E-Solutions and Digital Media Applications: Consultancy Proposal / Report
This proposal outlines solutions to the client’s brief – to develop ideas for two mobile apps, each aimed at a specific target audience. The ‘Requirements’ section interprets the brief, presents relevant research, and proposes a decision to investigate developing apps at the intersection of social networking and locational services, as this is a key current trend. The ‘Proposed Solution’ section develops this research further, deciding to develop two apps for the iPhone platform, which use the device’s camera and video technology along with GPS and social networking. The first app proposed, StreetShoot, is aimed at a 19-25 year old audience, and encourages the development of social networks through the uploading of creative mobile photography according to set ‘briefs’. Virtual tokens and rewards transform personal photography into an active and social game. VideoConf, is aimed at a 35-55 year old professional audience and encourages the development of existing business networks, as well as the creation of new ones, through offering mobile video conferencing facilities. Research supporting the two proposals is presented in the ‘Benefits and Unique Selling Points’ section, while the final two sections contain more practical and biographical information.
The client is a provider of mobile application content. They require two interesting and innovative ideas for smartphone apps, which can be sold to either iPhone or Android based mobile users. They specify two particular target-audiences, which the ideas should be aimed at. One must be aimed at ‘Target Audience 1’, a gender-neutral UK-resident English speaking student in their early 20s (19-25) who is familiar with mobile technologies and owns a 3G enabled phone. The other idea must be aimed at ‘Target Audience 2’, a gender-neutral UK-resident English speaking professional aged between 35 and 55 who, again, is familiar with mobile technologies and owns a 3G enabled phone. They specify particularly to include solutions to which platform the mobile app ideas should be developed for; an outline of each idea including what type of app it is; what mobile or interactive features it uses; what location-based services it uses; what design features it uses; and what ‘added value’ and benefits for the users it has.
Interpreting this brief, it can be seen that there is a similarity in terms of technical knowledge and background of the target audiences, the only differences being between a younger student market, and an older professional market. It could be pointed out that these ‘target audiences’ have been defined very broadly. Contemporary developments in market segmentation focus less on traditional demographic categories, and on increasingly specific ‘targeting’ of more individualized consumers, and patterns of particular ‘lifestyles’, which can be packaged and marketed (Leiss et al., 2005, p.264). This would be pointed out to the client, suggesting that, as discussions develop, the audiences could become more specifically defined.
The client does not specify whether the ideas should be for iPhone or Android platforms so this will have to be decided on the basis of technological and market-based research. As ‘mobile and interactive features’, ‘location-based services’ and ‘photos or video’ are all mentioned specifically in the brief, these areas will be explored in the solution. These references suggest the client is ‘on-trend’ with developments in the app market, as these are key elements of contemporary developments both in app design and in developments in technology. Tim Adams for example, defines the latest developments in apps as “location, location, location” (Adams, 2010), giving examples such as Gowalla, which is a location-based social networking game (Gowalla, 2010), and Foursquare (Foursquare, 2010), which combines social networking with location services. Interestingly, both of these examples combine location services with social networking, suggesting a potentially interesting area of intersection in which to develop the brief. As Adams points out:
The race to colonise this junction between GPS location and social networks like Facebook and Bebo has become, in the last year, the latest virtual gold rush (Adams, 2010)
This research suggests that while this is an interesting field of development, it will also become quickly saturated with new products – as in the ‘gold rush’ alluded too, so it is important than new developments can stand out from the crowd. The reference to ‘added value’ in the brief is important. The client will be aware that the mobile application market is highly saturated and competitive, and any development must be distinctive enough to provide unique benefits to users.
