Small things can make a big difference – my new iPhone 5 with a 8GB Thumb Drive

Sometimes the small innovations can make a big difference, the little time saving devices that make life just that little bit better.

Combining products together has not always lead to great success, the calculator watch of the 80’s, not a good combination. The Internet fridge, well it hasn’t really gone pass concept stage. In this situation it was worth the risk.

I was recently given a HybridSeries 8GB thumb drive case from Mobilezap to review, while at first a little skeptical about combining a phone cover and USB I have come to like my new cover.

Even as more and more services are moving to the cloud I still have the need for a USB drive, the drive has come in handy over the past couple of weeks. It is not until you have the USB with you all the time you realize how often you need it.

The biggest advantage of combing your phone cover and USB is that you make sure that you always get the USB back. I am sure there is a big pile of lost USB sticks somewhere close to the big pile of lost pens.

The one thing you never quite know when purchasing items online is the feel of the product. The feel of the cover is the most important attribute of a phone cover, in this case the case feels great, as good as any other case I have owned.

If you are looking for a new iPhone cover for your series 5 or 5S then I suggest you look at the Mobilezapp Hybrid 8GB thumb drive case.

Author: +Richard Brock


MapMyRun keeps me running in Singapore

Before I was given my Jawbone Up, I had and still use MapMyRun. This simple to use iPhone app tracks the distance I ran, where I ran and compares times to other people running the same route.

When I was looking for a running app there were three features I used for a comparison

1.    Acurate measurement of distance;

2.    Help pace my run; and

3.    Allow me to compare my run to others.

Distance – How far was that run?

When you haven’t run for a while you have a pretty good idea of the distance you have run, it is like an added sense you acquire. MapMyRun helps me confirm and fine tune this sense of distance I have acquired over the years.

I flirted with the younger, sexier looking RunKeeper for a while but I continue to use MayMyRun as I find it more accurate than Run Keeper.

When running some comparison tests of MayMyRun, RunKeeper and Jawbone Up, I found that MapMyRun and Jawbone Up were producing similar results while RunKeeper regularly doubled the distance over the same course. MapMyRun does have the odd “bad hair day” but far less than Run Keeper.

MayMyRun and my Jawbone Up complement each other; MapMyRun gives more details while running while the Jawbone Up provides a better data on my overall daily effort. It is great going for a run in the morning but you need to ensure you keep active through the day, I have become a believer in the 10,000 steps a day philosophy.

Help me pace my run

MapMyRun allows me to pace my run, providing updates throughout the run. I use a 5 minute split time to ensure I am keeping a good pace and ensure I do not stay out on my run too long. It is hard to run too long in Singapore without lots of water.

Compare not share my performance

I mostly run by myself, I have found few people that want to run before 6am in the morning and I don’t want to wait for anyone that early in the morning. MapMyRun is my running partner.

The course feature within the service allows me to pace myself against others and myself. I do like that your run is broken down into sections and shows how your run compares to others on a short part of your run. It is good to see a bit of gamification in action.

It maybe my circle of friends but I have not found a lot of people within my contacts list using MapMyRun, Jawbone Up or RunKeeper. If you use MayMyRun or Jawbone Up it would be great to connect with you.

The MayMyRun Interface – in need of a little love

The MapMyRun interface is a little sad and dated and it’s annoying that all the functionality is not available from within the mobile app. It would be nice if they could invest just a little in improving the UX.

It would be good to see them add weight goals into their service, like RunKeeper does. Many people run to lose weight and so this is often a more important goal at first than distance and pace goals.

At this stage I use the free version of MapMyRun, I am not in the app enough for the ads to annoy me and don’t see any value in their MPV services.

If you are just starting running, MapMyRun provides the ideal running partner to accompany you on your training sessions. It is a little ugly but accurate. Happy running.

Related Posts:

1.   Running Singapore

2.   A run away success

Author: +Richard Brock


Revolution or evolution – is the next break through just around the corner from Apple?

