Archives for posts with tag: iphone

Screen shot 2012-03-13 at 10.57.05 AM

You click on a button on your iPhone and it immediately bursts into life, the blinking “slide to unlock” label hinting at the direction of the motion it wants you to make. That rich, lively screen just begs for your attention. Add to that the layer of notifications and you have no willpower left to resist. No matter what’s happening around you: a kid wanting to play with you, a book waiting to be read, a view that wants to be soaked in – once the iPhone wakes up, everything else in the room disappears; your attention’s been stolen by that burst of light. The iPhone (and the iPad, for that matter) is a needy, attention-craving siren that will enslave your attention by it’s amazing beauty at the expense of the world around you. It’s a temptress that constantly reminds you: “You could be on Twitter now” or “You could engage with your friends on Facebook now.”

The Dopamine release

When you check your information, when you get a buzz in your pocket, when you get a ring – you get what they call a dopamine squirt. You get this little rush of adrenaline and, most of the time, you are disappointed. Sure, you get this little information nuggets, the location of your friends, the links they share, the inconsequential email but it’s doesn’t satisfy your craving for more. But when you don’t get this little alarms, you feel bored, you want that little excitement. You’re being conditioned by technology to check, check, check and check.

Information is like food. It nourishes us and we need it to survive in the 21st technology, to be a productive citizen. Yet, food has positives and negatives. As Fast Food Nation clearly showcased, a steady diet of fast food won’t lead to any good. Actually, it might lead to your quick demise. While we know to distinguish between Twinkies and Muesli, we still have trouble distinguishing between information red meat and information red grain.

The diminishing returns of noisy technology

Over time, we have created our information foundation: Email, Facebook, Twitter, Messageboards, Foursquare and other platforms that solve problems for each individual. We don’t have a lot of attention left in our life to add more information and platforms. Apps and destinations became more noisy to get our attention. Just like a gathering that started out as a small dinner party, developed into a party with loud music and now looks like this:


(Talking about Dopamine.) You can enjoy a rave for a few hours, maybe even all night and a nice sunrise. But it’s not a sustainable model. We can’t continue to add new technologies and new platforms, begging us for information constantly without hitting the wall. I would argue, we’ve already reached that wall and we’re about to hit it.

Nobody is saying noisy technologies will disappear. It’s just too intriguing and easy to blink, flash and beep to get the attention of people. But the returns are diminishing and people are starting to look for technologies that solve problems with out being a needy temptress.

In Part 3 we’ll talk about the emergency of calm technologies and their integration into the information ecosystem.


I have 3 iPhones. Two of them are dead, one is my working phone. I have the first generation iPad and can’t wait to get the 3rd generation iPad when it comes out. In our household alone, we have 3 monitors and 4 laptops. Include my wife’s iPhone and we have 12 screens.

The age of surplus pixels

We are entering an age of surplus pixels – more and more screens will be in our homes, doing nothing, just being dark and disconnected. Some of them will be used to show family pictures, not much more.

What are we going to do about the abundance of screens?

Most screens are designed to grab all the available attention. That would be a huge mistake. Nobody can deal with 12 screens, all screaming for attention. We can focus on 2 screens, maybe 3 but that’s about it.

The remaining screens have to be respectful of the primary screens and deliver something fast, valuable or useful when we have a spare second.

Just like the work of Dentsu/Berg shown below.

The future of secondary screens has an immense influence on the future of advertising.

In case you’re not familiar with Robert Heath’s Low Attention Processing Model (I think everybody in the advertising industry should), it’s easy to connect the dots of his model to the surplus of pixels with this summary:

“1. Because brands match each other’s performance so swiftly, and consumers exist in a time-poor environment, considered choice tends to give way to intuitive choice, in which emotions are more influential.

2. This situation inhibits the consumer’s desire to seek out information about brands, and minimizes the need for them to pay attention to advertising. Brand information can however be ‘acquired’ at low and even zero level attention levels, using two distinct mental processes. The first process is passive learning, which is a low-attention cognitive process. Passive learning has been show to be poor at changing opinions and attitudes but is able to record and link together brand names and other elements in an ad.

3. The second process is implicit learning, which is a fully automatic non-cognitive process that has been shown to be independent of attention. Implicit learning, as is discussed below, cannot analyze or re-interpret anything, all it is able to do is to store what is perceived, along with any simple conceptual meaning that we attach to these perceptions.

4. Because of this limitation, implicit learning does not establish strong rational brand benefits in the consumer’s mind. Instead it builds and reinforces associations over time and these associations become linked to the brand by passive learning These association are extraordinarily enduring and can trigger emotional markers, which in turn influence intuitive decision-making.”

Low Attention Processing builds patterns

Since branding is about creating patterns, not creating messages, abundant screens should be used for branding and the primary screens are focused on direct response.

It’s going to be a tough task for marketers to use the surplus of pixels appropriately. We tend to be big, bombastic, look-at-me and loud. Instead, we need to be quiet and small.

  • It could be a screen displaying my commute through colors. When it’s red, I’ll stay in the office. When it turns green, I’m coming home.
  • A screen displaying the current state of the global economy, based on various financial feeds.
  • I would love to see on a screen what music all my friends are currently listening to.

