Archive for the ‘car’ tag
The most effective mass media is the stories we tell and conversations we have with each other. If you don’t believe me, let me prove it to you.
We’ve all seen an endless number of ads for cars, car dealerships, and the like. If I think really hard, I may be able to remember a few of them. Let’s see… I remember the Volkswagen ad with Kid Vader (but mostly because it was so talked-about, not because I thought it was so effective). I remember the Toyota Celica ads in which the senior citizen sees a parked Celica and yells, “Slow down. This is a neighborhood!” If you gave me 10 more minutes, I could probably think of another three to five, but not much more. Considering how many car ads I’ve seen in my lifetime, that’s a pretty low recall rate, and I can assure you that none of them influenced my purchase decisions.
Recently I watched a six-minute video in which a young man, who happens to be too young to drive, tells a story that takes place in a Honda CR-V. His story nearly brought me to tears, then [spoiler alert] had me rejoicing at the end. I was smiling ear to ear, and immediately shared on every social network I could. If you haven’t heard Noah St. John’s story, you should now.
The Power of Story
I own a Ford Escape now and love it (somewhere Scott Monty is rejoicing). Though I had searched for an SUV, a Honda CR-V never entered my consideration set. It just didn’t seem to be a fit for me.
But I find myself thinking of Noah and his family’s CR-V lately. My mileage is about to exceed 50,000, and I wonder where I’ll be at 100,000, and I think of Noah’s story. When my wife and I were at Babies“R”Us this past weekend to register for her shower, we looked at car seats, and I thought of it again. I wondered what kinds of practices I’d bring my child to. I wondered if my Escape would be as cherished as his CR-V. Granted, the video is fresh in my mind, but I watched a lot of TV yesterday and I couldn’t tell you five commercials I saw.
Stories are so powerful because they move us emotionally (which ads also can but rarely do). We may not remember the story forever, but we certainly remember it longer than we do that $4 million Times Square Billboard or Super Bowl ad.
The Best Ads Aren’t Ads
At the end of last year, Kirk Cheyfitz (our CEO) put together a list of the best ads of 2012 on Pando Daily, and go figure, the best ads of 2012 weren’t ads. I’ll argue that Noah’s story is going to be Honda’s best CR-V ad of 2013—one the company didn’t pay a single dime for, and one that isn’t even an ad. It’s a story.
If the non-ad does come out on top, it will be no surprise. The most shareable media is most often owned or earned, and that’s because effective advertising isn’t about exposure. It’s about conversations. Since 99.99 percent of the time, the conversations people have with one another are not about your ad (or anyone else’s), only the most relevant, entertaining and informative content will be remembered and shared.
I’m actually surprised by Honda’s reaction. If I were Honda, I’d be embracing Noah’s performance in a bear hug. But other than earning a passing mention on Honda’s Facebook page, Noah’s story (which has received nearly half a million views) was practically ignored by the brand. Granted, it’s still early. Honda may have larger plans. Maybe it’ll record his performance in a real studio and use it as a long-form ad. Or maybe it’s distancing itself from the story because it features a two-mother (and no-father) household. I don’t know.
Unfortunately, there’s not much a brand can do to create stories like this one. That’s what makes them so effective—their authenticity. But brands have to implement ways to find customer stories like Noah’s and embrace them in a way that will amplify the message and allow it to be more searchable and shareable. It also requires a certain commitment to quality. If the CR-V constantly broke down and was unreliable, they may have never it might never have made it to 100K.
Whatever the case may be, Noah’s story is 100 percent authentic. It’s from Noah, not from a brand. That allows audiences to uncross their arms and lean forward, accepting the story into their lives even if it contains a brand, because the story isn’t from the brand.
Most people don’t have 30-seconds to be interrupted by a commercial or held hostage by a pre-roll ad, but nearly a half-million people had six minutes to hear Noah’s story. Heck, I had 90-minutes to blog about it.
The greatest brand stories are the ones told by the brand’s fans.
