Apple’s Warning To Developers Means More Health Value for Customers

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Tomorrow is a big day for both consumers and marketers alike as Apple is poised to announce the launch of their next iPhone and it’s accompanying operating system, iOS8. This year, one of the big highlights of the updated technology is a focus on personal, data driven health. As wearables continue to be all the rage, Apple and Google both are rumored to be including advanced tracking mechanisms into their phones, allowing them to go beyond simple surface level data (such as steps, diet, calories, and sleep) into more meaningful measures of personal health. When you pair that with another big trend, data aggregation, you get a device that can do what many electronic medical record systems have failed to do well: namely, provide deep insight into personal health that can be used by both a person and their doctor to stay ahead of any complications in their health. 

As a healthcare marketer, I’ve already been thinking about how we could potentially leverage this platform for various patients and disease states to bring added value to the pharmaceutical products we represent.  However, last week Apple issued a statement to developers saying that no HealthKit data can be sold to third party advertisers. After hearing this, I decided to think a little bit more about this decision.

The way I see it, Apple doesn’t want HealthKit to become a mess of banner ads, plaguing the screen real-estate and taking people away from the information that’s really important. They want a clean experience that can actually affect the way people look at their health. Seeing that they also want this to be something that helps doctors and patients collaborate, it probably wouldn’t serve well to turn HealthKit into WebMD, where everyone and their mother is giving you a diagnostic opinion. Additionally, Apple and third-party developers have to tread carefully regarding HIPAA (health information privacy) regulation and the sharing of personally identifiable information (PII). I imagine, while this is something they could work with the government to overcome, it may be better left alone for now. 

On the other hand, it’s a little unclear whether or not the third-parties, who tie their apps into HealthKit’s system, will still be able to sell data through their own apps if they so choose. Since HealthKit is really just a visualization platform (as far as I can tell) consumers would still be doing a lot of their interaction through third-party apps. Thus, it remains to be seen whether a third-party can sell their own data to advertisers through their app. Basically we’d get only one piece of the data rather than the full profile of a user. 

Personally, while I lament the loss of such great targetability, I think this is a good decision by Apple. As marketers, there is so much more we can do than just send out really targeted push messages. Apple is giving marketers and pharmaceutical companies the chance to really add to a person’s health experience and build tools that allow patients on these products keep an eye on multiple issues at once. In the office we often discuss how to build platforms like this, that can help the patient truly understand their situation and their treatment plan and I think HealthKit has the potential to make great strides on that front. 

One of the great hinderances of healthcare marketing is that you can’t really make implications or associate your product to anything outside of its specific indication. This can be limiting for patients since often times there are significant lifestyle impacts or potential effects on other aspects of their life even when only considering treatment for one condition. Think about the relationship between asthma and exercise, diabetes and diet, or smoking and emphysema. HealthKit will allow pharmaceutical brands to keep their information contained on their app but by tying it into HealthKit, they can still (theoretically) allow patients to look at their medication and disease related information in context of all the rest of their health information. 

Until the official release (and likely even longer judging by the FDA’s track record) it remains to be seen how the FDA and regulatory teams will respond and view this new tool. However, that should not deter marketers but rather challenge them to explore and experiment in an effort to actually guide and modernize this regulation. We should be looking for new and better ways to use these new systems that could standardize health tracking for A LOT of people. In many cases, health is not a one-and-done transaction. It’s important that as these trends become more important and more common place that we treat health and chronic disease as the long term relationship. Rather than the unfortunate standard where we often awkwardly continue hard-selling people who have already bought, we can and should be leveraging this technology, when applicable, to help patients navigate the entire course of their treatment from beginning to end, never leaving them to fend for themselves. 


How do you feel about Apple’s upcoming HealthKit (or Google’s Fit for that matter)? Let me know in the comments below! You can also find the original Fast Company Article here:

From the RTC Blog: Multisensory Marketing, Experience the Sound of Taste

Read the original post here: 

If you’ve been following my blog long, you’ll know that one of my biggest interests (and my career) is in creating experiences. Words like immersive, natural, engaging are some of my favorites and show up all the time. Well my latest blog for RTC was no exception and covered a project that was rather unique in this topic and I wanted to make sure I shared it with my readers.

The story involved a challenge from the client (as most marketing tales do). The agency team was tasked with finding a way to make a product as simple as spices come alive in a way that was intriguing and engaging. While this is fairly standard fare within the agency world, it’s always a tricky ask; we’re talking about spices here not the fanciest piece of new technology. However, despite the fact that spices are a basic cooking commodity, if you look deeper, past the cheesy plastic packaging, they’re actually a really rich product. Spices have intense colors, intricate textures, and complex flavors.

