Why I’m So Fond of my Fitbit

I got a Fitbit a few weeks ago, and I’m really fond of it.

Not in any perverse way.  It’s what Apple product fanboys and -girls say about Apple products: it just works.

What’s going on?

  1. Elegant hardware design.  It’s a nifty little hi-tech clothes pin, with two-tone colors and the fabled One Button interface  (In all honesty, I have mixed feeling about One Button interfaces: there are invariably secret button pressing combinations that you have to remember; might be easier to just have another button).  But I’m carping.  The design is satisfying and elegant.
  2. Does one thing well.  I think the old debate between having one device to do everything or multiple devices has been settled in favor of multiple devices.  Most people I know have more than one mobile or portable device, and have use cases for each.  In FitBit’s case, the one thing is measuring footsteps and altitude changes (well, OK, maybe that’s two things, but the idea is to measure your level of activity during the day.)  (And then again, The FitBit Ultra also tries to measure your sleep quality; I think the job it does here is suboptimal; maybe should be left to another device.)
  3. The one thing it does well is a big plus for me.  I could see myself becoming one of those Quantified Self people; I love having the seamless feed of my activity into my diet software; I sort of have a vision where other stuff feeds in as well.  I don’t know if I’ll start wearing one of those headbands for sleep EEG waves, but I am toying with a FitBit Aria wireless scale.  If only the scale is accurate enough (I’ve had bad experiences with previous digital scales).

What’s not to like? 


Competitive positioning

A lot of our companies have a hard time with competitive positioning.

Maybe I’m a nerd, but it seems pretty straight ahead to me.

I take my playbook from Hammacher Schlemmer.  When they have something in their catalog, it’s either “best” or “only”.  Maybe, once in a blue moon, it’s “first” as well.  But “first” has all too brief a moment in the sun before it has to become “best” or “only” or die.

So my formula for competitive position is something like: “<Widget> is the <only-or-best> <solution> with <benefit(s)>”

  • “VHS is the only videotape format with 3 1/2 hours recording time” (I think that was the number)
  • “Baby aspirin is the best medicine for preventing heart attacks” (Maybe that’s true, maybe not, but you get the idea.)
  • “Hydrogen is the only fuel with no greenhouse emissions.”


United/Continental Seat Snafu

I flew out to the Bay Area this week, and found, when I went to check in for my outbound flight the day before my departure, that my seat had been changed from the Economy Plus aisle seat I had booked six weeks before to a middle seat.  (If you’re not a Slave of United, Economy Plus is the front of the Economy cabin where there’s actually enough leg room to sit without cramping.)

I called United, and the customer service woman I spoke with told me:

  1. She couldn’t get me a better seat than the window seat I could see on the website
  2. This was an ongoing and known problem, one more result of IT glitches in the merger of the two companies.
  3. There would probably be seating problems for “six months or more” in the future.

I’m not sure all the parts fit together here.  What kind of snafu would re-shuffle the seating map?  Was everyone reshuffled?  Just me?  Why?  How?  And why couldn’t someone go over the mistakes by hand and improve the lot, at least, of the “elite status” flyers?

But assume it’s all true, what does it say about the future of global industry?  If every time there’s a merger it means a churn-o-genic event like this takes place, how can mergers be adaptive?

Coincidentally, I was going out to a “maker movement” conference in Palo Alto, the Make Magazine Hardware Innovation Workshop (a terrific conference with a very hot new tech category), and what these are aiming to do is eat the lunch of large manufacturers.  If a nimble 10-person organization can, say, build cars like Local Motors (one of the presenters at #MakeHIW), why on earth will you need a GM or a Toyota in the future?

Can someone hurry up and disrupt United-Continental?  Or maybe disrupt all mergers?

Lessons learned in online marketing; still a lot to learn

For reasons historical and accidental, I’ve ended up in charge of most of Valhalla’s marketing and public relations.  For those who follow my posts, it’s not the most natural fit for a reformed geek.  But I’m really enjoying learning about it.

Some of the big lessons so far (and probably obvious to anyone in the field):

  • Marketing online is much more like a conversation than a lecture.  The audience is stuck in the lecture.  The online audience can click away in a beat.  People linger online over what engages them, and the main thing still that engages people online is conversation.
  • You have know what your audience is thinking.  Putting yourself in the mind of the personae you are talking to online is the best way to come up with engaging content that will get and hold their interest.  At each turn in a blog post or a tweet, I try to have in mind what my ideal reader is thinking at that moment and let that insight guide what I write.
  • Measure, test, measure.  Online you can measure almost everything.  Even branding becomes measurable — or, our entrepreneurs assure us, will soon become measurable. And the medium is superb for perpetual testing and improvement.  Doing A/B testing is just a best practice, it’s table stakes for anyone wanting to do online marketing.

Please let me know what I’m missing. 

Great audience and panel at #LeadingEdge2012

Great event in Atlanta this morning.  Big crowd, lots of energy, lots of questions, and one of the best panels I’ve been on in a while:

Dan Homrich (@TheRedWave), CEO Smartsoft Mobile solutions

Tiffany Trent, Director of Strategic Solutions at First Data

Tim Cannon, VP of Product Management at Jackson Healthcare

Caroline Van Sickle, CEO Pretty in My Pocket (PrIMP)

Good mix of B2C, B2B, security, payments, beauty, enterprise apps.

Here’s a pdf of my presentation (although it’s more Pinterest-like than textual):

Download this file