There was a time in the United States when federal and local governments could initiate and orchestrate big, sweeping infrastructure projects. One of the most notable was the establishment of the interstate highway system during the Eisenhower administration, a post-war public works project to connect an enormous nation and bolster its defenses. It also helped unlock a new era of interstate commerce. Decades later, the government tried again with the creation of Amtrak, but for a host of reasons, well, that hasn’t really worked out. Instead, success came in aviation, which further accelerated economic growth, and the rise of the American (and eventually global) automotive industry, which created many jobs, ignited technological progress, and fueled the country’s renewed investment in building more roads and settling more suburban areas, all the while selling more cars as part of the new American dream.
The country’s transportation-related feats are impressive, in many regards. We can freely drive coast to coast in a few days, with relatively cheap gas along the way. Passengers can fly to virtually any part of all 50 states within a day. While rail has been either neglected or the victim of politics, it’s no matter — the nation has put a man a moon and, just this week, engineered a system to land full-fledged roving vehicle on the surface of Mars! Yet, on Earth, on American soil, the nation can no longer make basic transportation connections or improvements. It took years for the New York City metro area to figure out how to “efficiently“ connect its subway system with its two airports. The region with the highest road traffic density — the Northeast Corridor, from NYC to Boston — had their plan to retrofit rail to handle high-speed cars stopped by individual land owners protecting private property rights. In the Bay Area, we simply can’t link Caltrain to BART in the city’s downtown area. The public wants cheap transportation and access for all, but either no one wants to pay for it or they don’t want to give up their property to see it happen. And, here we are…
A decade into the 21st Century, oftentimes it feels easier to get from JFK to LAX than it is to get from the upper west side to JFK itself. The transportation choices for citizens, especially on an intra-city basis, are far from optimal. Combine that with a sagging economy, a struggling domestic auto industry, rising gas prices, and dangerously attractive auto financing terms, and consumers are going to start experimenting with alternative means of getting from point A to point B. And it is here where entrepreneurs have been creating new behavioral models around transportation, leveraging social data, mobile devices, and marketplace inefficiencies to reinvent how we get around.
Car-sharing as a peer-to-peer transaction is fueling the charge. Ever since Zipcar emerged as a new model to give consumers an access to a predetermined fleet of cars, the public, especially in dense urban areas, have begun to see car ownership not only as a financial burden and logistical headache, but also as something that is harmful to their local environments. As a membership-based company, Zipcar’s success even motivated incumbent car rental companies to experiment with different rental models, as well as paving the way for an entire fleet of new companies trying to create innovative solutions in the space.
In the past few years, serious new enterprises have formed to tackle this overall problem with a variety of models. Uber, which started as Ubercab, is probably the most high-profile of the new breed of transportation-related startups, and recently expanded its offerings from providing private black town cars on demand to electric vehicles (and ice cream trucks). A few months ago, their newest product, UberX, came after a San Francisco-based Sidecar became more known to the city’s inhabitants, which offered a new kind of smartphone-enabled car service with a fleet of private citizens, vetted by the company, who would use their own vehicles as taxis. At the same time, Zimride, a ride-sharing company already serving many key corridors such as SF to LA and SF to Tahoe, launched a new product, “Lyft,” which is quite similar to Sidecar except that Lyft drivers are asked to place big, pink, furry mustaches on the grills of their cars for easy identification. (Note that Sidecar and Lyft use community-driven “donation” models for paymens, and like Uber, allow both driver and rider to rate each other.) While Zimride was launching Lyft, yet another startup - Ridejoy - was posing competition on social ridesharing routes.
We’re not done yet. So far we’ve covered services where someone else drives you around. But, what about when you want to take the wheel, sort of like Zipcar? Well, you’re in luck, because there are great new companies opening up these new markets, too. In no particular order, you have Wheelz, a marketplace for people to book or list other peoples’ cars; Getaround, similar to Wheelz, which wowed crowds last year by announcing that Berkshire Hathaway would cover driver insurance and built their own mobile app-powered remote locking system ; RelayRides, which is also similar with a slightly different revenue model; and a slew of international players in this space, such as Whipcar in the United Kingdom. And, if you want to get around with a slightly different style, there’s Local Motion, Scooter Networks, and while I haven’t seen them all, I’d bet there are ways to rent out your bike, skateboard, or even rollerblades.
