When naming goes bad

May 1, 2006

Currys.digital seems so wrong.

I’m not saying this from a planner’s point-of-view. I haven’t undertaken a brow-furrowing analysis, or thought hard about the strategic implications of such a move. It’s just that:

  • Doesn’t common sense tell you that Dixon’s is the cooler brand from the DSG portfolio? I know we’re splitting hairs when it comes to ‘cool and ‘DSG’ in the same sentence, but come on!
  • Aren’t brand names that fake internet syntax just… wank? Didn’t they cringe with the rest of us 4 years ago at ‘iceland.co.uk on retail facisas?

Sorry Rita.

When segmentation goes bad

April 28, 2006

Orange’s latest campaign, for me, is a prime example of how not to use a consumer segmentation. 


They’ve developed a reasonable seeming, pan-European, psychographic segmentation. Which, according to my friends at Acacia Avenue, is “a mix of psychological and demographic factors providing richer understanding of the deep motivations influencing behaviour”.

But Orange have only bleedin’ gawn and turned it around and showed it to their customers! I’m sure that’s not what you’re meant to do?! If you were, businesses could just publish their McKinsey-authored strategy, and customers would just fall all over them.

I’m pretty sure segmentation is meant to be used to:

  • Create personas and use-case scenarios for product and service development.
  • Help the organisation internalise a view of who their customers really are as people, not just revenue-earning units.
  • Develop communications messaging and media targeting.

I’m pretty sure it’s not meant to be used to:

  • Provide an advertising veneer for an unchanged and over-complicated set of tariffs.
  • Patronise customers by asking them to self-identify with a generalised set of behaviours that nobody exhibits in reality.

Lastly, as my friend Mark Gent observed yesterday, if you were going to ask customers to compare themselves to animals, would you really want to choose the Racoon – best known for rummaging in dustbins? Who’d want to identify with that behaviour?




Disclosure 1: Orange has been a client of mine on two occasions in the past.

Disclosure 2: I was involved in the very early stages of developing Orange’s consumer segmentation, with the lovely Captain Haddock of Plot. Back then, we imagined it would be used to create exciting new service design concepts.

Disclosure 3: My friends at the branding agency Figtree had something to do with developing this campaign. They know I think it’s whack, I also know I’d be delighted to eat my hat if I’m proved wrong and that Orange’s sales explode as a result of this bold new approach.

Disclosure 4: My old employer Ingram have recently been shafted by Orange and their unique brand of France Telecom inspired politics. But I wrote this post in my mind long before that happened, so it’s not sour grapes.

Disclosure 5: I don’t think I’ve ever read a blog post where the disclosures are longer than the real content before.

Encouragement to be a tourist in your own city

March 28, 2006

Tubemap.org is a project to get people in cities to contribute to a better shared understanding of the city they live in. Take a trip to a Tube station you’ve never been to, take notes and photos of what you find, and then post to the site.

A great idea, but lacking something in the execution. The website’s a bit hard to navigate, and some of the content contributed doesn’t do what is asked. Still, nice collision of social software and the real world.

Via Russell Davies

The Kid From Brooklyn

March 16, 2006

The Kid From Brooklyn is an old guy on YouTube who makes his views know on a variety of topics. This is the best – ‘"Starbuck? F**k Starbucks!" Via the Fallon Planning Blog

Web 2.0 backlash

March 15, 2006

Pretty funny for geeks: Isolatr beta (via Skype Journal)

Ten things

March 14, 2006
  1. Cuddles
  2. Tall doorways
  3. Côtes du Rhône
  4. Being warm
  5. The Llyn Pensinsula
  6. Slow roast pork belly
  7. The Right Stuff
  8. Apres Ski
  9. Mashups
  10. Brand architecture

I love my laptop

February 24, 2006

Glyn's laptop

I’ve had a laptop for over 10 years, but it’s always been given to me by the company I was working for, and their IT departments always stuffed it full of bloatware to ‘improve’ its performance and limit my access to it.

But now I’ve got my own.

It’s PC, because I couldn’t afford a Mac *and* all the software I need. It’s also a very sensible silver-grey Dell PC. And it took me ages to get set up just like I wanted. But now it’s humming.

