Posts tagged ‘Skype’


How can we help those fooled into believing what their local brands are?

06.01.2016

How interesting to see a silly Tweet of mine make the Murdoch Press and lead an opinion column—I’m told it even hit the news.com.au home page.
   It’s a very old joke that I’ve told since 2002, when I walked along Bay Road in Kilbirnie and saw a locksmith sign in Futura. Back then, Dick Smith Electronics had its logotype set in ITC Avant Garde Gothic. I really thought it was a Dick Smith sign at a first, fleeting glance, seeing CKSMITH. The joke was born.
   Most in my social media streams got it except a couple of Australians who had likely come across it via Murdochs a day late, one calling me ignorant (not sure how you can get that from one Tweet), and another ‘ahole’ (is this a misspelling of aloha?). As the funniest guy in their media is John Clarke, who was born in New Zealand, maybe humour doesn’t reach a couple of households there if it has to be imported. And the number of times John’s taken the piss about us, to my thorough enjoyment, means that some of us can take a joke. Perhaps we just have a sense of humour. We have to: it was the only way we could deal with our PM appearing on The Late Show with David Letterman. It is, to quote the man, ‘a bit of banter. No drama.’
   The false indignation “on behalf of others” is always a comical one, because it’s usually founded on a misplaced and unjustified sense of superiority. During a political campaign, they’re the ones I find the most humorous and least authoritative. Thick skin came with that territory.
   Neither deserves a response beyond what I said on Twitter, but the second one (with a fresh new account to troll from, always a good sign of someone who won’t stand by their words) highlights a point that I have made on this blog before.
   “Ruby Pond” notes, ‘The guy is pure Oz and started when you were in nappies and tried! Stick to your foreign companies, they really help Oz.’ I’m not sure what I was tried about, not having been to court while I was in nappies, but maybe she’s depending on the fact that not everyone remembers back to their infancy.
   Well done. She got this from an American-owned newspaper website (remember, Rupert’s no longer an Australian, nor is the HQ in Australia and hasn’t been for a long, long time), and, for the record, I’m not as old as the business that Dick founded. There’s also a suggestion that I must be Australian, because, after all, everyone on the planet must be. No other countries exist. I didn’t want to get into trans-Tasman rivalry in such a situation, nor was it appropriate to give a list of Australian corporate misdeeds in New Zealand. The term off-topic springs to mind.
   I told her, ‘Stick to your foreign media, they really help Oz.’
   Hers is that simplistic thinking that gets people supporting foreign-owned businesses when they believe they are supporting local ones.
   Dick’s been one of my personal heroes since his solo helicopter flight and I’ve been a customer of the chain he founded since I was old enough to buy my own tech gear. Entrepreneurs like him are the ones I’ve always encouraged, through mentoring and through my policies. However, the sad story of the company, no longer owned by Dick, is one of corporate greed—which the founder himself has been critical of. We haven’t learned the lessons of so many economic crises: Gordon Gecko’s mantra of ‘greed is good’ continues to drive the corporate world.
   The reason so many multinationals buy local brands is to fool the public into thinking they’re supporting their own. We’re guilty of it ourselves, and I recall using the examples of Just Juice and most of our local newspapers on this blog. People closed accounts at the National Bank when it became ANZ here, because of a suspicion of, dislike of, or rivalry with Australia, perceiving National to be a local bank. The problem there: ANZ had owned the National Bank for years before the rebranding of its own subsidiary, and prior to that it was part of Lloyds TSB in the UK. A lot of Australians think Ford and Holden are domestic players (though, oddly, not Toyota, which probably builds as many, if not more, cars there), just as many Britons still think they are buying British when they shop at Ford and Vauxhall.
   The situation with news.com.au differs slightly in that that business was started in Australia by Rupert Murdoch’s Dad, and it has grown from there—but the fact remains that its HQ is overseas and that’s where it pays its tax. Help to Australians: not a lot. The Murdoch Press’s globalization agenda won’t be one that the “buy Australian” crowd would support for the most part.
   But this is how brands work, because they encourage us to make mental shortcuts for the products and services we consume. I’ve devoted a good deal of my professional life to it. Some should encourage scrutiny because of the power they have (Wally Olins noted, many years ago, how some brands need to adopt notions that were once reserved for states), and it was hoped that, post-No Logo, we would be more inquisitive about the backgrounds to the organizations we support.
   Even though it’s our money and time, the sad thing is that this level of inquiry remains the province of the few, those people who are willing to scrutinize their own behaviour and practise what they preach. Social media have helped spread news of corporate misbehaviours (Volkswagen will attest to that) and more people are aware; but to counter that we get more information than we ever used to, and unless something resonates, will we just forget it?
   Therefore, it can only be something where people who have done the proper investigation get to have a say. And like all human endeavours, it can be scammed, so safeguards have to be built in.
   One of the reasons the Medinge Group awarded its Brands with a Conscience accolades for close to a decade was to champion the organizations that were getting it right, inviting transparency and scrutiny, championing good corporate citizenship, and engaging in socially responsible programmes. Among them were companies devoted to doing things right by the communities they were present in, whether it was Dilmah Tea, Tata Steel or Hennes & Mauritz.
   By our championing them, selected by a think-tank of leading brand professionals, we would be able to highlight shining examples of branding, as well as give them the sort of boost they deserved. If positive companies could increase their custom, and if positive non-profits could increase their influence, then we can do some good in the world.
   As people rightly want shortcuts in their busy daily lives, then the work at Medinge, if seen as an endorsement, would help them make a decision about whether to deal with that organization or not.
   It’s nice to be in that bubble, which makes me ever-grateful to get reminders that we still have a lot of work to do. If you’re genuinely desirous of helping your own, then we need to help create more ways of reminding people which organizations do just that. The Brands with a Conscience programme was definitely a very good way of doing it. What shall we do, in the post-peak-Facebook world of the second part of this decade, to get word out? Is it through video, thanks to greater bandwidth, that allows us to experience and understand more? Is this the coming of age of some form of virtual reality? Or, as we did when we first started exploring bulletin boards and email, time again for us to reach out to people in communities very foreign and different to ours through video chats—something like Google Hangouts but actually with people? (Yes, I know, Google fans, I was taking the piss.) Is Skype the service on which this can be built?
   I would have said that technology is the great democratizer, and maybe more of us should be giving out awards to truly deserving organizations, voted on by more of the public. But we come across the issue of quality versus quantity again: the Reputation Institute surveyed 60,000 people in 15 countries and still wound up with Nestlé among the most reputable firms in the world. Nestlé may do very good things in some quarters, but it hasn’t been able to avoid a lawsuit by environmental and public interests groups in California over its water-bottling operation there, or accusations by activists who believe the company wants to privatize water at the expense of public health. Volkswagen was there in the 2014 survey. We decide on image, and that image is the very thing that gets us making bad choices.
   The next innovators are already on to it, and we don’t even know that we seek it. But, in order to self-actualize, maybe organizing us—individuals, not corporations—into global communities is the next stage. We have seen Kiva work so positively, so how about making it more interactive? Naturally we will tend to choose to help those in our own countries first—crowdfunding campaigns show us that—but allowing us to understand another human being’s situation could be the challenge in a time when governments pursue their austerity agenda. Somehow, we can restore, at least to some degree, the optimism we had when we in the first world accessed the World Wide Web for the first time.

