EVs

One of the ways to sell more electric vehicles requires adding charging infrastructure at work and in public areas.

This past week, I attended Drive Oregon’s Utility Engagement Work Group meeting. During the meeting, one of the presenters shared a statistic that stated to meet the COP21 goal of keeping the world temperature to under 2C increase from the pre-industrial revolution era, sixty-five percent of all vehicles on the road will need to be zero emissions by 2030. This claim contrasts with a recent Bloomberg report that says we will be lucky if fifty percent of vehicles are emission free by 2040. The fact is, no matter what prediction or calculation we choose, the global transition away from the internal combustion engine (ICE) to electric vehicles (EVs) remains elusive.

Consumer Acceptance – A Long Way to Go

Today, EVs make up less than one-tenth of one percent of the total global number of vehicles on the road. In 2015, 550,297 EVs were sold worldwide. Although this number represents a sixty percent increase in sales over 2014, these figures are statistically insignificant toward having any impact on reducing global emissions, let alone influencing consumer minds about purchasing an EV.

Barriers to Widespread EV Adoption

The barriers that continue to hinder widespread EV adoption include higher purchasing costs, short battery range, lack of reliable charging infrastructure and a reluctance by car manufacturers and dealers to promote EVs with effective marketing tactics. What is needed are affordable, long range EVs that are convenient to operate and quick to charge. However, to make all of this happen, a coordinated and concerted effort is required from several public and private entities. For example, during the Utility Engagement Work Group meeting, a comment by one of the participating electric utilities reasoned, “it takes a village to help spread EV adoption.” This means installing reliable charging infrastructure at the workplace as well as in public areas. However, efforts to install more EV charging outlets have been hampered by the lack of use. The demand is still at a trickle rather than a rush. The question is how do we create a viable path to mass EV adoption that is cost efficient and is adaptable to the realities of low-cost gasoline and insufficient interest?

EV Affordability and Availability

One of the main barriers to EV adoption thus far has been the relatively high cost of entry and lack of choice. Besides the Tesla Model S, the ultimate luxury sedan, the Nissan Leaf and a few others such as the Chevy Volt and Spark, the available options for 41 states are limited. One of the issues is the compliance car. Because California, Washington, DC and nine other states require automakers to sell zero-emission vehicles (ZEV), the compliance car is only sold in those states. Although improving, the compliance vehicles do not offer significant range, imaginative design or much of an economic value when compared to cheaper internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. Also, many auto manufacturers are reluctantly moving forward with EVs simply because they disrupt their reliable and profitable business model.

Disrupting a Profitable Business Model

An often overlooked reason EV adoption has been slow is because auto dealers are worried about protecting their business model which, in America, focuses on selling trucks and SUVs and servicing ICEs. Without a transmission and multiple moving parts, the EV requires much less maintenance than the fossil-fueled car. This fact is one of the reasons why Tesla’s sales model is direct-to-consumer which eliminates the middleman and the need to have nearby service areas.

Overcoming Range Anxiety

Unlike ICEs, the EV suffers from the perception of lack of range. From the beginning, consumers have been reluctant to purchase a car with a range of 85 miles or less. (The Tesla Model S and Model X have ranges of 208 – 270 miles, but the starting cost of $69,900 limits affordability.) Although most studies have shown that commuters live in urban areas and drive 30 miles or less each day, they are still reluctant to own a car that takes an average of 8 hours for a full charge, instead of only a few minutes at the pump. Those most likely to purchase an EV will own a second conventional car for the long trips.

EV Charging Infrastructure

The emphasis on ubiquitous charging infrastructure is coupled with the need for a standard charging device. Currently, there are AC Level 1 (120 volts), AC Level 2 (240 volts) and DC fast charging (40 – 60 kW) outlets which can be both confusing and inconvenient. Similar to how the USB became the standard for computer attachments such as jump-drives and device charging, EV manufacturers and EV charging outlets will most likely develop a universal standard that will improve charging times and connection convenience. The EV charger needs to be available and reliable. (At the Utility Engagement Work Group meeting, there were several comments about how many EV chargers have not worked properly, or not at all, which has resulted in negative feedback.)

