Engines of Value – The Book: Launch Survey

I’m finally off to systematically advancing my long-planned book project:
‘Engines of Value – Generating Customer Value and Business Growth in the 21st Century’ (working title)

This is exciting, and I’m launching the project with a survey. It would be a great honor if you would take a few minutes to answer it here.

I have already had some great points of view, and am most eager to see where this path takes me. Stay tuned for results, reports and writings around the topic, all of which I will publish here on this blog.

New Blog ‘Sami Viitamäki Hands On’

I believe that in the age of digital we also need to be reminded about the good stuff in the physical realm. I invite all to explore and re-discover this space with me through my new Tumblr blog ‘Sami Viitamäki Hands On’ (samiviitamaki.tumblr.com). The purpose is to explore and discuss tangible things in the physical world that bring us joy, value, sorrow, happiness or something else. You can also join in and send your photos/videos/stories via the submit function.

C U there too!

Fiat goes Crowdsourcing

via PSFK

Fiat Brazil engages the crowds with developing their new Mio concept the open source style. Three years ago this would of course have been revolutionary. Now however, with everything from domestic applications to video translations having been crowdsourced, this is hardly a surprise. Fiat opens up the discussion by asking: “what kind of car would we have have to make so that you would buy it?” (free translation I know, but this is more or less the idea). Admirable openness, some would say. I say it’s simply lack of a strong idea.

According to my FLIRT model of crowdsourcing, there are five main elements to successfull crowd engagement: Focus (what are we doing, with whom, and why), Language (what are the social objects that drive participation, what levels and modes of interaction do we want, who does the dialogue in the company), Incentives (which intrinsic, extrinsic, and explicit incentives will we employ), Rules (who gets in, what can they do, where are the lines not to cross) and Tools (where do we do this, with which tools, and how do we measure and carry forward the proceeds). In the following I’ll use this lens to briefly review the Mio initiative.

Their Focus is somewhat clear. Fiat wants a car that is personal but at the same time communal enough for the masses. The reason is clear: if successful, such a car will sell in the millions. To do this, they want to employ their potential end customers (I see their lack of focus to the prosumers is the first mistake).

Their Language is limping. The question they pose is a tad too broad to activate people on any meaningful level. By simply asking “what kind of product would kick ass” – especially when discussing a product as complex as an automobile – is a bit like asking people what kind of world would they like to live in (everybody’s answer will be along the lines of “in a world where there’s no hunger and no wars”). To engage people in all the different fields required Fiat needs to offer them a more solid gripping surface, at a minimum level by dividing the forum into separate categories and in this way helping people find their fields of interest more easily – people discussing engine specifications might not share a burning passion with people into interior design.

Incentives are quite typical for this kind of forum – and typically incomplete. People get points for the ideas they’ve sent, the ideas that have gathered votes and the ideas that have gathered comments. But this is only a mechanism for ranking people, not motivating them. What do you get with the points? Has this even been thought about? (agreed, ranking alone does provide motivation for some people, but is not nearly meaningful enough to drive participation in this kind of complex and long-lasting commercial project.)

The Rules section is delightfully progressive. All immaterial rights created within the project are shared under a Creative Commons license. Thus you can build those bug eye headlights also into your old Prelude without incurring a lawsuit. The project doesn’t really stir creativity with introducing arbitrary constraints that might help getting people over the blank page syndrome in a complex project like this.

The Tools are the very basic form, with a blog like interface exhibiting the ideas and features that enable ranking the ideas by a few different criteria. The environment is not overly enticing I would like to see more active encouragement to participate at different activity and intensity levels (also to share and promote the initiative in different channels). The minimum requirements are met in tentacling the initiative to different social networks, as the project has presence both in Facebook and Orkut (Brazil’s Facebook). At this point at least the profiles are pretty plain.

In addition it’s good to remember that while people on average are pretty good in telling what could be better in a product, they’re pretty bad (on average) in radical innovation or thinking things up from scratch. The iPhone could not have been conceived collectively and also Mr. Ford famously said that “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse”. Even P&G, the pioneer of modern open innovation, focuses its innovation efforts towards collaborating with companies and scientists and utilizes its end customers when testing these innovations and enhancing them. It’s a different thing asking “what would you do?” and “what would you do with this?”

All in all, at a time when every second company is engaging and having conversation, engagement is changing from being a competitive advantage to being more of a qualification factor; needed for functioning in the market in the first place. It becomes a competitive advantage when doing it by truly inspiring people, giving them something to stand for and also to stand against. This requires guiding people to easily finding areas where they can be of most help and where they also feel rewarded for their efforts. It requires also a clear but sensitive and responsive strategy on how to best leverege these people and their activities both internally and externally. It’s not enough anymore to open the conversation – it needs to be creatively framed and actively fed with systematic but ardent approach which is either loved or hated – but surely noticed. This is the only way of reaching true loyalty and advocacy. If you’re not generating buzz and impact, you’re in danger of becoming insignificant – and no brand wants that.

Naturally, the Mio project is still at the beginning and if there are people in the know heading it, the conversation and interaction will surely develop hugely. However, there are many things that could already be better. I’m sure all readers of this blog know that I’m a big fan of mass participation and deep engagement, but as already my childhood mentor used to say: “Do it with style or don’t bother doing it”.

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T-Mobile Continues with Engaging the Crowds

Do you think that marketing your product is something people simply can’t get excited about en masse? Sure, it works with music, movies and fashion, but never you product. Your product is boring, low-interest, utility-like – more like a mobile phone price plan. Now really, who would care?

