Navigating the new world of work

Author: bella (Page 2 of 4)

In search of travel experience

When you’re searching for somewhere to go on holiday, do you always know where you’re going? What about the times when you’re looking to do a ‘gap yaar’ and want to wonder around and find yourself…

And sometimes you know exactly where you want to go as it’s been sitting on your bucket list for 15 years waiting to be ticked off. But isn’t there also somewhere in between..?

You can always click ‘give me inspiration’ on Kuoni or click the ‘Sensatori’ collection (whatever that is) on Thomson Holidays. But sometimes you do know, sort of. You know the type of experience you want but don’t necessarily know which part of the world, country or even part of a country you’d need to go to in order to get it.

I was looking for that perfect log cabin experience. You know the one: it’s a wooden building, dead animals on the walls, open fire, snowing outside etc. I thought, which would be the best service to help me find this? Air B&B – that would be the best, surely. Air Bnb is a pretty beautiful site, lots of inspiration for cities to visit, usually Hipster ones of course. It is very pretty.


Explore the world

‘Explore the world’


But it only asks you where you want to go.

What if you don’t know where you want to go? Only the experience you want and the budget you have? If you type in ‘log cabin’ it does come back with some stuff, but only stuff in the US, so unlucky if you fancied anywhere else in the world.


Log Cabins in US

Log Cabins in US


What about Secret Escapes then? I love their mobile app, really pretty with a strong focus on visuals and pretty easy to use if you’re just having a browse (gets more complicated if actually want to book a holiday, of course). I typed in log cabin in the Secret Escapes website, and this is what I got:

Secret Escapes search results

Secret Escapes search results


This is better, more aligned to what i was after i guess… But there’s only two so… If i don’t want Finland or France then that’s about the extent of it. Let’s see if Google can help. I type in ‘log cabin holidays’ and find myself faced with a load of Centre Parcs and Hoseasons options, which, no offence to those who like it, I’m not a particular fan of. I eventually find a site imaginatively called ‘Forest Holidays’ which does offer log cabin holidays, but when I go to search for some, again, it asks me to tell it where I want to be first.

I understand this is to narrow down the types of cabin that will be available when I want, but if I’m experience driven, I’d like to know what’s possible and work out my logistics around that. You can even do a search by ticking ‘underfloor heating’ and ‘outdoor hot tub’ even though many of the types of cabin offer it, you have to sift through them all in order to understand which do and which don’t. Who’s got time for that?

Forest Holidays ask for location

Forest Holidays ask for location


If you just Google ‘log cabin’ you get directed to Wickes or B&Q of course. All of the holiday offerings allow customer to search based on the company criteria and ease of database search. There is definitely an experience lead offering that’s missing here.

Other types of service offer the feeling of buying the experience alone – what about ‘Red Letter days’? It’s all about the experience of what happens to you – you worry about the date and timings later – often the recipient can choose it for themselves at multiple locations. Hospitality companies need to entice customers with the promise of the experience first and worry about the logistics of it later. And this means going further than offering just a poxy gallery and hoping customers have the patience to imagine themselves as part of it.

Should you always listen to your customers?

As I’ve been doing some research about implementing innovation as a consulting capability – I’ve started with some classic books. I’ve just finished ‘The Innovator’s Dilemma’ by Clayton Christensen and it was really, really interesting. It’s an old book by digital standards – it was written in 1994, but it’s still just as relevant today.

The Innovator's Dilemma

The Innovator’s Dilemma

I’ll tell you about one of my biggest takeaways from the book. It’s from a case study about Eli Lilly, a large pharmaceutical company headquartered in the US.

Eli Lilly is a world leading insulin manufacturer – insulin for diabetics. Back in the 1970s, research funded by Eli Lilly experimented with the use of synthetic insulin in order to replace that of the insulin that was currently being extracted from the ground-up pancreases of cows and pigs. Animal insulin caused a fraction of diabetic patients to develop a resistance meaning it was rendered useless. Eventually, in partnership with some other technology companies, they managed create insulin proteins that were the structural equivalent of human insulin proteins which were 100% pure and did not cause a resistance build-up.

However – it didn’t sell. Or at least, not very well. Eli Lilly found it hard to sustain a premium price for the ‘Humulin’ instead of using cheaper, animal insulin. Growth was slow.

On the face of it, this just looks like a classic case of supply and demand. In fact, consumers were quite happy with insulin from pigs and Eli Lilly had offered a premium price product where there was actually no need.

