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Posts in category 'Marketing'

16 January 2008

How immersive technology can revitalize the shopping experience

IBM
IBM just released a white paper entitled “How immersive technology can revitalize the shopping experience”.

“Truly immersive experiences—which connect with shoppers on an emotional level through personalized dialogues and give them greater control over the shopping experience—are the new frontier in retailing. The immersive retail experience is more about involving the customer than it is about merchandise and merchandising. Think outdoor stores that provide simulated trails or streams for testing equipment, or appliance stores with test kitchens where customers can feel what it’s like to actually use products. In other words, for stores in many retail segments to stay ahead of competitors, they will need to generate the excitement of a theme park ride—and become a destination. [...]

Immersive technology solutions—which stimulate people’s visual, auditory, olfactory and tactile senses to connect with shoppers on an emotional level to create unforgettable shopping experiences—can open up a whole new world of energizing shopping experiences. Combined with flexible, responsive business models, they have the potential to transform the way customers interact with your brand. This brief explores how immersive technologies and business strategies can create a brand voice that generates renewed excitement about your store. It also examines IBM’s vision for immersive technologies.”

Download paper

(via the Experience Economist)

8 January 2008

Eataly, the slow and experiential supermarket

Eataly
Last week I visited Eataly again, a fantastic “experiential” supermarket, right here in Torino. Associated with the Slow Food movement, you can dwell in it for hours and feel constantly stimulated, intellectually, sensually and visually.

But I had never written about in those terms. Mea culpa. I was reminded of this gap only when I read the Guinness Storehouse case study on the Design Council website.

The Atlantic Monthly [full article here] calls it the “supermarket of the future”:

“Eataly is an irresistible realization of every food-lover’s gluttonous fantasy, paired with guilt-cleansing social conscience—a new combination of grand food hall, farm stand, continuing- education university, and throbbing urban market. Much like Boqueria, in Barcelona, and Vucciria, in Palermo, two of the few thriving center-city markets left in Europe, Eataly draws all classes and ages at all times of day. The emphasis on local and artisanal producers, education, affordable prices, a lightened environmental footprint, and sheer fun makes Eataly a persuasive model for the supermarket of the future—one that is sure to be widely copied around the world. The question is whether Eataly will bite the hands of the people feeding it, the people it says it wants to help: Slow Food, which is the arbiter and moral center of today’s food culture, and the artisans themselves. “

Monocle carries an excellent video report:

“Housed in a former vermouth factory, Eataly offers the finest artisanal produce from Italian suppliers, all selected with the assistance of Slow Food Italia and accompanied by lovingly compiled details of its provenance and production.”

And also The New York Times featured it, using the opportunity to announce that a smaller version (one tenth the size of the Torino market) will open this spring in a two-level, 10,000-square-foot space in the new Centria building at 18 West 48th Street in New York:

“In January, in what had been a defunct vermouth factory in Turin, [Oscar Farinetti] opened a 30,000-square-foot megastore called Eataly that combines elements of a bustling European open market, a Whole-Foods-style supermarket, a high-end food court and a New Age learning center. [...]“

“Artisanal products from some 900 Italian producers fill the store’s shelves, and 12 suppliers (some of which Mr. Farinetti invested in or bought outright) were enlisted as partners. Many of the food items are accompanied by explanatory placards and nearly half of the three-level store is dedicated to educational activities: a computer center, a library, a vermouth museum and rooms for cooking classes and tasting seminars. [...]“

“According to management, more than 1.5 million people visited the store in its first six months and sales have exceeded projections.”

In short, for the real experience of fresh products from the Piedmont countryside you need to come to Torino.

2 December 2007

Must see video: “We Think” vs. “The Cult of the Amateur”

Marketing 3
M3, the Dutch marketing conference, was this year devoted to co-creation.

Keynote speakers were Charles Leadbeater (author of We-Think) and Andrew Keen (author of The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture), arguing their “enemy” positions.

Future Lab‘s Alain Thys lets us know that the guys from Marketing3 have just uploaded the videos of both their keynotes and the very sparkling debate that followed their respective speeches.

