THE SIXTH SENSE

We humans have 5 different senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. We get along quite well with the quality of those senses day-to-day. However, comparing the quality of those senses to those of other species, we might want to look away in shame. The average eagle spots a mouse from 300 feet away, the same distance from which our feline couch companion can hear a mouse treading across the floor and our dogs can pick a drug smuggler from a line of perfectly normal looking people using it’s nose. I personally cannot think of a species that tastes better than us, but there must be several (hence the succes of McDonalds). I guess the very picky koala has an edge. I am convinced that the mole rat and an earth worm certainly have a better sense of feel than us. Ever tried to catch one sneaking up on it?

There’s an app for that!

5 years ago no one would predict that throwing computing power into a magician’s hat while adding optical sensors, recording capabilities and geolocation tracking, would combine to something Frankenstein-like. Yet this is exactly what it did. I am writing this blogpost as i look at my iPhone and  i am starting too feel obsolete, but bare with me for a moment………….you’ve become obsolete too!

Human senses ‘ featuring’  your phone

HEARING: Imagine this; you drive along in your car and the radio plays a song that you like but cannot pinpoint. You try to remember the name of the song and it’s lyrics, but by the time you get home you’ve forgot both. Our brain proves inadequate in this situation. Luckily our phone are not. Shazam listenes to the song and provides you with the name of the song, the artist and even the version you listened to. Shazam’s hearing is absolute. By the way, check out the Google Translate app, which is pretty epic as well. It certainly beats most of us as at translating into multiple  (say 10) languages.

SIGHT: Google Goggles might see the same as you, but it can recognize what it sees much better than you. Waving your phone in front of a painting, Goggles almost always get’s the name and the artist right. Ok, not always, but the success rate is certainly higher than mine when confronted with European masters. Actually our phones can look beyond to what we are able to see. Layar unveils things that our eyes could never uncover by putting a virtual layer over our visionary lives.

TOUCH: Years ago there was an iPhone app that used it’s microphone to blow out candles by vibration. This time around it is upside down. An app turns vibration of speech into electricity. Fair enough, we humans can generate energy by moving, but by doing so we lose energy reserves as well. Hardly a perpetuum mobile. This technology charges your phone by just being itself. It charges by receiving speech.

SMELL: NASA has developed a chemical sniffing device that plugs into your phone. It can detect gas and a lot of other substances that our human noses would never detect. It could actually save our lives. What is your kick-ass life saving feature in hazardous situations? Mine is ‘run’ and scream: “Run for your lives!”.Ok a phone might be better of alarming groups of people by text messages or ‘push’ technology, but i challenge contemporary HAL‘s to do it with such drama as only we humans can.

Do we challenge anything intellectually, or are we intellectually challenged (by everything)?

Thank god for taste!

TASTE: we humans still have an edge here 😉 I challenge anyone to find an app that beats human smell. In 1997 humankind (or specifically Garry Kasparow) was beaten by a computer called Deep Blue. 14 Years onwards, we are being taken over by the sixth sense, our mobile phone, the device we created ourselves. Let’s all cling to our McDonalds-favouring taste to keep claiming superiority on this planet.

All of our senses may be marked as ‘average’ in comparison, but a lama’s spitting doesn’t stand a chance to our wit. Our intelligence is definitely superior to all creatures’ senses. We invented smoking, managed to distill cocaine from leaves, ‘light-bulbed’ the atomic bomb and outlawed the guy who told us the earth was a sphere. Considering this ‘thought leadership’, it’s no surprise than that no less than 65 years onwards we are overtaken intellectually by the iPhone. Wake up and smell the coffee!


I LOVE social media!

I HATE social media! So for those who clicked on the link because of the header, please leave this blogpost. Those with social media in their bio’s, i pity your existence and Black Belted Social Media Guru’s, i advise you to go #FCK yourself!

SoMe must DIE!

Surrounded by social media people telling me that SoMe is shaping the futue, i find myself confronted by a timeline filled with social media ‘y’knows’. Even management tells me: “we should definately do something with social media”. *i disike*. I know that I’m not the first to be annoyed by the phenomenon, hence this classic: , but the terror never ends. I aim for a different perspective though.

