Archive for the ‘Slice of Life’ category

Slice of Life #8: Super Majority SuperPAC

Idea: SuperPACs more or less seem to focus narrowly on pushing an agenda focused upon a particular interest or theme of policy goals. How about one that’s purpose is pushing for passage of legislation and executive action that polls show a supermajority (say at least 75%) of citizens support and built upon policy ideas supported by objective data and common sense.

For instance:

Slice of Life #7: Pocket Knife with seafood utensils

Idea: A multi-function pocket knife with special tools for shucking oysters, cracking shells, meat pick, and bone tweezers. Perhaps even a shrimp deveiner. Would be perfect for summer outings.

Slice of Life #7: Engagement Competition

Idea: I linked to a video a short while back highlighting the marketing myth of the engagement ring. As indicated, engagement rings are problematic for a variety of reasons including:

Why does a ring accompany a proposal? Considering most vows include the tradition of exchanging a ring, a proposal ring seems redundant. Why is there so little competition marketing alternatives to proposal gifts, particularly with the diamond industry so rife with moral dilemmas that are overshadowed by societal pressure to “be a man”?

It seems like the perfect opportunity exists for a better alternative. The first thing that comes to mind: wristwatches. Why? If a diamond is forever™, what better way to symbolize a union for “forever” than by an instrument that measures that time? It just seems so much more poetic. And watches have space for engraving a meaningful thought to give the gesture special meaning. They also are typically great investments that keep their value and can appreciate. For those who wish to keep the male to female stereotyping of proposal rituals, marketing wristwatches to women provides a demand that doesn’t really presently exist12. For those who find the one-sidedness of the ritual to be outdated, an exchange of watches could be a nice way to show that you both wish to share your time with the other.

But most importantly, getting away from blood diamonds (and not through the bogus way of paying more for a conflict-free diamond, which should be conflict-free to begin with), is a good thing for this world to be supporting.

Who’s to say a watch is the only appropriate alternative? It’d be nice to have one though.

  1. Just like the market for diamond rings didn’t exist before DeBeers []
  2. a vast majority of watches sold today are marketed to men []

Slice of Life #6: Car Tech Site

Idea: Infotainment amenities are becoming more important to consumers purchasing vehicles. Unfortunately, most car manufacturers highlight their in-vehicle tech systems via bullet points and terse video demos on their websites. Car review sites rarely go into depth about these systems in the same way they do regarding the engine specifics and handling of the vehicle. Yet, nearly every vehicle I’ve ever ridden in seems to provide infotainment systems that suffer from significant user interface shortcomings or actual bugs that frustrate the experience of enjoying your ride. Considering the new efforts by Google and Apple to implement technology into dashboards, you’d think such focus would be a higher priority.

I want to know things like, is inputing destinations into the navigation frustrating or impossible when the car is in gear. I want to know how well speech recognition works. I want to know whether the act of plugging in my iPhone to charge triggers the iPod autoplay function, even when trying to make a call. I want to know if the lack of physical buttons in lieu of a touchscreen increases my risks on the road due to janky feedback responses. All of these are issues I’ve experienced in the vehicles I’ve been in in the last few years. And because critics aren’t reviewing these items, they don’t seem to be getting fixed.

Slice of Life #5: Improving Netflix

Idea: Netflix has dramatically changed the way millions of people consume movies and television series, leading to several huge changes that is slowly disrupting the entire entertainment industry.

  1. Cutting the cord on cable, freeing individuals from the high pricing and monopolistic rule of cable companies in most areas of the United States.
  2. “Binge watching” television series, freeing consumers from the requirements of season pacing and tuning in at a particular time.
  3. Paying for content rental, as opposed to trading advertisement consumption for content.

Although Netflix is continuing to innovate, most notably by purchasing the rights to shows directly (as opposed to after they’ve aired on television), I can’t help but think that the online experience Netflix (by Netflix, I’m talking about Instant Watch) offers hasn’t really changed all too much since it’s initial roll out. This has been on my mind a lot lately and I’ve come up with several ways I believe such an experience could be significantly improved.