Design, Performance and Marketing

One of the factors that may be offputting to car buyers considering an affordable EV is the odd design. In particular, the Nissan Leaf represents the best example of a car that many believe lack the sleek and stylized look made famous by the Tesla Model S. Although BMW and Volkswagen and others are moving quickly to ramp up their EV offerings, the need to create mass appeal via fresh design is a big part of the marketing equation. Fortunately, the performance of EVs continues to improve and to adjust to the quick acceleration and torque is an advantage that needs emphasis. There are so many marketing angles for selling EVs including regenerative braking, silent driving, as well as the environment. However, as one EV observer in writes, “The burden of persuading buyers with good products and great marketing remains on the automakers, and the Madison Avenue firms they employ.”

The Driverless EV

Finally, with the advancement of driverless vehicles speeding up, there is the possibility that EVs will someday spread in popularity with ridesharing and services such as Uber and Lyft.  (Some experts predict  fully autonomous vehicles will debut in 2019.) Many of today’s younger generation have a new approach to cars that didn’t exist a few years ago. Why buy a car when you can take advantage of Zipcar, Car2Go or several other car sharing companies? These cars may also become electric and driverless in the future which will transform the entire auto industry. It may not be too far off when Uber driverless EVs pull up at the airport arrivals area and silently whisk people off to their destinations. Experts have predicted with the advancement of driverless electric vehicles; there will be far fewer cars on the road and much less vehicle ownership. The net result would be fewer cars in general that are mostly electric which will be convenient for commuters, good for the environment, and a sudden opening of space for redevelopment and more green space!

WindyFlats2015

With the COP21 Paris agreement now in place, the concept of sustainability as an integral part of business operations is now poised to kick into high gear.

The global agreement marks a pivotal point in history where the economic and social opportunities for transitioning to a low-carbon economy are enormous. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreement sets out “to pursue a transformation towards sustainable development that fosters climate resilient and low greenhouse gas emission societies and economies, and that does not threaten food production and distribution.” The goal is to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2070.  In addition to protecting Earth as a habitat for life, the COP21 agreement is now igniting a revolution of transformative ideas including high-level of innovation and entrepreneurship on a scale not seen since the end of World War II.

Transforming the tenants of consumerism

For many forward-thinking businesses and organizations already embracing sustainable development, the COP21 agreement is a welcome affirmation. By embedding new initiatives into their culture that include social, environmental and economic sustainability solutions, these innovative business leaders are achieving more than a bankable return on their investment. They are transforming the tenants of consumer-based capitalism into a new system where twentieth-century concepts such as planned obsolescence and industrial waste are being replaced by vertical integration that includes upcycling, recycling and downcycling combined with energy efficiency in a low-carbon and reduced water usage environment. In effect, these leaders are demonstrating a new “ecological worldview.”

The hidden power of ecological worldviews

At the recent Northwest Environmental Council (NWEC) conference held in Portland, Oregon, one of the breakout sessions entitled “Making the business case for sustainability,” Dr. Steve Schein discussed the findings from his book entitled, “A new psychology for sustainability leadership. The hidden power of ecological worldviews.” Schein’s research includes interviews with over 75 corporate, governmental and non-profit C-level leaders and discovers that many hold ecological worldviews that transcend the “business-as-usual” approach to capitalism and “put society’s social and environmental needs at the core of their business.” For these leaders, the sustainability process begins by embracing an “ecological worldview” where there is a clear goal to reassess the entire production cycle.

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PeriscopeThe last time I witnessed a major technological “game changer” was when Twitter started to gain popularity in 2008/9. Although launched in mid-2006, it was not until the iPhone launched in June 2007 when Twitter and social media truly started to expand with the marriage of these two technologies. Essentially, social media and smart phones changed human communication forever. Now, Periscope and Meerkat have arrived, and the next revolution in human communication is upon us. What does this mean for human communication? How will live events be covered? How will Periscope affect commerce and politics? It may be too early to tell, but so far, a few answers are beginning to emerge.

