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  • Posted by: Caren Williams on Monday, January 14 2013 01:26 PM | Comments (0)
    HAPIforkAs a first time attendee at CES, I was expecting to wait in lines to see the latest TVs, tablets and smartphones. Sure there was a big crowd jockeying for 3D glasses to experience the LG OLED TVs, and of course there were the regular masses listening to the DJs spinning, showcasing the latest audio technology for speakers and headphones alike.

    The longest line I saw was at the Trojan booth. Yes, they were there, giving away free vibrators. There was a nearly equally large crowd gathered around the booth for the HAPIfork, the fork that buzzes when you eat too fast. And the HAPIfork certainly wasn’t the only thing buzzing at CES. The crowd at the GoPro booth, showcasing the versatile, adventure camera that can attach to equipment such as skis, helmets and surfboards, was exploding into the aisles and even into neighboring booths. Along with the crowds, I found myself trying to capture a photo, touch the products and even ask a few questions to someone working the booth. I asked myself what did these products have in common? Why were they generating what seemed to be more buzz than the usual TV and tablet suspects?

    They inspire. They’re rewarding. They make life adventurous. Sure, life can be exploratory and entertaining through TV screens, audio equipment and mobiletechnology. But it seemed that the brands that were able to capture the buzz of the crowds were those that really inspired people, whether it was to lose weight, to be healthier or simply to enjoy life more.

    As consumers, we now have access to so much incredible technology. It’s almost as if the most advanced products don’t even shock and surprise us any more. But we still crave things that inspire us and make us feel good about ourselves, now and in the future. Those were the brands that really appeared to capture our attention. They showed us how and let us experience it. The ones that did it right, left us with a little kick in our step and enough energy to make it through the seemingly endless aisles of gadgets.

    Caren Williams is Associate Director, Brand Strategy for Interbrand San Francisco.

    Photo from Huff Post Tech.

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  • Posted by: Marina Suholutsky on Thursday, June 9 2011 11:22 AM | Comments (0)

    Nintendo announced a new console for our friend the Wii at the E3 Expo on Tuesday. Designed to make gaming a multi-screen, 3D experience, the Wii U™ lets “U” play on a 6.2” tablet with 360° range of motion, as well as interact directly with gamers using their handheld controllers. The test videos of this console are pretty cool (dare we say, revolutionary?) But what about the name? Does it match?

    The new console has many features of a tablet including video chat, drawing, and two-person game play. What’s new about it is the ability to add a third element to your gaming experience: use of the screen as a second monitor during a game and the touch screen for new types of controls. If you’re playing golf, for example, you can lay the console on the ground to serve as the ball, use your standard Wii controller to putt, and see the outcome of your swing on your home TV. (See the video above.) Pretty remarkable, considering this is designed to happen seamlessly in real-time.

    All that goodness aside, why did Nintendo choose “U”? The most immediate answer is that it’s in line with the developing “Wii/Mii” naming system—Mii is the little avatar used to identify yourself on screen. “U”? You’re the one over there, holding that awesome new tablet-gadget looking thing that’s chasing Mii on screen.

    Creating recognizable, simple relationships among products is brand building. Continuing to use vowels and unconventional spellings (certainly not a “me” too) is very much in line with the Wii brand.

    That said, “U” has been done, and done a lot. Yet the name gets the point across to consumers and reinforces the message that the Wii puts a focus on people rather than technology. This is a question that we, as namers, ask ourselves a lot: shouldn’t strategy sometimes trump our desire to create something totally new? Isn’t simplicity a by-product of iteration?

    Or was this console an opportunity for Nintendo to speak about experience, since that is what it's really changing and competing with? What about the Wii 3D? Modifying Wii with an industry standard could have worked to highlight the experience, but our hunch is that it really wouldn’t have been right for the brand.

    Either way, the Wii U™ looks quite engaging. And the Wii Us? We’re pretty excited.