Initially, I was skeptical of these models. But after some time, it all became clearer to me. This summer, I’ve been commuting more from downtown Palo Alto to SOMA in San Francisco via Caltrain, and then have to lumber up to the Embarcadero. I chronicled the different services I’ve used here, but all in all, in six weeks so far, I haven’t used a cab or Uber town car all summer — I just Lyft, Sidecar, or walk. I haven’t used cash for any of these, either, and most often, these rides are about 40% less than what a typical taxi would have charged, and just 2-3x what it would cost on public transit. I’ve yet to try the car-rental models like Getaround and RelayRides, but after suffering through a few traditional rental car experiences this summer, and considering the listings on these services are increasing, I’m sure I’ll be both a consumer and provider on these marketplaces. I’ve even thought of listing my car on Airbnb as a place to sleep at night, as its legal to sleep in a car in Palo Alto, as I hear real estate here is going through the roof.
Speaking of Airbnb, these fleetless car-sharing marketplaces are really similar to the big apartment and home-listing site. In the few months I’ve been a consumer and preparing myself to list my 10-year old European sedan, consumer mindset seems to have shifted slightly. It turns out that many folks are totally OK with getting a ride by a stranger in that stranger’s car, or renting out their car to someone for a few hours or a few days. In many cases, it turns out, it’s easier than hailing a taxi in San Francisco and dealing with a rental agency and their archaic rules. And, investors in these companies are actually using them, too, most notably a Getaround investor who made a few thousand per month listing his two cars and a RelayRides investor who actually bought a nice used car exclusively to list on the site, calculating he could actually make money over time after paying off the car.
The potential of these markets are huge, though getting to the promised land won’t be easy. As Uber has learned, these new models, while providing more choices (and cheaper prices) to consumers, can also stoke fears among those entrenched interests who have the most to lose. A few years ago, Airbnb had to fight off the hotel lobby in various cities who were threatened by the enormous market the young company was opening up. In a similar way, city medallion holders and car rental companies may, over time, see some of their markets threatened by companies who don’t manage fleet inventory but rather route supply to demand and take a cut of the transaction.
At the end of the day, yes, there will be roadblocks, but I’m bullish on this consumer trend, especially considering how congested many cities are becoming and governments’ overall inability to gather enough consensus (or funds) to actually build sufficient infrastructure. Just using some of these services over the past few months has impressed upon me that these aren’t just new markets, they’re actually movements. It’s strangers coming together, it’s new opportunities for work, it’s helping other people out, and it’s extracting rents from assets that would otherwise be laying dormant. Nearly every Lyft or Sidecar driver I’ve had, in addition to being genuine and courteous, was either trying to supplement income during a job transition or had just moved to the city to start their careers. They found it was a good way to pass the time, to meet people, to learn the city, and help make rent. If citizens can’t get the transportation systems they need from governments, we’ll have no choice to make new ones ourselves. That is sort of what’s happening, and as a transportation junkie, it’s just awesome to watch unfold.
Photo Credit: Creative Commons Flickr / Ansalve
In 2007, four out of eleven cars finished a 61 mile urban simulation course for the DARPA Urban Challenge obeying all traffic signals and lane markings without human intervention. In 2010, Google researchers announced that they had logged over 1,000 miles with no human intervention, and 140,000 miles with minimal intervention in a specially equipped Prius. Currently car manufacturers such as Lexus, Mercedes Benz, and Volvo are introducing self-driving features such as self-parking, radar enabled adaptive cruise control, and automatic collision avoidance. Read more » about Self Driving Cars, Neighborhood Electrics, and the Future of Auto-mobility
Glass is a godsend, allowing us to experience the outdoors without being exposed to the elements. But the material has one major pitfall: glass stretches out sunlight and turns it into heat. You know that if you’ve ever been stuck in a parked car exposed to direct sunlight. You also know it if you’ve got a greenhouse or glass room in your home. If that’s the case, you may want to look into keeping your glass enclosure cool. The DIY experts at Stack Exchange can help. More »
Thinking of buying a car or house soon? Knowing that the weather can subtly influence your purchase decision might keep you from making a choice you might later regret. More »
I have this amazing friend. Her name is Deb Dobson.
Deb is, without a doubt, one of the most generous people I know…and I only just met her IRL this year, though I’ve considered her a friend for a good three years.
When we first connected on Twitter, she was living in Kansas City, which (as some of you may know) was my stomping ground right out of college and until I moved to Chicago in 2001.
So we immediately had something in common.
