By the end of 2016, all parking meters in New York City will accept payment via mobile app. New York isn’t the first city to offer mobile parking meter payment (joining Boston, Fort Worth, Seattle, SLC, and others) and it won’t be the last. Interesting: unused parking meter money will be refunded to users. This is one of very few situations in which the government would volunteer to forfeit funds already in their possession. Historically, they may have kept monies in similar cases of overpayment to increase revenue or more likely to avoid the cost of processing more paperwork. Losses in annual revenue due to the refund feature are expected to be nominal, so it’s likely the latter.
When technology makes transactions more seamless, it’s harder for either party not to play fair.
As the cloud replaces paper and user generated content competes with traditional journalism for greater media share of voice, policies that have served vendors and governments will give way to ones that serve users. Revenues from happy customers and their repeat purchases will characterize businesses that survive, rather than policies that hurt users but previously were not fought due to acceptance and a lower tech status quo.
Fine print, one-sided policies, and rigid contracts will go the way of the horse drawn carriage (and probably soon, the taxi). Keep an eye on companies like T-Mobile and Spirit Airlines. They put customers in control by foregoing required contracts, forced add-ons (e.g., paying for bags and peanuts), and in general offer more a la carte products. “We’ve never done it that way” and “our system wouldn’t support that” won’t be able to compete.
Standing beats sitting – this is known. But how can we stand better? I have been testing a standing desk accessory called the Level for three months. As a 3+ year standing desk advocate, this is the first time I’ve used a balance board. Until recently, I had relied on a thick floor mat and other products to help ease foot and leg strain.
The Level by Fluidstance, office-category winner of Inc.’s 2015 Best in Class Awards, has added health benefits to your standard shock-absorbing floor mat. While it’s simply a piece of wood framed by curved, die-cut aluminum, the product has fantastic design and an undeniable cool factor – it gets noticed. The science behind it centers on this:
The body is meant to move in three dimensions, and our FluidStance product enables that movement at a desk or workstation. Merely standing at a desk doesn’t allow for this movement, whereas using the Level does.
15% increased heart rate vs. sitting
Increased range of motion vs. static standing desk (23.98 degrees ROM)
I’d rather not strain my feet standing in heels or wedges, and I rarely wear flats. I stand barefoot most of the day in my office and slip on shoes for meetings. That said, my feet get sore if I stand still on the Level for more than about ten minutes. It is really made for you to continually rock and sway.
The Level is supposed to help reduce the need to shift your weight while standing, which can produce poor posture. Indeed, I have found this constant urge to be a negative symptom of my stand-up desk. With the Level, my feet still get tired and I end up standing on one foot with the other bent at the knee laying horizontally on my desk, which is not optimal.
Takeaway: I enjoy the added motion but I find myself switching to my floor mat for at least half the day. I think my feet would get less tired if I stood in tennis shoes; I’ve simply been too lazy to change shoes throughout the day. The Level is a neat piece of ergonomic furniture if you can afford it and wear comfortable shoes, but a quality floor mat at least 3/4 inch thick is a more affordable, still solid option that works better for women who wear heels.
Price: The American Made and Original models range from $289 to $489 as of this writing. The average American works forty hours a week from ages 20-65. This totals 90,000 hours, or 10.7 years at work (excluding two weeks of vacation per year). Your health, well-being, and productivity at work affect nearly every area of your life. Treat your body to the healthiest options possible. You could drop hundreds or thousands on an ergonomic chair or a standing desk setup. The latter will save you time and money in the long run, and you might even live longer.
Materials: The Level is made with eco-conscious materials, some models featuring renewable bamboo. The finish is GREENGUARD certified so it meets rigorous low emission standards. I’m happy to support a company that prides itself on being “responsible borrowers from mother earth.” Plus, 90% of initial products are produced in the U.S. The environmentally friendly packaging is a nice feature.
Disclosure: I was given a Level by Fluidstance and asked to write a review. I have not been compensated in any other way.
LinkedIn’s methods for gathering data from its over 450 million* registered users are shrouded. Usually, they don’t ask permission, they just uncheck new Privacy Controls for you. It’s no wonder they’ve faced numerous lawsuits.