Does technology emerge in one-off revolutionary changes or smaller incremental iterations? I personally think Darwin got it right; it’s all about evolution.

Another way to look at the question is, were the changes created by Apple, aka Steve Jobs, over the past decade revolutionary or part of an evolutionary cycle that were going to be developed anyway? Was Steve Jobs just better at articulating these environmental changes into products?

The media has been hard on Apple over the past couple years, setting expectations far too high about their ability to roll out ground breaking changes year after year. The fact is Apple has significantly changed several industries including music and mobile, expanded the tablet category and changed the way we look at retail shops. This is more change than most companies will ever produce.

I am a strong believer in the idea put forward by William Gibson “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.” There is a lot of good technology being developed, whether customers are not ready for it or not. The technology still has a few rough edges that need to be smoothed out before it will be adopted on mass.

People expect the IT industry to constantly churn out revolutionary / groundbreaking products and services; a few simple taps on a keyboard will wipe away industries built-up over the centuries.

While we are seeing many industries being digitized and in the process having their traditional business models destroyed, many of these innovations are a result of incremental changes over several years.

Many ‘overnight’ success stories take 5-6 years of hard work.

Whilst the iPhone allowed the mobile Internet to become a reality and go mainstream, the seeds of the revolution were sown through a range of incremental changes.

I worked on the initial Optus WAP service launched in October 1999 using the Nokia 7110 that provided Internet speeds of 9.6 kbps. There were limited services (weather, sports results and news headlines), data costs were really expensive and few developers saw the mobile services having a future. At the time I can see why they had this view.

The pieces of the mobile Internet jigsaw were just starting to form, mostly funded by the Telco industry.

The launch of WAP was at the height of the Internet bubble and no matter how optimistic we were at the time it was difficult to truly foresee the services developed for mobiles in little over a decade.

For the iPhone to create the mobile Internet, faster mobile Internet speeds (3G and 4G), affordable mobile data costs, access to affordable information and services and developers to start developing for mobiles was needed. Without many of these parallel changes the iPhone would have never reached its full potential.

Even the humble ringtone played its part in the development of the mobile Internet. It showed people were will to pay for content, so attracted many businesses to develop for the mobile environment.

Many people think that NFC is the missing link to providing mobile payments and believe that Apple not offering NFC on the iPhone 5 is the reason for m-commerce not evolving.

Whether or not NFC is introduced to the next iPhone, the mobile payment industry has many challenges ahead before contactless mobile payments become a mainstream behaviour. I am not expecting to change my use of cash at our local 7/11 for sometime.

The recent release of the iPhone 5S did not really set the technology world on fire; the product is very much in the cash cow stage of its product life cycle.

I am sure there are still a few more “break through” technologies in Apple’s product roadmap, for one man alone does not make a company.

Author: +Richard Brock

 


Why Men should read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Guys put down your footy remotes and pick up a copy of Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. Yes, the book does deal with gender equality but as your turn the pages you will realise this is not just a female issue.

Equality affects us all. If we are to gain work place equality it is important that we all play our part in achieving this goal.

If reading a book is too much effort, and it appears that way by the decline in book sales, then watch her TED talk – it is only 15 minutes long.

Even if I take a selfish perspective of a white middle-ish aged male with two sons I still benefit from workplace equality, here is just a couple reasons why:

·      My wife works, in fact she is currently the main income earner so I win from her gaining greater workplace satisfaction and a higher wage;

·      I hope when my boys grow up they will get married and their wives will be able to peruse the careers of their choice;

·      While I have mostly worked in environments where there is equality amongst my peers, I feel all work places are better for an even mix amongst genders. What is now needed is a more even mix amongst senior team members.

Lean In has been very well researched and written, full of astounding facts on how the equality gap still remains, particularly amongst the higher levels of government and business. There is really been no country in the world that has solved the problem.

If we put politics aside, we only have to look at some of the attacks on our former Prime Minister Julia Gillard is see that gender bias is still alive and well. She was subjected to media analysis that male prime ministers did not have to face.

