Posts Tagged "Technology"


Three Weeks with a Computer on my Wrist

Russ's Apple Watch Review

How many times a day do our smart phones interrupt our conversations and moments with colleagues, clients, family and friends?  Each time the device vibrates on our desk, conference room table, kitchen table or in our pocket, it triggers a series of actions. We retrieve the smart phone, unlock the smart phone, open the app that caused the vibration, read the notification, act on the notification and finally put the phone back down.  Then we reengage with the people around us.

The Apple Watch eliminates many of the extraneous actions and distractions, allowing us to be more present with the people we’re with. It’s hardware that helps filter important versus unimportant.

Unlike smart phones with vibration motors so loud they serve as ringtones, no one knows when an alert is received on Apple Watch.  The Taptic Engine is quiet and alerts only the user; no one else is the wiser. When it’s convenient, you take a quick look and if the message warrants attention you can engage from the watch, or if necessary move to the iPhone to complete the activity.

If your phone constantly vibrates or if your friends, family or colleagues mention how often you’re on your device, the Apple Watch is for you. This device has changed how I interact with people. It has made me more present and less distracted and based on that alone, this device is fantastic.

And now for a more traditional review of the 42mm Sport, Space Gray with the black Sport band.

Look & Feel –

When picking up an Apple Watch the weight was noticeable. It is not heavy but it has an unexpected mass; it doesn’t feel cheap. You know you’re wearing it but the weight is unobtrusive. The Sport band is soft with a slight firmness.  After three weeks of use, 12 sweaty workouts, and 3 very sweaty lawn mowing sessions the band shows no signs of deterioration or discoloration.

One of the features Apple paraded was their reinvention of the watch crown as the Digital Crown; “A modern twist on a traditional feature.” It functions smoothly and with just a hint of resistance. But until Watch OS2 comes out, the Digital Crown just doesn’t have a whole lot of functionality that you can’t also do by swiping up and down on the screen.

After watching this it sure seems as though Apple sandbagged about the water resistance. There are brave users like Tim Cook who shower with their Watch on but so far my wariness of ruining it has limited my water exposure to washing my hands.

The battery life has also been a pleasant surprise. My day starts at 8 a.m., I try to workout three to four times a week, have a yard to maintain and am a night owl. Even with this elevated usage I have yet to see the battery dip below 30 percent.  And since my iPhone isn’t waking up and vibrating with all of the notifications it’s sending to the Watch I’ve noticed improved battery life there as well.

I tested the watch’s heart rate monitor against the built-in heart rate monitor on two different stationary bikes and an elliptical.  The rate came within one or two heartbeats per minute, finally allowing me to believe those machines have been telling the truth all these years.

Taking calls on your watch sounded completely silly at first. In our open office it would be rude to make a call but in the car and at home it’s a great and easy way to communicate without actively holding a device. For example, I can keep cooking dinner or fold laundry while talking to my mom. (Hi, Mom!)

Apple Watch notifications for messages, emails, twitter and calendar reminders make the Watch so useful. As was addressed in the opening, the simple glance and dismiss functionality allows you to be more present with people and in the moment. It would be a nice future feature to select different rhythms and intensities to differentiate between notifications or contacts.

Replying to mail won’t be here until Watch OS2 but using Siri to send to messages or start a phone call is fast and simple, and might be my favorite way to communicate right now. The default replies can be edited for your style.

Twitter notifications like mentions, favorites, and retweets are sent to Apple Watch and Twitter’s app allows tweeting from the Watch but with some limitations. Personally, I’m holding out for the best Twitter app, Tweetbot, to make a Watch app. (Tick tock, Tweetbot!)

The built-in exercises the Watch will track are limited to Outdoor Run, Outdoor Walk, Outdoor Cycle, Indoor Run, Indoor Walk, Indoor Cycle, Elliptical, Rower, Stair Stepper and Other. Most of my workouts are in the “Other” category, which is fine but as processors and accelerometers improve I’m hopeful Watch will be able to track exercises like pull ups, sit ups, weight lifting, and other fitness activities.