The Launch of Periscope and a New Social Media Landscape

This past weekend I viewed Periscope for the first time. The Periscope app was launched by the Twitter folks at the end of March 2015 and now, two months later, it is safe to say the art of “Periscoping” has taken off.

What to see on Periscope

Over the course of three days, I was able to parachute into people’s everyday lives. Admittedly, most of the live video feed is quite inane. In fact, many people’s headlines, or titles, list their video feeds as “boring,” “chillin’ out,” or things like, “driving around” and many, many more. Periscope video feeds are “slices of life” in real-time that reflect the diversity of language, culture and ordinary human experience across the globe. Ordinary people now have, as an invited “flies-on-the-wall,” the ability to peek in and interact with an enormous range of daily and nightly events. Viewers become “voyeurs” and posters are “narcissists” that communicate through voice-to-text communication (and hearts) for minutes at a time (or longer).

A Fly on the Wall and/or an Engaged Participant?

I joined a poster’s late-night journey on a tram as it wended its way down the streets of Melbourne, Australia followed by merry people drinking in bars in Dublin, Manchester, and Edinburgh. I also found myself on the back of a bike rolling through the streets of Amsterdam and then in the back of a truck speeding down the autobahn in Germany. There were also plenty of people driving and “Periscoping” – which is scary when you can see the driver trying to read comments while driving. Yikes!

I had a conversation about Fitbit’s and exercise with a woman while she sat in a CVS parking lot waiting for her husband in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I also watched a group of Periscope non-believers conducting a rapid-fire Q&A session with a religious preacher who could barely keep up with the assault on his faith. There were also several posts by Middle-Eastern males all gathered around their phones speaking in Arabic about who knows what. Not surprisingly, there were no Middle Eastern women that I could find using Periscope.

Spanning the Banal and Inane to Events and Disasters – Viewers see the world as it happens
Periscope Events

Concerts and events are now shown live – and that expectation is now permanent.

All of these ordinary human activities are similar to what appeared in the early days of Twitter only now with video; the experience is far more immersive and revealing. Like Twitter, the content spans the complete inane to fun, to covering disasters, riots, events and mass spectacles.

For example, I saw a woman showing the live footage of a house engulfed in flames in her neighborhood somewhere in southern California. There were also many live streams of the storms and flooding across Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Iowa. In Cleveland, there was a demonstration by African Americans who were upset with a recent court decision finding a police officer not guilty of shooting a black person. What saddened me about this footage was reading the vitriol in the viewer comments. Most of the nasty comments directed toward the protesters were ignorant, racist and bigoted while some observers expressed their utter disgust with the comments they were witnessing.

It is also apparent that people love to Periscope big events. I saw live Memorial Day bands and plenty of live concert footage including U2 in LA, The Rolling Stones in San Diego, Lady GaGa in Vancouver and Rush performing in Tampa. Oddly enough, only moments later, I saw the Tampa Bay Lightning playing the New York Rangers live from a balcony seat in Madison Square Garden.

News Anchors seeking the endless spotlight
Periscope Newsroom.jpg

Periscope is being used by newscasters to speak directly with their viewers.

There were also several reporters and news anchors happily conversing with viewers on Periscope prior to going on-air and during commercial breaks. This suggests we now have the ability to converse directly with newscasters and influence the stories as never before.

Seeing people from around the world doing a variety of activities is both interesting and strange at the same time. NPR recently reported on Periscope and the rise of obvious privacy issues. Not surprisingly, the NPR reporter discovered that most everyone she spoke with was not “freaked out” by Periscope because, according to Periscope CEO and co-founder Kayvon Beykpour, “people are already used to cameras being just about everywhere.” Only now we can expect that any camera pointed in our direction is live streaming to people everywhere who are making comments about everything we do.