While a lot of books and people will focus on the cause of the issue, the book focused more on what we can do to help break the glass ceiling that exists in so many organisations. Here are a couple of action points that I took from the book.

Access to childcare

I think this has to be the single most important issues many Australian families face, having access to good affordable childcare. As a parent of two young boys I know the issues and hassles involved in finding childcare, let alone good childcare, in Sydney.

I see why many mothers, particularly of lower income levels, opt-out of paid employment or as the book termed it “leave employment before they leave”.

Compare the situation to our situation to here in Singapore where we have affordable home help and easily access to a variety of childcare facilities. It allows us to focus on work while at work and our families when at home.

Providing access to childcare is one of the simplest ways both employers and government can support young families.

Home life

Statistics show that us males do far less than our fair share around the house. There are many families where the wife/partner is expected to go to work and then do all the housework.

Early on in our relationship we employed a house cleaner; I think it is one of the best investments we have made in our relationship. Lets face facts – cleaning the house is not much fun and if we have limited family time the last thing we want to do is have our head down the loo.

All households should be aiming for 50/50 share of household chores. The days of he looks after the outside and she looks after the inside jobs should be long gone.

Keep the conversation alive

The biggest wrong we can do is to ignore the issue, assume that it is solved or other people will solve the issue.

As Lean In demonstrates solving the issue is a complex matter with many environmental and person biases contributing to the situation. No company or country appears to have solved the issue yet but by talking about the issues we keep them alive and make steps towards equality in the workplace.

I don’t think there is a silver bullet to the problem, but through conservation we can breakdown barrier by barrier.

Pick-up the book

So now you have heard my two cents on the matter it is time to pick-up the book and start reading. I will let you wait until the footy/cricket game has finished.

Related Post

1.    Book review – Lean Analytics

Author: +Richard Brock


Can you buy loyalty – what is wrong with most loyalty schemes?

How many loyalty programs are you a member of and how many loyalty cards to do you have in your wallet and? Do you really think any of these programs has really increased your brand loyalty or significantly changed your buying habits?

The only scheme I think has really changed my purchasing behaviour has been the Qantas Frequent Flyers program; even then my Westpac Amex/Visa cards have mostly funded my points. I don’t think the program has made me any more loyal to Qantas but merely keeps me flying with them more often than they deserve.

The problem I have with most loyalty programs is that they are not really trying to increase our loyalty to a brand but are crudely attempting for me buy more from them and ideally buy from them today.

I would go as far to say with the exception of a few brands, and even then only a small percentage customers using these brands, gaining long-term sustainable brand loyalty is near impossible.

Remember when people queued for the latest release of Microsoft’s operating system; remember when people queued to get the latest iPhone? I wonder how many of these people are now using a Mac computer with an Android phone?

In our modern era, and particularly in the technology space, brand loyalty is short lived. I know that Google dominate the search space today but will they have the same dominance in 10 years time?

Loyalty is a mindset, an attitude towards a brand at a specific point in time.  We know that customer research into customers’ predisposition to make future purchases is at best poor, and a waste of time when dealing with new products.

Let’s remove the term loyalty from these schemes and call them what they are, club cards or purchase schemes, but not loyalty programs.

Singapore Retailers

Singapore retailers like their Australia counterparts are keen for you to add yet another card to your wallet, with most shops offering some form of “loyalty” scheme.

Unlike Australian retailers membership does come at a cost, usually for an annual membership fees of around $30-$50 you can secure a 10% discount and hundreds of emails in your inbox.

I think that most of these Singaporean retailer schemes have the business model completely wrong. They shouldn’t be charging to join their programs and they shouldn’t be giving a constant discount.

The most valuable retail asset

The thing that retailers lack more than anything else is customer contact details, followed closely by the ability to link purchase behaviour with these customers.

The “loyalty” card until a few years ago was about the only technology available to link customers with purchases. The mobile phone provides a great medium to remove the cards from the wallet; the problem still remains how to connect your mobile to the store. While NFC looks to hold a lot of promise, provides the best bridge between the mobile and retail worlds.

