Archive for the 'trends' Category

Why the Mac App Store Changes Everything

By: Tim Baker

Apple finally launched their much-hyped App Store for Mac today and in one system update instantly revolutionized the software industry forever.

For anyone that doubts that the Mac App Store is a game changer, I implore you to look at the success of the App store on iOS. Developers of all makes and sizes have found a viable way to distribute software and compete against the industry behemoths on an almost-level playing field. (I say “almost” because the Electronic Arts of the world have the money to clout to feature their big name apps on the storefront when launched or discounted.)

When the App store first made it’s debut on the iPhone & iPod Touch, it was a goldmine for developers – many of them earning small fortunes on the success of their apps with relatively limited competition. Fast-forward to 2011 and the App Store is overcrowded with software of all types and quality; it’s  a lot harder for new apps to stand out from all the noise. Still, an entire community of bloggers and other taste makers have made it their goal to find and share new, quality apps with interested readers and with the right amount of promotion, these innovative apps are being consumed by the masses.

When the iPad launched last year, the second gold rush occurred with developers racing to market with iPad-optimized apps, although this time, many wanted to earn more than they were on the iPhone and charged an “iPad premium.” An iPhone app priced at 99¢ would have it’s “HD” iPad-optimized counterpart priced much higher, say $4.99. There was a big backlash by bloggers against this practice with many feeling they were being ripped off; while the practice still goes on today, I personally see it much less, and the price differential between iPhone and iPad app is usually not as enormous a gap.

The Mac App Store will be no different with developers rushing to get their software into this store while the competition relatively low. Today’s launch includes 1,000 apps and will continue to grow every day. That being said, there is a huge difference between the App store on Mac versus the mobile store – one doesn’t have to use the App store to get new software on their machine. On Apple’s mobile devices, unless you jailbreak, the only way to put applications on is through the App store or a closed corporate environment. Mobile developers need to be in the App Store; Mac OS X developers currently don’t.

The reason the Mac App Store changes everything is simple – it’s the best way for developers to monetize their software. Right now, a small developer makes an app, creates a website about it, maybe puts out a press release and hopes for the best. Many of these developers are making little-to-no money off of their apps, causing them to treat it more as a hobby than a job. Too often, great apps fall by the wayside on Mac when developers don’t have time to update or improve them causing a no-win situation for themselves or the user. Having one centralized place to sell their app, push out updates and make money is going to lead to more quality apps and better prices for users. As the App Store on Mac matures and grows, it’s not outside the realm of possibility to see it being the only approved way to put new software on one’s machine in the future. Many people are very weary of installing software they find on random websites out of fear of spyware or viruses, so the comfort in knowing that these applications from the Mac App Store are safe will be one of the primary drivers in its success.

The mobile App Store has shown that people will pay for software when they feel it’s priced right. The immense competition has made it pretty much de facto that apps that charge use a 99¢ price point. (Obviously this isn’t the case for all apps, but for the vast majority.) One of my favorite authors, Dan Ariely, writes in his book Predictably Irrational that people’s purchasing habits are conditioned. Kids who grew up in the 90’s and stole all their music off Napster and LimeWire don’t feel like they were committing a crime – they just view music as something that should be free. Breaking this conditioned habit is such a hard task which is why it’s a lot tougher to get people in their teens and early 20’s to buy music than it is for the older population that paid for music their entire life. This younger demographic tends to think that anything over 99¢ is too much for a song, yet spending $4.00 on a coffee is perfectly acceptable. The exact opposite is true for those that grew up never paying more than 75¢ for their coffee. This same philosophy is occuring with the App Store; people are conditioned to pay for quality software, but only at very low prices.

Currently, some of the software prices in the Mac store are very high. Pixelmator, a very worthy Photoshop competitor, is priced at $29.99. I’ve used this program and can say that it’s wonderful. When I saw it priced at around that point on it’s website last year, it seemed like a great deal, but in the App Store setting, it sticks out like a sore thumb. I could be wrong, but I expect Pixelmator to be $9.99 in the App Store by the end of the year. If history is going to repeat itself, these high price points are going to have to come down for the desktop App Store if people are going to buy them en masse. $9.99 seems like a fair price point to me.

There’s no doubt there will be a lot of growing pains from developers who don’t want to be a part of Apple’s walled garden App Store, but at the end of the day, they will have to go where the money is, even if it means they have to lower prices and give up some control.

