A blog by Ross Floate
To build a relationship with customers, a relationship that will make customers think twice before changing electricity providers, smart retailers will deliver more than a firehose of data. Next-generation tools from retailers will need to inform, educate and delight customers.
In the future, they’ll link with other data sets, like weather forecasts, to tell people when to turn their heating up or down to maximise efficiency. They’ll alert customers to spot price hikes and give people a chance to temporarily turn off less-efficient appliances to avoid brownouts. They’ll alert you at work to let you know if there’s been an outage during the day. They’ll offer incentives for changing the time you run the dishwasher. In the shorter term, they’ll let you know if your energy use has spiked before you get an unusually-large bill in the mail.
Instead of data, they’ll deliver value.
Way back in October 2012, I wrote a blog post about removing the idea of inspiration from the design process. Does inspiration exist? If it does, is it at all useful? How do we convey what we do to our clients in a meaningful way that doesn’t involve fairies?
We have a red hot go at answering all of these questions in a tight 30 minutes.
Featuring the dulcet tones of Jerome Lebel-Jones, Josh Kinal, and yours truly.
We’ve been feverishly working away on a project for about a year now – a new podcast about being better designers. It’s not about pixels, pantones or plunger coffee – it’s about the ideas behind the hard work of design.
Hop along to the sites and if you like what we’re doing, have a listen to Episode 0, a live interview with Elise Peyronnet of Melbourne Music Week.
After all, recommendation matters only if there’s great art to recommend.
Known simply as Gita Hall in her heyday, she was a model in the photo used in a Revlon ad in the early 1960s. She says that she only gave permission for its use for that purpose and did not agree “to allow, forty years later, her image to be cropped from the photo, in secret, and inserted as a key element in the title sequence of a cable television series, without her consent and for commercial purposes.
Thanks for the tip, @sealfur.
In 2011, Charlize Theron appeared in an advertisement for j’Adore perfume, and despite the fact that I’m not the target market for the product, I was transfixed. The image depicted a flawless Theron with an impossibly long neck, looking like something from one of Midas’ better dreams.
Theron looks entirely impossible in this image, yet the image exists. Nobody will ever be as perfect as Theron is in that image. But we, as a culture, don’t care about that. We simply wish to see Theron-as-image, and as long as she is served up to us, we’ll evidently pay attention.
Last week a new advertisement for chocolate was released and it features the well-and-truly-dead screen great Audrey Hepburn. Except of course, it isn’t her. It’s the licensed likeness of Hepburn – the services of which were rather creepily rented by the Hepburn Estate to someone who wished her to shill chocolate bars.
In the boom years after World War Two, futurists and cultural commentators speculated that our technological advancements were increasing at such speeds that we would some day need to work out what we as humans would do with all the extra time we were freeing up. I remember as a child being told that one day the 40 hour work week would seem archaic, as we’d all have labour-saving devices doing all of our menial work. We’d be writing, painting, sculpting, or some such, because what else would there be for us to do?
Of course, that’s not what happened. Our time did not become free, because our society is so wedded to consumption that it would collapse if we were not there to exist as a market. Our economy relies on our attention and our ability and desire to be entertained. Our very attention is the resource that’s mined by the culture industry. Film, television, and the attendant industry of Celebrity can only exist because we wish to be entertained and we are prepared to pay to be entertained, or because other people are prepared to pay for our attention (if that means it will sell products or services).
This commercialised attention culture forms a new social and cultural contract. The cultural industry attempts to give us what we want, and in return we buy products (films, television, books, computer games, magazines, websites) or we give attention to things that attempt to market less ephemeral products and services to us. The economy, which relies on consumption, is fed by us. We are both the product and the market.
However, because it’s difficult to predict which films we will like, or to cast the actors most likely to get us to open our wallets in every single role, the cultural industry takes risks. They cast actors in surprise roles, they give unknown directors a break, they fund longshots. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But the desire to profit through risk is the fuel for our cultural furnace. It also produces much of the waste that keeps black-collar workers in busywork for 40 hours a week.
Earlier this year, Netflix released its Americanised remake of House of Cards. It looked like a bold gamble for Netflix, however it was nothing of the sort. You see, because of the huge trove of subscriber data Netflix has on its customers, its management knew that people liked Kevin Spacey, David Fincher, and the original BBC House of Cards.
All they had to do was convince Spacey and Fincher to get involved, and license the rights to House of Cards. The rest was nowhere near the risk it seemed.
Humans age. Charlize Theron will one day be replaced by a younger version of perfection onto whom we can project our desires. This truth is why it still makes sense for people to try to become actors, models, or other types of Celebrity. There’s always an opening at the bottom of the ladder.
Except now, perhaps Celebrities don’t age. Why would a movie studio take a chance on the next Charlize Theron when they can simply cast her licensed CGI likeness in a film that it knows (through access to our historical preference data) that we will like?
What happens to the culture when decisions as to which films and television shows will be produced rely almost solely on algorithms sifting our data? Business has a will to profit and abhors wasted capital. I can’t see a future where decisions about films and television are not increasingly made by algorithms, nor one where a caste of mega-Celebrities do not extend their careers significantly through licensing their 3-D likeness.
Replacing it with ‘customers’ is a step in the right direction, and I have to applaud Dorsey for taking that step. But it still doesn’t go far enough for designers. See, ‘customer’ is still primarily a commerce-based designation. Think of people as customers (it is better than consumers) and you’re thinking of their wallet first, and everything else a distant second.