Google Analytics

Showing posts with label Apple. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Apple. Show all posts

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Why You Should #DeleteFacebook from Your Phone


“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”
Dalai Lama

Larry Page the CEO of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, famously told the New York Times that when he looks to purchase a company, he asks whether it passes the toothbrush test; Is it something you will use once or twice a day, and does it make your life better? 

At first glance the statement seems perfectly innocuous and almost noble when you think about technology making your life better, but the reality is far more pernicious. Unlike brushing your teeth, something we are taught to do from early child hood, in order to preserve our gums and have healthy teeth, for internet companies the equivalent is finding ways to ensure we get fixated with and completely addicted to their products.

This type of addiction to Facebook, Google, Amazon, LinkedIn or Netflix has nothing to do with making us healthier or better human beings; in fact it is having exactly the opposite effect on our brains, mental well-being and state of happiness.

Merriam-Webster describes addiction as;
1: the quality or state of being addicted
2: compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (such as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; broadly: persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful

There is a reason Silicon Valley does not use traditional business metrics like earnings, sales or revenue to measure an acquisition target, instead they look at ‘stickiness’ or addiction in terms of how often users interact with the app on a daily basis.

Until now we thought about harmful addictions primarily in terms of substance abuse because it is easier to see the visible and physical effects on someone addicted to drugs, alcohol or sex; with the internet and social media, the addiction is more disarming and harder to see. We can all agree that most addictions are bad for human beings, and scientists and researchers are just now starting to see the detrimental effect smart phones are having on our intelligence, social skills and declining levels of happiness.

I understand that this is a hard thing to get your head around because few people will be able to imagine navigating daily life without a smartphone. It is how we stay in touch with friends, share kid’s milestones with family, communicate with co-workers, stay on top of breaking news, search for answers and even solve complex work problems, as well as what we turn to for entertainment during commutes and down-time. Nobody is suggesting we power down our phones and move back into caves, but it is important to understand the harm of constant use and without conscious boundaries.

A recent Wall Street Journal article cites a number of independent research studies reaching the same dangerous conclusion that the “integration of smartphones into daily life” appears to cause a “brain drain” that can diminish such vital mental skills as “learning, logical reasoning, abstract thought, problem solving, and creativity.”

To keep us addicted, each service needs to constantly invent new ways to get us to spend time within their apps and to do it many times a day. This is how Facebook, BuzzFeed, Instagram, Reditt and every other similar service make money - the more often we use it, the more likely we are to see an ad, and thus the more valuable their service becomes to an advertiser.

There are only so many baby pictures and cat videos one can watch. After a while the bit of content vying for our attention needs to become more and more outrageous and sensational to command our repeated attention. It is this vicious cycle in a race to become the most addictive that is driving all their content into the gutter, as we saw with the mass proliferation of fake news across all news and social media platforms in the last US election.

People will argue that we have dealt with many captive and unhealthy mediums over the centuries and mankind has not only survived, but thrived, and this is true; but unlike cinema, radio, television or computers, we have never before been able to immerse ourselves in these things twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and have them within our reach from the moment we wake up to when we sleep.

The same WSJ article explains this fundamental difference with a mobile phone in this way: “Imagine combining a mailbox, a newspaper, a TV, a radio, a photo album, a public library and a boisterous party attended by everyone you know, and then compressing them all into a single, small, radiant object. That is what a smartphone represents to us. No wonder we can’t take our minds off it.”

Another study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found a direct connection between increased Facebook usage and decreased well-being; “And the team says their findings show that "well-being declines are also a matter of quantity of use rather than only quality of use." Even if we were to argue that adults are generally more capable of dealing with this type of addiction, which the data says is not true, we must consider the devastating effect it is having on younger minds.

Jean M. Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University who has been studying generational differences for 25 years, recently wrote an article in The Atlantic on this issue. She found that “there is compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are having profound effects on their lives—and making them seriously unhappy.” She concludes that “there’s not a single exception. All screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all non-screen activities are linked to more happiness.”

I am not suggesting that Facebook, LinkedIn or Google are evil; in fact in the grand scheme of life they have done much more good than bad. The issue is the frequency with which we engage with our apps based on having our mobile phones tethered to us 24x7, and the incessant and constant need to consume information via the built in alerts and notifications, which are designed to distract us from life and encroach on our minds in unhealthy ways.

