I’s Can Internet All The Things

Everybody knows that episode of The Simpsons where they get the Pierce Brosnan voiced super house that does everything for them, making life a breeze. Well as technology gets smarter and smarter this fantasy home is quickly becoming a reality and in fact you can already purchase plenty of advanced home wares capable of auto tasking themselves to suit and simplify your life. Oh and did I mention these ones aren’t homicidal?

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These days we want everything to be smart and connected from our televisions to our pot plants. Did you know that since 2008 there are more inanimate objects connected to the net than people and this number grows exponentially each year? Off course I could sit here for hours writing about all the awesome smart gadgets your house needs right now but that would just make me sad because I can’t afford them. What I am really interested in discussing though, is the impact of the Internet of Things (IoT) on the retail industry.

“In simple terms, the IoT stands for the connection of usually trivial material objects to the internet … At the very least, this connectivity allows things to broadcast sensory data remotely, in the process augmenting material settings…  In most cases these objects are able to store and process information, as well as independently initiate action” (Teodor Mitew). Currently I work part time at my local IGA and every day that I walk up and down the isles checking the dates for expired products and writing down what stock needs to be re ordered on my little note pad, I think to myself, ‘for the love of God isn’t there some kind of automated system that could be doing this?’ While I’m working I daydream constantly about a world where each product is scanned before being put on the shelf and I can receive notifications about when it will go bad or when the stock is running low.

But that is just thinking about the benefits at a very fundamental level, there are so many more insights that can be gained from a connected grocery store. Food retail is unique in that it has a substantial components most other retail environments don’t have. For example the food’s freshness is relative to time and temperature whereas clothing retailers do not have to worry about that issue. Imagine a store where the fridges detected and automatically adjusted themselves after scanning the temperature of individual products, imagine digital price tags that updated themselves in real time according to daily specials. “Through implementing an effective Internet of Things strategy, retailers can significantly improve, automate and refine business processes, reduce operational costs, integrate channels and better understand consumer trends” (Hussmann).

Again there are so many more benefits to  a connected store, this whole time I have only been discussing the benefits for me, the worker, but what about the customer?  The Internet of Things means that customers can interact with the products on a deeper level. Smart trolleys have the potential to record highly specific data about an individual’s shopping habits. From there it can suggest products they are likely interested in, auto generate a shopping list based on previous purchases, show them the location of things in the store, tally the cost as they go and assist with budgeting, organise meal plans and even offer unique discounts or promotions. Imagine if quick a smart phone scan of any bar-code gave you recipes, reviews and a dietary rating, well you don’t have to imagine for too long because these are technologies that already exist and are on the cusp of widespread integration.

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Controlled Convenience or Chaotic Freedom?

Steve Jobs was responsible for revolutionising the computer age. When Apple released the Macintosh in 1984 it was the first time consumers were given a user-friendly means of interacting with a computer. The Macintosh introduced the first graphical user interface and was the first mass-market computer to be networkable. But while Apple brought us into the personal computer era their business model has practically reversed and seems hell bent on taking us out of it.

Apple products such as the IPhone have stopped being computing devices and have become simplistic information applications. They are incapable (by design) of operating anything outside of their designated software and they prevent users from accessing any internal elements; creating this shell of a computer that runs entirely off of face level applications. All content and the way you can interact with that content is controlled. You don’t own applications only pay to use them, you cannot change anything, install anything, transfer content and all the apps you can download have come from a centralised network that have gone through an intensive approval process.

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“It was easy to use, elegant and cool – and had lots of applications right out of the box… but the company quietly dropped a fundamental feature, one signalled by the dropping of ‘Computer’ from Apple Computer’s name” (Johnathan Zittrain).

“The fundamental difference between a PC and an Information Application is that a PC can run code from anywhere while Information Appliances remain tethered to makers desires, offering a more consistent and focused user experience at the expense of flexibility and innovation” (Jonathan Zittrain again).

While your phone not being a computer isn’t necessarily a bad thing as Steve Jobs himself proclaimed “You don’t want your phone to be like a PC. The last thing you want is to have loaded three apps on your phone and then you go to make a call and it doesn’t work anymore”. It is important to keep in mind though that the mobile phone has actually replaced the desktop as the primary mode of access to the internet. For millions of people, particularly those in developing nations their phone is their computer.

The Alliance of Open Handsets offer the polar opposite to Apple with their free Android operating system that can run on any device, can be completely rooted or moded and grants users access to both an official app store and unofficial ones. Plus you are allowed to upload your own aps. Originally Apple dominated the smart phone market but Android has now captured 85% of it, just going to show that a long tail of many small units will inevitably always out preform a lesser number of large ones.