Instead of focusing on the insulin itself, Novo, a much smaller company started developing insulin ‘pens’ to provide a much more convenient alternative to the fiddly and potentially dangerous process it was at the time. Instead of taking out all of the equipment, measuring the correct amount, flicking the syringe and finally inserting it, the pens meant that you can have multiple days supply of insulin in one pen and it measured the amount itself. All you had to do was press a button for easy application.

It was due to this that Novo increased its share of the market substantially – across the world, leaving Eli Lilly in the dust.

With the benefit of hindsight it seems obvious that Eli Lilly made the wrong decisions, after all only a fraction of people with diabetes develop insulin resistance. If they’d done some more research, wouldn’t they have found out from patients that what they really want is something easier to use?

Christensen relays some of his students’ comments on the matter:

“What is obvious in retrospect might not be obvious in the thick of battle. Of all the physicians to whom Lilly’s marketers listened, for example, which ones tended to carry the most credibility? Endocrinologists whose practices focused on diabetes care, the leading customers in the business. What sorts of patients are most likely to consume the professional interests of these specialists? Those with the most advanced and intractable problems, among which insulin resistance was prominent.

What, therefore, were these leading customers likely to tell Lilly’s marketers when they asked what should be done to improve the next-generation insulin product?”

Amex’s Amicable Application

I used to have a Bank of America credit card which gave me points on Amazon. I racked up about £50 worth of Amazon gift certificates in around 6 months, which, even for someone who’s an avid Amazon shopper, still surprised me.

However, round about October time, our lovely partnership came to an end. Amazon were no longer offering the card and I was going to get sent some useless MBNA one instead with no benefits at all.

So, I canceled it. Not that it stopped them sending me one of course… And I began the hunt for a rewards card that would give me some value. Actually, there isn’t a lot out there. And certainly nothing of interest that doesn’t require an annual fee, which was disappointing.

After a few weeks of comparing, doing some basic sums and dithering quite a bit I decided on the Santander 123 credit card. Although it has a lousy £24 annual fee, it does allow you to accrue cashback on supermarket shops and most importantly for me, transport. So I can get cashback from using TFL and rail services which makes sense. We’ll see if I actually manage to get the return on my investment in a years time, but after two months I’ve managed to get back almost £10 so it looks promising.

This wasn’t enough for me though. One of the things I spend most of my money on, is food. Restaurants. Santander isn’t offering me anything for that. Not to mention it’s convoluted sign up process (I actually locked myself out and had to wait for another password before I could use the app!) and it won’t let me pay off the card using the app either.

When I do get around to paying it off online it forgets my debit card details so I have to enter them every time! That’s just laziness on their part. Not to mention that if I want to pay over the statement balance back I’m not allowed.

Anyway so I decided to also apply for an American Express British Airways card. Which is free. I plan to use this wherever I can’t get points on the Santander one and the Amex one is accepted. That seems like a nice compromise. The difference between applications for Santander and Amex was phenomenal. I have to say the Amex application was the easiest I’ve ever used.

Amex application process

Amex application process: Basic info

As you can see, it’s slick, and clean with a large font and only asks for the bare minimum of information which is great and saves me time. They also send me regular email updates telling me of the card progress without me even having to do anything. And there it appeared just a few days later.

Amex Confirmation Email
Amex Confirmation Email

I downloaded the Amex app, which is also clean and slick and as a bonus has offers which I can activate, which I wouldn’t have expected from a pure credit company.

We’ll see how long Santander can last without annoying me completely and causing me to cancel it. I’m going to have to try to pay it off directly from my bank account to avoid having to put my debit card details in every time! Argh.

Marvellous Mere-Exposure

If ever there was an industry that could deliver elaborate, ostentatious experiences and expensive to say the very least – it’s the film industry. Particularly Hollywood of course. I haven’t actually seen it in person, but below is an image taken from the inside of Oxford Circus tube station, currently sporting a 1920s American veneer. It is of course a promotion for the film, The Great Gatsby, which opened last month.  I have seen the film and although it did not quite marry up with what I had in my mind when reading it, I enjoyed it very much.

The Great Gatsby on the floor and walls of Oxford Circus tube station

There is something enchanting about this depiction within the bustling underground. However, I do wonder why they chose to do it there when Gatsby is not set in the city and although it is set in New York state does not include the Subway. Nevertheless, this is a lovely extension of the film in an attempt to immerse passersby in the experience of the film and of the time in which it is set and I happen to think it works quite well. And, it is a primary example of the use of the mere-exposure effect or familiarity principle which I am sure makes for healthy profits.

