Libraries for Everyone in Uganda


Ugandan telecom company MTN wanted to  promote its cell phone service while doing something good for the youth in Uganda. So they placed full page ads in newspapers in Uganda which displayed books, which became virtual libraries. Ugandan children then used their feature phones to access the books. 


The brand asked people who saw the ad to tape the “virtual library” up wherever they wanted, so they could share the books with their community. To read a particular book, users texted that book’s USSD code (a mobile system similar to SMS accessible via feature phones) to a special number. They were then sent the text of the book to read on their feature phone. 


Why I’m Curious

We saw a similar example of a brand taking old phones and putting books on old cards memory cards that could be loaded into children’s feature phones. This seems to take it to the next level with more community-sharing functionality. 

I’m curious to see if there are other simple or old technologies out there that can be used to better share information or resources. With Amazon Kindle, we currently can rent books or be part of a lending program. The same is true for iTunes music, which is available on 5 devices. What are some other things we could reasonably share to defray costs? 


Instagram Launches Profile Badges

From Mashable:

Instagram just launched Instagram badges, a super-easy way to help users promote and share theirInstagram profiles across the web.

Instagram badges are similar to badges and buttons offered by Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

To get an Instagram badge, just visit and select the icon you want, then copy the JavaScript and paste it on your website, Tumblr or blog.

The goal with Instagram badges is to help brands (and users) promote their official profiles with fans across the web. Because users can now follow profiles online, it might also drive social traffic.


Why I’m Curious:

Even before it was snapped up by Facebook, Instagram was popular with brands and celebs alike. Since the acquisition, “we’ve seen the Facebook team take a more focused look at how brands can use Instagram as part of a broader social strategy.” I wonder if this will help drive that sort of incorporation.

Ben & Jerry’s Asks, Do You “Wanna Spoon”?


To help promote their Greek Frozen Yogurt, Ben & Jerry’s launched a new Facebook app called “Wanna Spoon”. The app scours users’ friends’ profiles, looking for anything they might have in common including favorite foods, brands they like and even relatives with the same name, to receive a coupon to try Ben & Jerry’s Greek Frozen Yogurt

From AllFacebook,

When a user selects a friend chosen by Wanna Spoon, the app will then post a message on the friend’s page, with this message: “Using a fancy algorithm, Ben & Jerry’s decided we’d make great spooning partners.” The message will include a coupon for the company’s Greek Frozen Yogurt, encouraging the two users to share the goodies.

Why I’m Curious

Ben & Jerry’s seems to always get it right. Their product is simple and fun, and they embrace it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ben & Jerry’s try to make a connection that wasn’t there.

Also, various brands try different ways to ways to connect Facebook users and increase sharing, sometimes trying to make connections that aren’t obvious to the consumer. Ben & Jerry’s shows that while you should think outside of the box (or carton!), using traits that inherent to your brand the user experience will provide a more integrated campaign.

“Zed’s dead, baby.”

I’m hoping that a Pulp Fiction quote will make this post feel less morbid.  But, what happens to your digital self when your real-world self passes?  It’s a fair question.  By some estimates, according to an article in The Atlantic, nearly a half a million people with Facebook accounts passed away last year.  Apparently, the government would like people to establish a “Social Media Will”, so that people know what to do with your electronic accounts.

Facebook already has a policy in place to memorialize an account if someone reports that user is deceased, and it’s verified.  But, what about your email account, Pinterest, our blog?  Should these be left open in case you want to send notes from the after-life?  Some say that it’s happened already.

The tricky aspect of an actual will is that it’s a legal document, and apparently becomes public once filed… seriously, nothing’s private any more?  And if you’ve got an average number of password protected accounts, you know that maintaining a legal document with somewhat frequently changing access information is not practical.

Why I’m Curious

With the amount of password protected accounts where we express ourselves through pictures, videos, and other posts, this is going to be an ongoing issue for decades to come.  Does Facebook really want to maintain millions of “Memorial” accounts on their servers?  When does the digital graveyard business get started?  What rights does a person, or their family, have to their digital person once they no longer are a living person?  At some point, wouldn’t it be good to recycle usernames to living people?