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When Google first announced the alliance and the concept of Android, Steve predicted that the fragmented nature and uncontrollability of the idea would be its demise “I think it hurts them more than it helps, it is just going to divide them”.  While he was right about the division he was wrong about it being a negative. Eric Raymond believes networked systems always beat hierarchical ones because you can accomplish more and faster. He compares Cathedrals to Bazaars noting that if you release content early and often problems are resolved quickly by the sheer many. “Given enough eyes all bugs are shallow”. While Apples system of having a selected few make something perfect before release makes the task slow and monumental.

But in the end it all boils down to personal preference, Apples system ensures you are only buying something that has been carefully designed to ensure everything runs smoothly and easily whereas the Android system gives you everything good or bad; you have the power the chose and therefore the responsibility. It is just a question of if you want controlled convenience or chaotic freedom.

I Feudalisation more like Mein Fuhrerisation

Feudalism is a specific type of relationship between Lord and vassal organised around property and allegiance. In the traditional sense it was where the economy ran off the providing of land in exchange for goods, labour and protection. At the top of this economy there was the king who owned and controlled all of the land. He would loan this land out to lords, knights and peasants and in return they would work and swear allegiance.

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So why am I bringing this all up? Well it’s because although this is an extremely dated monolithic paradigm it is one that is still used today and no I’m not talking about a communist nation like North Korea; I’m talking about right here and now and I’m talking about you. If you are reading this off of an iPhone, if you have a Gmail account, Netfix, Facebook, Amazon, if you have ever used an app, then you are actually the metaphorical peasant of this feudal relationship and I bet you didn’t even know it.

Let me clarify…

Since the introduction of Word Wide Web, content has been in abundance do to mass amateurisation and participation. As I explained more thoroughly in my previous post this has led to the decline in its value.  “The digital economy runs on a river of copies, these copies are not just cheap they are free” (Kevin Kelly). When content can be shared freely it no longer has value and as Stewart Brand states “information wants to be free but it also wants to be expensive”.

So how do you make money off of something that is free? You sort it, you package it and you make it uncopiable. This is exactly what aggregates like Apple were able to accomplish by instead of producing content found a way to tie it to their platforms. You can’t use an Apple app outside of an Apple product and like the peasants who did not actually own the land and could not share, use or sell it without permission from the King, you are granted access to content that you do not control. “The old Internet is shrinking and being replaced by walled gardens over which over which Googles crawlers cannot climb” (John Batelle).

So what are you getting out of this?

Predominantly convenience, in exchange for entering the walled garden you are promised quality information that is nicely sorted and tailored to you. You are also promised that everything works and because things run through a centralised system undesirable information (or anything deemed as such) can be weeded out.

But what are you giving up?

Well for one the internet itself, the decentralised free flowing system is gone and you are now paying a fee for what used to be free. That fee may be a monetary one such as the cost of a song on iTunes or a subscription to Netflix but it also includes your privacy. Everything you do within a walled garden is monitored and just as the peasants who had to work the land to cultivate goods, you are generating valuable data about yourself for ‘the king’ to sell.

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For example Gmail manages your emails for free and in return it compromises the privacy of not only yourself everyone who has ever had correspondents with you, by scanning your emails for your personal trends and habitual behaviours. Facebook, is even less subtle than this creating a share culture where we willingly divulge large amounts of data about ourselves. Convenience is one thing but why are we so willing to share so much of who we are on social networks?

(Bernhard et al) suggests a reason for this might just be that we ascribe risks to privacy invasion more to others than ourselves due to a  psychological mechanism similar to third-person effect. This coupled with high gratification and usage patterns creates a lax attitude towards privacy.

 

Introduction To The Global Network

The moment when you attempt your first audio blog and realise you said PUGcast instead of podcast. None the less here are my thoughts on week two’s lecture topic and readings…

(ps promise to get better in future)

 

To elaborate further on my podcast the quote from the reading that really stood out to me was “Cyberspace is something more. Though built on top of the Internet, cyberspace is a richer experience. Cyberspace is something you get pulled into perhaps by the intimacy of instant message chat or the intricacy of  massive multiplayer online games Some in cyberspace believe they’re in a community; some confuse their lives with their cyberspace existence”.