The second video also contains their lively and entertaining verbal game of chess (starts at 00:22:00).

30 November 2007

Mobile service providers failing to meet corporate customer needs, says Gartner

Business user
Many mobile service providers are failing to capitalise on potentially lucrative corporate contracts because they don’t focus enough on client’s business needs, according to Gartner. Service providers that don’t update their sales strategies to provide tailored solutions to businesses risk losing valuable corporate customers and becoming chiefly consumer players, analysts warned.

“These continue to be very competitive times for mobile service providers with the market near saturation point in many regions,” said Martin Gutberlet, research vice-president at Gartner. “To compete efficiently in this challenging landscape, mobile service providers need to find new ways to improve customer loyalty and retention and this must include corporate contracts. Our research shows that many service providers are not currently doing enough to retain corporate clients in the long-term.”

Many mobile service providers would argue that they already have a dedicated corporate sales force that focuses on business requirements, but Gartner has found that for the most part, providers are not fulfilling these needs. Instead, the focus is on selling SIM cards with complex, non-transparent pricing schemes and giving discounts related to total spending, rather than delivering individual, tailored services.

Read full story

27 November 2007

Apple is creating “a place where you belong”

Bob
Apple has been progressively changing its retail store format over the past year, eliminating cash registers while introducing several new services and increased staffing, to create a more personalized and friendly environment for customers, reports MacNN in an article entitled “Apple overhauls retail customer experience”.
Apple wants to maintain a casual feel in the stores, something that is reflected by its customers as they browse, use internet, or bringing their children in to play at the low-legged tables. “We try to pattern the feeling to a 5-star hotel,” said Apple’s retail chief, Ron Johnson. “It’s not about selling. It’s about creating a place where you belong.”

Read full story

A longer story on the topic was recently published by AP News.

30 September 2007

WARC, huge online marketing database with many relevant papers

WARC
I just took a 7 day trial subscription to the online database of the World Advertising Research Center (WARC) – which allows you the download of 5 papers – and discovered a treasure trove of information.

Two papers in particular caught my attention:

The emperor’s new clothes: technology is useless if consumers can’t use it
Simon Silvester, Market Leader, Spring 2007, Issue 36, pp.20-24
Digital technology is developing at a staggering rate, but there is a danger that it could collapse as the dotcom boom did if companies do not change their attitude to consumers. Consumer ability to understand technology does not rise; consumers (including the young) adopt new products slowly, and with difficulty. Most people use only one or two of the many functions programmed into their equipment, and companies need to understand how innovations spread through a population, and how understanding always falls as mainstream consumers follow the technology nerds who adopt first. They must put the consumer first and become more basic in their marketing. This includes finding the one killer application that is really wanted, instead of adding functions that no-one will use just because it is possible. Simplicity is a primary benefit. The article ends with 15 guidelines for making sure that technological products become user-friendly: they include watching what people actually do, including women and people in emerging markets.

Transforming leisure with ethnography
Caroline Gibbons-Barry, Scott Moshier and Karen Hofman, ESOMAR, Leisure Conference, Rome, November 2006
To offer satisfying experiences, the leisure industry must understand how consumers have adopted a complex, multifaceted and integrated approach to leisure. Profound cultural and values shifts have lead consumers to build uplifting and transformative leisure moments into their everyday lives, changing the standard against which the leisure industry must compete. Ethnography can take leisure purveyors beyond their own facilities to uncover both the contexts that inform consumer mindsets and perspectives, and what resonates with consumers’ inner beings and deepest desires.

Since it’s a subscription based service, I cannot link to the papers but the site has a good search engine. Unfortunately, full subscription is rather expensive.

27 September 2007

Claritas segments the U.S. population

Claritas
Claritas has concluded that 66 types of people live in the suburbs, cities and rural areas of the USA, reports Challis Hodge.

You can view a presentation on their research here. If you are living in the United States, you can look up your neighborhood based on zip code to find out what segments are living next door to you.

No time to visit the site? How about a few examples!

