With Valentine’s Day now indubitably a global festival like perhaps no other – one that practically nobody can escape – and the contemporary relationship scene being characterised by epic churn, we at Mediolana felt moved by an article that our Creative Director & CSO recently came across in The New York Times on the topic of Mend, a new app and associated online community aimed at assisting people going through painful heartbreaks.
Mend (iOS launch date: July 2016) was founded by Ellen ‘Elle’ Huerta, a former Google employee who noticed – during a break-up of her own – that there was gaping gap in the app world for precisely this type of situation, while the corners of the Internet devoted to the topic were (and, we dare venture, still are) dominated by platitudes whose wisdom may only become apparent after a very long time indeed.
Huerta has correctly observed that while there is an ocean of fitness and (somewhat more tentatively) ‘brain-health’ software, vast areas of people’s love lives – beyond those pertaining to getting into a relationship in the first place – are wildly underserved. And on one level, Mend appears to be a great idea which taps into a clear cross-cultural need, having already been downloaded in over 100 countries; moreover, it certainly seems to have the backing of key players in Silicon Valley.
But after some reflection, in our opinion there is one clear potential issue with the concept: by turning such a sensitive area of human existence into yet another domain to be ‘managed’ electronically, apps such as Mend could make society overall that little bit less caring. Secure in the knowledge that there is now an algorithm to tend to their acute emotional needs, people may leave their friends in the care of a portal which can never actually be physically present, let alone listen to someone at close quarters who is truly suffering. Further iterations of Mend – an update is scheduled for this spring – must take this vital consideration into account if the noble original purpose of this technological marvel is not to be subverted.
Contemporary economies are characterised by a super-abundance of goods and services, and in these attention-scarce environments, one of the biggest challenges faced by manufacturers and providers is the simple task of differentiation: making their offerings distinctive (and, into the bargain, augmenting their essential appeal to consumers).
It is at this point that we at Mediolana wish to insert the unlikely figure of Fanny Agostini. Agostini is a weather forecast presenter at the Paris-based news network BFM TV, and at first glance would not necessarily appear to be a font of corporate wisdom on how to navigate competitive markets. But this exacting task is precisely what she has accomplished.
Agostini operates in an industry – the supply of weather predictions – which is notoriously crowded. People can get their forecast fix from a vast range of sources: newspapers; weather-related smartphone apps; and countless radio, television and Internet outlets, all of which do not stint on informing their audiences of the likelihood or otherwise of sunshine and showers.
But notwithstanding these relentless rivals, Agostini – an alumnus of Paris media college STUDEC – has become not merely a celebrity in her native France (her weather forecasts attract a disproportionately high number of viewers), but a minor worldwide web sensation. And after some contemplation, we at Mediolana think that Ms Agostini’s rise to prominence is no accident, instead owing much to her adoption of the following three market differentiation mechanisms which can turn generic into magic:
- Aesthetics and Apparel. Part of the reason behind the BFM TV icon’s success is doubtless linked to the fact that she is very pleasant to look at. But in the image-defined world of television, this is not exactly a unique attribute. What is more unusual is Agostini’s wardrobe and make-up, which emphasise her understated chic while skilfully accentuating her svelte shape; a lot of thought has gone into elevating this brand element.
- Artistry. However, where Agostini really comes into her own is in the crafted enthusiasm with which she brings us the climate conditions to come. In particular, her arm movements – smooth, direct and focused – are something out of a ballet theatre as opposed to a Paris television studio. The enjoyment that she derives from her work is palpable – and infectious.
- Attention to Detail. At BFM TV, Agostini has partnered with a broadcasting team which spares no effort in the animation studios: their weather icons, notably those representing rain and snow, are amongst the best we have ever seen, and help bring to life a slot which is generally treated as a prosaic appendage to other programmes.
Filed under Business, Media