Brain Pickings

Expectation Shmexpectation

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Flanking Apple, acoustic adventures, fashion you can see from space, ditchmail, temporal liberation, what a stranger, a grocery store and art have in common, and why Conversationality really is where the money’s at. Welcome to the Expectation Shmexpectation issue.

WHILE THE GIANT’S SLEEPING

Say what you will about the iPhone, but the sleek little bastard is a technology driver in and of itself — and, most importantly, beyond. Various competitors were already playing catch-up before the iPhone even launched. (Hello, Verizon’s LG Prada.)

picture-3.pngBut while Apple is drunk on its own brilliance, one serious competitor is silently building its digital war-chest to take on iTunes, the iPhone, AT&T, MySpace and Google all at once. Nokia, the global headsets leader with 35% market share, is adding products and services to its portfolio like there’s no tomorrow: it only makes sense that the company whose tagline is “Connecting People” gets in the business of doing just that — and doing it better than anyone.

Let’s take a peek at what they’ve got and why it matters:

  • Nokia N95: multimedia phone featuring 2.8-inch display, 5 megapixel camera, WiFi, GPS, microSD, and more
  • S60 Touch UI: direct competitor to the iPhone; one-ups the Apple gadget by offering video recording and sharing straight from the device, a Flash-capable browser, and richer sensor use (like flipping the phone over to silence an alarm)
  • Ovi: mobile content and Internet service portal; Finnish for “door”
  • intros: digital music platform that allows for wireless download to headset and two-way synchronization to host computer; comes after last year’s acquisition of Loudeye, a digital music platform and distribution company, for $60 million
  • MOSH: social network that allows sharing of media online or from a phone
  • N-Gage: gaming platform
  • Enpocket: recently acquired Boston-based mobile marketing company
  • Navteq: recently acquired (for $8.1 million) digital map supplier
  • Video Center: deal with News Corp., Sony Pictures, CNN and others to distribute content straight to headsets

So while everyone’s gushing about the oh-so-wonderful iPhone, shortcomings properly blurred by those Apple juice goggles, Nokia is building a powerful army of tools to take on the digital business. And when the flanking does happen, just don’t say you never saw it coming.

TALENT KNOWS NO BOUNDARIES

Petty concerns like budget, production and media are no barrier for serious talent. Which is why we dig Fionn Regan‘s latest DIY video, “Be Good or Be Gone.”

And while the clamour of life drowns out the Irish singer-songwriter’s folksy vocals, it does so beautifully, enticing us into an extraordinary journey through the quiet charm of the ordinary.

As artists are starting to dump the record industry like week-old pizza leftovers, are video production studios next?

OH, THE POSSIBILITIES

We hate nothing more than pre-canned, standard voicemail greetings. (Okay, maybe there’s some stuff we hate more.) So we have to love YouMail, a nifty new service that lets you have custom voicemail greetings for each of your contacts. (Or however many you actually care enough about to custom-greet.) It also allows you to keep messages forever and have them sent as text to your email. Did we mention it’s all free?

You can choose ready-made greetings from a number of categories (business, humor, entertainment, sexy, politics, commercials, games, music, sports, even “ditchmail”) or record your very own.

For a sampling of the hilarious variety, listen to the “mental health hotline”, the postal service, God, or this casually homicidal caller repellent.

UNTRIVIA

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Volumes have been written about the people who drive the word-of-mouth machine. They’ve been called anything from “influencers” to “mavens” to “brand advocates” to “conversation catalysts.” The latest term: “Passionistas.” MediaVest and Yahoo help shed some light over who these folks are and what earns them those labels. They:

  • Spend 6 minutes online for every 1 minute the average Interneter does
  • Dig brands related to their interests and passions, and are more likely than typical consumers to try such brands
  • Are twice as likely as the average person to post on consumer-generated content sites, message boards and online content comment fields
  • Do 184% more than average Internet search on stuff they’re interested in
  • Are growing in numbers: 34.4 million such influentials are projected to populate the US Internet by 2011, up from 26.8 million in 2007

And influence they will. Turns out, 78% of people trust the opinions of other consumers more than any marketing and advertising messaging. (Hey, we’re on that boat, too: gotta love Amazon Askville.) Here’s how trust in other media compares, according to Nielsen:

  • Newspaper ads: 63%
  • Blogs: 61%
  • Brand websites: 60%
  • TV: 56%
  • Magazines: 56%
  • Radio: 54%
  • Brand sponsorships: 49%
  • Search engines: 34%
  • Banners: 26%

Mobile text messaging tanks at the very bottom. Which explains why so many mobile marketer hopefuls’ hearts were crushed at the CTIA conference when Neilsen announced the finding that over 80% of cell phone users don’t even look at the ads, let alone respond.

LONG IS IN

Fendi went to great lengths with their new luxe collection. Finally, after months of paperwork and jumping through bureaucracy hoops, the LMVH Moet Hennessy-Louis Vuitton luxury arm has pulled off what seemed like quite a stretch: an elaborate Fall/Winter fashion show that used the Great Wall of China as the actual runway — a first for both Fendi and the Wall.

While the footage is kinda boring (that’s 1,500 miles worth of still-faced runway strutting), the show was nonetheless impressive, a majestic red-and-black affair masterminded by legendary designer Karl Lagerfeld.

As the fashion industry if finally starting to drool over China’s 1.3 billion consumers, it’s only fitting that such an enormous market would warrant such an enormous publicity stunt: $10-million-enormous, to be exact. (That’s 4 30-second Super Bowl spots.)

And on another note from the ridiculously unnecessary expenditures department, we sure hope all those light bulbs were CFL’s.

MINIMALISM FOR THE TIME-INSENSITIVE

Time. It’s all kinds of evil: it turns relatively fresh thinking into old news, it flies when we want it to limp, and it makes concepts like “late for work” exist in the first place. And for those of us who choose to take it more lightly, more loosely, or just outright ignore it, this week’s product pick is for you: the temporally liberated aesthetes.

The 900 ABACUS watch is a keeper. Not of time, necessarily, but of all kinds of cool. The ball, just like you, is completely free to do whatever it likes. But as soon as the watch gets in the horizontal position, magnets draw it to the actual time reading.

At just $153.47, it has all the makings of a watchy watch: made in Germany with premium quartz, sapphire glass face, luxury leather strap and stainless steel case. It’s also sweat- and water-resistant up to 30 meters (that’s 98 feet for the metrically challenged) — although, unlike Lance Armstrong, this one-ball wonder doesn’t seem quite like a winner in any athletic or aquatic pursuit.

AS SEEN IN PHILLY

Spotted in the lobby of The Fresh Grocer up on 40th & Walnut: a curious poster by the Slought Foundation urging people, just like we did last week, to look up: a gigantic portrait was plastered on the facade of the building’s 5-story parking lot. (It wasn’t there when we look, must’ve mistimed it.)

Slought Foundation Wild Poster

Turns out, it’s promoting the Slought Foundation’s October 11 eventConversations with Braco Dimitrijevic’s ‘The Casual Passer-By I Met…’

Artist Braco Dimitrijevic started a series of installations titled “Casual Passer-By” in 1971 and went global with it. He uses advertising media like billboards, banners and public transportation vehicles as a cultural gallery for his iconic portraits of random strangers he encounters and photographs in the street.

Interesting stuff.

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