Winner’s Circle
The young, well-to-do parents in this segment live in new-money subdivisions surrounded by golf courses and upscale boutiques. Their plasma televisions are tuned to Nickelodeon, but kids don’t keep them from traveling.
Median household income $102,213
Hangout Broomfield County, Colorado (Broomfield)

God’s Country
These urban refugees have fled to the country seeking a more laid-back lifestyle. Though they travel frequently for business, leisure is a top priority. They read Skiing magazine, drive Toyota Land Cruisers, and tune into the Outdoor Life Network.
Median household income $83,827
Hangout Teton County, Wyoming (Jackson)

Second City Elite
These culture-savvy middle-aged folks without kids splurge on themselves with multiple computers, large-screen TVs, and an impressive collection of wines. They read Inc. magazine, watch Washington Week, and drive around town in Toyota Avalons.
Median household income $74,375
Hangout Dallas County, Texas (Dallas)

3 July 2007

The Nokia “observe and design” brand slide show

First we observe
Nokia’s Keith Pardy and Alastair Curtis produced a slideshow on brand and design priorities, as part of an external presentation to investors at the Nokia Capital Markets Day 2006.

The presentation is all about Nokia’s human approach to technology: i.e. observing first (“the often small, the sometimes big moments of everyday”) and designing later, and turning that int a brand philosophy.

Keith Pardy is strategic vice president of Nokia Strategic Marketing, whereas Alastair Curtis is Nokia’s chief designer.

(via Logic & Emotion)

1 July 2007

Timo Veikkola (Nokia) on a vision of the future

Timo Veikkola
This 20 minute video from the PSFK Conference London 2007 shows the presentation given by Timo Veikkola, senior future specialist at Nokia, on a Vision of our Future. As design is the reflection of society, how can we envision the future through trends, observation and informed intuition. What values, attitudes and behaviours of today will shape our future?

Juliana Xavier provides some more background on her blog “mind the gap”.

Timo Veikkola is an anthropologist; he studies people into culture. As many anthropologists these days he holds a strategic position inside a global corporation. As senior future specialist at Nokia Design, he looks at society to comprehend how there are going to be shifts in behaviour and culture that can inspire their design team. [...]

According to him, trends are the manifestation of values and attitudes, of people’s behaviour and reaction to what is happening in the world. Therefore, innovation, be it a product innovation or a different way to communicate it, has to be based on a good observation and informed intuition of what is going on in the present.

Read full report

1 July 2007

Jyske, the Danish experience bank

Jyske Bank
Jyske Bank, Denmark’s third largest financial institution, invested last year 400 million Danish kroner (equivalent to 54m euro or 72m USD) to redesign and brand their bank as an experience bank.

Excerpted from the Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies:

Jyske Bank recently fundamentally changed its business concept, so the customer can put together his own banking solution. The bank has focused on the product experience, both “virtually” and in the branch. The bank calls the initiative “Jyske Difference” ["Jyske Forskelle"] and their slogan is “Jyske is the bank that makes a difference.”

In the short process (four months) during which the new business concept has been developed and partially implemented, the bank has been especially inspired by the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies‘ thoughts on Creative Man and the individualization megatrend. As they write to FO/futureorientation:

“Many consumers see banks and bank products as uniform – and a little boring. At the same time, we see that customers are changing behavior. They want more influence; they are more self-reliant while demanding personal service. The creative consumer, who wishes to create his or her own solution, is the coming thing. Consumers want to tailor their own charter vacations, car, and bank product. With the new initiative, the bank can better meet the modern consumer types of the present. With Jyske Difference, Jyske Bank signals that we are more than a bank. Jyske Bank is a bank, a store, and a modern library. Jyske Bank is the place where customers become smarter, inspired, and experience a straightforward atmosphere.”

See also this concept presentation video (2:49).

At the end of August Frank Pedersen, communication- and marketing director at Jyske Bank, will explain what they did and what the result was one year after, at Motion, the brand new experience economy conference in Norway.

23 May 2007

Are design fairs really effective?

