Not admitting to missing Toy Fair.

For the second year in a row, I skipped Toy Fair. My phone, email, and Facebook have been figuratively “ringing off the hook” with people trying to set meetings.

This got me wondering why I stopped going. There is the obvious …… I don’t work in the toy business. And the not so obvious …. I’m totally focused on interactive experiences – gaming, gaming everywhere – just not toys reliant on the retail shelf.

That doesn’t mean I’m not still interested in what’s up at the American International Toy Show. There’s always a lot of cool stuff and this year a lot of cool stuff featuring cutting-edge technology and innovative play patterns.

Here’s a couple things I wish I’d seen in person.

“Angry Birds Knock on Wood” – Mattel game based on the massive Angry Birds franchise. It’s great to see one of the first brands to break out from the phone to the toy world.

“Sweet Talking Ken Doll” – Apparently this doll will say what Barbie wants to hear. Should be amazingly successful and good training for guys everywhere.

Cisco Products has a “Digi Piggy”. This is a digital piggy bank that let’s you track what you are spending or saving.

Barbie has a new “I Can Be” line. Now in addition to being a Fashion Model or Rock Star, little girls can be a Computer Engineer. Wearing pink, but still a Computer Engineer.

LeapFrog has a kid’s iPad device for $99. It has a camera, plays Apps, and books.

Lego Hogwart’s Castle.  With so much discussion about social play, it’s nice to see a toy that by nature is social. You need a Harry, Hermione, and Ron to help you put this massively amazing project together.

Fisher Price has an iPhone holder so that little kids can easily play touch screen games. This is a really nice idea for little ones.

And finally,  apparently Lego created a life-size Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. That alone would have made the trip to the Jacob Javits Center worth it!

What’s your favorite toy announcement?

On Super Bowl Ads

So much has been written about Super Bowl Ads that I hesitate to write this, but as a marketer Sunday is much more than Football. Who doesn’t wonder about spending $3 million  for a 30 second spot? The pressure to perform is immense. It’s worse than launching an actual product or creating a big opening weekend because there’s only 30 seconds. Millions of consumers are voting immediately …. either by going to your website or worse, not going to your website. Instant death for the marketer. So many ways to be judged rather than the Monday morning Matt Lauer comment “hey I thought the monkeys in suits were really funny”.  It’s a metrics driven world and Super Bowl Ads are possibly the most analyzed of all marketing strategies.

At $3 million , that’s literally $100,000 a second.  The advertising creatives could go crazy in the editing room wondering which seconds to run on air. Because Super Bowl Ads have become so big, there are now actually trailers that tease the real thing. Good Morning America and the Today Show devoted whole segments to this. Funny, a news segment featuring sizzle videos about 30 second TV commercials commented upon by some agency executive who’s written a book about Enthusiasm. Marketing has actually become a spectator sport.

As usual,  we’re going to see some big stars on TV Sunday and some very odd couples. Justin Bieber, Ozzy Osbourne, Jiliann Michaels, Danica Patrick, Roseanne Barr, Kim Kardashian and Eminem all will make appearances. Surely they’ll trot Mike “The Situation” and Snooki out for something – hopefully not a wardrobe malfunction.  I’m just hoping for the e-Trade Babies return …. Because it’s fun to think about $100,000 a second of Babies doing just about anything. Happy watching.  And if you like what you see, please go to the  website. It will keep the marketers happy.

Blogging, 1 year later. Still on The Next Big Thing.

Forgive me blog for I have sinned. It’s been 3 months since my last post.  How did that happen? I’ve had something to say every day, but somehow, I couldn’t commit it to my blog. Until today. When the CEO of a company I really respect called me up and said “I was reading your blog” …. And a moment of panic set in …. “you mean the blog I haven’t posted on since September?”

So here we are. January 14. Nearly a year since I started the blog ….which was focused on Thinking about the Next Big Thing.

Here’s some Big Things I thought about in 2010:

1.     Social Games.  Spent real money buying a virtual Cathedral for my City, a Corvette for my Sorority Girl, and a whole lot of seeds for my Farm. Realized there was a big business here, but it wasn’t really gaming like I thought.

2.     iPhone.  Like High Heeled Shoes, it looks pretty, but hurts like heck when I use it. Dropped calls. Mystery voice mails when the phone never rang, but quite simply the center of my work/life universe.

3.     Mobile Games.  A refrigerator that’s always full where most of the food is free. Angry Birds. Tapulous. Scrabble. I started wishing the flight from Oakland to Burbank was longer.

4.     Facebook. Truly the single best way to stay connected with anyone – and a direct line into what all the college kids in my family are into.

