Branding and Innovation need to be managed centrally

Brand management and Innovation are two complementary and interwoven business activities and companies are well-served to manage them with the same team.

For large companies, a brand is a very valuable asset. It helps customers recognise you, easily understand what you stand for, and it simplifies the customer’s purchase decisions. Managing this important asset of the business falls on the marketing team, generally speaking.

A brand however also needs product and service innovation, in order to keep up with changing consumer needs and category dynamics as well as generate growth. This aspect, however, is not always/exclusively managed by the marketing team.

I would strongly argue that the marketing team should have the lead role in both activities (brand and innovation management), as coordination of these functions can make the brand stronger and more effectively and efficiently communicated.

Covering the same needs

Both activities have in common that they address customer needs, though in different and complementary ways. When thinking of customer needs, we often distinguish three layers:

  • Emotional needs
  • Social/identity needs
  • Functional needs

The brand is very important when addressing emotional and social/identity needs, though it will also extend into the coverage of functional needs.

On the other hand, when it comes to product / service innovation, we often focus on the functional needs that the new product / service addresses, but there is a strong argument that we need to understand the emotional needs very well in order to ensure that we connect with potential customers.

The Marketing team should be the voice of the customer within a company and they should have the best understanding of what their functional and non-functional needs are. Hence, they should be best suited to lead both functions, brand management and innovation management.

Mutual impact

Moreover, the functions actually influence one another quite substantially: A brand’s positioning influences in which areas you can innovate, and at the same time innovations have an influence on how a brand is perceived.

According to Al Ries and Laura Ries in The 12 immutable laws of branding, one of the key aspects of a strong brand is its focussed nature. Using the same brand for a wide variety of solutions may weaken your brand. On the flip side, launching a new innovation under the same brand is easier in the short term than launching it under a new brand.

This very delicate relationship is difficult enough to manage within the same team, but even more difficult when spread out throughout the organisation.

So, yes, in conclusion, the marketing team should play a central role in both activities.

Stories make the world (and money) go around

The storyteller sets the vision, values and agenda of an entire generation that is to come.

- Steve Jobs

Stories are a vehicle that humans have used for ages to transfer “information” from generation to generation. Our minds have adapted to this powerful formula for understanding and remembering.

I am curious about how it works and how people/businesses can use it to be more effective communicators. I have read some books now related to the subject, which I shall mention at the end of this post, and I just wished to share some of the findings.

Elements that make up a good story

  1. The story needs to be identifiable or relatable. Something that the audience can understand or connect with.
  2. All great stories tell the story of a five-second moment in a person’s life. This is also the purpose and pinnacle of the story and therefore the end point.
    • Understand the essence of the message you wish to get across. The opposite is then the beginning.
  3. The change from the beginning to the end creates the arc of the story, and the human mind is drawn to such a transformation story.
  4. Every moment of the story should be a scene which is placed in a physical location, which is were the action, dialogue and internal monologues take place.
  5. A story needs to have stakes, which gives the audience a reason to want to know the next part.
  6. Stories need to move dynamically between scenes. Surprise and humour can add dynamism and emotional connection with the story and help keep the audience on the edge of their seat.
  7. Lastly, be efficient with language. Anything that does not support or bring clarity to the message, should be left out. Also, use natural, spoken language.

These are the parts of the story - the copy, if you will - but nowadays a story is often accompanied by images (or made up of it completely). Related to this, there is an interesting point that is made in the book Understanding Comics: more abstract images of individuals (as opposed to realistic) can feel more relatable, as it could be anyone (including you) rather than someone specific (not you). Additionally, more abstract imagery can also help place the focus on the message.

Possible implications for brands

  • Do not make the mistake of making your brand or company the main character in the story: it should be your customer. Centre your message on how you can help them.
  • Identify who the potential customer is and what problem (external and internal) you can help them with. Be sure to focus! Connecting with internal problems results in a greater motivator.
  • Your brand is positioned as the “Guide” in the story and it helps the customer achieve their transformation. A brand must communicate Empathy and Authority in order to position itself as a Guide.
  • Customers trust a guide who has a plan(s). These plans either clarify how somebody can do business with you, (a process plan), or they remove the sense of risk somebody might have (an agreement plan).
  • Your story should “push” your customer to take action otherwise they won’t: direct call-to-action (conversion) or a transitional call-to-action (nurturing).
  • Loss aversion is a greater motivator of buying decisions than potential gains. Therefore, make it clear both what life looks like when they buy your product/service as well as what happens if they don’t.

