“We can break the cycle of blandness. We can jam up the assembly line that spits out one dull, lookalike piece of crap after another. We can say, ‘Why not do something with artistic integrity and ideological courage?’”
– Tibor Kalman
“Click here to learn more.”
As I am often want to do, last week I spent the better part of a day poking around the internet looking at the general scale, scope, and style of what’s being deployed online for the industry. Part of this was research for gathering up content to be included in the social and mobile wiki, and part of it was because I’m curious as to what the ‘State of Pharma Web Design’ is for 2013. Needless to say, the picture is pretty bleak.
To say I’m baffled by this is an understatement. The industry as a whole seems entirely focused on innovation. This is good. I ‘listened’ into the #ePharma stream on Twitter, and there was an enormous appetite for social, mobile, gaming and other emerging trends. This is also good. But when does innovation become about adopting latest generation thinking across the entirety of the digital medium, rather than just being relegated to the exploration of new platforms and channels?
Which brings me back to my web searches. The state of design in the industry today is abysmal. A-BIZ-MAL. It’s not just the design and user experience, which is bad enough, but the structure, layout, and production values. All of which are state of the art – if you were reading this post in 1999.
Just take a look at the websites of the top selling brands in pharma right now.
Recently I had the privilege to yet again attend WPP’s technology and innovation conference, STREAM. Held in Marathon, Greece, the setting provides its own magic, but the attendees are an eclectic group that leaves me inspired and always sends me home with all kinds of new ideas. Exactly what you want from a conference such as this.
On the last night there, a bunch of us were fighting it out playing Mindflex, a concentration game where you battle for control of the game piece by wearing a headset that measures your brain activity and concentration. I did not do well. (I blame the cocktails). I was struck about how quickly science fiction level tech is becoming a mainstream reality. We all can probably remember a time when we dreamed up some fascinating gadget or gizmo that was controlled merely by thinking about it, but it always seemed impossible.
Yet here I was, sitting in Greece, trying to focus my way to victory by playing a game with my brain. Welcome to the year 2012. Where mind control devices are now affordable retail hardware.
When I was done with my turn, I left to apply some alcoholic salve to my humiliating loss and struck up a conversation with a few techies that worked at various start-ups. Each was telling a story or two about how they knew someone who tried hacking into this site or that server. Mostly harmless stuff, but it fostered an idea. In the age of seamlessly integrated network technology and data collection software appearing all over the healthcare space, are we asking for trouble? More importantly, could an organization like Al-Qaeda or Anonymous hack into medical technologies and wreak havoc on a large scale?
Those of you who follow this blog closely know that I’ve started to focus a lot of what I do on finding digital innovations in healthcare and pharma. These are the innovations that use digital technology to improve our health. Here’s my simple manifesto:
“In the future, it will be digital technologies that prevent, treat, and finally cure diseases and not the latest “blockbuster” drug that has yet to be discovered (and might never be).”
How’s that coming from a “pharma guy”? In any event, it’s been my ambition to write a book on this subject and I already have started some content for it, but it’s got a long way to go. However, one of the first steps to spread the word about this concept is an upcoming speaking gig that I have at SXSW. If you don’t know what SXSW is, then check it out on their site, but this is how they describe it:
“SXSW Interactive features five days of compelling presentations from the brightest minds in emerging technology, scores of exciting networking events hosted by industry leaders, the incredible new SXSW Trade Show and an unbeatable lineup of special programs showcasing the best new digital works, video games and innovative ideas the international community has to offer.”
I started off 2010 with this exact same post and it quickly became one of the most read posts ever on this blog, so I figured we’d try it again. First, check out last years: 14 Things That Will Inspire Your Digital Marketing in 2010. Interesting how some of those things became pretty mainstream. So, let’s see if I can do it again. I hope this list inspires you and gets you thinking a bit differently about what’s possible. Some of these things you’ll likely have seen, but I hope you’ll look at them a bit differently. Many you will not have seen and I hope these make you realize that anything is possible.
That’s the point. If you can think it, there’s probably a way to do it with digital technology. We’re not building a time machine just yet, but there’s probably quite a bit more that’s possible than you think. What you’ll also notice for this list is that I focused on simple solutions to seemingly difficult challenges. Why make it more complex when it doesn’t have to be?
1. Animoto and xtranormal
If you want to make a quality video these days, you need an expert. You need to spend hundreds of thousands on editing, graphics, and a million other things you haven’t thought of. Right?
We’re in the do-it-yourself era of video. Let’s be clear…you’re not going to shoot the next Iron Man sequel in your living room or a pixel perfect ready-for-TV commercial, but you can do some high quality work with tools that are out there and don’t require years of training AND cost nothing or next to nothing. Two of my favorites? Animoto and xtranormal.
First Animoto. Simple idea. You’ve got all these pictures and videos and you need to mix them into a single video that isn’t going to bore people to tears. Not an easy task, so you’d better hire an editor…and director…and some tech guys too just to be safe.
