Mobile payments: maybe person-to-person is the way to go?

This post first appeared here but I made an update.

Every year seems to be the ‘year of mobile payments’ and 2015 is no exception. See hereherehere and here for this year’s crop of predictions.

Every pundit’s predictions seem to coalesce around two points:

1. Smartphones are more ubiquitous than ever

2. There have been small early wins for Apple Pay and their competitors PayPal in-store, Alipay, Coin, Current C, etc.

However, the ‘year of mobile payments’ has been predicted from as far back as 2008 and all the predictions seem to miss a fundamental point. The act of taking out a credit card or debit card and waving it in front of a machine is just as convenient, if not more so, than whipping out your phone, finding the right app, and waving it in front of a machine. The user experience is the same.

But here’s a market where mobile payments might catch on – person-to-person payments.

Your roommate’s name is on the utility bills. You can write a cheque to pay your share, which requires your roommate to remember to deposit into their bank account. You could send an email transfer, which requires effort to fill out and effort on your roommate’s part to receive. Or, you could send the money via mobile payment in one fell swoop while sitting in your living room.

You need to collect the team fees for your rec league soccer team. You can have everyone give you cheques or cash at the first game, or chase down individual email money transfers. Or, you can collect them all at once via mobile-to-mobile payment after you start the year 1-0.

You’re at a restaurant with a group of friends that won’t offer separate bills. You can all scrounge for cash, or put it all on one person’s credit card and have the others send that person a mobile payment on the spot.

As people continue to move away from cash and towards card-based payment, person-to-person payments are the likely growth area for mobile payment systems. Right now you can make person-to-person payments using email money transfer, PayPal Mobile, or a person-to-person payment app like Venmo (which is owned by PayPal), each with its own user experience quirks and fees. I’m not going to predict which technology solution will win but I do think we will eventually see a surge in mobile payments, just not necessarily by consumers to retailers in their stores.


OK I’ve thought of two user experiences where paying by phone is more convenient than your credit card:

  1. Parking: Here paying by cell phone takes away the inconvenience of having to walk to the machine get a ticket printed then walk back to your car to stick it on the dash. Mobile payments also allows you to extend the parking time without having to rush back to the car and put money into the machine.
  2. Uber: Self-explanatory.

Some “Big Data” Musings

Wasn’t really happy with this post when I first wrote it because it didn’t really have a tight “so what” conclusion to it. I revisited it today and…still no big conclusion…yet, they work as musings so how about I just share them anyway.

1. Just as the Art Director / Copywriter pair are the key to great creatives, the strategist / analyst pair will be key to great marketing strategy where the analyst is the number crunching quant and the strategist knows which questions to ask of the analyst.

2. Social media has dominated the marketing punditry discussion in the past couple years but pay-per-click advertising uses, gives, and optimizes Big Data. Expect a more balanced PPC / social in marketing plans.

3. Infographics, standard issue in the PR and B2B arsenal, will go consumer and become more dynamic and consumer facing (e.g. more Infogrpahic billboards with real-time updates)

4. Expect to see greater use of ‘frictionless sharing’ and it’s cousin, something I’m calling ‘private IRL tracking’.

On the frictionless sharing front, Nike+ got the ball rolling years ago with people sharing their runs straight from their shoe device. Spotify and various news readers (e.g. Washington Post) are making their way into our newsfeeds. But there’s also broadcasting your electricity use and rewarding savings in an attempt to get households to use less.

On the IRL tracking, I’m thinking more stuff like that track foot traffic at specific locations, Mongoosemetrics which tracks phone calls, and someone ought to invent a device that sends your car’s trip meter info straight to an expense tracking app.

Teens understand public and private just fine. It’s the adults that are behaving badly.

Read a fascinating story in Read Write Web about university admissions in the age of Facebook. Here’s the gist of it. University admissions officers are creeping on prospective student’s Facebook Pages to help them judge their admission-worthiness. Knowing this, some high school students beef up their privacy settings. Others take a more inventive approach and pepper their timelines with admission-worthy ‘accomplishments’ such as ‘What a rewarding night serving food at the soup kitchen’.

I’m certain that the first thought going through some readers’ minds is, “Shame on them for lying like that.” But consider this.  Certain scholarships require that the student “friend” the sponsor before being considered (I guess to get around the student’s privacy settings). Now why are these scholarship judges so prying? Shouldn’t the essay the student has to write be enough to go with? And isn’t it kind of creepy that you’re snooping on some teenager’s timeline that’s likely filled with a few party pics?

