The Consumer Matters is the blog of Leslie Grandy, aka Gearhead Gal.  My passion is creating and delivering compelling products that delight customers through simple and elegant user experience design.

Subscribe To My Feed

Follow Me on Pinterest



Read my blog on Kindle



Looking for a job in product innovation or product design? 


example: innovation, product, mobile, design

city, state or zip

Jobs by SimplyHired





Lessons From BlogWorld: What Goes On In Vegas Shouldn't Stay There

So you couldn't make it to BlogWorld and New Media Expo this weekend? Don't worry, though, because I had a Technorati press pass and headed to Vegas to get a little taste of the South Pacific...Ballroom, that is. The Mandalay Bay Hotel Convention Center served as host for the event, and while hotel guests toured the Shark Aquarium a couple of hundred yards from the conference, bloggers and digital marketers dove into the deep end of the social media pool. Corporate exhibitors like the U.S. Army, Ford, Southwest Airlines and Kodak shared space with Co-Tweet, Radian, Rackspace and Tungle,to participate in the business of conversational media.

Interview with BlogWorld Co-Founder Rick Calvert

If you search for job openings with the keywords “community manager,” LinkedIn will return over one thousand results. According to Rick Calvert, co-founder of Blogworld and New Media Expo, the popularity of job listings on sites like Linkedin or Monster is an indicator of how bright the future is for social media in corporate America.

“Companies know they need Community Managers,” Calvert says, “because they know they need to engage with their customers in a range of ways through social media, even though they are still learning how to manage those conversations.”

Education remains a primary goal for Calvert and his Blogworld team. “These attendees reach a global audience of over 250 million people.” he pointed out. “Their influence is undeniable.” In an interview conducted halfway through this year’s Blogworld event, held in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Hotel Conference Center, Calvert indicated that attendance has doubled in the last three years of the conference, but at 3000 attendees, what’s billed as the World’s Largest New Media Conference, is still pretty small given the nearly 200 million blogs that have been created worldwide.

Calvert acknowledged that it is hard for corporate marketers to know what technology platforms will stick with consumers; Calvert admitted even he “missed the point of Twitter at first. I wasn’t sure if it had real value or would turn into FriendFeed.”

Education is why he says he is committed to growing the conference over time.  Read more...

And more about my experience at BlogWorld on 



Marketing To Communities Of Interest

Fellow ex-Visio marketer, and Chief Innovation Officer at r2i, Holly Brown presented at the Social Media Breakfast on the challenges for marketers in a peer to peer world. Authentically engaging in relevant, real time conversations is job #1.




Quirky & Make - DIY Meets The Science Guy

When I was a kid, I loved to pass the crummy Philadelphia winters making things. From Rube Goldberg-style contraptions to pinhole cameras, our attic was filled with my "inventions."  Professionally, while I eventually channeled this urge to create into filmmaking and then product design, a few of those ideas still rattle around in my head as I lie awake at night. 

But now, thanks to Quirky and MakeProjects, I have two new sites to scratch that creative itch.  MakeProjects is a "collaborative resource for people who like to make things," and there are some clever, wacky, and creative projects already highlighted on the site to spur the inventor in you. The site also has a companion magazine, and this month's issue focuses on - wait for it - GADGETS! One of my favorite highlights is "the Most Useless Machine," a tautological invention if there ever was one.


Quirky is a social product development site which combines crowdsourcing and commerce together and enables would-be inventors access to a community of designers and consumers who help bring the idea to fruition. Quirky provides ideas a home to be nurtured, refined and built, and then offers those winning ideas to the public on their website.  Quirky's staff builds prototypes and based on forecasted popularity (that is pre-sales), Quirky will take the product to production.  If there is a community who'd love your product, but you don't have the resources to get it into the market, then Quirky is your answer.

Thanks to online creative communities like Quirky and MakeProjects, you needn't be a borrower or find a lender to realize being an inventor any more.





Be The Publisher Of Your Own Online 'Newspaper'

I already write this blog, so I never entertained the idea that I might need to take on the added responsibility of publishing my own newspaper with a branded masthead. But reduces journalism to the act of editorial curation, a thought that no doubt would give my mother, a retired journalism professor, heartburn. You can see what I mean by clicking here to read  The Gearheadgal Daily. The site merchandises that " organizes links shared on Twitter into an easy to read newspaper-style format. Newspapers can be created for any Twitter user, list or #tag." 