London Design Festival
Jude Stewart ponders in a Print magazine article (reprinted by Business Week) if design fairs are really effective in drumming up business, boosting education, and promoting awareness of tomorrow’s next design capitals.

Design fairs make big promises to participants and visitors alike: creative rejuvenation, intelligent debate, matchmaking for employees and partners, convenience for major buyers, a boon to design education, and for tourists, fun. Design fairs represent a new wave in how designers promote themselves. In the past three years, Europe has gone from the twin hegemony of London’s 100% Design and Milan’s Saloni Internazionale del Mobile—both furniture fairs—to a calendar thick with inclusive design events, many in the EU’s emerging member states. As governments, sponsors, universities, and designers pour funds into these events, it’s worth asking: Do they really work? What are they even aiming for?

The article covers the London Design Festival, Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven, Budapest Design Week, Istanbul Design Week and Belgrade Design Week.

Read full story

12 April 2007

New tricks and old dogs

New tricks and old dogs
The third episode of the CNBC television series “The Business of Innovation” is devoted to understanding people’s needs.

How can companies with successful businesses convince their customers that change is needed? How do you take old companies, products, processes or systems and make new uses/markets/industries for them?

“It’s not that customers don’t know what they want. It’s rather they don’t say what they want,” says Vikrum Akula, CEO & Founder of SKS Microfinance.

“User innovation has always been around,” says Eric Von Hippel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, author of Democratizing Innovation (MIT Press). “The difference is that people can no longer deny that it is happening.” Indeed, it is “very likely that the majority of innovation happens this way,” says Mr. Von Hippel. Such innovation, he says, has a “much higher rate of success”.

Episode 3 examines how successful companies use their customers to innovate. Our expert panel offers ways in which customers can be used as a resource as well as methods useful in bringing reluctant customers into the innovation process. (Not to mention ways new customers might be discovered who might want your innovation.)

Featured guests are Meg Whitman, CEO of Ebay, Tom Freston, former president of Viacom, Vikrum Akula, CEO and founder of SKS Microfinance; and Richard Posey, CEO of Moen.

Watch programme

3 April 2007

The Vodafone journey

The Vodafone Journey
One of the sections of Vodafone’s new website is called The Vodafone Journey.

The first item in the menu of this flash-based mini-site are Vodafone’s customers. Ten stories explain how Vodafone has changed the way people work and play. The stories are quite promotional, but they nevertheless clearly emphasise the people-centred approach of the company.

Nice too is that the people featured are from New Zealand, Germany, Australia, Greece, Tanzania, Ireland, Spain, Egypt, UK and Italy, and that everyone speaks their own language.

18 March 2007

The Jan Chipchase controversy: corporate ethnography is “primitive”

Nokia Village Phone research in Uganda
Last week Business Week published an interview with Jan Chipchase, user anthropologist at Nokia Design (and frequently featured on this blog). It didn’t go down very well with Bob Jacobson:

Nokia’s ethnographic research sounds basic, even primitive. It’s akin to Dr. Livingston in “Darkest Africa,” sussing out the “natives”: how many yams they eat in a week, who tells the iconic stories, what clans do to maintain hegemony, etc. Very ho-hum, except that the technology is “cool.” Cellphone ethnographic research, so far as I can tell, studies behaviors related to product use but as the snippet in BW reveals, not the inner workings of cellphone users — how they relate to cellphones in phenomenological ways, for example.

This quote comes from a post on the anthrodesign Yahoo! group which immediately provoked reactions. It is still going on.

Tyler of Sprint Nextel supports Chipchase but arguest that “we need a comprehensive theory of design that works for anthropology (or human research for commerce)”, whereas Sridhar Dhulipala points to a report in the Times of India, Bangalore, on the usage of mobile phones. Whereas the Nokia report strikes as typical corporate leadership behaviour, Dhulipala thinks that this other story provides a contrasting insight.

Christina Bolas, an anthropologist at Sprint Nextel, was recently involved in “true ethnography of cell phone use” beyond the basic “needs assessment” or “behaviors related to product use”, but her main difficulty was “getting the results heard and supported by the pile of people needed to make real change in the industry”. She concludes: “Not only do we need a comprehensive theory of design that works for anthropology, but we also need a theory that takes into account the inevitable world of corporate politics within which that theory must live.”

