bettina von Stamm for bringing this comedic gem to my attention:

It does a great job of highlighting how technology companies come along and completely change parts of our common language.

For my non-European friends, Orange is a French mobile telecommunications provider (aka France Telecom).

I hope everyone has a funny Friday and a great weekend!


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Apple Announces Name Change to App-le

Apple Announces Name Change to App-le

First Apple changed its name from Apple Computer to Apple to better reflect a business focus that was extending beyond computers to music players, smartphones, digital music sales, and more.

And last week Apple announced a flurry of new products including:

  • iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s plus
  • All new Apple TV
  • iPad Pro
  • watchOS 2
  • iOS9

What was clear from the announcements is that Apple’s view the future of computing and entertainment is an App-centric one.

First Apple created Apps for the iPod. Anyone remember the iPod? Apple barely does. They still make iPods, but they’ve been dropped from the main menu on Apple’s web site and relegated to the text links at the bottom of the page. Then they create Apps for the iPhone and the iPad and the watch. And this past week Apple announced their App-centric vision for the future of television.

What is this vision?

It’s pretty simple really. Want to watch major league baseball (MLB) on your television, buy the MLB app. Want to watch HBO, buy the app. Cartoon Network? Get the app. You get the idea.

Why does Apple have this vision?

This App-centric vision of entertainment grows their ecosystem and enables Apple to make money not only from hardware sales, but also from commissions in the sale of all of these Apps. And as people buy more apps, they lock themselves further into Apple’s hardware, by design.

Apple’s App-centric vision for the future of television is good for creators of popular, quality content like HBO, the National Football League (NFL), Premier League Football, CNN, BBC, and for movie-centric aggregators (Netflix, Amazon). The evolving App-centric approach to television also has the benefit to the content creators of enabling them to build Apps that yes play full-screen video (what people expect), but also to integrate information, commerce and social elements into their Applications as they see fit. The downside is that content creators will lose the perceived safety that cable network bundling offers.

But the smartest, best run content creators are more likely to gradually embrace this App-centric possible future, and as a result Apple’s App-centric television future is likely to be a disaster for cable companies and other television-centric aggregators (Hulu, Sling). Why would you need an intermediary like a cable company when you can go straight to the source?

Cable companies could however try to beat Apple to the App Store model and potentially also beat them to the Spotify model for television if they move quickly. But are speed and courage what cable companies are known for?

YouTube and Facebook could also be big winners in Apple’s App-centric television future as both sites could become the home for a treasure trove of free sample shows, a place for people to discover new content to subscribe to. Facebook has made a big push into video the past few years, making this potential area of growth possible for them.

Apple missed the App-centric transition in music, and they had to go out and overpay for Beats to try and catch up to Spotify and others. They’ve also missed the early days of the App-centric transition in paid video apps as well, with Netflix enjoying the early success. They don’t want to get completely left behind, so they are making their big push towards an App-centric television future. The only question is how?

Will Apple look to create a subscription service like Netflix or Spotify as their App, or focus on promoting content creator Apps (NFL, CNN, etc.) through an App Store, both, or something completely different?

No matter which direction Apple chooses, it’s clear that with Apple it is all about the apps. So will Apple change its name to App-le? Probably not. But, they’ve made it very

clear that their vision for the future is an App-centric one. Will they be able to realize it?

Image credit: mashable.com

This article originally appeared on Linkedin


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Can Windows 10 Disrupt Android and Get Microsoft Back in Handset Game?

Microsoft Tries to Disrupt Mobile Phone Market

Can Windows 10 Disrupt Android and Get Microsoft Back in Handset Game?I came across an article on Mashable recently highlighting a new Microsoft experiment. It highlights something that Microsoft has prototyped to test as part of their strategy to regain momentum in the mobile phone market by focusing on markets outside the United States where the first generation of the smartphone adoption battle hasn’t already been decided.