I understand that it is not possible to live without Facebook and Google or a mobile phone today, but there is no reason why we need to have access to and distraction by these services twenty-four hours a day. My suggestion (and this is what I have done) is to delete Facebook from your phone, because it is the MOST distracting and harmful social platform of the lot and then turn OFF your notifications on all the other apps barring maybe two or three news sites.

This way you will still have access to everything but will be in total command of when and where you do, and no longer be a slave to their alerts and notifications.

I promise you that you will be much happier and science says your mind will be much healthier.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Tale of Two Laptops: Sony VAIO and Apple MacBook Pro

“If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.”
Jeff Bezos

Our household purchased two laptops at exactly the same time in 2007. One was a MacBook Pro, made by Apple, and the other a VAIO laptop, made by Sony. Both cost around the same and were expensive machines because at the time they were the fastest and best available.

The journeys that these two machines took over the next five years could not have been more different in terms of the care they received, their utilisation, the amount each one traveled; and therefore the wear and tear that each underwent. Ironically, it was the Apple MacBook Pro that was used as both a home computer as well as a school workhorse and then later also as a work computer. For these reasons it was lugged back and forth between home and class for one year, and then to the office and back for another. As a result, the amount of travel time and use it underwent was likely three to five times that of its Sony counterpart. The Sony machine on the other hand was barely touched for its first year. Then for the next four years when it became a full time computer, it was not lugged from place to place and still rarely traveled in comparison to the MacBook, since it was used primarily as a home computer and only in the last year as a work computer. I would go further to say that the Sony was treated better than some people treat their children. To say it was handled with kid gloves would be an understatement; it was kept clean and well protected from dust and other harmful elements. On occasions that it needed to leave the house it was transported in a state-of-the-art Neoprene Laptop Sleeve with a dimpled interior that provides superior shock absorption and protects against bumps, dust and scratches. Needless to say the MacBook took many a journey in far less glamorous environs, ranging from being wrapped in a pair of jeans to traveling sans protection in a rolling backpack.

Now I am also willing to consider the fact that five years is a long time in today’s frenetic technology update-driven world, where people change smaller gadgets every few months and larger ones every few years. However, I will also state that the problems with the VAIO started early. In the first year the CD-DVD drive door came unhinged; then in the second year the laptop started to overheat to the point where it became hard to work on the computer leave alone place it anywhere near the vicinity of your lap. Having purchased an extra warranty I took it to the retailer and was told that I would have to leave it with them for six weeks because the problems were too serious for them to repair. They needed to send it back to Sony for repair. Turns out the cooling fan was busted, the battery needed to be replaced and of course they forgot to fix the CD-DVD drive door. Naturally, I was livid when they told me it would have to go out again, leaving me without my laptop for another 4-6 weeks - all this within the first two years with barely any use. Meanwhile, not a problem to speak of with regards to the Apple MackBook, which was now enrolled in a college and being lugged to class five days a week and handling a major workload at home during nights and weekends.

Over the next three years the VAIO continued its downhill slide; a slide driven quite clearly more by the shoddy workmanship than the way it was being used. One day late last year, for no apparent and without any warning, the DELETE button flew out almost taking my eye with it. Systematically, the rest of the VAIO started to fall apart, piece by piece - quite literally, as you will see from the pictures. The fan issue also came back with a vengeance, which leads me to conclude it was a problem that Sony was aware of in this laptop and applied the same solution again when it had gone to them for repair. A great company would have offered a replacement, acknowledging the problem, or at least offered an alternative. Sony did not.

Finally, last month I decided to take the laptop to the Sony flagship store and show it to a manager. Now, I want to be clear that I was not expecting the manager to magically offer me a brand new laptop. However, I did expect them to be outraged, embarrassed and even shocked at the condition of one of their highest priced VAIO products.

Having dealt with many companies and their customer service over the years, I see that there are basically two types of companies: those that care and those that don’t. Apple is an example of the former. Needless to say that the MacBook Pro had absolutely no issues other than requiring a replacement battery last year; about a year after the extended warranty had expired. The salesperson at the Apple store saw that the warranty had expired but still insisted on giving us a new battery at no cost. We had come fully expecting to buy one. The gesture was tremendous and the goodwill it created cannot be bought with the largest advertising and PR budgets in the world. Of course, we have told everyone about our great experience and will be buying many more Apple products.

