Everything is a Remix

With emergent technology and new consumer behaviors driving the marketplace, CIOs and other business leaders are recognizing the increasing need for innovation to support growth. Disruption has become a resonant buzz word, but is it possible to truly invent or innovate at all?

A popular Ted Talk given by filmmaker and author Kirby Ferguson offers a new perspective on the creativity that turns the wheels of business and society; Everything is a ‘remix.’ The argument is hard to refute; the creators in our society often achieve great success taking any number of ideas that already exist, and copying, transforming, and combining them to create something new. Especially today, with the internet playing a prominent role in everyday life, people are far more connected and collaborative, sharing ideas and concepts, leading to more rapid and volatile changes in trends and consumer responses as ‘new’ ideas arrive. As a side effect, this collaborate culture has all but eliminated the ability to invent anything that is, in itself, truly new.

Many products publically marketed as true innovations are, in reality, far from it. Take the hugely popular Apple iPad as an example; the concept of a tablet computer, in which the user interfaces directly with the display, had existed for decades prior to the iPad’s launch. Manufacturers like IBM and Hewlett-Packard had models available for nearly 10 years before the public fell in love with the sleek Apple device. The touch screen technology that wowed consumers on the tablet and its ‘disruptive’ precursor, the iPhone, was nothing new, but hadn’t ever been applied to consumer electronics before.

Objectively, the new products could have been dismissed as a rehash of a handful of old ideas that never caught on, but the push by Apple to believe in their product as a true innovation drove a very abrupt shift in the marketplace. The device was a hit, and suddenly, the market for not just the iPad, but other similar mobile devices exploded thanks largely to a perceived milestone of innovation.

Businesses taking a step back and looking at the big picture are sure to notice that product life cycles are shrinking and competition is growing as barriers to entry are mitigated by the opportunities available in our modern, connected, and technologically advanced world. Where do we go from here? The real requirement is to, like Apple, take an innovative approach to the process of innovation itself. It is essential to believe that, even if everything is a remix, true innovation is still possible and is still the lifeblood of the business world.

Lovely Day for a PICNIC

Technology is constantly evolving. This evolution occurs so rapidly and can be so confusing that even IT professionals have a difficult time keeping up with the newest hardware, software, procedures, and techniques. So how can executives, entrepreneurs, and other busy members of the workforce possibly expect to know how to react when a problem arises with the technology that drives the modern business world?

PICNIC errors, or, “Problem in Chair, Not in Computer” is a phrase that bounces around the digital marketplace every day as a way to describe user error, probably accompanied by some snickering at the expense of less tech savvy members of the workforce. The term alludes to the fact that all kinds of technologies, not just hardware like computers and mobile devices, but also common experiences like building websites or using social media and digital ad platforms, are designed to always do exactly what they are instructed to do, which often becomes a problem when the person operating the system doesn’t quite get the input right.

It happens all too frequently when a question or a complaint comes through from a client; dealing with technical issues isn’t a big hassle, but it becomes problematic when the conversation gets argumentative, or blame is assigned for problems that actually have very simple fixes for someone who understands exactly what is going on. It’s just not healthy for the relationship. Patience is incredibly important in these situations.

Our advice for clients when technology just isn’t working like you want it to is twofold: First, focus on educating yourself as much as possible. Simply learning as much as possible about how a new technology works is the easiest way to avoid misunderstandings and anger when these frustrating situations arise. Second, open the lines of communication; find a helpful partner to assist with problems that are admittedly beyond your capabilities. It is far more efficient to defer to the experts than to expend time and energy fighting an uphill battle with technology you don’t fully understand.

These two steps will not only help shed the stress of struggling against an emotionless and very stubborn opponent, but also enable quick resolution to any technical problem, allowing you to get back to business!

Got the Time?

**From the pages of Junction’s notebook: Read about the experiences, perspectives, and ideas of Junction team members.

I was racing to a meeting and realized that I had left my cell phone at the office. I desperately looked at my colleague fearing that I would be late. I ask her if she can check her cell phone to see what time it is. She peered at me and smiled. She calmly replied, “Aren’t you wearing a watch?” In fact, I was wearing my favorite white ceramic watch. It was one of those embarrassing moments, but it made me question- how did we get to this point?

