[NOTE:This is the draft introduction to Lethal Generosity: Contextual Technology & the Competitive Edge, a sequel to Age of Context, a book I wrote with Robert Scoble.
“What a long, strange trip it’s been” — Grateful Dead album
This book tells business decision makers that they are losing control over their brands. It is shifting over to customers and this is good for brands in many fundamental ways.
As businesses become more customer-centric, they will enjoy lower costs, higher profits, faster and less expensive customer acquisition and longer retention. Best of all — if you do right by them — many will become fiercely loyal brand evangelists who will acquire more customers for you, hijacking some of them from your fiercest competitors.
Lethal Generosity is the sequel to Age of Context, a book I wrote and published with Robert Scoble in 2013. It talked about the convergence of five technology forces — mobile, social media, Internet of Things [IoT], location technologies and data, creating a new era in which technology would know people well enough to understand what they want to do when they enter public spaces.
In this new book, I talk about how those forces are now converging with social trends to create new business models and personal, frictionless customer experiences. I explain why this new convergence is bringing the greatest marketplace changes in at least 100 years.
These changes are a culmination of what futurist John Naisbitt described as a megatrend — something that starts slowly at first, then gains steam and ultimately changes a great deal. I’ve been following it since 2001, when I returned to my first career as a writer, which is where I have remained: I follow technology’s impact on business and life.
It turned out to be a very big topic; one that evolved faster than any writer could keep up with. I saw patterns as they formed and where they were heading, but then they caused great tumult and it became difficult to predict just how it would turn out for people over the long term.
That remains true. The future, it seems, only becomes fully understood after it becomes history.
But in Lethal Generosity, I think I can see how technology and social trends are converging in ways that predicts how it will work in such public-facing places as stores, malls, stadiums, concert halls, airports, train stations, hotels and other such spaces.
I can also talk with some certainty about how transactional equations look when the power shifts from seller to buyer, when instead of brands telling people what they should want, people tell brands what they do want: it works better for everybody that way.
We can look back on the recent past and predict with some accuracy on the near future. In sharing what I have learned here, I am hopeful that I can help some business thinkers understand how certain pieces fit together into a solution to a larger puzzle related to changes and business.
In this book, I will tell you how many businesses have adopted new technologies and have adapted new successful strategies as a result. I write about technology, but it is about technology that serves businesses that focus on serving customers above all else.
For hundreds of years, influence has been a top-down thing. Information has come from the top down, and it has been shaped by the agendas of the powers that be.
A while back, influence started rising from the bottom up as technology has allowed people to talk directly with others who share their interests.
Before 1990, a customer who had an experience worthy of mention could share it with a few friends. Communications was augmented perhaps by a phone conversation or a snapshot. By 2005, peer-to-peer communications exploded as the web emerged. Then around 2013, as the contextual technologies came into lay peer-to-peer influence went exponentially bonkers.
Now, in 2015 peer influence over brands is no longer a disruptive force: it is fact of the marketplace. This does not mean that outbound brand efforts are now rendered impotent; it merely means that the balance of power has shifted and the smart business thinkers will adjust accordingly.
The world of 2015, as I write has changed an amazing amount in two short years. Much of this book is intended to catch you up on impressive technology, much of which is already in use and bringing measurable favorable results to all sorts of businesses. Some of this book shows you about other technologies that are coming in the next one-to-three years.
While these contextual installations and applications are quite diverse in what they do, they universally share two qualities:, First, they improve user experiences and second, they make businesses smarter about what people want.
That’s a win-win if the ever was one.
Lethal Generosity is a prescriptive book. I argue that embracing these new technologies will be good for your business. The more of them that you use, the better your business will fair.
I report certain technologies that you may already use in your life and work. I tell you also about some that you have most likely heard about and then about some that are still coming down the line.
I give considerable attention to beacons, those innocuous- little devices that often resemble miniaturized smoke detectors: They are being installed every few yards along the shelves, ceilings and walls of businesses everywhere. I report on what has succeeded and failed in places over the last couple of years. I talk bout their strengths and weaknesses and I talk about new technologies that improve customer experiences over what beacons alone can offer.
I have a chapter on design in technology. After all, if we are going to wear this stuff, it better look good.
I don’t spend a lot of time telling you all about smartphones, but I do explain how they have become a constant shopping companion that is increasing at almost every point where a shopper touches a business. I walk you through an example that starts when a loyal customer pulls into a parking lot and culminates with that shopper walking out with legitimately purchased goods, although she bypassed the checkout section entirely.
There are many forces at play here. I spend much time in this book explaining the phenomenon of technology’s convergence with social trends and business models.
Platforms, Natives, Causes & Ads
The so-called Sharing Economy is probably the most talked about business phenomenon of the last two years. Yet, in my investigation, I have found technology that replaces brick, mortar and human resources with extremely efficient contextual platforms
In addition, these platforms build online communities that lets past customers tell new customers about their experiences without the need for much marketing dollars or support staffing.
Lethal Generosity offer some advice to established brands confronting challenges from Sharing economy brands: if you cannot beat them, then join them either by adopting these new technologies yourself or by forming alliances with potential competitors.
To explain why the new technologies are so vital to the future of public-facing enterprises, I also take a lengthy look at the first generation of digital natives. In 2015, millennials became the largest age-based demographic group in the global marketplace and there they are likely to remain for the next fifty years.
There is much to understand about them, but most important is their faith that mobile devices will help them solve any problems as customers, employees and competitors.
I revisit Pinpoint Marketing, a concept that was introduced in the previous book. It is the idea that contextual technologies eliminate the need for many mass marketing allowing a more personal, less intrusive approach that is just now starting to be scalable. In short, brands will be able to communicate with millions of people, one at a time in a fraction of a second — in a more personal and focused sort of way where the conversation is based on customer intent.
All of these issues bring us to the big idea of this book: That[PI2] companies that use new technologies and understand evolving customer expectations will be able to give customers and shoppers unprecedented experiences that are so easy, fun and successful that your competitors just won’t have the chance to hijack them away.
The term Lethal Generosity means that by being incredibly good to your customers you can absolutely screw your competitors — if you move fast and get ahead of them.
This book makes the case for using new technologies to develop altruistic strategies that are good for your customers, your brand and the planet in general
Let us begin.