Those Dogs! An Amazon Story.

I've been thinking about real life vs. socially constructed life online. This is a story about how real life can be a huge SEO boost. 

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to 'Explore Amazon' in Seattle. Alongside 40 + designers, marketers, futurists, psychologists, anthropologists, artful developers (these are the developers who identify as artists of code) and user experience practitioners I listened to some fascinating talks from various groups. From the future of voice design to the complex nuances of getting your orders in 20 minutes - and so on. While all of this was great for my design obsessed brain, it was the dogs everywhere that really got me thinking. 


What did employees do when their dog needed to run? What about potential dog fights? How did everyone adapt in the hard working open spaces with spots of cute, makes-you-want-to-gush domestic life everywhere? I really didn't think I could cope. All that cuteness all day long. 

I was shown the 17th floor where an artful installation of green tennis balls populated the exiting wall. As well as towels for wet days and a full dog park to run them. 

Now, some years back I was tasked to analyze Amazon's relational database as a metric of usability success, as well as it's challenges. One of the variables in the analysis was qualifying backlinks. The electronic lint (low quality links coming in) potential was large to say the least. Today's Amazon is likely not so concerned with this. But this report took place before PRIME was born. 

The other day I was surfing into some usual 7 a.m. internet black hole and found myself on this page at Amazon: a super creative page. Especially entertained by the thoughtful crafting of the copy. But I couldn't help wondering if Amazon caught onto the stats of pet related SEO/SEM (up to 120% more than most sites on the web) and got creative by inviting dog culture into their corporate offices. Dogs follow people. SEO follows the hot story. Probably not. But if they did, I'm tipping my hat to them. 

I believe that the more companies innovate by connecting the live documentary in play (in life) with the essential value and story of their business the easier these customer site usability and SEM metrics are achieved:

  • Social currency
  • Brand comprehension
  • Patience with error
  • Increased quality in-links
  • Meaning driven SEO
  • Increased voice search-ability tags
  • Organic natural user intent (not just keywords)

Those Dogs!

When Listening to Customers Creates a Culture not Just a Business!

The driving force of language acquisition for the Bonobo Apes comes from what they hear from those around them who mean something to them. So the way to teach them is not to teach them.
—Susan Savage-Rumbaugh. TED Talks

Why does software get released before it's fully vetted? Wise companies are listening to their customers and tending the blind spots that inevitably occur when human problems are solved within the same consciousness that created them. Riffing on Einstein a bit there. 

Why is the woman who barely has a following getting on Oprah while other brands are working double time on their social media platform? It seems to boil down to something purely emotional doesn’t it? A sales first approach. 

While the perfect brand platform and precisely tested product UI displays a powerful introduction to who you are, how you care about your business, that's just the first step. And a solid one. The next is about charisma, chemistry, personality and accuracy. The interaction with your business promise, the character consistently expressed throughout and seeds something so inviting, it can't be resisted. Or better yet causes laughter or comfort in difficult times. When the brand creates an environment that says “I understand my brand is actually defined by you, dear audience. I am the atmosphere maker, the functionality provider, the provider."

Brands are meant to grow in conversation not transactional conversion. A brand is not just a logo anymore, it’s an evolving organism; a cultural event.

The audience is our human DNA--cultural milieu it's always informing businesses how to be better and serve more accurately. When businesses listen, brands grow as organically as love between people, as a garden, as the rising emotion of an audience seated before an extraordinary performance. Brands happen in between it all.

I love how Susan Savage-Rumbaugh in her Ted Talk says:
"To teach the apes language is not to teach at all but to create a meaningful culture with people who matter to them. They learn in the listening."

Coffee Roasting, High Concept (or not)

I'm always questioning how far to take metaphor in design conceptualization. I got very excited about helping Sun Microsystems announce one of their Java products earlier in my career. I love coffee. Any chance to sketch, research and think about the mechanics behind this happiness was just find with me. I sat in a cafe and sketched this old fashioned coffee roaster live. I couldn't capture the gold reflected polished brass. But it didn't matter. I just wanted to know one thing ... how to map the functional aesthetic of the coffee roaster to the educational elements of the product launch. If you study this closely, my first draft of mapping this logic fails greatly. Too wide of a gap and not correct in terms of action. For instance, registration is the final step. The cooling of the beans in metaphorical terms implies that customers will be done with the process, yes -- but it also leaves them suspended. Cooling. When in fact, registration is just beginning. 

It flopped. But metaphor is an engaging start point. And if it's important to go all the way, there are several options. Animation, or street films to open up the concept and expand the business meaning. But often what happens due to budget constraints and priorities is the metaphor gets killed or someone takes the image and uses it as not intended. 

Metaphor has inherent limitations. There's a black and white quality to it. On a different project I accessed old images of the London Tube to create an advertorial intranet metaphor with subway transitions as the underpinning of action. It worked perfectly. There was zero confusion. This rarely happens. As for my lil' coffee roaster, it will be well placed in a book I'm working on now "The Traveling Bean: Coffee Tribes Around the Globe" -- it all gets recycled somehow. 

Even though metaphor is limited in use, I will never stop using it as a creative thinking prompt. You never know where it might go.