Posted by Jason

Video is taking over the Internet, and I don’t just mean those annoying auto-playing ones. According to Cisco, video will account for 84% of all U.S. Internet traffic in four years. Facebook’s VP thinks the social network will be all video in five years.

Ok, mandatory opening stats out of the way, let’s get to the topic.

People on the Internet want to watch videos. So naturally, that’s what businesses are giving them. And it’s not just B2C companies trying to get people’s play fingers. It’s B2B using videos to help establish their brand presence and to explain their complex offerings simply.

In other words, if you aren’t making videos, then, well, I don’t know, I guess you’re just hoping that people will parse all the text on your website.

But I’ll tell you this: No videos are still better than bad videos.

Videos are high-end collateral: High impact, high level of complexity, and high cost. They are investments, commitments, and a powerful part of a marketing strategy.

Except that a quick Google search will show you that you can get videos on the cheap…at least the animated kind most often used for explainer videos.

But there are few things more damaging to a brand than a cheap animation video. Cheap anything is a brand-damager. Unless, I guess, you’re like Wal-Mart, and they don’t even do cheap videos. No B2B brand should be associated with stock characters, cartoony animation, and generic imagery. And it’s not just mere association, video will be your leading collateral. And if your leading collateral is shoddy, so’s your brand.

But you still have a budget and it’s probably not in the Pixar range, so what can you do with limited resources to make videos that enhance your brand instead of detract from it?

  1. The first thing is to understand that videos are not a one-off investment. No collateral should just check a box, and that’s triply true for videos. They should be part of a detailed, overarching strategy. That way, it’s easier to secure the necessary funds for a great video, while on the other, being a part of a broader strategy increases the reach, relevance, and shelf-life of the video. In other words, those videos will provide more value to both you and to your audience.

  2. Make your videos shorter. For brand videos, that’s easy. You can communicate lasting impressions in under 30 seconds. B2B explainer videos are more difficult. Two minutes is a maximum many people use for explainer videos, but even at that length you’re looking at walls of narration and a lot of points to remember and connect. In reality, your audience will already need to be vested to even try to watch that length of video, and then they’ll probably only watch it once, and probably not all the way to the end. It can be tempting, when explaining a complex challenge or solution, to say everything in a video instead of just the absolute most important things. And even then, you should cut those things in half. Maybe by 90%. Break them into multiple videos is another option.

  3. Discuss a concept in advance with your vendor that will be less expensive to produce. In the same way that a $2 million indie flick can be more compelling than a $150 million Hollywood blockbuster, so too can a simple concept do more than a complex one. Google has told entire brand stories with four colored dots and a search field. And, again, those commercials were part of a larger, strategic story and were well polished.

Of course, we’re only dealing with half the battle here. Just because videos are priorities in the budget doesn’t mean they’ll be great B2B videos. Throwing money at something never guarantees quality. But that’s a different topic. Like a great video, I’ll keep this post short.

In the end, certainly make sure you’re making videos…but only if you’re making them smart and making them right.

Posted by Jason

Drinks were on the house at the first annual Maark Makes Mixer last week. And I mean that literally, as we were 21 stories above the streets of Cambridge. There, on a rooftop deck above a Charles River pointy with sailboats, we watched the sun go down and the Boston skyline get dark and dotted with window light as we ate food and drank cocktails catered by one of our favorite local restaurants, Commonwealth.

The theme for the night was “Maark Makes…” a nod to all the services we provide—brands, embedded applications, digital campaigns, digital products, mobile applications, business stories—but the point was just to hang out with friends, colleagues, and clients and really take in what a cool town Cambridge is to work in.

This was our first public event, and it was a really enjoyable time. Even better, nobody fell off the roof. So, automatic success. We can’t wait until next year’s event. It’ll hard to top 21 stories, but we’ll find a way.

I mean, “Holofone Phablet.” I think we’re finally to that point in tech-speak where we’ve just gone full Dr. Seuss. The tech world’s language problems have always been glaring: Its inability to move beyond generic words like “mobile” and “devices.” Attaching the word “smart” to everything. Software startups that leave out vowels or sound like children’s products. Heck, the “Internet of Things.” Holofone Phablet, though, that’s a whole ’nuther level.

But I’m going to defend it.

The product. Not the words. I just needed to address the Horton in the room.

We’ve long reached a crest in smartphones, where they’re all basically the same. It’s a good kind of the same, as they all do mostly what we need them to do. But nothing really differentiates them from each other and most of the things that they advertise as differentiating are either gimmicks or extremely obvious improvements that don’t really get people excited.

But I’m digging the defining feature of Akyumen’s Holofone Phablet: A built-in 45-lumen projector that projects a 100-inch screen onto any surface.

Projectors in phones have been attempted in the past, for sure, although the results were less than compelling. A big difference here is just the size of the phone. Or tablet. It’s a seven-inch screen, hence the phablet moniker. But that gives it room to incorporate a more powerful projector.

Here’s why I like the direction (again, assuming it works well). The far-future of mobile devices, when they become revolutionary again, is when they’re not around anymore. When actually interacting with the device itself will be considered highly primitive, like walking across the room to change a channel.

The projection feature of the Holophone Phablet doesn’t really put us in that direction, but it at least gets us thinking in that direction. Now that small rectangle of glass can be a more communal device. “Check out this video” becomes a real experience shared side-by-side with other people and enabled by the technology instead of confined within it. It gets us thinking about every surface being interactable, making the entire world our interface instead of shrinking the world down to a few inches and placing it under glass.