Overall there are many positive features, but there are a few cons as well. At times Siri isn’t the easiest digital personal to wake up via voice and occasionally the home screen is unresponsive. This is probably to prevent Watch from being accidently woken up and to preserve battery life. Perhaps the sensitivity will get dialed in over time. The Digital Crown and Force Touch functionality are largely wasted because third party apps don’t have access to them but that will change with Watch OS2.

This product is useful right out of the box but the future of the device is most exciting. Coming in Watch OS2, more customizable watch faces to enhance the home screen with information that is important to you. Time Travel on the home screen; not only to see what’s coming up next but what your predicted battery life will be at that future moment. The SDK and native apps from third party developers will eliminate the current lag time.

All in all, the Apple Watch is a delightful way to navigate your life and work while leaving your phone in your pocket.

Contact us and let IQ research new and emerging technologies for your business.

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The Time is Now: Google’s Mobile Deadline

Google's Mobile Deadline

It’s here — Google has pulled out the guillotine for mobile organic search. This time, they’re not messing around.

For many years, marketers have pondered the implication of mobile site access and mobile search ranking results. Google is generally quick to respond to advancements in mobile technology that enhance the consumer’s online experience, and this is a clear-cut example of just that.

Content, content, content.

Google has always harped on the need for quality content versus quantities of “optimized” content. Whether its the Hummingbird update, Panda, Penguin, or whatever the next animal-named-algorithm they choose is, the goal is to identify higher quality content and eliminate what they deem low quality.

The delivery of quality content through search is not defined solely by Google itself, but through over a decade of research and consumer usage data to define what happens next. This time, what happens next is critical for all marketers.

According to ComScore’s January 2015 report, we’re far past the mobile versus desktop tipping point. This should be a wake up call for all brands and marketers.

ComScore January 2015 data

SEO is fun. It’s an always evolving, never stagnant, almost “game”-like adventure for copywriters, analytics professionals, digital marketers, and data geeks in general (like me).

But for too long, marketers have been focused on keywords with little attention paid to User Experience’s impact on SEO. Google doesn’t view them as totally exclusive — in fact in most cases, SEO and UX are complementary.

The magic is where UX and SEO meet in the middle.

Yes, you want to get users to the right web page or landing page through search, but if the page is not mobile-friendly or doesn’t meet the expectation of the user, then what’s point of optimizing for search?

At IQ, we utilize the “hub and spoke” marketing model. The brand website acts as the “hub” while the “spokes” are the content and channels driving to the website. If the hub is insufficient, the spoke suffers as well. If you throw in the rise of mobile use by consumers, you’ve got another wrench in the equation.

What if your customers can’t find what they need to because you’re not there in mobile search?

In the case of Google’s update on April 21st, many brand websites will suffer greatly in mobile organic search. And we can’t blame Google.

As technology has advanced, so have consumer expectations for mobile web experiences. With that advancement in consumer expectation, marketers are expected to meet them. Designing a responsive website can solve for that need easily.

Google’s made their decision on behalf of consumers — will your website live up to expectation or will it fall off the map on mobile?

Want to know more about IQ? Contact Us

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  • 07.16.14

“Don’t interrupt me when I’m interrupting you”

IQ - Facebooks "new" old model


This is one of my favorite quotes from Winston Churchill, and what Facebook might be thinking as it tries to ram a new ad model down the throats of brands and consumers alike. Having already vented in my last post about this, I thought the greater implications of their actions on social media worthy of further comment.

A Giant Step Back

When Facebook decided to make brands pay to post content to their own fans, they took a giant step back into the old ad world.  Faced with ROI pressure brands can’t afford the luxury of content oriented posting, instead they have to turn to fast pay-off tactics like promotions, coupons etc.  This puts us back in the old world of interruptive advertising, where you’d be watching TV or reading a magazine and an ad would interrupt you. Consumers put up with this model in the pre-digital years because it seemed like a reasonable exchange; get the content in exchange for watching the ads. That was before we retrained them.

We Are Not a Captive Audience

Fast forward to today and digital consumers.  We don’t like interruptions, we don’t like delays and we don’t like ads. We have been schooled to find and use the most efficient ways to answer questions, solve problems, research solutions and evaluate options. Digital consumers are not a captive audience, so if ads interrupt our flow and slow our productivity we won’t put up with it. That’s why it’s more likely you will survive a plane crash or win the lottery than click a banner ad.