C’mon adults set a better example. Judge students on merit not whether they post a few party pics to share with their friends. Besides, a lot of these ‘character’ based judgements were originally meant for discriminatory purposes anyway.

All Brands Need is Love

The other day a colleague pointed me to BBC’s 1 hour documentary on Steve Jobs called “Billion Dollar Hippie” (I’d send you a link but then the copyright owners might yank it. Google it for now). There’s a line around the 40 minute mark of the video where they’re telling the familiar story about the iMac and how its success was attributed to its unique design and how Apple managed to make a computer fashionable. Then came a line that not only captures the brand essence of Apple, a quote from iMac’s designer, Jonathan Ives, “We have to make this something people will LOVE![emphasis added by me]. “Love” according to my colleague, should be the thing to which every brand aspires.

Every brand? I wasn’t so sure. Don’t get me wrong, I love ‘love brands’. I’m typing this post on my beloved MacBook. I have a protective case and an InvisibleShield screen protector for my iPhone. I find Porter Airlines and the Toronto Island Airport (Yes I know it’s officially called Billy Bishop Airport) experience absolutely lovely. I think I’m falling in love with this (new to my neighbourhood) frozen yogurt chain from California called Menchies. As a professional marketer, I love to work on ‘love brands’. And yet, there’s a ton of no-so-loved brands that do perfectly fine if not thrive in the marketplace. Take a look at the top 10 companies in the 2011 Fortune Global 500…only one of them, Toyota, still going strong despite its massive recall in 2009 and the Tsunami, has some ‘love brands’ in its roster.

  1. Wal-Mart Stores
  2. Royal Dutch Shell
  3. Exxon Mobil
  4. BP
  5. Sinopec Group
  6. China National Petroleum
  7. State Grid
  8. Toyota Motor
  9. Japan Post Holdings
  10. Chevron

You see what I mean. While I’m uncomfortable to say it, the evidence suggests that you don’t have to be loved to be successful. So that got me thinking…maybe love and not-so-loved brands can co-exist in the same marketplace. While being loved can be a competitive advantage, there must be other ways to gain competitive advantage and maybe being loved is something a marketer can choose a brand to be or not to be.

Enter Advertising Age’s ad critic Bob Garfield, someone not known for jumping on the latest marketing bandwagons. In what I think will become a landmark cover story, Garfield writes, “Say goodbye to positioning, preemption and unique selling position. This is about turning everything you understood about marketing upside down so that you can land right side up. This is about tapping into the Human Element. [bold face added]”

Notice that branding was not in his goodbye list. That’s because branding and brand building is more important than ever before. “…you are being evaluated 24/7 in countless conversations that have zero to do with your ad slogan. On the contrary, they are about your brand’s essential self–which behooves you to think very hard about your essential self.”

“Your essential self.” In other words, we judge brands pretty much like we judge other people. We dislike insincere brands in the same way we dislike insincere people. We love those that we connect with emotionally and who we trust. Why do we tell brands to be authentic? It’s the same thing we tell people before their date…”Be yourself!”

Authentic, trustworthy, brands with whom we emotionally connect have staying power. The others do too…but they won’t get our love. Imc2’s “Brand Sustainability Map” charts out this brand universe where the love and not-so-loved brands co-exist.

Brand Sustainability Map

At the top-right are the familiar “love” brands but next to them and below them are brands that have enough to keep them going for a while. Emotional relationship brands aren’t maximizing that connection to its full potential or are missing something. In the bottom left are the reluctant relationship brands. These brands have traditional competitive advantages like high switching costs, high barriers to entry from competitors, patents, etc. which might explain why there’s a phone and cable company in that quadrant.

So love brands, not-so-loved brands, and even bland brands can co-exist. It’s the same with other people in your life. You don’t love everyone you know; some people are just friends and some people are that bland acquaintance who’s a friend of a friend who you see at parties but don’t pay much attention to ’cause they’re kind of…meh.  So here’s the thing. No one wants to be that ignored bland guy. Most of us want to be loved…or at least…not be bland. So how we get there? That’s for another post.

Well @MeshCon, It Seems We’ve Crossed the Chasm

Mesh Marketing 2011 did not disappoint. Eloquent speakers sparked intelligent conversation. The camaraderie of the geek community was deeply felt. And yet, there was something different about this year’s edition. It seemed…calmer…mellower… in a good way. And I think I know why.

I think we’re out of the gee-whiz-isn’t-this-cool phase of digital marketing and social media. The social media/web 2.0 whatever you want to call it revolution is beyond the new normal, it’s just plain normal. We’ve crossed Geoffrey Moore’s chasm into the early majority phase. Instead of chasing shiny new objects, we’re into  more sober topics…like how to operationalize social media communications into business processes…and what to do with all that data?

