What to do today: follow the livestream from the SEE Conference in Wiesbaden

In case you do not want to go out today, still suffer from last night’s drinks or are afraid to get tanned in the beautiful spring sun, here is an option: follow the S&V SEE conference on the visualization of information live from Wiesbaden, Germany via videostream.

Here is the link:

Reinventing the Automobile

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Automakers are making great profits again.

Who would have thought that two to three years ago. Back then consumer spending was down, economic crisis a global headline and automakers were piling up cars they could not sell.
What happened in between? Well to cut it short, the economy found back on track, automakers learned from their mistakes and focused more on what customers really need instead of selling them illusions which could only be sold thanks to massive marketing efforts. The result: smaller, more green vehicles which more and more are built on interchangeable platforms and which share parts with a large number of cars.

Yet some fundamental problems remain.
Other than 30 years ago auto brands have moved closer together in terms of product quality. This is due to technologial advances but also to the consolidation among suppliers. Today you barely find a „bad“ car which has the reputation of spending more time in the shop than on the street (old Mini Cooper legend).

What counts today is price, efficiency, how green the car is and of course its design. And increasingly another virtue is developing: interaction.

It may not be critical yet, but in the future, autos will continue to become more similar. Already today you can buy almost identical cars which are offered by three different brands. How shall a consumer decide which of the three to buy? In such a case what it boils down to is brand. Or some small features which make one of the three unique, more customizable, more entertaining.

This points to an interesting phenomenon.
Basically cars have a transportation function, second they are fun to drive or provide roles or an image (such as a Porsche as a symbol of success, reward for hard work) you can transfer to yourself.
The brand facet „sporty“ today is closely connected to efficiency. This is something even Porsche has discovered and it proves to be good for the brand. Technological excellence no longer means to get the most power out of a certain engine size but rather to get more power out of the car while at the same time reducing emissions and gas consumption.

What consumers in the future will be calling for is more interaction with the car. More possibilities to customize the car (trend towards individualism). This may no longer mean body work such as in the 90s when tuning your car was the big thing. We are less extroverted today. What counts is the inner values. This can also be oberved with luxury goods. Excessive consumption is considered stupid and unsophisticated. Luxury today is more complicated and less superficial. Sense and context matter.
In terms of cars you can see this trend by the fact that we no longer care about RDS Radio but rather on the need for an AUX interface so we can connect our iPod with our very own, individual taste of music with the car. In the future customization will much more take place on the inside than on the outside of the car.

This tendency can also be oberved in other fields of technology. Mobile phones are not only bought because of the design (let’s not discuss the iPhone now, yes it does look okay) but because of what you can do with them. Today the number of available apps plays a major role in the purchase decision for a mobile phone. Or rather which OS to choose. Windows, Symbian or Android. Manufacturers who opted for Android are highly successful today. Altough 80% per cent of the apps may be crap, it does not matter. There is something for everyone. It is not about what you have but about what you do with it. Finding the best apps to reach your customer needs is a characteristic of cleverness.

I have mentioned this in a previous article, digital to some extent replaces the automobile today. In short, less and less people in Germany and the US have a driver’s license and the automobile is constantly losing its importance. What can be done? Well how about the auto becoming more digital? This may of course not collide with safety on the road and the basic transportation function. But if you today have two similar cars – say an Audi A4 and a 3-series BMW, two of the best cars out there, and one offers entertaining and helpful additional digital features – the tough decision of which one to buy all of a sudden become totally easy!