The Post-Advertising Age

Facebook just wants to make money, which is fair enough. But just because advertising is about the only business model that might work for them, doesn’t mean it will. The problem is that we live in the post-advertising age. We still need to tell brand stories; we just can’t do it effectively with conventional ads anymore; at least in digital channels. Even armed with all the creativity in the world the only way to consistently get the attention of the digitally empowered consumer is with relevance and timing.

Changing Hearts & Minds

So if marketers can’t use ads to get their message across, what’s a brand to do? The way to the digital consumer’s heart and mind is by serving up the right content at exactly the right time. The right kind of content is that which is appropriate for the context. So if someone has clicked to watch a video about planting a lawn, don’t have a pre-roll ad for Home Depot, have lawn care tips courtesy of Home Depot. The big difference is that one supports the consumer’s journey, while the other interrupts it. Seems simple enough, but the complexity comes in planning where and when to connect with each consumer segment, and developing just the right content for each situation.

The Magic Algorithm

The temptation today is to think that marketing has become a predictable machine. All you have to do is crunch some media numbers, apply an algorithm and magically consumers will come flocking to your brand. Of course this is what the purveyors of all manner of media ad wizardry would have you believe.  This ignores, however, the need to connect the dots; all the touch points that have to become one consistent story, personalized as narrowly as possible. Everything a brand does, therefore needs to be built on a foundation of consumer insights. This includes the critical exercises of mapping the Consumer Decision Journey* and developing a Content Strategy. Together they tell a brand when and where to connect with each target segment, plus what to say and how to say it at that critical moment. At the same time this work lets brands see, understand and design the cumulative effect of all the interaction points together. Inevitably this leads brands to shift their thinking from a product oriented, advertising approach to a content oriented, consumer approach.

The Training Wheels Come off

Facebook is trying lots of things (a few pretty out there), looking for ways to cash-in on their huge audience.  Some may work, but this shift to making brands pay to reach their own communities isn’t probably one of them, because consumers, let alone brands, won’t stand for having the content they came for taken away.

The good news is that social media marketing is not over; it’s actually shifting to a more mature model where brands have much more control and influence. What we are seeing with social media is the same kind of shift that we saw when users graduated from AOL’s training wheels to managing their own online experience. That’s happening now as consumers are becoming more experienced, and Facebook’s move is only going to accelerate it.

So it’s time for brands to strike out on their own and connect directly with their consumers without going through the gatekeepers anymore. That means starting with the foundational work to discover the when, where, what and how, which will drive their new social media, marketing plan.

* Mckinsey & Co

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  • 05.28.14

Connecting, Cultivating, & Converting Modern Consumers

This deck presents a simple to consume and communicate vision for how to approach the complex new marketing environment. Of course many experienced marketers will know much of what is contained here, but they may not have a simple way to connect the pieces and think about it holistically, or more importantly to communicate to those less sophisticated than themselves. With that in mind our Connect, Cultivate and Convert method outlines a new model for marketing.


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The Benefits of the Agile Process

Clients love Agile agencies

In my last post I discussed what Agile and Scrum are, how they can work at an agency, and the 4 top reasons our clients tell us they value working in an Agile way.  Today I want to dive a little deeper into an example of how Agile is flexible, and saves clients time and money.

Many agencies that have moved to Agile claim productivity increases. I’ve seen everything from 25% to 600%!  Of course, a lot depends on how dysfunctional the delivery method was in the first place.

What we do know (and have good data for) is the consistent failure of the traditional waterfall or spiral methods to achieve success, especially with complex engagements.  Since this describes practically all projects that a modern agency is called on to deliver, you can see the problem. We believe the answer is Agile.

At IQ, we had the opportunity to compare the performance of traditional and Agile methods in creating a website for a client. The first version we built using traditional methods and then sometime later we redesigned it using Agile. The results were astonishing.

Agile saved the client over 25% in cost and launched the project 2 months quicker than the previous site. Compared side by side, there was an amazing 75% improvement in both the cost and time to implement.  Equally important the client enjoyed the process and felt they were actually a true partner instead of an adversary.

Let’s take a look at a few specific elements of what happened:

1. Can you get me something earlier for my conference?

There is always something around the corner like a big dealer conference, or a meeting with your CEO.  In both instances we got the question: “Can you get me something quickly to show our progress?”

