Only a handful think of technology as a concept, and just 16 percent use terms like “social networking”, said two combined surveys covering 8- to 24-year-olds published on Tuesday by Microsoft and Viacom units MTV Networks and Nickelodeon.
“Young people don’t see “tech” as a separate entity – it’s an organic part of their lives,” said Andrew Davidson, vice president of MTV’s VBS International Insight unit.
Talking to them about the role of technology in their lifestyle would be like talking to kids in the 1980s about the role the park swing or the telephone played in their social lives — it’s invisible.”
The surveys involved 18,000 young people in 16 countries including the UK, U.S., China, Japan, Canada and Mexico.
Posts in category 'Teens'
TVs and computers are the “electronic babysitters” for a generation of children who are losing out on family life and becoming more materialistic, a report says today. The study paints a picture of a breed of “screen kids” who are spending more and more time watching TV and surfing the net in their bedrooms, unsupervised by adults.
The Watching, Wanting and Wellbeing report from the National Consumer Council found nearly half the children from better-off families surveyed had televisions in their bedrooms, compared with 97% of the nine- to 13-year-olds from less well-off areas.
Children from poorer areas were also six times more likely to watch TV during the evening meal. And around a quarter of youngsters in this group admitted that they regularly watched the television at lunchtime on Sundays, compared with one in 30 children in better-off neighbourhoods. The NCC’s report links increased TV viewing hours with greater exposure to marketing and higher levels of materialism.
The authors, Agnes Nairn, Jo Ormrod and Paul Bottomley, also found that materialistic children were more likely than others to argue with their family, have a lower opinion of their parents and suffer from low self-esteem.
“As end-users increasingly demand a more sophisticated communications experience tailored to meet their unique needs, putting them at center stage is what it will take to successfully compete. With Alcatel-Lucent’s user-centric applications and solutions, you will be uniquely positioned to deliver an enriched communications experience to consumers and enterprises — anytime, anywhere, and on any device.”
The section contains quite a lot of material, including:
- A subsection on Quality of experience for IPTV, including an interactive flash demonstration — with (British) Alex and (American) Lucie as your guides — discussing the challenges for delivering broadcast TV and Video-on-Demand services.
- Making applications simple – A guide to blended lifestyle services (pdf, 840 kb, 38 pages)
- A subsection on user-centric experience for customers, with more information on the Worldwide Lab, focused on understanding the end-user experience of teens and young adults from around the world; a presentation on the user-centric home, with personalised TV experience; and an article on unlimited mobile tv.
- A subsection on user-centric experience for enterprises, including an article on merged IMS solutions, that features a video with a range of communications scenarios.
The study, which was done in conjunction with the London School of Economics (LSE) and Lord Philip Gould, also includes the results of a unique ethnographic experiment depriving 24 people of their phones for a week to better understand how they shape our behaviour.
- One in three people would not give up their mobile phone for a million pounds or more, with women leading the way on those most likely to refuse.
- 76% of people believe it is now a social requirement to have a mobile phone.
- 85% of people think having a mobile phone is vital to maintaining their quality of life.
- One in five 16-24 year olds think having a mobile phone decreases their quality of life.
- Most young adults who took part in the ethnographic experiment felt mobile phones were not just a tool, but a critical social lifeline for feeling part of a friendship group.
- Most of 16-24 year olds would rather give up alcohol, chocolate, sex, tea or coffee than live without their mobile phone for a month.
Digital media are entering the connectivity as a matter of course era, and they are entering the “home zone”: the home (for many young people: the bedroom) has become the centre of their connected world. Once upon a time communications technologies belonged to the world of work – they now provide people with socialising tools they have long taken for granted. Technology becoming intuitional and ubiquitous prompts sociologists to speak of a privatisation of the public through communications and a fragmentation and/or expansion of the concept of home. How come?
Some of the articles it contains:
- Socializing digitally
So what exactly are teens doing on MySpace? Simple: they’re hanging out. Of course, ask any teen what they’re doing with their friends in general; they’ll most likely shrug their shoulders and respond nonchalantly with “just hanging out”. Hanging out amongst friends allows teens to build relationships and stay connected. Much of what is shared between youth is culture – fashion, music, media. The rest is simply presence. This is important in the development of a social worldview.