“Working with computers” 

I saw a vintage clip the other day where a Computer Department Executive from GE elaborated about his responsibilities, 1994 was the year. His task was not having people develop epic computing power, his task was managing people who worked with computers. Whatever those emplyees did on their computers, be it marketing or computing, was irrelevant. It was the state-of-the-art Computer Department, people worked with computers. Talking to a friend in administration 15 years ago might give you a bore-out and make it impossible what he did day to day. Yet, you would be able to pinpoint his profession at the blink of an eye when someone would inquire. He: “what does he do for a living?”, you: “He works with computers”; would be your feeble, yet in those days convincing, reply.

A heap of crap

Fast forwarding to our day and age I see history repeating itself. Most of us are amazed by the power of people connecting with each other. About 15 years ago the internet made us all interconnect. I played MS Links against all kinds of people all over the world, over ten years ago. Nowadays I engage with people on Twitter, ask advice about repairing my car on the Alfa Romeo Forum, seek advise for the best hotel on Tripadvisor keep in touch with friends on Facebook. So i engage in social media, that simple? I’d say: meeting, garage, travel agency branche, family meeting. The similarity might be that the conversation is through an online social medium, but there is still a distinctive difference. A difference that the current generation self proclaimed SoMe wizards just not seem to be able to grasp. As we are in the middle of a time shift, that is nothing to be ashamed about. But please, let’s come back down to earth again.

Both goldfish and piranha’s are fish

As i said, it’s been over 10 years since i first really engaged socially online with Microsoft Links, sharing and communicating. Yet after those 10 years, we all talk about a bunch of media as if all were the same. Isn’t it time after all these years to start focussing on the differences instead of the similarities? Before writing this post I ate a handful of sour grapes, obviously. But next time you look in the mirror and you see “someone working with social media” glancing back at you, try to look a little closer.

Found nice Slideshare presentation dissecting three types of media. Let’s all take it from here.

The golden age of crafts,…..is yet to come!

Making a home made touch screenFrom making a living to making shareholder value

Part of my youth i lived in a very smal village with, at the time, as little as 5000 inhabitants. In the center of that village there were three bakeries and four butchers, apart from other very local entrepreneurs. My dad still lives there and even though the village must be three times the size it was back then, there is only one bakery and there are two butchers. The others are absorbed by two big grocery stores. The bakery that is left is not local, it is just a branche from a big chain of bakeries.

Retail anemia

Walking through the high streets of western countries it is no different. These streets are built on H&M, Zara, McDonalds and the rest of the familiar mass retailers. The shop clerks and the location differ, but the store concepts are exact copies of the next one. Considering this, retail doesn’t give us a good reason not to shop online.

Walking the streets of Manhatten, the center of commercialism, you get the very same sense. Every big brand must have at least 5 stores that are exactly the same, dotted around the city. This feels out of place. I am in a city thousands of miles away from home, yet retail shows the same face, a face with a total lack of sex- appeal. In this time of crisis we want value for our dollar. Opening your wallet in one of these concept- clones feels like an unspirational waste of money.

Making a living passionately

Browsing through Chelsea Market in the Meatpacking district something instantly strikes you. There is something real about this place and it’s vendors. My personal favourite is The Lobster Place (@fishguysnyc on Twitter) which has a fish markety feel to it. Their slogan “We stink of fish and we love it” breathes a kind of passion dearly missed in modern day mass retailing. Passionate as they are about fish, they know their way around marketing too. Not because they have a degree in marketing, but because they do what they like to do best. And it works, enthusiasm seems to rub- off on people.

Fast forward a month or so I came across a guy on the internet, his name is Roy. Roy originally started out making clothes and admittedly didn’t know what he was doing. He met people that were gatekeepers of a lost art, the art of making denim. This art was performed on old sewing machines and Roy was taken by art, the heritage, the story, the machinery and the craft. He started designing the perfect pair of jeans (www.roydenim.com). This was all done by hand. His passion conveyed to denim ethusiasts that started discussing his product on fora and the like. As Roy creates every pair of pants himself, his success soon outgrew his capacity. At the moment Roy is rethinking and reshaping his future and his shop is closed for a while.

No need to travel, frevor is all aroud us

This ardor is near, we just have to look closer. At work there  are some colleagues that, atop Maslow’s Piramid, create and do stuff outside their daily profession. Not because they need to, but purely because they want to. Jip (www.jipjip.com) knows how to built websites, and through this craft he can now present his true passion; photography, to the world. Gijs (ww.applesapp.com) released an iPhone app and has built his own touch screen by combining a glass plate and scraping a layer of film from a webcam (see insert). Yes we can! Maarten (@korz on Twitter), an innovation manager at a Dutch bank, like many other aspiring dj’s, struts his stuf as a DJ on blib.fm.