With the traditional delivery method, all we had was a series of wireframes with arrows and descriptions, plus a static image of what the home page might look like.  That was because the project team wasn’t at the design phase yet. It wasn’t very inspiring and was tough for those with little imagination.

Contrast that with Agile’s iterative method where we get a working prototype every two weeks.  We didn’t have to make anything special, because we already had something ready to go.  The presentation of the working home page drew “oohs” and “ahhs,” our client was a hero and no one questioned our progress.

Strangely, with both methods we were actually at about the same percent complete, but by changing from the assembly line method to Agile, reality really shifted.

2. I just saw this new thing and we gotta have it.

Change is inevitable in any project. At some point you want to make a change because you see something that was hard to know at the beginning.

I used to consider this dreaded “scope creep,” which always resulted in requirements meetings, reviews of the SOW, days of arguing over the scope, more meetings, lost time, hard feelings, and often three steps back to rework previous phases.

What a waste of time and money, and aggravating for a client, who just wanted to make the final product better.

Now, as an Agile agency, we look at ideas as a blessing and even encourage them. In fact, often the most difficult thing is to get our client to understand that they can come up with ideas and get them realized whenever they want.

The client in this case, for example, had the good idea, late in the game, to add some localization.  With Agile it was easy. We moved it into the very next sprint and two weeks later — there it was.   No push back, no forms, no negotiation, just delivering what the client wanted, when they wanted it.

These are just two examples from one project, and there were many more on this project alone. They demonstrate that Agile is flexible, and saves time and money as a result.

Interestingly, however, I have found that it’s the removal of stress, and the shift from an adversarial client/agency relationship, to one of true partnership, that clients notice and value most.

For more insights into how Agile can work for your brand feel free to email with your questions at

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  • 02.25.14

YouTube: The Next Big Thing Is Already Here

Originally presented at the social media conference SoCon14, this deck from IQ’s Assoc. Director of Strategy Noah Echols and Assoc. Director of UX Rachel Peters will show you how to prioritize YouTube in an effective way to leverage active communities to get serious results — something your competition probably isn’t doing.

Want to know more about IQ? Contact Us


A Level Playing Field: How Small Brands Can Win with Digital

david and goliath malcolm gladwell

The marketing playing field is a lot more level than it ever used to be thanks to how digital has changed things. As a result, small brands now have the chance to fight and sometimes even beat big brands.

The David & Goliath legend would have us believe that beating powerful opponents is about luck or divine providence.

The true story of David and Goliath, as told by Malcolm Gladwell in his new book, tells us that Goliath, despite his size and apparent power, was actually slow, and suffered from double vision as a result of the medical condition that had turned him into a giant. David, on the other hand, also contrary to appearances, was not just some shepherd boy.

He was actually a highly trained slinger, the marksman of his age, who could let fly a projectile traveling as fast as a .45 caliber bullet, with sufficient accuracy to bring down a bird in flight.

So what appeared on the surface to be one situation was in fact something else entirely. David used intelligence, insight, strategy and speed to beat the unbeatable giant. He used his advantages while turning his opponents disadvantages against him.

Digital channels offer similar opportunities for smaller brands.

In the pre-digital days, brands had little choice but a head to head battle. Usually the brand that could put up more media money, usually in broadcast and print, won. While the originality of creative could have a multiplier effect, as it always does, the key was always the weight of paid media a brand could bring to bear.

Jump to today and a marketing environment in which paid media has become much less influential as owned and earned media have gained power. Now brands have the opportunity to use intelligence, insight, strategy and speed, just like David, to run rings around the giants. Of course many of the giants have figured out their weaknesses and are not quite as lumbering as they used to be. But at the very least the battle is now one of wits, not just about size.

This presents smaller brands with the opportunity to punch way above their weight if they take advantage of the digital opportunities in front of them. These mostly revolve around smart search optimization, content creation, social media, brand websites and mobile experiences.

If a brand’s digital ecosystem is imagined and managed with insight and creativity, David can hold his own against Goliath – and sometimes even beat him.