I have not heard of any similar replicas in New York and yet I suppose that is where this would make the most sense.

All the (retail) world’s a stage!

I tried to use my limited time off as wisely as possible after my Masters finished. I went visiting family, managed to land a job and I even took a trip to Japan for a while to soak up some of the culture. On one of my free days I took a trip down to London with friends and went to the Science Museum. If you haven’t been, it’s a great place to spend a morning. I specifically went to look at the Turing exhibition because I live close to Bletchley Park and thought it was about time I tried to soak up some of the history.  I’d also recommend the Google labs for some of the experiments they’re doing there too.

After having some museum fun and armed with the trust iPhone, we took a trip to Burberry’s new retail store at a grade II listed building, 121 Regent Street, which is now their largest store in the world at a whopping 44,000 square foot. Burberry Prorsum, Burberry London, Burberry Brit, Burberry Childrenswear, accessories, shoes, Burberry fragrances and Burberry Beauty are all available for shoppers to drool over. In addition, it has an out of hours and online collection service, a concierge service, alteration service, guest Wi-Fi, iPads connected to and valet service, proving it’s a store of the 21st Century. It has a fitting grand entrance, similar to all the other luxury brands that line the street. If you want to find innovation in retail, this is where you come.

When you walk into the building you’re presented with a giant retail screen (one of the 100 screens in the shop, and 500 speakers!) showcasing Burberry’s iconic trench coats, in advert style. This is the tallest retail screen in the world at a giant 22ft. It’s surrounded by a giant curved staircase reminiscent of something you might expect on Downton Abbey, yet coloured in a modern, clean, white.

The next thing you notice is probably the classic interior, high ceilings immaculately painted, muted, warm lighting and solid flooring, marble and wood. At the top of staircase there are a large set of mirrors, some of which have abstract videos playing on them, and as you wind around to the left or the right, there’s a very narrow landing leading you past more coats. However there are only a select few mind you, one of each style, which fulfills the minimalist ethos of ‘less is more’.

However, there’s something different about these coats and the screens playing videos that accompany them. They seamlessly switch from multimedia and then to mirrors and back. Although I didn’t try it out myself, apparently the coats around the video mirrors are equipped with RFID tags, which, if you put one on will then tell the mirror opposite to display catwalk video of the coat in action. I’m not sure exactly how this is meant to make one feel… On the catwalk I guess? Might be better if it was more of a mirrored image of you on the catwalk, but that’d take some serious augmented reality engineering to look any good.

If you follow the landing a little further, you can find yet more of this season’s trench coats with small screens beside them. Some of them have little videos that show you the sewing detail up very close, and the next to them another square on a stick… But on these ones there’s a lense. You can then see the detail on the coat for yourself through the lense, both stitching and the material if you so wish.

On the upper levels and even further up the floors between the stands of shoes and dynamic signs, there are large areas of comfort with plush carpets and spongy seats to park yourself while you take in the glamour of the building and its apparel. This promotes a relaxed atmosphere which is not something you would perhaps associate with that particular part of London.

The staff in the building were certainly curious about my picture taking, and I’ve read some less than flattering reviews about them and their service, but they were perfectly polite to me. There are no tills in the shop, instead the staff carry around iPads as POS, where they can show you the entire Burberry catalogue, as well as tell you what’s in stock, and even pay for your clothes right there and then while you lounge about on their large sofas. According to the Burberry,  ’employees will carry iPads with applications on them that will provide access to purchase history and customer preferences to enable a more tailored shopping experience’, which is certainly an appealing prospect.

This is described in the media as ‘the merging of the physical and the digital worlds’. Burberry chief creative officer Christopher Bailey states

In renovating this iconic London building we have worked with some of the UK’s finest craftsmen to restore a wealth of historic features, at the same time as pushing the boundaries of digital technology. The result is a space defined by contrasts: at once imposing and intimate, its juxtaposition of craft and innovation is designed to delight, surprise and entertain.”