LinkedIn seems to know everyone you’ve ever emailed: The People You May Know feature seems to make predictions based on information you’ve never knowingly transmitted. Before I explain how this works, here’s a quick fix:
How to remove your imported contacts from LinkedIn:
Go to Connections -> Add Connections -> Manage imported contacts (top right of page) -> click “select all” and delete all
(This is easiest to do on desktop: forget performing half the functions you want to on the iPhone app.)
How LinkedIn is seemingly psychic about people you may know
Other users’ actions: This algorithm is their secret sauce. LinkedIn analyzes other users’ searches and viewing histories to make assumptions about people you may know. I.e., if Sheryl and Dean searched for both you and Tony, then you and Tony may know each other. Multiply this across many users. The result is an algorithm that predicts your likely contacts without ever accessing your actual contacts. You may see recommendations to connect with someone who has the same name as someone you know, but is a totally different person.
Your contacts: You may have granted LinkedIn access to your contacts, which often happens inadvertently by using the app. “Inadvertent” is the keyword for most privacy issues with LinkedIn, because its strategy hinges upon 1) the fact that most users don’t read fine print and 2) that its UI, especially on mobile, effectively shuffles users along a permission-granting bender.
Your login: When logged in, even if you close the tab, LinkedIn has access to any activity you take on a site with a LinkedIn plugin or authentication that you’ve granted. To avoid this tracking, log out of LinkedIn whenever you’re done with your business.
Howard Gossage believed that most of the advertising of his time was manure. The Socrates of San Francisco died more than forty years ago, but his radical approach is as important now as ever.
Gossage was irreverant, inquisitive, and creative. At a time when agencies encouraged increasing media buys for their own profit, Gossage worked on quality over quantity, and even instructed some clients to reduce their ad budgets. He eschewed TV. He helped launch the environmental movement. David Ogilvy called him “the most articulate rebel in the advertising business.” Gossage was an iconoclast and proponent of using advertising to effect social change. He cared more about ideas than media.
When Gossage was in the ad business in the late 1950s and sixties, you could reach 85% of the U.S. with three TV networks and four publications. The options for sharing information and stories were a tiny fraction of modern media, but HLG was a prescient proponent of interactivity. His most important principle will outlast this month’s shiny new marketing toys:
Respect Your Audience
Gossage was talking about conversation long before Twitter. Our age is one of digital marketing buzzwords that mean little beyond having secured standing room on a crowded bandwagon, of an obsession with social media too often devoid of strategy and technique. Now we have tools that make the conversation more convenient and immediate, but this has made us lazy.
Tired of reading articles about how to “measure the ROI of social media”? Quit reading them. Turn off your phone, sit down (better yet, stand up) and take the time to write interesting copy, inform, incite. Spell check.
Client: Petrofina Oil
Gossage transformed a pedestrian category, gasoline, with a campaign that directly acknowledged that most service stations were identical, while satirizing “advertisingese”:
Fina didn’t pretend to be your friend or solve your problems. Fina acknowledged reality in a conversational way. Fina sold petrol.
Ask customers about their pain points then speak to those negatives in a new or helpful light. Brands aren’t people: brand messages that seem personal simply because they begin with an @ still must offer some value, honesty, or fun if you want the audience to care, participate, or purchase.
Unlike the above ads typical of his time, Gossage based his work on the belief that the consumer deserved to be treated with some modicum of respect. Ogilvy agreed: “The consumer isn’t a moron, she is your wife” (1955). Gossage went a step further with campaigns like the one that saved the Grand Canyon from being flooded:
His point, recalled by then partner Jerry Mander, was this: “You can’t just make people feel bad, you have to give them an opportunity to do something.”
Direct, honest, creative messaging that acknowledges the realities of the transactional relationship beats a feigned or forced friendship and unrealistic promises. It was true in the sixties and it’s true today, especially on social.
We relish our digital two-way street, opine about the “conversation” until its terminology has become hackneyed, yet many brands still turn off customers with their attempts at tone. Before you hit “send,” ask yourself if the message is interesting and real, or simply, WWGD?
