Disney knows how children play – Infinity and Beyond

Disney is launching its Infinity videogame on august 18th.

Infinity uses collectible figurines that will synchronize with the game, allowing the player to interact with a wide range of characters from Disney and Pixar .

Players will be able to choose from and play with characters from movies/franchises such as Pirates of the Caribbean , The Incredibles , Monsters University , The Lone Ranger , Cars  and others (all under the same roof).

Infinity characters - All mixed up
Infinity characters – All mixed up

From what I read , when Avalanche, the videogame developer pitched the idea of Infinity to Lasseter (Chief Creative Officer at Pixar) he initially rejected it. In his view, it did not seem coherent to mix different movies, characters and worlds. In his own words:

“They wanted to combine all the Pixar characters together in one game and one world. That’s always been taboo for us. Because, look, every Pixar movie we create is a unique world and our characters live in it. They have their own rules and all that. Mr. Incredible cannot go over into the Cars world, because there are no humans in that world. He cannot walk into Andy’s room, because it is a different style and look and just a different world.”

But children don´t care about coherency. They don´t relate to neat and tidy creative boundaries or rules. They simply (and rightly) just want to play and let their imaginations roam free.

This is true of any child. They will mix cars and lego and playmobil and teddy bears and they will create a unique and wonderfully incongruous world.

And its strange to me why Lasseter (which probably is the ultimate embodiment of the Peter Pan syndrome) had such trouble to visualize this initially.

This whole premise (kids play with everything irrespective of typology of toy) was a key factor in defining and bringing to live the characters in the Toy Story film. As we all remember, we saw cowboys, astronauts, pigs, dinosaurs and slinky dogs all interact in the same storyline.

From what I gather, there are two main reasons why this videogame has a big chance of succeeding (providing the pricing is reasonable

1. Because during the design and implementation phases those in charge have understood that children don´t need to/want to differentiate typologies of toys - they just combine them and play 

2. Because the game is made up of real physical toy figurines which can enhance the experience of the game by stretching it far and beyond the digital gaming platform - play (and don´t plug) as well as plug and play

figurines

So in the end Disney proves once again that, despite some hiccups along the way,  they still know their end customer and still make the effort to place themselves in their little shoes to fuel their minds.

Crowded classrooms and half-day sessions are a tragic waste of our greatest national resource – the minds of our children.

Walt Disney

Take care amigos,

Hector

 

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Company Radar: Hello Flo

The thing I love about digital in its broadest sense is its capacity to enable people with ideas and energy to take on interesting projects.

This one is launching in September but has so far gathered much inertia trough its viral ad campaign.

The company, Hello Flo, does for menstruation what Dollar Shave Club (DSC), did for shaving : provide a monthly subscription service for cost effective, simple and convenient delivery of quality products (in this case tampons and panty liners).

As in projects that are undertaken with care and with the final consumer in mind, they have added some wonderful details into the product delivery. In this case, candy is also a part of the monthly subscription being sent out (something which shows they understand the consumer during their moment of consumption!).

The approach in comms for Hello Flo seems like a breath of fresh air in terms of “normalizing” something natural that has historically been treated as taboo.

This freshness reminded me of the Bodyform ad that also achieved high levels of awareness and conversation last year:

Let’s hope that Hello Flo goes on to conquer this new ecommerce space just as DSC did (a company that also started off with an “in your face” approach to shaving).

Great to see so many disruptive and relevant digital projects that take off creatively.

Take care amigos,

Hector

 

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Research for Innovation

When we are presented with a business problem, we can either attack it from an already existing reality (an existing brand, technology, etc) Or, if it is ultimately a new type of problem, we will need to attack it with a fresh mind and try to solve it  from scratch.

These two distinctions will largely determine what research approach we use.

Innovation is an art (taken at the Saatchi Gallery)

If you are building or improving upon a certain existing business reality (currently established technology for instance), you need to understand how people value and perceive this technology, how they use it and what limits it currently has. This is when more traditional and analytical Research methodologies are very effective to understand the past and present and help shape future decisions.

But when it comes to questions that require projections into uncharted waters (like: We have this great technological advancement: How can we incorporate it into our business?) Then Research has to evolve to meet the predictive needs of the problem at hand.

This type of research becomes more of a hunt for patterns, and an amalgamation of different sources and inspirations from different markets, categories, countries. This is what is referred to as Design Research and in this process it becomes imperative that we balance raw analytics with informed intuition. Despite the “fluffy” connotations that the word intuition has when it comes to business solutions, it is in fact something much more sound. Intuition in this sense is not meant to be understood as unbound imagination or “gut sense”. Intuition should be informed, grounded, and the fruit of accumulated past experiences in other Research projects, other fields and other markets.