On the enterprise side, this could be wildly invaluable for sales people. We make sales enablement apps for iPad a lot here, and there are always lingering questions over how many of the sales force actually have iPads or engage in the few scenarios where sales people would choose iPads over laptops. The “Here, let me show you real quick” scenarios get brought up a lot, where a sales person is chatting to a client at the bar or sitting next to them at a conference and hands them the iPad. But being able to address the more common use cases of a conference room full of people or even just one person on the other side of a big desk without the ritual of finding the right wires and connectors and updates and channels that inevitably goes on in order to share a screen across even compatible devices will change the whole tenor of a presentation. You walk in, you aim at a wall, you press a button. That’s style points.

The Holophone Phablet debuts September 1, and dual boots Android and Windows 10. While, I can’t believe it will have a big uptake despite everything I’ve said so far, all the preorders are at least sold out.

In the end, though, this is probably what it will take to evolve the phone. Or the tablet. Some random-seeming company showing the big guys how to think outside the phone. You know, unlike that last turn of phrase.

The mobile web rots. Just does. It’s slow and clunky and ugly and just not a great experience in a world full of great digital experiences. All the annoying advertising and tracking mechanisms that we for some reason put up with on the stationary (???) web are intolerable on the mobile web.

That’s why Facebook created Instant Articles. And Google created Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)—which they’ve recently announced are going to be expanded (and probably be prioritized) throughout their search results. Well, it’s one of the reasons, another being complete domination of the mobile web.

But basically, FB’s Instant Articles and Goog’s AMP strip down the content so that it loads fast. They pull out comment sections and most of the ads, and along with that all of the complex, chaotic stuff behind the scenes that happen when the user just taps on a link to read a simple article about the Gilmore Girls reboot. But Instant Articles and AMP aren’t filters. They’re different types of pages. On Facebook that’s due to where it’s hosted (on Facebook, natch) and for Google, even though it’s still html, it’s a different type of page, one that publishers have to specifically design for.

According to a recent piece on the Verge, this could be a problem, for three reasons.

One, is that it makes it harder for publishers by adding extra work for possibly less return. Now publishers need a regular responsive version of the article, an AMP version, and an Instant Articles version for each article (and those latter two versions might be less monetizable). That’s some serious, sweaty deja vu for publishers who just got a reprieve from multiple screen sizes with the adoption of responsive design.

Two, is that it makes it harder for publishers in that it lowers the feature set of the page. No more comments, it looks like, but mostly it means much fewer ads and certainly none of the more annoying ones that hijack screens and interrupt the content.

Third, is that it makes it harder for publishers because they must cede too much power and control to outside platforms in order to keep their readerships.

I mean, you see where this is going. The new mobile experience that Facebook and Google are offering is great for readers and a headache for publishers. But it’s a headache that publishers are kind of the cause of in the first place. In an attempt to create and then monetize a content experience for readers, they hurt the content experience for readers, and therefore their ability to monetize it. It’s a hard balance.

Possibly, publishers can hold out for technology to help, faster processors in phones, maybe, just like bigger screens helped them fit more content onto the phone. But that seems unlikely. And doesn’t solve the pressures that Facebook and Google are putting on them now.

Plus, I don’t really believe that the bad mobile web experience is just part of a set of transition pains for publishers. I think the regular Internet content experience is broken for many of the same reasons. Sure it’s faster, but in most cases it’s still a cluttered, annoying content experience that’s based on some faulty analytics assumptions.

But, back to the point, the mobile web is a problem that publishers haven’t fixed, so now somebody else is stepping in to do it…and to reap the rewards.

Photo credit: Lewis Meyer

It’s been a month since Pokémon GO launched, and the game is still making headlines. Rough estimates from two weeks ago had the number of daily active players somewhere between 9 and 21 million.

Over that month, there’s been some great takes on what the phenomenon means for gaming, mobile, and the human race in general, but its most interesting aspect might be that it has made augmented reality (AR) cool. After all, AR is a relatively old technology which in the past few years has been completely shouldered out of the spotlight for the giant promises of virtual reality (VR)—giant promises that have yielded nothing even close to the uptake of Pokémon GO despite massive investments and efforts from everybody from Facebook to Samsung.

And to me, that makes sense.

It’s a lot like the wearables discussion we had here on the blog a couple of years back. Google Glass had much more potential as a technology, but there were stronger reasons why smartwatches made more sense as far as public acceptance in the near-term. And we were right, even if smartwatches still underwhelmed in the end due to the products themselves.

In the case of AR over VR:

1. No additional hardware is needed: The hardware for most AR applications is already in your pocket (unless it’s in your hand catching cartoon monsters).

2. AR interaction conforms to known paradigms: The way you interact with AR is the way we already interact with technology. After all, anytime we use Google Maps to navigate a city or Yelp to find some drunken noodles, we’re using our phones as a virtual layer that augments the real world.

3. AR solves more practical problems: Aside from gaming applications, AR can solve more and more common problems than VR can. VR might make surgeons better at performing operations, but so can AR. And AR can also help them find where they parked their car after the operation.

4. Creating compelling content is easier and cheaper than with VR: Because VR needs to be completely immersive to be compelling, it takes a lot of investment, both in the software experience and in the hardware. AR just needs to be great at augmenting what’s already there.

So if all that’s true, why hasn’t AR taken off yet? I mean, VR goggles are at least being used on rollercoasters and in convention booths.

I think that’s because nobody has done point four well yet. Well, except for that one company that pretty much ignored mobile devices for years until letting loose a bunch of pocket monsters and suddenly took them all over. Many tech commenters immediately noted that had Google Glass come out with something as compelling as Pokémon GO, it would still be around and probably dominating the mobile space.

Of course, both AR and VR hold great promise. But if Pokémon GO is any indication, we might be much more ready for AR than VR today.

Unless it’s all just the power of Pokémon in the first place.

Photo credit: Virginia State Parks