Last, but certainly not least, brands that connect with customers on a deeper level (irresistible brands?), tend to have higher market share, according to Kantar. And what brand doesn’t want that.

This story narrative works for attracting customers, but it can also help transform the company culture by avoiding the Narrative Void (a vacant space that occurs inside the organization when there’s no story to keep everyone aligned).

Wrap up

Without a doubt, these books make a great argument for the power of good story telling and give very concrete suggestions of how to use it. My points above are summarised to the extreme, but I hope you find something useful in it.

And if you want to chat about it, feel free to hit my up on Twitter or Mastodon.

The books are:

Breathing is even more crucial than you think

Never really thought a subject like breathing could be so fascinating. We do it all the time and mostly without thinking, but in reality there is so much to it. Both when we do it correctly as well as when do it incorrectly. If you are remotely interested in the subject, I highly recommend the following book. I for one am intend on applying many of the learnings and have in fact seen a drop in my blood pressure just by focussing on nasal breathing (don’t know whether the drop will last, but I have never seen these levels since I starting measuring it some 6 months ago).

The book I have read is Breath: the new science of a lost art by James Nestor.

And before you decide whether it is worth reading, please find below my 13 main take-aways. Surely some of it is interesting for you.

  1. Billions of years ago, the atmosphere on earth was filled with carbon dioxide. Early life forms used carbon dioxide as an energy source and oxygen was the waste product. Little by little the level of oxygen increased.
  2. Oxygen produces 16 times more energy than carbon dioxide.
  3. Newer life forms used Oxygen as their energy source and could become more complex beings, because of the increased energy obtained from it.
  4. Humans also use Oxygen as their main energy source and it is inhaled and then absorbed in the cells of our body through our longs and blood stream.
  5. Humans have become worse breathers throughout their history due to the changes in diet “thanks to” the advances in cooking.
    • Cooked food releases more easily energy, which has allowed us to have a larger brains, which left less space for sinuses, mouths and airways
    • And more importantly, cooked food is softer. Less chewing led to changes in our facial structure, which in turn also reduced space for airways.
  6. In order to improve our breathing, firstly we need to breath “exclusively” through the nose:
    • It increases nitric oxide sixfold. Nitric oxide plays an essential role in blood circulation and delivering oxygen to the cells.
    • When breathing through the nose, the body can regulate which nostril is used more for breathing, which in turn influences the 2 parts of the autonomous nervous system: right for sympathetic nervous system and left for parasympathetic nervous system.
    • If necessary, apply sleep tape at night.
  7. Lung capacity is one of the best indicators of expected life span. A typical adult only engages as little as 10 percent of the range of the diaphragm when breathing. Focus on fully exhaling to extend this range, at least during some time of the day.
  8. The best way to prevent many chronic health problems, improve athletic performance, and extend longevity is to focus on how we breathe, specifically to balance oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the body. To do this, we’d need to learn how to inhale and exhale slowly.
  9. Cells will absorb oxygen from the blood stream and release carbon dioxide. In fact, the amount of oxygen absorbed by a cell is determined by the amount of carbon dioxide in the cell. As a result, even when breathing more quickly then necessary, we don’t absorb more oxygen. However, the frequency of breathing does influence the level of carbon dioxide in our cells and blood stream (and exhaled breath), which is critical for other aspects such as pH level of the blood, blood vessel dialation.
    • There is a benefit to breathing slower and less and keeping carbon dioxide levels up (in the cells), so that oxygen absorption is optimum. The optimum amount of air we should take in at rest per minute is 5.5 liters and the optimum breathing rate is about 5.5 breaths per minute.
  10. One of the culprits of our poorer breathing was food and eating, well, the first step to improving airway obstruction isn’t orthodontics but instead involves maintaining correct “oral posture”. It just meant holding the lips together, teeth lightly touching, with your tongue on the roof of the mouth. Hold the head up perpendicular to the body and don’t kink the neck.
  11. Furthermore, we need to chew more. The more we gnaw, the more stem cells release, the more bone density and growth we’ll trigger, the younger we’ll look and the better we’ll breathe. Tools like the Homeoblock can help with this, if necessary.
  12. The author argues that there are illnesses and afflictions that are not easily solved by our current healthcare system: tingling fingers, chronic diarrhea, rapid heart rate, diabetes, autoimune disease, erectile disfunction. He argues that what they often suffer is from communication problems along the vagal and autonomic network, brought on by chronic stress. Fixing the autonomic nervous system can effectively cure or lessen these symptoms.
  13. Breathing allows us to intake oxygen, our source of energy. However, breathing is also a power switch to this autonomic nervous system: Willing ourselves to breathe slowly will open up communication along the vagal network and relax us into a parasympathetic state. Breathing really fast and heavy on purpose flips the vagal response the other way, shoving us into a stressed state.
    • Techniques for getting into both states are useful for this. It is the flip-flopping that is possibly key to obtaining the benefits. One of the techniques mentioned frequently regarding entering the stressed state is Tummo (inner fire medition). Check out Wim Hof on YouTube if interested.

