Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
August 22, 2014 8:15 PM

Cheap. Efficient. Elegant.

How good is Hollywood at showing us the Internet on screen?

Not The Matrix, but reality. Whether it's text messages or the Internet, have you ever wondered why text messaging and web browsing is so poorly done in movies and on TV? Well, this quick, intelligent and well thought-out five minute documentary presents both a design challenge and an interesting thought about how we see technology when we're not immersed in it. So, if you like technology, film, internet culture, communications, design thinking and more, you should check this out...

A Brief Look at Texting and the Internet in Film.

By Mitch Joel


August 21, 2014 4:23 PM

How Social Technology Will Save Lives

We're not going to talk about ice buckets or YouTube challenges, don't worry.

I was at a barbeque this past weekend, and a friend asked me why Google's self-driving cars matter, and why a search engine would even care about engaging in that kind of innovation. I just wanted to grab a hot dog and talk about this past season's Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee. Calling Google a search engine - at this point in time - is like calling Amazon an online bookseller. It's what got them started, it makes them some good money, but it's not the long play. Google is a technology company that is doing it's best to help people get information... about anything. What most people fail to realize about innovations like self-diving cars, is what they're going to do to help us rethink technology to save lives.

It's not about putting an end to drunk driving.

Self-driving cars will save lives. Not just the hundreds of thousands of people who are killed or injured because of impaired driving every year, but for a myriad of other reasons. Yesterday, The New York Times ran an article titled, New Era in Safety When Cars Talk to One Another. If you can read between the lines, this article is less about cars and more about a fundamental change in technology that will not only make the roads much safer, but is likely to impact almost any kind of product that plugs into a wall or requires batteries. What the article very saliently points out is something that set my brain on fire when I had the privilege of taking part in a test drive with one of Google's self-driving cars about a year ago in Phoenix. I was sitting in the back seat of the self-driving car and speaking to the two engineers from Google (one was in the driver's seat but not touching the steering wheel, the other was in the front passenger seat with a laptop that was connected to the car's many systems). The questions went from, "how does the car know the difference between a branch on the road or a baby?" to, "how does the car handle against road construction or some kind of sudden issue?" The answers to those questions were summed up in a way that I had not thought of before: the computer system is designed with sensors and connected technology that enables it to know, see and react far better than any human. On top of that, it is their hope that all cars will be connected and communicating to one another as well. Just imagine when we can say the same thing about every connected device.

What does that mean?

  • The car is filled with sensors (internally and externally) that gives the passenger more information than they (as a human) could ever capture on their own.
  • The car can react to a situation much faster than any human being. If you were impressed with how fast a calculator can figure out math over a human being, the stuff they're talking about when it comes to self-driving cars is staggering.
  • The car can see a lot further. The next time you're driving a car, try to figure out how far ahead you can see. These cars can see, calculate and compute a massive multiple over what we can do.
  • The car is connected. It's also able to manage information like weather, traffic, historical data and more that enables it to optimize in real-time. That, in and of itself, is a pretty incredible thought.

What happens when this becomes the norm?

It will be like plumbing. Just like you go to the bathroom instead of heading out into the wilderness to find a spot, you will not think twice about, flushing a toilet, turning on a light or getting into a self-driving car. If this technology comes to fruition (and, it's hard to imagine it not being an inevitability), we will probably look back on these past years and wonder how we ever did anything with all of this human-based driving. The bigger concept (and the one everyone needs to think deeply about) is this: what if the cars are also connected, speaking and interacting with one another. That's the crux of the New York Times piece above. That's the crux of understanding how fundamentally interesting the technology is going to be when lives are saved because the car's are telling either the human driver or the self-driving CPU that seven cars ahead, someone just slammed on the breaks or whatever. Information us mere mortals would never ever know.

Connecting is good. Connecting with insights is better.

As far fetched as this technology may seem to you (it feels very real and soon-to-be in market to me), it points to an interesting perspective that brands fail to understand when it comes to something like Facebook or Twitter (which seems a little pedantic in comparison). Just because brands are connected to consumers and interfacing with them through technology, it doesn't mean that they're actually taking those interactions and daisy-chaining them on to other instances to create a better brand experience. A self-driving car could be meaningless. A self-driving car that is sharing information and talking to every other car in its vicinity and providing better decision making power back to how its functioning is a complete and utter game-changer (and, if I'm using a word so puke-inducing as "game-changer" you know it must be serious). Yes, brands have to be connected. Now, more than ever. Sadly (for the most part) we're not doing much to elevate the experiences and make the journey for the consumer that much more smooth.

That's the real opportunity here.