Then I discovered she has a huge Jayhawk on the back of her Jeep (which is where Mr. D went to school and would die if I let him have a big Jayhawk on the back of our car) and the friendship was sealed.
When I was in Columbus in May (which is where she moved to after Kansas City), not only was I taken care of by Michael Bowers, Nate Riggs, and the super active social media community there, Deb made sure I had directions from to/from the airport and that I had something to do for dinner when I landed.
At dinner, she introduced me to one Dave Hunegnaw who quickly took me under his wing and began introducing me to, well, just about the entire city.
Between he and Deb, I felt like I was hanging out with the Mayor. And that’s not an exaggeration. They know everyone in that darn city.
Deb is an avid tennis player, a CRM maven (I go to her with all of my CRM questions), a photographer, and a lover of cars. In fact, she’ll be really mad at me for using the photo I did above, but it is her, getting out of the backseat of her dream car (she let me sit in front), and nearly getting stuck. I mean, I had time to take a picture. How hard can it be to get out of a Porsche? Really.
Through it all, Deb has become a confidant, someone I laugh (and cry) with, and a dear, dear friend.
She’s one who, when you check her out, will engage, will ask you questions about yourself, and will give of herself more generously than anyone else you know. You can find her on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and on Just My Take (even though she hasn’t posted there in nearly a year, which I will shame her into doing with this blog post).
Today, seed fund and accelerator TechStars hosted its “Demo Day” in Boulder, where it showcased its 11 newest startups. With an average funding of $1.28 million raised per TechStars-backed company so far, it was an important day for these new companies as the room was full of investors at the Boulder Theater.
TechStars was founded in 2006 in Boulder but now holds programs in Boston, New York City and Seattle as well. Last April, it debuted a new accelerator called TechStars Cloud that focuses exclusively on backing cloud computing and infrastructure startups.
Here’s a look at the 11 finalists.
Ubooly is a stuffed animal for kids ages 5-10 that wakes up when parents put their iPhone inside the plush, orange little character. It’s an educational toy powered by a smart phone that brings kids on adventures, teaches them foreign languages and more. Ubooly is voice activated so kids can talk to their Ubooly and make decisions. Updates to Ubooly are made via wifi so it’s always learning. Ubooly is launching on Thursday but its kiddo beta testers are already in love with him.
DealAngel is a site that shows what the true price of a hotel room, anywhere in the world should be on any day of the year. It takes into account when there are conferences, time of year, proximity to landmarks, etc. It is not influenced by any hotel chain (like Orbitz or Travelocity or other hotel deal sites) but rather takes into account historical rates and data to show travelers if a hotel is a good deal or a rip-off.
Verbalizeit offers travelers (and businesses) access to a human translator anywhere in the world. It’s available in five languages – Spanish, French, Mandarin, Hindi, and Portuguese (the language options are expanding as they grow). It costs $5 for 5 minutes for a traveler to call, tell the translator what they need in a taxi, a pharmacy, a restaurant, anywhere. There are price packages for businesses as well. They have already partnered with Skype and TripLingo.
PivotDesk is launching in Denver/Boulder to help increase entrepreneurial density by giving businesses a way to rent out their extra office space. It’s co-working on steroids. Entrepreneurs and founders can avoid long term office leases for a small amount of space.
ROXIMITY is a location based alert and deals platform. It allows merchants to send targeted messages to consumers as they pass their cars. Integrated into a vehicle’s sync system, consumers can tell ROXIMITY using hands free, voice command, that they are hungry for lunch and it will locate lunch deals nearby.
27Perry is helping clothing and furniture consignment stores to go online in a highly curated way. There is an estimated trillion dollars worth of consignment inventory and they are entering into the untapped world of consignment goods. 27Perry works with independent thrift stores across the country to feature the best items on sale. 27Perry is not in market yet and they are raising at seed round of $350K.
RollSale is the Lending Tree for used cars. It offers a marketplace for people selling their used car to market it and sell it to car dealers. It takes the wheeling and dealing out of selling a used car. There are approximately 250 million used cars in the united states which a market of $325 billion (transactions make up $3.6B slice of the pie).