The transformative power of health trackers

Health trackers are very popular gadgets. They come in at different price ranges and have different functionalities, but they clearly serve a purpose: people wish to track aspects of their activity and health, and the knowledge obtained can help stimulate making changes for the better.

Apple is especially active in this area with the Apple Watch. Initially, the positioning of the Apple Watch was all over the place, but very quickly Apple narrowed in on the Health functionalities of the watch. Every year, Apple expands on the information it can gather about our health through different sensors, as well analyse it in new and useful ways:

  • Sleep
  • Heart health notifications
  • Blood oxygen
  • Exercise and activity tracking
  • Ambient noise levels
  • Tracking menstrual cycle
  • Fall detection and gate analysis

Changes observed in my running through my watch

Personally, I have been using a smartwatch for many years now and have tracked my activity and other health aspects for that time. Admittedly, I have done so on different platforms (Withings, Google Fit, Samsung Health, Huawei Health, …) and don’t have years of information in one centralised place, but I continue using it actively.

Since last year, I am fully into the Samsung ecosystem and I have a Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2. Samsung’s health app has very nice stats for running, which I happen to do. In part, in fact, that is the reason I wanted to go with this watch.

I wish to share a very illustrative example of what this type of technology enables and which I think is pretty powerful. When running, it tracks of course your route, heart rate, steps, distance, speed and many more things. However, it also does an analysis of your running “technique”: assymetry, contact time, flight time, regularity, vertical, stiffness.

Now, generally speaking, I score Good on 4 of these aspects and Great on 2 of them. I am far from a great runner, so no surprise here.

Since reading the book Born to Run, I have always had an interest in the idea of letting the foot do the work it was designed to do rather sticking it in a shoe that limits its movement. As a results, in the summer, I like to run in a pair of Luna running sandals. The idea is that your body is much more atuned to the ground and its feedback and that you change - without active effort on your part - your running style: smaller stride, higher cadence, landing more on the midfoot to front foot, … Which is supposed to be beneficial.

In any case, to my surprise when I checked these advanced running metrics after running several times on my sandals this year, I could actually see that it registers a difference, where all of a sudden I pass to Great for contact time (which means it is reduced) as well as stiffness.

There is still so much potential and areas for growth

Of course, this is just anecdotal evidence, but I think this is the transformative power of these tools: allowing you to see the positive impact of changes you make in your life.

Now, tracking consistently and continuously information like sleep, weight, body composition, activity level, heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen level, blood sugar levels, movement data (for fall detection and gate analysis) is a powerful tool for preventative health care, I am sure.

New sensors are being developed, existing ones get better and cheaper and the processing of the raw data is something that is under continuous development for better diagnostics. All of this will make this more and more useful.

Looking at the future and the role this can play, as a user:

  • I want one central place where all information is stored, from all of my health devices.
  • Ideally speaking, existing devices such as the watch, earbuds, or even glasses, will add new sensors that allow recording more information.
  • But more than just information, the health solution should take the next step to giving diagnostics based on Big Data analytics.
  • And, crucially, all this information should be safely stored under the sole control of the user, where he/she can share it with their health professional safely as interpreting results and making sense of it often still requires the help of professionals.