Who knows, maybe we should just agree to leave our digital lives up, so that our gravestone QR codes will have a good place to click-through to.

Napkin labs turns your Facebook fans into collaborators

Napkin labs is a company that makes interactive marketing apps for Facebook. Their core product is a suite of four customized apps that turns fans into collaborators. “Brainstorm” is a basic crowdsourcing platform that lets brands ask their community questions and reward the best answer. “Photoboard” is more of a Facebok app of Pinterest that lets fans share inspiring pictures with the community. “Pipeline” turns Facebook pages into open forums where fans can share their suggestions about the brand. And “Superfans” shows fans who participates the most in campaigns, then rewards them.

Why I’m curious:

Dominos adopted its “Brainstorm” app and added 1 million new fans in just 30 days after launching the Think Oven, a page where their consumers can submit ideas on specific questions the company posted. Crowdsourcing is nothing new, but the notion of turning brand’s Facebook page into something more interactive is challenging and interesting. Domino’s campaign in strategically turning their Facebook page into a crowdsourcing platform, asking their fans for help to improve product quality is another interesting example of brand’s trying to be transparent and more human beings.

It’s your smartphone, right in your eyes: Google Project Glass


This week, Google officially revealed a project called Project Glass,  and it’s a pair of glasses that layers digital information over the real world by using Augmented Reality technology. In the concept video, users can take photos, listen to music (thanks to some built-in earbuds), and can even be told that the subway is closed as you walk up to it, and be redirected to your destination. Other potential features including instant feedback viewing and product purchase, facial recognition, rich media experience such as virtual reality gaming, etc.

Why I’m curious:

The product concept is very promising, and I personally have no doubt about the significant impact it will have if the concept ever comes to life. However, at this point, I’m more curious about the collaborative design process of this project and the purpose behind it. Google Project Glass is not a real product yet, nor is it anywhere close to finalizing. According to a Google spokesperson, by posting this concept video online, Google “wanted to let people know about what we’re doing, and what we hope to achieve with it.” Fast Company believe now that this concept is public, Google will be entering what they called the “feedback gathering phase,” in which they’re looking for the community to chime in on what they want to see (and don’t want to see) in a fully realized product. I’m curious to see how will this collaborative and collective approach work out. How will they collect consumer’s feedback, as well as how to filter through information and select relevant feedback? When it comes to future technology, do a large group of consumers really know better than a few selected experts?

My second question is why did Google decide to use a collaborative process in the first place? We all know that collaborative approach requires extra effort for feedback gathering and filtering, not to mention the risk of losing control of the project along in the process. One potential answer came across my mind is this could be less about the project itself, but rather another effort to push Google+. The project has its own page where users can go and post feedback or even interact directly with the design team. Did Google finally realize that they can’t win over Faceobook by creating another Facebook? With a heavily male-skewed audience, are they altering content strategy to better engage their users? In this case, let’s wait and see how high technology content will be embraced by G+ users.

Adidas new Runbase effectively turns the whole city into a gym

– Jia

The most popular running track in Tokyo – the Imperial Palace—is in the heart of the city. For runners who work nearby and need to commute home, they need somewhere to change and leave their laptop bags if they want to run before heading home to the suburbs.

Adidas launched the Runbase close to both the track and subway station. The center serves as a gym, a branded community space, and a retailor store. It features locker and shower cubicles for runners to freshen up after their run; it sells a variety of shoes and apparel from Adidas; it hosts regular running events; and staff is on hand to provide training tips to visitors. Consumers can even rent Adidas running shoes for 100 yen – about $1.2 – the price of a bottle of water.