Troubling Occurrences that are Scary

I also witnessed disturbing events such as little kids not knowing how to respond to the inappropriate comments (by adult males). Perhaps weirdest and creepiest of all was a guy sitting in his car at a McDonald’s parking lot. He was wondering out loud how to approach a woman in the restaurant for a “date” with whom he had briefly exchanged glances with earlier. There was a surreal moment where the viewers were both freaked out by what they were witnessing while also adding comments about him getting his ass kicked, and him being a stocker and more. It was in effect, a bizarre, awkward and potentially dangerous situation being played out in real time where the poster was describing his plan while asking the viewers for advice. Eventually, the woman came outside, got into her car and drove off while the guy watched and did nothing. It is these kinds of tense situations where people are about to “do” something or confront someone while live streaming the whole incident which makes Periscope an entirely new kind of social media.

Rubbernecker’s Paradise

Today, people who were once only rubbernecker’s passing by the scene of an accident, now have the opportunity to witness and interact with all kinds of human and natural events. Only now, they can even participate and play a small role in the outcome with their comments. These situations are not new – but the difference now is that everyone with a smartphone can experience their own Truman Show while communicating with strangers. What direction will this new kind of interaction take society?

There is no telling what kind of “extreme” situations that people find themselves in may now be streamed live. For instance, someone contemplating suicide or a person about to commit an act of revenge can Periscope the whole event. Alternatively, will people facing doom in a burning building share their horror? Will victims of war-torn countries show the brutalities of war? At what point will the overseer’s at Periscope cancel the feed? Although Periscope’s software is programmed to remove porn and other inappropriate material, will it have the ability to make decisions on what is deemed offensive, dangerous and/or criminal? What can (or should) viewers do if a situation escalates into an emergency? Only time will tell – but the moment Periscope has its “mass-media moment” during some big crisis or event is probably not far off.

The Mechanics of Periscope

As for the set up of Periscope, the feed appears entirely random. At the moment, the list of headlines to choose from is confusing as it contains all languages and titles in no particular order. I suspect that as the Periscope audience grows the app will include categories for people to choose their language(s), locations and the kinds of activities or “non-activities” they wish to participate or view. There are many Periscope “stars” emerging who constantly beg for hearts and plead viewers to “swipe left and follow” them and their every move. The idea of following random people and celebrities sounds exhausting for the viewer who is sent updates whenever the people they follow are live. Too much clutter and bother!

Corporate Invasion

It will also be interesting to see how the corporate world will interact with Periscope and what promotions work and what mistakes they are sure to make (like they have done so many times on Twitter). Soon, I suspect there will be live promotions and other live “behind-the-scenes” video footage that will entice viewers to take immediate action. The businesses that create the right promotion or find ways to use  Periscope strategically will probably benefit immensely. However, as is common with all social media channels, there are pitfalls that can threaten corporate reputations.

Similar to the Twitter battles that erupt when irate consumers express their dissatisfaction with a business through tweets, there may now be live feeds showing a customer’s grievance in real time. As a result, everyone in the service industry is now open to scrutiny via live streaming video. Waiters, baristas, ticket agents, cab drivers and even celebrities all now have to contend with live accounts of their actions.

Political Fall Out

Finally, the political world will soon be dealing with 24/7 live streaming. The gaffs and embarrassing moments that politicians have suffered due to social media will now be live and contain user comments (or hearts) from friends and foe alike. The 2016 presidential candidates will be exposed to numerous voyeurs while simultaneously they can be narcissists supplying a video feed of themselves “chillin” behind-the-scenes on their campaign buses or jets.

 The Future is Here and you can see it live 24/7

Make no mistake about it; Periscope and its cousin, Meerkat, are changing social media like never before. I suspect Facebook will enter the fray soon, and no doubt, Instagram, Snapchat and Vine change the way they operate as well. Keep an eye out on those smart phones looking your way!

TV Streaming what next for advertisers?