Self-driving cars, social media, content marketing, mobile experiences, whatever. Pushing beyond the primary function of being connected is going to create the real shifts and massive opportunities going forward. I told my friend at the barbeque that Google's self-driving cars will change the way that we see transportation and affect the entire infrastructure of travel as we know it (if they can pull it off). The truth is, that I feel the same way about brands and what they're truly capable of in this day and age.

Perchance to dream.

By Mitch Joel


August 20, 201410:06 PM

When Will Marketers Be More Business Focused?

It's laughable that the vast majority of marketing professionals are still seen as those who spend the money on the TV commercials.

Here's what's really happening: The c-suite is pushing back (and hard). They're asking marketers to do more than spend money on advertising they want them to:

  1. Get in line with the CEO's objectives.
  2. Help drive organizational change.
  3. Deliver timely results.

Anything shocking there?

That's what the 2014 Korn Ferry Marketing Pulse Survey is saying. So, while marketers are using words like "content marketing," "social media" and "mobile apps," the CEO is looking for marketers to act more like... marketers. You know the person who actually owns the Four Ps (Product, Price, Promotion and Place) within the organization. The MediaPost news item, Marketers Face More Pressures Than Just Marketing, paints a very interesting picture of the current state of marketing.

"'It's not surprising that more organizations are taking a hard look at how marketing spend impacts over-all business outcomes. What is surprising is that, despite this knowledge, many CMOs are not as focused on this part of the equation and keeping a majority of their focus on customer engagement,' said Caren Fleit, senior client partner and head of Korn Ferry's Global Marketing Center of Expertise. 'Customer engagement is critical and must be a key focus, but CMOs need to remember that the overarching purpose of driving this engagement is to drive business results. In order to be successful in today's business environment, CMOs and marketing executives need to be learning agile and strike a balance, achieving both internal and external objectives.'"

It's the same old song and dance.

Marketing drives business. The CEO isn't interested in native advertising or newspaper ads. What they are most interested in, is how do these channels and opportunities to connect with consumers convert into real customers? On one hand, you have a CMO looking to engage consumers. On the other hand, you have the CEO just wanting to sell stuff. If only it were that simple. Marketing is a process. It's a dance. Consumers don't walk into the door wanting to buy (but, then again, maybe some do?). They walk into the door (and that door can be physical or digital) in any array of interesting states. How brands process this information, and turn it into a healthy sales funnel, is the real challenge. In recent years, nothing has crystallized this process as cogently (for me) as Avinash Kaushik (Google's digital marketing evangelist and author of Web Analytics - An Hour A Day and Web Analytics 2.0) has done with his See - Think - Do - Care Business Framework. Yes, stop reading this blog post and spend an hour or so reading what Avinash has to say. What Avinash has done so well (and yes, his post is over a year old) is this: it's a practical and adaptable framework that works for all brands, because it is highly customizable and relies on you, the brand marketer, to think with more of a business perspective.

Customer engagement is important.

There is no arguing that. It's just not everything. Selling to a consumer (more than once). That could be everything. In between those two worlds is a very new and different journey. The variances of what makes a consumer act and react has - without question - become much more complex. How marketers adjust and adapt their marketing in a world where they can get in line with the CEOs objectives, help drive organizational change by better understanding the digital landscape and, ultimately, deliver timely results because we now have access to this type of information and data like never before, cannot be diminished. If marketers are failing to satiate the c-level suite, there is no one else to blame but ourselves and the dogma of an industry that used to be all about the sizzle.

It's time to move on. The CEOs are demanding it, and the CMOs have the ability to deliver on it.

By Mitch Joel


August 19, 201411:18 PM

Wearables May Not Be The Marketer's Next Playground

Everyone is going to have the iWatch from Apple, right?

Well, we don't even know if it's going to be called an iWatch. As usual with Apple, we don't even know if it really exists (even though news outlets are claiming that it has been delayed until 2015). Still, it's hard to argue that wearables won't be the next big thing in personal, mobile and connected technology. Why should we be fumbling through our pockets and purses for a smartphone, when the technology is nearly advanced enough that we can have it on our wrists, around our necks... or even something like Google Glass?

It is exciting, isn't it?

If you played around with Samsung Gear or tinkered around with Google Glass, you quickly realize that every type of relevant engagement using wearing technology is completely app based. It's rarely about going to a Web browser and it's not conducive to spending time trying to discover content. It's much more directed by utility (a topic discussed in depth in my second business book, CTRL ALT Delete). The act of flicking through your Facebook feed or clicking around on Buzzfeed are not contextually the same as how we have been behaving with the Internet (on computers and mobile devices). In fact, the wearable experience is nothing like a Web experience. Perhaps the only commonality is the fact that both a smartphone and a wearable are connected to the Internet.