Automakers will have to find ways to make cars more interesting, more capable to provide answers to consumer problems we usually do not associate with the car. Cars have to become more entertaining, more customizable, loaded with additional features that provide additional sources of utility.
Another thought would be to enable the car to communicate. Here is one: More and more people today are single. Many would like to have an animal to reduce the feeling of loneliness but do not have the time for it. Wouldn’t it be nice to somehow communicate with your car? To constantly check how it is doing, to get notifications from the car directly to your phone? If the car would enable us to serve as an avatar, but not in the digital but the real world. If the car enabled us to get in touch with other drivers? Think back that a car offers an image or a role. Thus dricing the same car could imply that two people share the same value set, world view, political view, etc. What if the roads out there were a social network which enable you to stay in touch with friends, find people with similar interests. What if the car would provide you with information about the area that is specifically designed for you? What if the car becomes a means to transport electricity from A to B? What if you could already from the office or the couch configure which music to be played when you enter the car?
What if your car is always reborn with new software updates and thus new features you can explore? Thus you would have a car you are familiar with and that keeps surprising you with new features – it would never get boring. Sounds like a really good human friend, doesn‘ it?

There is so much the car of the future can do for us. And the better it understands our needs or problems the more we value the car and the more desirable it becomes. And the more loyal we become.

How do you make sure people stick to one software or operating system?
Updates, features, applications, relevance,.. It is so simple.

How do you change the game?
With a new operating system that simply rocks, grows fast, and allows your own developements (open source)…

Sounds familiar?

TNS research project reveals: major changes in online behavior

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WPP press release:

Global Digital Life research project reveals major changes in online behaviour
10 October, 2010

Website showcases data from largest ever online research project covering 46 countries and 90% of world’s online population

Launched on ‘digital day’, first survey reveals major differences in online attitudes and behaviour:

– Online is now the media of choice
– Mature markets being left behind online as emerging markets become more active
– Increase in mobile use as consumers seek greater access to social networking on the go

LONDON — The largest ever global research project into people’s online activities and behaviour – Digital Life – was launched today, ‚digital day‘ by TNS, the world’s biggest custom research company. Covering nearly 90 per cent of the world‟s online population through 50,000 interviews with consumers in 46 countries, the study reveals major changes in the world‟s online behaviour.

Core data from the study is being made publicly available via an interactive website –

“This study covers more than twice as many markets as any other research.” said TNS Chief Development Officer Matthew Froggatt. “It is the first truly global research into online activities, including all the key emerging markets of the BRICs and many of the „Next 11‟. We have also researched beyond basic behaviour to provide more detailed data into attitudes and emotional drivers of that behaviour.”

“We are confident that Digital Life will become the new benchmark for information on online consumer behaviour,” continued Froggatt. “Making a lot of this publicly available was an important first step for us and obviously we have a wealth of further information behind those basic statistics covering brands and companies which we will offer to clients.”

Among the key findings of the study are:

– Globally, people who have on-line access have digital sources as their number one media channel. 61% of online users use the internet daily against 54% for TV, 36% for Radio and 32% for Newspapers.

– Online consumers in rapid growth markets have overtaken mature markets in terms of engaging with digital activities. When looking at behaviour online, rapid growth markets such as Egypt (56%) and China (54%) have much higher levels of digital engagement than mature markets such as Japan (20%), Denmark (25%) or Finland (26%). This is despite mature markets usually having a more advanced internet infrastructure.

– Activities such as blogging and social networking are gaining momentum at huge speed in rapid growth markets. The research shows four out of five online users in China (88%) and over half of those in Brazil (51%) have written their own blog or forum entry, compared to only 32% in the US. The Internet has also become the default option for photo sharing among online users in rapid growth markets, particularly in Asia. The number of online consumers who have ever uploaded photos to social networks or photo sharing sites is 92% in Thailand, 88% in Malaysia and 87% in Vietnam, whilst developed markets are more conservative. Less than a third of online consumers in Japan (28%) and under half of those in Germany (48%) have uploaded photos to such sites.