So, is this the sort of tech you are enthousiastic about? Have you made any changes in your life based on the information measured? Hit my up on Twitter or Mastodon if you want to chat about this.

Signal gets the message out about personal data usage and data privacy

Signal has just designed a pretty brilliant marketing campaign for themselves, showing why people should potentially care about the privacy message that Signal so strongly pivots their product around and probably having the foresight that the campaign could lead to free PR.

If you don’t know Signal, it is a messenger app/service that prioritises privacy and wants none of your data (link to their web site).

Signal designed a marketing campaign on Instagram, where they created individualised ads incorporating some of the information that Facebook (Instagram’s parent company) has about the specific individual.

Facebook, though, didn’t like the campaign and quickly disabled the ad account that Signal has, stopping a campaign they were apparently uncomfortable with.

Well, this already smart ad campaign, will now benefit from some interesting free PR. Very smart, all together. In the source link, you will find the Signal blog post with some additional info.

Just for your interest, a few other examples of the ads:

Source (Signal blog): The Instagram ads Facebook won’t show you

Tech trends as seen by a quanitative futurist

Amy Webb is a Quantitative Futurist that started the Future Today Institute. I have listened to her many times on the TWIT network’s podcasts where she discusses future trends and have read her book The Big Nine, which I reviewed here.

Every year she (and her team) come out with a Trends Report that makes for very interesting reading. Make sure to check it out if you want to know what’s up with AI, Blockchain, Biotech, Tech regulation, Data Privacy and so much more. Here is the link to the landing page for The Future Today Institute’s 14th Annual Tech Trends Report.

Moving away from Google is easy, and you can (help) plant trees in the process

In my push to leave behind me as much of the data-tracking-web as possible, I have been using DuckDuckGo as my search engine rather than Google for the last 6 months. I can honestly say that, based on search results alone, I feel no need to go back. That being said, I wasn’t always very happy with the speed of the site. Sometimes it was fine, but other days, it was really slow.

So, I went looking for an alternative search engine and came across 2 that struck a cord with me: Qwant and Ecosia. For the last week and a half I have been using the latter, Ecosia, and I have to say I am satisfied. I haven’t seen it load results slowly yet and results have been good - and I am planting trees when using it :-). The only thing is that it doesn’t integrate on my mobile phone browsers very well (I think), so there I continue to use DuckDuckGo.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying it is better than Google, but I do encourage you to look beyond the go-to search engine if you are at all concerned with data tracking.

Accessibility should be on your radar too - check this out

As a person with no accessibility restrictions, I find it is sometimes difficult to really understand the world of hearing impaired, seeing impaired or those with reduced mobility. However, it is important to be aware of it and sensitive to it, primarily as a person but also for companies/brands that develop products and services.

If you feel equally curious about this as well, I have 3 recommendations of things to watch or listen to:

  1. First of all, in 2020 a movie called Sounds of Metal came out about a musician that loses his hearing. The film is not light-hearted, believe me, but it’s very much worth seeing.

  2. Secondly, on Netflix I saw a documentary called Rising Phoenix. It’s about the Paralimpic Games. If you can’t get inspired and/or be humbled by the stories told in this documentary, I think you may be a droid ;-). Absolute must-see material.

  3. Lastly, I listen to a podcast about mobile tech (the Phone Show Chat). Ted and Steve, the hosts, talk about their personal experiences with tech. Every now and then, they invite Steve Nutt, who is blind, to talk about how he uses mobile tech. In the latest episode (621), you can hear him explain how much technology can help him and also reinforces how incredibly important it is for tech companies to be working on Accessibility features to ensure it is inclusive.

Anyway, I hope you can set aside some time to check any or all out. There is something for everyone, and they are all enriching in their own right.

Unfortunately, there still is no viable alternative to WhatsApp

I have not been much of a Facebook fan for data privacy reasons. A couple of years ago I deleted my Instagram and Facebook accounts, in fact, and am now only connected to them via WhatsApp. However, living in Europe, it is a lot more difficult to get rid of that, so I have been very hesitant.

WhatsApp was supposed to stay independent and separate when it was purchased by Facebook in 2014, but users will have noticed lately that they need to accept a new privacy policy where data from Whatsapp will be shared with Facebook. Chats are, supposedly, still end-to-end encrypted, but it is a new step towards integration.

