Friday, December 28, 2007

American Idol + Borat + YouTube = Pepto Star

Pepto Bismol has merged three popular cultural themes in its latest ad campaign, "Pepto Star." American Idol, Borat and YouTube get mashed up in a bid to leverage something Pepto were already successful with this past year, the dancing monsters commercial. That TV commercial had campy, Godzillaesque monsters performing a Macarena-like dance to an infectous Pepto Bismol song. "Nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach…Diarrhea!" became viral, and people uploaded their own versions of the dance & song to YouTube without being prompted to do so. I blogged about how this was a good example on how to leverage online social tools.

The Pepto Star campaign seems to have taken a step backward from a marketing perspective. The combination of American Idol-ish Pepto product judges evaluating Borat-ish video samples of people who can barely speak English feels very forced and old skool. This feels like they are trying to squeeze something out of something they already got. People liked the Pepto jingle and freely uploaded and shared videos of themselves without incentive. To now re-wrap it in this new campaign takes away from the freshness and spontaneity they garnered. Look at people just posting it on YouTube and giggling their a$$es off:

At least they are utilizing YouTube and not wasting money by developing their own video sharing website as Pringles did this past year. Using already established tools people expect like YouTube makes sense, but doesn't make up for everything else that just doesn't seem to make much sense.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Syncing, Recutting and Mashing Up: Imposing Patterns Where They Do & Don’t Exist

Wired had a supplement magazine this month called, “MOVIES ROCK.” There was an article about movie/album syncing called, “The Dark Side of Oz.” This is where you watch a movie with the sound off and listen to an album and marvel at the wonderful coincidences. The most famous of these combinations is The Wizard of Oz + Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. In the article, Jim Windolf tested 3 others:

This is combining two known experiences without editing and enjoying synchronicity. Does the brain just create patterns where they clearly couldn’t have existed?

People have been doing this with recutting movie trailers for a while now as well. Taking an experience we know, and editing it so it feels strange and humorous by invoking a different experience. The major difference here is intentionally creating patterns. Take a horror movie, add a happy song and recut the scenes and you have something titillating. I think the Shining recut may be the most famous of this genre, where they make one of the best horror movies ever made seem like a silly, romantic comedy. Here are a bunch of recut movie trailers:

Mash-ups are similar to these as well, but in a Web 2.0 world these move from simple linear movies into web applications. Merge API X with API Y and you get a new experience. Here's a mashup of iTunes and Amazon, two experiences we all know individually but merged into one new application.

This was created by the Google Mashup Editor, a free tool Google is offering to a restricted number of developers currently while they are testing it.

YouTube inadvertently created a mashup tool with their holiday card creator. Map any video to a holiday card. How strange is it to watch Alec Baldwin’s speech in Glengarry Glen Ross. Check it out:

Such a great scene:

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The 30 Rock Christmas Gift is Funny Because it Happens: The Handheld Photo Scanner/Paper Shredder

This week’s episode of 30 Rock was not only very funny, but it had a great User Experience Design lesson. The official company gift that Jack Donaghy hands out to Liz Lemon at the beginning of the show is the company’s new innovation: The handheld photo scanner/paper shredder. Liz’s first reaction to the device is that people would mistakenly shred their photos. He replies, “No-no-no, it’s very easy to use…” and while trying to explain the design rationale has the moment we all cringe at having. Something obvious to everyone else but us was overlooked.

Both of their reactions happen more often we like to admit. Mostly this occurs when we don't engage users early and often on our designs. There is always a reason as to why we don't do this, two of them being time to market and budget. These moments always make those reasons seem silly in the end. Usually it doesn't end up this obviously comical. When you end up with a lack of customer adoption it’s typically much harder to define the cause. Enjoy the clip:

Friday, December 14, 2007

What's Your Gmail Story? Gathering User Data Using YouTube

Gmail is asking users to submit videos to YouTube on how they use the Google email product. Ok, so this may be propaganda, but it is interesting to watch videos submitted from users. Using YouTube as a means to gather user feedback can't replace other good user experience tools, but can add to them. The ease in which you can put together a program like this can go up against the fears of losing control you have with other methodologies.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Pick Your Poison: Pooh or Poo

Jose Fermoso has an interesting entry on his WIRED blog. Would you rather have an unfortunate gadget with a generic name or a generic gadget with an unfortunate name? He pits the "Cooking with Pooh" children's cookbook against a water bottle with a pocket.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

What We Search On: Google & Yahoo Reveal Their 2007 List of Top Searches, And We Learn...?

Marissa Mayer from Google was on the Today Show to announce the top Google searches of 2007. Yahoo revealed their list as well. Why do they not share a single common search term? More importantly, what the hell is a "Rune Scape" or a "Naruto"? I'll have to do a search. Google's seems a little more realistic (except for excluding Britney!) with the all lowercase look. Who knows.

Here are the lists:

Google's 2007 Top 10 Queries

  1. iphone
  2. webkinz
  3. tmz
  4. transformers
  5. youtube
  6. club penguin
  7. myspace
  8. heroes
  9. facebook
  10. anna nicole smith

Yahoo's 2007 Top 10 Queries

  1. Britney Spears
  2. WWE
  3. Paris Hilton
  4. Naruto
  5. Beyonce
  6. Lindsay Lohan
  7. Rune Scape
  8. Fantasy Football
  9. Fergie
  10. Jessica Alba

It's ironic that the #1 2007 Google search was iPhone and they are feverishly working on a Google phone as we speak. Where will the GooglePhone rank next year?

What Do You Get When You Have To Assume? A Single Data Point Can Change Everything

Anthropology shares some common threads with User Experience Design. They both try to get enough data to understand how a subject lived, or lives to come to conclusions. There is a story from Wired that is about a rare Dinosaur that was discovered that is 67 million years old. What makes the find so rare is that it is almost intact, containing skin and possibly organs and muscle. This has many possibilities to produce data we never knew. One such tidbit it has already given researchers is that the vertebrae are spaced 1cm apart because of the presence of tissue. Why is this important? Because museums commonly stack the vertebrae together when assembling dinosaurs. By spacing them apart, the size of these creatures now has to be re-evaluated. Many dinosaurs may be a lot bigger than we thought.

This happens in User Experience Design. We assume a lot of things. We stack the vertebrae together. Then someone comes out with some thing and we have to re-think things in a big way. We have ideas of who our customers are and how they behave. Sometimes we unearth data that causes us to re-think major assumptions. It used to be a common theme to hear people designing web pages for "above-the-fold" viewing. Now it is common to see home pages that are thousands of pixels tall, and very usable.

One other interesting thing about the story on The screen I grabbed had banners around it of "The world's most influential innovators" and the Zune. Seems to be a connection here...Research/Innovation/Lack of Innovation?