Why you better Cut the Crap: Service is the Old & New Gold.

Service is the new gold.

Service is the new gold. (credits: boomerang cards).

I agree. It’s been way too long since I pressed down another story here. Not without a reason though. I’ve been crazy busy visiting companies from about eight industries to perform in-depth interviews about their business and their future. It has been a wonderful experience so far. And it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I generated tons of insights from this qualitative market research period. I want to share my main insight today:
“Cut the crap and stop pushing it on to people. Be real, bring value, show respect and be helpful to every customer. In brief: stop screaming, start whispering.”

Service is the Old and New Gold.

Loads of consumers became disappointed in companies, products and services. As a result, corporations and organizations are sometimes seen as “evil”. I believe this is the result of what I call “the old marketing”. Most brands and organizations still rely on 20th century marketing principles: manufacture something against the lowest cost possible and consequently pay much money for advertising to create a positive image so that consumers buy your product. The only thing that matters is short-term profit, not a long-term sustainable contribution to society. I’ve always revolted against these types of companies. They are indeed “no good”. They don’t contribute to a positive society and consequently a better world. They do not “serve” their customers through good products, honest communication and real value.

Service is Gold.

Service is Gold.

That marketing-enforced image however has always been put in perspective by the customers themselves by sharing their experiences: word of mouth. And what’s even more, word of mouth has always been the most trusted source of product or service information. Unfortunately it had little to no big scale leverage so that “evil” corporations could live happily ever after. So, if one customer was dissatisfied by the service he told it to about 20 people and didn’t rely on the company in the future any more. But for the company, that was not really a problem. The customers that decided to leave were replaced by new customers who bought the marketing story.

I truly believe (and hope) the days of “high churn because we produce crap is solved by acquisition campaigns” are over as social peer-to-peer technologies became mainstream and leverage Word of Mouth on a huge scale.

What is Service? Think long-term reputation vs. short-term profit.

If one states that service is key, he needs to define what exactly is service. Based on my interviews, I’d say service is about small things, but things that can make someone’s day and stick in their memory. It’s about going the extra mile, about doing something you actually didn’t have to do. It’s about the goal to serve in order the make life (or businesses) easier and better. It’s the social aspect, it’s the human touch. It’s not about social media. Those only give large-scale opportunities to foster on this service behavior.

Research details

As stated above and in the introduction, the above isn’t just a gut feeling. It’s inspired by real-life (analog) talks with leading people within several industries. Below is a small overview of my data sample. Please allow me to just recycle one of the original research presentation slides. It’s important to realize that within this sample some of the companies were active on social media – which was the drive to act more service-wise – and others who were completely inactive on social but have always put the customer in the center of its existence.

Quali Research Data Sample

Quali Research Data Sample

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Why Facebook wins the Social Network Battle. On Flirting, Sex, Porn and Mr Rogers.

Facebook social network

Facebook social network

Earlier this week I came across an interesting study on social media around the world. The presentation is packed with social media data but if you go through the slideshow, you note that the researchers basically conclude the following:

  • There’s one big Network: Facebook.
  • It’s flanked by a few smaller nonetheless successful players: Twitter, LinkedIn.
  • We must keep an eye on smaller, locally succesful players like Vkontakte in Russia and Eastern Europe or Hyves in the Netherlands.
  • In addition to the researchers findings, we want to point out that locally succesful social networks might be thriving these days, but the chances are high that they are to be beaten by Facebook – as happened in the Netherlands with Hyves. The below image shows the decline for Hyves in favor of the Facebook growth.
Facebook bigger than Hyves in the Netherlands.

Facebook bigger than Hyves in the Netherlands.

The research report makes a similar observation: “The Big will get bigger – The small will become smaller”. This doesn’t have to surprise you that much. It’s like with people: the rich get richer while the poor become more poor every day.

Big to be bigger, small to become even smaller.

The value of a social network can be determined by the size of that very network (user base). Now, as the study points out, Facebook is the only one that has an adoption rate higher than 25%. If we think about the mainstream social network battle, this theory suggestst there will be only one mainstream social network: Facebook. I’m so sorry for Google’s tremendous efforts.

Google intelligently trying to give you a hint about it social network Google Plus

Google intelligently trying to give you a hint about it social network Google Plus

Facebook & LinkedIn: why are they ‘big’?

When you’re dealing with the adoption of innovation, one needs to realize that adoption is a human personality trait. Some are early adopters, others are laggards – lacking behind in adoption for every single technological novelty. According to Mr Rogers innovations always diffuse according to this model.