Why I’m curious:

With the help of mobile and digital technology advances, retail industry is undergoing a new wave of digital revolution that will provide consumers with personalized and connected experiences. However, Adidas started off with a more traditional approach to reach out to Japanese consumers and bring utilities to their lives. This definitely is a great creative idea that won the brand a lot of publications. There’s also social potential in this idea that can make it more sustainable and scalable rather than a one-hit wonder. (for example: chances of consumers check in on social at this spot than other Adidas stores could be higher.) I’m curious to see if Adidas is going to push this effort onto social. Physical space is limited, so the question becomes how can Adidas leverage social media to extend this physical space to digital area, and build an engaging runner community out of it.

Samsung Campaign Uses Projection Mapping On A Human Face

– Janice

Samsung appears to be on a roll lately with clever spots, and after viewing their innovative Portuguese ad, “Explore Your Dual World” it’s clear they show no signs of stopping. To promote its first dual SIM card smartphone, Galaxy Y Duos, Lisbon-based digital agency, Excentric applied the mind-expanding projection mapping technique typically (transposing of 3D visual effects over physical spaces) reserved for buildings and cars to the face and thorax of a human. A man sitting in a chair is transformed into the canvas-like screen and is painted completely while effects swirl, morph, experimenting with different looks, eyewear, and facial hair. (more on PSFK)

Why I’m curious:

The Samsung “Explore Your Dual World” ad is a striking and fun way to promote its first dual SIM card smartphone, Galaxy Y Duos. What is a dual SIM card smartphone? Dual-SIM operation allows the use of two services without the need to carry two phones at the same time. For example, the same handset can be used for business and private use with separate numbers and bills; or for travel, with an additional SIM for the country visited. Using multiple SIM cards allows the user to take advantage of different pricing plans for calls and text messages to certain destinations as well as mobile data usage.

In several instances, the ad does a really good job at imagining and depicting the dual roles he can play. It also shows features like Google maps and stock ticker information to portray how useful the phone would be for you. It reminds me of The Invisible Car by Mercedes Benz, where in these instances the ad is aiming to inspire and invoke a kind of experience that you wouldn’t normally imagine if it was just the device or vehicle.

When Two Worlds Collide: Instagram and Hipstamatic Strike a Partnership

– Janice

Hipstamatic is set to unveil a partnership with Instagram that allows photos taken on the camera app, which enables users to snap professional-looking pictures with stylized films and vintage-era lenses, to be ported directly into Instagram’s network with just one click. It represents the first time Instagram has opened up this platform API to third parties, and marks a move toward letting photos freely flow into Instagram’s network from outside sources.

 “When we launched, it was all about Facebook and Flickr and Twitter, and now we’re seeing a huge shift in our user base toward Instagram,” says Hipstamatic cofounder and CEO Lucas Buick. “We’ve never been a social networking company, but we clearly benefit from social networks. So this will be the first app outside of Instagram that lets you into their network. That’s pretty cool for us.”

On Instagram, the photo will appear with attribution: Taken with Hipstamatic.

“Really it all comes down to this: People post Hipstamatic photos on Instagram all the time, and we just want to make that experience easier,” says Instagram CEO and cofounder Kevin Systrom. “It’s a step in the direction that we’re testing out. We’ve been very careful about making sure that Instagram photos are about what’s happening right now in your life, and we want to allow for more of those photos to end up on Instagram regardless of where they’re taken.”

For Instagram, the partnership provides the network with access to Hipstamatic’s high-quality content creators–a photography community of 4 million users who upload 48 million photos per month. (Hipstamatic boasts photojournalists such as the New York Times‘ Damon Winter, who used the service to win a Pictures of the Year International prize; the startup also partners with brands, such as Nike and Vogue, to feature custom lenses.)

They share a lean-startup philosophy, too, with each company having only about a dozen employees. And they’re also both seeing early signs of big success, though from different perspectives: Instagram is said to be on the verge of raising a $40 million funding round at a $500 million valuation; Hipstamatic, on the other hand, has not raised a dime of VC funding, but has been profitable since its second week. Last year, Hipstamatic generated about $10 million in revenue. (more at Fast Company)

Why I’m curious:

What’s piquing my curosity here are two photo apps, but different engagement and core business models. I am interested in learning more about  brands can work both photosharing platforms. Tiffany’s launched a branded gallery through Instagram’s open API, while the indie band The Virgens asked fans to submit and tag their photos during London’s summer music festivals and used Instagram’s open API to build a dedicated photo gallery. For brands that want to leverage the Instagram audience–they tend to be highly connected, have a creative point of view, are iPhone income earners, and use technology to express themselves. Brands can leverage this audience in a smart way as long as they think about ways to draw a natural relationship with the brand and platform, and offer a memorable experience.