A new category of mobile and web applications is being built off the premise that consumers need a better user experience to harness and manage the flood of real time information rushing at them from Twitter or Facebook (Look at Flipboard, and, for example.) believes that with a newspaper-style columnar layout and several more characters than 140 it will be more enjoyable to scan for relevant content. Not surprisingly, you can subscribe to other "daily newspapers". But after the creating the second one from a Twitter list, I felt as overwhelmed by the influx of information as I had before. 

I do appreciate how creates media sections for photos and videos. They are easier to scan parsed from the Tweets, and lay out nicely on the page. The editable newspaper headline is also great, if you want to mail the link as a marketing tool, for your brand which may be different than the Twitter ID.

The product is in alpha. 


Favorite Tweets of The Day - Weekend Edition

RT @robertgorell: "Socializing on the Internet is to socializing as reality TV is to reality." ~Aaron Sorkin

RT @karaswisher: If George Lucas Directed “The Social Network”


The Four Steps To The Epiphany

One of my favorite new books is The Four Steps To The Epiphany, written by serial entrepreneur Steven Blank. In the book he outlines a model for "Customer Development" which he maintains is the key to success for other budding business creators. 

"In startups, the emphasis is on 'get it done, and get it done fast," Blank writes. Opting to lean into the advice of experts - VCs, seasoned executives - entrepreneurs rely heavily on past experience instead of learning and discovery from "earlyvangelists". In some cases, Blank references, the visionary behind the startup may feel that their innovation requires them to forge a new path or disabuse the market of a prevailing myth, creating a sense that any customer insight would be irrelevant. 

Blank recommends that companies understand that until there are active and engaged customers, who both value the startup's solution and will accept the risk of interacting with a nascent or untested business, there is a risk of premature scaling or unrealistic expectations. "'Build it and the customers will come,' is not a succesful strategy."

You can find The Four Steps to the Epiphany on Amazon. Or you can download a .pdf of several chapters to get a sample of it before you buy, by clicking here.



Good Things Come In Small Packages

Thanks to my friend, Mark Hall for pointing this out to us. The simplicity of the interaction model belies some very creative thinking. Hang around for the whole video to see the amazingly cool applications these little cookie-sized tiles enable.  An advancement beyond touch screens, these interactive squares are actually calculating and reacting to the motion around them. 


A House Made Entirely of Legos

If you choose to live in a house made of Legos it may not be soft and cushy, but what you sacrifice in comfort you make up for with VERY flexible design. It gives new meaning to the word "remodel."


The Creative Process Is Just A Matter of Time

Check out this preview of an interesting video I discovered on the Ideas & Art Frequency. So, tell me, what do you do to come up with a good idea?


Navigating Your Airport Experience

With fewer direct flights, weather delays, and long security lines, there are more chances than ever that you’ll find yourself with time to kill in an unfamiliar airport. The boredom of waiting will inevitably lead you to twiddle your thumbs on your smartphone. If you're not texting—or triaging your inboxyou could be using the new FLYsmart app for Android and iPhone to look for the closest newsstand, restroom, souvenir shop or ATM.

FLYsmart is the result of a partnership between outdoor advertising giant ClearChannel Outdoor, and Geodelic (a client of Waldo Finn, a company which employees this author), a mobile, location-specific media platform powered by a network of informative and relevant guides to local attractions, businesses and services.

FLYsmart customers will also be able to linger in a bar or bookstore longer - and with less stress - because they can check arrival and departure times right from their smartphones, instead of running out to the concourse to check the displays.

"By combining Clear Channel's enormous airport footprint with the simplicity of Geodelic's mobile experience, we can provide consumers with a new level of convenience that comes from having personalized and relevant location-specific information at your fingertips," said Rahul Sonnad, founder and CEO of Geodelic. Sonnad says the app will be available for Blackberry in the near future, as well.

Location-based marketing is a growing category for businesses looking to maintain traffic into physical locations, like retail stores, restaurants, and tourist attractions. Companies like Gowalla and Foursquare have popularized "check ins", while social networking behemoth Facebook has just launched Places, a feature for connecting  with friends based on their location.