Now that so many people rely on their cell phones to tell them what time it is, global sales of watches have been consistently declining since 2005. Wristwatches are now just a fashionable, rather than functional, accessory. Since most people carry mobile devices with them at all times, the timekeeping abilities of watches are all but obsolete.

We interact with our phones and tablets so much that mobile device use is projected replace PCs as our primary point of access to the internet by as soon as 2014. Sometimes, I subconsciously know the time just because I have been checking my phone every 5 minutes for the last hour…

There is real lasting impact to the culture shift we are currently undergoing. Technology continues to change how we approach work and life. It’s strange to think that our future generations may not have to learn how to tell time on an analog clock, but rather will be conditioned to look at a digital display as I am. Hopefully the next time I leave my cell phone behind, I will remember to look at my wrist!

Attention All Shoppers

Over the course of the past decade, the retail industry has arguably undergone more change than it had in the previous century. Entrepreneurs like Rowland Macy and Richard Sears probably never could have envisioned their modest businesses blossoming into a more than $4 trillion industry in the US in less than 100 years. The rise of a predominant consumer culture has been well-documented, and is responsible for much of the increased demand for consumer and trade goods, but the immense transformation of retail into an institution embedded in the American lifestyle has truly been fueled by growth in available technology.

The boom in tech has created a great amount of competition in the mobile space for retailers. By the end of 2011, 39% of brick-and-mortar retailers with top-500 e-commerce websites by revenue also had mobile websites, and nearly 26% had mobile apps. Still, online sales currently represent only 9% of all retail sales – so what is driving shoppers through the doors?


Thanks to the proliferation of mobile devices and a drastic increase in average consumer time spent online, marketing for retail has, in essence, evolved from targeted engagement on a single channel to capturing an audience across touchpoints on multiple platforms, devices, and locations. Attracting customers is no longer as simple as offering better pricing or amenities; customers make purchase decisions based on experiences. Just this year, JC Penney reported a severe drop in business when they ceased offering sales and coupons (a hallmark of their brand) in favor of an ‘everyday low price’ pricing structure. It’s not a simple formula; considering how many different items are now listed on the modern retail marketer’s agenda, uniformity of message across each andevery channel becomes more crucial than ever.

The best way to achieve this consistency is to build connected experiences that carry the brand between different times and places of interaction. Consumers have been empowered to research, price, and purchase nearly any product or service within minutes and have it delivered directly to their doorstep. Amidst all the options, delivering the right message at the right moment is the strongest way to influence a purchase. Placing as much information in the hands of consumers in order to make their decision is important, but no amount of messaging is useful without timing and targeting. The challenge is to make the transition across platforms as seamlessly as possible; nail the experience even just once and create invaluable loyalty.

Solavei: The Network Where Social Meets Commerce in a Big Way

Solavei™, the first social commerce network for mobile services distribution, is grabbing headlines in anticipation of its September 21st launch.

Solavei™ is a new social commerce company offering an affordable, contract-free mobile service that actually pays back consumers for adding new members. The Solavei Mobile Service is a comprehensive mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) utilizing T-Mobile’s nationwide 4G network. As a member of the network, consumers sign up for a $49 per month unlimited voice, text and data plan, and earn income by engaging friends and family to purchase the mobile service through Solavei’s integrated social networking platform.
“We are going to make a difference in people’s lives by shifting billions of dollars from traditional mass-media advertising into the greatest advertising vehicle today – people,” said Ryan Wuerch, founder and CEO of Solavei. “Solavei is the first company to create an economic linkage between mobile service, social commerce and social-networking technology. We give people the opportunity to earn income by using and promoting the services they are already consuming each and every day.”

The first half of 2012 has brought quite a bit of excitement across the marketing and media industries. Facebook stole the headlines with the unprecedented valuation and their May 17 IPO that is now considered one of the worst performing of 2012. Twitter experienced its longest service disruption since an hour long outage in October 2011, causing an internet freak-out. Just now, as Q3 begins, Microsoft and NBC complete a web divorce that has industries speculating what the future holds for NBCnews.com. The appointment of Marissa Mayer, 37, to run the global media giant Yahoo! as the youngest CEO in the Fortune 500 continues the trend. While it’s hard to predict what is to come, it’s safe to say that Solavei is attempting to do what no other company has tried.

“As a purveyor of all things social and mobile, Solavei is positioned to completely revolutionize the market place,” comments Julie Gareleck, CEO & Managing Partner of Junction Creative Solutions. “As founding members, we have the access to test the platform before its official launch into the marketplace. As an agency, it’s a great experience to be involved with such an amazing group of leaders who will make a significant impact on consumer behavior, social networks, and commerce.”

