My South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) experience began on the “nerdbird” – the flight from San Francisco to Austin. At high altitude and in even higher amplitude, the techies sitting a row behind me were speed-outsmarting each other, jumping from database mining, the UX challenge of creating a human-friendly pixel resolution, the myth of interferences for avionics, to the “stupid-smart Nathans” in their lives (sorry, guys, it was hard not to eavesdrop). I first listened with intrigue (because these guys were really, really smart, and I might as well just transcribe their conversation into a comprehensive SXSW summary post), but after a while I began to resist the unsolicited expertise, and browsing through the conference program I couldn’t help but think of my two favorite session titles this year: “Co-Founder Speed Dating” and “The Evolution of the Douchebag in Modern Cinema.” Giving up on my way-too-thin headphones, I craved an enclave that would offer asylum from the forced intimacy of all the power-chatter, a simple switch-off that would disconnect me from verbal deluge and provides some kind of digital refuge from the very human analogue conversation. With all the new services that enable ‘controlled serendipity,’ it seems ironic that social filtering assumes we constantly want to meet people. I wanted to un-meet. Now. And there was no app for that.
Last week, frog took part in Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, the world’s largest gathering of the telecom industry (with a record 70,000 attendees this year) and an increasingly important forum for everything that falls under the rubric “Connected World.”
In light of the Arab Spring and the rise of India and China, and propelled by social technologies, the concept of ‘soft power’ (the phrase was coined by Joseph Nye in his 1990 book, Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power; defined as “the ability to obtain what one wants through co-option and attraction”) is ever more relevant. Or, in marketing terms, Push is out, Pull is in. If an idea, aspiration, product, goal, ideology, culture, narrative, or national identity is attractive to its constituents, it minimizes the need for constant reinforcement and regulation – whether that is advertising, promotions, and other persuasive efforts, or bureaucracy, command-and-control, and coercion. Pull is powerful (as John Hagel illustrates in his riveting book The Power of Pull). It has a lot of Pull (pun intended) because one doesn’t have to push. It saves energy that can be invested otherwise, for example, in whatever “it” is that creates Pull. No surprise then that individuals, organizations, societies, and entire nations wish they could rely on it more.
Rotman magazine, the print and online quarterly of the Rotman School of Management, has just released its new (Winter) issue, devoted to the theme “Open.” Openness has been a buzzword for a while, ever since Henry Chesbrough wrote his seminal book on Open Innovation, but, to apply Gartner’s Hype-Cycle terminology, now it seems as if Openness has finally reached a plateau of productivity after going through years of troughs of disillusion.
I moved back to India 4 years ago intrigued at the prospect of being part of the most vibrant and complex consumer markets in the world. India is my home country, but never having worked here before, I was keen to explore and understand it firsthand.
India is in the midst of a unique identity revolution. After years of consuming “imported products,” the youth here is rising to define their own needs and wants. They still want the western “appeal” but desire the Indian “look.” This concept is Indianization.
The current economic crisis presents an opportunity to realign our collective moral compass. First, by understanding the values that underlie our economies. Second, by reconciling the agendas of business with the true needs of individuals.
Clearly, the bond between society and business is broken, and the legitimacy of companies is at a new low point. Movements such as Occupy Wall Street express a growing indignation over the disconnect between the perks for a few and the rights of many. When Harvard undergraduate students stage a walkout of an Economics 101 class in sympathy with the Occupy movement to protest the ‘corporatization’ of education, it might indeed indicate the beginning of a “New Progressive Movement.” It is not just the redistribution of wealth that’s being scrutinized, however. What citizens, in the U.S. and elsewhere, demand are new, more collaborative and inclusive models of value creation that produce meaning as much as profits.
A lot has been written lately about the changing profile of the CMO, a role which faces an increasingly complex set of stakeholders and expectations (“10 Great Expectations: What CEOs Want From Their CMOs”) as it is engulfed by empowered consumers, big data, digital media pervasion, and accelerated technology innovation cycles. While CMO tenures have slightly increased to an average of less than four years, the role remains a hot seat. Technology savvy, analytics prowess, and strict ROI measurement are almost unanimously heralded as the key attributes of a successful marketing leader. The CMO is expected to be a business strategist, innovator, and change agent, while at the same time also acting as the brand evangelist, inspirational communicator-in-chief, and cross-functional collaborator. Tough one. How can today’s CMO succeed in times of hyper-connectivity when long-held beliefs are shattered, audiences are transient, and “software is eating the world” (Marc Andreessen)?
Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn yield unprecedented actual or virtual valuations. Social media empower and propel social revolutions such as the ones we are witnessing in Arab countries. Enabled by broadband technologies and mobile devices, entire industries are connecting with customers – and each other – in entirely new ways. Clearly, the Connected Age has arrived. A world population connected through ubiquitous, real-time, and social computing, and through more than 50, 75, or even 100 billion devices. A world where every thing is connected with everything.