This new Privacy Policy together with people seeming to sign up for Telegram lately (I get notifications about that as I have the app installed), has made me review my intention to delete WhatsApp once again. However, although there are certainly technical alternatives that are basically just as good as WhatsApp, there is a real issue with the user base, making the services practically useless.

In my particular situation, for instance, I have 220 contacts on WhatsApp including all 14 of my adult close family members. Naturally, also all of my friends are on WhatsApp. So what about alternative solutions?

  • When looking at Telegram, I do see that 73 of my contacts are on the chat service which is not a bad stat at all, however, only 2 of my adult family members are amongst them, indicating that my crucial contacts don’t actually use it.
  • Signal, probably one of the most secure and private messaging services , only covers 12 of my contacts, including 2 adult family members.
  • And lastly, RCS is activated on 37 of my contacts' phones, including again 2 adult family members.

As you can see, Telegram is certainly best positioned for me to become the alternative chat service in my life, but I do need to convince first many family members and friends to jump over and we all know how difficult that is. At least, it appears in my circle that Telegram has a little bit of momentum, so I am keeping my fingers crossed.

RCS gives me some hope for a couple of reasons. Firstly, people don’t actually have to install a new service and sign up for it. We “just” need to wait for their operator and phone manufacturer to support it (which unfortunately Apple probably never will). And, secondly, it always has regular text messages as the back up.

My personal preference would be to use Signal, but at this point I just don’t see how that can become a mainstream solution given that it has been available already for many years and is a feature rich solution, but to little avail.

So, come February, I am afraid that I will have to accept the conditions in order to continue using WhatsApp as I just don’t see how I can reasonably leave it behind at this point.

To be continued…

[Podcast] The Tim Ferris Show - #490 Dr. Jim Loehr

I just listened to this podcast and I thought it was a worthy listen, so I am recommending it here.

The podcast is an interview with Jim Loehr who is a psychologist that helps top athletes and high performers manage performance and life. I just thought that some of the anecdotes were interesting, but certainly also the main message where high performance can only (bar some exceptions) be really/sufficiently satisfying if we also pay attention to the hidden score card that one has in their own head.

Source (#490 of The Tim Ferris show): Dr. Jim Loehr on Mental Toughness, Energy Management, the Power of Journaling, and Olympic Gold Medals

[Book review] How to take smart notes

Many books I read are interesting, but not all are “life changing”. This recent book certainly has the potential to fall in the latter category.

Overall, I like books that fall in the “productivity” category, but not all offer a leap forward in my way of working. Getting Things Done (GTD) by David Allen was a transformative book for me. It had so many good ideas bound together by a common sense process. I don’t apply it all religiously, but have benefited enormously from the book.

This latest book by Sonke Ahrens called How to Take Smart Notes is a book similar to GTD: good ideas bound together by a common sense process. Rather than focusing on personal productivity, this book’s topic is more related to knowledge management. The processes described in the book facilitate processing information and helping to advance your thinking.

The system described in the book is based on the Zettelkasten system developed by a German social scientist called Niklas Luhmann in the 20th century. He systematically processed information and included it in his second brain where he developed his thinking. This second brain was the Zettelkasten, or slip box in English.

Both GTD and Zettelkasten have things in common: the brain is great for having ideas, but very poor at holding them, and they need to be externalised into a system. For any system to work, you need to intuitively trust it. In order to intuitively trust it, it needs to be common sense and easy enough to use.

So what is a Zettelkasten system? It is composed of 3 parts:

  1. Ubiquitous capture tool (which GTD also has) for fleeting notes (thoughts that come in your mind throughout the day that are interesting enough to revisit later)
  2. A reference system to keep track of what you have read / seen / listened to and their related notes (1 note per source)
  3. The slip box system itself for all permanent thoughts and insights, together with its index.

So how do you work with such a system?

  1. Make fleeting notes, whenever they come up
  2. Make reading / reference notes
  3. Make permanent notes based on the fleeting notes and the recent reading/reference notes to advance your thinking and insights ( develop ideas, arguments and discussions). 1 idea per note, written in full sentences, disclosing sources, making the necessary references and being brief/precise.
  4. Add permanent notes to slip box. Create an index with entry points to the slip box. For every new note, make sure it can be found by either linking to it from the index or linking to it from another note that is used as an entry point to a discussion or topic itself and is linked to the index.

