Commonwealth Bank’s 2013 Vision

Monty Hamilton pointed out that comments have been disabled on the Commonwealth Bank’s 2013 Vision video. Yet they allowed the embed code. So I thought I’d drop the video in here and get your feedback.

I was immediately struck by how little social interaction took place in the lives of the featured couple. I was amazed that there was no understanding of the way that technology is being used not for its own sake (or for economic/transactional productivity), but to connect with others, to exercise social judgement (especially around purchasing decisions) or to coordinate and maximise the social time we have available to us in our otherwise busy lives. There were some nice touches, and perhaps the best use of a Microsoft Surface that I have seen. 

But how does this map to your vision of the future three years from now?

Being Playful – From Poseur to Flaneur

Regular readers will know that I love the idea of play. In fact, I love it so much I built a mnemonic around it – the P-L-A-Y framework for storytelling. But “play” goes so much further for me – it goes to the very heart of our existence. It manifests as what theorists would call a “libidinal drive” – something that compels us to do something – an action that creates an exchange.

But to “be” playful means inhabiting “playfulness”. It also means letting playfulness inhabit you. In many ways, this is what we call “personality” – those traits that show through while you are being yourself – being playful. Being serious.

Russell Davies has a great post on being playful – which actually leads in a different direction from what I was expecting (surprise #1). Rather than investigating playfulness, he looks, instead at “pretending” – and how our various consumer purchases open the door to our imaginary life.

Think, for example, of the link between an iPhone and a Star Trek communicator (so thoughtfully captured in this image!). You can’t tell me that iPhone and other gadget users don’t get a secret buzz out of living out their childhood fantasies. Brands that win are able to facilitate a sense of transference – allowing us to put ourselves into an imaginary space and project an alternative vision of ourselves. After all, I may ride a Ducati (or used to), but I’m never going to be a MotoGP world champion. As Russell points out:

But it's not just a matter of dressing up. A successful pretending object has to delicately balance pretending affordance with not making you look like an idiot. That's why so many successful pretending objects are also highly functional.

If the “pretending object” goes too far – it does indeed make us look idiotic. We become poseurs – mere representations of something more serious. But of the pretending object doesn’t go far enough – then it is trashed, considered lame, and discarded or ignored by its intended audience.

And this is the art in design and the fine line in communications. How do we allow people into the process of creating meaning without restricting their creativity unduly? I think the approach is to turn our “consumers” into  Flaneurs. It’s about the experience – but on another person’s terms – not ours. It’s the placing of a product/service/offering in the service of another’s contextual experience. It means that the Flaneur’s experience is paramount – and the “thing-that-is-your-brand” will be recombined, re-absorbed and recontextualised according to its use-life.

Now, that’s what I call a “value exchange”.

Simple Social Media

When I speak at conferences or try to explain “social media” to people, I fall back on what I call “simple social media”. But it wasn’t until recently that I realised that I have never written anything about it. Well not exclusively, anyway.

For me, social media is made up of four elements:

  1. User generated content
  2. User generated distribution
  3. User generated filtering
  4. User generated context

These four elements were first articulated for me in Michael Wesch’s video An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube. But rather than placing each of these elements on an even footing, I see CONTEXT as sitting below the others, operating as a foundation as well as a conduit.

Elements of Social Media

The thing to remember is that brands can be considered “users” here – they can provide value to the online community through the generation and creation of content, they can filter useful and relevant content for us, and they can also help it spread. BUT the real value lies in them creating the CONTEXT in which this value is maximised. If a brand can do only one thing for me online – then CREATING this context is what I want. But venturing into the other sectors not just doubles – it squares the value (ie the network effect kicks in immediately).

Social media has the capacity to EXPONENTIALLY grow the sense of value that you provide to your community by actively working with each of these social media elements. (With thanks to Derek Markham for the E word!) But which one and when? Well, that’s where strategy and strategic planning come in.

Who says social media isn’t simple?

Consumers are the Apple of Our Eye

The iPad seems to turn its back on the creative classes which populate Apple's fan base. But this is the next step in a strategy from Apple which seeks to embrace a wide consumer base.