Well, it’s certainly a juxtaposition of the classic and the brand spanking new. If you come out of Burberry and go a little southwards past Piccadilly Circus you can find yourself at M&M’s world. It’s a bricks and mortar tribute to the American sugary snack. I’m not going to post many of my images of the shop as really it’s something you ought to see for yourself. Aside from the giant M&M characters, Abbey Road replica and rows of M&Ms pajamas, I did notice the emergence of screens in the shop. The first thing is a kind of M&M’s mood wizard. If you stand in the designated area it knows you’re there and will then begin to analyse you, decide which colour best suits you and then chooses a personality to go along with it.

In another part of the store, shoppers can use another wizard that will help them design their very own bespoke M&Ms selection, with the exact colour range that they want, and then they can watch some M&M elves in the Mix Lab making it for them. Not too sure why you would use it consider they have rows and rows of different colours of M&Ms that you could make a mix yourself. But I guess that’s the novelty of it.

If you then walk towards Green Park, you pass the Audi Digital Car Showroom. In this tiny little spot of Audi real estate, you can look through various colour swatches, grab and iPad and design your very own dream Audi. It’s then projected onto the large screens on the walls and you can get a good feel for it, inside an out. Although this is just the first one, Audi are hoping to roll them out over Europe, in dense city areas where there’s not enough space to put the full range of cars for customers to browse.

I guess most of it is novelty. You’re not likely to go to a Burberry store just so you can have a close up look at how well the stitching on the collar is aligned. But Audi feels somewhat different… It’s less of a novelty and more of a technological development that practically solves a growing problem.

The though behind it is clear –  if you spend a lot more time in the store you’re more likely to create brand affinity and therefore come back. However, the interesting part is how these stores have invoked the brand and its vales in order to create a beautifully crafted unique experience, with a bit of personalisation thrown in for good measure.

Lior Arussy puts it well in his book Customer Experience Strategy:

When customers step into a bricks-and-mortar location, they’re looking for theatre. They want a show. They want direct experience with products and people, experience they can’t get on the phone or on the web. Your front line people are actors in retail. On this retail stage you can present demonstrations, product trials, and celebrations. Product launches become local events. Do you have customers who drop by the store regularly just to play with the products? Embrace them. Turn them into evangelists who can showcase your products to other customers. Make them part of the show.

Of course, this isn’t going to work for all companies in all industries, but the success of these shops is clearly evident – they are in fact iconic places to visit in themselves, and you can definitely feel the evocation of theatre unfolding in front of you.

Personalised TV on the second screen

After a short gap I have returned… And after renewing my hosting and domain I’m looking into altering the template and updating the blog slightly so I’ll begin that process soon. However, its emphasis on Customer Experience remains the same, and has even perhaps become more focused. I’ve yet to find the biggest areas of interest this year, but I’m keeping an eye out for emerging areas. I’ve now finished my masters and managed to secure a job, but haven’t posted about my 3 month research project which resulted in my dissertation. You can download the entire document from here if you so wish. If not, I’ve included the report which I gave to the BBC which contains the most important findings below:

Perceptions of Personalised TV: Exploring interactivity preferences to enhance the user experience on the second screen


As personalised TV becomes the differentiator for new services, this study, in conjunction with the BBC, explores what this might mean in terms of user data collection and attitudes, perceptions and behaviours towards privacy, and trust, around TV. It aims to investigate and explore new avenues for personalised services that may encourage users to reassess the cost/benefit analysis of logging in for an enhanced user experience. In order to do this, user’s second screen activates were investigated, to discover what new services could contribute for users watching BBC TV. It also probes participants about recommendation systems, general feelings about trust of the BBC and about different ways of “logging in” to the TV.


Literature Review

As the Internet ultimately becomes pervasive and turns into a fluid media, completely intertwined in our daily activities (Lindley, Meek, Sellen and Harper, 2012), we must look at the future of television in a new light.  It’s now possible to record, pause and rewind live television, resulting in x-shifted viewing. Users can also gain extra content and information through the advent of interactive TV, smart TVs with on demand apps, and second screen devices and services.

By far the most important aspect however is the growth of second screen activity such that now 24% of people are using a second screen device while watching television (Deloitte/Gfk, 2012). It is speculated that second screen activities will become a multi-billion dollar market (Niyogi, 2012) and research by Cruickshank et al. (2007), has found that second screen devices are preferred by users for trying to interact with television over using the television itself. This makes the second screen a great platform for personalisation. Additionally, diary studies by Hess et al. (2011), suggested that users would like to have smoothly integrated content and social options available to them while watching television.