5.     Education. After seeing “Waiting for Superman” I fully realized that the business of learning is where I want to be.

6.     Start-ups.  I advised several small companies and got inspired by the founders, the ideas, and the positive energy in starting something new.

7.     eBooks. I stopped buying real books, downloaded Barnes & Noble for iPad and starting reading 3 books concurrently. Just amazing to think what this will mean for the book business.

8.     Fundraising. I met a lot of VCs.  Most of them were wearing Khaki pants and blue shirts, went to Stanford/MIT/Harvard and “liked my idea”.

9.     Apps. FourSquare . Groupon. LoseIt!, Flixster, Instagram, LinkedIn, TripIt – life made better for free.

10. Video Games. The business was down 5% in 2010. It’s not the economy. It’s a radical change in the way consumers think about and play games. Realize that items #1 – #9 may have something to do with that.

I’m now Working on the Next Big Thing. You can read my next blog post to find out what that is.   Happy 2011!

Redefining Empty Nester

I am officially an empty nester. Seems impossible since my kids were born just yesterday and I don’t feel old enough to have two college aged kids. Hey, I’m NOT old enough to have two college aged kids based on today’s standards for first time, working moms.  (I almost said “professional” moms, but I realized that most moms are professional at something). Since I do a lot of work in the kids business, I tend to think about moms and what defines the 21st century mom.

She’s super connected.  Over 25 million moms 25 to 45 are on Facebook.  If she’s an average mom, she’s got 130 friends, posts 90 things a year, and checks in at least once a day. And based on the numbers, she’s probably playing Farmville.  11% of moms are also using Twitter and this number is growing fast.

She’s got a cell phone and it’s her most prized possession.  She spends over $90 a month on her phone bill. It’s more likely that she’s got an iPhone, which she uses to Text, check Facebook, communicate with kids and friends, and yes, play games.  Moms are consumers of all different kinds of apps including things like Lose It! (dieting), Couch to 5K (running),  Groupon (shopping), and People (Gossip). She’s also likely to have kids games on her device when junior gets fidgety in the car or doctor’s office.

She uses the internet all the time.  Moms represent almost 20% of the active online population in the U.S.  She shops a lot, with Target and Wal*Mart  at the top of the list because she can get great deals online.  Mom’s also a big Craigslist and Amazon user.  Facebook is a daily destination.  The internet’s more important to her than TV because it’s an information source, a place to share, a utility, and entertainment.

What’s all this mean?

This 21st century mom is super tech savvy. Her kids will  grow up never knowing a world without handheld and connected products that are everywhere. She’s comfortable with technology because it makes her life easier, and better.

I know that’s how I feel.  Skype’s my new favorite thing. It puts me in my son’s room at college to see the mountain of laundry and “evidence”.  I’ve long been using Facebook to keep up with my kids and their friends. I get a nearly front row seat to what’s happening down at Tulane and I’m looking forward to doing the same at University of Oregon.  We’ve come a long way from  calling home collect on Sunday night from the payphone in the dorm!

Here’s to redefining the Empty Nester!

Back to School with Facebook

8 of my mom’s 10 grandchildren are now college aged. 7 are actually in college at school’s as diverse as Towson University, San Diego State, Tulane University, Salisbury State, and University of Oregon. The 8th grandson is off to the Marines, where he’ll spend the next 3 months in basic training at Camp Lejune.

All the cousins have kept in touch over Facebook from the beginning, but none of the parents or grandparents (other than me, because I am “cool Aunt Nancy Gail”). They’ve followed all the milestones – boyfriends, breakups, prom, graduation, stupid parent escapades. They’ve shared all the crazy family photos that only another MacIntyre could really appreciate.

This summer, 4 of 8 cousins all prepared for college (and the Marines). My mom, aged 74 realized Facebook was the answer. She could follow her grandkids no matter where they were and never have to rely on the Sunday night phone call or worse, a text message to find out how they were.  So she signed up all on her own. She’s at 40 friends and counting. She’s figured out how to post and tag photos. How to comment on news feeds. How to post regular status updates. How to “like” something. And most importantly, how to tell the kids she’s thinking of them and find out almost instantaneously that they’re thinking of her.  Pretty cool.

I just finished reading The Facebook Effect. Very interesting read.  Wherever the genesis of the idea for Facebook came from or how it developed, clearly Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of a platform that connected people in a meaningful way is realized.

I’d love to see our parent’s generation embrace Facebook – it could be an amazing experience for grandparents everywhere.

If you’ve got a great family Facebook story, I want to hear it.