How will advertisers remain relevant with streaming TV?

What will advertisers do when more people switch to streaming TV? I recently “cut the cord” and now watch Apple TV with Netflix being the centerpiece to view programs from around the world on my mobile, tablet, laptop and big screen TV. The reason for the switch is because of cost and convenience. As actor Kevin Spacey said in August 2013, “The audience wants the control. If they want to binge… then let them!” In other words, “give people what they want, when they want and in the form they want – at a reasonable price and they will more likely pay for it rather than steal it.”

Streaming content is great for consumers but how will advertisers remain front and center with their audience?

Today, there are plenty of free viewing options beyond cable and satellite TV. Take the news for example. With Apple TV, I can watch Sky News, PBS NewsHour, Yahoo! and Bloomberg. I also tune into the NBC Nightly News on podcast – and again, all these options are free and for the most part, without commercials. I used to pay DirecTV $115 per month for these news services along with HBO and 200+ channels that I never watched. In fact, a recent Nielsen study shows that most viewers only watch 17 channels. As a result, I now watch Netflix and these other “channels” on Apple TV and besides HBO, do not miss anything.

I also use an antenna to capture over-the-air channels and (depending on the Supreme Court decision regarding Aereo) soon, I may be able to view more channels. The question for advertisers is because the cable TV industry model is dying, what are the best ways to connect with a large audience? A recent article in Forbes had this to say:

“The industry formerly known as TV, is rapidly turning into T/V (Television / Video). As David Matathia, director of marketing communications at Hyundai Motor America told eMarketer, “We’re pretty much approaching all of our major broadcast partnerships in concert with our digital programs.” He said, “When we’re working with network partners, it’s now rare to see a standalone TV or a standalone digital deal. It’s almost become standard practice to package digital and broadcast together.”

However, as mentioned, although most of what I am viewing comes without commercials including Netflix, SkyNews and podcasts. The PBS and Bloomberg streaming content does includes ads, but will this be enough? Is the :30 TV spot going to change? I suspect yes. I know with my viewing habits the goal is to avoid or mute ads wherever I can. So what to do?

What I believe is missing is that advertisers now have the opportunity to engage viewers with worthy content, gamification and rewards. There has to be a way to make the promotion of products and services a welcome addition rather than an annoying disruption. If the viewer has a reason to interact – that is quick, fun and rewarding, there will be  more opportunity to create lasting impressions that will lead to product trial and eventually consumer loyalty.

Once again the new season of Breaking Bad has, so far, prove that the writing and plot lines from Vince Gilligan and company continue to be brilliant and captivating. This is television drama at its best!

In many ways it’s a shame that AMC is the cable channel that hosts this intriguing series about the intricate dealings of an odd pair of meth cooks who stumble into chaos and amazingly find ingenious ways out. As characters, Walter White and Jesse Pinkman have flourished beyond anyone’s expectations. To look back at the first two season’s and compare how the character arcs for these two exceptional lead characters and their supporting cast have developed is truly a work of genius. Despite the commercials and the inability to swear, include sex and nudity or graphic violence, the Breaking Bad writers have used these constraints to build intense story lines and exceptional dialog that negates the need for such R rated material.

The cold openings are a prime example of what Gilligan and his writing crew have specialized in and the most recent episode, “Madrigal”, is no exception. By opening the door to this “multifaceted manufacturing, construction and shipping concern headquartered in Hanover, Germany”, Gilligan has added a new dimension to Walter and Jesse’s future dealings with Hank and the DEA. Very intriguing indeed!

[Episode 2 – in the cold opening, Madrigal’s fast food operations executive,     Peter Schuler, sets up the intrigue for future plot twists.]