The first Microsoft branded phones are now appearing in the market as the relevance of the Nokia brand in the mobile phone market has nearly completely disappeared. With a single digit market share, Microsoft has to do something disruptive to get back in the game and get some value out of their huge Nokia acquisition. Most people would say that doing something disruptive is outside of Microsoft’s comfort zone, but there are examples to the contrary where Microsoft has been more innovative than Google or Apple, so nothing is impossible.

So enough buildup. What exactly is Microsoft fooling around with as a potential strategy to get back in the global smartphone market?

It is this…

Microsoft is working with Xiaomi to prove that it is possible to bring Windows to Android hardware. The technical details aren’t all that important, the bigger question is whether Android handset owners would consider doing this or not.

The big value proposition highlighted in the Mashable article is that Windows is less hungry for resources than Android and so especially for people with older smartphones the switch could make their handset feel more responsive. Someone switching like this probably wouldn’t make Microsoft any immediate money, but of course the hope would be that when they upgraded that they would choose a Microsoft OS handset for their next smartphone.

As someone who ditched his Android phone for a Nokia Lumia phone running Windows Phone and never looked back, I can confirm that Windows Phone is better than Android (althought the App selection is much smaller).

Given that Windows Phone biggest weakness is probably App availability, Microsoft better do everything they can to convert phones over to their new Windows 10 OS, other way that gap will never close. Will this experiment be fully unleashed? Will it work? Could Microsoft disrupt the smartphone market and get back in the game with this approach?

I guess only time will tell.

In the meantime, if you want to see more, check out the video above and work on your Chinese at the same time.

If you’re not sure what I meant by seamless computing when I referred to it above, I encourage you to check out my previous article – Cloud Computing is Dead, Long Live the Cloud! (which is also available as a narrated audio file)


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Rise of Seamless Computing

Rise of Seamless Computing

Some people have made fun of the fact that I said that the iPad might fail when it was announced, but I just looked back at what I said back in 2010 (before Apple fixed their Value Translation problem) and I stand by what I said in that article. Then I looked further back to what I wrote in 2009 about my vision for the future evolution of computing, a concept I call Seamless Computing.

I also just looked up the iPad sales data (note this chart is missing the first quarter’s sales data and Q1 is the Christmas quarter). You’ll notice that it did in fact take about two years for iPad sales to really take off (my prediction). When I highlight that this was BEFORE they fixed their value translation problem, I mean that this article was written when most people was calling the iPad a giant iPhone and was before they came out with the out of home (OOH) advertising showing somebody leaning back on a couch with the iPad on their lap. This single image fixed their perception problem, and these billboards came out as the product was starting to ship (a full three months after they announced the product). You’ll also notice in the chart if you follow the link above that the iPad has already peaked and is on the decline.

Unfortunately for Apple, the iPod is past its peak, now the iPad is past its peak, and the iPhone 6 will represent the peak for their mobile phone sales at some point as replacement cycles start to lengthen and lower priced smartphones start to be good enough for most people. Apple will likely to continue to win in the luxury smartphone market, but the non-luxury smartphone market will be where the growth is (not Apple’s strength).

Now, moving on from Apple, what it is interesting is that for the past couple of years we’ve been obsessed with smartphones and cloud computing, but it is looking more and more that the timing is now right for Seamless Computing to become the next battleground.

Cloud Computing won’t die or go away as Seamless Computing takes hold, but the cloud will become less sexy and more just part of the plumbing necessary to make Seamless Computing work.

Who will the winners in Seamless Computing be?

In 2009 I laid out my first ideas about what Seamless Computing might look like:

People’s behavior is changing. As people move to smartphones like the Apple iPhone, these devices are occupying the middle space (around the neighborhood), and the mobility of laptops is shifting to the edges – around the house and around the world.

Personally I believe that as smartphones and cloud computing evolve, these devices will become our primary computing hub and new hardware will be introduced that connects physically, wirelessly or virtually to enhance storage, computing power, screen size, input needs, output needs, etc.

– This would be thinking differently.
– This would be more than introducing a ‘me-too, but a little better’ product.
– This would be innovation.

