Wednesday, July 29

Technology Is Transforming Education Right Before Our Eyes

Education is experiencing a tech revolution, but it's only a single facet of our near future landscape. As much as some standardization is seen as an opportunity to level the educational playing field, technology is simultaneously making education and educators accessible for anyone who wants more.

Some parents, myself included, are becoming keenly aware of the opportunities technology affords our children as it pertains to education. I became especially attentive to it two years ago after discovering that my daughter's reading proficiency wasn't keeping up with her course work.

This summer, thanks in part to a reading program I developed for her, she is reading The Hobbit, which is three to five years above her grade level. Sure, she still struggles with some of the words, but that's the point. I want her to feel challenged.

In fact, since then, her summer education program has expanded beyond reading. Between sites like education.com, skillshare, and code.org, there is no shortage of educational content. It keeps her balanced between free play and other activities like art camps or softball clinics or guitar lessons.

It also keeps her up to speed on core subjects while introducing her to skills that she will be unlikely to learn in school (like coding or graphic design) at her age. And for me, as a university instructor, it provides a sense of how to improve my own classes as well as education in general.

Five opportunities for the next generation in education.

• Standardization will lose out to innovation. Given that an overemphasis in standardized education can lead to stagnation as the bureaucracy that oversees curriculum becomes too slow to adopt new concepts, a next generation solution will help educators get ahead of a subject curve. Best practice lesson plans could eventually populate state or national education centers, with the best of them raising the bar on what the nation considers "standard."

Teachers would be given much more flexibility if administrators received grants and additional funding for best practice lesson plans produced by their schools. The system could also provide incentives for teachers to innovate, giving them a reason to think of their jobs as year round.

• Educators will be rewarded for engaging students. As technology continues to remove proximity from the equation, administrators will discover that their educators are assets to the institutional brand. As it happens, the surge in filling courses with adjunct professors to save money will shift toward attracting top talent that the high school, college, or university can market.

After all, when you can take an online writing course from James Patterson for $90, it makes it much more difficult to justify the $600 course taught by an MFA graduate. As a result, universities will have to get back to the business of bringing in marketable talent — professors who can excite students.

• Liberal arts will evolve into liberal tracks. There continues to be pressure to transform the educational system into something much more vocational. The push to create more vocational schools is mostly attributed to STEM education programs, especially technology, as more people see the field as being future proof in terms of career opportunities.

While this is true, some professors are seeing some slippage in other skill sets that used to be covered as part of a liberal arts education. Specifically, tech savvy students sometimes struggle with public speaking, presentation, psychology, communication, business, and other skills that are associated with liberal arts. New classes (including history and philosophy) will be reintroduced as mandatory electives.

• Employers will reassess how they see candidates. Isolating job candidates based on holding a bachelor's or master's degree (or years of experience) will be supplanted with new measurements. Educational achievement will be balanced to consider an applicant's body of work (such as their programs, applications, campaigns) and ancillary continuing education in addition to their degree.

For example, candidates who have completed emergency management courses offered by FEMA will be recognized as having more educational experience than those who took one or two public disaster communication classes as part of their liberal arts degree. Likewise, a design portfolio or computer program could prove much more predictive in choosing the right candidate.

• Initiative will become a most valued commodity. While initiative will likely never become a class on its own, it will eventually become one of the most sought-after attributes for candidates to demonstrate throughout their educational careers. As such, it needs to be baked into education.

Those students (and, subsequently, candidates) who have a track record for meeting whatever "standards" are set and then go on to do more — sports, extracurricular, leadership, advanced students — will quickly discover that they will have more choices in choosing their educational paths and careers. Where education can stimulate such a trait is in creating a layered approach to education where students can take on additional projects or course material beyond what's required.

My daughter is on two education tracts — one at school and one at home. 

It's easy to become excited by the potential for technology in education, but it isn't technology alone that creates a new landscape. It will take teachers to develop new programs and find suitable methods of application for a variety of audiences. It will take programmers and designers to make the material feel intuitive, and it will take parents to offset everything their children can learn.

For my daughter, her summer program includes math, reading, and writing with science, history, and art on alternating days. In addition to these fundamentals, she also invested a half-hour in guitar and a half-hour in coding before her days ended with softball or baseball practice. She loved every minute.

While some people were taken aback by her enthusiasm for summer homework, she was as passionate about learning as she was for some of the incentives. And that, more than any other measure, reinforced to me that innovation, engagement, diversity, integration, and initiative are what's needed most in education. As for technology, it's potentially the best tool to help us deliver on it.

Wednesday, July 22

Five Steps To Make An Influencer Instead Of Marketing To One

While marketers continue to reach out to social media influencers in the hopes of earning easy traction, it takes much more than a popular or pretty face to capture key performance indicators. Sure, there is plenty of evidence to support influencers have an edge over brand content. But so what?