Cultural Shorthand

Recently I wrote an email to the CEO of one of the companies I’m consulting for an expressed that I didn’t have a full understanding of the cultural shorthand. I thought this phrase “cultural shorthand” came right out of my brain … a cute piece of marketing speak to describe what happens when an organization has a way of talking, communicating, emailing, paraphrasing, “wink, wink, nodding” that is code for inside the company. I was trying to explain that the company had a cultural, and a way of communicating between the territories, corporate, and each other that was in shorthand – and difficult for the outsider to understand. In my mind, this was a blend of Acrononyms, Company Culture and People and the phrase Cultural Shorthand, got to the crux of the matter. I actually thought I invented this phase. And thought that I had just coined the next “Out of the Box”, “Paradigm Shift”, “Orthogonal”, “Tipping Point”, etc. I was so energized around this idea that I had visions of the blog and ultimately book I might write. That is, until I googled.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that this marketing jargon is a) not my idea and b) widely used by others.
For example:

Net-net, this is an interesting concept. Cultural Shorthand. It means a lot of different things to different people, which is cool. To me, it describes what happens when a company culture adopts its own language and own way of doing things – including communicating.

Love to hear what buzz word you’ve “invented” today!

Curious about creatives

Three days in New York, 15 meetings with creative types. Game Designers. Branding Developers. IP Consultants. TV Creators. Art Directors. All guys. All developers of some of the most well known kids product (all kinds) and advertising on the planet. I don’t get it. Where were all the dynamic, amazing, creative women? Go figure that the creative develoment kids business is dominated by men. Men with children, but men nonetheless. How did this happen?

Last week I sat in a product meeting run by a group of amazing game development execs at an independent developer. All women. All specialists in developing great kids games. One of my colleagues (a guy) said to the head creative “do you think a team of all women designers can effectively design for boys?” Seriously.

Hard to imagine anyone asking all the guys I met this week if they could effectively design for girls.

Let’s do something about this. If you’ve got daughters, keep them enrolled in Art. Promote Creative Writing. Inspire them to Make Stuff. And Praise and Motivate the heck out of them.

This post is for Shara, Tanya, Stacey, Petrina, Melanee, Maureen, Mad, Antonia, Laura, Sara, Lauren, Patty, Cara, Gano, Ann, Alyssa, Megan and all the other super creatives I know. Rock on ladies!

Up in the Air and Online

I’m writing this from 30,000 feet somewhere over a big, flat state like Kansas going from SFO to JFK and loving the in-flight internet. The service is called GoGo Inflight and works really well, unless you want to catch up on your TV watching on Hulu (which doesn’t work well at all). I find myself wiling away the 6 hour flight online. Reading and posting clever stuff to Facebook. Updating my Linked In contacts. Catching up on Huffington Post and Tech Crunch. Shopping the App Store to see if Oregon Trail is available for iPad. Adding to my metropolis in Playdom’s Social City game. Looking at my Twitter feed. Checking out Etsy to see if the handmade quilt I like is still up there. Googling myself to see if the first item is still “Star Wars Galaxies, Anatomy of a PR Disaster” from the New York Times. (thankfully it’s not). Somewhere in all this surfing I realized that most of these services started since the year 2000. They’re Millennial brands. And they’ve become such a part of everyday that it’s hard to imagine work, or life, without them.

This got me thinking about other media brands and how they’ve come (and in some cases) gone. I grew up with NBC (channel 4), CBS (channel 9), ABC (channel 6), PBS (channel 26), and WTTG (channel 5). The Washington Post, The Star, and the Wall Street Journal were delivered to the house, as was Sports Illustrated, Motor Trend, Car and Driver, Time, Newsweek and Family Circle. Later, I got Cosmo, Glamour, and 17 and my brothers smuggled in a lot of stuff we won’t talk about. We had to go find our information and entertainment – subscribe or buy it because we understood the brand and what it stood for. This is very different than today, when the web companies know what we like and serve it up to us when and how we want it. This may be what defines these 21st century brands – they know who they are and they know who WE are. Pretty cool. Although it is pretty hard to know what to read first.

The Applefication of 442 Laverne Ave.

I was interested to read Apple's Q3 results this week, but not surprised that they blew the number away. They reported 8.4 million iPhones, 9.4 million iPods, and 3.3 million iPads – more than 20 million devices that weren't computers – and 3 of them went to 442 Laverne Ave.