“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”

Inspiration, drive and creativity has driven human beings since ‘it-all’ started. New media enables human beings to share all this. these guys, and many like them, live Warhol’s proclamation. Web- or app design, photography or dj-ism might not be your oldschool craftmanship, but it will be in a new millennium. The more people will understand the power of contemporary media, the more talent driven passion will be visible. It will make our consumption infinitely more appealing than walking the highstreets these days being attacked by the clones! For current management: “We don’t need more-, we need better things!”. In the future everyone might not be famous for 15 minutes, but anyone will be for a century.

ON = OFF = ON, a long way off!

OFF & ON

The term “internet” originates from the year I was born, however the technology concerning this innovation was invented by the US army years before. In short; internet has been around for some time!

My generation (and every other generation before me that consciously experienced the offline world), is still amazed by the infinite possibility that this technology offers. The Millennials (born roughly after 1980 and before 2000) think of the internet as water running from the tab. For them it is just there and has ever been there.

ON

Nowadays if we want to surf on the internet, most of us still need to sit somewhere near an ‘internet broadcasting point’ (a desktop PC or a laptop at best) to start up some tediously slow PC and log on. When we finally do log on, the problems only start. We have to plow through loads and loads of unrelevant-, unpersonalized information before we get to the core.

Thirty years after it’s birth, the internet still turns out to be pretty unimpressive. It is ineffective and it certainly is inefficient! Another thirty years on i think we will laugh at its’ incompetence. I’ll tell you why……

ON =~ OFF

Consumers progressively buy online and most customers take their bearings online. Comparing this experience to offline shopping, online shopping is proving to be inadequate. Offline- versus online shopping is a clear KO: offline versus online 6 – 0! I Ok, might be slightly exaggerating here, but bear with me for a moment:

  1. Slow: quick (24 hour) delivery is still miles slower than direclty taking your purchase home from a shop.
  2. Not personal: Internet cookies can tell me “what i might also like or what others  bought”, but that cannot compensate for al lack of personal and tailored advise by a human being.
  3. Wooden interaction: FAQ’s or inadequate- chatbots (AKA customer support agents on a timer) cannot compete with direct, face-to-face interaction.
  4. Low sense of hospitality: in stores i can walk right through the door and chances are the staff knows me if i am a regular. This opposed to online. I can order online as often as i want but every time i return i have to log on with an ID (heaven knows how many different ID’s i have to manage already after years of surfing).
  5. No try-before-you-buy: showing pictures and playing sounds are still pretty lame ways of trying to make online products tangible. It cannot compare to swinging a new tennis racket before you buy.
  6. No context awareness: if my car breaks down i can call my insurer or the towing service. I can reach themby phone from wherever i am. However, if i want to get my new car insured on the spot using the internet, i have to own a smartphone. Then finding out my insurer doesn’t support a mobile website.

Pretty unimpressive if you ask me! Internet trends like: co-browsing, realtime search and -collaboration, rich content and open ID are interesting developments.  All of them are means of bringing the online experience closer to offline.

ON => OFF

To give the internet any ‘raison d’ etre’ we need it to become (more) like the offline world. We also need the internet to stop existing as an entity. The internet needs to be where we are. It needs to integrate into our mobile phones quicker. There should be coverage the same way there is coverage for mobile calling.

Even better, it needs to integrate into other functionalities to be really practical. Google maps and GPS navigation is merely a good start, streaming video clips into my PS3 feels like a step up. Furthermore, internet marketeers need to listen to oldschool marketing colleagues to acquire knowledge about their customers instead of their webstats.

OFF FTW

Internet shopping is still on the rise, but i do not fear that my local bakery or tailor will be swept off the map any time soon. I think the internet has a long way to go. Only when online functionality matches offline, the internet will have one superpromoter extra.

Food for thought

Trendwatching by list

When 2009 drew to a close we were bombarded with trend predictions for 2010. Every end of the year advertising agencies and Marketing blogs come up with these lists, maximized to 10 bulletpoints headed by big sexy-go-lucky headers. This stings a bit, because understanding society is not a thing you do by reading a list at the end of the year. Understanding consumer behavior takes knowledge of statistics, an antenna for innovation, a feel for sociology and capabilities to makes those things tangible (if only for managements sake).