The team was able to leverage this using a mix of traditional and digital media. They used different paint styles to express the various colors, textures, and intensities of different spices. Then, after digitizing the creation, they used a special conductive ink to print their posters. What this allowed them to do, was code each different spice with a different musical chord that could be played on an accompanying iPhone app. When someone ran their fingers over the poster, their speakers would let loose a symphony that expressed the burst of flavors you were seeing and touching. 

How they decided what spice sounded like what is beyond me, but the execution of this ask is stunning. It’s a beautiful visual that doesn’t stop there. The piece transcends one sense and draws you deeper into the product by engaging four of the five senses. The fifth sense is obviously leveraged when you buy the spice and taste for yourself. 

That’s a pretty comprehensive summary, but if you want a little more detail, plus the case study video, head on over to the RTC blog for the original post. 

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From the RTC Blog: Is Amazon the New Leader in Digital Health?


This article was originally posted on the RTC Blog. You can read the full version there.

Summer time isn’t only the time for tans and vacations, it’s also the time when all of the big tech companies announce all of their new hardware and software. This year, a major software focus was on personal health apps, which was no surprise with all the wearable fitness bands and smart watches being introduced to the market. Apple and Google both showed off new health data aggregators that will work with various apps to give you a more holistic and digestible view of your personal health.  

However, a few weeks ago, Amazon jumped into the ring with their first smartphone aptly named the Fire Phone. Unlike the other brands, Amazon didn’t touch on healthcare at all, choosing instead to focus on technologies that leveraged their core competency, shopping. The phone also features 4 unique sensors on the face, similar to the Xbox Kinect that allows the screen to produce 3D images that shift along with your perspective. 

Now despite not touching on health related purposes, some tech and marketing pundits have started speculating on whether those special sensors might mean a new age of powerful, 3D healthcare apps. The focus so far has been largely on personal health apps, much like Apple and Google but I actually see a different perspective; one that could bring doctors and patients much closer together…assuming people really pick up on the Fire Phone anyway!


You can find my full article on the RTC Blog. Check it out and share it!

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WPP Atticus Under 30 Submission

Hey everyone,

Recently I had the chance to enter an essay into the WPP Atticus Under 30 Competition. It’s a thought leadership contest for young employees throughout the global WPP advertising network. It’s 1000 words and I know that’s long, but I’d appreciate it if you’d give it a read and take part in the discussion:

“The time when it was possible to be universally well-informed is past. The ideal of an ‘all-round’ education is out of date; it has been destroyed by the progress of knowledge.”­­­­­­-Bertrand Russell, Sceptical Essays, 1928. Knowledge has progressed still further since 1928; and so has technology. Was Russell right then; and is he now?

Knowledge is a complex concept in philosophy. The quote above, which questions whether we can obtain both breadth and depth of knowledge, implies that what we know about the world is increasing too fast for any one person to keep up. I disagree. With technology and the desire to share, we create what I call “collective knowledge”, the aggregate knowl­edge of all people. By leveraging the expertise of others, we can become informed on almost any topic whenever we feel the need.

Even in the 1920s I believe it was possible to be universally informed, however I do not think Russell and his peers were prepared for it. The mindset was wrong; it was not efficient to try and understand everything. Industrial developments from the early 1900’s were still moving the world forward rapidly and for over a century, economists preached specialization: develop your inherent talents then figure out how to pair those skills with someone else’s. The problem is that specialization constrains knowledge transfer to within a specific industry, primarily to gain economies of scale. The philosophy mutes the benefits of expanding communication channels to leverage the wealth of human information more broadly. Thus, technology, while improving, was mainly used to build products that brought everyday convenience not for connectivity and conversation.

Eighty-six years later, the level of knowledge and information in the world continues to increase exponentially. As technology advanced so has humanity’s bank of knowledge to the point where, some might make the case that Russell’s philosophy is as true, if not more so, than ever before. From personal computers, to instant messaging, to social media and smartphones, humanity as a whole is learning more and more in real time. For the first time in history, everyone can be a creator of knowledge and that knowledge can be made public in an instant. Technology has broken down temporal, distance, and language barriers. People can discover something, have it questioned, discuss it with the other side of the globe, and advance the discovery, all in a matter of seconds.

How then, amidst a constant state of flux, could anyone be well rounded or universally informed? How could anyone disagree with Russell?

Let me explain.

The growing power of technology and its seamless integration into our lives, means that it is time for the definition of “informed” to change. I truly believe that a person can be well informed simply because they have the thoughts and opinions of the entire world at their fingertips.

As technology continues to transform into an extension of ourselves, it is becoming less necessary for us to be individually knowledgeable. We are moving towards an age of science fiction where we have all the knowledge we could want, or, alternatively, the means to ask new questions, sitting in our pocket. Soon it will be common practice to be wearing computers all over our body and that technology will make us more aware of our selves and surroundings than ever before. We will be able to understand languages we cannot speak[1], find places we have never been, laugh with people we have not seen in years, all without even breaking a stride.

