Hacking Cities for a Better, Sustainable Future

Notes from SXSW session moderated by Bryan Walsh, Time Magazine Sr Editor. Panel included Rachel Haot, Chief Digital Officer for NYC, Erika Diamond, Recyclebank VP and Abhi Nemani of Code for America.

Mayor Bloomberg wants to work with the NYC public to help realize NYC’s full digital potential. Step 1 was to assess the situation and create a digital roadmap. Rachel Haot heading up new Digital office.

Rachel’s stakeholder questions during her assessment:
1. What is your goal as an agency? Not what is your goal online. Sometimes she researched their agencies audiences online consumption habits to see if digital was a channel option.
2. What are you trying to achieve in tech and what have you done that you are proud of that you wish more people knew?
3. What’s getting in your way so I can help?

The NYC Digital Roadmap has projects that fall into five areas: access to internet, technology education, open government, engagement, and industry

Recent project examples:
1. Encouraging tech startups through wearemadeinny.com program
2. During Hurricane Sandy, the office applied what they learned during Hurricane Irene and was able to incorporate social media into their strategy for dispersing information. They now also have an emergency protocol for social media in situations like Sandy and Winter Storm Nemo to help streamline the process for sending out content from different city agencies. This content is now kept up to date.
3. Redesigning Pay Phones for the Digital Age http://www.wnyc.org/shows/newtechcity/blogs/new-tech-city-blog/2013/mar/05/redesigning-nycs-11412-payphones-digital-age/
4. Use hackethons to crack large problems. This can provide small successes that stimulate further efforts.

Hackethon (codethon) approach:
1. Look at dev.twitter.com for example of a good Dev community.
2. Get the data out there and then provide clear outcomes and guidelines.
3. The relationships you develop in a hackethon is the best value.
4. To sell hackethon, give success examples.

Other ideas:
1. Use engagement and rewards programs like Recyclebank to help citizens change behaviors.
2. Adopt a tree/adopt a hydrant where citizens sign up to care for a city tree or hydrant is one example of how apps can take a basic “we the people” philosophy and create positive action.


Social Media in North Korea: Tweets from the DMZ

Notes form SXSW 2013 session by Jean Lee, Associated Press, Seoul Bureau Chief.
Twitter: @newsjean Instagram: instagram.com/newsjean

In response to my question about how NK is different to other closed countries like China, Jean responded; To understand NK, you need to understand Korean (north & south) culture. They are very conformist. NK specifically takes pride in knowing they are different from the world. They know they are isolated, and for the most part, like it.
1. North Korea is one of the most closed Internet countries in the world and juxtapositioned against South Korea which has one of the worlds highest penetration in online and digital devices.
2. There are two internet networks in NK; One for foreigners which is fairly open and the other for some citizens which is very limited and controlled. The citizen network has no access to outside content or networks like Facebook or Google.
3. The network for Foreigners has a new 3G system. Jean thinks this could be one, very small step toward internet openness. Jean could search for something on the Internet and show it to a citizen.
4. @newsjean was the first foreigner to tweet and Instagram on the new 3G network. Jean told Dennis Rodman (@dennisrodman) about the system and to tweet on his trip. Jean also travelled with Eric Schmidt in NK who was advocating Internet openness.
5. Although phones are very expensive, North Korea has 1 million cell phone users now who now text, read books, etc. They talk on their phones in movies! Texts used more than email. Not a lot of desktop/home computers. Some have Chinese made tablets for reading books. They call them iPads.
6. The NK citizen network has some fledging social networks sort of like bulletin boards. Used for students to wish their teachers happy birthday. (see associated image) What is being viewed on the citizen network? Propaganda of course like the Peaceful Reunification of Korea org run by the gov. But also, the popular NK girl band, Moranbong. “Which girl is your favorite?”
7. Jean sees no sign of underground internet usage. Fear is very strong and is the first obstacle to break down before this advancement. Some have said NK is 30-40 years behind China.


Survival Strategies for Brands in China: A SXSWi Session

Key points from SXSWi presentation by Emily Chong, frog Dir of Marketing, Asia.

Key Understandings for China:
1. China is not a nascent market.
2. There is no such thing as “The Chinese Consumer.” With cities like Beijing at 30 million population, China is really a collective of mini countries. Treat each city like its own country. Look at tiering cities for your approach.
3. Commercialization is how china innovates. Fire-adjust idea
3.You must move fast. It takes China 19 days to copy a new iPhone.

Popular Consumer Segments:
1. The Value consumer is large. They use lots of online tools and meet-ups to find deals.
2. China’s elderly population has more disposable income than ever before.
3. The children of the 3 decade policy of 1 child China are known as “Little Emperors.” They are okay with Shanzha (knock-offs) but for other people.

Consumer Behaviors:
1. 64% of consumers prefer foreign products because of the quality.
2. Because of lack of trust for institutions, Chinese feel a moral obligation to share experiences. Social media is very popular but the communities and tools are fragmented. Consumers evolve from tools like QQ when they are young to graduating to others.
3. Important to remember the culture of emphasis on the collective, not the individual. “What will others say when they see me with this new product.”
4. China has the largest online and mobile population. eCommerce is next. Tmall.com is a growing popular ecomm network. Because of trust issues and Shanzha, Chinese prefer to see the product first hand. However, seeing is believing because of lack of trust. Example: Forever 21 had a false start. Had to close their original stores. They then reopened online first to test things like where orders are originating. They the successfully opened new stores.

Let’s Change the Discussion to Transparency

Cheerios was recently highlighted in the press for a social media campaign that went seemingly haywire. Cheerios asked fans to upload photos about what Cheerios means to them. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) labeling protestors overtook the campaign and used it to protest General Mills participation with the defeat of Prop 37, a California law that would require food companies and retailers to label products made with GMOs.

But is this really a case of a social media campaign gone bad? The real story isn’t about the social media campaign but rather about brand transparency. Consumers want to know more about the products they buy and have never had more power to get at the truth. We live in an age of increasing transparency and consumer empowerment. I am afraid that too many of us are not recognizing this paradigm shift and simply write episodes like this off as a marketing mistake. My hope is that leadership teams (not just Marketing) across the world are now discussing how to be more transparent, how to empower their consumers and not looking for ways to quell social media.

It’s time we all recognize it’s better to be transparent, even if that means showing your blemishes, than to maintain a shroud of secrecy of perceived perfection. Today’s consumer will respect you for that even if they disagree with you.

Leverage an Experience to Inspire

I was recently reading a music blog and a Starbucks banner ad caught my attention. It had a volume indicator moving up and down and it was asking me to create my own DJ sampling music mix. I clicked on the ad and ended up spending several minutes creating my own mix – all the while Starbucks giving me little clues to their new Frappuccino mix flavors. At the end, I shared the mix with my Facebook friends and then was given a coupon to try the new Frappuccino mixes. This fun experience got me thinking about how Starbucks use to advertise and how it has changed.

Starbucks old vs. new banner ad

I found an example of their old banner ads and compared that to this new approach. What a difference! You can tell Starbucks has embraced the idea of inspiring people to engage with their brand versus the outdated method of only relying on push messaging.

Tim Williams from the Ignition Consulting Group has a great webinar on developing creative briefs that can produce these kinds of experiences. Essentially he says to approach your brief this way:

  • Assume you can’t use advertising. What would you do?
    • What help or value can you offer your audience? This is what my colleague Andy Laing refers to as “the value exchange”.
  • Once you have the idea:
    • Why might consumers talk about this idea?
    • How do they get involved?
    • What keeps the conversation going?