The real issue with being on AMC are the commercial breaks that intrude on the flow of the action. Fast forwarding through the ads becomes a nuisance and forces the viewer to momentarily disengage from the all-consuming action. Unlike HBO’s The Wire , which was equally well written and created by David Simon, Breaking Bad is limited by these constraints which leads one to think just how much more incredible the series could be if it had been picked up by Showtime or HBO. Each episode often demands a second or third viewing in order to fully appreciate the plot subtleties, superb acting and the seemingly innocuous sets where everything in the camera’s view may have some meaning or future purpose.

Reality TV for Dummies?

The other bizarre issue this season has been the pairing up of Breaking Bad with AMC’s new Small Town Security, which is a reality show about the day-to-day happenings at a dim-witted security firm, known as JJK Security, based in Ringgold, Georgia. How an audience that has become so accustomed to the sophistication and plot complexities of Breaking Bad could possibly be interested in this latest offering of a Lowest Common Denominator reality TV show is odd at best and just plain pathetic at its worst. Even some of the comments listed on AMC’s own website include gems like this. “I think we have now hit the bottom of the reality tv barrel. Sad. Just sad.”

AMC has scored big hits with Mad Men and Breaking Bad, and kudos to them for hiring productions with such great writers and superb casts to make these shows the successful icons they’ve become in popular culture; but are viewers being short changed by not having these shows on the next tier in cable where the stories can flow seamlessly for an hour and without having to be promotional vehicles to gather audiences for the next throw-away TV show? It really is too bad, but again, the writers for Breaking Bad have obviously found a winning formula for getting around the constraints of commercial breaks and content limitations, it’s only the viewer who is left with the knowledge of wondering if the series could have been that much more of a satisfying experience.

http://youtu.be/ROGSaP8MSSQ

 

The other day I was reading  David Frum’s column “The challenge for cable news” where he stated the following:

“Things move fast in the modern world, so let’s cut straight to the point: Cable TV is no longer the place where news breaks, and has not been so for years. Social media have done to cable TV news what cable news, in its day, did to the afternoon editions of big-city papers: shouldered aside its slower and less adaptable predecessor.”

This morning I woke up and took out my iPad and perused the online news feeds and immediately saw the unfolding gunman shootout events in New York City. I checked Twitter and found the hashtag’s #ESB and #EmpireStateBuilding and from there was quickly filled in with the details of the tragedy as they came in. After about an hour I saw that Mayor Bloomberg was to hold a news conference so it was only then that I turned on the TV and clicked on DirecTV’s news directory channel where I could scan CNN, MSNBC, FOX, CNBC, FBN for their ongoing coverage. What I saw was pretty lame.

The news outlets were still far behind what was being communicated on Twitter and were also lacking in any real reporting of the facts as they came forth. CNN was by far the worst in its coverage as Ashley Banfield tried to sum up the tragedy with a number of stupid comments about the iconic Empire State Building and other inane information.

As I continued to monitor the Twitter feed and checked out the links the story became clearer. Once Mayor Bloomberg had his news briefing (seen live on YouTube), Twitter was following along with the facts as he and his police commissioner briefed the throngs of media.

Later, CNN couldn’t even get the facts straight regarding the gunman’s sequence of events. They said that perpetrator, Jeffrey Johnson, was 56 (initially reported by police as being 53 but later corrected by the NY Times as 58) and that “he will not be prosecuted for murder.” Really? A comment on Twitter made fun of the statement with the line “Thanks Captain Obvious.”

To be fair, Twitter also contained many comments that were either inaccurate or outright false, but the majority of comments continued to be updated and had the correct information. This, along with photos, onsite witness accounts and links to video footage made social media a far better choice to learn about the unfolding events. 

What the cable media outlets were missing most of all was true reporting where their reporters would gather facts and check their sources while ensuring accuracy before being communicated over the air. Instead of being first on the scene and getting it wrong, or worse, reporting from the studio with a litany of irrelevant and inane comments just to fill air time, the cable news outfits should understand that the public using Twitter, Storify and Instagram will get now always get the scoop. The traditional media, including cable news, now has the job of getting the facts straight, reporting with accuracy and giving the story context. As Frum states in his piece, “Cable should skip fancy effects, go deep and long in reports, [and] find new relevance.”  Instead, cable news organizations tend to fill the air with their so-called “experts” and other pundits wishing to express opinions as opposed to employing actual journalists that will dig deeper and provide facts and pertinent information.