- Homecasting: the end of broadcasting?
José van Dijck
The internet never replaced television, and the distribution of user-generated content via sites such as YouTube and GoogleVideo, in my view, will not further expedite television’s obsolescence. On the contrary, they will introduce a new cultural practice that will both expand and alter our rapport with the medium of television — a practice I refer to as “homecasting”.
- Connected strategies for connecting homes
Do consumers actually want a connected home? I’m not sure that many of us even understand the concept. But what we do want is the freedom to time-shift and place-shift the services we already have. We want to be able to take the services we use at work into our homes. And the services we receive at home into the office or away with us on business or on holiday.
- Keeping things simple
John Seely Brown
Well-designed media provide peripheral clues that subtly direct users along particular interpretive paths by invoking social and cultural understandings. Context and content work efficiently together as an ensemble, sharing the burden of communication. If the relationship between the two is honored, their interaction can make potentially complex practices of communication, interpretation, and response much easier. This is the essence of keeping things simple.
- Appliances evolve
Today, information is starting to be treated in product design as if it was a material, to produce a new class of networked computing devices. Unlike general-purpose computers, these exhibit what Bill Sharpe of the Appliance Studio calls “applianceness”. They augment specific tasks and are explicitly not broad platforms that do everything from banking to playing games.
- Socializing digitally
There have been numerous occasions where technologies have entered our everyday lives through the influence of users, or at least some users, in ways that were unanticipated by industry. In relation to a number of important innovations it is users themselves who have developed or adapted the technology to fit into their lives and their homes. But as we shall see, that is only one side of the coin. Users can also be quite discriminating.
- The new television
From ancient tragedies and comedies to theatre and, later, movies, it is evident that people enjoy being entertained by stories — regardless of the medium. Television is yet another step in the evolution of media that tell these stories, and just as television did not kill the movies (although it had an impact by decreasing their prevalence), interactive games and the internet will not render television obsolete. We will merely see innovative versions of moving pictures that can satisfy the needs of the 21st century’s embedded acquaintance with a multitude of media.
- Pleasant, personalized, portable – the future of domotic design
Fausto Sainz de Salces
The home environment can greatly benefit from mobile technology that enhances the user’s experience through easy interaction with the immediate environment. Designing the home of the future, integrating communication devices, is not an easy task. It is a challenge that includes consideration of home dwellers’ opinions, preferences and tastes
The magazine now also comes with its own blog.
Women in the 18 – 34 age group account for 18% of all online Britons.
They also spend the most time online – accounting for 27% more of the total UK computer time than their male counterparts.
Of UK males active online, the 50+ age group is the most prevalent.
The breakthrough of these groups will come as a surprise to many who regard the internet as being largely dominated by young men.
Interestingly, the number three site for young women is The Full Experience Company, which is based on an interesting gifting concept:
“Smart Box™ offers recipients the choice between 40 different activities, spa and therapy days, and hotels in the UK or France, all based on a specific theme. So you only need to choose what theme to purchase, not to select what they will actually do – You don’t have to choose the date, the place, or the experience for others… “
That is the message that emerged from the 7th World Young Reader Conference (presentation summaries), where a fresh approach to attracting young readers was presented by those who have succeeded in getting young people interested in their products.
“Stop writing surveys about readership, and start watching people. Learn, look around, open your eyes,” said Anne Kirah, Dean of the 180° Academy in Denmark and a cultural anthropologist who has helped Microsoft design its products. “You need to engage in people-driven research and look at their entire lives. Observe people doing activities that define themselves, and are meaningful to them.”
Ms Kirah said she was distrustful of traditional readership questionnaires because “there is a difference between what people say they do and what they actually do. Do you really know how much time you spend on the internet, or read a newspaper? But you ask those questions. It’s not that people are lying to you, it’s that they really don’t know the answers.”
