Posts tagged “market”

Ugly Yet Yummy

From the New York Times comes this story about Fruta Feia, or Ugly Fruit, a cooperative in Lisbon that has found opportunity through a combination of economic pressure and reframing conventional norms for food appearance.

There is a market for fruits and vegetables deemed too ugly by government bureaucrats, supermarkets and other retailers to sell to their customers. A third of Portugal’s farming produce goes to waste because of the quality standards set by supermarkets and their consumers. Fruta Feia buys the unwanted food at about half the price at which producers sell it to supermarkets. It has quietly subverted fixed notions of what is beautiful, or at least edible.

Out and About: Steve in Barcelona (1 of 2)

I’m just back from a week in Barcelona for WebVisions, where I led a workshop on fieldwork, synthesis, and ideation, and gave a short talk about championing contextual research within your organization. I’ll be covering similar material coming up in a couple of months at WebVisions Chicago. Meanwhile, I had a bit of time to explore, and found Barcelona to be a beautiful and well-designed city. Here are some sample images, with more to follow in the next day or so (and the complete set on Flickr).

Bounty at La Boqueria market.

Pedestrian safety warning placed in context, as you step from the sidewalk into the street.

Obama British Africa Gin and Rum. Odd description here.

Stickers on the corrugated metal doors pulled down when a business is closed advertise what I assumed was a taxi services but in fact is for locksmiths. Why are locksmith services advertised with such verve?

Gaudi’s La Sagrada Fam??lia, under construction since 1882. Astonishing, even from the outside.

Known in the US as Ice Age: Continental Drift.

Marketing for something via Facebook.

A very modern cinema structure, down by the water, where all the buildings are new and ultra modern. While the whole place is a delicious mix of old and new, classic and modern, this area went just a bit too far into Mall. While this building is gorgeous, its siting and overall vibe is dehumanizing.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Lost Garden: Ribbon Hero turns learning Office into a game – If an activity can be learned; If the player’s performance can be measured; If the player can be rewarded or punished in a timely fashion, then any activity that meets these criteria can be turned into a game. Not only can you make a game out of the activity, but you can turn tasks traditionally seen as a rote or frustrating into compelling experiences that users find delightful.
  • With Rival E-Book Readers, It’s Amazon vs. Apple – [] – Ian Freed, vice president for the Kindle at Amazon, said he expected developers would devise a wide range of programs, including utilities like calculators, stock tickers and casual video games. He also predicts publishers will begin selling a new breed of e-books, like searchable travel books and restaurant guides that can be tailored to the Kindle owner’s location; textbooks with interactive quizzes; and novels that combine text and audio. “We knew from the earliest days of the Kindle that invention was not all going to take place within the walls of Amazon,” Mr. Freed said. “We wanted to open this up to a wide range of creative people, from developers to publishers to authors, to build whatever they like.”
  • Pushing Military Styles to a New Level of Ferocity [] – A stepped-up demand for vests, blazers and hoodies tough enough to deflect a .22-caliber blast but sleek enough for a night of clubbing suggests that body armor is not just for the security-conscious. Fake or real, it exerts a pull on those inclined to flaunt it as a flinty fashion statement. “The trend to protective gear is pretty strong right now,” said Richard Geist, the founder of Uncle Sam’s Army Navy Outfitters in downtown Manhattan. “It’s big with rappers, alternative types and even some women.” Uncle Sam’s sells protective gear to the military. But most of its clients are civilians who snap up authentic bulletproof vests for as much as $1,000 or trade down to look-alike versions stripped of their armored lining ($24).
  • ComScore Calls Shenanigans on Gartner’s 99.4% App Store Figure [Maximum PC] – Gartner says 99.4% of app sales in 2009 were from Apple. ComScore disputes the figures but Gartner stands by its determination.
  • Amazon launching Kindle Development Kit so third parties can develop apps – Active content will be available to customers in the Kindle Store later this year. Remember that unlike smart phones, the Kindle user does not pay a monthly wireless fee or enter into an annual wireless contract. Kindle active content must be priced to cover the costs of downloads and on-going usage. Voice over IP functionality, advertising, offensive materials, collection of customer information without express customer knowledge and consent, or usage of the Amazon or Kindle brand in any way are not allowed. In addition, active content must meet all Amazon technical requirements, not be a generic reader, and not contain malicious code.

Innovative Outcomes Take Years To Launch

In 2000, prior to Portigal Consulting, we conducted an ethnographic study with Sony to “provide awareness of unarticulated consumer perceptions about digital imaging on which to base future product development decisions…generating a range of new product and service concepts.”

Over the years we’ve seen Sony launch products that are similar to ones we proposed (see example here). We identify opportunities for our clients; the path they take to develop (or not) can be complex and fraught, and many opportunities are not addressed in the marketplace (although we find our clients value how our work helps them make that decision).

Here’s the latest:

Sony today introduced the Party-shot personal photographer -an innovative camera dock that pans 360 degrees and tilts 24 degrees, automatically detects faces, adjusts composition and takes photos for you.

This device makes it easy to capture more natural expressions and fun, candid moments of you, your family and friends without having to hire a photographer.

“With the Party-shot personal photographer, you no longer have to worry about taking photos when you are with your family or friends,” said Shigehiko Nakayama, digital imaging accessories product manager at Sony Electronics. “Party-shot captures candid moments that tell natural life stories and also offers a new style of photography that enriches time with your family and friends.