– Growth in social networking has been fuelled by the transition from PC to mobile. Mobile users spend on average 3.1 hours per week on social networking sites compared to just 2.2 hours on email. The drive to mobile is driven by the increased need for instant gratification and the ability of social networks to offer multiple messaging formats, including the instant message or update function. When looking at how the digital landscape will change in the future, research shows that consumers expect their use of social networking on mobiles to increase more than use through PC. In the US, for example, a quarter (26%) of online consumers expect their use of social networking on a PC to increase in the next 12 months compared to over a third (36%) who will be looking to their mobile to increase usage. In Australia the figures are 26% and 44% respectively, and in Sweden they are 24% and 53%.

Goodbye email, hello social networking
One further finding of the study showed that online consumers are, on average, spending more time on social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn than on email, despite the former only becoming mainstream in many markets over the last few years. In rapid growth markets such as Latin America, the Middle East and China, the average time spent, per week, on social networking is 5.2 hours compared to only 4 hours on email. Online consumers in mature markets remain more reliant on email, spending 5.1 hours checking their inboxes compared to just 3.8 hours on social networking. The heaviest users of social networking are in Malaysia (9 hours per week), Russia (8.1 hours per week) and Turkey (7.7 hours per week).

When it comes to who has more friends, online consumers in Malaysia top the list with an average of 233 friends in their social network, closely followed by Brazilians with 231. The least social are the Japanese with just 29 friends and Tanzanians have, on average, 38 in their circle of friends. Surprisingly, Chinese consumers only have an average of 68 friends in their networks despite being heavy users of social networking sites, indicating a culture that embraces fewer but closer friendships.

Froggatt continued: “The Internet is a huge part of life in the 21st century but how it affects our lives varies depending upon where in the world you live. We‟ve seen that in mature markets where people have been online for years and where access is ubiquitous, the Internet has already become a commoditised item that consumers take for granted. However, in rapid growth markets that have seen recent, sustained investment in infrastructure, users are embracing these new channels in much more active ways. The digital world is transforming how they live, develop and interact and online consumers in these markets are leaving those in the developed world behind in terms of being active online and engaging in new forms of communications.”


Trying to reach Samsung customer service….

For quite some time I have been trying to get in touch with Samsung Deutschland in order to return our compact digital camera which seems to have some technical problems (I just decided not to do its job anymore). Samsung offers a special contact form which is separated into the different product segments and thus alllows to filter for the specific product. I gave it three times and have not received anything back so far, I even included images of the brand new looking camera to show that there is no exterior damage at all. But somehow there is no one on the other line….

From the start:

1) First Attempt
I went to Samsung’s website to check for the ideal way to get in contact for returning our at that time 0,75 yrs old camera. I even found the contact form and then had to find my way to the somewhat confusing manual when it comes to compact digital camera. Walking the path that seems intuitively right did not bring me to my model. Instead I had to try severyl menu combinations to finally get to my model. I then fillled in all the contact details into the form, explained the problem with the cam and then sent it off.

2) Over and Over
Having sent away the message I did not get a confirmation via email. So I simply had to assume the message reached its recipient and Samsung would soon answer to tell me the nearest service company I have to send the camera to. But no response. So I filled out the form again thinking that maybe theres was some important box not checked, etc. Again, all worked fine, all was filled out – no response. I did all that three times:

After several weeks of simply postponing the issue I checked the Samsung website again. Relauched! It looks pretty good: big visuals, a feeling of proximity, nice menus, features, new form promiosing „one day response“ Sounds really good.



Well, I also tried to use this new way to contact Samsung customer service and the result as of 27 March 2010 is „nada.“ No response aside from the automatically generated confirmation email.
What is going wrong? Is there a database issue, do they lack the necessary personnel to really respond within a day? I would also be happy with a 2 day response, just any response at all…

to be continued..

Update 09 April 2010: Samsung did answers. Unfortunately I received no email notification about Samsung’s reply. Also, when logging in at I can check the status of my inquiry. Again unfortunately, Samung’s response is shown directly UNDER my message just like in an answered email. Thus even when you login and check the status of your customer inquiry you do not at once see that there is an answer at all. Only when you scroll down you all of a sudden realized that there IS a response. However, I must admit that they indeed answered within one day! Promise kept!
So please Samsung, try to give this form some update and make it more user-friendly. I am quite experienced in the web. But like so many other customers I am notoriously short of time and thus it took me 2 weeks to realize Samsung responded. Give it some more work and you will have a really good online service tool.