This perfectly encapsulates the way the internet has created opportunity to create meaningful interactive relationships without physical interaction. The ability to do so has changed marketing forever. Gone are the days of the old school one way dialogue between a company and its customers. Today’s consumers want more, they want personal relationships, real time communication, opportunity to engage with the brand, to contribute to its culture and to form communities with like minded brand users . My textbooks call this Online Customer Relationship Management but I call it simply being a brand in the networked environment.

Here is a brief history of the evolution of marketing as it coincides with the trajectory of technology itself.

 

When Feeling Bad Feels Pretty Good

A Journalists’ first obligation is to the truth and as many journalists will tell you it is their sworn duty to aid in the creation of informed citizens by representing the world for what it is. By this rule it can be said that it is indeed the role of the journalist to paint a picture of human suffering, as it is a truth that can often be forgotten. And when it comes to painting pictures, a photograph is worth a thousand words. Throw back to the Vietnam War, this was the first war ever fought where society had the technological means of broadcasting the true nature of war to the general public. This was the first time everyday people were witnessing the horrors of conflict; being exposed to an undeniable experience of human suffering. This revelation of truth has been credited as a leading motivator for opposition to the war. Graphic footage of casualties on the nightly news generally tends to eliminate any myth of the glory of war and allows people to see war for what it is… Horrendous.

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The thing with the depiction of human suffering these days it that it seems to have a genre about it and that genre is ‘Poverty Porn’. What is poverty porn you ask? Put simply it is any type of media, be it written, photographed or filmed, which uses the poor’s condition as a tool to generate the sympathy necessary for a desired outcome. Outcomes such as selling newspapers, harbouring support for a cause and even gathering charitable donations. When it all boils down to it these kind of depictions stem from basic marketing and being a student of marketing myself, I know just how exploitative the practice can be.

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As Emily Roenigk explains “Poverty is a result of both individual and systemic problems, involving not only personal circumstances but the social and justice systems in place that either work to empower the poor or perpetuate their condition” ‘Poverty Porn’ has the ability to over simplify these kinds of issues giving people a warped perception of reality rather than the truth it arguably portrays.

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So why do we use this type of advertising? Because it works!

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It is in fact a successful method of sharing information with a public that may, otherwise, ignore the problem and evoking emotion is the best way to induct a positive response. However, “In the long run, it does not encourage people to think about the systematic challenges of ending extreme poverty…The use of these inflammatory images of the poor in such a manipulated light are reinforcing a crude us and them divide to the wider public, namely, that they are entirely and utterly dependent on us” (Julie Ulbricht and Hugh Evans).

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We need to stop and ask ourselves whether it is ethical to depict the graphic qualities of human suffering for the sole purpose of eliciting an emotional experience. The people in these images are human beings in need of help not pity and who is it that really benefits from these images considering it is human nature to feel good about yourself for feeling bad about others? On the other hand as Time magazine editor Richard Stengel states “Bad things do happen to people and it is part of our job to confront and explain them”. Without depictions of human suffering would western society ever be exposed to this reality and would the general public ever feel compelled to confront the issue? I’m leaning towards no. The issue becomes not should we be depicting suffering but rather how we should be going about it.

The Art Of Persuasion

Perception is the recognition and interpretation of sensory stimuli based chiefly on memory. It is the neurological processes by which we create a meaningful coherent picture of the world. Everyone has a different perception based on our inherit predispositions, past experiences, expectations and motives (Kirmani &Campbell 2004). So when we are exposed to certain stimuli the way in which we perceive that stimuli will be completely different to someone else. When it comes to our perception of advertisements, brands and products, however, how much of our perception is our own?
 
Advertisers are masters of persuasion. They subtly weave slogans and images into our everyday lives, most of the time without us even noticing. This is called subliminal messaging, where weak or rapid stimuli is received below the level of conscious awareness (Kazdin 2000). When you walk down the street, think about how many advertisements and products you are exposed to without consciously being aware of it. On average advertisement exposure ranges from117 to 285 for men and 161 to 484 for women (Britt et al. 1972). The difficult part is making us notice these ads in such an overloaded visually stimulating environment and most importantly make us recall them.
 
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We filter out most of the stimuli that surround us. Some of those stimuli, however, have properties that make us more likely to pay attention. For example, when a stimulus changes, we notice it. A light in a room goes off.  While the light was on, it was a sensation to us, but we did not perceive it. However, when it went off, we did perceive it. Advertisers use techniques such as novelty, newness, intensity, contrast, size, color and position to make their chosen stimuli stand out from the rest.
 
