More Digital blog


Jan 2012

Why do more people talk about the Oscars than CES?

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Not sure what CES would've announced, back then. Colour photography?Now, I understand that asking why more people talk about the Oscars than CES sounds like a pointless question, as most people’s answer would be “because it’s The Oscars, Christos.” But if you take a few minutes to read through the following post, you may realise that the aforementioned response is at best misinformed and at worst completely ignorant.

The Iron Lady came out last week, a biopic of Margaret Thatcher, the first and, so far, only female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Played by Meryl Streep, it will no doubt go on to clean up at various film award events across the globe, because it’s a film that offers the precise amount of grandeur and historical scale to tip the favour of the critics in its own direction.

On the other hand, CES is in full swing this week, and features a range of new electronic products, some of which millions of us will be using by the summer. Some of the announcements made at this event will change the way you ring your partner, watch television, or play videogames. But people don’t often discuss this event at all in most circles.

This strikes me as odd. People will comment on the various political events of the day, despite rarely (if ever) watching the Prime Minister’s Questions, because they effect us as individuals, through rising taxes, budget cuts, or new laws.

Yet the technology that powers our day – indeed, the technology allowing me to write this post, and you to read it – doesn’t seem to be celebrated and followed with interest by the vast majority of people who use it. We have, at times, been blessed with some tech-celebrities, in the form of Bill Gates, the late Steve Jobs, or Mark Zuckerberg, and they do draw the collective consciousness of the media-hungry human race towards the technology field for brief moments. It’s telling when even your strange uncle can tell you of his high scores in Angry Birds.

Yes, people are discovering games like Angry Birds, as well as Android apps and iProducts, at an alarming rate. Technology has swiftly and in a way never before seen, I think, turned into a fashionable concern. CES should be a catwalk, down which the latest hardware struts, hoping to wow the assembled masses with increased memory and more apps than the competition.

In an ideal world, we’d gather around the TV and catch the Microsoft keynote, in much the same way we’re content to do with other events more centred around showbiz. I hold out a small hope that we can engage with technology in the same way many of us engage with the topics of commuting, politics, religion similarly stimulating jump-off points for conversation. We’ll just have to make sure that the Android and iOS users aren’t sitting next to each other.

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Jan 2011

Are we too reliant on brand figureheads?

Posted in Business tactics | 0 Comments

This month it was announced that Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple and largely seen as the face of the entire company – similar to Bill Gates – would be stepping down from CEO duties and going on extended medical leave. That this is not the first time this has occurred has many people worrying about the future of the company. I’m going to summarise my response to his departure (with all respect to his ailing health):

So what?

Does it really matter? I don’t know about you, but the last time I checked Steve Balmer wasn’t driving the Gates-less Microsoft into the ground, and I’m fairly confident that Zuckerberg’s no longer as important to the company as people think he is. The fact of the matter is that the people around this person are just as important, and any one of them could do an admirable job in the CEO’s shoes. We’ve become so reliant on a culture of celebrity that we’re struggling to face a brand’s future without that familiar smiling face.

The CEO makes the big decisions, we know this. But everything else is ultimately overseen by their surrounding team of experts, managers and consultants. These people are more influential than anyone else, and the idea that the head honcho can’t be replaced is simply either bad career attitudes by those unable to get promoted at their company or paranoid rich people who’d rather not be seen as an overpaid nodding-and-shaking head.

Personally, I think it’s too late for Apple to change. No CEO is going to swerve them away from their current course, and we can be sure of the following, as they will always:

  • put out several versions of the iPhone every 12-18 months, increasing them in price,
  • continue to make MacBooks and iMacs more compact, better protected and the operating system more visually friendly whilst remaining powerful,
  • turn iTunes into a more social media experience, through Ping and possibly with a long-shot deal with Zuckerberg and the Facebook crew,
  • charge high prices for hardware that does it better than anyone else, annoyingly justifying their mouth-watering profit margins.