Finally, Molly Wright Steenson (a former Interaction-Ivrea colleague) underlines the intrinsic value of the ethnographic approach as it greatly change what you expected to find.

18 March 2007

The experience store, a store where you don’t buy [International Herald Tribune]

Samsung Experience Store
The International Herald Tribune reflects on ‘experience stores’, the latest trend in retailing and claims it is a return to the old department store shopping experience, where shopping was treated as theatre as well.

The article claims that Samsung was the pioneer, but I think that NikeTown was at least a decade ahead. When I visited the 57th Street NikeTown in New York in ’95 or ’96, it was all very much about creating the Nike experience, and not much about selling.

“For its first store in the United States, Samsung, the South Korean electronics company, took an unconventional route: It refused to sell anything.

Having leased 10,000 square feet, or 929 square meters, of astoundingly expensive real estate in midtown Manhattan, it instead encouraged customers to commune with its products — to check e-mail on Samsung computers, watch reality shows on Samsung flat-screen televisions and make long-distance calls on Samsung cellphones.

No shopping, only loitering.

Samsung called the new concept an “experience store,” and despite fears from the shopping center’s owners that it would become a costly nap room for New York City’s huddled masses, the idea has caught fire.

Last week, AT&T said it would open 11 experience stores across the United States (though theirs would sell products), joining Motorola, Apple, Sony, Maytag and Verizon in opening such outlets over the past several years.”

Read full story

8 February 2007

Co-leader of IDEO’s Consumer Experience Design Practice on how design can drive growth

Iain Roberts
“Creating a successful brand requires more than visually appealing products. A designer must also consider the holistic experience and contextual use of the product to attract consumers.”

This was the key message of Iain Roberts, co-leader of IDEO’s Consumer Experience Design Practice, speaking about “Persuading through Great Industrial Design” to students from marketing, communications, engineering and design as part of the 2006-2007 Yaffe Center for Persuasive Communication speaker series at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business.

IDEO is a global industrial design firm whose clients include AT&T, Eli Lilly, Intel, Kraft Foods, Motorola and Proctor & Gamble.

“Roberts identified three key elements of industrial design: Aesthetics (how the product looks), ergonomics (how it works) and manufacturing (how it is made). Mass production is what characterizes industrial design.

Aesthetics, ergonomics and manufacturing are combined with the human factors of empathy, experiences and connections, he said. The designer must consider the consumer’s needs (both expressed and unexpressed), desires and self-image.”

- Read full story
- Watch video of presentationAlternate stream (iTunes)

7 February 2007

Brands are inside-out, user experience is outside-in

Experience
“If branding is all about imprinting a pre-conceived idea and marketing profile onto an audience, thus being very inside-out, what is the value and role of experience design and how does it differ from traditional branding?”, asks Luigi Canali De Rossi on Robin Good.

“Taking pretext from content published online by the UK Design Council, Peter Merholz, one of user-experience most authoritative professionals takes a clarification stand on the key differences between branding and experience design.

Though difficult to grasp at first, experience design is more about the kind of experience users actually have than about controlling the experience you try to give them.”

Read full post

1 February 2007

In Turin, design becomes supreme [La Repubblica]

Torino World Design Capital 2008
Next year, Turin will be World Design Capital. Yesterday, the event was officially presented. Below is (my) translation of an article/interview, written by Marina Paglieri and published today in La Repubblica newspaper. If you want to find out more, you can download an English press kit (pdf, 64 kb, 5 pages).