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Is Gowalla Dead?

By: Tim Baker

GowallaA little less than six months ago, Gowalla was riding very high. They were the darlings of SXSW, at least in the eyes of the Austin residents, and were in a promising position as they stood toe-to-toe with Foursquare. My, how a lot has changed.

Despite just being named one of Time’s 50 best websites of 2010, Gowalla has lost a lot of steam in the geolocation wars. Foursquare, the New York City-based startup, has been racking up win after win with many high-profile deals including Zagat, TLC, Bravo, VH1 and Starbucks. With Facebook throwing their hat into the ring with “Places,” I believe Gowalla is at a make-or-break point if they hope to survive.

Despite the beautiful aesthetics of their mobile app, Gowalla has been criticized by some as being too confusing or even childish. The feature where random virtual objects are left behind for others is often cited as the most confusing aspect of the service. However, in the world of tech startups, having the prettiest service doesn’t always resonate with consumers.

The data is not on Gowalla’s side. Analyzing their website traffic stats shows a sharp decline after their SXSW peak in March, compared to Foursquare who’s site hit over 1.8 Million unique visitors in July.

Gowalla vs. Foursquare Traffic Statistics

Granted, website usage isn’t the best metric as these services thrive on the mobile app experience. Analysis of the social media data is also very telling. Aside from small spikes for Gowalla when they announced their iPad app and their use of the Foursquare Places API, their mentions throughout the “blogosphere” have remained very flat.

Gowalla vs. Foursquare Popularity In Blogs

If you’ve been following the “checkin wars,” none of what I’m talking about is surprising. Foursquare has been the hottest startup in 2010 and the service to beat. Facebook Places, with an install base of over 500 million, is not as well received initially as some may have thought, but it’s way too early to call it a flop. Facebook has the money and the muscle to compete with anyone on this front and their biggest obstacle is their users who already have trust issues after previous privacy missteps.

Geolocation is a crowded space and is only getting more crowded. With very promising services on the rise such as Shopkick and SCVNGR pushing the checkin experience into valuable consumer rewards, even Foursquare shouldn’t be (and isn’t) resting on their laurels. In the end, Gowalla may end up being the next Pownce – a beautifully designed and well coded service that couldn’t break out of their small core audience and resonate on the big stage.

Companies Should Embrace Internal Social Engagement

Using social media inside a company can help turbo-charge a brand

By Andreas Panayi

I am witnessing more and more senior leaders within large companies finally come to terms with how much more direct influence employees can play in helping to preserve and advance the sentiment of a company’s brand and enterprise-wide value.

I am sure critics of the statement above will say this has always been the case. Yes, although companies have always known their employees play a role in shaping the sentiment around a brand, some companies are now embracing the fact. A few of them are actually going out of their way to support and nurture these internal ambassadors because their voices just got louder and their access to the “outside world” just got even more direct through Social Media channels.

Because of this, it’s increasingly important that organizations have more than a set of
off-the-shelf guidelines to help employees (senior management included) deliver a consistent “social” brand experience that aligns with consumer expectations. Smart companies are recognizing there’s no better way to do this than to tap into the same digital technology we all use to share our thoughts and ideas with friends and neighbors. We will witness more leading companies leveraging social networking, Twitter, texting and other open communication channels inside the company to help shape external brand perceptions and sentiments

Why this change? The Social Web, or “Collaborative Web” as we like to call it, is transforming how senior leadership within organizations listen and learn through social technologies. Company intranets are no longer the only content destinations that organizations and their employees “share” within the confines of the internal structures. We now have blogs, Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare, YouTube, and many others that have yet to arrive. But participating and listening online is not about cool technology, it’s about engaging with employees and hearing what people that make up the company and drive the brand have to say.

When senior leadership previously stated in staff meetings, vision statements, annual reports and earnings press releases that employees are their ‘number one asset and consideration’, we are finally beginning to see real activity around this statement. Of course the flip-side of ‘number one asset’ is unthinkable – ‘number one liability’; senior management is also seeing the possibilities of assets turning into liabilities with access to tools and public forums that can create distractions, and even end up causing large-scale problems with negative effects on the brand and consumer perceptions.