The eventual objective is to develop your topics, questions and research projects bottom up from within the slip box system, following what you already have in it and adding to it.

In my experience, it is trickier to apply than GTD, but also potentially more transformative, I feel. So, I am giving it a shot and will try to revisit the topic based on progress I make.

If you are interested, I am leaving you here the link to the book on GoodReads.

This twitter thread from Chris Herd of First Base HQ about remote working and the possible implications on society and business is an interesting read.

Personally, I have been working from home for the last 9 months. It has been a very successful experience. I am certainly not saying that seeing colleagues in the office does not have some advantages, but I don’t feel it is outweighed by the disadvantages of commuting and office hours. I have worked at Kantar for quite some time and know a lot of people and the ins and outs of the company, so that makes working remotely easier, admittedly.

In any case, my ideal situation is probably working in the office 1-2 days a week. I do realise it is a personal preference though.

Source (twitter):…

The US elections are around the corner and we will, hopefully, soon know who the US President is for the next 4 years. The polls currently have Biden winning, but we all remember that Clinton was also winning 4 years ago. So, should we believe the polls this time around? Have they learned?

An interesting article in a Dutch newspaper argues that they have fixed the main issues and that we can be more confident in the predictive nature of the current polls:

  1. They are now better representing the different population segments in the polls, such as the lower educated segment of the population that gave Trump a boost in the election 4 years ago.
  2. The polls now focus less on national popular vote, but rather take into account the US voting system, where results should be measured by State. In the past, State-level polls were of worse quality, but that has improved, according to the article.

Although not necessarily related to the quality of the polls, this time around the share of undecided voters is lower, making it easier to predict the results.

So yes, it seems that the industry has reflected and fixed some of the issues that caused them to incorrectly predict a Clinton victory. Naturally, there is no guarantee, but it does seem that the results of the polls should be closer to reality.

Source (NRC Handelsblad): Biden gaat aan kop, maar kloppen de peilingen?

Can we actually show that facebook influences elections?

More and more people get their news from social media sites nowadays. This fact combined with the suspicion that the facebook site has had a notable impact on the 2016 US elections and with the 2020 elections around the corner, make the linked news article quite interesting.

As anybody in research will tell you, in order to establish a causal effect (does facebook influence elections?), any experimental research design needs to have a control and experimental group, but with just about everybody using Facebook and/or Instagram, it is rather difficult to establish the real influence as there is no real “comparable” control group.

So, Facebook has taken it upon themselves to create a control group:

According to international media reports, the company has decided to ascertain the role of social media giants and their influence and therefore Facebook has decided to offer $120 to its users to deactivate their accounts at the end of September.

It will need to closely monitor any other behaviour participants have around news gathering (do they now use twitter, youtube, … instead?), but it is an interesting angle. I am curious about the results of this research project, but do wonder how much will be shared publicly.

Source (Republic World): Facebook To Pay US Users To Stop Using Its Services Until Elections

In line with the books I mentioned yesterday about AI, the linked article from Wired discusses how Google is offering companies to help address ethical issues around AI.

The company plans to launch new AI ethics services before the end of the year. Initially, Google will offer others advice on tasks such as spotting racial bias in computer vision systems, or developing ethical guidelines that govern AI projects. Longer term, the company may offer to audit customers’ AI systems for ethical integrity, and charge for ethics advice.

Google Offers to Help Others With the Tricky Ethics of AI - WIRED

Privacy and Artificial Intelligence - are we supposed to be worried?

Lately I have read a couple of books about privacy and artificial intelligence. These subjects are quite related, as massive amounts of data are required to make artificial intelligence work and that directly leads to privacy considerations.

We all benefit one way or another in our daily lives from sharing our data, e.g. by accessing free tools (such as Facebook and Google) or by using tools that already start to benefit from AI (such as Google Assistant or Google Maps). However, there are lots of things to be worried about. Both books take a closer look at this and I just thought I’d share them here as I found both of them to a worthy read.