Or you could just import your pictures to Animoto, make about five clicks and come up with something like this. Here’s some photos from my personal (very amateur) photography portfolio. It took 45 seconds of work from me to create.
No excuses after your next vacation.
Now xtranormal, which is totally different. Here you can direct your own cast of virtual characters and make an entertaining video that gets a point across. This one took me about 5 minutes. After watching this, ask yourself why you continue to present things in flat, boring ways when there are so many different options out there that are dead simple.
My video is all about “social media gurus.”
Bottom line: if people know that they can produce something very quickly with a reasonably professional result, do you think they’re going to stand for anything from you that isn’t the absolute best quality? And if they can do it in minutes, do you think they’re going to wait months for you to create something?
If you’re going to sign up for xtranormal, feel free to use this link and you’ll get me some more points so I can make another lame video like the one above.
2. Fast Society
There are more than 200,000 text messages sent around the world every second (source). My point in sharing that fact is that text messaging is still quite relevant, so before you count it out and continue to think it’s not important unless it’s an app, think again. Of course, sometimes text messaging is a bit challenging. Ever try to conduct a three-way text message discussion? It’s impossible to make any sense of one. Enter Fast Society.
Their simple solution?
In their own words: “Pick a length of time, invite some friends, and chat live via text message. Anything you send to 32787 (FASTS) will go out to your entire team. Tired of texting? Just send “CALL” and link up in an instant conference call.”
No complex websites needed, no applications, no hassle, just an elegant solution to a problem. Another thought? Social networks pop up and disappear all the time all around us. Not everything is Facebook.
If you haven’t heard of Klout yet, you will. As we start to invest more and more in social media and begin to interact with people, we need to know a few things. Chief among them is who of all of these fans and followers, advocates and critics are most important. That is, who is most influential and what are they influential about. This is critical because you can’t (and shouldn’t) give the exact same time and credence to every single person online. It doesn’t make sense. You don’t do this offline. If someone walks into your store and announces that they have no money nor any intention of buying anything, you’ll probably pay less attention to them than the person filling their cart with items. Makes sense, right?
Well, you have to do the same thing online. Let’s say that 20 people respond to a tweet you sent about your brand. Which of these should you worry about? Which should get a lot of your attention and which can you safely ignore? With Klout, you know. Peter Shankman wrote a great blog post about why he thinks Klout is significant and I’ll use one of his lines to emphasize my point:
“If I can find out who you are and immediately find the five things you talk about the most, as a marketer, that’s pure, instant gold. If I own a wine store, and you walk in with a Klout score of 63 , and I immediately know the top five things you talk about include “Wine,” “Vintage,” “Cabernet,” etc., I’m going to kick your experience up a notch, and possibly gain a very lucrative (this is key) customer for life.” [note: a Klout score of 63 is quite high]
Don’t think Klout will amount to much? Well, the Las Vegas Palms hotel is using it to figure out who among its guests should get special attention. These have been offline examples, but the application online is even simpler and more instant. Need to know who the most influential people are for a topic you care about, then you can look it up quickly and reach out to those people with your latest initiative. Simple and free.
Do you know who your influencers are? Your competitors might already.
4. Recorded Future
I mentioned earlier that we weren’t building a time machine or anything, but with this one, maybe we are. Research is hard and it’s often difficult to predict the future (understatement of the year). Or is it?
Recorded Future calls itself a “Temporal Analytics Engine.” Nevermind what that is. Here’s what you need to know. Using this tool, you can see future events right now. It won’t tell you who’s going to win the World Series next year, but it can tell you many business events that are likely to happen. It’s probably best just to see it in action to understand it. Recorded Future conveniently has a pharma related example too. I wouldn’t have predicted that.
Made sense to have this one as number five, so here goes.
You’ve probably heard of HTML5 by now and may have used it in a sentence whether you understood what it is or not. You’re in good company. HTML is obviously the language this is used to program most websites that you see. The 5 is because this is basically the 5th generation. What makes it so special? With HTML5 a big advantage is that you can eliminate the need for Flash. All those rich media websites you see out there are probably using Flash. The problem is that Flash doesn’t work in some mobile devices (you’ve probably heard of this thing called an iPhone) and that it’s generally not indexed by search engines. More importantly, with HTML5 everything is handled by your browser. No plugins are required. If you’ve ever had to download a plugin or update one or figured out that you couldn’t do something because of a missing plugin, you know why this is important. Here’s a great wrap up about why you should care about HTML5 and what it is.
Now, for the inspiring, cool stuff. I’m going to give you a link for a website created for the band Arcade Fire. Keep in mind that everything you’re going to see is not Flash and it’s all being done without the need for additional plugins. For your average user, this might not matter, but consider that this page is very small in terms of what is downloaded and what resources on your computer are being used. If you find your computer choking up a lot when you get to video intensive pages, you shouldn’t have this problem with HTML5 websites. Of course, if you’re reading this at work and you’re using an ancient version of Internet Explorer (6 in particular), you can forget about watching this. You need a more modern browser. Try Chrome or Firefox instead.