The problem with the traditional card and discount schemes is that they only attract a limited segment of your customer base and I don’t think it attracts your most valuable customers.

Any schemes that can easily capture a wide cross-section of your customer base without the customer having to complete large forms gets a big tick from me. Taggohas developed the best solution I have seen to date; they build loyalty programs linked to Facebook.

Constant Discounts

I have a real problem with schemes that offer a constant discount; it just erodes value from the industry. For those that get the discount, it becomes the normal and loses its value over time, and for those who don’t get the discount, you feel that prices are inflated so the retailer can provide a discount to the others.

As humans we have an innate ability to find patterns and routines. In the Australian retailers heavy discounting wars of a few years ago customers came to expect a short gap between large discounts, so delayed purchases until items went on sale. We see this at its extreme with Boxing Day sales where people delay purchases, though gift card companies do very well out of this learned behaviour.

It is so important as retailers that we move beyond just price as the sole differentiating factor and start to look for promotions and offers value to groups of customers.

Where to next?

Lets start moving beyond the one size approach to promotions and start to invest in great CRM systems that can identify and target specific segments of your customer base. This will truly be the first step to moving beyond the current array of ‘loyalty’ schemes.

Related Posts

1.    Mobile- is there a future for QR codes?

2.    The customer long tail – don’t focus on average customers

Author: +Richard Brock

 


What is Content Marketing?

I recently attended the inaugural Content Conversations meet-up here in Singapore. Content marketing is the current marketing buzzword and was demonstrated by the large number of attendees.

The evening provided me with some different perspectives on content marketing to how I perceived it and got me thinking about what is content marketing and what makes good content marketing.

Is content marketing the placement of promotions around content or creation of original content or something in-between?

The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as:

“Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

Like many business definitions it is a little open and board, and could potentially cover just about any marketing activity.  So I have modified their definition to reflect how I think content marketing should be defined and practiced:

The creation and distribution of relevant and valuable information and stories to a defined target audience with the aim of creating conversations with your company.

So let me unpack the components of my definition and why content marketing should be different to standard marketing activities.

No hard sell

There are increasing numbers of customers, like myself, that don’t read the newspaper, watch TV or listen to mainstream radio. In addition people are bombarded with advertising messages and many customers are switching off from traditional advertising.

Content marketing should provide a means to engage with your customers in a safe environment where they know they are not getting the hard sell.

My fear is that marketers will not be able to resist the hard sell within their content marketing endeavors, so destroying the medium they are attempting to create. Meet-ups and conferences provide great examples of what not to do, many presenters will produce a sale deck rather than engaged audience and creating conversations.

If the aim of the organization is to generate short-term sales there are far better tools in the marketing arsenal than content marketing. Content marketing should be about the long game.

Creating conversations through stories

I think good content marketing is about creating conversations with your target customers and the best way to do this is through stories. From a young age we love stories, it is a best medium creating to pass on a message.

Product or service can still integrated into the content but the story should dominate. Companies like Blendtec with their YouTube series Will It Blend provide a great example where the product is centre stage but there is no hard sell. While Acura involvement in Jerry Seinfeld’s series Comedians In Cars Getting Coffeeproduct placement is extremely minimal.

Creation of content

If a company wants to differentiate themselves they should be creating their own content. Syndicated content may help fill in the gaps but if you want the content to reflect your brand there is really no other option than creating your own content.

Yahoo now creates a lot of its own content, no longer relying on the aggregation of generic content. Yahoo Singapore has even applied for a Singapore media license.

LinkedIn provides another great example of content creation though their Influencer section on their site, a range business thought leaders contribute articles for the community. There are some really good articles that are well worth a read.

Disclose the source

It is so important companies commissioning content reveal their association with the content. Content marketing is about trust and providing a safe environment for customers to engage, not revealing the people who commissions the content destroys trust. The last thing a company wants is another Australian cash for comments type affair.