The Age of Surveillance capitalism by [Shoshana Zuboff] (

A lot of the ideas in this [book] ( are quite interesting. Few people will argue that we are losing our privacy to tech companies. However, not everyone is equally worried about the implications of this and how these companies go about gathering the information. The book is a good eye-opener for the latter and gives food-for-thought regarding the former.

Zuboff brings to life the consequences as surveillance capitalism advances from Silicon Valley into every economic sector. According to the book, vast wealth and power are accumulated in ominous new “behavioral futures markets,” where predictions about our behavior are bought and sold, and the production of goods and services is subordinated to a new “means of behavioral modification.”

The threat has shifted from a totalitarian Big Brother state to a ubiquitous digital architecture: a “Big Other” operating in the interests of surveillance capital. Here is the crucible of an unprecedented form of power marked by extreme concentrations of knowledge and free from democratic oversight.

Should you be interested in the book - and I do recommend it if you are into this subject matter - then I suggest looking at an abridged version (the author is a bit wordy).

Summary of the book to be found [here] (

The Big Nine by [Amy Webb] (

In this [book] (, Amy Webb reveals the pervasive, invisible ways in which the foundations of AI – the people working on the system, their motivations, the technology itself – is broken. According to Webb, within our lifetimes, AI will, by design, begin to behave unpredictably, thinking and acting in ways which defy human logic. The big nine corporations (6 US companies and 3 Chinese companies) may be inadvertently building and enabling vast arrays of intelligent systems that don’t share our motivations, desires, or hopes for the future of humanity.

Above all, she argues for us to think very well about what we want and what role we want AI to play, as we can still make decisions to ensure that AI ends up benefiting humanity, but in order to do so the status quo needs to be broken. Specifically, in the latter part of the book she describes the near future for optimistic, realistic and pesimistic scenarios depending on how we deal with AI. They are certainly worth a read.

Summary of the book to be found [here] (

After reading both books, it is difficult not to be “worried” about AI. AI offers clearly many possibilities for humanity, but it is very easy for it to get out of our collective control. Reading these books has made me more aware of the issues, but The Big Nine has also made it clear that we are still in time to manage this “properly” - although that will not be easy. All in all, I think I’d recommend The Big Nine above The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. Both have interesting ideas, but The Big Nine feels like a more practical and less theoretical book and comes to the point quicker.

As was to be expected, smartphone sales dropped significantly in Q2 2020. The question is how manufacturers react in this environment. Changes can be made in the product portfolio, pricing and promotion strategy as well as sales channel strategies.

Samsung suffered most, but I would venture that their wide product range and economies of scale should have allowed them to react better. The article mentions the Note 20 as a possible saviour for Samsung, but I doubt that, even though it is a great product. It is just the wrong price at the wrong time for it make a significant impact.

Source (TechCrunch): [COVID-19 blamed as smartphone sales plummet 20% in Q2] (

Ben always writes interesting analyses and I think this article is worth reading if you want to understand what is going on between Apple and Epic Games. There is no doubt in my mind that all the pressure Apple is under will lead to some changes in their App Store policies, which is a good thing for developers and also users.

Epic is attacking every level of the iPhone stack: the company doesn’t just want a direct relationship with customers, and it doesn’t just want to use its own payment processor; it is also demanding the right to run its own App Store.

Source (Stratechery): Apple, Epic, and the App Store

The launch of Surface Duo is a large scale public beta test, and I applaud Microsoft for it.

We’ve known about the Surface Duo for quite some time, but Microsoft has finally made it “official”. However, rather than an actual product launch, it feels much more like a beta programme.

That is necessary to a large extend, as the foldable phone category is very young. We’ve seen many companies try different ways and we clearly haven’t settled yet on THE foldable form factor.

In the case of the Surface Duo, we are looking at two independent screens rather than a foldable screen as we’ve seen in the Galaxy Fold phones. Microsoft has some good ideas, that it has showcased, of how this is better for the user, but we’re clearly not there yet.

I don’t want to take anything away from the product, though, because it looks really well designed and thought through, and I for one am really excited, but clearly this is a .5 version. Rather than just refining it in the labs, Microsoft will allow consumers to play with it and shape the future development, I can only imagine.