At a certain point, it is going to become difficult to draw the line between ourselves and our technology. We are connected. We are connected to that  “collective knowledge”, and when we need new information we simply need to draw on the crowd for guidance. Individuals and organizations, we are not limited by what we have been taught or what we have experienced. At any time we can crowdsource the experience we need and use that knowledge to move ourselves forward.

So how is this any different than specialization? While technically we are still trading our knowledge with each other, this is the first time we can access it with such immediacy, for free. The information is just waiting, ready to be integrated and adapted and put to use in new ways. The people who are truly universally informed are the ones who are skilled at doing just that. If you can tap into that collective knowledge, understand it, and reshape it to suit your needs, you can be well rounded. Forbes[2] recently featured an article on a new specialty based on this practice, and I have become somewhat enamored with it.

Meet the Generalist.

These types possess the well-rounded training Russell doubts, and that gives them some foundational insight into different skillsets and expertise. They may be better at some then others, but they know where and how to search for information, allowing them to choose the knowledge they need at any given time. This is not the jack-of-all-trades that is traditionally looked down upon; this is a new breed that leverages technology and their peers to bring unique perspectives to environments dominated traditionally by experts.

The Generalist is the archetype that defies Bertrand Russell’s assertion and they are becoming more and more prevalent. Each new generation (including the one writing this paper) is growing up with an affinity for using technology that is almost second nature. Unlike during Russell’s time, information technology is being universally recognized for its range of applications and everyday practicality. Now it’s even being integrated into classrooms, familiarizing us early on with the variety of ways being connected can enhance our lives.

Bertrand Russell was not wrong, based on his own limited knowledge; the world has come along way since 1928. But we live in an era of connectivity that he could not imagine in his wildest dreams and as we continue to change, so must the meanings of characteristics like “knowledgeable” and “informed”. Though we remain constrained by what we are physically capable of perceiving, we are no longer limited by our own individual experience. Technology has made it so that together, we can be universally well informed.

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How Violent Videogames Can Teach Us Ethics

You don’t see this often.

Generally, violent video games get a bad rap. They’re blamed for basically every bout of violence committed by someone between the ages of 12-25 and there are studies left and right; one proving that they’re conducive to violence the next saying that they’re cathartic. It’s really hard to get a clear perspective on games when the News (at least the mainstream) is constantly talking about how games desensitize people to the tragedies of the world. These people don’t take high profile games and give them a fair review. They focus on the negative elements and forego things like award quality acting, literary storytelling, and stunning visuals.

As game consoles get more powerful, games get more immersive. And a lot of the highest-rated games are the ones that give the players an element of choice. And I’m not talking about what outfit their character wears. I’m talking about deep (often) moral choices that influence the direction of the story. It’s going to sound corny, but some of these decisions are often really heavy, playing with with the concepts of life and death and lose/lose situations. Sure, there are people who like to play the bad guy because sometimes it’s fun to be bad, but when you make the conscious decision to be the hero…well let’s just say it can get emotional.

What I like about this story is that it shows these games for their positive outlook. A teacher in Sweden is using the Walking Dead’s video game to teach his students ethics. Now if you know the Walking Dead (show, game, books), you know that it can get pretty violent and pretty gruesome. But this professor can see past that, to the core of the story and the benefit that it holds for…either late high school or college…kids.

Walking Dead may be a zombie gorefest to some but to the rest of us it is a deep story about desperation. The game, which is incredibly adept at portraying human emotion, carries the same moral weight. It allows the player to step into the shoes of someone living in a post-apocalyptic world and make the choices that go along with the setting. The professor has his students play through the game and pauses to discuss at each decision. It’s a really interactive way to understand the consequences of our decisions. Sure you can choose to kill another man for his supplies but what does that do to your character? How does it affect him cognitively, emotionally, in his relationships with other characters? Games combine the artistic vision and technological power to explore these types of questions.

What’s most important, is that these games never teach the false belief that the world, fictional or real, operates in black and white. Games reflect the reality that choices are made in shades of grey. I’ve been in so many classes where my professor has said, “there is always a right choice”. But is that really the case? The professor in this article let’s his students come to the conclusion on their own through the game. This method has the added benefit of exploring the story leading up to the decision as well. Through an interactive medium, the students begin to empathize with the character and understand the motivations leading up to the decision.

Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying that every act of violence is justifiable in some way. There are people who do terrible things for unfathomable reasons. All I’m saying here is that rather than judge games for their negative aspects, there should be more people like this professor who look at them holistically and find ways to turn them into teaching tools. Games provide a safe environment for us to experiment with decisions, where we can visually, emotionally learn to understand cause and effect and the consequences of our actions.

