29 March 2016

Has Uniqueness Become Redundant?

From a young advertising age you're taught about the Unique Selling Proposition. It's the most important line on a brief - the single thing to communicate to the consumer. By definition, the first word suggests the proposition must be something no other brand or product could own or use.

But we're seeing this notion increasingly become redundant. Rightly or wrongly.

I attended a session at SxSW called How Norton Hacked Hollywood, a case study about the antivirus software brand releasing a 20 minute documentary on cyber crime. The discussion included the client, creative agency, director and film distributor.

I rate it, although I haven't watched it (which says a lot actually). It's definitely more interesting than what their competitors are doing and I totally dig they bought on a film distributor instead of getting the intern to 'seed' it.

With increasing investment into content strategy, we'll see many more brands explore this approach. I wonder though, could McAfee (Norton's competitor) have done this? And does that even matter?

If a beer brand creates a poker app, does it matter any number of competitor brands could have done the same - beer, alcohol or other? Does your answer change if the target audience regularly uses it?

We see this lack of uniqueness in traditional channels too. TV commercials often do a category job, and occasionally not even that. The strategy behind most Superbowl ads is to make the audience laugh and slap a logo on the end.

Byron Sharp says distinctiveness is critical in making brands identifiable, which may be a better interpretation of "unique". To answer my own question, perhaps the proposition doesn't have to be something only your brand could own, but rather your brand is first to own.

One of my favourite content pieces ever created is Gatorade Replay. Does it matter Powerade could have made it? Stealing from a meme, the above image (which replaces the word art with advertising) suggests an appropriate response could be "Yeah but Powerade didn't."

Being first might just be more important than being unique. Both in owning your proposition and what you create. Especially in categories where there is little difference in the product benefit.

Or, is that the difference between good advertising and great?

26 March 2016

Virtual Reality is a Fad

A depressing glimpse into the future.

Virtual Reality is so hot right now. Facebook, Samsung and Sony have all announced consumer headsets to drop in the next few months and it was all anyone could talk about at SxSW this year. Presenters spoke to its potential, exhibitors showcased new hardware and software, and every brand used it as part of their activation. (You could ride a virtual roller coaster with Samsung, race a virtual bike with IBM or paint virtual 3D art with McDonald's.)

But here's a few potential problems I've noticed:
  • The screen resolution still sucks
  • It's nauseating (called simulator-sickness)
  • Blinded users were running into walls or getting tangled in cables
  • The headsets are awkward and heavy (well at least on my big head)
  • It's hard to take a selfie when you're wearing a headset (actual problem for social norming)
  • People have greasy foreheads and noses (hurts shareability)

No doubt, VR will have many uses. It's fairly disruptive (for want of a better word) when it comes to activations. Education feels like a rich territory. And of course, as with most tech, the best uses are often not discovered until they land in the hands of smart consumers.

But VR will only take off if there's a headset in every home. And the big players are banking on this (given their billion dollar investments). They think the answer is gaming, and have built their penetration strategies accordingly; Facebook's Oculus Rift in partnership with Xbox, Sony's VR through Playstation and Samsung's Gear through the Galaxy mobile. 

Here's the thing, the bullet points listed above can all likely be addressed in future generations. The fundamental problem is not with the tech, but the experience. VR gaming is novelty, and will quickly grow old. Like the short-lived bell curve graph of Nintendo Wii's sales, VR is a fad. Gamers do not need or want a more immersive experience. I suspect it's the same for VR porn (although I've not yet tried it).

Of course that doesn't mean you shouldn't explore this space. When Coke changes is packaging to create cardboard VR headsets, they don't need anyone to actually use it. The campaign video is more important than the product, and by the time it hits market, PR has already done what it was meant to. Gimmicks like this don't necessarily need adoption to be successful (especially not for award case studies).

Long-term, I'm pessimistic when it comes to consumer adoption. It's rather easy for someone to call you out when you blog a prediction, but if I had to put money on it I'd say after a burst of sales from early adopters, numbers will crash and burn. And in 18 months there's going to be a rather large supply of second-hand VR headsets collecting dust.

While I'm being skeptical, anyone else hate 360 degree video?
The views expressed herein are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer. Also ponies are evil.
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