It doesn't mean you always have to pony up dollars for celebrities and semi-public people to increase brand exposure. You could take an organic approach in attracting third-party voices around your brand and the process to do so will result in deeper, more meaningful relationships.

In the long term, it could also help inoculate your brand against the rising cost of social media stars as brands compete for the same talent and make influencer marketing akin to any other media buy. Of course, this doesn't mean anyone should bow out all together. Influencers have their place.

All it means is that marketers need to remember that a "nobody" can be just as influential as the current somebody. The right person with the right passion only needs a lift to gain real attention.

How to make a topic influencer in five steps.

• Engagement. Discover customers, advocates, and topic enthusiasts who have an authentic passion for your product or service. They may not be "popular" but their passion for your brand is infectious in ways that paid or perked influencers will never deliver. Give these fans some real attention by letting them know your organization noticed.

• Education. Every exchange is an opportunity to learn more about your clients while they learn more about your product or service. Successful professionals have always relied on the art of conversation to learn more about their clients and find new ways to provide real value. Take it a step further online and help people with an interest in your industry become experts.

• Exposure. Almost everyone appreciates a call out for something they say, write, or share online. When they say it about you, make sure you take it a step further than a thank you. Share and provide some context into why it is worthwhile to your organization's audience. If it happens to be about your product or service, even better. Third-party endorsements don't have to be from celebrities.

• Exclusivity. There is no better way to make someone an overnight influencer than giving them something in advance of everyone else. It doesn't always matter what that might be — it could be some news, a video clip, an invitation, or a working demo. The fact they have it first will move them to the head of the class — even if nobody saw them as an influencer before.

• Endorsement. Third-party endorsements don't happen in one direction. As several influencers are nurtured from the ground up, any organization can call them out as rising stars in the industry. Boosting their credibility as someone who knows your products or services as well as (or better than) your organization will lift them to be on par with almost anyone considered an influencer today.

Many of the influencers that organizations want to appease today got their start in much the same way. Nobody really noticed them until an organization or other so-called influencers gave them a lift with a call out, conversation, or mutually beneficial exposure. For many after that, a singular semi-exclusive offer (ranging from cameras to glasses and software to soda) catapulted them upward.

Even those who had the benefit of building a personal brand on the back of a big brand followed a similar path. The only real difference is that the organization accelerated the steps, with their employment or affiliation acting as an immediate endorsement. It doesn't take all that much.

So instead of only thinking in terms of influencer marketing — how to reach existing influencers — organizations need to start thinking in terms of influencer making too. Where aspiring influencers make a big difference is that their brand affinity and the strength of their relationship with a smaller pool of followers puts them in a prime position to quickly build an audience with a level of authenticity that few professional influencers retain over time — at least with the same semblance of passion.

Wednesday, July 15

Specialization Is At The Crossroads Of Tech And Design

As tempting as it might be, don't count the Apple watch out yet. Despite the cottage industry created to deride its entry into the wearables category, sales are steady even if the expectations were off.

The Apple watch was never going to see the same kind of adoption that the iPhone did. And if you thought it might, then you don't understand anything about watches. One size could never fit all. 

If anything, the opposite holds true. The evolution of technology and communication isn't ubiquitous generalization. It's specialization, with the caveat of collaboration — hardware that emphasizes one or two features well while providing access to select applications currently associated with phones.

The Marshall London, The Copenhagen Wheel, And The Leica Q.

There is no shortage of specialization beginning to take hold in the marketplace. And while many of them can be equated a luxury segment, emerging markets a fueling new luxury buyers and their influence over consumer behavior is spreading toward design and specialization. 
  
The Marshall London is an exquisite looking Android Lollipop specially designed for music lovers. Some features include dual headphone jacks, five-band equalizer, and a gold scroll wheel for volume. There is also a dedicated processor for high resolution audio (including FLAC files) at the core of it.

The Copenhagen Wheel is hardware that transforms ordinary bicycles into hybrid e-bikes. But more than that, it transforms any bike into a smart bike, capable of adjusting your workout based on environmental conditions, conveying real-time traffic and road conditions, and even giving you a boost when you need it most.


The Leica Q is a high-end, full-frame camera with a 24MP sensor and no anti-aliasing filter. The design is classic, but the camera doesn't compromise on modern tech specs. The interface enables photographers to use a touch screen or the lens and still delivers the fastest autofocus of any impact full-frame camera. A new WiFi feature also allows for remote shooting from a smart phone.

All three illustrate a shift away from total market disruption and the emergence of tech specializations that fall in line with the convergence of communication and the customer experience. Expect to see such specialization in future renditions of wearable tech too. 

People don't want a fully functional iPhone on their wrists as much as they want a classic timepiece that can also put their database on any screen they happen to direct it toward. But short of that, they are happy with wearables that do only one thing very well too.