Three years ago we were an "Apple-lite" family. Yes, we had iPods, but Ben's was the first generation brick with the trackwheel, about the size of a pack of cigarettes and pretty finicky. Cate's was an iPod Nano. Turquoise, bought when she was 13 and still into the Spice Girls. Nick had the Black U2 Branded version, except he only used iTunes to burn CDs to take in his car and the iPod sat on his desk. And me, well, I had an iPod Shuffle, specially engraved with "Thank you for making Lego Star Wars II a success!". I filled it up 122 songs and never touched the music selection again.

Fast forward to 2008. I get an iPhone because all the cool kids at work have them. I figure the keyboard is so problematic that it will keep me from texting and emailing so much and I happily trade in the Blackberry. I discover right away that the typing does in fact stink, I send a lot of unreadable messages when the auto-finish typing kicks in, but I realize that I just love this thing. It does everything. Weather. Stock Quotes. Play Scrabble. News. Funny little apps for everything. Travel. Contact lists. Texting. Photos. The phone was the trojan horse. Once I had it, I had to get a Mac.

So after using a PC from the beginning of time (since back at Lotus when we have Compaq portable computers that were the size of toolboxes), I switched to a Mac. I kept my PC for a while "just in case", but soon learned that life was just better with Mac, and that yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks. Once I got the Mac, Cate had to have a Mac. It started simply enough ….. "my laptop is freezing up!", she cried. "I'm losing hours of my life waiting for this to boot up!" she said. "I'm going to college you know!" …. and I relented and we got her a Mac, which came, because Apple is genius, with a new iPod Touch, a Printer, and $50 off. In case you’re wondering, Ben didn’t want a Mac. He said “I’m a chemical engineer, we use PCs”. That should have been the end of the story.

Fast forward to winter 2010 and the iPad drumbeat starts. It's like a big iPhone! It will change games forever! It can teach anything! All your apps will work with it! It will replace Kindle! I started really thinking about iPad. I believed the hype. I saw the demos. I read the reviews. And I wanted one. It's such a cliche to say that the iPad is amazing, but it really is. I've well documented my turmoil over e-readers, but found that getting and reading books on the iPad is easy and satisfying. Games are more fun because they're bigger, more detailed, and easier to control. I love, love, love, the Pulse app – just great for a news junky like me. So, of course fell in love with my new toy , with a little help from Mobile Me. Mobile Me is quite possibly the best invention for someone like me ever. Now I've got everything I need on all devices at all times if I want it. No more worrying about syncing. Somehow everything is just there. iPhone? iPad? Mac? My calendar works everywhere. I can get that Power Point or Excel File or picture taken on the 4th of July anytime I want it. So exciting …. and to think about my future business travel without multiple electronics and chargers – just awesome.

Next came the iPhone4. I held out for a long time on this one. I tried to figure out why I needed it since my other phone was still perfect and I had it set up just the way I wanted. Then I saw the commercial for Facetime with the Pregnant Mom, the Ultrasound, and the Dad and realized that with iPhone4, I could see the faces of my kids anytime I talked with them – whether from Tulane University or University of Oregon. And I was sold. My bundle of joy arrived today.

So here we are, our happy family has expanded from 4 old iPods (still in use by the way) to 2 Macs, 2 iPhones, 1 iPod Touch and an iPad in a period of 2 years. No wonder Apple is rocking. And deservedly so.

An iPad for Grandma?

Nintendo discovered 3 years ago that senior citizens (specifically people over 50) could be sold the DS and the Wii for brain training and fitness. There are figures saying that 25%+ of Americans over 50 are now playing games.

The iPad is a device uniquely suited for older people. You can easily change the font size. The interface is so easy a 2 year old can do it and probably a 92 year old. It’s a great e-reader and is about the size and weight of a hardback book. It’s also the first handheld device that’s designed for sharing – pictures, games (ie Scrabble) etc.

There are almost 60 million grandparents in the US. They spent $28 billion on their grandkids – about $1800/year. After paying their bills, kids education is their #1 priority.

This got me thinking about seniors. Is this a real market opportunity?  There’s been a lot of discussion  about the kids market for mobile devices, but not so much for older folks.  Could the market opportunity be under 8 and over 48?  Is there a whole new class of Apps that could be experienced by Grandmom and Kid together?

A couple of anecdotal things:

From my mom : “I’m getting one of those iPad things. It can  do anything, it can teach anything and I can actually work it.”

From my neighbor : “I had to by my 80 year old father an iPad. He’s obsessed with Sudoku”.

From a 75ish lady at Mama’s Royal Cafe this morning  who was using an iPad. “I don’t have to get the NYTimes every day. Do you have any idea how much money I’m saving?”

Here’s some links to think about …. then let me know what you think!