What’s your perspective on violent video games? Have you experienced some of the complexity that I mention in this post? Share your perspective in the comments section, I think this could generate some good discussion.

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Verizon Wants Experience Stores. But is it an Experience Brand?

I saw this article today in Adage and it made me curious.

It appears, that with the help of AKQA, Verizon is seeking to launch a few large scale retail stores, that allow customers to experience the lifestyle that Verizon can provide. Verizon is proposing entertainment lounges, interactive sound stages, and even athletic areas. All so that customers can test the various users for their various products from phones to speakers to TVs.

At first glance, this seems like a really cool idea. It’s essentially a digital, interactive playground where Verizon can hook their customers (at least the young ones) by allowing them to interact with all of the fanciest features they have to offer. Imagine you’re an athlete who has heard some hype about a new chip in the latest samsung phone and you want to test it’s accuracy. You jump on a treadmill somewhere in the store and go for a quick sprint. The music lover plays DJ on a touchscreen and gets a

feel for the sound quality of some speakers. A lot of the features on display are probably the ones that most people won’t even use, but sometimes it’s those gimmicky features that really excite people.

But is Verizon really ready for this? Is this what they’re really about?

Think about the last time you were in a Verizon (or any cell retailer) for that matter. It probably wasn’t pleasant. You walked around a room full of phones and talked to a guy in a polo about data plans. When I think of Verizon, I think of a service provider. They don’t make my phone (like Apple does), they don’t sell me my TV (like a Best Buy) and they don’t sell me my athletic gear (like Dick’s). Verizon sells me the LTE and the data capacity that lets me use all that fun tech.

I’m not saying that Verizon can’t become that type of experience brand. It might be a positive step in an increasingly interactive world. But currently, I don’t think they’re there and I feel like there would be a disconnect walking into this super “immersive” environment. I mean, even as their commercials become more and more lifestyle focused they’re still filled with maps and bars and price plans and wires.

Thinking about this new retail experience really has had me thinking, and I’d like to hear some of your opinions on the subject. I’m certainly not saying a brand can’t change. I just wonder if they need to ease into it, build up this new brand equity with their customers before they build a bunch of giant retail stores. Maybe it’s more of a leap of faith thing; shock and awe.

As I said, I’d love to hear some thoughts on this, so respond in the comments below!

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Disney Adds a Little Magic to the Digital World

Well look at this, I’m blogging again! I hope I keep it up this time I really have missed it. Anyway, enough about me. This article’s a little old, but let’s talk about Disney.

Actually first let’s talk about digital interaction. A number of companies have made some amazing advancements in this field and all of it is extremely impressive. Xbox One’s new Kinect sensor has shown off super accurate body tracking and interaction capabilities. Companies like Nymi are combining body tracking and motion control to give users unparalleled levels of access to the world. Within the next few years (probably even less) we’ll be somewhere between Minority Report and Iron Man, manipulating the digital world with our hands and bringing new life to our technology.

Enter Disney. They’re magical and possibly more so behind the scenes than in those sweet costumes they wear at the theme park. Until this article, I hadn’t heard about Disney Imagineers in a long time. These are behind the scenes techies who work to make the Disney experience something wondrous, imaginative, and unforgettable. These sneaky geniuses have been making some interesting adaptations to the Digital control world, adding in tactile responsiveness to the digital objects users interact with.

It’s actually really cool. They’ve adapted little cannons that poof out little vortexes with different levels of density. The changes in the blasts of air simulate different sensations that go along with whatever it is that’s going on around you. Wired compares it to the old Honey I Shrunk the Kid theater that used to be (?) at MGM. As you watched what happened on screen, mechanics in the seats would let you experience the same thing. I have a very vivid experience of feeling rats scurrying around my legs and not liking it one bit.

But think about what you could do from an experiential stand point. Imagine walking through a tunnel where you’re watching the environment flourish under the influence of Disney magic, and as you meander in awe through a field of light, you can feel the flecks, warm and light as a feather brush off your hand as you brush them away. Fantastic creatures run by you at amazing speeds and you feel them jostle you or bump you to the side. A few other companies are experimenting with tactile feedback on touchscreens and and other devices but I feel like Disney could really make this technology shine and I hope it does.

On my part, as a marketer, this is the kind of thing that would go over great at a convention booth or other large scale event. I’m not sure you’d want to use something like this to slog through all the loveliness that is the human body (remember I work in pharma) but it would be a great way to add a new layer of depth to the experience of the product. It’s obviously going to take some time before this kind of sensation gets out into the mainstream, where we can use it everyday, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on how sensation, even beyond touch, can enhance different types of experiences.

Read more at Wired and get at the comments section below!

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