Most of these thoughts were spurred by my recent fascination with the curation of experiences in ways that reduce consumer choice but increase the pleasantry and overall satisfaction of that experience. Barry Schwartz refers to this as the paradox of choice——the idea that the greater the number of choices that exist for a person, the greater the friction that is created, and that at some level this friction leads to consumer paralysis that is easier solved by walking away. Many companies adopt strategies that incorporate choice reduction as part of the value proposition they offer customers. Apple, Trader Joe’s, Amazon, and IKEA all offer different perspectives of this strategy to increase their brand’s value. (Apple, for instance only sell a handful of products that make design trade-offs to appeal to the widest audience. Trader Joe’s reduces brand choice so customers don’t need to choose between six types of flour. Amazon learns your browsing preferences to make an almost endless number of products feel custom fit to you. Ikea demonstrates products in action to give your brain guidance. They’re all different takes on the same idea.)

Netflix lacks this. Often times when I open Netflix, I feel as though there is nothing I want to watch. I have a queue. I am provided with new releases, but for some reason, even with thousands of choices at my fingertip, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed and discouraged. I bet this is what Schwartz refers to when he discusses this paradox. At some point more choices are worse than fewer. So the following are a random assortment of ideas that I believe increases value while, in some way, reduces the appearance of unlimited choice.

To begin with, Netflix seems to be lacking a real social aspect to its service. And I’m not talking about that buzzwordy, corporate-speak type of social element either. A service like Netflix doesn’t need Twitter or Facebook integration. It doesn’t need that “fake sociability” that companies seeking to check off a box seem to be searching for. But the Netflix experience could be dramatically transformed by introducing the ability to follow family members or close friends (and perhaps some trustworthy critics). I would love to know the recommendations and ratings of my girlfriend’s or sister’s recently watched. There’s so many possibilities for such connections. Imagine setting up a movie date with your girlfriend when you’re out of town or with your grandma who’s across the country? This way you can both watch the exact same thing at precisely the same moment and feel some connection in the shared experience. There has got to be an easier way to implement the ability for simultaneous multiscreen watching. It’d also be great to know where my parents are in a particular TV series or what series we’re both watching, so I might be inclined to bring it up with them when I visit. And maybe let my friends know when I rate a movie with five-stars; they say word of mouth is the best way to judge whether a person will enjoy a film. The overall collective rating system could be much further tailored to incorporate familial preferences. And even if I didn’t like the movie my mom did, it’s fun to disagree about entertainment.

They could have a ton of fun with movie critics. Instead of Netflix providing a Top 100 AFI list, how about giving critics the ability to be searched and followed. At a bare minimum, I’d love a list of “must watch” films from Netflix’s immense back catalogue recommended by a few of the critics who’s opinion I value. But it would be even greater if Netflix partnered with some of the more recognizable names in the industry to create a streaming Watchlist. This could be a collection of five to ten films that play seamlessly with mini interview like commentary videos in between with the critic explaining and introducing each film. This would allow for a multiple day watching experience that makes film into a sort of reality show countdown list. I’d totally watch compilations of old Ebert and Roeper clips reviewing their favorite films before sitting down to actually watch them one after another. The thing about these type of efforts is that they break down the thousands of titles into neatly organized little “rooms” that reduces clutter and confusion. It’s way easier selecting between 10 good films than 100 possibly good ones. It’s also incredibly meta to think about video of others reviewing video to help you select a video.

I may be slightly dating myself, but do you remember when television channels used to show the “Movie of the Week”? Why is that not a thing on Netflix? It serves as a “start here” for all and provides for a slight recapturing of collective conscious water cooler moments where everyone is talking about the same thing.