The problem is compounded when studying young readers, or the “digital natives”, since their habits are completely different those of the “digital immigrants” — those who remember the analog-only world and are the people conducting the studies, and making the decisions at media companies.
“I’m not talking about acceleration, steering or cornering. I’m talking about the mental effort required to successfully interact with your car’s secondary features, such as in-car entertainment or the trip computer. While controls like steering (the brilliant simplicity of a wheel), throttle (foot pedal farthest to the right) and braking (second-to-right pedal) are standardized for most vehicles certified for use on a public road, the majority of other controls are confusing enough to plunge an automotive reviewer (or a Hertz Platinum Club member) into RTFM rage.
Sometimes it’s a simple matter of old habits dying hard: in many ways the best interface is one you don’t have to re-learn. If you’re used to having to jab at a button several times to adjust the temperature several degrees while surveying the change on a display that’s located on the opposite hemisphere of the dash, that may be the best user interface—for you.
But that’s not the whole story when something as basic as starting the car has now taken on innumerous forms. Do you A) insert the key in a slot (to the right or left of the steering wheel or in the center console) and turn it or B) insert the key in a hole and push it or C) insert the key into a slot and push a start button or D) ignore the key altogether as long as it’s on your person and then either push a button or twist a piece of plastic adjacent to the steering wheel? Each of these methods are used by at least one current production car—and I’m sure I’ve missed at least one type of ignition sequence.
Changing gears is a similar issue.”
The paper contains interviews with industry experts and a summary of consumer research, based on interviews with 3,000 people in Germany, Spain, United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the U.S.A in December 2006.
The document is not particularly innovative in the description of the technological and social changes taking place. More insightful is its analysis of the impact on business, although it positions KPMG a bit too much as the wise guide for companies trying to adapt to these changes.
Broadly, there have been four big developments in the online world in the past few years. The first is the decline in the cost of media distribution—thanks to digitisation and broadband—which has helped to make even relatively unloved content commercially viable. The second phenomenon [...] has been the rise of user-generated content perhaps better described as “participatory media”. [...] The third development is the rise of sharing. [...] The way in which information is organised is also changing – phenomenon number four. Instead of a traditional hierarchy of information by experts, i.e., a taxonomy, web users are increasingly categorising online content—web pages, photographs and links—for themselves. given rise to new businesses. [...]
With the costs of distribution tumbling, media companies should spend less time trying to find blockbusters, and more time trying to make it easy for consumers to find the stuff that interests them, however arcane. [...] Media companies [should also] incorporate user-generated content into their own offerings, [...] make offline content richer and more analytica, [...] and reduce the cost of traditional content generation.
Download report (pdf, 1 mb, 36 pages)
Visit Japan’s top social-networking site, the 8-million-strong “Mixi,” and you’ll see prim, organised columns and boxes of stamp-size photos – not the flashy text and teen-magazine-like layout of its American counterpart, MySpace.com. The difference in appearance between the two online hangouts reflects a broader clash of cultures – and illustrates the challenge News Corp.’s MySpace faces as it jumps into the Japanese market.
Mixi knows how to thrive off the nation’s cliquish culture so different from the aggressive me-orientation prevalent in American culture.
“MySpace is about me, me, me, and look at me and look at me and look at me,” said Tony Elison, senior vice president at Viacom International Japan, which is offering its own Japanese-language social networking service here. “In Mixi, it’s not all about me. It’s all about us.”
“[...] the forest of arms waving cell-phone cameras at concerts, the MySpace pages blinking pink neon revelations, Xanga and Sconex and YouTube and Lastnightsparty.com and Flickr and Facebook and del.icio.us and Wikipedia and especially, the ordinary, endless stream of daily documentation that is built into the life of anyone growing up today. You can see the evidence everywhere, from the rural 15-year-old who records videos for thousands of subscribers to the NYU students texting come-ons from beneath the bar. Even 9-year-olds have their own site, Club Penguin, to play games and plan parties. The change has rippled through pretty much every act of growing up. Go through your first big breakup and you may need to change your status on Facebook from “In a relationship” to “Single.” Everyone will see it on your “feed,” including your ex, and that’s part of the point.
