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The ringtones sector is rapidly expanding, due both to the proliferation of new channels and devices, and technological (quality) improvement. Two cases in point — Nokia’s 3300 phone & Korea Telecom’s ringback tones. With the way traditional music sales are going these days, ringtones for mobile phones may soon be the most profitable segment of the industry ๐Ÿ˜‰ Now a USD 1 billion+ global market (source: Informa Group), new generation ringtones are increasingly indistinguishable from ‘normal’ digital songs and clips, and can be heard in a growing number of places, eminating from a growing number of devices. Two recent smart new business ideas in this field: — The new Nokia 3300 phone, which doubles as an MP3 player, lets users download entire songs as ringtones, creating yet another market that has gone from analog to polyphonic to MP3. — And, all the rage in South Korea: personalized ‘ringback tones’! A ringback tone is the (usual) boring ‘ring ring’ you hear when waiting for someone to pick up his or her phone (well, accepting a call, really, there’s nothing to pick up anymore). But no longer so in South Korea, where, late last year, Korean Telekom (KT) began offering subscribers top 40 songs to replace the conventional ring. Millions of Koreans now subscribe to the service for about 1 USD per month; companies like ING Bank use ringback tones to get their commercial messages in your face/ear the moment you’ve dialed their number. China is next: Beijing Mobile and Shenzhen Mobile, cooperating with KT and its tech partner WiseSpot, recently launched the ringback service, to the delight of 16,000 subscribers who signed up during the first week of availability. The US should follow by Christmas of this year. (Sources: Nokia, News.com, TheFeature.com, Planet Multimedia.)

Opportunities

If you’re still sulking about missing out on the SMS and analog ringtone bonanza, new ring(back) tones may come to the rescue! The ringtones sector is rapidly expanding, due both to the proliferation of new channels and devices, and technological (quality) improvement. Check out TRENDWATCHING.COM’s Jingle Casting trend for new applications, or see if you can arrange a meeting with the likes of KT and WiseSpot ๐Ÿ˜‰ Battery-powered hypertags allow visitors and passers-by to simply point and click their mobile at a billboard to access additional information and services from the Internet The Brits seems to have a thing for ‘pointing and knowing’. Half a year ago, we highlighted London-based Shazam, whose song recognition technology lets mobile phone users point their phone to a music source when they hear a song they like, in order to receive a text message (SMS) with the name of the artist and the track. Now Cambridge-based company Hypertag is rolling out battery-powered tags with built-in infrared signals, that allow visitors and passers-by to simply point and click their mobile at a billboard or display to access additional information and services from the Internet. In their own words: “Imagine walking down the street and seeing a poster advertising an airline; you point and click your phone at the tag, download flight times and make a booking.” On the tag owner’s side, a Hypertag server manages the content linked to each tag, allowing for easy monitoring and updating of web pages that are sent to consumers. Adding new exhibits or more information would simply involve changing the content linked to a tag or adding more tags. After successful pilots in the Tate Modern museum in London and the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge in 2002, the first commercial roll out is now taking place in 20 London cinemas, with billboards telling moviegoers where to download music, trailers or stills from the movie, find the nearest cinema or call up the online box office. The deal marks the beginning of a partnership between Hypertag and Primesight, the outdoor media arm of SMG PLC, and is the start of a wider roll-out across Primesight’s nationwide poster network. (Sources: Wired News, Proteinos.com, Nesta.)

Opportunities

Springwise is not one to hype (no pun intended) anything and everything that sounds cool and promising, but we do see ‘hypertagging’ as yet another manifestation of what Kevin Kelly dubbed the ‘connecting everything to everything’ years ago. For more on this, see TRENDWATCHING.COM’s SEE-HEAR-BUY trend. Or consider this, from Hypertag’s website: “Hypertag will use visual recognition, so phone users can point their phone at a magazine or newspaper article and be linked to a web page, and even sound. Using sound would allow TV viewers to access related web pages by pointing and clicking their phone at the television.” Now, if that doesn’t get your new business juices flowing… Update, March 2006 โ€” Unfortunately, the London Fashion Bus is no longer in business. But we still think it’s a great idea! Get on the bus — the London Fashion Bus, that is — for unique pieces by young designers. Touring Britain to bring fashion to the people. Make way for the London Fashion Bus. Launched at the end of May 2003, this cool new business idea is the brainchild of Barry Laden, the man behind happening Laden Showroom on Brick Lane. The London Fashion Bus is a continually touring showroom, stocking over 1,400 pieces of selected work from the 40 designers who showcase at The Laden Showroom, from Candace Miller and D 4 Discus to Nicki Pumpkin and Nobby Styles. The refitted double-decker metro bus brings unique designer pieces to areas throughout Britain that don’t have London’s uber-trendy boutiques and outlets, while giving young designers a wider audience. The website lets consumers check on exact tour dates and locations. (Source: Springspotters, thisislondon.com.)