 The FLYsmart application takes a different approach, providing location-specific services and information to improve a transient customer's experience through an airport terminal.

“Airports are always looking to improve the traveler experience and find new ways to garner the attention of transient passengers in promoting food, retail and advertising sales,” commented Toby Sturek, President of Clear Channel Airports. “FLYsmart will do all that in the most relevant, convenient and contemporary way.”

The FLYsmart app will initially be launched in ten of North America’s largest airports including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago O’Hare, Dallas Fort Worth, Denver, Detroit, Philadelphia, Phoenix San Francisco and Seattle. New airports will be added each week.

I used the app the first day it launched, on my travels from Seattle to Los Angeles. The app was very helpful in keeping me informed about flight departure times for my home airport. Although the Los Angeles Airport guide hadn't yet launched, I could still see relevant local information for my stay in Los Angeles through the Geodelic national directory, that comes with every FLYSmart app.


Who Writes Write The Company?

I ran across Write The Company on Twitter through a shared interest in how companies engage with consumers. (And, as you can tell, I am a sucker for a great writer of alliterations.) Here's a brief description of this talented writer, who "covers" an area close to my heart with the humor and irony it deserves.

"A candid collection of crazy correspondence containing comments, complaints, criticisms, critiques and confessions that categorically captures and conveys the confusion, complications, curiosities, compliments and consequences consumers and customers constructively confront, creatively contemplate and/or continuously consider. Comprende?"

I asked the author of this creative, anonymous blog to come out from behind the curtain, and share a little insight about what type of consumer he is. In a nod to my Vanity Fair subscription, what follows is my personal hybrid version of the Proust and George Wayne interview with Write The Company.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Uncertainty. Like when my mom said she’d like to have me DNA tested.

What is your favorite place to shop?

  The Red Light District in Amsterdam, but my wife only lets me window shop.

What is your idea of earthly happiness?

Co-ed mud wrestling.

What consistent faults do you see in companies to whom you feel compelled to write?

Companies need to stop referring to consumers and customers as their “Target Market.” Targets are things you fire at, attack, hit and try to destroy. That alone makes me want to take aim at them.

Who are your favorite heroes of fiction?

Hester Prynne definitely tops the list. I’ve written hundreds of letters and she was able to take one single Scarlet Letter and turn it into a book and movie deal.

Who are your favorite characters in history?

Groucho, Chico, Harpo and sometimes Karl.

What phrase do you most hate to hear from a customer service representative?

“That’s our policy.” To me, that translates to: Nah-nah nah-nah-nah!

The quality you most admire in the person who replies for the company?

That he or she passed a background check and drug testing. You always want your inquiries handled by people with no rap sheet or traces of drugs in their urine.

What do you value most from the companies that respond?

The fact that they did respond. Too many don’t. Maybe they’re afraid some lunatic is going to post what they say online. 

What is your favorite kind of product to complain about?

Any product that comes with a technical support number. I consider it a pre-warning. As soon as I see it I assign a speed dial number.

If you weren’t using all your free time writing to companies, what would you be doing in your spare time?

Free time isn’t productive so I don’t believe in it. Even with the time I spend writing letters I invoice myself and then question the charges. Too much of my time is already devoted to banging uncooperative electronic equipment repeatedly with a Ball Pein Hammer. Any spare time beyond that is spent doing stuff like flossing and catching up on which celebrities and athletes are heading to rehab or jail.


More Mashup Momentum

The trend in mashups only seems to have picked up steam. Got this tip on  one of my favorites from Cool Hunting: Kanye West has close to a half million followers on Twitter, hanging onto every ridiculous Tweet. Inspired by his words, musical comedic group Paul and Storm had the idea to mash-up Kanye's Tweets with classic New Yorker cartoons, resulting in a genius collection of newfangled cartoons found on the website #kanyenewyorkertweets.



Private Beta Invitation For Gearhead Gal's Friends

Get an invite-only first look at a cool mobile location app!

My friends at Geodelic are launching the private beta of their GeoGuide product and you can help out by creating your very own personal city guide. And by participating in this beta, you can also enter to win a new iPad. I have already created mine, Gearheadgal's Diners & Dives, my homage to Guy's Triple D on the Food Network. No doubt you'll have your own ideas! Got favorite places to take your dogs for a hike? Know the finest flea markets? Have fun finding your inspiration, but hurry, the contest ends in a few weeks.  Click here now and submit your idea so you can build a guide that might win you your very own new iPad!