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Not only are advertisers good at getting us to notice these ads but they have a solid understanding of what makes us tick. They know which colors induce which emotions, they know what images create what associations, they even know the path our eyes travel in when scanning a poster or an image. Essentially they know how to make us feel about certain products and how to successfully manipulate our overall perceptions.
 
Take this advertisement for example
 
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There is a hierarchy of stimuli within this picture that advertisers want you to notice in a certain order, to generate a desired perception. Notice how the light draws your eyes to the face in this image. Faces grab attention and facilitate emotion. See how the message is placed in the bottom right hand corner, this is because advertises know the human eye inevitably lingers there after viewing an image, they want this slogan to be the last thing you see and take in. Pandas are a symbol of cuteness and vulnerability, you feel sorry for things that are cute and vulnerable, just as the marketer intends. Blues and greys make you feel sad, this advertisement wants to evoke a strong sense of sadness.
 
Here is an ad that attempts to make the same message however this marketer has gone for shock and gore to grab attention and plays strongly on emotion.
 
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References
 
Britt, H & Adams, S & Miller, A 1972, ‘ How Many Advertising Exposures Per Day?’, Journal of Advertising Research, vol. 28, no. 4, pp.3-9.
 
Kazdin, A 2000, ‘The Science of Subliminal Messages’, Encyclopedia of Psychology, vol. 7, pp. 497-499.
 
Kirmani, A & Campbell, M 2004, ‘Goal Seeker and Persuasion
Sentry: How Consumer Targets Respond to Interpersonal Marketing Persuasion’, Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 31, no. 3, pp. 573-582.
 
 
 

I buy what I am… I am what I buy

I would like to share with you an experience I had during the process of purchasing a car, an experience like no other I had felt before, an experience where I began to loose site of myself and become someone different. Let me start off by saying that before I actually decided to buy a car of my own, I had no interest in cars what so ever, I mean seriously a less than zero…fall asleep at the mention level of engagement. But what I found was that when it came to buying a car for myself, I was obsessed. It was all I could think about, day in day out I would just sit in front of the computer searching Gumtree, Carsguide, Trading Post and every site in between.

Why was I so obsessed? I mean it was just a car to get me from A to B, but at the time it was so much more. This was my very first car, an expression of who I was as a person, a symbol of my individuality, maturity and freedom. I couldn’t just get any car I had to get the one that was right for me and although I hate to admit it the greatest concern at the top of my list was appearance. Not just the car but the way I appeared owning it. I wasn’t in the market for a car I was in the market for a statement.

The desire for self worth is known as an Ego or Self Esteem need and the desire for the recognition, respect and admiration of others is a Social need (Lantos 2010). These were the needs I put first when looking for my car.

According to Abraham Maslow there are 5 types of needs that operate in a hierarchical order. Physiological needs (e.g. hunger, thirst) come first, followed by Security needs, Social needs, Self-esteem needs and finally Self-actualization needs (Fred van Raaij, Wandwossen 1978).

“The purchase display and use of goods communicates symbolic meaning to the individual and to others” (Sirgy 1982, p.287). The way in which we give a product symbolic meaning is through the process of Personality Branding.

Brand Personality is a set of human characteristics that are attributed to a brand name. A brand personality is something to which the consumer can relate, and an effective brand will increase its brand equity by having a consistent set of traits. This is the added-value that a brand gains, aside from its functional benefits (Monger 2012).

In my car search I  knew from the get go that there were certain brands I didn’t want to buy because I attributed  them with personalities that differed from the image I wanted to create for myself. In the end I bought an Audi because the brand to me symbolized prestige and sophistication as well as quality. And although after the purchase I once again don’t give cars a second thought, I still love my Audi.

Egotistical need officially satisfied >:)

Here she is in all her glory

Here she is in all her glory

Fred van Raaij, W & Wandwossen, K 1978 ,’Motivation-Need Theories and Consumer Behavior’, Advances in Consumer Research, vol. 5, pp. 590-595.

Lantos, G 2010, Consumer Behavior in Action: Real Life Applications for Marketing Managers, M.E. Sharpe, New York.

Monger, B 2012, The Personality of Brands -Using Effective Brand Personality to Grow Your Business, Dr Brian’s Smart marketing, weblog, 30 May, viewed 31 March 2014, <http://smartamarketing.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/the-personality-of-brands-using-effective-brand-personality-to-grow-your-business/&gt;.
 
 
Sirgy, J 1982, ‘Self-Concept in Consumer Behavior: A Critical Review’,
Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 9, no. 3, p. 287.