Opportunities

‘Moving Retail’ works well for many reasons. It allows entrepreneurs to bypass often impossibly high real estate investments. It also gives companies in developing nations a chance to service customers living in remote areas without any retail infrastructure. Customization of inventory, based on where one’s taking the ‘store’ is another plus. In prosperous regions, it’s a way to present smaller, sometimes exclusive manufacturers, designers and producers in an original way, or give aspiring consumers outside the big cities access to the latest and greatest from happening urban centers. Our other website, TRENDWATCHING.COM will highlight this multi-faceted trend (‘5th Ave. meets Main Street’) in one of its upcoming issues. In the mean time, may we suggest a Dean and Deluca truck touring the US, backed up by a mouthwatering website? In partnership with Amazon.com Gourmet? ๐Ÿ˜‰ And somehow, the vast rural areas of China and India in combination with Oceanic style ventures conjures up images of lots and lots of Rupees and Renminbi. We know Springwise has quite a few subscribers from P&G and Unilever, so… Virgin’s Richard Branson has announced he is planning to launch ‘Virgin America’, a low-cost carrier targeted at the turbulent US domestic market. Springwise normally limits itself to proven new business ideas, but when big companies announce spanking new services, we figure we’d better pay attention. Especially if those companies include cult-brand Virgin. Not content with already owning carriers Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Express (in Europe) and Virgin Blue (Down Under), founder Richard Branson has announced he will, possibly before the end of this year, launch ‘Virgin America’, a low-cost carrier targeted at the turbulent US domestic market. A Virgin spokesperson told the Sunday Times that the US airline would cost around USD 15 million to launch, with a fleet of six to eight aircraft operating domestic routes based on the low-cost model pioneered by Southwest Airlines. The group expects to grow the airline organically for two to three years before taking it to market. (Source: Travelbiz.com.au.)

Opportunities

With Australian sibling Virgin Blue performing well, and with Virgin products and services already popular in the US (from Virgin Mega Stores to Virgin Atlantic to Virgin Mobile phones), this initiative may fly quite high, especially when blessed with the signature flair and fun of the Virgin brand. Let’s see what United Airlines’ future low cost airline (code name ‘Starfish’), Delta’s in-the-works ‘Song’ and incumbents JetBlue and SouthWest Airlines have in store for the Brits. Whatever the outcome, the arrival of more low cost airlines represents plenty of opportunity for caterers, aviation suppliers, advertising agencies, real estate agents… the sky is the limit! And yes, with low cost carriers taking off around the world, we WILL soon bring you an overview of ALL related new business opportunities popping up in this arena. AND we’ll have more about Virgin’s retail approach to selling cars. But there’s only so much we can cram into one newsletter! If a USD 1.6 billion company announces that new microwaveable soup containers are lifting quarterly earnings with more than one third, someone at research/business development has done something right. Campbell’s Soup, the company in question, has scored a major hit with its sippable, heat-and-go soups. It started out with market research: according to National Eating Trends, 59 percent of all meals in the US are rushed, 44 percent of women carry lunch to work or school and 34 percent of lunches are eaten on the run. Soup is consistently a top choice for consumers preparing lunch at home, but falls low on the list for out-of-home lunch choices. So putting one and one together, Campbell’s saw the opportunity to shift the paradigm, getting consumers to think about soup as a meal solution for many occasions. In fact, launched last year with four varieties, sippable Soup at Hand was one of the most successful new product introductions in the company’s history. To keep the buzz going, and to stick with trend-based product introductions, the Soup at Hand line will see seven new varieties next month, three of which — Chicken & Stars, Mexican Fiesta and Pizza — catering to ‘Tweens’, children 10 to 14. Note: Tweens are currently the ‘generation du jour’! (Sources: Newstream.com, CNet.com, AdAge.com.)