Innovation is a word that gets thrown around too often. Things have changed since Girl Scouts walked door to door with clipboards and pencils taking down orders that took weeks to process.
Recognized by Fast Company as #10 of The World’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies of 2015 in Not-For-Profit, the Girl Scouts of the USA are keeping up with the times pretty well. But they could do better. The ubiquitous cookies are an obvious opportunity.
Mission: Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.
Some local councils offer Digital Cookie. Ecommerce skills are important, but not innovative. The @girlscouts Twitter stream is socially conscious and feminist. That’s great too, but not innovative.
A growing crop of consumers are empowered to vote with their dollars, seeking products backed by social, political, and environmental responsibility. Millennials, the largest living generation at ~83 million, are what Scott Hess aptly calls conscientious consumers. Their annual spending is projected to reach $3.39tn by 2018, eclipsing Boomers. Millennials value health and brand transparency. Post Gen/Gen We (born since 2000) may prove to be even more invested in globalism, wellness, and pro-social companies.
There is a missed opportunity to set a meaningful example about both women in business and simply better business – modern, pro-social, pro-human business.
1) Role models: Thousands of women have created businesses from scratch, namely bakeries that use quality ingredients. Which of these company leaders would make a better role model?:
2) Ingredients: The Girl Scouts website advertises: “No hydrogenated oils” (false) and is full of misleading copy about how the cookies are wholesome.
Girl Scouts: Align your flagship activity with your mission to make the world a better place.
RFP the cookie business to socially responsible, natural bakeries. Why support Kellogg in stuffing us full of GMO bleached flour, addictive sugar, and cell-destroying oils? I’d rather buy a Trefoil baked by Karen Herrera’s Sugar & Flour Bakery (Etsy shop turned storefront) in Greendale, WI than worry what BHT and sodium acid pyrophosphate are doing to my body. I’d rather buy Samoas made with whole ingredients by Sara Fitzpatrick’s The Cupcake Shoppe Bakery in Raleigh, NC than a chemical cardboard biscuit shot out of a conveyor belt in the Keebler factory.
Meet consumers’ growing appetite for transparency and social good.
Now, those two small bakeries could not handle the national demand. So look at an innovative, more established company like Hampton Creek, upstart maker of foods that use plant proteins instead of eggs. CEO and social entrepreneur Josh Tetrick founded Hampton Creek because while working and teaching in Sub-Saharan Africa, he noticed serious issues with the global food system. Hampton Creek makes ready-to-bake JustCookies, which are sustainable and natural.
Consider two points:
1) JustCookies are sold at Walmart 2) Unilever (owner of Hellman’s Mayonnaise) was threatened enough to sue little Hampton Creek over their JustMayo product
People have begun to care more about what’s in their food, where it comes from, and how it affects the planet.
Organic, natural, sustainable, locally sourced: these are not fringe values or niche buzzwords. Look at the fire drill the fast food and sparkling beverage industries have had in recent years over obesity. People are waking up.
So let’s make the world a better place.
More About Ingredients in Girl Scout Cookies
ABC Bakers and Little Brownie Bakers, the two bakeries licensed to bake Girl Scout cookies, distribute varieties that contain nefarious ingredients such as partially hydrogenated oil (both) and high fructose corn syrup (ABC). While copywriters address this with the seeming transparency du jour, the deflection is pure marketing. It’s par for the course from Kellogg, the Little Brownie Bakers parent company, known for depicting happy healthy kids on its cereal boxes of sugary junk and currently struggling with declining sales. Fueling a long FAQ page claiming that palm oil is perfectly healthy is the assumption that the original 8-ingredient natural recipe is no longer feasible. Why not?
Fun Facts – Girl Scouts
Founder Juliette Gordon Low organized the first Girl Scout Troop on March 12, 1912, in Savannah, Georgia. (Happy 103rd birthday.)
Both varieties of Thin Mints are vegan (but contain partially hydrogenated oil)
Troop Beverly Hills, the fictional Wilderness Girls troop from the 1989 movie starring Shelley Long and a young Jenny Lewis, accepted American Express but preferred Visa.