In order to experience personalised services, the BBC would like users to log in by using the universal BBCiD login system, which records activity in order to adapt services across channels (web, TV, radio) and devices accordingly (Vinayagamoorthy, 2012). Although it is possible that some users are averse to logging in as they view this as an intrusion of their privacy, a well-trusted organisation will overcome this barrier, as users will feel more comfortable with giving out their details (Jøsang et al., 2005). Alternatively, it may become possible to log in to a personalised television service with a paired device i.e. a second screen device. Some studies suggest that users may have security and privacy issues when pairing devices to other interfaces or to the devices of others, but it’s possible that these fears can be allayed when devices are paired within the home, as it is considered to be a secure environment (Chong and Gellerson, 2011).

Another type of login is the inclusion of a facial recognition camera to locate members of the household watching television. Although this may be considered somewhat futuristic, it is already in place for users of Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect ID system (Carmody, 2010) and is also included in some SmartTVs along with voice and gesture recognition, replacing manual controls (Nguyen, 2012). With these methods of log in, personalisation could include data gathering of mood and body language as well as proximity and level of attention, but again, these are subject to trust issues.



Eighteen participants were recruited for the study, 12 male and six female, between the ages of 22 and 52. They had wide ranging occupations with some coming from a public service background, some worked in financial services, others were from the MSc HCI-E course or have some kind of design role. Participants needed a Twitter account and to have used a second screen device while watching television more than once before.

The study itself consisted of three parts. Firstly, initial interviews were conducted, to explore participants’ current behaviours surrounding television, and what personalised TV services they already use or are interested in. The second phase was an innovative and novel digital diary study (with a focus group element) facilitated by the social networking site Twitter. A private Twitter account was set up specifically for this research, meaning that Tweets were not publically accessible. Participants were asked to contribute to the feed by posting when they were involved in a second screen activity, while watching television. This activity may have been related to the channel they are watching or completely unrelated (e.g. work), and may have been on any device:- smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop. Afterwards a debrief interview was conducted with each participant, exploring their motivations for usage patterns in the diary, looking at trust issues, and the future of interactive TV through their eyes. The BBC was not mentioned until this stage so as not to bias any self-reporting of participants.

Transcripts of interviews were carefully coded using a thematic approach, classifying sentiments together as they emerged. It was an iterative process, refining the coding categories as more information became available. For the Twitter diary study, the data set of Tweets was then analysed for themes and split into categories of type of activity and device used, as well as whether the activity was related to the television show or not.



Participants are using a large variety of devices and platforms on which to watch television with convenience and speed being significant factors. They like to watch television when and where it suits them, with iPlayer being the most mentioned catch up service. Laptops still have a large dominance with almost 50% of activities being carried out on them. Tablet usage is smaller at 19% but is expected to grow. The tablet format was favoured for those participants that owned one as it has the right balance of screen size and ease of use.

Over the specified two-week period for the diary study, 249 Tweets were submitted. In order to log these properly, they were split into each activity, giving a total of 270 effective Tweets. Of all Tweets, 74% were unrelated to the television show, leaving 26% as related Tweets, with the most of this activity circulating around trivia or fact checking of the television show. Only a relatively small amount of these Tweets were social. Conversely, of the unrelated Tweets, 44% were socially motivated. Other activities mentioned included looking at the TV Guide, reading articles, looking up recipes, shopping and playing games. Five participants stated that social interaction was a growing feature and something they would like to see more, particularly with people that they knew. It also appears this is important for certain shows or genres, such as sport, however, avoiding spoilers if it’s not possible to watch in real time is also a large concern.

In terms of logging in to services, social log ins were largely undesirable. 14 participants stated that a social networking site that shared their viewing habits with the entirety of their friends, or followers list, was a concern, and that they did not want everyone knowing what they were watching. Most participants were instead in favour of a paired device to log in with their second screen device; a mobile phone or tablet as they regarded this to be the most natural interaction, and an altogether more private experience.

Seventeen participants would completely trust the BBC with their data. Eight participants would trust them more than any of the other television channels. Reasons for this are due to the BBC’s reputation and participants’ positive association with the brand; the fact that it’s a large, well respected corporation, it has higher quality programming, it doesn’t have advertising and it is publicly funded. They tend to hold the BBC in higher regard than other channels, but interestingly, they also expect them to place paramount importance on security of their data. They are generally very happy with their data being collected as long as it is to improve the service, and none of the participants expect the BBC to sell their data to a third party or send them ‘spam’ of any form. In fact, at least five participants believe that the BBC should collect data, or that they already are, in order to provide more relevant programming.