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Posted in branding, business, cars, culture, globalization, humour, internet, marketing, media, social responsibility, technology, UK, USA | No Comments »


What the media say about Google Plus

02.07.2011

You have to wonder how many of the Google Plus reviews are being inspired by the press releases. Here’s a typical one today, which I picked at random.
   Rob Pegoraro writes: ‘You don’t add friends to an all-encompassing list and then, maybe, slice it into subsets; instead, you group them in “Circles” and then pick which circles (for example, “family,” “alumni,” “editors”) see each update.’ This appears to be the one area of differentiation, and I concede it has some merit. It’s no surprise every journalist has seized on this one. The argument here: if this social networking fad is declining, will I want to invest more brain power into grouping friends? I have them arranged in different places already with Facebook, LinkedIn and A Small World. And that’s good for me right now.
   ‘Doing many of those things on Facebook requires extra clicks and changes to its default privacy settings.’ That’s a major put-off, given Google’s past behaviour. Let’s hope Plus has a privacy policy, because at this point in Buzz’s life, it didn’t.
   ‘Unlike Facebook and Twitter, but like Buzz, Google Plus lets you edit a posted update—no more being stuck with a late-night typo—and add basic formatting like bold and italic text.’ Here’s the one that inspired me to write as I keep reading about it on reviews. Am I the only one who realizes that Facebook allows edits to an update, even a comment? Admittedly, you have to do it quickly after posting. Anything too old with a typo, I don’t care about: I let it go. But I have to say that being able to add bold and italic text is a biggie, since a lot of people have demanded that that be possible in Facebook. (It used to be possible, incidentally, before it was dropped again.)
   Bringing in Hangout is a good idea, and admittedly, some people will prefer to do that rather than go on Skype, which, for me, has been incredibly buggy (e.g. 35 minutes to sign in).
   It looks like Google has come in when Facebook is losing users and Skype is at its buggiest, which is not a bad time. But I doubt either competitor will sit still—Facebook is launching some offensive on Wednesday US time and there’s speculation that it might involve Skype.
   CNN’s Amy Gahran notes, ‘Plus, it offers huge potential to connect with all the other Google services I’m already using: Google calendar, Gmail, Google docs, and more.’ I use none of them, so the carrot’s not there, and I don’t know anyone who has drunk that much Google Kool-Aid to go for such a wide spread of the company’s offerings.
   Mr Pegoraro concludes:

Google Plus looks most promising as an experts-only social network—say, for people who now find Facebook overgrown and yearn for a more private channel; for closer friends. But before you sign on, consider one other thing: If Google already knows your searches, your calendar, your contacts and even the content of your e-mail, do you want to hand over this much more of your life to it?

For me, that’s a big no, and I don’t even let them know my searches, calendar, contacts and email. I’m already concerned with the ineptitude with which they currently deal with the little data they have on me.
   Of the reviews I have read so far, the Cnet one is the best for me. It’s a real-life glimpse at how its staff found Google Plus on day one.
   This status update, from Jay Greene, was interesting:

Google+ suggestions is odd to me. It’s Buzz-like in that it pulls folks from my Gmail account. But that account, which I set up for reporting on my book but barely use anymore, offers suggestions of sources I haven’t talked with in more than a year. And, of course, none of them are on Google+. Just odd.

Google has, therefore, learned from the Buzz débâcle in pulling Gmail contacts (which is how I wound up with a Plus invitation), but this time they are suggestions and not automatically added into one’s network.
   At this point, Plus interests me as a computer user (aren’t we all, in these luckier countries?), but I still see no compelling reason to join. Robert Scoble may be right: like Quora, it’s a tech-geek hangout.

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Posted in internet, technology, USA | 3 Comments »