4 posts categorized "Mobile"

02/07/2012 #btvsmb Social Hack Recap

What a day: 72 talented and creative people spent a Friday together at Champlain College’s Emergent Media Center trying to reimagine Vermont’s localvore world through the lens of mobile and social technology. With little or no preparation six teams of twelve people each had less than four hours to come up with an idea. And what ideas they came up with!

We started the day listening and watching Richard Ting of R/GA and Liz Gerber of Design for America. Richard took us through some amazing examples he and his team have worked on, such as USAID’s FWD or Nike+ GPS. It was heady stuff but it made us start thinking of raising the bar on our own ideas. Liz talked about the idea of design thinking and the approach to start reimagining, well, everything. It’s just amazing to see what her students are up to. And that laid down a challenge to all of us “professionals”: If her students could do it, shouldn’t we be able to?


After that, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture laid out some of the basic goals of the Farm to Plate initiative. A recurring theme was how far ahead we were in Vermont (Liz even claimed that Vermont was “perfect”) but that it still wasn’t good enough.

We then broke into groups and, using a design thinking process, had to come up with one group idea in less than four hours. Each group was a combination of designers, developers, businesspeople, students, social marketers and well, anyone else who got their ticket in time. Very few were Localvore experts (there were one or two in all). 


When the groups worked in small teams of two, the energy was through the roof. When they had to come to consensus and all work together, well some did better than others. It was interesting to see the effect of group dynamics on people and ideas. There was a LOT of learning moments all through this experiment, to be honest. One group actually splintered into two when they refused to agree on a common approach.

At the end of the day, we had some clear favorites. Team Arugula created a new business model, Beet Route, for delivering CSA farmshares to people too busy to prepare meals during the week. They reimagined the milkman, gave it a modern twist, and enabled it through mobile and social apps. The back end used the data to provide larger customer trends and preferences back to the farmers and producers. Don’t be surprised to see this one come to life in one form or another as a startup.

Team Kale went the gamification route, turning support of local farmers and consumption of local produced into a mobile and social game Ate02 (a play on our ONE Vermont area code 802). The idea was to allow people to compete (and brag) through their phone and to increase consumption of healthy, locally produced food.  There’s a good chance that we might see Champlain College produce that for the Agency of Agriculture.


Team Beet created a system called The Core Card. It turned healthy eating habits into points. The points then led to both rewards for consumers and data for employers and insurance companies. Our one representative from the insurance industry was on this team and you could feel his influence on this one.The idea was that the card would lead to better health and lower insurance costs through the use of mobile and social technology. 

There were LOTS of other great ideas. Right now we’re going through them and working on prioritizing the ideas with the Agency of Agriculture and Champlain College. We may end up extending this to some of the Startup Vermont initiatives. At least one break out group told me that they were so pissed that their idea wasn’t chosen by their group that they’re going to pitch it to the Agency of Ag themselves (Yay!) 


Liz Gerber told me before the event that in an experiment, 50% of what you do will fail, you just don’t know which 50%. I think our percentage of success was a lot higher. This was a great experiment and it showed:

  1. We have a lot of cool people in Vermont
  2. You can do great things when you get out of your own way
  3. There should be enough smarts and energy to innovate our way into business growth. The big question is whether we have the structure for it.
  4. Sometimes you have to plan randomness.

My plan is to figure out a way to do more of these. We asked a lot for all of these talented people to take the day off and think with each other. Most, but not all of course, had a blast.

My biggest regret? It was that I didn’t really get to participate in the actual ideation and work, since I was running the day. That’s where I spent my energy. And it was worth it.

07/09/2010 Digital Sustainability

At yesterday's BBA Mobile discussion, a number of companies impressed me by how they were building their mobile presence with pretty limited resources. What jumped out at me was how they re-used existing content or data by putting a mobile layer on top of it. Not only is that smart, it speeds up launching mobile marketing initiatives.

Russ Scully who owns the restaurant The Spot as well as a Web development firm (a handy combination) showed how he adapted his restaurants online ordering to a mobile Web site. While customers can now pre-order their breakfasts or lunch from their iPhone or Droid (and it even saves your previous orders), Russ and the staff can review orders and inventories mobily as well. He's simply taken the existing data structure from the Web and connected it to a mobile Web site.