However for those trend- aspiring, wanna be’s and trendprofessionals alike wanting to take a short cut, there is hope. I have some advice: take an interest in cooking! Cooks prove to be future predictors that are a match for any trendwatcher. Whenever you want to know what is coming our way, go out to dinner!

Culinary predictions of the past

In the seventies cooks started experimenting with ingredients from different countries (Asia) than their own. They started using new cooking techniques like stir frying in their originally France oriented kitchens. It is not clear when globalisation actually set off, but it was only when internet became an integral part of a household that GLOBALIZATION was spotted as a consumer trend.

Ferran Adria started deconstructing food at the end of the last century. His El Bulli restaurants serves dishes like sea water espuma, garlic icecream and water melon caviar in thirty- course menus. Cooks like Heston Blumenthal from the Fat Duck in Britain and Grant Achatz from his Chicago based Alinea soon followed his example of combining food with surprise and entertainent. Bacon & egg cooked in nitrogen became common place. What they actually did was monetize the need for interactive kicks long before trendwatches came up with the term EXPERIENCE ECONOMY.

Cooks are proud people, in a way they are artists. Their works get’s judged every night by numerous critical observants. Early on the culinary world understood that no matter how many distractions you provide, eventually the restaurant will be judged by what comes out of that kitchen. Some broke down the walls creating open kitchens. Others created chef’s tables in closed kitchen. If you are proud of what you bring forth, why not show it openly to the world. TRANSPARENCY avant la lettre. See the parallel to what companies have been facing for the last couple of years, anyone?

Culinary predictions for the future

If we trendfanatics trust the culinary world to be a crystal ball, then there are four mayor gastronomical trends we have to reckon with:

LOCAL: years ago restaurants started to work with regional products. Johnny Boer earned a third michelin star for his De Librije  restaurant with a very basic cooking style using products from the restaurant’s vicinity. Nowadays many of the top restaurants go HYPER LOCAL by growing their own vegetables. We have the world at our fingertips in this internet infused world, yet that virtual world is not intimate and for our direct needs we are dependent on our family, co- workers and local entrepeneurs. We organize the rest of the world around us, digitally.

Local news, -commerce and local ecology is what is really important to us from day to day. To reach those (potential) customers try to make an impact in their neighborhoods, try to make impact on what impacts them locally.

BASIC AS THE NEW LUXURY: even though the EXPERIENCE ECONOMY is not over yet (hence the obligatory alginate Olives we encounter in almost every restaurant these days), restaurants are toning it down. Menus tell us what will on our plate instead of being small literary works. Cooks are rediscovering vegetables and, create plates that center around one product, not a combination of many different things. But the products that are used are of the highest quality.

Simple yet premium. Consumers will be looking for no glitter and will me more critical about what they buy. They don’t want ‘cheap’ however, they want premium at a bargain price.

JAPAN IS THE NEW FRANCE: Chefs are looking at Japan as the new inspirational center of the world. While rediscovering acidics in food they use Japanese one edged knifes and cutting techniques, diners are confronted with all kinds of seaweed and cooks incorporate the Japanese philosophy about food. Japanese eat not to live, but they eat also to stay alive healthy.

Japanese lifestyle can enlighten us on a spiritual level, but the world is looking at what is bought in Japan by the japanese. Japan will be hot from a consumer point of view. Apart from that the Japanese teach us that what we eat makes what we become. Last trip to New York i ate my first chocolate bar that offered a great deal of anti- oxidants. Beware for a future of food that is like Yakult on steroids!

AUTHENTIC: As products are grown in the garden of the restaurant or at least in the neighborhood, we know where the food on our plates comes from. Furthermore restaurants are ‘home- making’ everything. Home baked bread, home smoked eel and home made bonbons. Products that were long forgotten, by us not our grandparents, get reanimated like: beetroot, parsnip and salsify.

Be proud and outspoken about your company heritage (if there is a heritage to be proud of). In times of crisis consumer take less risks in the stuff they buy. If those things offer some nostalgia, that only adds to the experience. If you had a success in the past, don’t hesitate to revive it. Transformers, Vampires, Karate Kid, Sherlock Holmes, Bioshock 2, V 2009 and whatever consumers ‘digged’ in the years gone by, might just offer some comfort to consumers nowadays.

Culinary perspective

Cooks are fanatics, but off course they cannot predict the future. However, for spotting trends one might wanna look beyond the obvious tech savvy freak, the funky fashionista, the scientifically correct demographer or the new media guru. The profession of Cook that is as old as life itself, might just be just the field of work to observe.

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