While I think about where we are today and how we arrived here, I remember back to when I shifted my carrier from general advertising to what was referenced as the ‘information super highway’. Usually, when you go back in history, you can predict the future, so I searched deep and found this great line that was thrown at me at the end of one of my very first ‘new media’ presentations.

It was the very early 1990’s and the public side of the “information highway” was just starting to push its way into high-level discussions at companies, such as the one I was pitching  development of a “web page” to. The audience was seven men and three women executives, averaging in age around 50 years young.

I finished what I believed was a fabulous presentation and the audience was mesmerized; I had them all speechless. I was 26 and on fire, blazing down the ‘information super highway’ doing 120. That is until the guy sitting at the head of the table looked up, zeroed into my eyes and said – in a very authoritative voice with a hinge of sarcasm – “We’re going to slow this project down because this highway is going to hit a dead-end before I retire.” Needles to say, my presentation was a bit ahead of its time for this gentleman, as I am sure he is retired today and the super highway is still going strong.

As a matter of fact, the highway now has multiple lanes – all four-way streets with new exit and entry ramps that can drive you crazy. The highway is now more collaborative and complex than ever.

So, the moral of this history lesson is that senior leaders who thought they will retire before they actually need to embrace the fact that the Collaborative Web is transforming internal communications into business-critical brand assets – or liabilities – may want to re-consider their retirement plans. Emerging communications tactics, alongside the Collaborative Web, have entered the halls of companies and have finally placed much deserved urgency and emphasis on strategic internal employee communications.

What kind of leader are you? Are you a driver or passenger in today’s  internal communications landscape?

Check out this article from PR Week: “Dell goes mobile to bolster its employee engagement.”

Apple, Microsoft and the War on Google

By Tim Baker

There’s an all-out war brewing and it’s about to get really nasty. I’m not referring to the situations in Afghanistan, North Korea or Iran; the turf where this war takes place will occur on screens all around the world. Computer screens, mobile phone screens and even television screens. This is a war on Google fought by Apple and Microsoft.

Over the past few years, Apple and Google have had a very publicly rosy relationship. The heavy integration between Google Maps and the iPhone was a mutually benefical win for both companies. Apple was able to bring mobile location services to a level unlike any other handset manufacturer had done prior while Google finally had an outlet to take over the mapping market that was dominated for so long by MapQuest.

The inclusion of a YouTube app on the iPhone and the ability to upload directly to YouTube from within the OS on the iPhone 3GS is just another example in a long history of these two companies working together in a close partnership. Safari’s default search engine has been Google for as long as I can remember while the map data from the most recent version of iPhoto is provided by – you guessed it –Google!

The Cult of Apple has adored Google for quite some time, almost embracing them as an extension of the company they worship in an almost God-like fashion. This outpouring of love and admiration coupled with Google’s “do no evil” attitude and constant innovation had been a match made in Heaven.

That was, until just a short time ago.

The first sign of trouble in paradise was made public when Apple refused to allow the Google Voice app into their app store. Denying apps had been nothing new to Apple and had caused them some bad press throughout the blogosphere, but for the most part those stories fell out the public interest after a day or two. This was different; this was Google. This was like stabbing your brother in the back and running off with his wife. Unlike most rejected apps, this one had a giant behemoth behind it that was refusing to take “no” for an answer. The entire saga turned into a he said/she said pissing match that resulted in an FTC investigation and the eventual departure of Google CEO Eric Schmidt off the Apple board of directors where he served for three years.

Some will claim that the announcement of the Android OS in 2007 was the first sign of bad blood between the two companies, but I don’t see it that way. I would classify it as a tiny little blip on a seismograph. The iPhone was already leaps and bounds ahead of other devices at this point that a little competition in the mobile space was good for everyone. Also, a lot of people in the tech world were very underwhelmed by what Google first showed off with Android, an OS that has come a long way since its first unveiling.

Since Eric Schmidt left the Apple board of directors, the gloves have really come off between the two companies. Apple and Google have both been on buying sprees as of late with Google acquiring AdMob and Apple countering with their acquisition ofQuattro Wireless. Apple also recently purchased the music streaming service LaLa, a company that Google was also attempting to buy, as well as a mapping software company called Placebase.

Yes, it’s getting ugly between the two companies, but what about the 300 lb. gorilla in the room –Microsoft? We all know that Apple and Microsoft are fierce rivals and that will not change any time soon, but this whole situation between Google and Apple allows for some interesting opportunities for Microsoft.