It has to be slow. It has to be small. More importantly, it has to be valuable.

I suspect, it will be more artful than the current advertising. Secondary screens as an accessory, a social object.

A fascinating future awaits us.


A few days ago, Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, promised “500 new features” for the Windows Phone 7.

That’s a lot of features. Pretty impressive.

Too bad nobody cares.

Remember the iPhone advertising? Have they ever talked about features, the chip or the technology?

Not once.

Instead, they are showing things people love to do. Things that add value to your life. Things that make you go “Wow”. Things that are fun.

500 features are not fun. They are scary.

Microsoft is stuck in the old world of push-thinking.

Just look at the majority of the products. The Office suite has so many functions and features, humans in the year 4034 will discover the last 2%. It has so many features, nobody every uses.

That’s what happens when you’re stuck in the push-thinking paradigm: You give more and more. And you don’t understand why people want you less.

This is a problem for many brands: They rattle down features and think that people. will buy them. People don’t buy features. They buy awesomeness.

Pull-Thinking equals awesomeness.

Instead of nagging people constantly to use/buy/try your product, show them something that people love to do. Make me want the product because it fills a need. I’m sure a few of these 500 features fit into that category.

When your company culture is rooted in a push-thinking paradigm, you better have a big, big wallet. People will not talk about you, they won’t spread the word for you. You have to carpet bomb the media landscape with your marketing communication to get any attention.

Pull-thinking company cultures need much less media investment. Whenever somebody says “Wow” seeing their product, they save the enterprise tons of marketing dollars. Or when they experience the value it adds to their lives. Every time a valuable iPhone app gets downloaded, a few marketing dollars are deducted from Apple’s media budget. It keeps the customers closer to the brand, delights them.

Don’t tell me.

Show me.


Image: Courtesy of David Pearson Design

I just finished reading “1 million workers. 90 million iPhone. 17 suicides. Who’s to blame?”, a piece about the avalanche of suicides in 2010 at Foxconn’s Shenzen plant.

An excerpt:

“I’ve written thousands of posts, millions of words, about things. Usually things with electricity in them. Doing this for a living, on and off, for the better part of a decade, has greatly—perhaps fundamentally—changed how I perceive the world around me. I can no longer look at the material world as a collection of objects but instead see interfaces, histories, and materials.

To be soaked in materialism, to directly and indirectly champion it, has also brought guilt. I don’t know if I have a right to the vast quantities of materials and energy I consume in my daily life. Even if I thought I did, I know the planet cannot bear my lifestyle multiplied by 7 billion individuals. I believe this understanding is shared, if only subconsciously, by almost everyone in the Western world.

Every last trifle we touch and consume, right down to the paper on which this magazine is printed or the screen on which it’s displayed, is not only ephemeral but in a real sense irreplaceable. Every consumer good has a cost not borne out by its price but instead falsely bolstered by a vanishing resource economy. We squander millions of years’ worth of stored energy, stored life, from our planet to make not only things that are critical to our survival and comfort but also things that simply satisfy our innate primate desire to possess. It’s this guilt that we attempt to assuage with the hope that our consumerist culture is making life better—for ourselves, of course, but also in some lesser way for those who cannot afford to buy everything we purchase, consume, or own.

When that small appeasement is challenged even slightly, when that thin, taut cord that connects our consumption to the nameless millions who make our lifestyle possible snaps even for a moment, the gulf we find ourselves peering into—a yawning, endless future of emptiness on a squandered planet—becomes too much to bear.

When 17 people take their lives, I ask myself, did I in my desire hurt them? Even just a little?

And of course the answer, inevitable and immeasurable as the fluttering silence of our sun, is yes.”

It’s a good piece of writing, clarifies the working conditions (it’s not what you think) and poses a good question: Have we made a subconscious collective bargain at the dawn of the industrial age to trade the resources of our planet for the chance to escape it? And, are we living through transitional times between that decision and its conclusion?

The more we connect with each other, the better we understand how all of our actions impact the rest of the world. We share the earth, its resources, and each of our decision has more influence than we ever realized before. While we’re busy cheering on the Apple iPad2 and another-keep-myself-busy-so-I-don’t-have-to-think-about-important-stuff, we don’t want to comprehend or even tackle the consequences each of our purchase decisions have.

We got enraged about Nike sweatshops but are we are so numb/quiet about the Foxconn issue? Why aren’t we concerned how Rare Earth materials are being mined (Slave labor) and the environmental impact it has (Oh boy.) Why do we drive a Prius (guilty) telling the world a story of green consciousness while the car is filled with rare earth materials, a moving environmental disaster? Would you be willing to pay $100 more for an iPhone if it was manufactured in the United States under more human conditions? Would you pay an additional $100 if the rare earth mine used for your iPhone adheres to environmental standards?

Are these complexities our human brain can’t process? Or are we too busy being entertained not to bother with it? I’m as guilty as anyone, I’m not on any moral high horse. These are just questions we have to work through in the next decades and centuries. The complexity of problems will increase due to our interconnectedness. The earth was able to deal with a billion wasteful Westerners. Here come the emerging countries. Doubtful the earth can take more of it.