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5 Reasons to Rebalance Your 2014 Marketing Plan

Marketing Plan

Just like your stock portfolio needs to be rebalanced when market conditions change, you need to take a hard look at your media and channel mix in your 2014 marketing plan.

Discussions of mix have usually been about how to distribute media dollars among channels, but you need to look at channels holistically and include all costs, not just purchased media. With the continuous behavioral and attitudinal shifts of consumers, seeing your go to market plan as an integrated ecosystem is more important than ever.

1. If your channel mix does not reflect target audience behavior

Hopefully you know how your target audience uses media channels and when and where they are most receptive to brand interactions. You would be surprised how many marketers start by picking a channel without that knowledge.

Suffice it to say that the way consumers of all ages and types discover, explore, and evaluate products and services today is completely different to the way it used to be. You must therefore use a data driven, evidence based approach to determining your channel mix.

2. Because channels need to be weighted to reflect the dynamics of the Consumer Decision Journey

The difficult, but essential, challenge for a brand is to insert itself into the Consumer Decision Journey*. Your channel mix should reflect a comprehensive understanding of when and where people can and should be influenced. These are the inflection points where you should concentrate your resources. (*McKinsey & Co.)

3. The budget in a particular channel is insufficient to rise above competitive noise

A common mistake is not having an appropriate budget to achieve the mission. TV is a typical example of where budgets are often insufficient to accomplish minimum reach and frequency goals.

To use a war analogy, don’t split your army unless it is larger than your opponent, and concentrate your force on a narrow front for maximum impact.

4. You’re trying to win everything

You probably have short-term goals, but building a brand is a marathon not a sprint. So look at all the channels where your target audience is congregating and start with the areas that are uncontested by your competition. Then only select those that you can afford to do effectively (see previous point).

5. Because too much of your budget only has short-term equity

So much of marketing spend is ephemeral. So look for marketing investments that have long term value for the brand. For example, instead of buying banner ads, invest in evergreen content that can be used for search and syndication.

Over time these marketing investments will become the fabric of your brand’s marketing ecosystem.

Click here to read part 1 of this series

Want to know more about IQ? Contact Us


The 10 Key Ingredients of a Modern Brand Website

In the recent annual “Trust in Advertising” report for 2013 from Nielsen, we learned:

Brand websites are now the second most trusted form of advertising, second only to recommendations from people I know”.

This is a clarion call to all marketers to get their website up to scratch or risk becoming irrelevant to the modern consumer.  To that end, here is a list of the 10 most important elements of a good brand website today.


A website only works if it’s built on comprehensive strategy. Your strategy is the iceberg under the surface that keeps the whole thing afloat. If you don’t do this work you will not get a site that cultivates and converts prospects, you will get a brochure.

Focused UX

Consumers come to your site in order to accomplish something. Identify what those things are and then execute the most important ones better than anyone else. Whether someone is there to explore your offerings or accomplish a task, your job is to make the experience easy and worthwhile. This is where modern user experience (UX) techniques are invaluable. They help you craft a site that unfolds effortlessly in a compelling, personalized experience.  That’s what it takes today to convert prospects and strengthen bonds with your existing community.

Social Integration

Social interactions and content bring your brand credibility, activate your community and amplify your brand. They attract search through SEO and include everything social from simple integration to ratings and reviews. While companies used to shy away from the associated risks, the lack of social not only sends a negative perceptual message, but means you have less influence over the conversation.


Search Engine Optimization makes your website, and more importantly the content within it, findable. It’s an art and a science. Every page and every piece of content needs to be optimized to your maximum advantage. That means keeping up with the latest search engine developments like Google Hummingbird, which recently changed the game again. SEO is cheaper marketing when compared to just about everything else you do. So remember every time someone discovers your content through search, it is one cost-per-click you don’t have to buy with AdWords.


Analytics are not the same as metrics. Metrics tell you how you’ve already done, but analytics tell you what to do next. The many analytics packages you can buy will actually feed you metrics, albeit in an easy to consume form. What they don’t do is tell you what those metrics mean, and what you should do as a result of them. This is the work of the analyst and where the rubber meets the road.

Marketing Automation

These software platforms provide the missing link between your marketing and sales. There are many options now, and as a result these technologies have become inexpensive and much easier to integrate. They allow you to track the activity of individual customers, and in many cases prospects, not only on your website, but also across the digital spectrum, including email, blogs, search and social media. They are especially important if you have a large database of customers and prospects with email addresses. They enable personalized, automated email marketing and integrate with many CRM systems.