The Zune is a commercial failure, Windows Mobile is bleeding market share to Apple, RIM and now Android, and even Internet Explorer is feeling some heat from Firefox and Chrome in the browser wars. The Xbox 360 aside, things haven’t been as great for Microsoft these past couple of years as they would’ve hoped.

This is where it is going to get really interesting. Can Apple and Microsoft put their proverbial guns down and fight the common enemy? I believe so – at least to some extent. There’s already rumors that Apple may make Bing the new default search engine on the iPhone, but I don’t see it ending there. Google is killing Bing (and everyone else for that matter) in search, their Google Docs are getting closer and closer to Microsoft Office every day and now that Google is entering the OS market with Google Chrome OS, Microsoft is scared, and they have every reason to be.

While I don’t expect Microsoft and Apple to buddy up as close as Google and Apple have in the past, at least this year, I do think we’re going to see some very interesting collaborations between the two rivals. Perhaps we will see an official Microsoft Office suite for the iPhone or Tighter integration between the Mac and Microsoft Exchange. Maybe some of the great things about Bing, including the travel search and maps, will find some integration into Apple’s offerings. These are all small but doable things that I would not be surprised one bit to see occur in 2010.

What the Apple fanboy nation lacks in numbers it makes up with in loyalty. If Steve Jobs convinces his followers in ever-so-subtly ways that Google is not their friend anymore, there is going to be number of people that turn on the company. Will it have a huge effect on their bottom line? No, not at first, but what it will do is legitimize Microsoft as a partner, giving them more ammunition in their never-ending battle with Google.

Microsoft doesn’t have the same stigma with the younger generation of Apple lovers today as it did back in the 90’s. When Apple announced a partnership with Microsoft, which basically kept them from going bankrupt, the entire hall of people booed and hissed. It’s not like that today. iPod and iPhone lovers grew up using Windows machines in school (and still do). They have very little malevolence towards Microsoft, especially when so many of them have an Xbox in their living room. The culture is different now and Apple teaming up with Microsoft has the potential to cause seismic shifts in the technology landscape in the coming years.

Regardless of where you stand, this is going to get very interesting. Lucky for us consumers, there’s a good chance we’ll come out winners of this battle in the end when the dust settles.

If it ever ends, that is.

Foursquare: The Game That’s a Real-Game Changer

One of the hottest trends in social media is the growth of location-aware mobile applications. With the immense popularity of the iPhone, BlackBerry and Android-powered mobile devices, software developers are pushing the mobile platform forward faster than any segment of consumer electronics.

Foursquare LogoOf all the location-aware mobile applications, Foursquare is perhaps the most exciting. Foursquare was created by Dennis Crowley and Neveen Selvadurai and launched earlier this year. Crowley’s previous project, Dodgeball, was one of the pioneering social networking services for mobile devices. Dodgeball required users to text their location into the service and they would be instantly notified of friends, other Dodgeball users and points of interest all in their close vicinity. Dodgeball was purchased by Google and has since morphed into Google Latitude, Google’s up-and-coming foray into location-aware social networking still in its infancy.

Foursquare takes the basic principles behind Dodgeball but presents it in a much more robust and user-friendly way. Rather than text in one’s location, Foursquare users simply fire up the mobile application on their device and it utilizes the phone’s GPS technology and data network to presents them with a list of venues near their current location. The user selects their location from the list (or adds it if it’s not currently in the system) and they are “checked in.” By connecting to Twitter and Facebook, users can instantly and automatically alert their social networks of their location.

Foursquare doesn’t end there; Crowley and Neveen have implemented an ingenious reward system into their applications that not only encourages repeat use of the applications, but truly bridges that gap from “virtual world” to “real world.” Based on the city one is in, Foursquare users can unlocked badges basedjavascript:; on their check-ins. For example, New Yorker’s that check into a venue above 59th Street can unlock the “Far Far Away” badge. Check in to three karaoke venues unlocks you the “Don’t Stop Believin'” badge while checking in at a gym venue 10 times or more in 30 days earns you the “Gym Rat” badge.

foursquare_badges

Perhaps the most innovative feature built into Foursquare is the “Mayor” system. Users that check into a venue with the most frequency in a set period of time are tagged as the mayor of that particular venue. Aside from the bragging rights that come along with being the mayor, more and more locations are taking Foursquare off the mobile devices and into the real world by rewarding mayors with a variety of prizes. Restaurants are offering free food to the Foursquare mayor while some bars have been known to give free drinks to their respective mayors.

