system two

system two
start-up thinking in the enterprise

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

is apple's business model broken?

3 small pieces of news which have caught my attention in the last couple of days which give me a sense that apple might still have an issue long term, with their (relatively) proprietary business model.

The first is chat about flash on the iPhone. It seems bizarre that a piece of technology such as the iPhone could exist without flash - but it does - and is likely to do so for the time being. Adobe and apple don't mix - but will users vote with their feet once the allure of the iPhone's core touch technology becomes ubiquitous?

The second is Spotify's launch on the iPhone. An obvious move but one which is in direct competition with apple's existing music business model (although of course they are hardly wedded to the per track music model).

Lastly - we have today's news about google voice here.

A gazillion iPhones sold means a lot of people view apple's market position as unassailable - but it doesn't take much to destabilize a business these days - and if a sense grows within the early adopter community that apple's walled garden approach is constraining freedom of development - it won't take long for the herd to adopt android or another key mobile device as its poster child.

Monday, 27 July 2009

the moon is made of cheese...

"Virals" - don't exist.

Spanking £60k of your clients' hard earned cash, to have a load of 14 year olds in Nebraska and Moscow watch it for less than 2 seconds before they realize your wry, post modern masterpiece isn't Jemma Jameson in her next to nothings, isn’t “viral” - its just conventional "push" TV style advertising with less reach.

The grubby little secret of the "viral" world, is if your content isn’t genuinely brilliant (and therefore garnering enough views itself), little can be done to artificially manufacture buzz - to believe its possible is to fundamentally misunderstand the point of the web. It is a sad fact that many viral marketing agencies “accidentally” put clients' content on the end of other popular links to get numbers up. Even when you see "viewed by more than 500,000 people", the reality is, if you're a UK company, wanting UK eyeballs, less than 2% will be genuine views.

It is incredibly hard to predict when something (an application, a picture, a piece of music, a community or a video) will infect people's heads - turn into a meme – and go “viral”. Capturing the zeitgeist and having your brand lifted on a wave of global support takes a brilliant idea, masses of trial and error and not a small amount of luck. It cannot be replicated on demand - and anyone who says it can is lying to you.

Rolling, thoughtful and useful, time sensitive content - close media monitoring and engagement - combined with a range of community development ideas, brilliant SEO, usability, a dash of conventional push advertising (and a whole lot more besides) – is what makes a great always on marketing mix - the lottery of "the viral" shouldn't be ignored completely but it isn't a substitute for a balanced plan.

soap in the bubble bath...

To remain healthy - media based communities need to remain in the same type of "people soil" in which they grew.

Bottom up tribes cannot be assimilated by top down organisations. One kills the other. Like soap in the bubble bath. The psychology is wrong.

Xfm, Delicious, EMI,'s, Myspace's, OD2 - the list is without end....

So what does this mean for Zappos? Will it grow, or decay?

The reason we loved Zappos was because it was perceived to be "owned" by the community. It genuinely seemed to gave a shit about its customers. With this key differentiator now lost - it now feels like its part of the ordinary, the mundane, the pedestrian, the mainstream.

Can any asset like this survive outside the community from which it was borne? I'm not sure....

Thursday, 23 July 2009

open source loo roll...

This is the new loo roll holder that's just been installed in the Dig for fire toilets.

Aside from pointlessly reinventing a piece of technology that didn't need to be made exponentially more complicated – and, ignoring the fact that this plastic monstrosity, not only visually pollutes my toilet visiting experience, but massively increases its carbon footprint - its proprietary.

I can only use this loo roll holder with the manufacturers loo roll. The makers have  designed the spindle (and presumably patented the design as it if were some sort of leap in scientific understanding) in a star shape – to force the user into a lifetime of loo roll monogamy (their loo roll incidentally is significantly less soft that the stuff we used to have).

So at a time when many of the worlds more progressive brands are going “open source” and adopting open standards - here is a one that is actively grabbing back idea "real estate". It might appear trivial - but nevertheless iIt is in congruent, anti-competitive, backward and inhuman – in short – everything that mega brands are always being accused of being.....


Recently we've been talking to record labels again about a piece of technology I built many years ago as a prototype for Ministry of Sound. In a nutshell - we're proposing the Bloomberg and Nasdaq of music - the idea that labels will eventually evolve into highly differentiated, boutique investment funds. More details in the presentation...

Friday, 10 July 2009

brands and smelly fridges...

In my strand of psychotherapy we've recently learned about a concept called a "condition of worth".

The thinking goes in formative years - and beyond - other peoples' values are often foisted on us - sometimes we're conscious of them - sometimes not. Sometimes they are useful - in as much as they resonate with our own, core beliefs - but if we internalize those that don't sit with us - then it is said we have adopted a "condition of worth".

"Oh Johnny, you’re brilliant at football" (when Johnny is a bit crap - and knows it) is a condition of worth. Johnny is likely to attempt to fulfill the condition - or rebel against it. In either case the condition hasn't resonated with what he "really" knows. A conflict is established.

It follows of course, that negative conditions "you're stupid, you're not attractive, you're thick" are equally damaging - but these are usually more obvious than those that appear - at least on the surface - to be well meaning and "positive" - these are the ones I'm particularly interested in from a brand's persepective.

Are overtly positive messages made by brands distorting society’s own sense of self?

"Your Asda" - it may well resonate with you - perhaps you really love Asda - but for those of us who believe them (with a mountain of good evidence) to be exploitative, money grabbing and ultimately bad for the people who make their products and consume them - it jars. It makes our lives less colorful when we are told something is ours when it is not (and we don't want it) - but it sets up a conflict, all of us, as a society, may eventually need to resolve.

For the majority of us who don't believe £2 t-shirts, being made by 6 year olds in sweat shops on the other side of the world, is a good idea (whilst acknowledging that by no means all manufacturing in the developing world is a bad thing) this mismatch is like something smelly in the fridge. We can ignore it for a while, but sooner or later, we’re going to need to clean it up.

Take any metric, any measurement of happiness since the 1970s and it has fallen. Is angst within western societies deeper these days because we don't have the tools to resolve the psychological conflicts brands create?

When I see "your Asda" - my own reaction is to think - you're nothing to do with me, I don't support or endorse your way of doing business. I go home - I have a rant - maybe I write a post on my blog. In some small way I have a means of partial resolution. I invite myself to try and square the conflict between my core values and those being forced upon me. But it's not easy.....

Perhaps there's a body of work on this - I'm certainly going to look into it. In the meantime I have a new client...Nestle....

Monday, 6 July 2009

morons buy (and sell) activia...

The reason you have a "bloated" feeling is cos you've just eaten your body weight in chips and gravy love - its got f**k all to do with the bacteria in your gut...