It’s been a long time since there was a true generation gap, perhaps 50 years—you have to go back to the early years of rock and roll, when old people still talked about “jungle rhythms.” Everything associated with that music and its greasy, shaggy culture felt baffling and divisive, from the crude slang to the dirty thoughts it was rumored to trigger in little girls. That musical divide has all but disappeared. But in the past ten years, a new set of values has sneaked in to take its place, erecting another barrier between young and old. And as it did in the fifties, the older generation has responded with a disgusted, dismissive squawk. It goes something like this:
Kids today. They have no sense of shame. They have no sense of privacy. They are show-offs, fame whores, pornographic little loons who post their diaries, their phone numbers, their stupid poetry—for God’s sake, their dirty photos!—online. They have virtual friends instead of real ones. They talk in illiterate instant messages. They are interested only in attention—and yet they have zero attention span, flitting like hummingbirds from one virtual stage to another.“
The author, Emily Nussbaum, then goes on to describe the three main changes that define the younger generation:
- They think of themselves as having an audience
- They have archived their adolescence
- Their skin is thicker than yours
(via the Design Directory newsletter of Core77 and Business Week)
“While America’s Internet users send e-mail messages and surf for information on their personal computers, young people in China are playing online games, downloading video and music into their cellphones and MP3 players and entering imaginary worlds where they can swap virtual goods and assume online personas.
Another distinguishing feature is the youthful face of China’s online community. In the United States, roughly 70 percent of Internet users are over the age of 30; in China, it is the other way around — 70 percent of users here are under 30, according to the investment bank Morgan Stanley.
Because few people in China have credit cards or trust the Internet for financial transactions, e-commerce is emerging slowly. But instant messaging and game-playing are major obsessions, now central to Chinese culture. So is social networking, a natural fit in a country full of young people without siblings.
[This] is one reason America’s biggest Internet companies, like Yahoo, Google and eBay, have largely flopped in China. Analysts say the American companies struggle here partly because of regulatory restrictions that favor homegrown companies, but also because foreign companies often do not understand China’s Internet market, which is geared primarily to entertainment and mobile phones.”
The age old problem of setting a video recorder still exists for one in three Brits, even though they have been in the mainstream for 27 years.
DVDs offer a more complex challenge with four in five (77%) not feeling confident to set one to record.
Also, mobile phones are now ubiquitous, yet many remain baffled by their features. The majority, almost two thirds (61%), use only four features on their mobile phone – calls, text messages, alarm clock and camera – while two fifths don’t even know if their mobile phone has a camera function.
A consultant and former chief scientist at Palo Alto Research Center, Seely Brown spoke at a conference on technology and education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The conference was organized to mark the end next year of an eight-year partnership between Microsoft and MIT [article] to explore the use of technology in learning.
Seely Brown argued that education is going through a large-scale transformation toward a more participatory form of learning.
Rather than treat pedagogy as the transfer of knowledge from teachers who are experts to students who are receptacles, educators should consider more hands-on and informal types of learning. These methods are closer to an apprenticeship, a farther-reaching, more multilayered approach than traditional formal education, he said.
In particular, he praised situations where students who are passionate about specific topics study in groups and participate in online communities.
“We are learning in and through our interactions with others while doing real things,” Seely Brown said. “I’m not saying that knowledge is socially constructed, but our understanding of that knowledge is socially constructed.” [...]
The evolution of the Internet can facilitate this approach, he said. Web 2.0 tools, such as wikis and blogs, make information sharing and content creation easier. [...]
The Internet is also helping drive a transformation from a mass media model–where information is delivered from experts to consumers–to a situation that allows people to create content online, often by using existing content, he said.
“Walk on a college campus these days and you’ll see cellphones everywhere, but only some being used for conversations. Baruch College sophomore Yelena Slatkina in New York City recently rustled up an emergency sub at work by typing a plea to her entire work group on her cellphone. University of South Florida sophomore Nate Fuller routinely uses his cellphone equipped with Global Positioning Software (GPS) to find recruits for his intramural football team and locate friends in Tampa, Fla. Texas 21-year-old Brittany Bohnet uses photos she and 20 of her networked buddies snap on their phones to locate one another, using visual landmarks they spot in the pictures they send.