Rickrolling and The You Tube Phenomenon

Online Schools
Via: Online School


Materials, Meaning, and Mistura


Mistura watches are made with materials that derive from the South American tropics. But they also send a message of meaning about sustainability and craftsmanship.  Created from Bamboo, Macana, Coconut skin, Carreto, Guayacan and Nazarene woods, these watches first require each designer to use a specific technique of preservation and a way of cutting the material that reminds the wearer how valuable time is. Mistura Designs

One of the founders, Daniel Schemel, whom I met at an arts festival, described how woods like Bamboo and Macana must be cut after 5:00 pm and before 5:00 am on moon’s last quarter night making sure that the circulating liquids in the main tree limbs are resting down in the roots. Using this particular night to cut the wood, he claims, helps to void cracks during the drying process that takes exactly 6 months. It's only then, his story goes, that designers start their creations.

The watches are made with a soft leather band, punched with large holes, which make it easy to use the oversized wooden clasp to secure them comfortably. The combinations of wood - teak and purple heart, for example - set against turquoise and white crackled straps are eye-catching. And the Japanese watch movement the artists use helps keeps them affordable. Ironically, the natural materials make them even more susceptible to the elements, especially heat and humidity that can change the shape and color of the wood and leather. Every piece merges art and nature as part of its lifecycle.

I have often said that every product has a story, and the man from Mistura surely had an interesting one to tell. You can buy these watches directly from their website or you can follow them on Facebook to find the next summer arts festival where they are appearing.


A New Breed Of Customer Experience "Hosts"

When service is your product, customer loyalty can be a direct function of your employees' satisfaction with their job. Every employee knows that feeling empowered to do the "right thing" is not always as easy as it sounds. Management teams often post policies to organize and coordinate the activities of front line service employees who operate in the field and interact directly with customers. Believing that one rotten barrel can destroy the whole bunch, executives will bias towards reducing the amount of decision-making a service representative has to do in order to ensure a consistent "experience" for all customers with their brand.

But what happens when employees understand that service IS the product because management gives them tools and decision rights to actually solve customer problems and, in fact, prevent them? Employees of two service brands, The Morgan Hotels Group and Virgin America, represent the new paradigm of customer experience owners, employees who feel more like "hosts" not "agents."

The Free Online Dictionary defines a host as "one who receives or entertains guests in a social or official capacity." In personal social activities, we have no problem seeing hosts as people who treat visitors graciously and are aware of their guests' needs, making sure that they are comfortable and feel welcomed, not just when it comes time to say "please come again."

Flight attendants on Virgin America are called "teammates" and flyers are "guests." That mental model informs each employee how to treat a visitor who enters via the jetway and spends time in their day traveling via the airline. For Morgan Hotels, guests who take the time to complete a marketing survey after the visit are rewarded by a personal note from a Customer Experience Manager who addresses the guest's specific feedback, if the guest opts to invite the hotel to contact them. That person is prepared to continue the dialogue with the guest to ensure the guest feels appreciated for providing the insight on their own time about their interactions and stay with the hotel.

Social graces seemed to have disappeared with the appearance of the socially acceptable practice of anonymously posting nasty comments about online content or marketing material. It's always been easy to criticize the host who doesn't get it right - who makes us feel unwanted and underappreciated. But those are also usually the people who don't treat us as if they are entertaining or engaging us either personally and professionally as a host.



Corporate Amnesia, Accountability And Service

Should you take out your frustration about a business' failure to deliver service on its employees? I was debating this point today, after the umpteenth time of waiting in a four hour window for the Broadstripe cable company to send a repair man to our house in order to receive HD channels consistently using our TiVo DVRs.  My husband, who is Canadian and who hates to make waves, was clearly on the side of cutting the repairman slack today.  But I only saw another singer in the continuing chorus of Broadstripe employees who think they are problem solvers when they are actually key actors in our ongoing nightmare.  Why are my glasses so soot colored? Because each person who comes to our door optimistic that they can do what others before them haven't does so by assuring us they aren't interested in the past, only in the future.