Mike Hayes from Magic Hat Brewing (my favorite) showed how they were using mobile Web addresses and QR codes to connect packaging and labels (which they produce all the time) to existing Web or social media content (videos, Twitter, etc.). For Magic Hat it's a way to provide immediacy of connection to people consuming the product in the moment of consumption, through their mobile phone.

What struck me in these discussions was how both businesses weren't trying to build an array of new mobile "stuff." Instead, mobile was the device to connect to existing content. They re-used what they had already built. This seemed like a very sustainable strategy and one that we can learn from.

Old garbage now fills a lot of our digital atmosphere: zombied microsites, old blogs, vacant social media accounts. I wouldn't call it a dump (yet) but it reminds me of our Earth's orbit, now littered with remains of satellites and space ships. As this debris keeps rotating the earth, it poses a threat to new spacecraft.

While everyone pays attention to the idea of mobile apps, start thinking instead about your own digital sustainability. What material could you reuse to grow your mobile presence? How could you adapt some current materials (even shwag) to make it mobile? Right now, everything has the chance to become an interactive object, now that we have a networked mobile device in our hands. Signs, hats, shirts, labels, hangtags, and billboards, to name a few. Could you connect that to content, conversations or contests?

Although this discussion is about mobile, it applies to social media as well. Try to re-use, re-connect, and re-new what you already have, rather than building everything with new material. 

Perhaps you'll build a sustainable Web of engagement through digital technologies.

04/14/2010 Is iAd the Savior of Mobile Advertising?

Mobile advertising, the long expected messiah of the ad business, might be about to grow up. Every January the pundits spin "this is the year of mobile advertising" only to leave the rest of us disappointed come December. It's probably because mobile ads are only slightly more interesting than bad banner ads. But that may change with Apple's new iAd platform.

While information is still slight about the workings of the platform, it looks like Steve Jobs and friends have embraced a rich media strategy for iAds. If that's true, I think we have a lot to look forward to.

The first iAd examples show something very similar to good rich media banners. They function almost as a microsite within a site. The benefit for the viewer is that they can take short break from what they're really trying to do, engage with informative and interactive content and, without losing their place, go right back to what they were doing.

The implicit promise in rich media advertising is that the risk of ending up in the wrong place (site) is lower. You roll over the ad (or click in the iAd) and if you don't like it you can close it quickly and get back to the task at hand. In reality, people spend time playing around in those banners, when they have great content to offer.

It's a really smart idea to offer this functionality on mobile devices, like the iPhone or the iPad. The bigger challenge is going to be whether people will engage on the ads on the bottoms of their screens now that we've learned to ignore them. Again, I think the answer is yes, based on my own rich media experiences.

Online banner ads are usually pretty bad. In the last 12+ years, we've learned to ignore most of them. According to some larger ad networks, click through rates, the most popular measure of success, will trend toward 0.03% if you run your ad long enough or reach a lot of people. That's a very low rate.

But while we're used to not clicking on banners, we will roll over rich media banners. Anywhere between 3% and 10%. Compare that with banner CTRs. More importantly, we spend time playing around with the content. I'm running one rich media campaign right now where the average time spent inside the banner is 80 seconds per user. And there is absolutely no video running in it. It's all because the content is valuable and engaging.

Mobile rich media advertising could be the force that pushes mobile ads over the hump and finally makes it the winner everyone predicted it would become.

I think Apple is on the right track providing this technology. The rest is up to us digital creatives. We can use this to do good or to do evil. Let's hope we make this great.

12/22/2008 Mobile in Banners

A while ago I wrote about Adgregate, a company that allows you to do transactions in an online ad. Another competitor Tailgate Technologies just announced a service that lets you do mobile commerce through banners.

It’s a pretty interesting idea. No clicking away, you’re just interacting through another device. It feels very non-intrusive in some way. I love the fact that we’re arriving at the point where the device isn’t important as long as it’s interactive and two-way.


I’m surprised we’re not seeing more of this. I’m reading how digital signage is the “big thing” in 2009. That might be cool, but only if you’re creating a mobile component so you can talk back and forth. Otherwise, who needs another mini billboard.

One thing I do like about the banners with mobile is that it forces marketers to think small, to think micro-engagements. No one will ever buy a car from over an ad on a cell phone. Well, almost no one. If we can think of small steps to build relationships, then mobile in banner ads could be a great lead generator and brand engagement tool.

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