In less than a year, Turin will be the first World Capital of Design. The countdown has started. Mayor Sergio Chiamparino said during a crowded presentation at the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo auditorium that the event will be a “precise and concrete metaphor for the future opportunities of the city.” An opportunity but also a challenge, because Torino will be the inaugural city of the event, that thereafter will be awarded every two years to cities around the world. Presenting it yesterday were Peter Zec, president of ICSID (International Council of Societies of Industrial Design, the organisation which promoted the initiative and the nomination of Turin), Carlo Forcolini, president of ADI (the Italian Industrial Design Association), and the members of the Advisory Committee, who met yesterday for the first time to discuss goals and programme plans. They are the acclaimed designer Gillo Dorfles, the architect and critic Enrico Morteo, Guta Moura Guedes, founder of a Lisbon-based association that promotes design culture, and Michael Thomson, future president of BEDA (Bureau of European Design Associations). Also speaking was Giuliano Molineri, former right hand of Giorgetto Giugiaro, general manager (for nearly twenty years) of Giugiaro Design, and currently board member of ICSID and the “spiritual force” behind Turin’s year of design.

Giuliano Molineri, why is Turin World Capital of Design?
“One has to go back a bit. In 2003 our city presented its candidacy, as did 35 other cities, to host the ICSID headquarters. In the end Montreal was selected, but Turin made a big impression through its focus on design as a tool for transformation and socio-economic change. This lead to the idea of nominating the city as the first world capital of the sector: there will be other cities in the future, and they will not be selected from those that are already known design cities, such as Barcelona or Milan, but from those that are in the process of transformation.”

Precisely on that point, Gillo Dorfles said that Milan has always been seen as Italy’s design capital, even if it lost some points recently. Turin had the car, but was not able to diversify and promote other sectors. It will have to do that now, but how?
“It it true. Turin and the region of Piedmont are known worldwide for Giugiaro and Pininfarina, but less for other design excellence. This will be the opportunity to make them more known, with major international promotion. During the 2008 events, Turin will present itself as a project-oriented city, which is able to manage a productive process, thanks to its major industrial history. There is a breeding ground here, a humus, a district of companies and technologies that cannot be found anywhere else [in Italy]. There is the automotive sector, but also aeronautics, airplane design, the growing ITC sector with its focus on wireless, electronics, robotics and component design. And there is production also in many other sectors.”

Some examples?
“There are many to be sold. From home product design, with important companies such as Alessi, Girmi, Bialetti, Lagostina, to textile with Borsalino, Zegna, Piacenza, Loro Piana, Miroglio and Basicnet. From alimentary machinery to food and wine culture, with companies such as Martini, Lavazza and Ferrero. And let’s not forget boating, with the major presence of Azimut, second producer in the world of yachts longer than 28 metres. Or the cinema, from set design to the virtual. Today creativity is translated not just in products, but also in relationships and in communication. And design should be enlarged to a discourse on processes that produce design. I think of [the Turin neighbourhood of] the Quadrilatero Romano, where the original bars and restaurants lead to new connections and meetings, or of a chef like Davide Scabin of Combal.0, who had himself design the plates and the food containers. That and more will be on show next year.”

Will there be competition with Milan?
“No, there is a strong feeling of collaboration. Some people from Milan will be presenting events here. We will need to see how the two cities can best work together on this. Milan has extraordinary strengths in the design of furniture, lighting and fashion, and hosts an international reference point like the Triennale. But now Turin has also joined the design path.”

Is there already a programme of events?
“We will present it in April in Milan, during the Furniture Fair. I can tell you that the event will start around mid-December this year. There will be an exhibition, at a location to be determined, of the objects that have received a Compasso d’oro award, an international competition for young creative people, and a series of activities aimed at the broad population, with a particular focus on students. The events will revolve around some key milestones, such as the opening of the new Automobile Museum and the inauguration at the end of 2008 of the Design Center of Mirafiori.”

29 January 2007

Harvard Business Review features user-centered innovation as breakthrough idea for 2007

Harvard_shieldbusiness_1
The Harvard Business Review has published its annual list of Breakthrough Ideas for 2007, written out in “twenty essays that will satisfy our demanding readers’ appetite for provocative and important new ideas”.

Eric von Hippel wrote the entry entitled “An Emerging Hotbed of User-Centered Innovation“.