These under-25s (the target market for early adoption of hot new gadgets) are using what many observers call the next big consumer technology shift: Mobile Social Networking Software, or Mososo. The sophisticated reach of cyber-social networks such as MySpace or Facebook, combined with the military precision of GPS, is putting enough power in these students’ pockets to run a small country.
But while many young users are enthralled with the extraordinary conveniences of what amounts to a personal-life remote control, others who have been tracking technology for more than a few semesters say that as the benefits of the multipurpose mobile phone expand, so do its risks. Not only do they point to possible security issues with GPS running on a cellphone, but cultural observers worry about the growing preference of young users to stay plugged into a virtual network, often oblivious to the real world around them.”
The long article also deals with security concerns and security benefits, and how the combination of mobile social networks with GPS has the potential to reinvigorate moribund civic areas, as demonstrated in Newark, NJ. On campuses MoSoSo has the additional benefit to get students out of their rooms where they were stuck using the Internet on their computers, back out onto the campus to connect with other students.
In a report launched today (Thursday) the influential think tank Demos calls on schools to get past fears about children’s internet use and harness its learning potential.
The report Their Space: Education for a digital generation draws on research showing that a generation of children have made online activity a part of everyday life, with parents and schools still far behind.
The report argues that children are developing a sophisticated understanding of new technologies outside of formal schooling, gaining creative and entrepreneurial skills demanded by the global knowledge economy.
Schools are failing to develop these skills, with many attempting to limit children’s online activity to ICT ‘ghettos’ while banning the use of social networking sites like MySpace and YouTube.
The research, based on nine months of interviews, focus groups and recording children’s online activity, found that:
- A majority of children use new media tools to make their lives easier and strengthen existing friendship networks
- Almost all children are involved in creative production – e.g. uploading/editing photos and building websites
- A smaller group of ‘digital pioneers’ are engaged in more groundbreaking activities
- Children are well aware of potential risks, with many able to self regulate – contrary to popular assumptions about safety
- Many children have their own ‘hierarchy of digital activity’ and are much more conscious of the relative values of online activity than their parents and teachers
The report goes on to make a number of proposals on how formal education in the UK can adapt to the growing dominance of online culture in children’s lives, including the recommendation that children should be given the opportunity to build up a ‘creative portfolio’ alongside traditional forms of assessment, access to which would be determined by the children themselves
“While the urge to play is a human universal, gaming cultures differ widely across different societies – that goes for the games people enjoy as well as how they enjoy them. You can play with interactive media alone or to socialise, to compete or to relax, at home or in the street. What is play and what’s in a game?”
In “The space to play“, Matt Jones, director of user experience design for Nokia Design Multimedia, explores themes from his research into the universal human urge to play – and how it relates to the way we design our technology, our environments and our future.
“Lucky Wander Boy – the microsurgeon winner” is the title of a story about a man who finds a purpose through and is ruined by his obsession with video games. It is written by D.B. Weiss, who is currently in the headlines for working on the script for a movie adaption of the “Halo” video game series.
In “Gaming International“, Jim Rossignol, a British technology author specialising in video games, tells us about his experiences in Seoul and compares European and Asian approaches to gaming.
“Mobile gaming – the troubled teenage years” is the title of a contribution by technology writer Stuart Dredge, in which he takes a look at the future of mobile gaming, focusing on how mobile games could move beyond the familiar hits like Tetris and Pac-Man to new concepts blending innovation and connectivity.
In “Games in spite of themselves“, Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn of the Belgian design studio Tale of Tales discuss “The Endless Forest”, a multiplayer game in which everybody plays a deer.
In “Playing by creating“, David Edery, the Worldwide Games Portfolio Planner for Xbox Live Arcade (Microsoft) tells us why we should be excited about user-generated content.