The developers know this, but have brands thought about this?

Developers for wearables are doing everything in their power to take advantage of what the possibilities will be. This is beyond the simple screen and into things like sensors, motion, voice activation and more. They are pushing this technology to do some pretty incredible things, but there's not a lot of real estate for advertising. In fact, it's hard to imagine how even having a blip of sponsored space would make sense, and not create more interruption. So what's a brand to do? The simple answer is that the smart brands will have to build their own apps and experiences for these devices or deal with whatever Web browser-like experience they will have (and the limitations that come with it).

The answer is clear: Build relevance now.

We have two scenarios that are about to collide:

  1. The one screen world (another concept from CTRL ALT Delete): the only screen that matters is the screen that is in front of me, in a world where screens are everywhere, connected and cheap.
  2. Many more screens and many more devices. It's not just wearables. What's going to make these wearables most interesting is how they interact with things like our smartphones and tablets (until the wearables wind up replacing them) and other connected devices (think about your soon-to-be connected appliances, etc...).

Brands are going to be clamoring for a whole lot more than advertising space in world where everything that plugs into a wall (or has batteries) is also connected. If you prance out into the future and just imagine how this connectivity is going to connect with content, one has to wonder how advertising supported media will work? There are professional marketers (much smarter than me) probably toying with these models right now. And - whatever they come up with - won't have the same impression against audience model. Brands that build relevance now (on smartphones, on websites, etc...) and become part of their consumers daily, weekly and monthly desires may be the only ones who will have a fighting chance.

It's a tall order.

Marketers (and, in particular, advertising agencies) have been quick to talk up and build out wearables and connected devices divisions to explore what the opportunity for brands will be (lots of wearables labs being talked about in the media). By my estimation, there will be plenty of big opportunities. But - also by my estimation - the opportunities are going to be new. They're not going to look like current marketing and advertising models. And, if all goes well (meaning we don't botch it up by trying to cram ads everywhere), what we will (hopefully) see is brands creating brand new ways to connect that are - at their core - brand new business models. So, instead of lamenting the end of ads when it comes to wearables, now might be a great time to imagine what new businesses and adventures a brand can create for a very different kind of mobile, connected technology.

Your customer of the future will thank you for it.

By Mitch Joel


August 18, 2014 9:01 AM

The ALS #IceBucket Challenge Is A Huge Success, #Ferguson And More on CHOM FM This Week...

Every Monday morning at 7:10 am, I am a guest contributor on CHOM 97.7 FM radio broadcasting out of Montreal (home base). It's not a long segment - about 5 to 10 minutes every week - about everything that is happening in the world of technology and digital media. The good folks at CHOM 97.7 FM are posting these segments weekly to SoundCloud, if you're interested in hearing more of me blathering away. I'm really excited about this opportunity, because this is the radio station that I grew up on listening to, and it really is a fun treat to be invited to the Mornings Rock with Terry and Heather B. morning show. The segment is called, CTRL ALT Delete with Mitch Joel.

This week we discussed:

Listen here...

By Mitch Joel


August 17, 2014 8:45 AM

The Marketing Performance Blueprint

Episode #423 of Six Pixels of Separation - The Twist Image Podcast is now live and ready for you to listen to. I have been in this business a long time. I was there before Google existed, and I watched... Read more

By Mitch Joel


August 16, 2014 1:18 PM

ALS #IceBucketChallenge - You Could Be Next

It was a cold morning. Joseph Jaffe challenged me. That's right, he did. My fellow blogger/podcaster, founder of Evolution, and author of several amazing bestselling business books (like Life After The 30-Second Spot, Join The Conversation, Flip The Funnel and... Read more

By Mitch Joel


August 16, 2014 7:29 AM

Six Links Worthy Of Your Attention #217

Is there one link, story, picture or thought that you saw online this week that you think somebody you know must see? My friends: Alistair Croll (BitCurrent, Year One Labs, GigaOM, Human 2.0, Solve For Interesting, the author of Complete... Read more

By Mitch Joel


August 15, 2014 5:03 PM

How To Think And Be A Creator

Are you an Entrepreneur? Are you entrepreneurial? There is an implied pressure on people in the workplace today, that if you're not an entrepreneur, you are resolved to a life that includes frequently being at risk of being fired. It's... Read more

By Mitch Joel


August 14, 2014 9:38 PM

A Simple Way To Get Great At Writing

Do you want to make more money? It's the ultimate question, isn't it? If a brand or an individual are trying to figure out a way to extract money from another individual, one of the easiest ways to make that... Read more

By Mitch Joel