Joe Fernandez‘ influence rating service, Klout, sparks mixed feelings among many but his appearance at Mesh disarmed a lot of cynicism. He doesn’t want to recreate high school popularity contests, he’s just trying to show that a lot of people have more clout (with a “c”) then people recognize and he’s trying to do it with 20 terrabytes of data a day! And seeing him in a panel with the inventor of Watson, Rod Smith, was amazing to see.

But the show stealer of the day was Marcus Sheridan. If you need proof that digital in part of the DNA of everyman, read his blog and watch his videos. The Sales Lion injected some straight talking street smarts to a conversation dominated by geekspeak. Finally someone makes it clear that SEO is still immensely important and that digital and social serve to generate leads and sales. Sandra Gornall has an excellent summary of his solo talk here and I can’t wait to link to the video.

A big thank you to the @meshcon organizers and volunteers for a great event.

OMG It’s a New Facebook!

Seven different reaction to Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement at the Facebook Developer’s Conference (aka F8).

1. The Apocalyptic: Facebook is taking over the world! Say goodbye to privacy forever!

2. The Neo-Luddite: Why is Facebook doing such a drastic change, I love Facebook as it is and I don’t want to have to learn something new. I’m also suspicious of all software updates.

3. The Pundit: Facebook’s new timeline and what it means for [insert career-group and/or field of study]

4. The Self-Help Post: So Facebook has this new timeline feature. Here’s how to use it…and protect yourself.

5. The Fan Boy: All hail the Zuck! Look how cool Facebook is! G-

6. The Pissed off Google Plus Fan Boy: Wow, Facebook is running out of ideas. They’re just stealing from Google Plus. BTW, I worship at the Church of Google.

7. The Pop-Culture Nut: “Likes” the Andy Samberg opening video.

8. The Mashup Artist: If Don Draper had Facebook Timeline

9. The Clueless Sharer: Your non-techie friend who knows nothing about Timeline but posted the Don Draper Facebook Timeline video because it was the beloved Mad Men Carousel scene.

10. The Social Media Curmudgeon: I told you Face-whatever was a waste of time

Do People Really Know What They Want?

With the resignation of Steve Jobs comes a plethora of retrospectives and many lists of quotes. This one really stuck out for me.

“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
BusinessWeek interview, May 1998

It’s very similar to something Henry Ford allegedly said, “”If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

I’m a digital and social media marketer. I don’t do focus groups. I do a somewhat digital equivalent. I do conversation audits. Rather than take a panel of a few supposedly randomly chosen people, pay them roughly $50 and ask them a bunch of questions about a product, I look at what people are saying online “in the field” so to speak and derive insights that can inform a client strategy or guide the big idea for a digital campaign. In one respect you could say that I’m trying to figure out what people want and in the Jobsian sense that might mean I’m crowding out the ability to come up with a truly creative or innovative campaign.

Except, when I look at conversations online, I’m not trying to figure out what people want. The conversations that people have online reflect an in-the-moment thought (Twitter, Facebook status updates) or an introspective thought (blogs, tumblr). They’re not answers to leading questions, they’re ‘real’ thoughts. I’m looking for patterns. Patterns in random conversations that will inspire a eureka moment, an insight, so named because you cannot see it until you dive in. If done right, it shouldn’t lead to an incremental improvement. Incremental improvements are somewhat obvious. It should lead to a discovery that sparks something innovative.

How Google+ has forced us to Rethink the Spectrum of Friendship

Growing up as a child in the pre-Facebook era, my friends were people I played with, or hung out with regularly. They lived in the neighbourhood or I met them in school, or they were kids of my parents’ friends. I suspect that’s largely the same for kids today.

As we grow up and attend different schools or expanding our horizons with other activities: sports leagues, camp, music, part-time jobs, full-time work, moving to a different city, town, or country our friend network expands but also compartmentalizes itself into circles of friends. While you the individual deftly floats between your circles, the friends in each circle rarely meet each other. This is most noticeable at weddings where the different tables at the reception often reflect the different circles of friends and relatives for the bride and groom.

And there’s another thing tends to happen when we expand our social network. Individuals start falling on a friendship spectrum. On one side are your true friend, your BFFs, your confidantes, the people who know you really, really well. On the other side are your acquaintances, people you know in passing, whom you might stop in the street to say hi but the conversation almost never veers beyond small talk. Then there’s those in between. “Work friends” whom you see every day who know a fair bit about your personal life but you still feel the need to keep some professional distance. “Co-mingled friends” people who you met through someone else and love to hang out with them but you never get together except with that someone else. “Family friends”, the relatives of your friends or the friends of your relatives. “Old friends” who you don’t see as often as you used to but still maintain ties.  And a whole slew of others.

