Michibiki has more Twitter followers than you and me put together. All of you, and all of me with my 17 followers. Michibiki hit 16,284 when I signed on just now, and she (he?) has not yet even emerged upon the global stage. Perhaps by the time you read this, if the September 11 launch date holds true, s/he will be an orbiting, broadcasting entity.
Why follow a satellite? One might well ask why follow anything or anyone these days. For utterings momentous or vacuous, leavened in lucky moments by a bit of gossip, or an even rarer bit of news. It’s a good bet that Michibiki’s scriptwriters will display more intelligence than the mass of online mouths. Right now it’s hard to tell; they communicate in Japanese, which comes through my browser as so many question marks.
For intelligence is what the Michibiki anthropomorphizing — from the creation of a friendly, pettable caricature to the establishment of a Twitter voice — is all about. Savvy marketing by purposeful people to an audience that they have studied and know well. This goes beyond the cute that large segments of Japan have a fondness for. It has the goal of buliding a solid, sustained client core for location-based services, powered by QZSS signals.
Other places where LBS have failed to take hold — and this means everywhere — despite their vast potential utility, would do well to watch and learn.
As cell-phone text-message readers and e-mail users (could there be a broader market segment, other than people who eat and breathe?) become accustomed to receiving messages from Michibiki, they will subtly but increasingly think of this 4,000-kilogram, 40,000-kilometer high hunk of orbiting metal and circuitry as a personality, and even, a friend. They will be open to suggestions, impressionable and cute-prone teens and twenty-somethings, especially so. This is the next generation of satnav users. Or I should say, this is the Now Generation of satnav users.
Young men and women with places to go and friends to see will remember Michibiki, and call upon her/him often. “My guide will tell me how to get there. With added services, my guide will also track my friends right now, and tell me where they are. My guide can do many more wonderful things for me: here is a list of them.”
By no means do I suggest that the U.S. GPS Industry Council or the Galileo Supervisory Authority or Roscosmos rush out and commission a cartoon character based on their respective space vehicles. Different markets require different approaches, and careful study.
The Now Generation of satnav users is coming through, to supplant current users, and uses. They’ll soon rattle your windows and shake down your walls. If your time to you is worth saving, I do suggest that you pick up on social media. That is the message my own marketing staff keeps drumming into this obdurate old head.