Landing Pages

If you have an integrated marketing strategy, then most people coming to your website probably enter at a landing page. This is because landing pages allow you to tailor a visitor’s first impression based on their point of origin. Personal relevance is one of the key elements of persuasion and tailored landing pages are how you begin a compelling personalized experience.


Soon, most people will view your site on a mobile device of some kind. Your site should be designed to work optimally on every mobile device. This means you have to navigate whether to use Responsive web design, which creates a web experience that adapts to the device it is being viewed on, or to create native apps for different device platforms, which unlike responsive sites allow you to use the built-in capabilities of the phone.  Either way you need to offer a flawless mobile experience that fits what the user will be doing.

Customer Service

The experience of your website should reflect your brand’s attitude towards customer service, which is a key consideration for consumers. You are either an easy brand to work with or not. Your customer service capabilities should therefore be built into your site from instant chat to intuitive search.


Last but not least comes content. Content is the lynchpin of modern marketing in digital channels, and your website is just a vehicle for organizing and presenting it. Consumers have figured out that they are no longer a captive audience for advertising.

So instead they are looking for content that makes them smarter and/or entertains them. That content can be a video, an article, or even an interactive tool. In the end, however, it is how you are being judged. Therefore, it’s not good enough to just tick the box.

If your content is not compelling, engaging, valuable and original, people will ignore it. If you do everything else right, content will still be the difference between success and failure. It is what search engines will value and will activate your social networks. It will be the basis of a relationship started and the trust that is cultivated. Once you have the infrastructure of your marketing ecosystem in place, of which your website is a key piece, an ongoing flow of content will become the fuel that ignites the brand engine and keeps it running.

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Popcorn Video Tastes Good

Popcorn for videos

A new type of video content creation.


This post is about a brand new digital technology for video called Popcorn. It’s one of a number of technology led efforts to broaden what video is capable of, and in a world where soon 90% of data on the internet will be video, that’s good news for marketers, but first a little context.

My career and IQ, my digital agency started out in the video business. Over the years I’ve seen big changes as we moved from film to HD video, and from expensive post-production to a million dollar edit bay on a laptop. But despite these changes the basics of video creation haven’t changed that much. It’s still a linear experience made out of the combination of visuals and sound. It still a demanding art that takes quality writing, acting, lighting, sound design, animation, and post production, to say nothing of great ideas, to make quality videos.

Now, with the Content Age in full swing and a general mad scramble for video content creation, companies are finding that while they might be able to produce a talking head video of the chairman or an interview with a customer, it still takes experts to make the quality of video that captures the imagination or moves us emotionally. Today companies can go out and spend a couple of thousand dollars on a camera that would’ve cost a fortune a few years ago, they can buy microphones, lights and editing software and be fully equipped for chump change. But in the end it’s still the experience and expertise of the people using the equipment that’s the difference between wonderful and OMG.

Many forces are driving this demand for video, not the least of which is that it’s become incredibly easy and cheap to put high quality video in digital channels. So much so that video has replaced many of the interactive experiences we used to make. This is good and bad. The bad, at least for brands, is that we have moved away from interactive experiences which required the participation of the viewer. Instead of two way experiences we’ve gone back to a one way traditional video experience. Until now……

With the introduction of a new technologies like Popcorn that may have changed. Popcorn is open source technology that allows us to put links, images and even dynamic content into a video stream. That can be as simple as a link to where to buy that sweater you’re looking at, or a photo and email address for an insurance agent in your area. Popcorn essentially turns videos into mini-websites so that when your video travels around the web from person to person and site to site, it has the same capabilities you could have on your home page.  The possibilities are as many and varied as the technology is flexible. It can adopt the dynamics of “choose-your-own-adventure” and allow brands to follow viewer preferences and interests, or it can enable the functionality of shopper video without the big platform cost. On first blush it looks like Popcorn is moving video into the digital age with functionality capabilities that could reshape what we think of as video. It’s early days for Popcorn, but it appears we’ve been given a new paint box for video and I can’t wait to see what’s possible.

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