When asked if they would like the BBC to be transparent about what they are collecting, eight participants said this would make them feel more comfortable and more in control of their data, with two already expecting the BBC to allow them to see what information has been gathered about them. Seventeen participants stated that they would find their viewing information useful or interesting but some said that the novelty is likely to wear off and that, it may make them embarrassed or guilty about how much time they spend in front of the television. Because participants believed that they have a stake in the BBC due to paying the license fee, they also believed that they should be able to give them feedback about their service, and they should be adequately listened to.

This provides a good platform for the BBC to release new personalised services to help with data gathering from their audience, as they are highly trusted.



Any new facilities or functionalists should be thoroughly tested on all devices and platforms, and should continue to be tested as new devices and platforms become available.

The overwhelming amount of activity that participants indulged in while watching television was social interaction. However, as the study suggests, most of this was unrelated to the television show, meaning that designers wishing to create real engagement around television shows may have to work hard in order to gain interest from their audience and get viewers to converse with each other. The purpose of the social interaction is important in this respect.

Features such as recommendation systems and suggested episodes are likely to be made use of if they are more trusted. It will be important to maintain the trust of the BBC by the public in future in order to facilitate continued adoption of these services.

As it was found that participants would prefer to know what data had been collected on them, information about their data e.g. in the form of a graph, would make them feel more comfortable. However, many also stated that they would not like to know how much time they had spent watching television, because this made them feel guilty so it may be better if specific timings were omitted from the information. Testing of visualisations or potential prototypes with users will help further this research in future.






Carmody, T. (2010). How Facial Recognition Works in Xbox Kinect. Wired: Gadget Lab. Available from: [Accessed 23 August 2012]

Chong, M. and Gellersen, H. (2011). How users associate wireless devices, Proceedings of the 2011 annual conference on Human factors in computing systems, May 07-12, 2011, Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Cruickshank, L., Tsekleves, E., Whitham, R., Hill, A. and Kondo, K. (2007). Making interactive TV easier to use: Interface design for a second screen approach. The Design Journal 10(3).

Deloitte/GfK (2012). The rise and rise of ‘second screening’ Available from: [Accessed 23 August 2012]

Hess, J., Ley, B., Ogonowski, C., Wan, L. and Wulf, V. (2011). Jumping between devices and services: towards an integrated concept for social tv, Proceddings of the 9th international interactive conference on Interactive television, June 29-July 01, 2011, Lisbon, Portugal.

Jøsang, A., Fabre, J., Hay, B., Dalziel, J. and Pope, S. (2005). Trust requirements in identity management, Proceedings of the 2005 Australasian workshop on Grid computing and e-research, p.99-108, January 01, 2005, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia.

Lindley, S., Meek, S., Sellen, A. and Harper, R. (2012). It’s Simply Integral to What I do”: Enquiries into how the Web is Weaved into Everyday Life. Proceedings of the 2012 international conference on World Wide Web. Session: User Interfaces and Human Factor, Lyon, France.

Niyogi, S. (2012) Please Don’t Ruin the Second Screen. TechCrunch. Available from: [Accessed 1 June 2012]

Nguyen, V. (2012). Samsung Smart TV Voice, Gesture and Face Recognition Hands-on. Slash Gear. Available from: [Accessed 23 August 2012]

Vinayagamoorthy, V., Hammond, M., Allen, P. and Evans, M. (2012). Researching the User Experience for Connected TV – A Case Study. Proceedings of the 2012 ACM annual conference extended abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems Extended Abstracts, Austin, Texas.



Bigoted Bics

I meant to write about this as soon as I found it but I was in the middle of my dissertation and only seemed to find the time now. Bic, the biro company have introduced a new range of pens. For some reason they’ve decided that they are for women only, by calling them Bic For Her. When hunting for the reason as to why they are specifically for women, the only justification that seems to be available is “Designed to fit comfortably in a womans hand” [sic]. And also that they come in the available colours of pink and purple. Of course.

