Experience is king

For all the hype, glamour, networking, sales pitches and case studies that Social Media Week had to offer, what really sticks with me is the absence of an interactive experience. This goes against everything I’ve been taught about the nature of social media, and what we’re constantly hammering on about on a daily basis.

So on the final day of #smwldn, James (@LusherJ) and I (@bnfx) decided to head down to the Nokia Lumia House in Soho to see what the Business Lounge was all about, and more importantly, check out the much talked about Foursquare-enabled Gift Machine.

James and I are tech geeks. Therefore, our short walk from the office was a conversation about expectations. We thought Nokia was very much a 90’s brand; we weren’t sure what it had done in the last five years that could be considered innovative; and we imagined that the company would probably just accept the fact that iPhone would be dominating both the sales and conversational market in the foreseeable future.

Our expectations were pretty low, so we were amazed by what we saw. To refer to my original point about interactive experiences, Nokia’s open-door Business Lounge provided us with a great one, from our opening tour of the Lumia design story with Emma, to sending a tweet and winning prizes on the pin-board in reception, to an in-depth look at the stunning Lumia range, to using the impressive Gift Machine (which drops presents from a vending machine after a Foursquare check-in).


Nokia has a bright future if this experience was anything to go by. Previously, I would have never thought of the brand as a recent hub for innovation and creativity, but now my perception has completely changed. I saw the Lumia for what it is – a brilliantly smooth and simple smartphone that isn’t just functional, but also incredibly modern in design. Leonardo da Vinci once said, “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”, and Nokia Lumia House really underscores the importance a positive experience can have.

The only disheartening part of the story is that I hear Nokia House could well be closed within the next month. Something they might well want to reconsider, as it’s exactly the type of venue needed to keep consumers engaged and interested in a saturated jungle of noise.

The cheapest form of social media coverage…

Well, don’t you just love it when you see something special?

Forget X-Factor, this is just awesome… Nevermind, how intelligent this young girl is.

Actually, I love it for more than just the pure talent Alyssa has… I also happen to think it’s a perfect ‘two-finger salute’ in the direction of all those claiming they can make a video ‘viral’.

So far, 2.5m+ views and just short of 8,000 comments, without considering the media pick-up. That’s astonishing on its own!

Pepsi and Coca-Cola get mentions in this video. Coupled with these mentions, everyone who sees this video talks about it so positively.

So… that’s huge positivity and brands names all in one video. Mixing that all together and tapping into the subconscious, we now have something that brands really want when they make a video and want it to go ‘viral’.

Money can’t buy that sadly, it’s an organic and natural mystery. And don’t believe anyone that tells you otherwise.

Please share, but only what we tell you to

Please share, but only what we tell you to (originally written for 1000heads.com)

Like many twenty-something males in the UK, I’ve always looked to Topman for fashion inspiration. The retail chain took around £1.8 billion in revenue last year and is a market leader because of their ability to influence (rather than simply follow the) trends; a trait that all brands aspire to. This ethos has always stuck in my memory and as a result Topman is front of mind when I want/need new clothes.

However, experience determines perception, and over the weekend I saw a different side to the retailer. I was in-store, browsing through the racks, when I saw the perfect T-shirt for a friend of mine. It was ideal and emblazoned across the front was “It’s all about me”; a running in-joke that we have together.

I took a photo on my phone to send it to him (so we could have a bit of a laugh and see if he wanted it) and to cut a long story short, I was promptly asked by a member of staff to delete the photograph I’d just snapped. I explained what was happening, and that I wanted to send it to a friend, but it didn’t seem to matter. I still don’t really understand why I couldn’t keep the photo, I was simply told to refer to the Topman ‘terms and conditions‘.

[Edit]: Having later checked the T&Cs, I couldn’t find a single line that said that customers weren’t allowed to take photos in-store, or why this regulation had been put in place.

Being a disgruntled customer of the 21st century, I promptly tweeted:

Topman can make their own rules, of course. But are these restrictions rules stifling sales?

For a start, they’ve just shut down a direct product recommendation between two trusted peers – a big word of mouth no no. After that, there seemed to be an expectation placed upon the aforementioned peer to go home, remember the product, visit the website, find the product page and then send it on to his friend? Unlikely at best, inconvenient too.

Building on that further, recent research shows that 32% of Northern Europeans have used their smartphone to share information with a peer about a brand. Essentially meaning that Topman’s regulations are cutting out one of the most used / simplest forms of sharing and communication.

OK, so, sticking to 1000heads’ blogging guidelines and turning this negative into a positive, I’d like to flip this whole policy on its head and create some kind of smartphone-based media sharing campaign for Topman. Without fleshing it out too much, it would basically aim to drive consumers in-store and encourage organic image sharing. I can imagine it being some kind of treasure hunt, using perhaps both Foursquare and Instagram, alongside Twitter and Facebook to push content out to the masses.

Ironically, I found this on the Topman Facebook page:

Just look at the number of tweets and shares that have driven the competition: 191 and 1175 respectively – that’s not bad at all. The Topman brand has fans that share their content and while it’s not officially related to image sharing, I can’t help the feeling that – on the strength of the above – Topman is missing several opportunities to convert positive (and potentially negative) offline retail experiences into online activity.

The Land Rover competition is not inherently social. They’ve done a simple ‘stick a share badge on it’ job and let it go from there. Imagine if they’d actually tapped into something properly and, instead of shutting down P2P recommendation, embraced sharing of in-store content across multiple different platforms?

It could make for a very different story indeed.

To close, it’s worth saying that I still admire Topman, and will do, as long as they keep selling great products. I couldn’t imagine shopping on Oxford Street without visiting their flagship store. But when it comes to engendering positive word of mouth both online and off, they seem to have missed a beat.