Sunday, November 10, 2013

Consumer Brand Predictions

Somewhere along the way, I found myself to be pretty good with Brand predictions. I really understand how consumer brands work, especially how affordable "luxurious" consumer brands can emerge: Starbucks (not Peet's), Jawbone, Mac, ... also software like Skype, Evernote ... Even RockMelt (when I did their user research, I was able to make some key observations on their strategies and tactics, then they got bought)

I'd like to discuss some of the brands here. Introduce them one by one week by week, and see how they perform in the future.

We should also consider predictions brain exercises. Scientists have proven that we perform no better than chimps when it comes to predicting stock. When the choices are so limited (binary: popular or not, Obama or Hillary or McCain), buy/sell/hold, no matter how informed our answers are, they just have such a good chance of being wrong. We are limited by the choices and also the models and tools we have.

I enjoy making product discoveries of physical products (that's why i own an online store and also web products (that's why i write a blog).

Twitter and eCommerce, Social Media and small business eCommerce
When I become a small retail business owner, my perception of Social Media completely changed. It became a marketing tool for small retail "hackers". SEO is all very great if you can land on the first page of search engine results. SEO is helpful if people actually know how to look you up (sorry as fancy as Google is, for small retailers, it is like a big Yellow Page booklet). Every clever Social Media post can become a small jolt to traffic. It is more of a guerrilla warfare than game changing advantage. Social Media is great for "spasm" shares, so we cannot expect the life time of each message to be long, unless you are a super star already (that's just selection bias). For all I am concerned, just having effective call-to-action templates that you can cycle through for small retailers will improve your website traffic quite a bit. And the more frequently (not the more quantity) you introduce your product, usage, product in action, the better result you can get.

Note, I am not talking about advertising via Twitter / Facebook / Pinterest / ... for small business owners, you best bet is user generated sincere contents, but frequent contents too. It will take a while to see results, but a $300 per week impression payment via Facebook advertising may just be too much for any small business budget. Small business owners are actually cheap, we have to be, our margin is already low.

[Updated on Nov 11] I love updating my posts. Info changes all the time. New info just become available. Here's an opinion from Growth Hacking site by Michael Ugino on why small business should avoid burning budget on advertisement even if it is on Social Media, and instead should focus on generating a critical mass of CONTENT. A rule of thumb is to have 1000/week unique visits before considering Return On Investment ROI of advertising with hefty amounts.

NativeUnion Monocle Headphones

NativeUnion made some debut in SoCal (seen most often in actual stores near Los Angeles, not so much San Francisco) with its Pop handheld, wired retro phone designs with vibrant colors. That was a good start. Then it reinvented the product and made it into a "Monocle", just the label itself is classy, hipster and artsy.

I use it to make calls, hang it around my neck or messenger bag for easy access, and easily switch between speaker mode (say I want to share Youtube videos with friends) and headphone mode (say I don't want to disturb others on my commute). The tangle free cord (literally cord, not like headphone cord) design is great (Dr. Dre's flat ribbon design was great, but the headphones broke super fast during my business travels. Can't last, hence not worth the price tag).

  • I loved the hip fashionable design
  • flat design intuitive manual
  • vibrant colors but also have solid black and metallic design options
  • cord-design wires
  • smart little hooks that adjust the length
  • It's not an easy product to find on amazon, ebay or a retailer hub ... yet
  • And yeah, I can pretend I am a DJ and dance to my monocle, that's pretty cool
  • Since DJs hold the headphones any way (as opposed to wearing), why not just make it a monocle duh, smart designs are sometimes too obvious and harsh when the status quo is broken
  • I can't imagine how cool the chaining option is
Re-novating a classical old design, a vintage old entrenched design is the hardest. Since the NativeUnion had breakthroughs multiple times, I think it will do very well. Just like when Jawbone first started.

A great product design that isn't obvious is the customer support and post-sales designs. NativeUnion allows you to register your product and interact with their well design website. The brand experience is very very obvious. When I check out the brand name again upon buying monocle, I immediately remembered my POP phone (my Asian parent is using it to reduce phone radiation effects in China. A great product for busy business people), and wonder if I can register my Monocle too. It's pretty hard for me to remember my previous purchase by the same brand given how many distractions there are in the world right now. Kudos for creating that brand consistency for physical products (very difficult).
POP Phones

On Monocles, this New Yorker cover on is pretty clever and epic.
The Surprising Sophistication of Twitter

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