The first problem to be taken into account is which platform to develop each idea for. Research into comparisons between iPhone and Android markets has proposed that iPhone users are, on the whole, young and technologically savvy (Perez, 2008), and also interested in quality and design rather than low-prices (Gurley, 2010), while Android is hugely expanding in the mass-market (Conneally, 2010; Gurley, 2010), and attracting those who favour its ‘open-source software’ (Farrell, 2010). Bearing this research in mind, it could be argued that both target audiences match the iPhone market profile more than that of Android. Target Audience 1 are young and technologically savvy, and Target Audience 2, as professionals, will have more disposable income, so may prefer higher-end technology. Research also shows that the technologies used by Android and iPhone are very similar, leading to a lack of differentiation on a purely technical level (Gurley, 2010). Android has been analysed as a more rapidly expanding market (Conneally, 2010), but iPhone as a more loyal base (Gurley, 2010) and more successful business plan (Palmer, 2008). In the context of this research, it can be argued that targeting the apps at the Android market could reach a rapidly growing market, but it is riskier. It is a newer technology and growth figures are all based on projected estimates rather than sales. Targeting them at the iPhone platform would be a safer option as both target audiences already match what research suggests is Apple’s target audience. For these reasons, it is proposed that both of the ideas be developed for the iPhone platform.
The next problem to be addressed is what type of app to produce. As discussed in the Requirements section, the intersection between GPS-location technology and social networking sites is currently an area of much development with, as yet, no dominating players on the scale of Facebook or Twitter. This makes it an interesting area to develop apps for. Current apps within this field include Gowalla (Gowalla, 2010), Foursquare (Foursquare, 2010), and Loopt (Loopt, 2010). These apps all have common features based around announcing where in the world you are and sharing this with a group of contacts. Gowalla and Foursquare turn this into a ‘game’ feature involving the collecting of tokens and gaining of rewards. Foursquare for example “encourages you to ‘check in at any location – bar, café, shop, event, park bench – and not only to share that fact with your friends but to win virtual badge points for your activity” (Adams, 2010). Loopt is not available in the UK so is marketed strongly at a US audience (Loopt, 2010) It is different in the sense that it is not so focused on the ‘game’ element, preferring to emphasise the networking aspect of its application. Gowalla and Foursquare use graphic design, visual imagery and colloquial language in their marketing to target a youth audience. The cartoons on the Gowalla website, for example, create an image of laid-back early 20somethings (matching the target Audience 1 of the brief) hanging out at cafes and receiving ‘rewards’ in the shape of free coffee. Foursquare seems aimed at an even younger market, with its icon of a child and focus on “earning points, unlocking badges and discovering new things” (Foursquare, 2010).
While, on one hand, presenting an image of ‘discovery’ and ‘exploration’, it is interesting that all of these apps present essentially ‘passive’ experiences where users primarily visit and ‘check-in’ to existing locations without much creative interaction. The philosopher and cultural theorist Slavoj Zizek has defined the concept of ‘interpassivity’ in an attempt to make sense of behaviour that seems active but is ultimately passive. He provides the example, in 1999, of ‘virtually’ caring for the Japanese toy pet tamagochi. (Zizek, 1999, p.102):
In interactivity, I am passive, while being active through another. In interpassivity, I am passive while being active through another (Zizek, 1999, p.105)
While technology has moved on a lot since the tamagochi, Zizek’s definition of interpassivity seems even more relevant to ceratin aspects of our engagement with technology today, and in particular the apps mentioned here whivh encourage ‘hanging out’ or ‘checking in’ as activities, without actually doing anything. Against this then, it is proposed to develop two apps within this field, which carve out their own product niche, firstly, by creating a more ‘active’ and creative role for the user. Secondly, it is proposed to combine social networking and location technology with far greater integrated use of mobile camera and video devices. This allows for a new dimension to such apps and for greater creativity and interactivity on behalf of users. Thirdly, it is proposed to use a different style of design to aim one of the apps at an older UK-based audience.
This research leads us to the proposed designs:
App 1 for Target Audience 1: StreetShoot
Outline: Users are encouraged to explore their surroundings, and rather than visit existing places on maps, they take photographs and upload these to a network ‘gallery’. Different themes and categories for photographs will be announced (e.g. ‘tension’, ‘radicalism’), over specific time limits (e.g. 24 hours) and users will receive virtual prizes and status for receiving the highest number of votes from peers within these categories. Social networks will be formed around the uploading and discussions of the photography, and location software will allow users to meet at deadlines and see the voting take place. It combines the personal expression of Flickr with social networking and the dynamics of the FlashMob. Visual design and marketing will be aimed at young and style-conscious users.