Eric von Hippel is the T Wilson Professor of Innovation Management at MIT’s Sloan School of Management in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the scientific director of the Danish User-Centered Innovation Lab in Copenhagen. He is the author of Democratizing Innovation (MIT Press, 2005).

“In an array of industries, producer-centered innovation is being eclipsed by user-centered innovation—the dreaming up, development, prototyping, and even production of new products by consumers. These users aren’t just voicing their needs to companies that are willing to listen; they’re inventing and often building what they want.”

“[...] This process of users’ coming up with products is increasingly well documented, and some companies, at least, are actively trying to take advantage of it. But what about governments?”

“[...] Government support has typically come in the form of R&D grants for scientific researchers and R&D tax credits for manufacturers. This focus on technology push has not attracted much controversy. But recent research shows that the 70% to 80% of new product development that fails does so not for lack of advanced technology but because of a failure to understand users’ needs. The emergence of user-centered innovation clearly shows that this near-exclusive focus on technological advance is misplaced.”

“Denmark is taking this sea change in the nature of innovation to heart. In 2005, the Danish government became the first in the world to establish as a national priority, in the words of a government policy statement, ‘strengthening user-centered innovation.’”

“By championing a new innovation paradigm, the Danish government is encouraging numerous methodological flowers to bloom—from programs that improve manufacturers’ understanding of users’ needs (through ethnographic research, for example) to techniques for identifying user-developed innovations that manufacturers can produce.”

Duncan J. Watts wrote another thought-provoking essay, “The Accidental Influentials,” in which he argues that “social epidemics” are not in large part driven by the actions of a tiny minority of special individuals, as is the dominant belief.

“We studied the dynamics of social contagion by conducting thousands of computer simulations of populations, manipulating a number of variables relating to people’s ability to influence others and their tendency to be influenced.”

“Our work shows that the principal requirement for what we call “global cascades”—the widespread propagation of influence through networks—is the presence not of a few influentials but, rather, of a critical mass of easily influenced people, each of whom adopts, say, a look or a brand after being exposed to a single adopting neighbor. Regardless of how influential an individual is locally, he or she can exert global influence only if this critical mass is available to propagate a chain reaction.”

Understanding that trends in public opinion are driven not by a few influentials influencing everyone else but by many easily influenced people influencing one another should change how companies incorporate social influence into their marketing campaigns. Because the ultimate impact of any individual—highly influential or not—depends on decisions made by people one, two, or more steps away from her or him, word-of-mouth marketing strategies shouldn’t focus on finding supposed influentials. Rather, marketing dollars might better be directed toward helping large numbers of ordinary people—possibly with Web-based social networking tools—to reach and influence others just like them.”

Duncan J. Watts is a professor of sociology at Columbia University in New York. He is the author of Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age (Norton, 2003)

(via Bruno Giussani’s Lunch over IP)

17 January 2007

2-year course on design for retail experience at India’s National Institute of Design

NID Design for Retail Experience
“With new malls and retail outlets mushrooming all across [India], thanks to the retail boom, it’s no wonder then that the National Institute of Design (NID) has come up with a unique course called Design for Retail Experience“, writes Kumar Anand in the Ahmedabad section of expressindia.com.

“While the four-semester course, beginning at the institute’s Bangalore campus, is yet to be framed the institute has already conducted an entrance test for the same.”

“The course focuses on retail environment and trends in design of retail spaces including props merchandising and visual merchandising, but a curriculum is yet to be framed. For this specialised course, the institute has consulted various industries and foreign universities. “We are constantly in touch with institutes abroad and are taking their help to understand the trends in retail experiences. With retail being the most common experience, design experience is first tested in retail. Therefore this course will be one of its kind,’’ said Darlie Koshy, director, NID. The institute is also working hard to create a faculty pool to teach close to 15 students in the first batch beginning mid-June.”

“The likes of Grottini Shopsystems, an Italian agency that works towards creating retail brand experiences and developing retail environment, have been approached for framing curriculum. “We are also in touch with the Ontario College of Art and Design, Canada and a few other concerned institutes,’’ Koshy informed.”

Read full story

(thanks, Bob Jacobson)