Introducing ‘Chill,’ Pinterest For Video

— Jocelyn

From TechCrunch:

Chill, a startup that started out Namesake and then morphed into a virtual environment for video watching, has performed the mother of all pivots (again) today, going from a Turntable for video to a Pinterest for video, allowing users to post as well as view, comment on and repost video from people that they follow on a pretty grid interface. The new Chill now supports any video, from YouTube, to Vimeo to College Humor to “pretty much everything under the sun: ESPN, Crackle, Funny or Die, you name it!,” says co-founder Brian Norgard.

With the new Chill, users can opt into bringing in their videos from Facebook and Twitter or simply posting a link with the “Post video” bar at the top of their Chill grid. They can either choose to view videos of people they’ve followed on their homepage or view videos on the Chill popular page. Norgard tells me that a Pinterest-like repost bookmarklet is in the works for people who’d like to curate the videos they encounter while surfing the Internet.

But Pinterest already has a video section you say? Well Chill is a) open to the public and b) optimized for video, so when users click on a video they can view it full browser. When asked what set the new Chill apart from Pinterest Norgard told me, “Everything. We support nearly every type of video known to mankind. The entire experience is optimized around video sharing. Video is a whole another beast. It *needs* a dedicated discovery platform. It’s too important to humanity. Video can’t play second fiddle in this world nor should it….”

The new Chill also incorporates Path-style emoticons and a Facebook Timeline-like cover which users can change by clicking the “Change art” button at the top of the grid. Hmm … It’s almost as if Norgard has taken every successful User Interface advancement of the past couple of months and incorporated them all into an entirely new product.

Why I’m Curous:

With over 10 sign-ups a minute since its launch on Tuesday 1/17, clearly there’s a demand. The popularity stems from it’s “best of” mashup structure, as well as the sharability of video (which is the same as the appeal of sharing images in Pinterest, and the aural sharability of songs in, say, Spotify or Turntable).

The emphasis on visual/sound sharability cannot be emphasized enough. This is what’s going to drive this year. Sharable content can no longer just be something that’s read and cerebrally celebrated — it must be visually exciting, aurally stimulating, tactil-ly engaging. This is  a testament to what brands should be doing: people are inherently sharers IF the content is good enough. So to all the brands that have cool video: YouTube is not the only option now.

Project Cascade Tracks Content Sharing

The New York Times R&D group has created a technology called Project Cascade, which helps visualize the relationship between readers and publishers in digital environments.  The technology is truly unique in its ability to track how specific events and influencer participation lead to additional activity and engagement with content over the course of time.

Cascade aims to answer some key questions:

1. What is the impact of a single tweet?

2. How much conversation occurs in just 140 characters?

3. Are certain people more influential on certain topics?

4. What variables such as time of day or day of week impact the effectiveness of a tweet?

5. How can the Times gain insights to maintain a thought leadership position in specific topical areas?

Why I’m Curious:

The New York Times has carved out a clear leadership position in the digital and new media space.  With the recent launch of the digital subscriber program, their position as a leading digital publisher is clearly paying dividends.  Beyond subscriptions, the New York Times is also using new media innovation to inform and prove their position as a thought leader.  I imagine projects like Cascade will help the New York times optimize social sharing, package value add media deals, and potentially prove the effectiveness of certain aspects of paid media partnerships.

While listening technology already exists to help marketers track conversation broadly, this technology gets much more granular in telling the story around the sharing of a single piece of content or a post by people with varying influence.  For marketers, this could add new dimensions in how strategies and creative are conceived, implemented and tracked.