Speaks for itself that this diffusion is boosted when the innovation is actually making life more comfortable, taking away a pain or getting things done faster. Ideally the innovation continues on the path paved by older media so to boost the adoption. Actually, those new media internalize the content of the old medium. This can be seen for instance in radio being “spoken news”; film being “theatrical”; websites being a “digital brochure or businesscard”; etc.

The question is: what pain does Facebook take away? Have we been on this planet for ages with a tremendous pain that is now suddenly being solved through Facebook? How were we able to life before? What pain does LinkedIn take away? How did we do business before?

Facebook and LinkedIn have clear goals

In the case of LinkedIn there’s the obvious advantage of being a functional, B2B platform. And yes, it takes a way some pains related to networking, human resources, etc. It’s a great addition to business.

However, when looking at Facebook, what things did it make easier? I agree, sharing videos, pictures and status updates is very easy to stay in touch with your globally dispersed friends. However, there are other platforms that offer the same function. So why did exactly Facebook win and no other social network allowing to fulfill the same need?

Well, I believe the answer is in the very fact that Facebook was build for the Flirt!

Flirting is the act of demonstrating playfulness, romanticism or sexual overture by one person to another so to subtly indicate an interest in a deeper relationship with that other person. If you have a closer look at the very origin, growth and current usage of Facebook, you might notice that almost everything might come down to facilitating flirts.

The Digital Flirt = Facebook’s Killer App.

Facebook was founded to find and connect with people based on their “face picture”. Facebook made it possible to see who your co-students are, what they are doing without actually engaging but deploy it to set up an offline flirt strategy or charm offensive. Furthermore, the evolution of the platform always favored this aspect. Private messages and IM are perfectly suited for the flirt. Just think about it.

Summarized: Facebook is build to support our natural drive to have sex, to flirt.

Twitter: a flirt challenger?

The report points out that Twitter is a growing challenger. However, it might never reach the popularity like Facebook. Having nothing but 140 chars (minus room for images, links, etc) makes it a lot harder to flirt. But it’s possible though.

But there are bigger opportunities with Twitter. Its difficulty though is that this social network requires the individual to define its own medium goal. Not every individual is able to do that. But for some the twitter goal is about flirting, for others it’s free texting, for others it’s a personal teacher, etc.

Why did I ramble on about that? Well, flirting is a precursor to sex (if you are lucky).
Sex is a rather important social driver.
And sex is closely linked to porn. And porn is important to frame innovations.
And the softie in me believes flirting could be as valid as porn to frame tech-human innovations.
But You should always keep an eye on porn when discussing innovative technology.

iPhone innovative technology diffusion without porn

iPhone innovative technology diffusion without porn

History has proven that porn and sex are often the key social driver behind the diffusion of innovation. Yes, it’s pretty strange that the iPhone was adopted so fast without supporting porn. But then again, the iPhone was adopted through a range of “taking pain away apps” to be easily installed through the app store. In the iPhone case, it’s not about the hardware but more the software ecosystem Apple cleverly set up. As might be clear, it’s not always about porn. But often enough it is.

Mr Rogers & The Adoption of Innovation

When we are talking about new communication technologies we often tend to focus on the technological aspects. It’s true that without the technology at stake, things wouldn’t be possible. But technology by itself doesn’t do a single thing as well.

To frame innovations, one needs to look at the social factors that determine whether a technology shall reach mainstream or not. Next to that, there’s always the economic reality check. Having an idea and a technology is one thing; to turn that into a viable business is a whole different story.

Specialist often point to so-called “Killer Applications” to explain the break-through. Well, in fact a killer application is an application of the technology that has social relevance. In the case of Facebook the social relevance is flirting. In the case of LinkedIn the social relevance is business networking. In the case of the VCR, it was porn.

Rogers Diffusion of Innovation

Rogers Diffusion of Innovation

The importance of porn in the VCR battle

The diffusion of the VCR was related to 2 phenomenons, to know TV viewing and Film. Especially the latter is important to understand why VHS tapes won the battle – even if they were in a technological sense a lot less powerful than their competitors at Betamax or V-2000.

  • First application: time-shift in TV watching: new medium takes content of the old. This boost adoption since people are used to the content.
  • Second application: Film. And here’s where porn comes into play. The Film Industry (A-movies, blockbusters) were not very willing to offer their movies through VCR tapes. On the other hand the “secundary” Film Industry (porn) were very willing to spread their videos via the new technology. As a result video rent stores popped up and mainly had videos with porn. Most of those were VHS (65%), then Betamax (25%) and finally V-2000 (10%). So this VHS technology concquerred the market while clearly not being the best technology. Porn won!
  • Flirting wins! That’s people, that’s mankind, that’s a monkey brain.