Gareleck is sharing a few spots for other industry leaders interested in testing this new network before its debut on September 21st. Contact Gareleck at julie@junction-creative.com for an invitation.

ABOUT SOLAVEI

Solavei is a social networking and commerce platform that enables users to connect, share and capitalize on the power of social networks. Solavei’s mission is to make commerce less expensive by empowering individuals to earn income on the products and services they enjoy and use every day. Solavei’s initial product offering is affordable, no contract, unlimited text, voice and data services throughout the United States. It operates as a MVNO through a strategic partnership with T-Mobile USA. Solavei is led by former Fortune 100 telecom and retail executives and advisors. For more information, visit www.solavei.com. For the brand’s latest news and updates, find Solavei on social media at facebook.com/solavei and twitter.com/solavei.

Checking In or Checking Out: Geo-Regulation

Over the course of the past year, we have frequently touched on how location-based services, specifically geolocation technologies, have facilitated the growth of mobile marketing, discussing topics such as the latest SoLoMo trends and the influential experience of contextual advertising. Now, the government is in the process of moderating a complicated discussion about the future regulation of these powerful technologies.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have joined forces to open a dialogue about high level privacy and security issues related to this data, playing mediator between telecommunications carriers, tech companies, consumer advocacy groups, and academics. A first official bill has recently been introduced to Congress, and it is now intensifying the debate.

Some groups have voiced their support for new comprehensive privacy legislation that would establish baseline privacy rights and requirements applicable to user information such as the data collected by geolocation technologies. On the other hand, a host of entities poised to benefit from the collection of this user data, have vehemently opposed additional regulation or legislation, arguing that businesses have marketplace incentives to be careful about user privacy. This side has argued that given the relative youth of the geolocation industry, the government likely lacks the information needed to create requirements that would meaningfully protect user privacy without stifling innovation and growth.

In the current regulatory environment, location based services do benefit both consumers and businesses. “Self-regulation” has so far been successful; consumers must opt-in to have their location data tracked. Although there have been instances of companies violating or working around this stipulation, there is yet to be a case stemming from the collection of this data. At the very least, consumers are becoming increasingly educated about the associated risks in privacy as the technologies become more commonplace.

What role will geolocation services play in mobile marketing in 2, 5, or 10 years? The future role of this technology will likely depend on a combination of consumer sentiments and some level of government supervision. Until then, consumers’ wants, needs, and expectation continue to drive the geolocation marketplace.

Visual Search Revolving Around Axis

Last week, Yahoo! officially released its new “visually enhanced” web browser for desktops and iOS devices. Known as Axis, the browser is an innovative spin on visual searches that aims to streamline the searching experience by effectively eliminating the concept of a ‘results’ page.

Yahoo!’s demo video shows why Axis’ technology could be the key to getting consumers to return to using the company’s search engine, which has lost a huge amount of market share since its heyday in the time before Google’s rise to the pinnacle of the search mountain. The idea takes hold of trends in social and mobile computing that offer users distinct value, such as connecting search history across multiple devices and offering a much richer experience on mobile platforms. Plus, the thing just looks great.

The initial reception has been mixed, with the main theme being that Axis is simply great on mobile devices, and not-so-great on desktops.  With smart devices and mobile applications expected to reach its peak by 2015, Yahoo! is capitalizing on the trend.  On an iPhone, and especially on an iPad, the integrated search feature feels intuitive, and being able to move seamlessly through visual search results without having to hit a ‘back’ button is long overdue. On the way is a version for Android platforms which can be expected to offer solid functionality similar to that found on the iOS version, meaning that the entire smartphone market will have the chance to give Axis a spin. Apple and Google apparently aren’t too worried about the competition as of yet, but that may change in time.

Amidst the excitement that Axis is generating, the browser may potentially affect Yahoo!’s business, as it eliminates a huge amount of the search advertising revenue that has already been suffering in recent years. If it’s successful, Axis could begin a revolution in search technology, fueled by current user preferences bringing Yahoo! to the forefront of contextual and experiential computing.