It starts fast. It suspends properly when I shut the lid. I’m working on getting all my music ever on it. It hooks up to WiFi easily (and I realised recently that everywhere I’ve wanted WiFi this year now has it). I’ve recovered everything I’ve written professionally from CD backups of laptops past, so I have everything at my fingertips. With Skype I can co-coo with my fiancée or talk to my boss. It’s got all my photos memories on it.

I know it’s odd to say I love a dull little PC, but there is definitely a pleasure (for me at least) in getting something working so well. I’m trying to avoid the temptation to tinker too much; to add that one bit of badly written code that might introduce a glitch and slow it down. And I don’t know what I’d do if somebody nicked it…

Skype stories

February 13, 2006

The Skype website now has some lovely films and photos telling the real stories of how real people use Skype in their relationships.

Skype 'playing games'

Skype stories

Two big frustrations with the Nokia N70 on Orange

February 13, 2006


I am trying to be a good little early adopter, using Nokia’s new N70 phone. I mean ‘personal multimedia computer’, or ‘wand’ as Bruce Sterling calls them. Basically it’s a computer with a phone-like form factor, and where one of its applications is to make phone calls on a mobile network.

What you’d hope though is that it is pretty good at running that most important of applications. Unfortunately Orange have ‘improved’ the device, adding a homescreen that attempts but fails to improve usability over the Nokia original UI. It also seems to be a badly written bit of code, as it slows the whole OS down unacceptably. Sometimes it takes 8 or 10 seconds to open my contacts or a text message. And it’s not just me; people in forums are getting pretty agitated about it too. An acquaintance of an acquaintance who works in the product team at Orange tells us:

…they have now added in the ability to turn off the Homescreen and revert back to the original Nokia UI. This will be available on on future handsets as part of Homescreen v1.9 onwards. The next two Nseries Nokia handsets which we’re launching in the UK… will not have the Homescreen present at all.

So, good if you want one but haven’t got one yet. Very bad if you were a keen upgrader, like me.

But Nokia don’t escape without ire either. They’ve changed the charger for the N Series, but do a good thing by bundling an adaptor with the device, so you can still use your old chargers. However, according to the nice lady at the MPC, they won’t let shops order any adaptors. You can get them through their website, but that doesn’t help if you forget to charge your device and forget to carry your charger – as I did today. So I’ve just had to drop £20 on a new charger.


Making social software work for real people

February 10, 2006

I spent a fun day working at Leslie’s house in the countryside yesterday. It was a gorgeous crisp winter’s day, and we spent the day debating and developing ideas for a particularly knotty client problem, while eating delicious sausage sandwiches and being hassled for grapes by his chickens.

What is probably more interesting is that about an hour of the day’s discussion focussed on social software. More specifically, me trying to explain social software to my colleagues, some of whom are self-confessed luddites. Rather than talk about the technology or some clever principles, I instead decided to just demonstrate three well-known applications: Flickr, del.icio.us, and Last.fm.

They didn’t get Flickr at all; it just raised privacy concerns. “Why would you want to share your holiday photos with strangers?” They understood del.icio.us, but couldn’t see the benefit in their lives as they “don’t bookmark many websites anyway”. Last.fm however really clicked for them, because they could immediately see the benefit – “a tool to find new music that I’ll probably like”. “Like Amazon, but better.”

This got me thinking a bit about where all this Web 2.0 stuff is going, and how we are going to make it work for real people?

The trick for me is to remember that nobody outside of the protocracy is, or ever will be, interested in this stuff. Also, we must realise that there is a generational gap in understanding of how your social network can be leveraged.

In the research I’ve been doing recently in the UK, younger people are impatient for this stuff. They are already doing some of the things that social software enables, through clumsy improvised methods, mostly using text. Remember though that because they want it doesn’t mean they find it clever or sexy. “It’s just how things should work isn’t it?”

Older people though (generally over 28?) see anything social in very friendsreunited terms, and worry about their ability to maintain even more relationships. “I’ve got enough friends.” They have trouble with the concept that (apart from networking tools like LinkedIn), most social software is about the infocloud generated by the relationships, not the relationships themselves.

So how can we shape this stuff to make it acceptable for the mass market? My first thoughts are:

  • Make the social network an enabler, not the thing.
  • Barriers to participation (rating/tagging) must be very low or non-existent.
  • Make it very clear to the user how they are insulted from the weirdoes.


I’m not sure that big fonts have a bearing either way.