Then I expanded upon this in 2010 by laying out the following computing scenario:

What would be most valuable for people, what they really want, is an extensible, pocketable device that connect wirelessly to whatever input or output devices that they might need to fit the context of what they want to do. To keep it simple and Apple-specific, in one pocket you’ve got your iPhone, and in your other pocket you’ve got a larger screen with limited intelligence that folds in half and connects to your iPhone and can also transmit touch and gesture input for those times when you want a bigger screen. When you get to work you put your iPhone on the desk and it connects to your monitor, keyboard, and possibly even auxiliary storage and processing unit to augment the iPhone’s onboard capabilities. Ooops! Time for a meeting, so I grab my iPhone, get to the conference room and wirelessly connect my iPhone to the in-room projector and do my presentation. On the bus home I can watch a movie or read a book, and when I get home I can connect my iPhone to the television and download a movie or watch something from my TV subscriptions. So why do I need to spend $800 for a fourth screen again?

Now, along comes a company called Neptune that is building a prototype of a computing scenario similar to one that I laid out in 2009 and is raising funds on IndieGogo to make it a reality. The main difference is that I had the smartphone as the hub, where they have a smartwatch as their hub. My biggest concern about making the smartwatch the hub would be battery life. Here is a video showing their vision:

But Neptune isn’t alone in pushing computing forward towards Seamless Computing. Microsoft is starting to lay the foundation for this kind of computing with Windows 10. The wireless carriers are investing in increasing their ability to make successful session handoffs between 4G LTE and WiFi without dropping calls or data sessions, and Neptune, Intel and others have created wireless protocols that allow a smart device to send video output to other devices.

Will Seamless Computing be a reality soon?

And if so, how long do you think it will take before it becomes commonplace?

My bet is on 2-3 years, meaning that Neptune may be too early, unless they do an amazing job at all three pillars of successful innovation:

  1. Value Creation
  2. Value Access
  3. Value Translation

Keep innovating!

Image source: Wired


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Is Amazon Echo the Answer to Google?

Is Amazon Echo Answer to Google?

Today Amazon launched the Echo – an internet appliance with voice recognition and response designed to be to your living room what Siri and Cortana are to your pocket (you ask, it answers).

It is a bold move for Amazon in the wake of their disastrous market entry into the phone market with the Amazon Fire phone, and whether by luck or by design represents more of what customers are likely to give Amazon permission to do in the marketplace. And even though the Amazon Fire phone may be a failure, Amazon no doubt has learned a lot from the experience and from their experience with the Kindle e-reader and Kindle Fire tablets that will help them with the Echo.

The Echo is one reason that Google is worried about Amazon in the search market, because what would do Echo (Amazon), Siri (Apple) and Cortana (Microsoft) truly represent for Google but a direction in the search business that represents a huge revenue threat for Google.

When you ask Echo, Siri, or Cortana a question instead of typing it into a Google (or Bing) search box, Google (or Microsoft) make zero dollars, not even a single cent.

People may forget (or not even know) that Amazon has a search engine company, and owns other search related assets like iMDb and Alexa. Don’t think Amazon sees search as a new frontier for them?

Check out the A9 web site (which years ago used to look just like Google with a simple search box) to get a better sense of how Amazon thinks about search,

So what does nirvana look like in a world with Echo in the center?

Check out Amazon’s promotional video, which has already received 500,000 views at the time I wrote this article:

So, does echo fit into your life? Do you want it to?

I for one have signed up for an invitation to buy one (though it is not actually worth $99 to me – the Amazon Prime member discounted price – down from $199) hoping that Amazon in its infinite wisdom will send me one for free so that I can check it out and report back on it here on the world’s most popular innovation web site.

Oh, and by the way, if you didn’t already know Google now lets you search with your voice on your desktop too, but of course that it’s in the browser so they can still show you ads and make money.