These are processes that are often iterative in nature as they start from assumptions and work their way through incremental changes and through the use of prototyping or even pretotyping (see my previous post on pretotyping).

It is no secret that differentiation is the Holy Grail in business breakthroughs (and in everything really: from securing a job versus other candidates to dating that girl in high school). But in a world where “Best practice” is yearned for, where products and communications are benchmarked against competitors and norms, it becomes quite a task to stand out. When everybody measures their success by contrasting their outputs with the market practice, Imitation is more probable than Innovation.

That is why to achieve differential innovation, the whole participatory team must strive to step out of their knowledge comfort zones, and accept a certain level of ambiguity. This is specially true as when comparing with other more traditional forms of research, the qualitative nature of the insights gathered through the Design Research projects do not offer the tranquility and safety of statistically representative numbers.

This ambiguity does not confront the validity of this type of Research. However it does mean that a special effort needs to be undertaken by the team members, to stress test all findings and be able to challenge and rethink any conclusions.

So, to attack a business problem that demands for an innovative solution that cannot rely heavily on the past or present, it is good to use informed insights, but it is great if we can complement these with some grounded intuition that will allow us to creatively iterate until we reach sustainable differentiation.

Would love to hear any personal experiences you’ve had on this.

As always, thanks for reading.

Take care amigos,

Hector

(Post finished to the tune of Space Cowboy by Steve Miller)

 

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Pretotyping: Fail more and quicker to reach success sooner

Sometimes you hear/read a new word and the word´s own personality stands out from the very beginning. It´s even better when the word is actually a useful one to learn. This is the case of Pretotyping.

This post is to introduce the concept and the utility of Pretotyping. I will merely be summarising from the original sources that are out there on Pretotyping which I highly recommend for anyone who wants to dig deeper: The Pretotyping Manifesto video from this past January 2012 at Stanford, the original Pretotyping web page, and the free online book

A bit of background on Pretotyping: The idea of Pretotyping, whilst largely common sense is not a new concept. It’s basically an unconventional but effective form of market research. But whilst the core nature of it is not groundbreaking, the structure and articulation of the ideas and practices that surround the Pretotyping are very poignant and feel very much new. The naming and postulation of Pretotyping has been created and championed by Alberto Savoia who was Google’s Engineering Director and an expert on Innovation.

A bit of background on Mr Savoia and the seed of the Pretotyping concept: Alberto Savoia is a serial entrepreneur, who has had his fair share of sucesses and failures. After a really promising start into entrepreneurship, his second big profile project, with big leagues VC funding, flopped. This marked a wake up call for Savoia, who while at Google, decided to focus on this very important question we should all ask ourselves every once in a while: WTF?

WTF? =why the failure?

Mr Savoia started by outlining a very simple principle.

Law of failure=most ideas fail (even if very well implemented)

If most ideas fail (just take a look at all the apps that are sitting unused in the Apple store…), and most ideas take a healthy amount of time and money to fully activate, it makes sense when Alberto urges us to, when developing a new product or service, “make sure you are building the right IT before you build IT right”. This is Mr Savoia’s mantra for developing anything succesfully (a book, a company, a product…)

The trick, as it´s quite likely that most of our ideas will fail at implementation, is not to outrun failure, but to use it to your advantage.

What is the Pretotyping premise? Well, this takes into account speed of failure. The quicker your idea fails (as most will fail) the quicker you can try more ideas until one eventually becomes a success. The worst ideas are those that we allow to fail very slowly, as they consume our time, our money and our motivations in the long run.

Definition of Pretotyping: Validating the market appeal and actual usage of a potential new product or service by simulating its core experience whilst minimizing time and money spent.

The main question you ask when pretotyping: does it make sense to build it? would people use it?

In essence, Pretotyping is closer to innovative market research techniques that to prototyping.

If you adopt Pretotyping, the amount of ideas you will test will increase substantially, with them your amount of quick failures will also increase (you will fail more and quicker), but in return for your speedy failure you will eventually also come up with more successes. The goal of Pretotyping is to minimize slow, painful failures and increase quick ones, to reach success sooner.

The Pretotyping Manifesto

  • Innovators beat ideas
  • Data beats opinions
  • Doing beats talking
  • Simple beats complex
  • Now beats later
  • Commitment beats committees
  • Pretotypes beats Productypes

So what is the main advantage of  Pretotyping? Cost-efficient and speedy failure so as to quickly and cheaply discern those products or services that people won´t try, so you can go ahead and continue trying to find those that will.