It’s been called the next Twitter among many other things. I’m assuming because some people think this will be the next “big thing.” Regardless, you should know about it, as it affects where people are getting information. It’s going to be yet another source for information about your brand and industry that isn’t you. Quora defines itself this way: “Quora is a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it.”
In simpler terms, think of it as a really powerful research tool. Instead of typing a question into Google and searching through thousands of pages (or more) hoping to find an answer, you can search Quora. Maybe someone has already asked the question and gotten some great answers. If not, then you can post your question and expect some quality responses. You never know who might answer your question and many times it’s someone really in the know. For example, I once had a question about the financial tool Mint. I search all around for answers until someone recommended checking Quora. I found this question, which was answered by one of the first employees of the company. Who better to answer than him? Not surprisingly, the answer was incredibly useful and insightful.
I don’t know if it’s the “next Twitter,” but I guarantee it will be significant and will change the way people look for information. The question for marketers is what you do about it? Should you be monitoring Quora or answering questions or just ignoring it? Check it out and decide for yourself.
7. XBox Kinect Hacks
You’ve probably heard of the new Kinect system for Xbox, which lets you use your body as a controller. If not, check it out here.
Ordinarily, that should be inspiring enough. It’s a big breakthrough that will change the way we look at gaming. However, I’d like to take it one step further. It turns out that Kinect is actually a pretty sophisticated device, as it needs to know where different parts of your body are in 3D space, in real-time. Knowing that the device can do that inspired a bunch of people to find new applications for it (i.e., hacks). One of the coolest I’ve seen is this one.
Once again, this helps to emphasize my point that anything’s possible. This shows a great way that technology can be used to understand something in the real world. You can easily see the applications for even this very basic execution of the technology.
Ah, the Goollery. If anything, it gets the prize for the coolest name of this list. The Goollery is a collection of projects that use Google’s various tools and applications in some way. I won’t spend too much time on this one except to emphasize the point that you can do a lot with existing (and free) tools if you’re willing to think about an innovative approach to using them. Google has a ton (some say too many)of tools and applications that are almost all free. The question for you: why build it when it already exists? Why not leverage what’s already out there to deliver your big idea?
I think almost everyone has seen this by now, but it’s worth seeing again if you have and it’ll amaze you if you haven’t. Rather than try to explain what this is, you should just watch the demo video.
And yes, it actually does work as well as in the video. If you want to impress your friends with an app, this is the one. Beyond impressing your friends, there’s another lesson here…actually two. First, never underestimate the value of a simple demonstration of your product. There wasn’t a word spoken in that video. Not a single computer-generated effect, no fancy actors, no blaring, distracting music. It shows what the product does. No more, no less. Rather than explain your product in 1,000 words, try video instead. It’s what people are expecting after all. Of course, the best demo video are for products that actually work, so start there.
Learning number two: Anything is possible. Here’s the brainstorm for this app: When I travel to a foreign country, I can’t read any of the signs. I wish they were all just in English.
Tah da! That’s it. Sometimes a literal execution of a solution works even in digital. This app makes the signs all English. It does exactly what you wished for in your brainstorm. Don’t let the fact that you can’t think of a way to do something stop you from trying. There are brilliant people out there like those who created this app. Find them and use them if you have to.
10. Sarcasm Detector
And the most important innovation of the past year goes to the Sarcasm Detector (see what I did there? hilarious, right?). Those of you who know me also know that I use a fair amount of sarcasm. Unfortunately, some of this doesn’t translate well as written word online. That’s one issue. The second issue is more important. As more and more content is personalized online using recommendations of others, it’s important to know what’s sarcastic and what’s genuine. Here’s why that’s important (from PopSci):
“Computer programs that can recognize sarcastic statements could generate better personalized content and make better recommendations to human users by not mistaking a product review titled “keep your receipt” with a sound piece of online shopping advice. It could also benefit opinion-mining systems that troll the Web trying to measure public sentiment about a product or idea.”
As everything you view online starts to be personalized based on your preferences and the recommendations of others, you’ve got to know what’s a real recommendation what is a fancy play on words. Otherwise, the content you get will never be as meaningful as it could be. What can you do about this? I’m not sure, but it does point to the importance of personalized content and where we’re headed. You do offer personalized content, right?
That’s the list for this year. If you didn’t like this list, I’m sorry to hear that. Come back next year…I’ll try harder. <!!!!!!!->ALERT: SARCASM DETECTED<–!!!!!!!>
This blog is all about the latest technology advances that are going to improve our health and lengthen our lives. It's not the blockbuster drug advances, but digital technology that will lead the health revolution. The content of this site is brought to you by the many talented visionaries from around the WPP network. We aim to help shape the vision, direction, and conversation of where health technology is headed.
This blog is all about the latest technology advances that are going to improve our health and lengthen our lives. It's not the blockbuster drug advances, but digital technology that will lead the health revolution. We aim to help shape the vision, direction, and conversation of where health technology is headed. The managing editor for Dose of Digital is Bill Evans.