“Playing the news“: games are the new news, argues Gonzalo Frasca, a video game theorist and developer, currently researching serious gaming at IT University of Copenhagen, and the co-founder of Powerful Robot Games, a studio known for its work on election video games as well as its newsgaming.com project.
In “Three play effects – Eliza, Tale-Spin and SimCity“, Noah Wardrip-Fruin, a digital media creator and scholar whose current work focuses on digital fiction and play, looks at three different models of what we experience through play.
Finally “Interaction as an aesthetic event“, is the title of the contribution by media theorist Lev Manovich, a Professor of Visual Arts at UCSD, in which he takes a look at the playful user interaction in recent cell phone models and other personal information technology.
Manuel Castells, Mireia Fernandez-Ardevol, Jack Linchuan Qiu and Araba Sey
Published by the MIT Press
How wireless technology is redefining the relationship of communication, technology, and society around the world–in everyday work and life, in youth culture, in politics, and in the developing world.
Wireless networks are the fastest growing communications technology in history. Are mobile phones expressions of identity, fashionable gadgets, tools for life–or all of the above? Mobile Communication and Society looks at how the possibility of multimodal communication from anywhere to anywhere at any time affects everyday life at home, at work, and at school, and raises broader concerns about politics and culture both global and local.
Drawing on data gathered from around the world, the authors explore who has access to wireless technology, and why, and analyse the patterns of social differentiation seen in unequal access. They explore the social effects of wireless communication–what it means for family life, for example, when everyone is constantly in touch, or for the idea of an office when workers can work anywhere. Is the technological ability to multitask further compressing time in our already hurried existence?
The authors consider the rise of a mobile youth culture based on peer-to-peer networks, with its own language of texting, and its own values. They examine the phenomenon of flash mobs, and the possible political implications. And they look at the relationship between communication and development and the possibility that developing countries could “leapfrog” directly to wireless and satellite technology. This sweeping book–moving easily in its analysis from the United States to China, from Europe to Latin America and Africa–answers the key questions about our transformation into a mobile network society.
Mike Spang has the long job title: “Business Research Director, Document Imaging, Corporate Business Research, Eastman Kodak Company”. He spoke about how Kodak went about creating a satisfying global corporate web experience.
To put it in somewhat of a context, about five years ago Kodak had to rapidly reinvent itself as a digital camera company, and so the website had to also change from a portal for photography to a portal for digital imaging, with 80 percent of the web visitors being regular consumers.
The website also had to provide people with an experience beyond just camera purchasing. As one can read in an article in Business Week that was just published, CEO Antonio M. Perez “aims to make Kodak do for photos what Apple does for music: help people to organise and manage their personal libraries of images. He’s developing a slew of new digital photo services for consumers that he expects to yield higher returns.”
Spang described how Kodak through a clever use of user-centred design and a wide range of usability methods, was able to reinvent its web site, make it truly global and incorporate input from users worldwide.
The techniques used included open ended site surveys, heuristic evaluation, focus groups, cognitive walkthroughs, card sorting, usability testing (in lab, remote, web-based), visitor satisfaction assessments, multivariate design testing, and web traffic analysis.
Since there are more than 50 different national versions of the site, the research took place in the UK, Germany, France, China, South Korea and the United States.
Download presentation (pdf, 2.8 mb, 44 slides)
Emmi Kuussikko, Sulake Corporation
Emmi Kuussikko is a research manager with particular responsibilities for market and user insight at the Sulake Corporation, an interactive entertainment company based in Finland. Sulake is responsible for Habbo Hotel.
Habbo is one of the largest teen online communities in 29 different countries. It is a virtual world for young people, a massively multiplayer online game where teenagers create their own personalised virtual characters and interact with other characters in the community. It has 7 million unique users monthly, mainly in the 13 to 16 year old age range, and over 60 million characters have been created globally.
Since it is the community that creates a truly unique gaming environment and a great deal of the changing content is created by the users themselves, they strongly feel they own the brand and the Sulake Corporation just manages it with them.
Research in this online environment is of course also done online. The user base is very loyal and they are very eager to participate in surveys. So actual data collection is very fast. A survey can collect over 40,000 answers in just a few days.