Types of Pretotypes:

Mechanical Turks: Any dummy development that has not really been fully fledged out would fall into this category. A recent example mentioned by Alberto Savoia would be an IBM speech-to-text product, that was originally intented to spare business executives who were not PC-savvy from typing. The validation was executed through a Mechanical Turk as in reality the software wasn’t developed at all. Executives who tested out the Pretotype were made to believe it was a finished product when in reality there was a professional typist that did the typing into the Pretotype computer from another room.

One of the earliest examples of Pretotyping!

Pinocchio pretotype: Here you create a dummy product and assess it´s worthiness by filling in the blacks with your imagination (wooden block with painted buttons carried around with you would serve to see if you would use a palm device throughout the day)

Palm product and its Pinocchio Pretotype

Fake door: This measures interest in a service or product. You basically put an ad that explains the product and see  if people clicked on it. Very low investment (Adwords) and in return you get real consumer interest data!

Impersonator pretotypes: you take another product and wrap your product label around (to see if people would buy it, try it, etc)

Huge and very successful companies pretotyped in their origins. Facebook tried out pretotyping. They started with a small group of university students to see if the idea really worked. And the rest is history.

Pretotyping has also been vastly used in advertising. When developing an ad idea, you don’t produce and shoot straightaway. You recreate a mock up version of the advert to see if it is differentiating and relevant enough to really produce.

Any examples out there that you can think of that involve Pretotyping?

Take care amigos,

Hector

(post finished to the tune of Summerlines , by Au Revoir Simone)

 

 

 

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Who watches the Swatchmen: Innovation in marketing strategy

To Innovate comes from the latin word Innovare: to renew, to restore, to change.

By default, when the word innovation pops up, people tend to think about technological advancements. About improvements in processes, methods, services, and products. Innovation seems to be about hardware, materials, machines.

But what about innovation in marketing concepts? What about renewed ideas in how to approach similar products? With technological advancements today being more easily replicated than ever, innovative ideas, finding new ways to address markets, are more important than ever.

Products can be designed, manufactured, and distributed, but it is marketing strategy and the powerful ideas behind it that truly move customers to the new products.

An example of various types of innovations (processes, materials and marketing concepts) can be found if we briefly analyze the evolution of the watchmaking industry

Since the 1800’s and until the 1940’s Swiss watchmakers were the pinnacle of their industry. If it wasn’t Swiss, it wasn’t truly a watch. The Swiss took pride in the intricate mechanical movements that composed their precious watches, almost a jewelry item. Brands like Beaume & Mercier, Longines, Omega, Piaget and Rolex were back then marketed around values such as quality, exquisite elaboration, expertise and heritage. Highly priced and considered as “investments”.

In the 1950’s in post war US, a technological innovation took place around the TIMEX brand. The first watch to fully employ mass production, enter and own the low price segment. Manufactured with lower quality materials they drove costs down. A watch wasn’t a jewel anymore. A watch was something that told you the time, and anyone should be able to afford one. Along with the manufacturing innovation with cheaper processes and materials came an original campaign that directly addressed consumer’s concerns around the quality and durability of the TIMEX watches (their tagline being “It takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin”). They developed campaigns with live demonstration tests in a distinctive manner that stuck with consumers.

Within a decade a third of all watches worn in the USA where TIMEX.

Fast Forward to the 1970’s when Japanese brands like Hattori Seiko, Citizen and Casio fully leveraged the new Quartz technology and blended it with a me-too strategy (Swiss appearance, Quartz insides) all still within a lower price segment. Quartz components also allowed for multifunctional watches.

By this time, the Swiss watch industry was in crisis. Their whole way of developing and marketing their product was now largely updated, and their share of market had shrunk massively.

1980’s. Enter Swatch. The landing of the Swiss Industry into the low price segment. Theirs was a wholly new approach marketing a watch brand. Swatch innovated not on technology. It innovated in design and in positioning, and managed to reinvent a country industry.

How did they accomplish this? Swatch created a message. Swatch was not only about the watch in itself. It wasn’t the cheapest, it wasn’t the best. Swatch was the watch that had something to say and wasn’t afraid to say it. It managed to position itself as a new form of expression. Loud colors, cool designs and low-ish price, creating even a collectors vibe around the brand. Where predecessors internationally had established connections around functional values, swatch built a brand that bonded emotionally with consumers through an innovative marketing strategy. Swatch changed the rules of the game and relied heavily on TV campaigns to fully extend their image (In the 90’s Swatch was ranked among the top 100 advertisers in Europe in Television)

The three waves (US, Japanese, Modern Swiss) were waves of innovation. The first two were more technological in nature: US more geared in processes, the Japanese in materials. Swatch originated no doubt from the technological advancements, but it’s main strength was innovation in its marketing approach. Swatch innovated in the way it connected with consumers. Not so much hardware but ideaware.

Take care amigos,

Hector

(Post ended to the tune of Beautiful day by The Eels)

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