Welcome to Videopolis -- a world created by a personal and professional pastiche of digital images, mobile pix, video clips logs, blogs, vblogs (video blogs) and vortals (video-enabled portals); fast-forwarding us into an always-on, demand-driven broadband; creating an IPTV Vscape (videoscape) 24 nerve-jangling, mind-soothing, cell-shocking interactive hours of the day and night; a vista that spans far beyond, below, above and surrounding traditional electronic broadcasting of radio and television. Behold an infinite menu of media -- metatagged, linked, catalogued, indexed, searchable and most importantly ready2go, store, forward and of course share.
Rise of next-gen media
Enter the next-era of communication, where your role as a marketer is to ensure pro-sumers (consumers who not only consume media but also produce it) can localize, personalize and customize multiple info-streams dynamically. And by the way, wouldn’t it be great if your brand could, would and should underwrite, sponsor, defray cost or offer it all for free?
PSPcasting -- a tipping point?
This column started as a story about March’s new-new-thing PSPcasting -- retrofitting the Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP) to store, play and forward video clips in addition to its other key functions such as gaming and movie-viewing. Sony designed the PSP to play MP4 video files (as well as MP3 music files) providing a ready platform for video-2-go. Even before the launch on Thursday, March 24 you could find several programs online enabling you to convert and download video into the PSP.
The following morning on Friday the 25th I started to see and hear about this new phenomenon called PSPcasting, enabling first geeks and then a larger body of early adapters and creative users to download video feeds directly into their PSPs. To do so they follow an online recipe posted and reposted in blog after blog and then promoted in mainstream media articles. The system uses online video conversion and management programs PSP Video 9 and Videora, and online distribution solutions BitTorrent and RSS. For the recipe click here or better still, ask your local techie or teen.
Last fall the new-new thing was podcasting -- enabling an iPOD to broadcast programming (search engadget.com for an easy how-to). Back then Doc Searls (one of the authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto and Senior Editor, Linux Journal) forecast: “podcasting will shift much of our time away from an old medium where we wait for what we might want to hear to a new medium where we choose what we want to hear, when we want to hear it, and how we want to give everybody else the option to listen to it as well.”
Less than six months later, major brands like Microsoft and Warner Brothers are advertising on podcasts, firms like General Motors and Nike are podcasting their own programming and Podcastads.com promises to help you reach the trendsetters. A new study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project shows that more than 29 percent of the 22 million American adults with iPods or MP3 players have downloaded "podcasts" from the web.
Armed with that information and the plethora of online and offline references to PSPcasting, I delved into how customized narrowcasting like this was affecting the marketplace. It was only natural that I began to wonder why PSP didn’t come bundled with ads or at least sponsored or branded content bundled with it.
A quick surf around the web and I spotted the term “SmartAdds,” a new ad channel bundling with Gizmondo, a mobile entertainment device just launching in Britain and Europe and due to hit the states this fall. “As close as you can come to your target audience without getting slapped” is the motto of SmartAdds according to their promo page. They go on to promise that Gizmondo will come with a “revolution in targeted advertising.” To explain this claim, they ask you to “imagine the emotional power of TV combined with the accountability of direct marketing, the accuracy of direct mail and the mobile interactivity of SMS (short message system -- known as text messaging in the United States.)
Beam to the pocket
SmartAdds urges marketers to "handpick the perfect target audience for your product and then beam your message straight into their pockets.” It promises to deliver at precisely the right time of day. Online demos from such prestigious brands as Nike and Sprite underscore the ability to “entice them with high impact video and music.“ Gizmondo’s built-in phone and GPS positioning coupled with a deal with provider Vodafone enables Gizmondo to offer advertisers an opportunity to lead users to the nearest point of sale. Once there, a built-in bar-code reader on the device closes the deal by scanning the bar code straight from the Gizmondo in their hands. So that’s why they call it a SmartAdd.
Background research provided information that Gizmondo conducted a trial with more than 20 major advertisers (no names mentioned besides the demo brands who appear to have been part of that effort). A quick check with bloggers showed they were open to the new delivery system because of the "manifesto" of Gizmondo to deliver only if the user opts-in and even then only deliver one SmartAdd per day plus some promised freebies (not detailed). This reminds me of when Karim Sanjabi, EVP, Creative & Technology, Carat Interactive, pointed out during Digital Hollywood that entertainment can be called different things depending on how consumers receive it. “If we give an experience away, it’s considered an ad, but if we charge for the same experience it’s considered a product.”