I can’t help thinking that Amazon is behind schedule with this product though. I’m sure they probably wanted to be by invitation only over the summer and shipping in volume for the Christmas, Chanukkah and Kwanza gift giving season, but what are you going to do, invention is hard, unpredictable work. Whether this invention will turn into an innovation, only the consumer market can decide.


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Are You Lying to Your Customers?

Are You Lying to Your Customers?

It seems like every company these days is trying to claim that they are innovative, trying to claim that they are customer-centric, trying to claim that their employees are important to them. But are they?

Can all this be true?

Or, are all of these companies lying to their customers, lying to their employees, and lying to their shareholders?

Many companies say that they are committed to innovation, but employees know the truth. If employees’ experience around the innovation efforts of the company (and its outcomes) isn’t consistent with the innovation messages being communicated, then not only will innovation participation and outcomes be low, but ongoing trust and loyalty will be further eroded in the organization.

Employees can see the Lucky Charms on your face when you say you’re committed to innovation publicly, but behind the scenes your actions demonstrate that you really are not.

And don’t be fooled, customers will start to see the Lucky Charms show up on your face, no matter how hard you try and convince them that the marshmallow goodness is not there.

If you aren’t going to define what innovation means to your company, if you aren’t going to create a common language of innovation, if you aren’t going to teach people new innovation skills and support innovation at all levels by making limited amounts of time and capital available to push their ideas forward, then don’t say you’re committed to innovation. You’ll tear the organization down instead of building it up.

Lying to CustomersIf customers don’t see you increasing your level of value creation, improving your level of value access, and doing a better job at value translation (see Innovation is All About Value), especially when compared to the competition, then they too will become disillusioned, frustrated, and start to look for other alternative solutions that deliver more value then all of your offerings.

Meanwhile, shareholders behave like customers on steroids. If you are being rewarded with an innovation premium by the market, you can’t be “all hat and no cattle” for very long, meaning you have to deliver compelling inventions on a repeated basis with a strong potential to become the innovations that drive the future growth of the company. This is hard to do once, let alone on a repeated basis. We will likely see Apple be the latest victim in the next twelve months.

Why? Because AAPL is at an all-time high based on the likely high percentage of people that are likely to upgrade from an iPhone 4 or 5s to an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus. What about after that? Well, the smartphone industry is about to enter the same place that the PC industry hit a few years ago, when replacement cycles began to lengthen, reducing revenues, and forcing prices (and margins) lower. Simultaneously carriers will seek to extract more of the margin from the overall equation, and if Google/Motorola/Lenovo, Nokia and others start to bring $99 smartphones developed for India and other places to the richer economies that will in their next generation likely be “good enough” compared to the high end $699 handsets, more people will choose to wait longer between upgrades, or trade down with their next purchase, much as they did when $400 laptops started to become the rage.

So, what are we to learn from Apple’s pending share price collapse about the middle of next year?

Well, the first thing we will learn is that continuous innovation is hard. Now I’m not saying that Apple is going to go away, HP and Dell haven’t gone away, but Apple’s share price in Q2/Q3 2015 will struggle, they will face employee defections, and it will become more like Dell, HP and Microsoft than Facebook or Google. Not because those companies are any more or less innovative than any of the others, but because the growth paradigms are different and those companies are still in a different place on their growth curves.

We can also learn that continuous innovation requires consistency, commitment, the ability to recognize and prepare for the inevitable peaking of any growth curve, the organizational agility necessary to change as fast as the wants and needs of your customers and your environment, and the ability to understand what your customers will give you permission to do (so you know where to go next when your most profitable growth curve begins to peak).

You should see by now that continuous innovation is about far more than technological innovation, but instead requires not only continuous commitment, but also a continuous willingness and ability to change, and a continuous scanning of your environment using a Global Sensing Network.

Do you have one?

What is yours telling you about your company’s future?

Please note the following licensing terms for Stikkee Situations cartoons:

1. BLOGS – Link back to http://stikkeechange.com/category/stikkees/ and you can embed them for free
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License for presentations - $25
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Is there a market for Smartwatches? Can Apple create one?

