I’m in the marketing industry, an industry which deals with human nature day in, day out. In the whirlwind of technology-driven communications that surround us (where a blue bird is no longer just a blue bird), it’s easy to forget that my industry deals with core human emotions all the time. We live or die by the consumer’s attitude, thinking and behaviour. The digital world has not changed core human nature, but has changed the ways in which humans receive, process and respond to information. Just today, I had an opportunity to observe how humans today receive, process and respond to information. I observed myself.
I hopped into work today, checked my email, and saw that I had received the customary LinkedIn updates email. I opened the mail, and among other things, I saw a status update called “Awesome mobile app – 60+” from one of my LinkedIn friends called Oliver Woods. That’s someone I had met once through a mutual friend (see, analog networks are still important in a digital world). Oliver had not posted it as a LinkedIn status message, but as a tweet, and his Twitter account had been integrated closely with his LinkedIn acount (I do that too).
And in that tweet, he had given an url of his blog post, which in turn had the iTunes url of an iPhone app called 60+ which his agency, Leo Burnett Singapore, has built. It’s an app which takes Earth Hour beyond one hour, and urges people to perform one environmentally constructive act every day (something like the boy scouts’ daily good deeds). You could unlock badges (inspired by Foursquare?) and track how many acts we’ve done.
Look at all the links in this chain. A friend I had met in real life and added to my LinkedIn, his Twitter account which was integrated with his LinkedIn, an iPhone app his agency had built, a tweet he had made regarding that, his blog post’s url in the tweet, the app’s iTunes url in the blog post, and the fact that LinkedIn had sent me the tweet in an email. This shows the interconnectedness of the digital space, and how we get info from a multitude of digital sources which are closely integrated.
This was not the end of the story. Naturally I followed his url and checked out the app on iTunes. I liked what I saw and it was free, so I simply went to the App Store from my iPhone, searched for this app and downloaded it. My mobile habits became a key part of my user experience, an experience that had begun on my PC.
Once I downloaded this app, I had an option of either creating a new account, or logging in via Facebook. I did the latter. Since I often access Facebook from my iPhone, my login details were already stored on my iPhone. The 60+ app automatically accessed it and logged me in. Yet another cog in this wheel: Facebook. Is there anything left that had not yet become part of my user experience?!
Once logged in, I viewed a comprehensive list of “acts” for the environment that I could do. I certainly plan to do some of them (the easy ones like “decline shark’s fin soup at a dinner”). But before I did anything, just to test it out, I “lied” to the app that I did it. And I got a message, “Congratulations, you’ve unlocked the badge Seedling”. A badge for doing one act? In Singapore terminology, isn’t it very “cheapskate”?
The next natural thing it did was to allow me to share on Facebook. I did that, and the next time I accessed Facebook on my PC, there was a status update to this effect. Another example of how the mobile web has become a reality.
Just as I thought everything in the digital space had been covered, the envelope was pushed further. As we know, social networks are a few-years-old phenomenon, and the present-day mind space is more about location-based networks. True to this, I got a prompt from the 60+ app that “60 Plus would like to use your current location”. I allowed it, just to see what would happen. I’m yet to see the effects of this.
Just to test the system further, I said one more time that I performed this act. I immediately got the message “Success! Thanks for going beyond the hour. Keep up the great work.”
I felt it was great that this variation in the messaging was built into the app. I would have felt annoyed if the same old message was shown again. This highlighted the importance of copy in the digital space. Copy is critical to the user experience in every medium, and digital is no exception.
To explore further, I performed a different act (keeping the aircon above 24 deg C). And I got a message that I had just unlocked the “Just Right” badge.
This is when I didn’t feel too right. A badge shouldn’t be so cheap, that you can get it just by performing one act once. In Foursquare, you need to really earn a badge (e.g. check in to 5 clubs in the same night to get a Socialite Badge), and this makes badges highly sought after. By dishing out a badge for every act, I felt this app was devaluing the entire idea of badges.
These are little details I pick bones with. But as an overall concept, it was very good. The important thing is, it had a solid idea at the core – that Earth Hour is not just that one hour, but it’s about going beyond that one hour and performing daily acts that help the environment. Developing this idea further, a key insight was that people want a way to keep track of their environmental good deeds and feel rewarded every step of the way. With this in mind, digital (and specifically mobile) became the key medium of execution. Too many digital campaigns start with the technology and then find a forced way to fudge an idea. This approach will never deliver truly great work. The approach of starting with human nature is always the best way.
As yet another step in my user experience, I’ve just blogged about it and posted the url into my Facebook. You probably saw it there and decided to read it. Or maybe you discovered it on Google thanks to the handful of SEO tags I added to this post. And now, you may want to download the app and try it out yourself. It’s a cliche that today’s consumer also creates content, but like most cliches it’s true, and I’ve proven that here.
The more I think about this, the more I feel this is a complete example of how today’s consumer absorbs and acts on content. It’s communicators who understand this sort of consumer behaviour who will deliver the best experiences to the consumer. A lack of understanding of humans’ content-processing habits is the key malaise in the marketing industry today, and something that needs to be fixed real soon. If not, the sparingly few marketers who understand this will have a field day at everyone else’s expense.
Erm, and by the way, if you’d like to play around with the app, here it is again.