Firstly, there is the hardware. It is beautifully designed with what appears to be a great working hinge, which will be important to make this work well. However, it has last year’s processor, doesn’t ship with 5G, it has incredibly large bezels, and it has a small battery. These are big “flaws” for a device that comes in at 1.400 USD and are really a result of having been in development for a long time (apparently, the hardware has been ready for some time).

Then there is the software. Microsoft is launching this with an adapted version of Android. The two-screen UI allows for apps to take up both screens, but divide the app in panes. Microsoft will have its apps ready, but developers will need to time to play with this new paradigm (if they will actually adapt their app to take advantage of the capability). Launching it early and letting people and developers play with it, is of course a great thing for the development of this new product category.

Lastly, it is only launching this phone in the US, which again indicates they want the roll-out to be small for now, so they can gather feedback. It’s not yet about market share or revenue.

As a researcher that helps companies in product development, I can only imagine what a luxurious situation this is for the product team. Microsoft does well financially and can afford to do this. They will learn a lot and it will help them building the next version. I am very excited to see this.

Source (The Verge): [Microsoft’s Surface Duo arrives on September 10th for $1.399] (

Samsung brought out a new set of totally wireless earbuds, the Galaxy Buds Live. The most innovative aspect of the product is its design. The look is very distinctive (they look like a bean), but from the linked review it appears that Samsung did not forget about the basics. Personally, I can’t wait to try them.

Galaxy Buds Live review: good beans, no compromises

Samsung’s screens have always been best-in-class. They offered higher refresh screens a little later, but this innovation brings real benefits and I can’t wait to see how it does on the Note 20 Ultra.

Samsung Display Announces First VRR Mobile Display - Inside Note20 Ultra

The updated Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 is a really nice gen. 2 product. It’ll still be really expensive, but it looks like the ultimate in mobile computing! Samsung announces the Galaxy Z Fold 2 with bigger screens and better cameras - The Verge

The EC wishes to investigate the Fitbit purchase by Google and that is bad news for Wear OS

Yesterday the European Commission (EC) announced that it will open an in-depth investigation into the proposed acquisition of Fitbit by Google. Google agreed to purchase Fitbit in November 2019, but the purchase has not yet been formalised as it is being looked at by Authorities.

Specifically, the EC’s main reason for opening this investigation is:

The data collected via wrist-worn wearable devices appears, at this stage of the Commission’s review of the transaction, to be an important advantage in the online advertising markets.

I think the advertisement angle is interesting and I suggest you read the source article linked below, but there is an additional implication of course, which has to do with how this impacts Wear OS.

Google launched Android Wear - its wearable OS - many years ago, but has frankly not been able to get real traction. Apple Watch is clearly a success and I think we can safely say that the Galaxy Watches are also doing quite well, but Wear OS (as it is called now) has never been a great success despite Android’s clear success.

There are hardware issues that need to be resolved, certainly, but there is also a software and services part. A big part of a wearable is the health tracking and Wear OS with Google Fit just does not have a great solution in place. Buying, and integrating, Fitbit is a possible solution, but that will now have to wait. The question is, how much longer can Google wait before it is just too late for Wear OS?

Source (European Commission): [Mergers: Commission opens in-depth investigation into the proposed acquisition of Fitbit by Google] (

Is Google investing 450 million USD in ADT really the best next step for Nest?

In 2014, Google purchased Nest. After many years of product and brand strategy changes, it seems that Nest is finally within Alphabet the brand for all home tech (home assistants, thermostat, security cameras and even wireless home networking).

Yesterday, Google made an important next step for the Nest brand by investing 450 million USD in ADT, an alarm system company. This should give ADT access to smarter cameras and Google to a new sales channel. It’ll be interesting to see how far the integration between Nest cameras and ADT’s alarm system will go (pretty sure that is a subtantial technical challenge).

Personally, I have my doubts about whether Google should have done this. It seems like quite a lot of money for just accessing a new sales channel. ADT is a human resource intensive business, whereas Google with its Nest cameras focuses more on high tech cameras, good software and good solutions, but all very scaleable.

I realise that without a monitored alarm system, some would argue that Nest cameras give a false sense of security, but I wonder whether an emphasis on convenience and control could be enough to strongly position Nest. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out and whether Google starts coming to similar agreements with other alarm companies in other countries.

Source (TechCruch): [Google to invest $450M in smart home security solutions provider ADT] (