From our 2000 presentation to Sony

Market Opportunity : Freedom to Participate
Defined set of occasions where

  • camera visibility/ interference is possible and accepted
  • cameraman takes on an assumed role

Opportunity to Increase Usage

  • Design cameras that are less bulky, obtrusive, “precious”
  • Enable experiences to be preserved without requiring someone to operate a camera

Our concept (to illustrate the opportunity) emphasized video over still

Product Feature: Full Remote Control

  • Gives capturer full control over video camera while away from device
  • Includes viewfinder, volume, zoom/pan/tilt, battery/tape indicator
  • Capturer is not “tethered” to camera and can participate

Sony isn’t the only one to launch products that we identified. As we identified needs and proposed solutions, it’s inevitable that as time goes by, competitors will identify those needs and develop products. For example, three years ago I blogged about Granny’s Inbox where HP launched something similar to one of our Sony concepts.

Elsewhere, we see other products that have been developed by competitors since our work for Sony in 2000:

Digital Blue’s Tony Hawk Helmetcam
and our X-treme Cam concept

  • Rugged, mountable video camera that captures short clips from the user’s point of view
  • Sharable, relivable document of exciting experiences
  • Appeals to teens and/or sports participants
  • Must be made inexpensive enough to justify its very specific (and thus limited) functionality

Hasbro’s VuGo Multimedia System
and our MPEG-Man concept

  • Plays short clips of digital video
  • Like a photo album, device can be passed around for sharing in a larger group
  • Connect to TV, PC, or projector
  • Better group interactions for sharing video
  • Position as everyday, casual, social device rather than hi-tech or novelty

Casio EXILIM (and other models of still and video cameras from other manufacturers) feature Pre-Record Mode where

photos are not only taken at the moment the shutter release is pressed – they’re also taken before that! With continuous recording of up to 30 photos per second, a maximum of 25 photos can be saved in the camera’s buffer memory – even before the shutter release is pressed. The 25th image then corresponds to the photo that was taken when the shutter release button was pressed. This means that, in addition to the photo that you took at the moment the shutter release button was pressed, you can choose from a further 24 images that occurred just before that moment.

and our Capture Buffer concept (video but could be used for still as well)

  • Video camera is always capturing and discarding footage
  • When user initiates recording, option of saving the contents of the buffer
  • People will no longer miss the beginning of what they want to film
  • Slightly more skill required by users – where was the camera pointing before the button is pressed?

Buffalo TeraStation Home Server

and our Digital Memory Vault concept

  • Permanent digital storage for stills and video
  • Indexing, organizing, online publishing
  • Random access retrieval
  • Simplifies organization and retrieval of images (and video)
  • Leverages familiar (to PC users) activity of searching (i.e., web search)
  • Appeals to customers who are already invested in digital imaging, or in legacy imaging (i.e., family albums)
  • Challenge to deliver expected bullet-proof reliability at an acceptable price point

Samsung TL225 with front LCD to prompt subject to smile, etc.

and our Teleprompter Cam concept (video but could be applied to still)

  • Image on screen prompts subject to pose for video
  • Helps people feel comfortable in front of a video camera
  • Positioning challenge: though most images are posed and theatrical, our culture privileges the capture of candid and “natural”

Make your hardware work for you


A vendor in Amsterdam’s Albert Cuyp Market uses spring-loaded clips to hold together the baskets of fruit, then cleverly uses the clip handles as a place to display a fruit sample. Instead of being a negative (unsightly and potentially hurty if banged into), it now is a positive, emphasizing the appeal of what they are selling.

Related: Making do, revisited

See more of my Amsterdam pictures here.

Industries have culture; culture drives usage

This piece in the Financial Times about how anthropology is important to understand the behaviors of bankers is well-timed and relevant (if indirectly related) to the story of Société Générale’s Jerome Kerviel, the rogue trader.

For one thing that anthropology imparts is a healthy respect for the importance of micro-level incentives and political structures. And right now these issues are becoming critically important for Wall Street and the City, as the credit crunch deepens by the day.

But what is crystal clear is that if you want to understand which banks will emerge as winners from the current mess, it is no longer enough to look at their computer systems and balance sheets. Now, more than ever, investors need to understand a bank’s culture too – and the degree to which it is tribal.

We just wrapped up our second study of traders and it’s really gratifying to see this column. Traders, as a profession, have a lot of strong character traits (humor, macho/aggression, social) and much of their work is competitive and manipulative. The tools they use are pretty straight transaction machines, though, that don’t reflect the complex layers of intention that are driving everything the trader does. The only product that seems to echo or reinforce trading culture is the Bloomberg terminal which, in addition to all the data-oriented tracking and graphic capabilities, also offers an IM/email/Facebook-like platform to a closed, consistent, and co-located (The City in London, Wall Street in New York, and other neighborhoods in major financial markets) community.

There’s enormous potential for the other software tools used by these traders to similarly match their offering to the dynamic culture of their users. It’ll require these vendors to take a fresh look at how their products can really bring exceptional value to the people who make their living with them. Failure to understand and design for these folks will undoubtedly lead to more stories like the current scandal.

SocGen (as it’s known by people in the industry) in London (actual fieldwork photo!)

A new Krispy Kreme located in the heart of London’s The City (the financial district) gives away free boxes of donuts, causing a run

FT story via

Breathe their air

Social Technologies is trying to do some of what we looked at last year with CultureVenture.

An interesting new report from Ernst & Young found that there continues to be enormous enthusiasm among investment firms around the world for initiatives and investments in the BRIC markets, “but that only about 29% of deals are completed because executives are not visiting the countries and learning about the local cultures,” according to a recent article in the New Yorker.

We urge our clients to educate themselves about and immerse themselves in the markets they are trying to understand. To help with this, Social Technologies will host a series of Futures Expeditions to Brazil, Russia, India, and China over the next two years.

They’ve taken a bigger risk by committing to the research before they’ve got the clients signed up, but they are also offering a one-size fits all solution. I am sure there will be learning, but I’d still prefer to offer (and participate in) a custom venture.


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