Friday, March 4, 2011

Beauty is more than pixel deep

Panasonic dug up an interesting insight a while ago, most people hate how they look in pictures. This is one of those, moments when you slap yourself in the forehead and say, "doh!"

Of course most people hate how they look in pictures. That's why there's been retouching in Hollywood as long as there have been movie stars. We all want to make ourselves look better.

And while there are solutions to this in the form of software programs like Photoshop, most of it is too complicated for the typical consumer to use and it doesn't account for the fact that a lot of images now go straight from the camera to the world wide interweb.

Putting two and two together, Panasonic created a new software addition to its Lumix camera that allows people to smooth their complexion, give them a warm summer glow and even add make up.

Is it a breakthrough application that will save the world? No. But I have a funny feeling it will do pretty well for Panasonic. There's a lot of money to be made appealing to people's vanity.

Just wondering, when does it come out with the "George Clooney" filter?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Apple ups the ante

The iPad 2 is coming and at yesterdays announcement we learned that it's thinner, lighter, more powerful, has front and back facing cameras and apparently whitens your teeth while you do the dishes. Pretty much everything you'd expect from a second generation Apple product.

But what impresses me as much as the product itself is how well and consistently Apple communicates the products features and benefits. This video for the new Smart Cover is a great example.

Simple, smart, understated and just hip enough using Fiona Apple's "Extraordinary Machine" as the soundtrack.

Unlike other companies that make the product then turn it over to the agency to do the advertising, Apple works with its agency through the development process, leveraging the insights gained to focus communications and speed time to market. This rare partnership between developers and marketers is one big reason apple continues to dominate its competitors.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Bulli for us

Volkswagen's quest for world automotive domination took another step forward by looking into their past again.

This week at the Geneva Auto Show, Volkswagen unveiled a new concept vehicle that harkens back to the quintessential hippie vehicle, the microbus. The 2011 version is markedly different from its predecessor which was last produced in the U.S. in 1979.

It's powered by an electric motor that puts out 114 horsepower and has a range of 186 miles with a top speed of 87 miles per hour, all while seating six. In a nod to the Bulli's nomadic heritage, this latest concept also converts into camper. It also features an iPad-based infotainment system that offers a lot of interesting possibilities.

As cool as this concept is, Volkswagen has a history of teasing us with interesting ideas and not producing them, so don't hold your breath on this, but it does make sense. It fills a very big hole in their lineup, it introduces electric power to the brand, and it helps them recapture a piece of their heritage that they've ignored for the past three decades.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The web, now with bigger more annoying ads!

No one pays attention to online advertising.

Okay, maybe that's an overstatement, maybe. But think about it, how many websites have you visited today and how many ads can you remember seeing on those sites? I visited a few sites this morning – the New York Times,, Youtube and Facebook among others – and the only ad I can remember seeing was an ad featuring a QR code that I think was for IBM.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau wants to "fix" that by offering bigger more intrusive ad units with more interactivity.

I hate to break it to marketers, but people don't come to the web to look at your ads. They're here to catch up with friends, read a few articles, and watch a video of a cat playing the piano.

Making the ads bigger is like a five-year old yelling at his mom while she's on the phone hoping to get her attention. It only succeeds in being an annoyance.

I know someone has to pay for content on the web and advertising sponsorship seems like a logical source, but no one has cracked the code yet and it seems like the industry is getting desperate.

Oh, I went back and looked at that ad I noticed and it was for AT&T.

Monday, February 28, 2011

More is nothing more than more

Marketers always assume that their customers want one thing from them: more.

So every year they add more – more features, more options, more news – to make sure their product has something for everyone.

One problem: added features mean added complexity and added complexity rarely leads to greater customer satisfaction.

Ford found this out recently with their MyFord Touch digital dash system. They've loaded it with so many features and made it so complex to use that dealers are having to spend an additional hour with customers when they deliver their new cars just to make sure they know how to use it. There are online tutorials, and even after-sale dealer training classes.

My guess is, Ford built a lot of features into the system that most people will never use in order to make sure that they didn't leave anything out that someone might want. Once you get past the wow-factor of the snazzy new technology, its complexity and cost will ultimately detract from the driving experience. And that will leave owners unhappy.

It's hard to be satisfied with a product when you don't know how to use it.