None of the above will change, because they’re not that different to any other company in any one of those respects. Of course phones are getting larger – compare the 90s’ Nokia 3210 with today’s HTC Desire HD and you’ll see a colossal size increase, but the phones are getting thinner. Eventually we’ll hit a plateau of sorts, and hopefully before we’re walking around with bits of silvery A6 paper welded to our hands, with Angry Birds 3D/HD 4 blaring out of Bluetooth surround-sound speakers.

With Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, the picture shifts slightly. He, like Gates and Jobs before him, is the 2010 version of the 20something CEO with a huge, fit-to-burst wallet and an astonishing amount of influence over his sector of technology. But in 2050 when he starts to think about retirement, the press will once again mob the team around him and desperately attempt to find his replacement before HR does. Unless they’re running a book on the whole thing, I think it’s amateur dramatics at best, and worthless journalism at worst.

If you’re running a small business and you have the feeling the team of ten or so people working around you now will someday be your directors, your heads of PR and your consultants, bear in mind that you’re not invincible. Just because you’re the person grinning on-stage whilst displaying the latest overpriced doohicky everyone doesn’t need but will definitely want, doesn’t mean that someone else can’t take it off you and grin, perhaps even wider than you can, and with shinier teeth.

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Nov 2010

Should we put a face to our brands?

Posted in Business tactics | 0 Comments

Today, Marketing Week made a very valid point, when global brand director of Firefly Millward Brown, one Rob Hernandez, spoke about the fact that large corporate entities need a “human face”. He argues that, based on statistics, large companies could benefit from a Gates, a Zuckerberg, a Jobs or even a Miyamoto.

They don’t have to be CEOs, by any means – we all know Gates has taken more of a back-seat role in recent years to focus on swimming around in his pool filled with $100 bills and gold-plated time machines (I kid, obviously, the man’s a huge philanthropist and deserves anyone‘s respect). But people who were never in charge – Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto – that are responsible for huge aspects of their corporate image tend to make the company feel more… human.

But of course, when the tables turn, it means that the press and the public will single out one name and once they’re out for blood, things can get shockingly personal. I, like many, have thrown many an insult at Bill Gates over things he doesn’t even design – Vista, the Xbox 360… the list goes on and on. Why? Because he’s the “face” of Microsoft. Similarly, I praise Miyamoto for every new Mario¬†game, but he’s not the only one involved.

At the same time, we know that if a faceless Apple employee came onto the stage to present a new iTunes feature (streaming, guys, not the damn Beatles), we’d clap. But when Steve Jobs comes onto the stage, we cheer, we applaud loudly, we stand up to applaud even louder, and then as we leave we check our wallets desperately (cause let’s be realistic, guys, it’s not a cheap addiction, this Apple stuff). He fronts his business and he’s done so whether he’s been well or battling a serious disease, whether it’s a small release or a big deal, like the iPhone 4 or the iPad.

In the case of your business, can you honestly say you’ve one man or woman who people will look at and think “X-corp”? If not, why not consider one? I blog for MoreDigital constantly, and as while talking to my editor today it became pretty apparent that lately I’ve become the face of the company, the one name that constantly appears around the web in conjunction with our team of experts and writers. It’s something of an odd feeling, because you know that if people think of MoreDigital, there’s a chance they read the blog and think of myself, or Fay, or Leah as those who really speak out when it comes to our company.

I suppose it’s like being Lemmy in Motorhead, really. They’ve been going for decades, and if you love Motorhead, you really love them, even though you know deep down that all their songs sound relatively similar (admit it). But if they ever released a duff record, Lemmy would get it, and Lemmy would be the one criticised by his fans. Not Phil, not Mickey, but Lemmy. Because to most people, Motorhead is a band with a faceless guitarist and drummer in it, and that bassist bloke, you know the one, with the big growths on his face, the beard and the hat.

We’ve reached a point in commercialism where if you’re not the company with a human representative people can name, that people can reference¬†in conversation, you’re just another faceless company with an equally faceless board of directors. We live in a more visual world than we did fifty years ago – people have websites, portfolios, Facebook accounts, and we can’t discount the fact that eventually, your CEO will become known to the public if you’re batting with the teams at the top of the league. So take your face and stick it on your homepage, folks! You never know, people might chant your name at E3 soon!

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