Looking Towards the Stars

Picture this: a group of eccentric billionaires and former NASA scientists are gathered around a conference table, discussing plans to significantly shape the world economy. Their plan is to mine asteroids hurling through space for rare metals like gold and platinum and bring the resources back onto earth. Does this sound like some type of diabolical scheme hatched by villains in a sci-fi movie?

The fact of the matter is that these roundtable discussions are happening today and are very real. “Space mining” is absolutely normal conversation in the boardrooms of Planetary Resources, a collaborative effort between prominent entrepreneurs, aerospace engineers, and futurist philanthropists that plans to begin harnessing resources from asteroids to add trillions of dollars to the world GDP within the next 2 years.

It is an initiative that seems to push against every boundary of the imagination when it comes to creating a business model. The co-founders and backers of Planetary Resources are about as qualified as any group could possibly be to run a company whose mission is to realize the wild dreams of science fiction authors of the past 50 years. Figures like Peter Diamandis, chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation, Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google, and Film Director and James Cameron all exhibit passion and relentless drive towards innovation and exploration. Their commitment to innovation is one thing, but how far can ambition carry an entrepreneur or a company?

Every business, regardless of size, is at its core fueled by the ambitions of both the leadership and the individual members of the organization. In the digital age, with powerful technology at our disposal, it is crucial to design strategies and initiatives that help a company work towards attaining its goals. It is the push that defines success.

For some, Planetary Resources may arguably be called the single most ambitious private venture in the history of mankind. Still, there seems little reason to doubt that the goals and objectives that have been laid out by the company given the capability and unparalleled determination of its personnel. If the organization manages to ultimately fulfill the vision, it will be resounding and historic proof that just about anything is possible.

Retweet to Eat

**From the pages of Junction’s notebook: Read about the experiences, perspectives, and ideas of Junction team members.

Scrolling through my Twitter timeline, one particular tweet caught my eye. “Want to dine with us on our opening weekend? RT this w/ your email addy.”

Within the rise of the ‘new’ food industry, restaurant openings from locally or nationally famous chefs are highly anticipated. The phone lines become jammed with foodies and socialistas seeking reservations for the hottest new table in town. As is often the case, the new hotspot was to open for Saturday and Sunday evening for a select group of diners prior to the reservation system opening the restaurant to the hungry public on Monday. However, the lucky few were not food critics or pro athletes, not even friends or family to the chef or management; they were simply Twitter followers.

Originally planning to wait until the hordes died down and initial reviews came back positive, I found myself suddenly compelled to participate in the experiment when the tweet showed up in my feed. I followed the directions, retweeting and providing an email address for contact. Two days later, nearly having forgotten about the whole thing, I received an email from the sommelier with good news.

Working through the kinks of this highly unusual process, we sent 5 emails in total back and forth – hardly efficient – but I was ultimately rewarded with a phone call from the front desk confirming my reservation.

After a spectacular and innovative meal with a true VIP experience, I sat at my table incredulous at the realization that I had booked the exciting dinner directly through a social media outlet. I had been rewarded dearly for being a loyal follower. Instantly, I was galvanized as a dedicated customer by the thought.

Of course, the ‘Twitter Reservation System’ isn’t en route to overtake the likes of OpenTable or old fashioned phone calls for reservations any time soon, but this particular experiment hooked me in and ultimately electrified me, proving the power of social media done right.

Social Media: Boom to Bust?

As Facebook reports its user base has reached 901 million users and acquires Instagram for a staggering $1 billion, industry analysts continue to debate the existence of what is being deemed the “social media bubble.” Some argue that social media is a sign of a burgeoning online community that fuels the economy. Skeptics speculate that this age of social media is reminiscent of the most recent collapse of the housing market and the not so distant .com bubble.

From the mid-90s to 2000, industrialized nations saw a dramatic increase in equity valuation due to the growth of the Internet sector. Venture capitalists pumped millions of dollars into start-up companies led by a young generation of entrepreneurs with big ideas and incomplete business models. The markets witnessed a surge in IPOs with remarkably high stock prices and then experienced devastating losses when the bubble burst.

Not so dissimilar, social media companies, most notably Facebook, are entering the market with incredible valuations. Valuations are being based on the potential buying power of these social media user bases. But is the potential of this large consumer base enough to drive sustainability and stability? News that financial advisors are cautioning clients against social media fund plays may be a sign of what is to come.

There is no question that the industry is experiencing a social media boom, but its fate will no doubt fuel speculations on both sides of the argument. What do you think?