Apple and Disney Launch and Learn with Wearables

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Apple has some work to do with the Apple Watch. Early adopters are criticizing the new wearable for a host of problems, including limited battery life. In other words, development is progressing on schedule. Apple is breaking into a nascent market with an imperfect product just as another huge brand, Disney, did two years ago with the launch of the MagicBand wearable that manages most facets of a guest stay at Walt Disney World. Disney faced criticisms for a new device, addressed them, and is seeing strong uptake two years later. Apple will, too. The biggest challenge Apple faces is investor expectation that every new Apple product will take hold immediately like the iPhone or iPad. The Apple Watch is different: it represents an entry into an evolving market, more akin to the first Model T automobiles. (By contrast, the iPhone cracked an already established telephony industry.) As I discuss in a recently published white paper, both Apple and Disney are acting on a vision to change the way we live. Following is an excerpt discussing why I believe they will succeed.

Ease of Use

Apple and Disney designed the Apple Watch and MagicBand to look good, and they need to look good. The devices are designed to be visible extensions of you, worn prominently on your wrist instead of being tucked away in your pocket. Disney wants Disney World patrons to use their MagicBands to manage their entire stays, including checking into their lodging, buying souvenirs, reserving their ride times via the FastPass+ system, and getting their meals served — akin to using a wristband to live in a city. Apple has even grander ambitions: your Apple Watch is the key to not only buying goods and services, but also handling myriad other aspects of your life, such as managing your fitness.

Apple and Disney need you to feel comfortable about wearing your devices, and for good reason: wearables have been marred by ugly design, and who wants to wear a device that embarrasses the owner? Appearance is so crucial that Apple has departed from its usual custom of providing simple product options and instead provides 38 different Apple Watch designs, ranging in price from $349 to $17,000. Similarly, the Disney MagicBands are available in many different colors (at prices ranging from $12.99 to $29.99), and Disney makes it possible for MagicBand owners to “show off your Disney side” by customizing its look with accessories such as an R2-D2 Magic Slider.

But what makes Apple Watch and MagicBand game changers are their ease of use. Both devices eliminate an action: digging through your belongings to conduct an action. Have you ever found yourself fumbling around for your iPhone to search for a restaurant on Yelp? Dropped your Disney room key while trying to lasso your kids as you dig through your backpack? Apple and Disney just eliminated those aggravating moments and replaced them with more fluid, graceful user interfaces such as swiping, glancing, and speaking.

Pervasiveness

For the products to take hold, they need to be more than user friendly; they need to be pervasive. As Austin Carr of Fast Company notes, Disney designed the MagicBands to support your visit to a metropolis spanning 25,000 acres, comprising four theme parks, 140 attractions, 300 dining locations, Continue reading

Show — Don’t Tell

BC_Logo_ColorUnveiling a new logo is like telling a joke: if you have to explain it, you’ve lost your audience already. That’s why I like the approach that innovation consultancy BeyondCurious took recently in sharing its new logotype.

Instead of publishing a self-important press release explaining the technical specifications of its logo and waxing poetically about the logo’s deep meaning, BeyondCurious lets the new visual expression of its brand speak for itself. On its social space and website, BeyondCurious (a client of mine) has carefully coordinated a rollout of the new look without great fanfare. Appropriately, on its social spaces, BeyondCurious demonstrates excitement in sharing the logo — after all, a logo is one of the most powerful elements of a brand. But on Facebook, the agency has simply invited fans to check out the logo and let the company know their reactions.

The company made one concession to explaining the logo, in a blog post by CEO Nikki Barua on the company’s website. In the post, “What’s in a (New) Logo?” she provided some insight into the meaning of the logo, such as how “[t]he clean and minimalistic appearance of the mark is a representation of how we make the complex simple.” But for most of the post, Barua discusses other brands’ logos that inspired BeyondCurious, ranging from Red Bull to the MIT Media Lab. By casting the spotlight on sources of inspiration, she provides insight about BeyondCurious’s own culture of learning.

A massive business-to-consumer brand, especially in the field of media/entertainment, will take a completely different approach to unveiling a new logo. For instance, a sports team needs to make a huge splash with a new logo. In the sports world, new logos drive massive merchandise sales, and fans are going to discuss the new logo with or without the brand’s participation. And there are times when a business-to-business services brand such as BeyondCurious might want to adopt a higher-profile approach — for example, when the creation of a new logo occurs as part of a more comprehensive re-brand that includes a change in the corporate name and value proposition (which can from any number of circumstances, such as a merger with another business). And a huge business-to-business brand such as Accenture might choose a high-profile campaign because it is impossible for a brand of its size and name recognition to do anything quietly.

But in the services world, the ultimate measure of a brand is its performance. Fittingly, on its website, BeyondCurious spends far more time talking about work for clients such as GoPro and Toyota than it does extolling the virtues of its new logo. When it comes to delivering great results, it does pay to tell.

How Robert Plant Reinvented Himself

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One of the consequences of fame is being pigeonholed. McDonald’s is so well known for serving burgers, fries, and milkshakes that the fast-food giant has struggled to become a credible alternative for salads and smoothies. Sean Connery found it difficult to transition his acting career beyond James Bond. And then there’s the case of Robert Plant. The story of Plant’s solo career reads like a case straight out of Harvard Business School: his audience was changing, he was aging, and the legacy he created with Led Zeppelin threatened to trap him in the past. In my new guest blog post for innovation consultancy BeyondCurious, I discuss how Robert Plant reinvented himself and the lessons that businesses can learn from his journey. As Plant’s career demonstrates, changing¬†your brand requires being adaptable, having patience, and telling your story openly. What brands have successfully changed in your view?