It’s a multichannel affair

Blogs, ebooks, Podcasts, YouTube channels are just a few of a limitless number of mediums companies can use to create content and reach their target market. The only limitation is the creative of the company and how well they understand their customers.

How do you define content marketing?

Now you have heard from me, how do you define content marketing and who do you think does the best job in your industry?

Related Posts

1.    Zen Marketing -less can lead to more sales

2.    Starbucks badcoffee, great marketing

3.    Email marketing -timing is everything

Author: +Richard Brock


International pricing – why do Australian’s pay more for just about everything?

 

Getting pricing right can be a difficult job at the best of times, what is that right price point to maximize both revenue and customer demand? Now though, across some international borders with different tax rates, different levels of customer demand and competition, international pricing becomes a lot more complex.

 

Prior to the Internet it was much easier to divide the world up and charge significantly differentiated pricing between markets. Back then it was harder for customers to compare prices across markets. The movie, music and book publishing industries were able to divide the world up and profit.

Now Australian’s are sensitive to the matter of differentiated pricing, we know we are paying more. Even our federal government were aware of this sensitivity by dragging Adobe, Microsoft and Apple in front of a Federal Senate committee this year.

The Federal government actions were weak and they should have put more pressure on our trading partners to gain price parity.  If we have a fair trade agreement with the US, it should be fair trade in both directions.

Interestingly at the time of moving to Singapore, Apple computer prices between Australia and Singapore were about on par. Of course the diving Australian dollar has thrown those calculations out.

Of course when an exchange rate goes through dramatic changes within a short period of time most companies will go to plan B; currency goes up against the USD then few savings are passed onto customers; a drop against the USD and price increases are immediately passed onto customers.

Exchange rates may often be used as a reason for different price levels between countries but it is not always a rational reason.

iTunes

I moved our iTunes account across from Australian to a Singapore account this week and was surprised at the reduced costs of content compared to Australia.

If I was to buy Katy Perry’s new single Roar it would cost me $S1.48 ($USD 1.87) compared to $AUS 2.19 ($USD 2.46), I wonder what the reason for the 30% plus cost differential?

These price differences do not only exist for the incumbent content providers but also some of the newer players to the market.

Spotify

Spotify new to the Singapore market offers significantly cheaper prices here compared to other countries, another good reason to be living in Singapore.

It appears that Spotify, with the exception of Australia, like to use the $9.99 price point but this does lead to some big differences in real terms customers pay

Local currency

FX

USD

Australia

$11.99

$0.89

$10.67

Singapore

$9.99

$0.78

$7.79

US

$9.99

$1.00

$9.99

UK

£ 9.99

$1.55

$15.48

I am not sure what is happening in Australian with the price level, given the Australian dollar had parity with the US Dollar when the service was launched in Australia.

It also looks like our British friends are paying way more for the same service, at least they have the Ashes.

Internet SAAS Pricing

Many Internet companies have taken the easy option and charge customers the one price in the one currency, moving all the foreign exchange fees and risk onto their customers.

Few companies are as transparent as Mail Chimp who not only provide multiple currency payment options but also provide a comparison table of the cost in local currencies.

Mail Chimp provides a best practice example of how companies should deal with international pricing and foreign exchange fees.

Transparent Internet

The Internet makes it so easy to compare prices between countries; if you sell digital goods it is so important to put in place fare and transparent policies.

Adobe, stop giving people reasons to pirate content.

I am a believer that market pressures will prevail over time and as we move to a global market many of these price differences have to disappear over time.

Unfortunately Adam Smith’s invisible hand does not always work in consumers favour and there are few legal means for us to put market pressure on the likes of Adobe and Microsoft.

In these cases our government should step and take up the fight for consumers. Lets hope our new government will put us first.

Related Posts

1. Pricing – keep it simple

 

2. Pricing – leave money on the table

 

3. Pricing – the power of recurring charges

Author: +Richard Brock

 


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