Sure, it's an easy argument to make that the last guy was incompetent, but the history of continued failure to solve problems is something no single employee wants to own. In fact, the last senior executive of our region who told us he wasn't responsible for the past and "only the future" no longer works at the company.  Consequently, our past conversations and credit promises have also evaporated with him. This provided a helpful cue for the musical refrain sung by Jeff, the repairman who showed up today. "I can't tell you what he promised because he doesn't work here any more, I can only look forward at fixing your problems." Company amnesia about our ongoing record of miserable service appears rampant.

Lack of customer memory also has dramatically degraded the company's troubleshooting ability, and that contributes to our long record of service calls. Rather than tracking past work, and using that to narrow the problem set, the care, repair service and network engineering employees each start from ground zero, which further compounds the problem because no one seems to be keeping a big picture view. Over time, we have been told during different service visits that the repair will require the person to remove switches in our wired network closet, remove several of our DVRs from the network, remove and replace the cable card from the TiVo, replace the underground cable to our house, tune the signal at the junction box at our house, and a few more things I can't even remember.

It seems I am in good company, though, because it appears they can't remember much either. Today's supervisor was unable to even find our TiVo cable cards registered with the service system, despite the fact that the repairmen have been to our house more than a handful of times to address our lack of HD service. "I'm surprised you get any service at all," she commented. What then does she think they have been coming to our house to address all those blocks of time we had to be home when they booked an "appointment?"

Real problem solving only emerges from sourcing the collective tribal knowledge a company has about a customer and their service history. When a company has only short term memory, employees can't do their job. But when multiple employees espouse short term memory as their service "opportunity", beware - you are probably not going to really feel well serviced in the long run.



Favorite Tweets Of The Day

RT@saschasegan: More sad, bad tales of KIN: and” MSFT took the Sidekick down with it. Strange trip.

Hilarious @CraigyFerg "a magazine is like a paper-y blog." They came before there was AOL.


Will Consumers Be Better Than Broadcasters At Programming Online Video?

First published on Technorati June 22, 2010

Most days, the average Internet user curates a flood of content from multiple destinations into a patchwork of information, updates and insights that help them stay connected. It’s a lot of work to hunt, gather, personalize and sample all the content available, and even more if you are part of the growing percentage of consumers interested in watching video. Tubemogul reports Web media brands posted 326 million video streams in the first quarter of this year, which is an increase of more than 300 percent compared to Q1 of 2009, and does not include all the user generated content uploaded to photo and video sharing sites.

“Some times you just want to push play, and see what’s on,” said Blair Harrison, CEO of Frequency, a real time video site that lets you lean back and watch samples of video playing continuously from all over the Internet. “But with so much video coming online each hour, there really is no way for a consumer to get a sample of what’s playing on the web” Harrison contends that consuming video on the web has become a laborious and disjointed experience, forcing people who want to enjoy rich media online to jump from link to link, collecting clips or navigating between embedded players and web pages just to sample video content.

Launched earlier this month by Harrison, the former CEO of IFILM, which sold to Viacom for $49 Million in 2005, Frequency aims to make it easy for anyone to quickly scan and tune into what’s playing online at any time. He brought together a crew of experienced digital media engineers from that company, and built a platform that offers content publishers a promotional engine for long form video clips. Frequency’s tools create a continuous stream of previews, auto-generated in different bitrates, from feeds aggregated by the company’s platform. Users navigate the clips which play like previews of coming attractions, touting the longer version on the publisher’s website.

When consumers enter the Frequency site, there is always something playing. Like a stream of 140 character headlines on Twitter, the Frequency player cycles through fifteen-second clips from across the web, categorized by topic and source. If you want to learn more on a topic, simply pick a tag, and the player pivots to play previews that share that term in common. If you like to follow a particular publisher or collector of videos, you can create a personalized channel that just tunes into their “frequency”, or channel of auto-play clips.

“There are over 200,000 video clips being posted to the web every hour,” said Harrison. “We want to make it simple for anyone to quickly discover and watch what is appealing to them at any particular moment they’re looking to tune in. “

Frequency is a privately funded, early stage video network, and is also client of Waldo Finn, LLC, a business and strategy consulting firm, which employs the author of this post.

Page 1 ... 3 4 5 6 7 ... 19 Next 19 Entries »