Yet another mobile idea; this one capitalizing on glocalization. South Korean electronics giant LG recently launched the world’s first mobile phone containing a Qiblah indicator which points to Mecca. In LG’s own words: “No matter where the faithful are at the call to prayer, they will be able to easily identify the direction of Mecca.”
Qiblah is the direction that Muslims face when they do their ‘salaah’, or communication with God. The Qiblah indicator uses an inbuilt longitude and latitude orientation that, when used with a comparison to the magnetic north, indicates the direction the Ka’bah, the holiest shrine in Mecca. The phone comes complete with a compass to ensure the user can always find the reference point of north.
Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant recently introduced a clever Saturday-Plus subscription. ‘Plus’ subscribers receive a paper version on their doormats on Saturdays, while on weekdays they have access to the (full) digital version. Which mirrors the lifestyle of more and more readers: no time to read the paper version from Monday to Friday, combined with little desire to leave the home early on Saturday mornings to get the still-popular paper weekend edition. Very astute, not just from a publishing approach, but from a behavioral, process and service angle as well.
On Saturdays, this is where you lose dedicated reading time!
The Saturday-Plus service fits well with a phenomenon TRENDWATCHING.COM has dubbed DAILY LUBRICANTS: the fast growing class of products and services that cater to consumers’ need for simplicity, and that literally daily life. Springwise expects this trend to reach global mass-status soon. Larger markets will open up; not only for clever, new, simplicity-oriented products and services, but also for offering consumers a simplified way of using products and services; buying them (time to give your website a make-over); and interacting with them!
While some traditional publishers cling to the belief that consumers will forever prefer paper publications over reading from a PC or a laptop screen, Japanese teens are happily reading novels on some of the smallest screens available: cell phone displays! With millions of Japanese carrying phones with online access, checking and reading email on the go has become common place. This paved the way for novels written especially for phone owners, and sent to them in email installments of up to 1,600 characters.
The person behind the biggest success story so far, is ‘Yoshi’, who authored ‘Deep Love’, a novel about a 17-year-old girl named Ayu, who finds love through a chance encounter. After sending out email excerpts that attracted thousands of Japanese teenage ‘small screen’ readers, the novel eventually turned into a paper version. A movie may be next.
The Deep Love phenomenon also attracted major Japanese publishers, who have begun creating their own websites for mobile-phone content, from Shincho Keitai Bunko (“Shincho Mobile-Phone Collection”) and Bunko Yomihodai (“All-You-Can-Read Collection”), to Sharp Corp’s Space Town Books. Users can download books from these sites to read at their leisure, some offering flat monthly fees at a few dollars per month, some charging per ‘book’.
Is this one of those ‘Only in Japan’ ideas? Springwise doesn’t think so. Even though the Japanese cell phone novel market is still tiny (USD 1M in sales on an annual basis), what it really shows is that mobile content will literally pop up in more variations and flavors than notorious doomsayers will ever grasp. Whether it’s Dutch mobile phone soaps or Japanese novels getting hundreds of thousands of young consumers excited, ignoring the new business or advertising opportunities associated with mini-content could, well, wipe you off the screen!
Two interesting ideas from The Netherlands that combine charity with solid business goals.
1. A new Dutch fashion label, 50/50, highlights the plight of the homeless by designing ready-to-wear pieces from cast-offs from The Salvation Army. The label’s designer shares the profits with The Salvation Army (hence the name, though it could also have to do with the slogan: together we’re one ;-). The Salvation Army’s contribution is to provide 50/50 with the blankets, curtains and dungarees that eventually show up on racks as skirts, pants and belts.
50/50 is now sold alongside well-known international brands in Amsterdam’s main department store, the Bijenkorf, with prices ranging from EUR 30 for a pair of gloves to over EUR 100 for a coat. Each item comes with a flyer outlining the Salvation Army’s message: people need each other and nobody should be excluded from society.
Depending on the success of the clothing line, the Salvation Army is considering expanding its collection to items salvaged from other depots, like furniture. From a business point of view, the mix of charity and a trendy vintage look should definitely appeal to young people with a healthy social conscience.
Shopping magazines like Lucky are too big of a hit to be limited to the female domain. Enter Cargo, a manly mag for manly shoppers. (Updated: April 2004.)
These days, guys like to shop. Or so at least assert fellow trend watchers who have feverishly been whooping it up all summer long for s: straight yet somewhat sophisticated guys who actually care about the way they dress, who are into grooming, and who are nice to women. (Yes, this is a very limited description of the phenomenon, but if you want to know more, just Google it and find more than 10,000 articles on this buzzword d’avant hier.)