Who’ll beat Facebook?

In short term: nobody. Most people basically hate change. It seems mankind is born with a love for status quo. So why on earth would they want to change their social network? It has been a big thing already to just get on it. But the opportunities for the digital flirt eventually got everyone on board. Now that we’re all on it, who’s going to swop? Most of us aren’t. Most of us love status quo. Most of us hate change.

People don't like change in general.

People don't like change in general.

Crises, Rebels, Journalists & Bloggers. On labels & labeling.

TV News

TV News

I’m not that different from any human being on this planet. I also watch TV news bulletins almost everyday. Yes, it offers me a window to the world. It shows me what’s going on. However, I came to realize the news is a heavy filter. Time to pull up the shutters, it’s noon.

On Labels & Labeling.

Labeling is describing someone or something in a word or phrase. That specific word or phrase is consequently a “label”. Without going into details of labeling theory, it’s important to realize that the very act of labelling is necessary for communication. You have to give something a “name” (aka label) so to communicate about it right?

It’s logic that journalists deploy labels and labeling techniques. After all, they are all human beings. However, they are human beings with a dramatic impact on society. Their act of labeling impacts how most people on the globe think about and frame certain events, evolutions, etc.

Let’s demonstrate “labels and labeling” with 3 real-life examples.

Example 1: multiple labels for 1 phenomenon

Mortgage crisis, credit crunch, debt crisis, economic crisis, etc.

I guess you’re quite familiar with the above “labels” today, as they have been largely present since a couple of years in the news. What’s remarkably striking however is that these terms have been deployed consecutively, one by one, the one after the other. In this manner it seems as if we’re hit by multiple different crises. I believe this is not the fact. All labels in fact point to one deeper phenomenon: rectification of global power values.

Global Power Value Rectification

The concept of Global Power Value Rectification is not that easy to understand. Maybe that’s why journalists don’t use it to frame the crisis story. However, as a non-journalist, you have more time for interpretation and analysis. So why not try to explain this concept and consequently understand the framing of the different crises. I hope the below definition and graphics make clear what I label “Power Value Rectification”.

Global Power Value Rectification is:
a rectification process by which
a discrepancy between the Value in Reality and the Virtual Value
is manoeuvred away through crises.

Global powers - a reality check?

Global powers - a reality check?

Global Power - the virtual situation not aligned to reality?
Global Power Value Rectification as underlying phenomenon to frame the crisises.

Global Power Value Rectification as underlying phenomenon to frame the crisises.

Well, that should be about it for the first example of “journalistic labeling”.

What I’m trying to prove here is that all crisises are related and have a deeper reason: the change in global power. The crises are the process that rectify the difference between real and virtual value. There’s only a new name (label) to it because it happens at different structural levels that construct society. Once all structures have gone through their crisis, the deeper reason – rectify global power – is gone and consequently all crises, up until a new rectification is required.

This was a rather difficult example of journalistic labels, I know. But it was the starting point in my thinking on labels, so it’s a well-deserved first place. The next case should be easier to understand: the labeling of freedom fighters as “rebels” during the Arab Revolution.

Rebels Journalistic Framing - HLN.be (rebellen = rebels in Dutch)

Rebels Journalistic Framing - HLN.be (rebellen = rebels in Dutch)

Example 2: The label “Rebels” in Arab Revolution

You often hear about the “Rebels” fighting the Arab Revolution. Quite frankly, this is a pretty strange label. After all, these people are actually fighting for freedom. Labelling them freedom-fighters would make a difference. Why do you call them rebels? I happen to associate the label rebel with negative and bad feelings, while freedom-fighter suggests they are “rebelling for a cause”. What about you?

Example 3: The label “Journalist” and the label “Blogger”

Overlooking what’s being said above, one can state that journalists are still important to provide us a window to the world but that we should always keep in mind that they are also humans who use labels so to interpret, understand and communicate about the world. I believe there might be a role for additional interpretation from bloggers around the globe.

It might be note-worthy in this respect to relate this to the “blogger vs journalist debate”. A journalist is formally employed at a professional media organization whereas a blogger is a more ad-hoc individual initiative. As a result the blogger has more freedom, time, less pressure and is able to frame stories more in-depth. Or am I just completely wrong on this whole labeling issue?

Whispering Web – The Book.

I’ve made your life easier.

Well, I made it easier if you were to read everything ever posted on this blog. Consider how many clicks that’d take. At least a thousand, right?