You might have even experienced with crowdsourcing or other forms of crowd engagement in the past with little or no results. And that’s another barrier facing marketers everywhere: didn’t work before (say 10 or 5 years ago) so it can’t work now.

Whatever the case I urge you to check the video below. Of course, it’s not about a product per se. It’s about finding the right Language to talk about with you customers, prospects or even people who would never buy your product but can be willing to join your marketing efforts given a well-framed opportunity. It’s about letting people do something unique and amazing, show it others and take credit for it. It’s about sharing.

Launching a BMW with Augmented Reality

BMW launches their new Z4 (a beauty, although I am lukewarm to private driving)  using augmented reality. The TV ad was produced with artist Robin Rhode attaching paint sprays to the wheels of a real Z4 and driving around over a white floor. After a few rounds, joyful figures emerged:

Participation is also utilized. By printing out a fiduciary marker icon and placing it on a surface in front of your webcam, you can command a virtual BMW around your living room or desk and paint it with vivid colors that are imposed on the video footage on-screen. Naturally, the idea is to then upload and share the video with your friends.

Fun and creative, but you need to download a software for this and it is available only in Windows version. As regards the nature of the campaign, it would probably have paid off to produce a Mac version as well as this kind of playing around and tinkering is usually more natural to Mac owners than Windows users. Nevertheless, a fun and bold take on how to use the latest tools in marketing (and I am telling you about it, am I not?)

Online Information 2008 – Initial Feelings

Gave two speeches today in London’s Online Information 2008. One was on the FLIRT model and the other on the expanded FLIRT PLUS, the conception of which owes a lot to Sami Salmenkivi’s presentation on Transmedia Storytelling (can’t find that online Sami, do send me a link). The latter presentation I could have practiced a wee bit more (finished preparing the presentation 5 minutes before presenting), but at least the few people that spoke to me afterwards thought it was pretty fascinating stuff so I guess it went ok anyway. Will be posting both online tomorrow once I get some quality time with my computer (I’m now blogging from the Apple Store at Oxford Circus, where else). Met a few cool people today and hope to meet some tomorrow as well. Let’s see what the new day brings.

Collaborating for Food

Decided today to write about a phenomenon that’s pretty interesting for me as a food lover; companies collaborating with people for food related ideas. People know best what their stomach desires (although it’s not always the healthiest choice for them, which leads to the omnivore’s dilemma, about which Michael Pollan wrote a great book, by the way), and smart companies are tapping to this knowledge instead of trying to come up with recipes and test market them with great effort and costs.

The first example comes from Japan, the promised land of the niche, where a noodle company Acecook is collaborating with an SNS giant Mixi to tap into the very geeks that consume vast amounts of its products to create new flavors of noodles. There are thousands of members participating in the competition and I’m sure this will work great in Japan, where you can basically find a market for any kind of niche product, even if the mass market didn’t adopt the new tastes. Cs Scout Japan, among others, has more on this one.

 One that I’m a bit sad to see going the way it’s going is Starbucks’ MyStarbucksIdea forum, a Dell Ideastorm carbon copy targeted to coffee aficionados. Starbucks has since some time prohibited viewing the content from other than the truly dedicated and has hid its forum behind a registration process. Too much hassle I think for the regular passer by even if she was interested in coffee. I really can’t see any logic behind this decision except curbing activity on the site. At least by viewing the latest and most read entries, there’s nothing there that could damage the brand in the eyes of the average Joe. Sure there’s ciriticism, but of the constructive type and most comments really are neutral or even very positive. Also, people do already talk about your brand anyway on other forums so why not allow discussion where you can react to it. The worry about competitors peeking in is also not a good excuse: they do peek in to communities that are far better guarded than the requirement to come up with an email address and a password. But as said, Starbucks may limit access simply to curb traffic to the site; the 10 latest entries were all posted within the last two hours, so there is activity anyway for the odd moderator to catch up with. However Starbucks is closing itself from a lot of opportunities from lazy passerby that might have the groundbraking idea up their sleeve.

Now Foodzie could certainly be interesting for a gourmet connoisseur looking for something different. In something that looks like it could be aiming to be the Etsy for foodstuffs, you can discover niche foods around the globe produced by small artisan producers and growers. If they only had more partners and an Etsy-esque experiential search tools… But I bet they’re coming – right?

foodzie

So how about opening a restaurant through collaborating with your would be customers to ensure a full opening night? Sure thing. Elements, a Washington based restaurant set to open next year, is tapping to the crowds in order to gather a loyal following before even the first table is set. Using open source methods, they’re participating the people to co-create a green restaurant of the highest value to their customers. Read more on PSFK and Washington Post.

Then there’s of course one of my favorites, the Free Beer project, that goes into open source mode in order to make new exciting flavors of beer. Free in Free Beer means free as in free speech, not as in free beer – nice verbal jujitsu there 🙂 In other words, everybody is able to use and alter the recipe for the beer, brew and sell their production as long as they share their recipe back to the community and credit the original work. They do indeed have some pretty interesting, flavors on their site, including one with added mushroom…

Last but certainly not the least, amidst the artsy, commercial, health and gastronomic interests, we must not forget the noblest cause of all, collaborating out of sheer will to help those in need – especially when it’s completely free. The Free Rice project let’s you donate rice simply by playing a game and answering to semantical questions on their website. The rice is donated by the interests that advertise on the site as you play – a small price to pay for a great help.

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Anything else that comes to mind?