How fitting, therefore, that Lucky, the popular shopping-catalogue slash women’s magazine has spawned a male version called Cargo. Like Condé Nast’s ‘Lucky Magazine’, (whose September edition had no fewer than 195 ad pages), Cargo will be one big fashion, gadgets and grooming catalogue, disguised as a glossy magazine. Guys are supposed to take the magazine with them to the advertised stores, to facilitate quick and targeted buying. (To the left is a guy’s page in an old issue of female-oriented Lucky. Multiply by 200 and voila, there’s ‘Cargo’ 😉
Cargo’s first issue will premier in March 2004, with another five issues planned for the rest of that year. It will compete with new shopping mags for males like ‘Vitals’, a spin-off of the popular title ‘Details’, and with ‘Complex’ (tag line: Buy. Collect. Obsess), the incumbent in this new land of happy male shoppers. Complex is owned by Ecko Unlimited, a clothing company, which is an interesting trend in itself. The world of shopping will be in flux for a long time to come.
It does make sense. Guys in their late 20s and 30s are much more likely to be single, live on their own, and have enough leisure time and disposable income on their hands to work on their looks and style, especially now that women are rightfully expecting men to mirror the almost unattainable beauty standards that have long been set for women. Whatever magazine or store format (also check out last month’s item about London-based Microzine) is going to win, anyone who can instruct masses of young males on what and where to buy is going to be, well, RICH.
Marketers and advertisers, pay attention: Vizoo, a Danish ad/film agency, claims to have developed the world’s first holographic films (called ‘Free Format’) and live film inside a brand logo (‘Videologo’). Basically, it is a free-floating hologram which looks absolutely true to life. The film merges with the foreground and background to create an illusion in a real-life setting. Think 3D movie images of people, products or rotating logos in shop windows, or at outdoor events. This is definitely a service you have to see, not read about, so: view the demo. Clients already on board: ‘3’, the mobile phone company, is currently one of the pioneers of Vizoo’s services in Sweden and Austria, while SF Film, the Scandinavian distributor for Lord of the Rings, used the holographic wizardry to promote the movie in stores across Denmark and Sweden last Christmas.
Once every few months something really new in advertising comes along. Sometimes it is decidedly ‘faddy’, like head-vertising; and sometimes Springwise suspects staying power. For now, Vizoo seems to fall into the latter category, as trials have proven that these holographic videos are true ‘show stoppers’, that truly draw consumers in. Best of all, the service is so new, that hardly anyone outside Scandinavia has picked up on it. So whether you’re in need of innovative advertising (and who isn’t!) or you’re interested in licensing emerging technologies, it may be worth your while to contact Vizoo!
Ah, this is what the Internet was invented for (forget science and ARPANETS): creating entirely new markets by matching supply and demand, courtesy of a refreshing dose of transparency.
Point in case: British MondaytoFriday, an online marketplace linking those looking for somewhere to stay during the working week with those who have a spare bedroom they wish to let from Monday to Friday. Both owners and lodgers register at MondaytoFriday, paying a one-off fee of GBP 10 for one month’s access.
So, for professionals commuting too far and too often, working on a project away from home, or starting a job in another part of the country and in need of lodging or somewhere to stay on weekdays; OR for people who have a spare room they wish to let out on weekdays to earn some extra tax-free cash, without the hassle and intrusion of someone lodging full-time, this is one clever concept. While the company aims to cover the whole of the UK, Springwise hasn’t spotted competition outside the United Kingdom yet.
Think of all the real estate sitting empty weekdays or weekends, around the world, without Yahoo or Amazon.com style brands claiming leadership in this category. From temporary office sublets, to home exchanges for holiday purposes, to MondaytoFriday kind of services: the Net is begging for a couple of professional, global, lifestyle-branded dot com players, to once and for all unlock this multi-billion market! SECOND .COMING anyone?
From the country that brought the world easyJet, easyCar and soon easyDorm (the first easyDorm will open this year in Lexham Gardens, London W8, just off Cromwell Road) now comes… easyBus! However, this time no-frills innovator easyGroup, which is behind all of these new business concepts, isn’t first to market: that honor goes to MegaBus. This competitor is already up and running, with bus routes to and from more than 20 cities in the UK. All bookings happen online and early-bird bookers can get fares as low as GBP 1 (about EUR 1.50 or USD 1.80).
Meanwhile, easyBus will take to the British roads somewhere this summer, with pilot services along the M1 corridor in the UK, initially using a fleet of 10 sixteen-seat Mercedes minibuses. Focus will be on innercity, point to point, short distance minibus services that will avoid using expensive city centre coach stations. Like all easyGroup companies, easyBus will vary its prices according to demand and will operate on the basis of ‘the earlier you book, the less you pay’.
If you’re in B2C, it would be a revealing exercise to take a good look at your business pretending you’re easyGroup, mercilessly cutting costs and driving volume. It’s where TRENDWATCHING.COM trends like MASS CLASS and PLANNED SPONTANEITY converge, enabling consumers to physically and virtually go places at ever-decreasing cost. Soooo… After easyGroup’s planes, buses, boats, cinemas, hotels and automobiles, what’s next? Or better, who’s next?