Technology and design will reverse the move toward generalization. 

As Apple learns that the design of any watch needs to be significantly more malleable and personal than their initial offering, there may be a reassurance of interest in digital technology. The Apple Watch is certainly a step in the right direction. Now all we need are watches that are watches first (but can power up a display screen too) much like the Marshall London is a music phone, the Leica Q is a camera, and the Copenhagen Wheel is a wheel. And yet, they are so very much more.

Wednesday, July 8

Emerging Markets And Wealth Are Changing Consumer Behavior

While some luxury brands continue to express interest in courting Generation Y, a demographic loosely defined as those born between 1977 and 1994 in the United States, other brands are setting their sights on another segment all together. They see the next surge in luxury consumers not confined to American Millennials but driven by emerging markets such as India and South Africa.

One new study, Wealth X, sees India producing as many as 437,000 millionaires by 2018 (and doubling again by 2023).The nation also has a young, well-educated population with high levels of entrepreneurship and business ownership, underpinned by a well-developed legal system.

Wealth growth in Africa — especially markets such as South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya — continues to be driven by a naturally entrepreneurial population at an annual rate of over 10 percent. Not only are those markets rich in natural resources, but they also have a new foundation for technological innovation.

In addition, the study predicts Iran, Turkey, and Mexico will become economic bright spots among global markets. These markets will continue to be influenced by western European and North American definitions of luxury (including a shift from physical luxury to experiential luxury.)

Five behavioral shifts expected from emerging markets. 

Hyper-Localization. Although the world is shrinking, wealthy consumers are identifying with the cities where they work and live (and not necessarily their countries). As a result, brands need to prepare for an increasingly nonlinear development of economies and wealth creation as well as the important role proximity advertising and marketing will play in reaching those new millionaires.

New Frontiers. An increase in new wealth will continue to drive a growing early adopter segment hungry for new experiences. In addition to new frontier experiences such as space tourism and global investment opportunities cited in the study, pay attention to augmented and virtual reality space.

Luxury Experiences. Millennials are not the only population segment that is more interested in experience over products. The rich in emerging markets are increasingly shifting luxury consumption away from product purchases to lavish experiences like extreme locations and underwater holidays.

Hyper-Personalization. As well as fundamental rarity, personalization is expected to become the second major driver of exclusivity in the next decade. This will continue to manifest in tailored and unique products as well as one-off experiences.

Privacy and Intimacy. There will be an increasing desire for privacy among the wealthy in the future, yet at the same time a desire for greater intimacy among the select providers they trust. As a brand is truly defined by the relationship between itself and its customers, the newly rich will look for near flawless experiences from a shrinking pool of brands they trust.

These behavioral shifts will have a profound effect on brands. 

These are not the only shifts expected in the attitudes and psychology of the emerging wealthy. The study predicts those joining the ranks of the wealthy will become increasingly concerned about the economy, geopolitics, wealth preservation, privacy, and health care options.

With the recent financial crisis still fresh in their minds, they will be keenly sensitive to issues such as wealth preservation and the return on investment in every area of their lives from financial holdings to how they spend family holidays. At the same time, as wealth continues to become globalized, there will be an increased demand for personalization with design eclipsing technology and exclusivity defined by something other than price point alone.

The Wealth-X Part II study, which covers the next 10 years of wealth and luxury, is currently available without a registration barrier. In review, many of the concepts presented in the study are not confined to having an impact on luxury brands alone. As an emerging class of globalized rich continues to emerge, their behaviors will have a significant influence over consumer expectation on all organizations — especially in hyper-localized minded cities with increasingly unique identities.

Marketers hoping to find opportunities in behavioral shifts ahead need to begin focusing on proximity, flexibility, exclusivity, and improving the customer experience. Entrepreneurs need to look toward new frontiers that create entirely new markets — space travel, oceanic exploration, virtual reality, near-invisible energy production, and biotechnology among them.

Wednesday, July 1

What Marketers Really Need To Know About Silly Cat Videos

When describing the state of the Internet today, it's all too easy for marketers to see silly cat videos as the polar opposite of mental stimulus (myself included). And in doing so, marketers miss the point.

The popularity of silly cat videos has nothing to do with the type of content people want to consume. Their popularity has everything to do with how people want content to make them feel.

New research supports this supposition. After surveying nearly 7,000 Internet users on Internet cat consumption, researcher Jessica Gall Myrick discovered the motivations behind it and emotional benefit it delivers. People mostly watch cat videos as a means of mood management because of their potential to improve their mood. In fact, even those who use them as an excuse to procrastinate tend to temper any post-viewing guilt with feel-good fuzziness, as viewers describe their post-viewing mood as hopeful, happy, and content even if they felt anxious, annoyed, or sad before watching them.

Marketers need to pay better attention to how they make people feel. 