While this irks me a fair amount and seems rather unnecessary, the blatant sexism isn’t the sole reason I wanted to post about it. The reason is because if you were to hunt for some Bic For Hers on Amazon, this is the first review of the product you would find, recommended by over 2,000 people:

Not only that… There are hundreds! Written by men and women, squeezing out as much satire and sarcasm as is possible, with multiple comments of appreciation from others. They’ve attracted a great deal of attention with ‘jonny’ becoming somewhat a cult celebrity on Facebook at least. Here is another, a personal favourite of mine:

But is that really all Bic could come up with? I wonder what their marketing team is making of all the mocking. Assuming they have any idea… Although this is likely to be seen as poking fun, which really is all it is… We have to contemplate whether this is going to affect their brand image. Is all publicity good publicity? It certainly increases awareness, but not because it’s seen in a positive light. I would love to put this to the test with perhaps a Net Promoter Score or some similar analytics to work out the effect this might have had.

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised, lest we forget, Bic have been making disposable razors for him and for her, since 1975. Their creativity for new ranges clearly doesn’t stretch far since it’s easy to see where they got their inspiration from. It is a very obvious marketing ploy, but of course it’s nothing new. The Daily Muse also comments on Bic and gives a great countdown of some other products painted pink that presumably therefore instantly attract the fairer sex. In the meanwhile, at least Amazon reviews have given us an amusing outlet to make fun of such nonsense, even if that’s not quite what the functionality was designed for.

Give it some real Klout

If you were a marketer, it’s likely that social influence of your customers would be interesting to you, and one way of looking for it could be having a gander on Klout. Klout is an online system that analyses a person’s influence across various social networking sites and then rates them on a scale of 1-100, labeling them as ‘influential’ about certain topics or subjects. It seems that marketers are attempting to use these scores in order to market to specific people, in the hope they will then go off and influence others about their products or services.

An article from Chorus and Echo talks about a new scheme, or trend that’s being seen – that those deemed to have high Klout scores get preferential treatment when they visit specific nightclubs. And there’s likely to be more of this kind of treatment in future. Forbes has reported Genesys, a contact centre software solution company in the US will begin to integrate Klout scores into its software. This effectively means that those deemed to have high Klout scores (and therefore more ‘influence’ over people), are likely to get routed to customer service agents more quickly, and experience a more efficient service.

So, what’s the big deal? People who have more influence get better stuff, and the company gains loyalty and more followers as the influencers tell everyone about the amazing service they’ve been getting. As Colin Shaw from Beyond Philosophy states, we already pay celebrities to endorse product placement, and marketers are already looking at social influence in any way they can as a value indicator… (Think number of Twitter followers.) It’s win/win surely?

Although it sounds good on paper… I have a problem with this concept. My Klout score is 41. (41 what?) To give you an idea of how unreliable Klout is: Although it thinks I’m influential about Smartphones, User Experience Design and Gluten-Free… Somewhat true perhaps… It also thinks I’m influential about Masters Golf Tournament and Coffee. Of which neither I can stand, and actually don’t ever recall mentioning? Would people from Kenco think I’m a safe bet and try and sell me some coffee? Because clearly they’re not going to get anywhere. More importantly, is there any evidence that people with high Klout scores really influence anyone at all? I do accept, however, that it may get better with time. To be fair to Klout, it only has access to my Twitter account. Perhaps if it had access to other social media accounts, and I was a little more liberal in my information giving practices, it might know more about me and therefore be more accurate. But I’m not about to give away more of my details to find out.

The other thing that bothers me about it, is that even if you really are influential about something… There’s no way of knowing if it’s in a positive or negative way. And even if you did, you could be negatively influential about Rihanna, or positively influential about Disease. What does that even mean? And is the type of sentiment likely to affect how you treat these influential people as a marketer? There’s no doubt in my mind that there is a return on investment available if you can calculate the potential social influence of those you sell products to. Real social influence. But my biggest issue with this model is this: What about if you could buy your influence score to get preferential treatment? We know that some people accumulate fake Twitter followers to look more prestigious, and this could be affecting Klout already. Additionally, we have some issues with marketers wanting to buy exposure to Facebook users, and controversy arising after reports that up to 8% of accounts are fake… So they’re effectively marketing to people that don’t exist. What if you were real…. But your Klout score was not?

A new addition of ‘Moments’ in Klout tries to explain exactly how people are influential about subjects and how they are being influenced. It hasn’t come available for me yet, but Bob Thompson talks about it in one of his posts on Customer Think. It’s possible that a feature such as this might give more insight to marketers about how influential people really are, and just who they might influence.

The Experience Economy

While looking for more things to read, I found a new heap of Customer Experience and strategy related books and have slowly been working through them. A little while ago I finished this book by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore.

