E-soothsayer peers into crystal ball, sees tech future

  • Marketing
  • May 23, 2010
  • Emily Loughnan
E-soothsayer peers into crystal ball, sees tech future

This week I had the pleasure of doing a repeat performance at the Marketing Association's network of executive marketers event. Last year I gave my take on some of the things I thought were about to be big in the technology space (it's interesting to look back on one's predictions). And the task was just as daunting the second time around. How do you pick out just a few interesting trends from the plethora of new things available? Well, I just turned to what's being talked about, not just things we're on about at the moment, but things we can see a good body of evidence for internationally.

1. Augmented Reality

The first one I looked at was Augmented Reality (AR). By way of background, I'll refer you back to two previous blogs I've done. The first was commenting on some useful applications we had seen at the time, and suggesting that AR is finally being put to good uses (though there are still lots of examples I'd put in the "hype" category). The second I did at the start of this year, bravely backing other forecasters that its time had indeed come (and showing off a wee prototype called Smart Pack we have done for NZ Post).

That post really sums up the opportunities I see on the rise, as AR has shifted from 90 percent technology, 10 percent audience, to the other way around. Technology should ALWAYS come second to the audience, in my books.

AR is also becoming well integrated in the mobile space where data is superimposed over a real scene to add real time information (tweets that have come from there, real estate prices, opening/closing hours, etc) and that is helping its adoption.

2. Clever ideas using existing tools

We've all been through tough times, and they can help make us think smarter. Here's two examples that I thought would be great inspiration for others:

Alec Brownstein was looking for a job. Not just any job, but a job at a top New York ad agency. He spent $6 to make contact with five  creative directors. He got interviews with four of them, had two job offers and now works at Y&R NY. A brilliant demonstration of knowing your (narcissistic) audience:

Youtube Video

The second example was from IKEA in Sweden. Here, the store manager put photos of this season's in-store showrooms onto his Facebook page. He then invited people to tag the photos. Correctly identifying an item from the catalogue, adding your name and your desire to own it and, voila, it was yours. All you had to do was come in to the store and collect it (and of course buy the lounge suite that went with that lamp!).

These are both examples of thinking smarter, spending (virtually) nothing, and using what's already out there. I think we're going to see a lot more of these. If you have an example, do let me know!

3. Less SHOUTING!

I think we're all over having brands shout at us; competing for our attention. Instead of yelling at consumers, I think we're going to see more examples of brands creating experiences, experiences that intrigue and draw you into a brand, to let me engage in my terms.

Don't you want to know what's inside here? This is from an exhibition at the Museum for Contemporary Art in Berlin (there's more about it on the Cool Hunter website, if you want to see more).

As we work a lot in the experiential space, we do see more interesting things coming from museums and even from digital artists which are proving to be inspiring for the corporate sector. As we see brands looking for new ways to stand out, be talked about and connect, these inspirations are becoming more and more relevant.

Quietly engage me. There's no need to yell.

4. Brand Butlers

Building from the previous theme, this trend is all about brands providing a genuine service to their customers. It's not about you, it's about them. What do they need? Are there skills, knowledge or services which you can help your customers with? Can you genuinely add value? (authenticity is key here).

I recommend reading this report from trendwatching, to learn more about it and see many fabulous examples of brands helping their customers find the best gigs, taxis, pet friendly places and even restrooms. That said, I think it is moving towards being a crowded market. New Zealand is a small market. Could you partner with another brand to offer a combined service that could be a killer app for customers?

5. Letting people's voices be heard

I've spoken before about installations we've made that allow people to contribute, either by texting, or through mining what they're saying already in social media channels. Our latest installation is currently being trialled in its first Monteith's Bar (at the Tasting Room in Wellington). It takes data from the 'Worth Talking Over' campaign website, and ambiently displays it in the bar, as a conversation starter over three screens behind the bar.

Showing the most talked about topics in New Zealand and then showing the last comment made on a popular topic is a really effective way to get a conversation started (as we were trialling it on our office for several weeks, I can vouch for its effectiveness). Another layer is the fact that there is a background animation of bubbles that responds to the level of noise in the bar. so the more conversation, the bubblier it is.

Youtube Video

A great example of taking user generated content off the web was this HUGE signpost that Nokia created in London. Using the built-in geo features of a Nokia phone, users could contribute their favourite spots in London to the sign, and the sign would then update with that spot and its location (eg: best Indian restaurant - 100mtrs this way). It also showed the contributor's name which would appeal to many ("that's me on the world's largest sign!").

So, I think we're going to see more of the voice of the people being used to demonstrate the connection that brands have with real people, and thus make a brand feel more real and more connected as a result.

6. The audience is winning the technology race.

For the 16 years we've been making interactive media, we have had to constantly educate our audiences on how to interact. It began way back when with 'touch the screen' type instructions. But, when we did our first public multi-touch interactive early last year, we were amazed at how people picked up how to use two hands and zoom with NO instruction!

Vimeo Video

Why? Because they've seen in it in action: on their iPhones; on someone else's iPhone; on TV; in the movies; on the web. It's in their consciousness. I am aware of several examples of people expecting to interact with screens that are not interactive;  screens they wouldn't have gone up to in the past, that they now gesture in front of or touch and expect interaction.

Panasonic recently did a big display of their amazing large format screens in Wellington Airport. The first time I saw the display, I saw a woman walk up to a screen and touch it. Next time I went by, a barrier had been put up to keep the audience away.

Shouldn't Panasonic be going where their audience is and adding a little interactivity to help sell the screens? Imagine having a gestural interface on each one, to allow users to change out content to see content they like on the big screen. Each gesture could act like a simple channel changer. Then, you'd have crowds of people standing in front of the screens "changing channels" and experiencing their product, in their terms, for a lot longer than the current quick walk by affords.

Come on people, for the first time I can think of, the audience is actually ahead of you. Time to play catch-up.

7. The final ta-dah!

Finally, I talked about an exciting new medium coming soon. What is it? Can't tell you (yet). It was only revealed to the actual audience, so you had to be a Marketing Association member to hear that one.


  • For more soothsaying, trend spotting and digital enlightenment, check out the Click Suite blog.

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