Here are some of the results from a recent survey done globally.
Most teens spend more time on the internet (>90%) than TV (~60 %). Mobile usage is mainly used for text messages, followed by camera use and game playing. One third listen to music on the mobile phone, especially in the UK and Italy. Teens mostly use the web to stay in contact with their friends: IM and email. Then come games. The research provides also a more detailed insight into youth characteristics regarding life style and values:
- No 1 value: having warm social relationships with friends and family; no 2 value was having fun, and no 3 was security
- Many are rather conservative in their values
- Fame, wealth and influence are important to about half
- They generally have a very positive self-image
- They endorse a socially responsible world-view
- Even thought most claim to be tolerant, many have negative attitudes toward minorities. But they would like to have friends from other countries.
Kuusikko’s presentation started to become really interesting when she presented user segments, and the spread of these segments by country.
The user segmentation was based on a cluster-factor analysis. Trying to create maximum divergence between groups and minimum within, provided an accurate and reliable method for identifying groups with similar characteristics. The variables examined were personality, values, attitudes, subculture membership, areas of interest.
Five user types were found: achievers, traditionals, creatives, rebels and loners.
Sulake also uses a more selective community of 200 users to generate, co-create and test new ideas in a continuous and open dialogue.
I hope to be able to add a download to Kuusikko’s presentation shortly.
Mehmood Khan, Unilever
Mehmood Khan is the eccentric thinker who is the Global Leader of Innovation Process Development at Unilever.
Unilever‘s mission is to “add vitality to life”. It manages 400 brands spanning 14 categories of home, personal care and foods products “that help people look good, feel good and get more out of life”.
Khan has been with Unilever since 1982 and has worked in wide areas of the business: marketing, exports, procurement, business development and innovation. He has been pioneering new business for Unilever in places like Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Mongolia and North Korea, along with developing new portfolios in China and other countries in East Asia.
In his presentation, entitled “A holistic approach to innovation”, Khan described the key features of Unilever innovation.
According to Khan, innovation is about turning creativity in a successful enterprise. At Unilever innovation is customer-focused which allows the company to keep its brands connected to people’s lives. The innovation learnings and in particular the customer focus have also shaped the vitality brand strategy.
Download presentation (pdf, 136 kb, 17 slides)
“Crucial to Blyk’s system will be creating advertisements that attract users, said Antti Ohrling, co-founder of Blyk and chairman of Contra Advertising, based in Finland.”
“We intend on only advertising information that people want and in a fun way,” Ohrling said. “To succeed, we must offer an enjoyable and simple user experience.”
As one could expect, the company’s staff list is filled to the brim with former Nokia people, including its CEO Pekka Ala-Pietilä, a former president of the Nokia Corporation, and Marko Ahtisaari, its highly regarded director of brand and design, who is a former Director of Design Strategy at Nokia (and son of a former Finnish president).
But claiming an advertising supported mobile phone operator as a “disruptive and potentially revolutionising new medium” seems a bit much.
UPDATE: 7 November 2006
Meanwhile Business Week picks up on the story. It also underlines the “gold-plated” make-up of the company. Apparently the billionaire chairman of the German software maker SAP is one of the investors. But the question remains: “Why are so many smart people backing a company that has no revenue and doesn’t even plan to start operating until next year?”.
The trick is in the advertising. “Messages will be targeted to users and be integrated seamlessly with the handset.” Advertising will “never interfere with the primary function of the phone” and “if you do it in the right way, it’s something people [will] find useful and fun.”
“If the company’s approach proves successful, industry watchers say, it could dramatically affect the mobile phone industry and pose a serious threat to existing operators.”
Though Blyk will function as a “so-called mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO, meaning it will market service under its own brand but use the wireless network of an operator still to be named”, the company still faces serious challenges.
“For example, getting young people to sign up for the service will be a challenge, as will the logistics of shipping customers the SIM cards they need to use, and making sure the technology works. [...]“
“Blyk must also convince advertisers. [...] It will be difficult to measure what effect the ads are having.”