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  • Posted by: Nick Wright on Friday, March 18 2011 11:19 AM | Comments (0)

    Total Immersion just revealed the first augmented reality application (AR) developed for the iPad 2. The app uses the iPad's cameras and facial recognition to identify the user and apply virtual 3D enhancements to their video image in real time through AR.

    While this demo presents a totally playful experience, it will be exciting to see how brands harness this technology. We will see apps that allow you to try on virtual glasses, hats, and jewelry using facial tracking, but facial recognition technology will take apps to the next level – detecting if a user is male or female, delivering completely different content experiences, and even remembering who users are. This is very exciting, so who will be the first brand to use it?

    "AR Magic Mirror" will be a free application available on iTunes.

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  • Posted by: Nick Wright on Friday, February 11 2011 11:22 AM | Comments (0)

    A demo of the world's first integrated markerless, 3D object tracking on a smartphone. The demo shows where augmented reality is heading: smooth, useful everyday experiences.

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  • Posted by: Jeff Mancini on Wednesday, January 19 2011 12:42 PM | Comments (0)

    There were plenty of goggles to wear at CES this year, but through a brand lens, things were fairly blurry. My colleagues and I were constantly reminding each other of where we were, as one brand environment flowed into the next. It wasn’t just the design that threw us for a loop; it was the 3D, the “other” ipads, and the “smart” — the "smart" everything. Smart phones led to smart homes, which contain smart appliances, including smart TVs, showing smart ads of smart cars. This begs the question: If everyone is smart, then, well, who is really?

    What is smart?

    According to Wikipedia, “Smart TV is also sometimes referred to as ‘Connected TV,’ (not to be confused with Internet TV, Web TV or LG Electronics's upcoming "SMART TV" branded NetCast Entertainment Access devices).”

    Confused? So are many consumers. While true technology enthusiasts know the difference between an ecosystem, a platform, and a device, the average consumer does not. The word “smart,” when used with such excess and frequency, just reads like white noise to their ears.

    To make matters worse, the word is actually used in different contexts by various brands. For example, industrial giants like GE and tech innovators like IBM use “smart” to talk about power networks with two-way digital communication — the smart grid.  Meanwhile, “smart” also refers to a platform for applications to run on, in the case of the mobile phone, and now the television market. Then, for other companies, like Samsung, which refer to its TVs as “smart,” it is a device branding technique. Finally, even GE got on the bandwagon with a “smart dispense” system, using the word for ingredient branding for a new appliance line.

    Two approaches to “smart”
    GE was one brand that  did a great job of branding its technology story both at CES and in its marketing communications, with a minimal use of the word “smart.” There is a nice overall connection to the ecomagination brand platform with some strong names like Nucleus and Brillion — components of its cost-tracking energy platform for the home. While it references the “smart” grid, a strategic focus for its product development strategy, the word smart does not become a core component of its branding strategy. Both Nucleus and Brillion recall intelligent technology and a larger initiative to make homes more connected and efficient. A few instances of “smart” sneak in when referencing a third-party smart meter and, of course, smart phone applications.

    Panasonic, which has a very similar brand platform — ideas for life/eco ideas — also makes a meaningful case for its technology. And yet, a quick google search for Panasonic + smart will pull up a frightful case of “smart” branding gone wild.

    Here’s a short list of Panasonic products from just three search results pages: Smart phone, Smart card, Smart Card Reader, Smart Board, Smart Networking (Viera), Smart Adapter, Smart Battery Charger, iPro SmartHD Video Server, Smart Movie Software, Smart Home, Smart Grid, Smart Lamp, Smart Air (conditioner), Smart Bed, and, of course, a Smart TV.

    So, to all brand marketers out there reading this, please consider the points above. There is a limit to how much we can take of one word, and this dog has already had his day. Maybe those of you reading now have a suggestion or two to post in the comments section below. Perhaps, together, we can make technology branding a little less "smart.”

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