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July 29, 2013

Social Business Models - The Happier, The Better

Posted by Rajesh K. Murthy (View Profile | View All Posts) at 12:42 PM

What is DOGTV?  [Source:DOGTVWORLD http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLrAoEpyiP4]

A brilliant engineer who started and sold more companies than he could keep track of said he was in the mobile computing space because of just how quickly people have morphed into über-social beings.

I've never heard someone describe the mobile computing space as a chicken-or-egg scenario. Yet that's just what this venture capitalist did. He said he wasn't sure which came first: the urgent need to share the minutia of day-to-day life or the technology that enables us to do so. Either way, he said, it's a multibillion-dollar industry and it's growing bigger by the day.

One of his favorite investments is a company based in Israel called Glide. They offer an incredibly fun video-texting app that's being downloaded at a rate of 100,000 per day. You read that correctly. And Glide is just the beginning of a trend that's all about walking on the sunny side of the street. "Happier," for instance, is a new social network start-up that focuses on sharing moments of joy - no negativity allowed.

All this sharing means companies are finding out more about people, too. Those companies, in turn, are becoming smarter because of their ability to gather and analyze all that minutia.

Savvy venture capitalists are indeed scouring the marketplace. Their targets are entrepreneurs who create mobile apps that serve the seemingly insatiable urge to broadcast our lives as if we were contestants on a network television reality show. Anything is fair game. What comes to mind is the 24 hour-a-day cable television channel, DogTV, that plays nothing but videos of dogs barking. The target audience is supposedly your lonely pooch, sitting in front of the TV waiting for you to get home from work.

Entrepreneurs are building out these business models in fascinating ways. In India, for example, car buyers can now get a great deal on their next purchase if they allow companies to use their automobiles for advertising. If you agree to have your car covered in a vinyl "billboard" that pushes some new product or service, you stand to knock a whopping 75 percent off the sticker price. There's a transparency about this particular scheme that's very refreshing. You agree to drive around with the ad on your car and the company pays part of the bill in return. Both parties walk away thinking they got the better end of the deal.

I've even heard of students in the US trying to get companies to use their bodies (via t-shirts, hats, and even removable tattoos) for advertisements in return for footing the tuition bill. Necessity is the mother of invention, and with the outrageous cost of attending an American college these days, it was only a matter of time before some clever students offer themselves up to a corporation's marketing department. Is it really a win-win situation, however? Looking back, will the student regret the products or services he pushed, perhaps impacting his own personal brand?

We live in a world where technology enabled business models are evolving at breakneck speeds. This new level of openness can be beneficial to society. Plus, businesses now have more opportunities to connect with customers and create value. Are you listening, shareholders?

I suspect that sometimes these business models might have downright funny outcomes. Maybe the historic cities of Europe and Asia will rename themselves in order to land a lucrative deal from a frozen food company. (Häagen-Dazs, the capital of the Netherlands...) What's for certain, however, is that as individuals become more willing to share their personal moments with the public, the smarter we become as a whole. So I guess it's natural for a company to want to tap into that desire for individual promotion in order to sell its products, no matter how offbeat.

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