Opportunities

Want to be like Campbell’s? Relentlessly observe your playing field: which habits and lifestyles are changing, how to infuse your products with a bit of buzz and excitement, how to link everything to everything. For Soup at Hand, it wasn’t just demograhic data, but also observing that consumers more than ever enjoy ‘sip and go’ (Starbucks), or a random given that almost all offices have microwaves on the premises these days. A similar process by Philips lead to the Senseo Coffee machine and if you read TRENDWATCHING.COM, you will easily come up with some more inspiration and ideas. Bon appetit! Feel like having some chocolates with your new Yo-Yo Ma CD, or some fresh tuna with your new Nigela cookbook? Amazon is going to make life easier for you, as the company is working on adding a gourmet food store to its ever expanding offerings this summer. Some of the food manufacturers and retailers that supposedly have agreed to participate are Seattle Chocolate Co, SeaBear (smoked and frozen salmon), and Chukar Cherry Co (chocolate-covered cherries and fruit toppings). Taking the same approach as with its apparel & accessories store, Amazon won’t handle the actual fulfillment, but will act as a storefront and handling agent, receiving commissions from participating companies.

Opportunities

Jeff Bezos is still delivering on his promise that Amazon.com will be the one place people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online. Witness Amazon Japan recently adding an electronics store, and Amazon Canada unveiling software and computer & video games stores. If you’re in the gourmet food business, this may be an interesting new online distribution channel, especially as buying food online still requires a lot of trust from consumers, who may worry about quality and freshness. If you’re in any other B2C sector, continue to keep an eye on Amazon and other big players (eBay!) who are consolidating ‘online sector destinations’ faster than you can upgrade your own website. As air travel in Western Europe has become as easy and cheap as in the US, Central Europe couldn’t help feeling left behind. Despite booming economies, former communist states such as Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, and Czech Republic had been mostly ignored by low cost carriers like Ryanair and easyJet, who chose to focus on more established markets in the West first. But things are changing fast (looming ratification of the newcomers’ EU membership didn’t hurt): — EasyJet is now flying to Prague from Stansted, Bristol, East Midlands and Newcastle. — As of 11 July 2003, Slovakian carrier Sky Europe flies from London Stansted to Bratislave three times a week, at bottom rates. Shuttle buses link the airport to nearby Brno and Vienna (Austria). Sky Europe also plans to launch Stansted flights to Budapest later in the year. — Scandinavian SAS-owned Snowflake flies between Stockholm and Budapest on a daily basis. — Germany’s low-cost carrier Germanwings, an affiliate of Lufthansa AG, recently launched a daily service between Cologne and Budapest. — The launch of Hungary’s first national low-cost airline, Arc Air, is said to be in a preparatory phase. — Last but not least, lower-than-low fares carrier Ryanair is reported to be eyeing underused regional Hungarian airports to add to its destinations in 2004. Sรกrmellรฉk and Debrecen airports, both near tourist destinations like Lake Balaton, appear to be frontrunners. (Sources: Springspotters.com, Guardian, Budapester.hu.)