Ford Spending 25% of Marketing on Digital and Social Media

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Ford goes digital!

Ford Motor Co. this year will spend 25% of its marketing dollars on digital media, more than twice the amount spent by the industry.

Read more at BusinessWeek The Auto Beat

Blogging about harddisk shopping…

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Where to buy an external harddrive when you know you need one?
Usually my purchase decision-making processes are fairly complex. Often more complex than necessary. That’s the fate of many marketing people. Anyways, having bypassed the procedure of realizing a true need, I at once jumped into the phase of searching for the ideal shop. The next big issue. A big electronics chain such as Conrad, Media Markt or Saturn? Or rather an online store? The first offer the opportunity of really being able to hold the product in your hands. That is, if it is unpacked. The „price you pay“? Usually unexperienced personnel with no time always in search for the next shelf to hide behind. I must say I barely shop there because of a constant fear of being fooled by the advertised special offers (which often are attractive, I must admit) while other products cost more than elsewhere. But even if the price seems right, does the product really hold up to the promises of the store clerk? Or is he just trying to sell what the management told him to, for example to get rid of overstock. Decision-making can be a pain in the ass in our culture of affluence. Buy a TV and choose between a hundred different models. Buy an mp3 player and you’ll be overwhelmed by at least 25 models, many many more when shopping online. This is the golden hour of strong brands serving as lighthouses, visible from afar although perhaps equipped just like the others. Take a basic iPod for example. Comparing such a magnitude of products is almost impossible. At least in the store. But there is one feature, one critical advantage of online stores that no clerk can outmatch. The objective and critical opinion of the crowd, of the masses of consumers out there, all searching to maximize their utility given a certain budget they are willing to pay. Recommendations put light into the darkness. They offer personal impressions that are so much closer to everybody’s daily life. They praise good products and positive experiences hoping that when you do good something good might come back to you. And although this system could theoretically be corrupted by companies, in the overall run it can be trusted.
This leads me back to my initial purchase process. I need a new external harddrive.
As time is usually limited, I too, am glad about every simplification and short cut. So it was a reasonable thing to first check for harddrives. The benefits? Good overview of what harddrives currently offer, a good impression of the price level, and user insights on most of the products offered. This eased my choice alot. I barely felt a risk buying a product that with more than 80 recensions received an average of 4,7 stars. Plus free shipping on top. This post is not intended to glorify amazon but it just shows why amazon is so popular and the perfect place to shop for me. At least when it comes to electronics. Amazon is also an example of the democratizizing effect of the internet. It may be easy for a store clerk to fool a pensionist but given the transparency of prices and product evaluations on the internet, the internet gave the consumer one thing: power. Power to quickly access expert knowledge, to easily compare and to look behind the product specifications on the package. May the best platform win!

Is Social Media a Fad?

A very convincing presentation of the social media issue and its enormous reach. Who would have thought some years ago that anything could change the saying „the internet is porn“. Social media did just that. And it managed to surpass physical boundaries, bringing into every home live tweets from crisis areas such as Afghanistan or even Iran. Or as recently in Germany, election estimation results before the public press. That this phenomenon may collide with existing laws or regulations is another issue of social media. More and more companies, sports teams and parents need to intervene to avoid the post of critical information. But still, social media enables people all over the world to link, exchange impressions, attitudes, and insights in a way conventional media such as TV or the press could never do.
As to social media as a business strategy: it can work but it largely depends on how honestly you use it. At the end of the day, the internet is one huge civil courtroom, where inappropriate behavior oftentimes is immediately punished (United Airlines may just be one example).