Word on the street is mixed about Gizmondo’s reception. One report notes that the number of players sold is in the thousands compared to the millions of PSPs hitting the streets here. But Gizmondo is not only making the players but also opening stores to sell them. The opening of the first one in London was star-studded including none other than Sting in attendance and American comedian Tom Green as host.
Coca-Cola's Special PSP
Will PSP be inspired by Gizmondo’s SmartAdds to venture into its own ad channel? Who knows? As reported earlier, several new ad networks and models are already in the works for videogame ads and product placement services. The biggest hint on the Sony sponsorship model comes from Japan where Coca-Cola has teamed with Sony Computer Entertainment Japan for a new “Coke Style” campaign that lasts until May 31. Visitors to the site are encouraged to enter a sweepstakes to win, among other things, a Coca-Cola Special Edition PSP featuring a Coke-themed edition of “Everybody’s Golf” that replaces clubs with Coke bottles.
Sources say only 1,300 units are being produced -- so enter immediately or watch for a new eBay collectable auction soon. A quick glance showed that even top-tier blogs like Gizmodo (no relation to Gizmondo) were receptive -- even kidding about why Sony doesn’t make the PSP in red. In the land of always-on and on-demand, my advice to my clients is to edge into offering “exclusives” to cut through the clutter of free and capture brand recognition.
Tomorrow: Citizen's Media's affect on advertising
Let's start with a giant. Disney is the largest media conglomerate in the world. It's lucky enough to collaborate with academic institutions like Carnegie Mellon University as part of Disney Research -- the company's research and development division. So, the fact that it makes this list is no surprise. But what sets Disney apart is its long-standing commitment to and future investment in 3D printing. The company has been experimenting with the technology for years and plans to move forward at full steam. According to Andy Bird, the chairman of Walt Disney International, "I think every home within 10 years -- probably less than that -- will have its own 3D printer, just as many homes now have a 2D or laser printer."
More than a year ago, Disney introduced its "D-Tech Me" experience. Using 3D scanners and printers, the company recreated the famous carbon freezing scene from "The Empire Strikes Back" by putting the likenesses of visitors onto Han Solo's body frozen in carbonite. Based on this success, during the summer of 2013, Disney created custom Stormtrooper figurines featuring fan faces. After 10 minutes with a 3D scanner, a 7.5 inch Stormtrooper replica was printed and sent to customers' homes. Sure, the $99.95 price tag seems steep, but it's a small sacrifice for serious fanatics.
But personalized figurines are only the beginning. Hop on over to Disney Research's website for a look at the future. Take, for instance, the company's foray into mechanical toys, where researchers have developed software that allows consumers to create and 3D print their own toys. Or check out Disney's "Papillon," a technology for 3D printing expressive, animated eyes on interactive characters, as displayed in the following video:
According to the brand of Scotch whisky, emerging technology and nature do mix. The brand recently enlisted a swarm of 80,000 honey bees to 3D print a bottle of whisky as part of its "3B Printing Project." Sounds crazy, right? But the craziness was so skillfully executed by Dewar's, the Sid Lee creative group, and New York ad agency The Ebeling Group that the effort deserves a spot on this list.
Here are the details: A transparent whisky bottle was created. Within the bottle, a starter blueprint of the bottle that mimicked a bee's natural environment (allowing for the collection of nectar and pollen) was placed as a template on which the insects could produce wax. Essentially, an inside-out beehive was created. The result was a "3D printed" bottle made entirely of honeycomb. Check out the following clip from the Dewar's Highlander Honey documentary:
According to Fast Company, the process took about six weeks and required two populations of bees. In addition, the Humane Society supervised the shoot to ensure the bees' safety. The campaign was launched with a 60 second trailer introducing the new whisky and the "3B" process. The entire event was broadcasted on Dewar's Facebook page as the "Live in the Hive" webstream.
Although this isn't a clear-cut example of 3D printing, it demonstrates the powerful influence and possible offshoots of 3D printing for branding efforts.
Let's face it: We love ourselves. A sense of self-importance is not rare in today's world of over-sharing. When you saw Dwight Schrute receive his bobblehead on NBC's "The Office," you had to contain the envy -- admit it.
But healthy levels of self-love can present golden opportunities for marketers. Take, for instance, Coca-Cola's recent venture into 3D printing to promote its new mini-sized bottles in Israel. The beverage giant and lifestyle brand, working with the GefenTeam agency, allowed customers to create virtual replicas of themselves using a mobile app.
