Monday, June 23, 2014
Yo is the best social media app ever made, and here's why

Have you tried social media app-du-jour Yo? If not, you should.

The premise is ridiculously simple: add friends and send them a 'yo'. When you do, their phone will buzz and a cartoon voice shouts “yo!” That's it.

The interface is just a brightly coloured list of your friends' usernames. Touch one and you know that in a second or two their phone will let them know you sent them a yo. There's nothing you can do other than add friends and see how many yos you've sent in total. I've sent 335 (and only downloaded the app yesterday). 

Yo has attracted publicity for its $1m round of funding and the fact it apparently got hacked so quickly. The majority of the hype has been focused on deriding it for being completely pointless. But is it?

Remember Facebook's 'poke'? It was a way for you to show a friend you were thinking about them without having to write or respond to something directly. It was quite liberating, but was quickly buried by Facebook's ballooning list of features, and then decommissioned altogether. It's all about the 'likes' nowadays.

Twitter's 'favourite' is close, but still requires you to respond to something. Path's the same, and so is Instagram. There isn't anything else that let's you just send someone a greeting, just a say you're thinking of them, without them having to do something first. A virtual doff of the cap. A friendly poke in the ribs. A cheery “yo!”.

Once you start yo-ing, it's addictive. You'll get a few back, then it'll go quiet. Then someone will yo you, and you'll yo back, and a wave of them will start all over again. My phone's in another room right now, and someone just yo'd me. It's a lovely feeling that's very bonding, and warming as the act itself is so selfless.

In a generation of swaggering status updates and immaculately filtered photos, the yo is a pure expression of what communication technology should be all about these days. It's the anti-selfie.

Far from being a pointless distraction, I think Yo is the purest and most giving way to use social media. Don't believe me? It makes more sense when you try it.

Before you grumpily comment on this article saying how awful, annoying, or pointless Yo sounds, download the free app, add 'jonsilk', and send me one.

A "yo!" back from me might just change your mind.

Saturday, May 24, 2014
Why brands are boring.

I spoke at the Holmes Report's In2 Summit in London this week.

If you weren't there, my presentation followed this train of thought:
  1. People are interesting. Look, here are some people.
  2. Brands are boring because they’re just a logo, word, shape, or building. You can’t have conversations with them. Look, here are some brands.
  3. Brand tone is more interesting. It's actually a company's most important asset.
  4. New brands that a nailing their tone are: The Dolphin Pub in Hackney, James Blunt, Waterstones Oxford St, NASA, and Fiat.
  5. We should all adopt a bit of humour and remember that our brands are boring and we’re speaking to people, who are interesting.
Basically it just gave me an excuse to read out loads of swear words and show pictures of cats and naked people.

I also discussed the ideas from my presentation on a hangout with Nuko's social media manager Simon Vincent.

Thursday, May 01, 2014
Stop trying to be different.

For so long, the secret of success in marketing has been differentiation. If you can’t differentiate on features, differentiate on services. If you can’t differentiate on services, differentiate on price. If you can’t differentiate on price, you’re stuffed.

As a result, every product or service we could possibly think of buying is now packed full of buttons and clouds and fingerprint scanners and gorilla glass and has a beautiful cross-platform app and a virtual office on the moon with 24/7 customer service staffed solely by hyper-intelligent supermodels who want to video chat with you. Oh, and it’s free thanks to being ad supported.

How can you differentiate against that?

I’m happy to tell you that you can’t. We’ve reached the event horizon of differentiation – there is no further you can go. Give up. Relax. Have a lie down. Your offering is now the best it can possibly be.

So, if the basic tenets of marketing are now redundant in a world where we’ve moved beyond the natural laws of marketing physics, what do we do next?

Luckily we’re already doing it.

Have you heard about the consumerisation of B2B marketing? If not, you will soon.