Now contrast this with the experience at the Sony flagship store. The manager took fifteen minutes to show up after we were told he would be with us immediately. When I showed him the laptop (recounting the story I have above), it was like he stopped being a normal human being and turned into some robot reading from a company manual. He told me that the warranty had expired, which I already knew and had explained up-front, and that since I had bought it at a third party retailer, and not directly from Sony, it was effectively not their problem. I tried to explain again that I was not asking them replace a five year old laptop but wanted to know how a high-end product could look like this – no matter how gently or severe the use. It was not like I was a lumberjack or policeman using the laptop in all sorts of harsh environments and subjecting it to god knows what conditions.

Herein lies the difference between most companies and great companies. Had he simply apologized or even seemed to care remotely, it would have gone a long way for this customer. Also, it was clear that I was in the market for a new laptop, and therefore the perfect opportunity for him to ensure I remained a Sony customer. He could have simply offered me some small inconsequential discount off the purchase of a new Sony laptop, purely as a gesture for my trials and tribulations with his product. Instead, he just continued repeating mundane lines from some corporate training manual, about the out-of-warranty and third party retailer. Effectively, leaving this once fiercely loyal customer feeling like he was not even listening. Finally, in frustration I asked for the name of a Sony executive, and he ran off to get a business card.  When he came back he proceeded to add insult to injury by giving me a card for “Sony Technical Support” with a circled web address. He told me that I should email them about my problem and to see if they could help. I stood there completely aghast and then explained that I could have gotten that from their website, and wanted the name of their CEO or Head of Retail. Of course, he did not know any executives’ names, in the company of his employ, including that of his CEO. He once again suggested I go on their website. I left and decided I would share my story about how and why I stopped being a longtime Sony customer.

Unfortunately for Sony they don’t just make laptops but a whole range of products from TV’s to PlayStations. I have no problem with a problematic product, as long as the company takes the steps of fix it. However, I do care deeply about being heard, by the same company, during the far fewer instances that I am not opening my wallet to give them my hard-earned money.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Good, the Ad and the Ugly

"There are a lot of great technicians in advertising. And unfortunately they talk the best game. They know all the rules ... but there's one little rub. They forget that advertising is persuasion, and persuasion is not a science, but an art. Advertising is the art of persuasion."
Bill Bernbach

It used to be that a good advertisement made you laugh, smile or cry but a great ad was one that you had to watch at least five times before you got the deeper message. Not because it was too complex to understand but because it had layers and subtleties that you would not fully appreciate in your first or second viewing. It was a story whose finer points slowly unfolded with each new viewing; that is what we in the industry used to call a great advertisement. Hard to believe today, but those ads were ones people wanted to watch over and over again. It was these subtleties that made the brand in them memorable, relatable and formed an emotional bond with consumers long after the ad itself had stopped running. There was one other trait in those ads that set them apart from the dribble we are subjected to today. Advertising used to be based on strategic gut and creative instinct, with a little bit of research done to gain insight into the needs and motivations of your customers. The advertisements themselves were never subjected to research, or focus grouped to death with prospective customers. Those ads were based on ideas; today’s advertising is built on research and rarely has a discernible idea behind it. I loathe research not because you are unable to learn or because I believe that admen know better than anyone else but because of the way it is conducted. Rather than use research to better understand consumer behaviour, attitudes and beliefs, it is used to show customers five different ideas and ask which one they like most; all that achieves is the worst possible middle ground and lowest common denominator. If people always knew what they wanted and could articulate it, the world would be a very dull, unimaginative and limited place with few inventions or breakthroughs ever taking place. And besides you can never make everyone happy. The truth is that the industry uses research as a means to cover their backsides. By asking the consumer, they absolve themselves of any responsibility for failure. There is a reason the phrase is “risk and reward” and not “safety and reward.” I close this argument with one fact that may startle people. Apple, the most admired and coveted brand on the planet, now also the biggest company (bigger than Google and Microsoft combined), has a policy to never do consumer research or testing when developing new products and services. I rest my case about research.