From what Bloomberg and Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the perpetrator, Jeffrey Johnson, fatally shot his former boss at point-blank range five times in front of his former workplace, Hazan Import Corporation on West 33rd Street. The shooter then walked eastbound towards the visitor entrance of the Empire State Building on 5th Avenue and was followed by a construction worker who then informed two police officers that were in a van guarding the Empire State Building as part of the ongoing counter terrorism security. After informing the officers, they then approached  Johnson who immediately pulled his .45 caliber handgun from a bag and pointed it at the officers. The officers then shot a total of 16 rounds killing Johnson while also wounding nine bystanders (fortunately with non-life threatening injuries) during the confrontation.

These were the basic facts of the tragic event as told by Bloomberg and the police commissioner which I then checked by finding the details about the Hazan Import Co. address, reviewing eye-witness accounts and by further follow-up with the New York Times and New York Post.  Why CNN and other cable news outlets couldn’t seem to master the duties of basic reporting during the first two hours after the incident is only part of the reason why they are becoming less significant as credible news sources. Finally, the irony was not lost on me that Frum’s article was posted on CNN. You’d think they’d get the message.

In February, 2009 Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said the following: “The company’s success hinges on its ability to transition to online video from DVDs…” Thanks to devices such as Playstation 3, X Box 360 and the iPad, one could say the transition has been wildly successful. However, two issues still plague Netflix from gaining wider acceptance. A greater variety of current movie titles and TV programs and a future where bandwidth is not capped out.

Many consumers complain that the current selection of movie offerings on Netflix resembles walking the middle of the isle of yesteryear’s Blockbuster where only B-movies and never heard of straight-to-video releases lurk. What Netflix needs is a constant supply of the latest and greatest titles to keep consumers coming back or they may start seeking other avenues.

Striking Deals for Better Content

One of the nagging issues since Hastings made his prophetic comment is that Netflix hasn’t been able to strike enough deals with the likes of HBO and the big movie studios to gain access to the streaming rights for fresh content.

Despite these problems the 14 year old company has had some recent gains by reaching agreements with NBC Universal and CBS as well as acquiring AMC’s  Mad Men. It’s also important to recognize the success of Netflix online venture can be attributed to its ingenious use of algorithms (known as its content recommendation engine) where its vast store of titles are targeted to subscribers unique profiles. And even with its recent price increases many analysts predict the company will continue fair well because of it’s convenient and seamless ability to work on so many platforms. (Android, iPhone, iPad, Xbox360, Wii, PS3, PC and 3DS to name a few.)

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To advertisers and marketers it’s important to realize that kids and young teens are extremely media/computer savvy and the best way to engage them is to be authentic and to always converse with them on their terms. What may be surprising for parents and teachers is what were once thought to be effective and efficient methods for teaching and providing guidance may now no longer be as relevant or meaningful for todays kids. 

Just a few years ago the folks at Common Sense Media wrote, “we may think of our kids’ online, mobile, and technological activities as “digital life,” but to them, it’s just life. Their world is as much about creating media as it is about consuming it.” And that in essence is what matters most – much of how kids view their world is through technology.

Generation Z

For kids born after 1998, “known as “Generation Z”,  they know of no life without Internet, ubiquitous cell phones, iPods, iPads, social media or 24/7 entertainment.” They’re also much more brand and fashion conscious at these younger ages.

This axiom holds true when considering how kids are learning and how they are choosing to get involved in activities both online and off.

The Power of Agency

What shouldn’t be surprising are the things kids can do  – and are doing – when empowered to do so. As Melissa Clark-Reynolds, CEO of Minimonos, stated at the Sustainable Brands ’11 conference, “kids need to be given agency”, that is “they need to be given the capacity to make powerful choices and affect the world.”