Stikkee 3 - Apple Watch

Okay, it’s been a week since the Apple Watch was announced, and do you know what the world’s most popular wearable is likely to be for 2014/2015?

It’s not the iWatch, but the iPhone 6, which is breaking the pre-sales records of the iPhone 5.

No, it’s not an iWatch. Don’t you dare call it that!

We’re Apple and we’ve decided that it’s far too sophisticated and exclusive to be an iWatch.

Oh, and we’ve also decided that you must own at least an iPhone 5 to be privileged enough to wear an Apple Watch.

Okay, so instantly Apple has reduced the potential market size for the Apple Watch from 6 Billion people to about 100 million people (based on statisticbrain’s numbers).

Now, layer on top of this the fact that in a YPulse survey of millenials, only 32% stated that they wear a watch regularly.

$96 million of smartwatches were sold between October and July according to CNet at an average price of $189 (and dropping fast) – often bundled with a phone – and with Samsung wrapping up 78% of the market. If you do the math, that’s just over 500,000 units, less than 1% of the likely iPhone 5 sales over the same period.

The Apple Watch starts at $349.

But wait, we’re not done yet.

Consider that Samsung has become a faster, nimbler innovator in some ways than Apple and are shipping a new version of their smartwatch next month, up to six months before the Apple Watch is expected to be available – oh, and you’ll be able to use their new watch to make phone calls and run lots of wellness apps (including some from Nike). Plus Samsung will probably launch an even more capable version shortly after the Apple Watch starts shipping.

Apple’s already playing catchup in the smartphone market and they haven’t even shipped their first unit.

So if Apple is entering a small market with a declining average unit price against a more nimble competitor, what rabbit do they have up their sleeve to grow the market and increase their stock price?

What will make the Apple Watch a must have?

The iPod was a must have because it allowed you to carry your entire music library around with you after easily organizing it on your PC and syncing it to the iPod. After that you could then easily navigate thousands of songs on the device with the handy click wheel.

The iPhone was a must have because it became the world’s most widely adopted personal, wearable computer. The iPhone disrupted the balance of power in the mobile phone industry and allowed device makers to start offering whatever applications they wanted (unencumbered by the carriers). The iPhone also disrupted the digital camera market, the Flip (super portable, simple video cameras), and the dedicated GPS market.

Other wearables are on the decline.

iPod sales in Q4 2013 were down 52% from Q4 2012.

Google Glasses got a lot of buzz early on, but interest has fizzled.

Fitbits and Nike Fuelbands have lost their luster and momentum.

Even the iPad, which became a must have after Apple solved the Value Translation riddle and properly highlighted its benefits as a more relaxing and accessible computing device, has seen sales fall the past two quarters as the large screen phones have started to become big enough to begin decreasing the need for a separate tablet. If you’re keeping score the iPad disrupted the gaming industry and challenged people to think deeply about their computing device preferences.

Now back to the Apple Watch…

Can a smartwatch really unseat the mother of all wearables, the smartphone?

In an era of declining interest in watches, can Apple change people’s behavior and lead a resurgence in watch wearing?

These are all very tough questions, but they are not tough challenges that Apple hasn’t faced before.

It’s easy to forget that the iPod didn’t become a runaway success until two years after its launch (with the launch of the PC version of iTunes), and that it took a year for Apple to really ramp up sales of the iPhone (after the launch of the App Store), or that Apple got killed in the press after the announcement of the iPad but figured out how to translate its value by the time they started shipping it.

So, is Apple up to the challenge this time?

After their recent string of game-changing innovations the pressure is on!

Please note the following licensing terms for Stikkee Situations cartoons:

1. BLOGS – Link back to https://bradenkelley.com/category/stikkees/ and you can embed them for free
2. PRESENTATIONS, please send $25 to me on PayPal by clicking the button 3. NEWSLETTERS & WEB SITES, please send me $50 on PayPal by clicking the button
License for presentations - $25
License for newsletters and web sites - $50

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.