Below is a book that collects all articles written in the first year of this blog. Reading all articles in this manner will take you about 70 clicks. I saved you just about 930 clicks. And I might argue that 930 clicks require at least 2 doctor visits because of a painful wrist. I’m not a doctor price specialist but I believe two visits quickly will cost you about 50 EUR or Dollars.

Hope you enjoy slide-reading through it.

The app store economy. Squared.

We previously blogged about the app store economy. This “economic trend” will probably get an extra boost – after Apple launching the Mac App Store on January 6 2011. The store is available for Mac OS 10.6.6 users and introduces the app sales model to Apple computers.

Happy New year – a year in which the app store economy’s figures will square?

Mac app store screenshot - credits picture go to readwriteweb as we still run Mac OS 10.5.8

Mac app store screenshot - credits picture go to readwriteweb as we still run Mac OS 10.5.8

Football & World Power: 2010-2014-2018-2022 (continued from part I).

Tweet about the allocation of the organization of world cup football by managing director at think.BBDO in Brussels

Tweet about the allocation of the organization of world cup football by managing director at think.BBDO in Brussels

With the allocation of the FIFA World Cup Football for 2018 and 2022, observers mentioned that it reflected the emerging markets. It truly does! But what’s more, the trend was already there during the World Cup Football 2010 in RSA.

We even devoted a blog post to the way by which the adverts surrounding the pitch reflected the global shift of economic powers. Nevertheless, which countries have been granted the rights to organize this first-class global event? Are these the emerging markets?

Upcoming FIFA World Cup hosts and their economies

The trend seen in the adverts in the 2010 event is also there when one looks at the countries that have been assigned to organize the future events. All countries that are to organize the world cup, show a growing/booming and interesting national economy.

  • World Cup 2014 host Brazil “Brazil is one of the fastest growing emerging economies in the world. With large and growing agricultural, mining, manufacturing and service sectors, Brazil economy ranks highest among all the South American countries and it has also acquired a strong position in global economy.” (Source: trading economics)
  • World Cup 2018 host Russia “The Russia Gross Domestic Product is worth 1231 billion dollars or 1.99% of the world economy, according to the World Bank.” (Source: trading economics)
  • World Cup 2022 host Qatar “The country’s economic growth has been stunning. Qatar’s nominal GDP, estimated to be $128 billion for 2010, has recently been growing at an average of 15%, and the 2010 growth rate is estimated to be 19%. Qatar’s 2007 per capita GDP was $67,000, and projected to soon be the highest in the world. The Qatari Government’s strategy is to utilize its wealth to generate more wealth by diversifying the economic base of the country beyond hydrocarbons.”(Source: U.S. Department of State)

The Open Source Economy: from software to restaurants…

open source

open source

Pretty much everyone is familiar with open source software. However, the concept is transcending into other industries. Hence, we label this trend ‘The Open Source Economy’, an economy where organizations don’t design to protect (patent) but rather to spread (share). The idea behind open source is that someone can take an idea or design and develop it further – which in turn can lead to better solutions.

Roots: Open source software – Drupal

Drupal is the most widely used open source web content management system. It is used as a back-end system for 1% of all websites worldwide. Drupal is behind complex websites such as whitehouse.gov; data.gov.uk and even Ebay. In addition companies deploy it for knowledge management and/or business collaboration. Telenet for instance, the largest provider of broadband cable services in Belgium, used Drupal to develop their knowledge base.

Open source in other industries?

  • Publishing – Open Source Magazine: The July and November issue of a South-African magazine “hip2b2” only consisted out of open source content licensed under a Creative Commons.
  • Fashion – Open Source Fashion Label: A label for green and fair fashion items is open: other designers and artists are invited to enrich the label with their own creations. The label ensures that the product is high-quality and sustainable.
  • Automotive – Open Source Eco-car: An open source project that aims to design the car of the future. More than 800 people collaborated on the car’s blueprints. Those blueprints are publicly available under an open source license. The new car is open for modification by others as long as any derived works are shared with the public as well.
  • Food / Lifestyle / Leisure – Open Source Restaurant: At a restaurant in Amsterdam, everything starts with a web-based documentation platform. The web app allows people to share their with others and the restaurant deploys it for crowdsourcing basically for anything. What’s more, the instructions for creating a similar restaurant yourself are available online.

How to “open source” your business?

Open source seems a sustainable recipe for success. We’re not saying you have to comply with this trend but why not consider it at least? Is it also applicable to your activities? If you were to transform into an open source business, how would that affect your current workflow (a.k.a. cost structure)? What market advantages would you get from it? Would it result in a unique position that positively impacts your bottom line?

Need ideas? Generate them with us.

Just contact us, leave a comment, follow on twitter, etc.

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