Opportunities

PLENTY! Citizens in Central Europe want to travel on the cheap like their counterparts in the EU. And EU citizens are more than ready to embark on weekend trips and summer holidays in ‘Mittel Europa’. Moreover, many ‘forgotten’ regions in Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia could profit from low cost carriers breathing life back into small (often military) airports, whether it’s for tourism or trade. Indications of what might be in store for Central Europe: house prices in the Limousin region soared 30-40% after Buzz, now a Ryanair company, started flying to Limoges (source: FT, 23 February 2003). And when Ryanair introduced flights from London’s Stansted airport to Pisa in Italy at cut-rate fares, the nearby region of Lucca instantly attracted many second home buyers from the UK). If developments in the EU are anything to go by, Central Europe could be in for a fast ride on the low fare express. The gaming craze is showing no signs of cooling off. An advertising agency and a university get prepared for the long haul & the big profits. Remember our March article about in-game brand and product placements? As the gaming craze — offline and online — is showing no signs of cooling off, more and more established parties are jumping on the bandwagon. For example: McDonald’s and Intel are already spending more than USD 2 million on their virtual presence in the Sims community. And in a Disney game out this fall, players collect Nokia ringtones and deliver McDonald’s burgers. To put gaming into perspective: according to the Interactive Digital Software Association, 60% of all Americans play games. That’s 145 million consumers. They bought 221 million computer and video games in 2002, almost two per household. And the gaming industry is larger than the motion picture box office in terms of revenue, plus it’s growing at three times the pace. Two new business ideas that are looking to cash in on the numbers above: — Starcom Media Vest, a unit of Paris-based marketer Publicis Groupe, recently launched Play, the first advertising/placements agency that will focus specifically on the USD 10.3 billion gaming market. In their own words: “we are excited to capitalize on video game contents and formats to convey our clients’ branding messages to a massive and influential consumer audience.” Play comprises a team of ten marketing professionals who will operate from offices in Chicago and Los Angeles. (more…) Apple is in a well-deserved position to make all things digital fun and acceptable. Witness its lead in everything from selling music online (iTunes) to wireless network gear (AirPort) to playing MP3s (iPod) to cutting edge design (from the iMac to the 23-inch Cinema Display). And now, with its new iSight camera and iChat software, it may do the same thing for see-you-see-me (or ‘video telephony / ‘video conferencing’, also known as the 40-year promise of video phones being the Next Big Thing). iChat allows users to create instant message-style buddy lists, and the camera has nice Apple-touches like a green ‘on air’ light, and a feature that allows you to mute the video by closing the lens cover without disconnecting you from the conversation. And yes, it looks nice, too.

Opportunities

If iChat/iSight becomes another Apple success story, the real opportunities may be found in the much bigger world of Windows, where competitors are nowadays quick to follow Apple’s moves — witness buymusic.com‘s Windows clone of the iTunes store. With broadband becoming ubiquitous, iSight may just be the push that video conferencing and VOIP needed: start stocking up on cameras and video walls ๐Ÿ˜‰ British easyGroup has set its sights on one of the missing links in its travel/entertainment empire: accommodation. Welcome to easyDorm! After turning various industries upside down by launching the likes of easyJet, easyCar, and easyCinema, British easyGroup has now set its sights on one of the missing links in its travel/entertainment empire: accommodation. After all, if it’s price-elastic, the easyGroup will go for it! Soon, after boarding orange easyJet planes, picking up an easyCar at the airport, and watching a movie in an easyCinema, consumers can get a good night’s sleep in an easyDorm, all for next to nothing if booked well in advance. Starting in London next year (New York and Paris could be next, source: USA Today), easyDorm will concentrate on providing accommodation only, and will not offer a restaurant or other services. Bedding and toiletries will be available for purchase for those customers who don’t bring their own. Rooms will consist of pre-fabricated fibreglass units (nothing to break, no dirt accumulation), and come with a shower unit, a lavatory and floor mattresses inspired by Japanese tatami style bedding. An extra charge applies for those who choose not to clean their own room.

Opportunities

It will be highly interesting to see whether easyDorm can compete with more than just youth hostels and backpacker joints. It’s entering a growing market though: there are around 60,000 rooms in the UK in budget hotels today, from less than 8,000 in 1992. And changing travel and tourism patterns (not in the last place fuelled by sibling easyJet), with tourists going on short breaks non-stop and year-round, wanting to spend a minimum on transport and accommodation, and a maximum on experience, shouldn’t hurt either. Living in Paris, London, New York, Cape Town, LA or any other world city and want to get involved? On its website, the easyGroup invites anyone interested in participation to email them, so here goes: James Rothnie at james.rothnie@easyGroup.co.uk. (Note: while we’d think easyDorm alone is a sizeable endeavor to pull off, the easyGroup is already planning easyPizza, easyBus and easyCruise. Springwise will track all of these new business ideas, and would like to thank easyGroup for the steady flow of inspiration;-)