Those that took good care of their virtual selves by feeding and buying it clothing (remember Tamagotchi?) were invited to Coke's headquarters in Israel. There, using a 3D scanner and a high-resolution 3D printer, the company created "mini me" figurines made of colored sandstone. Check out the video below for a closer look:
Not only are the mini figurines relevant to the product being launched, but they are also directly in line with Coke's overarching marketing strategy to create personal relationships with its customers. According to an article in the company's digital magazine, "Coca-Cola is moving from promoting happiness to provoking it." And nothing makes us happier than ourselves...right?
It all started with Sticky, the Google-owned company's sprinter van covered in Velcro and chock-full of high-end 3D printing equipment and hackable smartphones. As part of its "MAKEwithMOTO" tour, the company hit the road, stopping 16 times across the country to host mini "make-a-thons." During these events, Motorola met with art, design, and engineering students, as well as other makers and hackers, and provided the tools needed to innovate. Participants created things like retractable in-device headphones and a "Wink Ball" -- computer vision technology that responds to emotions and facial expressions. Here's a look at the company's first "make-a-thon":
In addition, those at the events were able to create exclusive Moto X accessories using a 3D printer. According to the Motorola team, "We have designed a set of delightful co-creation experiences for Moto X owners to make personal, one-of-a-kind gifts to complement their custom Moto X and explore the capabilities afforded by state-of-the-art 3D printing." The company helped users build accessories like NFC-enabled dog tags, tessellation bracelets, and phone covers. The dog tags, for instance, according to AndroidSPIN, are small pendants printed in 3D with the topography of wherever users consider home. By using NFC technology, the tag can launch navigation to a user's address simply by touching it to their device.
All of this personalization points to two major developments for the company: the launch of its Moto X smartphone, a mobile device consumers custom-design, and the creation of Project Ara. The latter is described as a "free, open hardware platform for creating highly modular smartphones." Here's a sneak peek at designs for Project Ara's new modular cellphones:
According to Paul Eremenko of Motorola's advanced technology and projects team, "Our goal is to drive a more thoughtful, expressive, and open relationship between users, developers, and their phones. To give you the power to decide what your phone does, how it looks, where and what it's made of, how much it costs, and how long you'll keep it." For Motorola, working with innovators and the latest 3D printing technology led to an understanding of the importance of both open relationships with consumers and personalized products. It is this mentality that is allowing Motorola to break new ground in the competitive smartphone field.
Chris Anderson, the former editor-in-chief of Wired, once said that 3D printing "will be bigger than the web," but others warn about buying in to all the hype, pointing to legal hurdles, impracticality, difficulty of use, and high prices. The point of this article is not to convince you to jump on the 3D printing bandwagon but to highlight the importance of thinking about the role of 3D printing in your marketing mix. I think Andrew McAfee, a principal research scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, when asked if 3D printing would live up to its hype by The Wall Street Journal, said it best:
"I think [3D printing] will lead to a great deal of innovation because it puts powerful fabrication technologies in the hands of many people. You no longer need to have a milling machine or mold-making technology in order to make a part, and you don't need to meet any minimum order sizes. It's almost as cost-effective to print out one part as 100. Because of these changes in access and economics we're going to see a lot more prototyping, tinkering, experimentation, and other aspects of what MIT's Eric von Hippel calls 'lead-user innovation.'"
If 3D printing continues its rapid growth, marketers must learn to let go by handing over the reins to these "lead-users," and 3D printing is the perfect vehicle for this. Who knows more about what consumers want than consumers? And by giving creative consumers more control over brand creations, companies will find more relevant solutions to consumer needs while opening the floodgates for consumer innovation. If brands are able to provide the tools for their customers to innovate (like many of the brands listed above), they will be seen as partners in the innovation process and thus develop more personal relationships with their customers. Through the construction of one-of-a-kind products, 3D printing provides a unique opportunity to strengthen the link between consumer and brand.
At the moment, buyers of 3D printers are mainly makers and hobbyists, as opposed to your average consumer. According to Gartner, these makers and hobbyists will contribute to the creation of 3D printing "killer apps," which will drive sales in the future. As Pete Basiliere, research director at Gartner, said, "We expect that a compelling consumer application -- something that can only be created at home on a 3D printer -- will hit the scene by 2016." As a marketer, it's important to think about how your brand can become an integral part of the 3D printing process before it's left in the dust.
But please, always remember to 3D print with caution (Warning: NSFW language).
Kyle Montero is associate editor of iMedia Connection.
On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.
"3D printer" image via Digital Trends.