Example of use: I have formed a StreetShoot social network and at 9AM on Friday I, along with everyone else in this group, receive a message that I have 24 hours to take a photograph with the theme ‘play’. I spend the day thinking about this, in between studying, and upload my photograph in the afternoon. During this time, I have also seen (through GPS) where other members of my network have been taking photographs which has given me my own ideas (to go and copy them). At 9pm, I vote and the winner is later announced.
App 2 for Target Audience 2: VideoConf
Users are encouraged to use the app as a way to consolidate existing business and social networks, but also be alerted as to when potential clients may be in their area, in order to arrange flexible self-organized face-to-face meeting, radically changing the way that meetings are usually institutionally structured within companies. The key selling point of the app however, is that it uses mobile phone video facilities to facilitate self-organized ‘video conferencing’ with business contacts. It will be marketed as a professional tool and a way of re-organizing business scheduling around individual movement, as well as breaking down barrier between personal contact and video conferencing.
Example of use: I am on a business trip and ‘check in’ on my phone to see if anyone in my business network is nearby. As it turns out that two people are, we send messages. After establishing that we have no time to meet up, we use the video conferencing function to conduct a meeting using the mobile video devices in the phone.
Benefits and Unique Selling Points
StreetShoot is unique in its focus on creative user-generated content as fundamental. Jenkins has emphasized the importance of this in his analysis of ‘convergence culture’ (2006a) where he argues that activities such as blogging and citizen journalism are changing the nature of people’s relations to their environment, allowing more agency to the individual to produce and distribute their own media material (2006a, p.18). Rather than apps such as Gowalla, which, with tie-ins with Starbucks for example, seem heavily corporate (PDA, 2010), Streetshoot taps into a market for individual creative action. It offers a far more powerful sense of what Jenkins has described as ‘participatory’ culture (2006b) than other apps in the field. The potential ‘energy’ of this use of participation has also been highlighted by Castells (2006, p.206). Adams has criticized how most social networking location apps are fundamentally about avoiding ever being lost (Adams, 2010). Streetshoot challenges this, encouraging its users to creatively ‘get lost’ or relate to their surroundings differently.
Regarding VideoConf, research has shown that social networking is currently experiencing its most rapid rate of growth among older people, and also among wealthier people (Smith, 2009). Sites such as Facebook previously dominated by younger users are now being increasingly used by people over 35 (Smith, 2009). This shows that there is a market for social networking sites aimed at the 35-55 year old market. The focus of sites such as Gowalla and FourSquare on youth-oriented design however, suggests that younger audiences are still seen as ‘early adopters’ who will discover new apps first. Rather than following business models such as Facebook, which waited for youthful ‘early adopters’, and then expanded to target broader demographics, goes straight, and uniquely for the ‘early adopter 35-55 market’. While many social networking location apps are designed with a youth audience in mind, our design will offer a more professional and slick look for a different market.
In order to complete the brief, it will be necessary to work, not only with our team as strategy consultants, but also with other recommended design and marketing teams. A publicity campaign for StreetShoot would be advisable and we would recommend the following company:
11 Chance St.
London E2 7JB
Their position as freelance PR company to organizations such as the art graduate degree shows company ‘Free Range’ would make them ideally placed to reach the target audience and create the desired image for publicity and marketing purposes.
In terms of app design, we would recommend the following company:
They have proven success in developing locational and social networking based apps so would be ideal partners to work with. Describing themselves as working “at the intersection of friendship and beautiful design” they would be useful in creating desirable brand images.
Experience and Expertise in Your Team
‘John Smith’ is the senior consultant and founder of the company. He has extensive experience in the industry, working as an advisor for Apple on the incorporation of locational technology into its mobile hardware, another reason why the focus of these apps is the iPhone, as his insider experience and contacts are vital. He then established his own strategic consultancy company, and has worked with clients including Apple, Google and Microsoft.
‘Jean Smith’ is a junior consultant. She graduated from MIT in the US before moving to the UK to join the team. She has experience working within the field of qualitative semiotic consultancy with company Year Zero. She has worked on projects for Nokia and Electronic Arts.
‘Dave Smith’ is a junior consultant. He graduated with an MA in Digital Media, specializing in mobile communications technology, and has since worked on strategic consultancy projects with clients including Apple and Samsung.
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