Then Facebook came along and acquaintances, work friends, old friends, family friends, co-mingled friends, old friends all got mashed up together in the same news feed. It was both refreshing and complicated. The lines got blurred. Stuff you’d share with one circle of friends would be seen and commented by others and vice versa. On one hand, you got to know those on the weaker side of the friend spectrum a bit better and they got to know you a bit better. On the other hand, you got to know those on the weaker side of the friend spectrum a bit better and they got to know you a bit better 🙂 Eli Pariser can fret all he wants about filter bubbles but in some way Facebook opened us up by getting to (sort of) know our spectrum of friends better.

And now, here comes Google+ asking us to choose our friends and put them back into their circles. I understand the zeitgeist that inspired these circles. The voyeur aspect of Facebook was interesting at first but now that we’ve tested our limits with public-ness, we want to regain some control over who sees what. But now we’re faced with a rather awkward conundrum. The spectrum of friends, the degree of friendedness was heretofore a pretty much unconscious classification. It wasn’t something we’d say out loud and we didn’t really think too much about it. Now, here they are, staring us in the face. Our pre-frontal cortex, responsible for reasoning, is now given the unfamiliar task of classifying our friends, of pigeon-holing them into labelled groups. If algorithms created the first wave of online filter bubbles, the next wave might be created by us.

Social Media Sacrilege: Influence vs. Popularity: Semantic Argument?

As the headline suggests, I’m about to commit what amounts to sacrilege within the digital marketing world. For the past couple years digital marketing pundits have been blogging and tweeting until they’re blue in the face about the importance of reaching online influencers and yet have been made it painstakingly clear that influence does not equal popularity.

But then a thought came to me. Maybe when we hear the word “popular” we think of the popular kids in high school and the superficiality of that whole scene and therefore the word leaves a bad taste in our mouths. But isn’t popularity a component of influence? I Googled “define: popularity” and Google’s definition was “The state or condition of being liked, admired, or supported by many people” Wictionary goes even further, “The quality or state of being popular; especially, the state of being esteemed by, or of being in favor with, the people at large; good will or favor proceeding from the people;”

“The state of being esteemed by, or of being in favor with…good will or favor proceeding from the people” Why, that sounds almost noble…almost….influential?

Here’s a “Yes, but…” answer. There’s two caveats.

1. Influence, like fame, might not last forever

2. Context + Influence matters even more

There’s a lot of similarities between influencer marketing and celebrity endorsements, the key difference being that the influencer doesn’t usually get paid (apart from free product and/or perks but it pales in comparison to what the celebrity gets). And celebrity endorsements only work, as Laura Ries put it “when the consumer has a credible belief that the celebrity would be interested in buying and using your product or service despite being paid to do so.”


1. Context first

2. Popularity within context is an important element of influence

CSI: Facebook (and Tumblr, Twitter, etc.)

Last Wednesday the city of Vancouver was subject to a double tragedy. The Canucks, in a second bid to win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history, lost game 7. Followed by riots.

I lived in Vancouver for five years and have a great affinity to the city and it’s friendly people. It’s a shame that few bad apples have tarred the image of the city that, last year, hosted the world in the biggest winter show on earth. I’d like to think that this wouldn’t have happened had Team Canada lost the gold medal game.

Fortunately,  I’m heartened by the way the city has gotten together to make amends both in the clean up and in bringing the perpetrators to justice. And I’m intrigued by the method in which they’ve done this.

The clean-up was self-organized through several Facebook Pages .

And catching the perpetrators? There’s a Tumblelog collecting riot pictures and shocking ‘confessions’ (and by confessions I mean idiots bragging about what they did) on Facebook and Twitter. There’s also a Facebook Page to do the same. Those who can identify the faces can email the police at .

So mob mentality has given way to crowdsourced crime fighting. The question I have is whether the criminal justice system is ready for this. I’m no lawyer but I’ve watched enough Law and Order to know that there of rules of evidence and admissibility, and due process. Are existing laws adequate to cover the evidence gathering activities of our crime fighting citizenry? Are there any technicalities we lay people haven’t thought of that defense lawyers might use to help their clients? I’m asking because I want the perpetrators to answer for their crimes and I don’t want our efforts turned against us. Would love to hear from any legal experts.