The Experience Economy

Published in 1999 It’s one of the earliest books I’ve ever come across that mentions Customer Experience explicitly. I’ve recently read that it was based on an article written the year before and that indeed the term is attributed to them. Almost 15 years later, I still see it as one of the most relevant books I’ve read for our times, particularly in the era of Customer Experience Management. For a business book (and an old one at that), it’s a pretty interesting read.

The basic premise of the book explains how the focus of the consumer economy has shifted. So in the early stages we had the Commodity Business which concerns itself with basic products, sugar, gold, wheat etc. Which quickly changed into the Goods Business which sells differentiated products, as in products that are built of basic building blocks from the commodity business but they’re changed into products that have a Unique Selling Point, which is of course where marketing comes in. They next describe the Service Business which doesn’t concern itself with tangible goods necessarily but with which we’re pretty familiar with considering it makes up over 60% of the British economy (so you’d think we’d be better at it). They then go on to the Experience Business which I would argue we’re only just embarking on. This is the most exciting of the evolutions. An obvious example is perhaps those of theme parks such as Disneyland where the park is designed specifically to create wonder and amazement. Pine and Gilmore state that it’s the job of the business to create ‘memories’ for customers, in other words to architect memorable events for them, resulting in the experience or the ‘memory’ itself becoming the product.

As they Guardian recently reported, even in times of an economic downturn, the spending on luxury and exclusive experiences for the rich still continues to rise exponentially. They go on to report that people, particularly the young, are now beginning to define themselves by what they have done rather than what they own. They state the trend even spreads to China, which is an economy known for it’s obsession with brands and status symbols. I can see the beginnings of this even for those without the six figure salaries. Everyone’s heard of those track days where you can drive an Aston Martin for all of two laps, but what about this:

Zombie Shopping Mall – Complete with Endorsement from Simon Pegg

It’s a kind of Zombie Experience Day where you get to pretend you’re in a Shaun of the Dead movie. Lots of actors are in there loudly moaning and pretending to be after your brains and you go around a deserted shopping centre (a real one!) with a laser gun shooting them all, while they film you and give you the footage as a souvenir. Absolutely genius idea. It reminds me a bit of that scene in Minority Report where people of the future pay to go into a pod and can live out their fantasies, with one guy having constant applause and praise from a circle of people surrounding him, “Oh you’re so great!”.

Further on from this, Pine and Gilmore describe the Transformation Business which includes things like the education industry, where your customer comes out ‘transformed’ as a result of your business. Or even perhaps things like drug rehabilitation? Where customers pay to spend their time somewhere to (hopefully) gain something from the experience. Their main argument is that businesses can now charge for the ‘value’ that they add, and the more they add for the consumer, the more they can charge of course.

This obviously has great resonance for businesses. Even if you sell products, you can still (to some extent) design the experience a customer has with your brand, in terms of customer service and the web site that you have – they all contribute to the experience. Whether you’re an MNC or SME, you have the ability to alter the associations that people have with your business. I do think it’s time for companies to start looking to the future to try to determine how technology can help them add that value through positive, seamless experience and exceeding their customers’ expectations.

Responsive Design

Responsive Design is a big phrase at the moment. It’s all about optimisation. Engineering your web site or app to look it’s best on any device is really important – it’s got to be effortless. Advances in CSS3 have made this a lot easier, for designers and developers. It’s also been a leap for customer and user experience, meaning that users can use the web site or the app, whatever device they choose and the experience doesn’t suffer. However, this shouldn’t be exclusive to e-commerce sites, as more people are doing things on the move, all sites should be following this direction. So I’ve decided to make sure that even my own blog is readable from smartphones and from tablets.

This is how it looks on an Apple iPhone 4s and a tablet:


OK, so the text is still fairly small (it does appear bigger on the devices), but it’s still readable and you can even see the buttons on the smartphone (just). You can see how the text nicely realigns itself for a more narrow column and adheres to a different grid ratio. The proportions are good, and the images are nicely resized. Overall, a success I would say. Basically if your users are noticing that there’s a difference between their devices then there’s something to notice, and you need to do something about it. If they don’t even notice then the design is likely to be how they expect – if not better. It’s always good to try to anticipate how the user is going to be using your site, whether they might have their mobile device landscape or portrait, and what activity it is they’re doing. Are they reading? Make the text larger. Are they going to have to type? Make sure the important stuff is kept above the keyboard. Are there a lot of pictures? Make sure they resize appropriately and they’re at the correct resolution and size for the device they’re on.

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