There is no shortage of causes that deserve consideration, topics primed to produce social outrage, or advertising that aims at creating feelings of scarcity (ads that aim to create feelings of fear, inadequacy, or make people feel unknowledgeable). Most of it, not unlike media coverage, is commonly negative or neutral. The net outcome is not surprising — it makes people feel bad or, more commonly, nothing at all.

Sooner or later, you have to wonder: Is the marketing content your organization produces adding to the anxiety or helping make people hopeful? Are you aligned with brands that promote happiness like Apple (innovation), Coke (happiness), Lowe's (empowerment) and Amazon (simplicity) or struggling   with ads that aim to demean, disparage, or attack others? Do you leave people wondering why they need your product or do you have the sense that somehow your product or service makes things better?


Sure, there are cases where negative advertising can work, especially if it is designed to capitalize on contempt for a perceived adversary. But such tactics are time sensitive to the cultural perceptions such as a decades long run of "dumb dad" ads. And social media makes for several splendid fails every year.

Don't get me wrong. The point here isn't to scrub away any rough edges if it fits. The point is to ask yourself what emotions your content is or isn't tapping into and making the appropriate adjustment in much the same way Charles Revson once did as the pioneering cosmetics executive behind Revlon.

"In the factory we make cosmetics. In the store we sell hope," Revson once said. 

Hope and happiness are powerful promises, ones that underscore many successful brands. They also cut to the quick of what motivates people in B2B and B2C spaces. Consumers want to make their lives and the world around them a little better. So do business owners. All of them might have a different outtake on what objectives best accomplish those overarching goals (comfort or exhilaration, opportunity or security), but almost all of them are rooted in hope and happiness.

When companies and content creators can't deliver on either, people turn to more than two million silly cat videos (2014) that have chalked up more than 26 billion views. Why? Not because marketers need to load their stream with silly cat videos but because these cats can deliver what most content misses — a few moments of mood managing happiness (even when these heroes look a bit grumpy).

Wednesday, June 24

The Most Powerful Brands Have Always Been Agile

Marketing and communication has a way of being reinvented over and over again, with each new and unapologetic rendition billed as a break from a seemingly blind and rigid tradition. Except they're nothing of the sort. Despite keeping things feeling fresh, most reinvention is historical revisitation.

Take some of the recent discussion revolving under brands, with the key concept being that a brand must be agile, adaptable, and seek out opportunity as opposed to a voice as personified by a logo. The argument makes sense, until you consider that the definition isn't accurate and the new idea not fresh.

The agile brand concept has been around about a century. 

Brand is not an identity, even if some marketers confuse it as such. Brand is (and has always been) the relationship between a product and its customer, as Phil Dusenberry, former chairman of BBDO Worldwide, once described it. And just like all relationships, they have to change with the times.

Oversimplified, this has always led organizations to make one of three choices. They can either adapt the relationship to meet the changing needs of aging customers; attempt to confine their relationship to a specific demographic, hopefully capture new customers to replace those who no longer identify with the product; or find new customers with whom they hope to define an entirely new relationship.

This is why (until recently) Revlon matured its brand (adapt), Nike rarely wavers in hitting the sweet spot between emerging athletes and professionals who know (demographic), and Volkswagen traded in its cool for mainstream (new relationships). It's also why RadioShack continues to struggle as a brand despite the buyout. The marketers on that team continue to mistake identity for brand, which consisted of a DIY crowd that the chain had long ignored and neglected. They want a second shot.

It also explains why entire markets can be disrupted like Zipcar, Uber, and Airbnb have done to the car rental, taxi cab, and hotel industries respectively. When organizations adopt an industry standard over a true brand relationship (e.g., airlines, fast food, grocery chains) then the customers will eventually begin to make purchasing decisions based on price or convenience instead of any relationship. Or, as in the case of the examples cited, look for someone to shake things up.

How to build an agile brand that keeps pace with change. 

The modern brand model isn't "modern" as much as it's a time-tested revisitation of a proven model. A successful brand fulfills its relationship with a customer based upon its ability to deliver on a brand promise that the customer values. As long as the organization delivers on that promise (and the customer values it), the relationship will be strong enough to weather any short-term challenges.

In addition, the organization has to be prepared for change: poised to change with the customers it has acquired or be prepared to let them go while acquiring news ones or being ready to reinvent its brand promise for a different kind of relationship with (possibly) different customers. And in every case, the value of a brand promise will almost always be based upon the organization's willingness to find contrasts between its products and services and the competition, giving customers a real choice.

And if some people don't like your contrast? No problem. Not everyone needs to be your customer as long as those who are your customers remain satisfied loyalists. They'll work hard to help you find like-minded customers — the single most valuable reward any organization can hope to earn.
 

Blog Archive

Google+ Followers

by Rich Becker Copyright © 2010 Designed by Bie Blogger Template