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The De•brief: Week In Review

by Simeon Coker

The De•brief: Week In Review
Out With Alicia and In With the New

BlackBerry Global Creative Director Alicia Keys holds a new BlackBerry at the BlackBerry 10 launch event at Pier 36 in Manhattan on January 30, 2013 in New York City.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

2013 is over and by now you should have recovered from whatever debauchery led the way into 2014, made the resolutions you will probably forget by February, and had time to reflect on all the amazing things that happened in 2013 and what they mean for 2014. So, basically you’re ready to get down to business.

The last and first weeks of the year are usually the slowest week in everything, because everyone is usually on holiday, but something happened, three days into the new year, that struck me as interesting—Alicia Keys and BlackBerry split.

The last couple of years, major companies trying to keep up in this competitive landscape started doing some silly things, like giving celebrities creative director positions; e.g. Lady Gaga and Polaroid, Justin Timberlake and Budweiser, Will.I.Am and Intel. A celebrity being linked to a company is nothing new; they’ve used celebrities as spokespeople for decades, but giving them creative and development responsibilities was simply cray-cray. And a tech company naming a celebrity as a creative director is just silly. I’m not saying that a celebrity can’t add value to the development process, but in the current tech climate, it doesn’t make any good sense. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of working at an elite tech company, then you know just how cray-cray it is. The amount of brainstorming, insights and just plain old good hard work that goes into a product should not be taken that lightly. It sends the wrong message to kids that want to do something great with their lives—two things that have nothing to do with each other, probably go together—and to consumers who use educational judgment when spending their hard earned money. We just don’t think “tech savvy” when we think about Alicia Keys; we think Piano. And, we don’t think “tech savvy” when we think of BlackBerry, circa 2013; we think dated. The days of throwing a “celebrity band-aid” on a technical boo-boo are over. When you want a couple of hundred dollars, without a contract, for the latest and greatest thing you need to wow us.

Never in our lives have we seen technical possibilities this endless, this fast paced and this competitive—one minute you’re in, the next you’re out. The days of a simply placing a celebrity’s face next to your product and watching the money pour in are done, especially tech products. The name of the tech game for 2014 is utility; if consumers can’t utilize your product don’t bother. If we don’t say “how did they do that” or “I would love to use this for a client”, at least once, then your product or innovation is lacking. The trendsetters and tastemakers are no longer celebrities; they help get the word out, but the people who use the product and the companies that find cool ways to utilize the technologies. When BlackBerry named Alicia Keys as their new creative director, with much fanfare, they promised innovation, business growth and overall awesomeness in an Apple and Android world. It’s been a year since that announcement, the BlackBerry 10 smartphone was released and sales were disappointing; which is no surprise, because the phone was a disappointment—this is not my opinion, but the opinions of CrackBerry babies all over the world [I’ve been “ride or die” Android since it’s birth, and before that Palm, and before that HP]. It must really suck to be a CrackBerry baby, and see all your friends opening their new apps like every day is Christmas, and you only have the few that came with the phone. Apparently even Alicia Keys wasn’t a fan of the BlackBerry 10, because shortly after being named creative director she tweeted from her iPhone.

BlackBerry isn’t the only smartphone struggling to gain a footing in the current tech market; the Windows phone is also having a hard time finding a place in the heart of consumers. The Windows selling point is an awesome camera—it also came with an awesome campaign—but you have to do more than take awesome pictures to gain the trust of the public. With most tech companies focusing on mobile, or strong mobile extensions of their products, it’s no surprise that struggling mobile companies haven’t thrown in the towel. Most developers and focus solely on Apple and Android systems, so it’s hard out here for a non-Apple/non-Android phone. If consumers can’t utilize the phone as seamlessly as possible, basically use all the apps that they love using, or see their friends using, then they won’t bite. The streets are usually talking and giving reviews even before products are released, so consumers know what’s up—if they don’t see an Apple or Android logo next to the next big thing, then it’s probably going to be the next thing out.

The moral behind BlackBerry announcing Alicia Key’s departure from her creative director role is we can’t use it don’t do it. 2014 is geared up to give us some of innovative tech solutions to problems we didn’t even know we had, and all of us tech junkies simply can’t wait—but don’t put a pretty face in front of your product and think we won’t notice its flaws.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a 2014 prediction, if you work in a tech or creative industry, and release something this year that is not only cool to you, but has great usability for the general public, then you will be alright. You’re welcome.

Innovative products from 2013 that will make your 2014 awesome-sauce

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onE Puck

Mobile battery life seems to be equivalent to actual life–before you say “nay”, think about all the times you’ve bout a coffee or hot dog to use a restaurant’s charger. The onE Puck is the answer to all of your charging needs–it lets you charge your phone with a ice cold or hot drink. Instead of buying a $4 coffee, you can opt for a $1 water and get a little extra mobile juice.

Mayo DraftFCB teamed up with UTEC to create a billboard that produces drinking water in Lima; in a region with polluted drinking wells. For homeowners in cities, that utilize the side of their buildings for billboards this can be an awesome way to save on a water bill–it’s far fetched, because I’m sure that municipal will player hate on this concept, but the possibilities are endless with this invention.


Control your oven from anywhere with your smartphone

GE is on top of their smart-home game. Their new innovation allows you to monitor your oven with your smartphone. Start cooking and go run errands if you must, with this bad boy you are less likely to burn down your house.

Feel free to leave your comments and insights about the past week’s innovations and hot topics, and follow Simeon on Twitter @CognacJones.


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