Category Archives: Segway

How transparent are you?

An Australian blogger we know under the nom de plume Kelpenhagen wrote a great bit recently on transparency — asking how much personal information she or anyone should reveal online. Anonymity has its merits; it can intrigue (think Joe Klein as Anonymous writing about Bill Clinton) and protect (think about who you really are, where you live, and whether the world should track your personal dating habits).

Personally, we’ve almost given up on hiding anything. If you work in any supply chain — as a manager or marketing executive or ad agency director — you must balance the fear of upsetting your clients or suppliers or employees with your opinions vs. not being “real” and never making a connection. The most nimble modern communicators, such as Scott Monty of Ford or Tony Hsieh of Zappos, use blogs and Twitter to connect with thousands as real people. There are idiocies emerging, too. Many use social media to broadcast all about themselves, like that accountant you met at the holiday party who just won’t shut up about a tax-savings scheme. If you do expose your real identity, try to listen more than you talk. If you publish a book, drop a hint but for god’s sake don’t write 30 blog posts about it.

The most terrifying trap of social media is for people to get caught up in self-monitoring, tracking how many “followers” they have on Twitter or the number of daily readers of their blog. If you reveal yourself, and if you speak for an organization, the meaning of what you say will go further than the number of links you create to the world.

Our own recommendation is to be real, be open, and let the chips fall where they may. In this new age of the internet, people will find you if they want anyway. We just started a professional relationship with Segway and yesterday sent them a clip of a monkey falling off the two-wheeled gyro-scooter. For a second, we feared they might be offended. But what the hell. Laughing is part of who we are.

Photo by Phil H.

Are Larry David and Segway ahead of your marketing plan?

Tomorrow your customers are going to want something different, and you probably are not ready.

The thought is sparked by Darryl at Plaid, who recently met with the founding brains of Segway to learn how and why they created a new concept for human transportation. Segway, as you know, is the funky self-balancing two-wheeled gizmo that rolls itself magically using gyroscopes and small elves inside. Segway is a perfect example of an innovation technology that is ahead of its time — meaning the masses of humanity are simply not ready to adopt it.

Hybrid cars, though, are further along the adoption curve. We all once laughed at the streamlined tin boxes; then, Larry David made the Prius look cool; now, damn, 40 MPG is looking fine. People are starting to wince at the gas pump, and we recently checked in to Honda to find that its part-electric Civic models are nearly sold out in the United States. After hybrids, American driveways are starting to fill with large but slightly efficient “crossover” vehicles, and some of us are still stuck with bloated SUVs.

The point is marketers need to anticipate adoption curves. Customers are not a static target; they are a moving, rolling mass, and the plans you begin today need to touch customers in the right position 1, 2 or 3 years from now. MP3 players are hot but may decline. Traditional theater audiences are aging and young moms are the next ticket sale. $1,000-a-month heating bills will revolutionize home efficiency. The internet has devastated traditional in-home tutoring materials. Consumers are using Google, not physician referrals, to research their own specialists.

Glance over at Segway and you’ll see it’s carefully working up the adoption curve. Marketing in the past few years focused on police and government workers. The recent social media site has an enviro-vibe, and Segway has also begun touching the mainstream with a sweet golfing model.

So: Is your marketing team thinking this way? Or do you spend your planning meetings looking in the rear-view mirror, at what once worked in the 1990s or 1980s? If you don’t look ahead at where customers are moving, you’re going to be left behind.

How to sell a vibrating structure gyroscope

Segway stumbled a bit after it launched in 2001 despite the glowing predictions about how the two-wheeled self-balancing scooter would redesign entire cities. We thought the Jetsons had finally arrived, and then a few towns worried that rolling commuters might plow over small children, so banned the devices.

But Dean Kamen‘s idea was audacious genius, akin to inventing the wheel, so today we’re digging Segway’s move into the green zone — with fat-tired versions for golfing and the new Segway Social microsite by design shop Plaid. To be honest, we were pitched this site launch by Plaid, and find that PR behavior despicable, except for (a) Plaid does genius work and (b) the site is really cool.

Yeah, yeah, the site has social media angles, like joining an X2 Roaders group to go through dirt trails in New Hampshire. But the coolest bits are the pricing models. As our economy enters a recessionary black hole, it’s gonna take some motivation to get us to shell out big bucks for a discretionary roller-thingy.

Consider how these clever Segway savings models might help reframe product prices at your business:

1. A daily coffee habit estimator, which shows you how much cash you’d free up if you stopped drinking fancy caffeine.
2. A cheerful gas cost/mileage/commute device, where we learned we spend $19.58 on fuel and emit 91.33 pounds in carbon every day.

So. The pro is we now know we’re environmental pigs, feel extremely guilty, and would consider buying a Segway if it could handle our 40-mile daily commute with a good heater for winter. The con is now we know we spend $1,733.75 for coffee each year — so we can’t really afford to go anywhere.