Stumbling Into the Wearable Media Era

The near future of media is wearable, at least if you watched any of the news coming out of CES. But in the short term, the market will continue experiencing an awkward phase befitting a medium that is not ready for prime time.

Consider the intrusionary nature of Google “Glassholes“, or the many awkward apps developed for bulky and somewhat unfashionable smart watches. The world is stumbling into the wearable media era.

Does that mean content creators should ignore the medium for now? Maybe, but they will also risk losing marketshare to early adopters. What to do about wearables was a primary conversation point for a DC Ad Club presentation (see below) I gave at the Newseum this morning.

There are some clear indicators about what will work with wearable media. But first, let’s talk about the square peg in a round hole syndrome.

Just because you can create an app or put a sensor into something wearable or portable doesn’t make it a hit. Further, what works on another medium, specifically smartphones and tablets doesn’t make for a wearable hit.

Glass showed us that [obvious] wearable cameras are an intrusion. People know they are always under the watch of a surveillance camera. Yet, having a wearable camera thrust upon them created animosity. The video/photography experiment failed here.

Recently, I have been testing a Samsung Gear S watch. I don’t want to watch video on my smartwatch, nor do I want to look at photos, email or social networks. I do like having an independent phone for texting and voice calls on the go. The simple functionality allows me to escape the always on nature of my smartphones.

Then there is the “stick-a-sensor” into anything you wear or use. Many of these sensor-driven apps and their incessant social rankings seem like a waste of time. Consider this: I may not want a sensor in my nail clipper. Nor do I want my nail clipping habits ranked against my peers (yuck – more for you than me!).

Early Indicators

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The first obvious area of success for wearable media is the use of audio media. Consider audio interfacing with programs like Siri or Google Talk, listening to podcasts in varying forms, or simply enjoying music. Audio is the linchpin of wearable media.

Why? Typing and reading on these devices is almost unbearable. And as we have seen with cars and even walking, over engaging portable media can be dangerous.

Podcasts may be the silver bullet of all. Podcasting is enjoying a bit of renaissance thanks to smartphones, tech enabled autos, and other mobile devices. Twenty percent of Americans already listen to at least one podcast a month.

It’s likely that podcasts will reinvent themselves a la YouTube. The standard “I am/we are talking about something important” format is just one way that audio files can be created. A food company could offer simple audible recipes, or someone could post directions on how to tie a windsor knot.

The other key feature for wearable media is usefulness. This is where the contextual media aspect of sensors comes into play.

Check out the top apps for Samsung Gears right now. They include a babysitter app which lets you helicopter back into your house and see your child. One app lets you tally expenses as you shop. And of course there are pedometer uses for training.

Almost all of these apps are low attention types of utilities that help someone on the go maintain their lives. You cannot underestimate how important is for an app to be nonintrusive and yet useful for wearable media devices.

What do you think about wearable tech hype?

My Big 5 Marketing Predictions for 2014

I am presenting a free Vocus webinar this Wednesday at 2 p.m. on the five big trends that will impact marketers in 2014. Vocus is a client of Tenacity5 Media.

Everyone wants to know the most important trends of the new year for their marketing program. After reading thousands of posts and reports and sifting through corresponding data about marketing, these are my five bold predictions for 2014, and what you should do about it.

Trend 1: Mobile Begins to Dominate

Google Glass will grab the headlines, but old-fashioned mobile marketing will command the budget. Thanks to responsive and adaptive designs, geofencing, and diverse mobile media properties, businesses can deploy customized campaigns to attract customers on the go. As ROI increases, expect mobile specific efforts to become the next marketing boom.

Key Statistic: In 2014, 3.7% of the total U.S. ad spend will be mobile ($6.2 billion). We saw 81% growth this year in the U.S. market, with that rate slowing down to 61% in 2014 and 53% in 2015, when mobile will make up 8.4% of the total ad spend. Source: ZenithOptimedia.

Trend 2: Wearable Moves to the Wrist

Wearable computing hype will move away from the head to the wrist. Google Glass is too awkward and clunky to be anything more than a niche product. Meanwhile, Nike+ FuelBand and Fitbit continue to show how wearable computing can quietly be accepted in day to day lie. Expect Apple and Samsung to take advantage of the form factor, and define the market.

Key Statistic: Google Glass will move 21 million units in annual sales by year-end 2018. Source: BI Intelligence

Trend 3: Vine Becomes a Major

In 2012 we saw the rise of Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+. 2013 was promising but less successful with Vine and SnapChat.

But toward the end of the year interesting acquisition chatter between Facebook and SnapChat commanded the headlines. Then Facebook delivered a vain attempt to replicate video messaging functionality on Instagram (the McDonalds business strategy strikes again).

There are serious monetization issues with SnapChat. Facebook is turning the Instagram platform into something for everyone, and at the same time nothing distinct.

Vine is already tied into Twitter’s ad platform, and will benefit from its unique video only format. Expect Vine to breakthrough in 2014 because of its simplistic utility, short video, and Twitter’s increasingly successful ad platforms.

Key Statistic: At the end of September, Twitter-owned Vine grew a whopping 403% between the first and third quarters of 2013 according to Mashable, Statista and GlobalWebIndex. That makes the video app the fastest-growing app of the year; it now has more than 40 million users. Source: Business Insider.

Trend 4: Native Advertisers Clean Up

As native advertising continues to expand and infiltrate traditional publishing and social media, consumer trust will decline and legal action will increase. Brands and media properties alike will come to understand the impact sponsored content makes on trust. Native advertisers will clean up their offerings, and brand reputation will take precedence over short term gains.

Key Statistic: The most popular forms of native advertising in 2013 were blog posts (65%), articles (63%), Facebook (56%), videos (52%), tweets (46%), and infographics (35%). Source: Hexagram.

Trend 5: Marketing Automation Improves

The potential for marketing automation is well documented as is its impact on the bottom line. But most automation solutions are hard to use. Marketers don’t have the analytic and technical skills to succeed.

What is hard must become easier. Companies will put pressure on their teams and vendors to make marketing automation more useful to their businesses. Training and user interface evolution will make marketing automation a bigger success.

Key Statistic: Just 16% of B2B companies use automation solutions extensively, and 14% of B2C companies leverage the solutions set.Source: Research Underwriters and Ascend2.

During the webinar I will provide actionable steps if you would like to explore these trends and stay ahead of your competitors. I hope you will join us!

Featured image by Desmond.