To summarise the concept for you, B2B companies are now using consumer marketing tactics in their campaigns – think stunts and celebs over research and whitepapers. It’s a trend that started with small businesses and worked upwards. At the root of it all, marketing is all about people, and businesses are made of people. So it makes sense.

The great news about consumer marketing is that it’s not about differentiation. It went through that change a long time ago. The Pepsi Challenge was probably the last consumer campaign that hung its hat on differentiation, and even that fizzed out in the 80s (probably when the campaign failed to actually work and Coca-Cola remained in the top spot). Nowadays it’s all about the talkability of your brand.

What do you do if you’re a B2B marketer wondering how to switch gears and adopt a more consumer-y approach to marketing? First of all, I’d recommend you listen out in your next meeting for these phrases: ‘Issues-based’, ‘market trends’, ‘research piece’ or ‘buying lifecycle’. If you hear them, you know your meeting is on the wrong track.

All that boring stuff is going to distract you from the job at hand. Stop relentlessly engineering your product or strategy to find the white space in the market that’s just begging for you to fill it up with stuff that nobody else is doing. Here’s a newsflash: There isn’t any white space. Everyone is already doing everything.

Instead, when you hear those words, stop the meeting, and throw out what I like to call an ‘idea grenade’. Here’s one: “To be honest, our product’s no different from our competitors. So let’s just give it away for free to Sun readers”. Or how about: “I’m not sure our CEO is the right person to front this campaign. How much do you think Kylie Minogue would cost?”

Those things might be out of sync with your message, but at least it’ll send you off in a more successful direction.


Originally published in B2B Marketing.

Monday, April 14, 2014
Has Google Glass made wearable tech sexy at last?

Google is opening up its Glass ‘Explorer’ testing programme for one day tomorrow, inviting US citizens only to buy a set for $1,500. You know what? I wish they’d do that in the UK as when it launches over there it’s going to change our view of wearable technology.

We can't order a pair tomorrow, but we can surf the menu of frames and lenses on the Google Glass site. So far, getting hold of a pair of the internet-enabled glasses has been difficult in the UK. You can pick them up from eBay but you’re never guaranteed they’ll be legitimate and Google is unlikely to help you if anything goes wrong.

Google Glass has its critics. People wearing them have already been nicknamed ‘glassholes’, probably because they’re distracted by the information beaming into their right eye until the moment they decide to film you using the eyepiece’s built-in camera (at which point they freeze and stare right at you).

Travel search engine company Skyscanner ran an event last week showing off all the tech that’s going to change our view of holidays in the next ten years. I was brave enough to push to the front and try out both Google Glass and Facebook’s virtual reality glasses Oculus Rift.

My verdict? Oculus Rift – which Facebook bought out-of-the-blue for $2bn last month – was a huge disappointment. It was not much better than the virtual reality game I played on a school trip to London in 1991. You also have what looks like a small television strapped to your head. Not sexy.

But Google Glass was a totally different story. The headset, made of titanium and glass, was gorgeous. The voice activation (you say “OK Glass…” and then tell it what to do, such as “take a photo”) was flawless, probably because parts of the microphone touch your skull so, unlike Apple’s Siri, it can actually hear you.

The display was the best bit: pin-sharp, with green words projected on a screen a few millimetres from your eye that look like they’re floating in the air much further away from your face. Walking around the room I did act fall four of acting like a glasshole for a moment, as someone tried to have a conversation with me but I was too distracted by the screen to notice, so they just got my blank, far-away look.

Once it arrives in the UK I predict Glass will sell out fast. Some companies over here are already trialling Google Glass, but mainly done as a PR stunt in the style of Virgin Atlantic’s Glass-powered hostesses. As soon as you try it, however, you’ll understand how it’s a genuine step forward from the smartphone screen. It's also small, light and pretty enough to be verging on a fashion accessory.

We should reserve judgement until we’re officially invited to be Explorers, and once we’re wearing Glass I predict we’ll never look back.

Friday, November 15, 2013
Van Damme + Volvo Trucks = advertising genius

So nicely done.