Minimonos (Spanish for little monkeys) is an online game that challenges kids to think in sustainable terms by rewarding them for doing the right thing. The purpose of Minimonos is “to have a place that embodies core values like sustainability and generosity, without turning those values into a boring lecture.”  What’s more, these kids are looking for authenticity and something that will inspire them – but it has to be on their terms and level of interest.

More than most parents may be willing to admit, a large percentage of today’s kids are extremely media savvy (they totally get it!) and they can detect the insincerity of a website, a social media platform, or any game or program that may be purportedly “designed for kids” but clearly doesn’t understand what motivates and engages them. If any of the content feels like it’s being imposed or is just irrelevant, then it’s summarily rejected. However, if the content has real value where the kids feel empowered to make decisions, are able to connect with other like-minded kids and can realize social status through rewards (gamification) – and it’s fun – then there is a good chance the website/game or social media platform may be a success.

What’s also important is when kids are given this “agency” it is not to diminish or negate the need for providing safety, structure and supervision while they’re spending time online. “The very nature of their constantly connected culture means kids must understand the concept of privacy so that what they post and create won’t hurt them or embarrass them at some point down the line.” However, as Emily Bazelon writes the The New York Times, “parents and lawmakers are [at times] so worried about protecting our children that they can fail to distinguish between real threats and phantom ones.” The point is to strike a balance between protecting and monitoring kids while also allowing them to find their space online where they can flourish.

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Lars Breneman is planning a vacation to visit his relatives in Germany next year and after reviewing his flight options he’s chosen to fly with Lufthansa. Lars’ decision wasn’t based on any loyalty to his German ancestry, rather he chose the German airline because he’s doing his best to save money – and reduce his carbon footprint. Lars, who lives in Seattle, discovered that Lufthansa has recently begun testing bio-fuels to help lower its carbon emissions, which also means the airline may eventually pay less towards the new EU carbon fees.

The New York Times recently reported, “starting Jan. 1, 2012 the European Union will require all carriers entering or leaving its airports to either reduce their [greenhouse gas – GHG] emissions or pay a charge — whether the airline is United, Air France or Lufthansa… and the “cleanest” airlines will pay less in emissions fees.”

Depending on the size and model of aircraft, airplanes on average spew 244 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions for every mile flown. Source: Blueskymodel.org

 

For Lufthansa the objective is to become the “driver of change” in reducing GHG emissions with its new biofuels and has estimated a savings of 1,500 tons of CO2 emissions during the recent test period.

On the other hand the US airline industry has taken a different approach having recently filed a lawsuit before the European Court of Justice.

It would be safe to say that the impending fee has caused some friction. “The European Union is imposing this on U.S. carriers without our agreement,” Wendell Albright, director of the Office of Aviation Negotiations at the State Department, said in a recent NY Times interview. “It is for the U.S. to decide on targets or appropriate action for U.S. airlines with respect to greenhouse gas emissions.”

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Last week at the Sustainable Brands ’11 conference in Monterey, CA there were some prominent takeaways that many brands (large and small) are now doing as a normal part of business. Being sustainable, which is both environmental and social, has become more than an eco-trend and much more than presenting the consumer with a “green” image.  In fact, green washing is one of several varied terms used to describe businesses that attempt to fool the customer into believing that their products are safe, natural and/or do no harm to the environment. However, today’s mobile consumer is extremely savvy and often are quite cynical. In response to this backlash many businesses are finding that authenticity and transparency are the keys to building successful and lasting relationships with their customers and shareholders.

What was loud and clear to this attendee is that sustainability should be embedded rather than tacked onto existing business practices and that marketing efforts should focus on product quality first rather than any “green attributes”.  The key is to understanding what motivates consumers and one emerging movement is the use of gaming for marketing and product usage purposes. What is referred to as “gamification” is now a major catalyst for changing well-entrenched behaviors and creating new social norms while engaging consumers in fun and rewarding ways.

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