Foursquare users also have the option to leave a tip for others at the venue they are checked into. Whether it’s raving about a particular restaurant’s salmon dish or urging others to try the Long Island Iced Tea, Foursquare’s system is posing a real threat to popular social review services like Yelp and CitySearch.

Crowley and Selvadurai have created a system that not only is immensely fun for its users, but allows local businesses to market themselves leveraging social media in a whole new way. Whether this was truly intended or is simply a side-effect of the game’s popularity, there’s no denying that Foursquare is creating a new level of interaction between businesses and customers that is sure to be a growing trend in 2010 and beyond.

Navigating the Social Media Landscape

With even online budgets suffering in this struggling economy, it’s no wonder that the interest in all things Web 2.0 is peaking. We’ve been getting a lot of requests from clients for a primer on the Web 2.0 and Social Media landscape or what we at Kinesis refer to as Emerging Media. So in good circle-K fashion, we put together just that.

This handy-dandy pocket guide to Social Media lays out the landscape, the guiding principles, and some rules of the road on Social Media and the opportunities that exist for marketers of all kinds. You can download a copy here. Really. You can have it. Free for nothing. See, that’s Social Media. Get it?

By the way, for total context, we highly recommend you take a look at our whole Creative Media approach in general here. It’s definitely enlightening, plus the pinwheel is pretty cool.

The Year That Was: 2007

At Kinesis, we’re all about momentum, moving forward, perpetual motion. But at the end of the year, it’s worth a quick look back to examine what went right and what went not so right in the digital marketing world. And what a year it was.

While many Kinetics met personal milestones like weddings, engagements and babies, (congratulations Paul Sekerka, Kate Rumore, Diane Puma, Katie Babinski and Anthony Vespucci) as a group they lamented the fizzle of Second Life. While we all heralded the release of the iPhone itself, the iPhone campaign left us under whelmed in comparison to the Mac vs. PC ads.

It was the year of Intranets and Web 2.0, as social networking, content-rich, user-driven sites, ajax and flash became tantamount to digital marketing, while mobile marketing still never found its groove.

Windows Vista was perhaps the biggest let down in 2007, although not entirely unexpected, especially to Mac lovers, and re-designs of both Amazon.com and Yahoo.com reaffirmed the status of two of the Internet’s mainstays.

Email marketing continued its decline, while search got local and overall ad spending continued its meteoric rise. TV watched both DVRs and the Writer’s Guild strike claim more advertising casualties, even while all the networks fortified their Web presences.

On the home front, the Kinesis Knights softball team went 10 and 2 in its inaugural season, losing in the last round of the playoffs in a game of questionable integrity, and the annual paintball outing once again left no client or staffer MIA.

It was also the year of User Experience, as a reorganization of Kinesis’ IA practice, led by Brian Kempf, began paying dividends, winning two prestigious Nielsen/Norman Group awards, one for the Comcast Store and one for ColdwellBankerWorks.com.

The circle K saw its creative product jump a few notches with stand-out efforts by newly promoted Design Director Trevor Aldinger for Comcast and Coldwell Banker, Larry Latore for Coldwell Banker and Goodwill and Amanda Thieme on Gain Capital and Coldwell Banker Commercial, and the media team’s Frank Puma made Second Life a real estate reality for client Coldwell Banker as Mike Pierre took the reigns on Web 2.0.

The Program Management team added Katie Babinski and Amanda Sackawicz and also made remarkable strides this year, taking control of the work product and solidifying new relationships, including those with new clients Gain Capital, Equifax, Feedroom, Anbau Enterprises, and Great Freedom, three of which were led by Pam Holland.

On the technical front, it was a very big year. 2007 saw the addition of Derek Grier as a technical lead, the release of the new Comcast Store, the successful integration of Canada into the Coldwell Banker system, and widgets for Siemens, Wyndham and Coldwell Banker, just to name a few.

And with the addition of new clients Deloitte, Rodale and Round Table Brewing, the stage is set for 2008 for Kinesis to continue generating business momentum.

Yes. It was a very good year.


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