I have been watching the unfolding conversations around the new Apple iPad with disinterest. You see, I have never been a huge fan of Apple. Sure I have an iPod, and the iPhone looks great and seems to work well – but they have never been must have devices for me. And my flirtation with their computers has only ever ended in disappointment.

However, I often find myself recommending Apple products. Why? I am a firm believer that ease of use drives consumption – so if a non-tech person (such as my mother) wants a computer, I am going to suggest a Mac. If an uncle wants to get the internet on his phone, then I’m going to suggest an iPhone. It’s easier for them to use (and I get fewer questions later). This philosophy also provides a path for users of technology – who can start with a simple, relatively “dumb” device, and graduate to more powerful devices as their skill and confidence grows.

So I was wondering why there was so much noise around the iPad. It’s a poorly chosen name, certainly. And it elicited broad (and vocal) disappointment with the early adopters – but there seemed to be something more personal in the response to the iPad launch. Something I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

At a recent Coffee Morning, I was discussing this with Tim Longhurst who seemed to nail it for me. I have paraphrased and consolidated our conversation:

The iPod transformed Apple. It gave it mass appeal. It pumped up the share price and rebuilt the company in its present shape. But there is a marked shift in the focus of the company and its products from the iPod forward. While Apple built its following and fan base by empowering the producers – the creators of content – the iPod was firmly targeted at the consumers of that content.

The iPhone is a hybrid – but the iPad boldly pushes further into the consumer space. There are no bells and whistles for the producers. No cameras. No inputs. Instead, Apple applies its design flourishes to the non-geek user – the mums and dads of the internet world. The silver surfers and retired baby boomers who can happily read their favourite websites while on extended holiday.

Why is this significant?

Alvin Toffler coined the term “prosumer” back in the 80s, and Joseph Jaffe extended this in his Join the Conversation. As Joseph explained (p 38):

The prosumers help us understand phenomena like consumer generated content, blogs, podcasting, social networking, wikis and so on. And it is only by understanding both generation i and its prosumer class that we will ever be able to figure out what to do next.

When David Armano visualised our changing sense of identity in a Web 2.0 world, it seemed obvious that we were becoming increasingly comfortable with our multi-skilled roles.


Yet while use of social technologies continues to grow, there are a significant number of people who do not engage in social technologies – or who are limited in their use (and therefore their behaviour) of these social tools. For example, we may BUY something using eBay, but are unlikely to SELL. We are happy to look at family photos on Facebook but unwilling (or wary about) uploading our own.

In this case, the iPad may turn out to be the perfect device. It’s a device that allows people to CONSUME social technologies and services – but not contribute to them. In a way, Apple are simply targeting the largest customer niche – the non-producing consumer. And while the NY Times trumpets Apple’s elitist approach to innovation – I have a feeling that the iPad may very well be the most egalitarian of products. And if that drives greater (and deeper) interest in social technologies, then all the better.

Five Must-Read Posts from Last Week

It was hard whittling down a bunch of excellent posts from last week. As usual there were some great pieces of thinking, some analysis, observation and outright good storytelling.

But I try to spot last week’s very best posts – and after hard week’s panning, these five shiny pieces of gold were left in my sieve:

  1. John Hagel has an excellent post, Reshaping Relationships through Passion, asking whether, during this time of shifting priorities, behaviours and approaches, whether “shy people” are placed at a disadvantage. Tapping our passions is recommended.
  2. Valeria Maltoni talks conversation strategy – and shows how some of the best in the business bring an online conversation to life – automatically.
  3. Jeremiah Owyang regularly pulls together detailed statistics on the social web. Here is his Social Network Statistics post – which will be updated throughout the year.
  4. Ivan Askwith talks strategy, viral and keeping your customers at the centre of the brand experience. My favourite line – “Viral isn’t what a marketing campaign is, but how that campaign spreads”. Hooray.
  5. Mike Arauz asks us to think about betting against the sure thing. What would that mean for your advertising and marketing efforts? How would it change your sense of yourself?