The US SuperBowl is watched as much for the advertisements as for the American football played. Some even argue that the ads are more popular than the game itself; which could be true depending on the teams that end up competing. This yearly television event is the most watched TV show in America, and also the most expensive to buy an ad on. A TV spot can cost from $3.5 million to $4 million for 30 seconds, depending on the placement. It is for this reason that companies use the SuperBowl as a platform to introduce new products, make big brand announcements, launch a company or simply try to gain bragging rights to having aired a SuperBowl spot. Today, one could argue that the effect of a SuperBowl spot is much greater thanks to the internet. We not only have real-time conversation through social media and live blogging during the game but also an extended post-game analysis on the Monday morning that can continue for days and weeks after the last whistle has been blown. So a good advertisement has the potential to quickly become a global phenomenon through YouTube and other places but the stakes are equally high for the misses. Given this, one would think that companies would at least make the effort to put their best foot and creative minds forward every year. Yet, the opposite seems to be true, and it feels to me like it has been getting worse every year. Let’s review five ads I picked at random from this year’s crop for SuperBowl XLVI, and you be the judge.

First I would like to offer what I believe was a great ad (and long running campaign); one that has all the ingredients of advertising that I talked about up-front.

1987, Volkswagen Golf with Paula Hamilton (DDB)

“If only everything in life was as reliable, as a Volkswagen.” This ad is truly brilliant not because of special effects or a celebrity endorsement but purely because of its simplicity and its insight that ties Volkswagen, in a relevant and meaningful way to a core human need; one that cuts across borders and boundaries. I guarantee this ad was never researched prior to making it.

Now I offer five of the worst advertisements, of Super Bowl 2012, in no particular order:

1.    Century21 Real Estate LLC

This was Century 21’s first foray into the SuperBowl, and sadly for them I would have used them to buy or sell my house before I saw their ad. First rule of advertising, never feature Donald Trump in your ad. Second rule of advertising, just throwing in a reality TV star and celebrity athletes does not mean you don’t need an idea. If they wanted to differentiate themselves as “Smarter. Bolder and Faster” then they needed to do it in a way that re-assured a prospective client of those traits, in a relevant way. Would you have faith in real estate agent who claims to be smarter than the Donald, or spends time racing Apolo Ohno and showing up Deion Sanders rather than focusing on research and your needs? I like the intention behind it but the execution leaves much to be desired…

2.    Samsung Mobile USA – Thing Called Love

I am all for big grand shows but have to admit that in this instance that I have no clue about what the “The next big thing” from Samsung is from this advertisement. It is clear they are taking on Apple’s iPhone and iPad but with what is the question. Perhaps, it is the stylus pen because we have not seen this magnitude of innovation since 1996, when the Palm Pilot launched! Or maybe it is the me too front and back video on their mobile phone? Either way, if you want to promise consumers something BIG, then have something memorable or ground-breaking to show them, or you will look like a mindless ad filled with wannabe rockers, circus rejects and random gospel choirs that leave your audience scratching their head all the way to the nearest Apple store.

3.    Pepsi – King’s Court

There were only two thoughts that went through my head when I watched this commercial. First, I felt bad that Elton John had clearly fallen on such hard times that he needed to do this Pepsi ad. Second, that if this was the opening gambit of Pepsi’s resolve to take back huge losses in market share in America – then they should just quit while they are ahead and focus on their food business.

4.    Best Buy – Phone Innovators

There is an old Japanese philosophy called “Keiretsu” relating to the company you keep, and something we often used in advertising in the spirit of first among equals, that is the company you keep rubs off on you. Idea being to always strive for partnerships and associations that help you lift your brand value and product excellence. That is perhaps all Best Buy got right in this ad by trying to associate itself with these entrepreneurs, and inventors. They forgot the second and most important part, which is to demonstrate to us how they (Best Buy) fit into this group or belong in this league of innovation – just selling more products from more companies is more than a stretch, to qualify to be first among these equals…

5.    Budweiser – Return of the King

There was a time when the Budweiser advertising stood out and was memorable, and some of the early Clydesdale ads gave people goose bumps. This ad lacks an idea, context and memorability. There is nothing tying Budweiser or the Clydesdale’s to the message or situation – the end of Prohibition; that does not hold true for any alcoholic beverage. Nor are they offering a metaphor for today. In fact, it feels like Budweiser is now owned by a foreign company who is desperately trying to feel American, and demonstrate that the brand and beer remain a part of the heart soul and fabric of America. Oh wait, maybe that is because Budweiser is now owned by a Belgian company!