SalesLoft is an enterprise application that works in Salesforce and other CRM tools to help sales professionals to engage with their clients and prospects in a deeper, more meaningful way. This tool is targeting the $400B sales industry. Good sales people do their due diligence before reaching out to a sales lead so SalesLoft helps them do that quicker. By pulling in social data (like LinkedIn updates and tweets) and bio information right into a CRM, SalesLoft enables each touch-point for sales folks to be relevant, fresh and meaningful.
MobiPlug is putting the internet into your things! Mobiplug makes home automation a reality by providing a single box (a gateway) to control all wifi enabled devices like the thermostat, door locks, lights, TVs, garage doors, home security devices/alarms. MobiPlug lets homeowners manage their devices right from their smartphone with a single application that talks to various protocols and off the shelf devices. There’s no contract unlike Xfinity, ADT and other competitors and it’s much more affordable and integrated.
Digital Ocean is the world’s simplest cloud hosting service with unlimited bandwidth. Aimed at individuals and startup companies, Digital Ocean lets anyone deploy a virtual server in less than a minute. In 2011, cloud hosting market was at $3.7B and Digital Ocean is set to focus on a $1B part of that market that represents small businesses and developers that use cloud hosting for new projects, hosting personal sites, etc. Digital Ocean already has 500 active customers and 10,000 virtual servers (5000 were added in the past 30 days).
Birdbox is a smart box for anyone’s photos and videos. Great for families, parents and couples, BirdBox organizes photos and videos in one place making them searchable anywhere. With a estimated billion new photos taken everyday and 48 hours of video updated to YouTube every minute, Birdbox is a way to sort and manage this media posted on various networks. In addition to time, location and date a photo or video was shot, Birdbox maintains the social context of the photo and video including comments, retweets, tags and more.
Roximity’s app for iOS promises relevant offers to deals around you based on location and user preferences. To take that location-awareness a step further, it will offer this functionality in the car through Ford’s Sync AppLink, which brings info from your smartphone to your dashboard so you can better (and more safely) interact with it.
“While driving, users can simply say, ‘lunch deals,’ and their favorite lunch options will be read out loud,” Danny Newman, co-founder and CEO of Roximity, in a statement. “Other deal services offer coupons for the entire metropolitan area or for things that are not relevant to you. Roximity is personalized and will provide you what you want, when you want it.”
Roximity was recently selected to be part of the Techstars program in Boulder, Colo. and has eight employees. Notably, Roximity is the first app to have Ford AppLink compatibility at launch.
In the glut of daily deal offers from Groupon, LivingSocial, and others, I appreciate the idea of using location to give me the best digital coupons. But do I need it in my car while I hurriedly drive to work or to my friend’s house. No, not at all.
Check out the video below for more on Roximity’s integration with Ford’s Sync:
Photo credit: Roximity video screenshot
Filed under: mobile
My car informs me that I’ve been averaging 26 mph over the last month. Much lower than I would have guessed.
It’s low not because we don’t drive on the highway, it’s low because there’s also a lot of time spent sitting still in traffic and at lights.
When we remember our journey and our work, the highlights are the fast parts, the thrilling moments, the peaks (and the valleys). It seems, though, that we spend most of our time in preparation, or circling, or considering. Probably worth investing some effort into our performance there, and enjoying those parts as well.
Google announced today that its self-driving cars have logged over 300,000 miles without a single accident — a step closer to being able to say, “Look Mom, no hands!” without running over your mom.
The company announced the milestone on its blog, saying employees will be able to start taking these cars to and from work without a second researcher in the passenger seat. Up until now, testing has been done in pairs, but those on the self-driving team will start using the cars for short solo tasks such as commuting.
Before we get crazy and start expecting our own robot , Google says it has a couple of things to work on. First off, the cars need to be able to to detect one-off construction signals, a task Google calls “tricky.” The cars will also need to get experience driving on snowy terrain.
Recently Google received a license from the state of Nevada to “drive” its autonomous cars on Nevada roads. The state approved regulations for self-driving vehicles in February, which included getting the green light (so to speak) from insurance companies, car manufacturers, law enforcement, and other involved parties. In order to drive in Nevada, self-driving cars will have special license plates to alert surrounding drivers to their presence. Autonomous cars being tested with have a red infinity logo and those owned by civilians will have a green infinity logo. This green logo, of course, will only come into existence when self-driving cars are being manufactured for the public.
Self-driving car photo via Zack Sheppard/Flickr
Filed under: VentureBeat