Surely, there are a bunch of tremendously cheesy, so-good-it’s-bad movies on Netflix. Why can I not see the lowest rated movies? I’d pay to know the lowest-rated movie of all time. Does Netflix not see the value of further breaking down ratings into fun ways that may not normally be possible? What about the highest and lowest rated Tom Hanks film? How about trying to prove society wrong by only showing highly rated Keanu Reeves films (even a broken clock is right twice a day…). The best movies from your birth year. The worst. For Oscar season, allow us to take a look at some of the more obscure category winners. Cinematography winners in the last 20 years. Best documentaries. Best foreign film.

There are so many incredible concerts that are impossible to get tickets for, which I’d love to watch from the comfort of my couch (even if it is months later). Does Netflix have camera crew to capture these events? Perhaps even a Netflix concert series that go direct to Netflix.

They’re just some random thoughts, but I’d really love to feel more engaged by Netflix. I feel like there’s so many meaningful films out there and that I’m missing so much.

Slice of Life #4: Keepsake

Idea: Instagram has taken over the captured moments that individuals treasure, mostly because cellphone cameras are good enough and always connected to the Internet for instantaneous uploading. But cellphone photography has taken away the beauty of living in the moment, because god forbid we miss that shot.

I fall victim to it as well. Kodak moments are special and capturing beauty gives one the sense of momentary accomplishment. There has got to be a billion dollar idea in a company that provides photo services for events so that their guests can compliment their Instagrams with professional photos of memorable moments of concerts, sporting events, and parties.

Imagine flipping through a digital book of sorts that interweaves your Instagram photos (using location and timestamps) into a digital scrapbook. For example: a trip to Yankee’s game would display a spread of the shot of you and your buddy with a hotdog and beer, a professional photo (think: here’s your number to see your photo after the game) of you in front of the Babe Ruth monument, an aerial shot of Yankee Stadium, and a couple captured turning points in the game. Perhaps even a box score and your digital ticket stubs.

How does the company make money? Service contracts with organizations. MLB, Ticketmaster, or the Yankees would pay for this value-added service because it creates impetus for creating more memories in the future. These contracts would pay for portrait photographers to take personal photos and to purchase rights to quality photos of the events.

Bonus: Imagine if artists were paid to bring back the lost art of ticket design.

Contact me if you’d like further consulting on this idea. I think it’s a real winner.

Slice of Life # 3: Adopt a Subway Stop

Idea: Mass transit budgets seem to be one of the first budgets politicians raid in times of economic troubles. There doesn’t seem to be a tremendous amount of private money in public transportation. Though private investment typically sacrifices some control over the system, it also could offer much needed financial security so that transit budgets could focus on smart expansion instead of upkeep.

Why not auction some of the established stops on bus and light rail system as part of an “adopt-a-stop” program. Who know’s what possibilities exist. Balance is important, but I’m sure some corporate messaging is a good trade off when the alternative is a dilapidated subway stop. Oh, and can we explore this idea more?

Slice of Life #2: Super Farmer’s Markets

Idea: A farmer’s market model for supermarkets. Supermarkets rent out space within their store for butchers, cheesemongers, spice merchants, bakers, etc. so all of the best local goods available can be found under one roof.

In larger areas, farmer’s markets are available, but even there, they are rarely open 5 or 7 days a week. In most suburban areas around the country, bakeries, butcher shops, and other small businesses are quickly dying. But supermarkets rarely produce the quality goods and specialized service people come to love from these smaller shops.

Supermarkets are typically a low-margin business and this would switch this business model to a much heartier tenant-based model.

Slice of Life #1

NPR and their affiliates have done a good job at offering a visual for defendants who cannot post bail at $500. WNYC has elaborated on this point.

Nearly 50,000 defendants each year are put behind bars after their first court hearing pending trial. Most spend days or weeks in jail. Some, however, can spend months or more than a year on Rikers Island all because they can’t afford to make bail. And that costs taxpayers a lot of money.

Idea: A 501(c)(3) dedicated solely to evaluating the risk factors of non-violent accused suspects and posting bail for them. Or perhaps developing some type of working relationship with them to stimulate rehabilitation in exchange for posting bail for them.