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Eight reasons why Apple Watch will be successful

In Apple, brand-building, Fashion, innovation, iPhone, mobile & tablets, retail, Technology on April 12, 2015 at 2:54 pm

How will fans love thee?  Let us count the ways.

by Robert Liljenwall

8 apple watches1.  Apple relies on its existing customer base to drive initial sales on all new products.  Apple has sold over 500 million iPhones.  Their customers have the highest upgrade % of any comparable smart phone. As they say, the existing customer is the easiest and ‘cheapest’ to sell. If you own an Apple product, you have already received many emails about the Watch.  Apple knows how to mine it’s customer base, and they are uniquely successful at extracting money from their customer’s wallets.
2.  Apple customers are “discreet adopters”.  Apple never introduces a new device (think iPod, iPhone, iPad) that isn’t tested and performs at the highest level.  Apple is not the first to jump into the new product space — they take a wait/see approach, figure out how to do it better, and then fill in all the gaps and produce exquisitely designed devices that are superior in execution in all areas.  Samsung has given them a ‘run for their money’ but they’re perceived as a lower-tier product — certainly not on the same prestigious level with Apple, regardless of their performance.
3.  Apple’s customers are brand loyal.  They ‘believe’ and ‘trust’ just about everything Apple says about its products.  But these customers don’t just take Apple’s word for this — they know first hand that Apple products perform as expected, and they learn that their customer service is superior.  Yes, they pay more and are eager to do so, but they honestly believe their products are worth it.  For example, they know from experience how polite, courteous, and knowledgeable the ‘geniuses’ at the Genius Bar are.  And they love how they can ‘experiment’ and access all Apple products in their store.  All this builds their brand — they know that every contact they have with their customer is a solid building block for selling future products.
4.  Apple’s snob appeal.  Make no mistake about it — Apple is a luxury product.  They  never discount.  They don’t put on “sales” in Apple stores.  That Apple logo that shines brightly from your laptop in a Starbucks says this about you:  I have an Apple laptop….I paid top dollar for it….I am the kind of person who wants and needs the best…I am proud to be an Apple user.  Being an Apple user also says that you appreciate quality products and services because that’s the kind of person you are.  You want the best.  And wearing the new Apple Watch on your wrist for everyone to see will just be another way to express your commitment to the highest quality, the best.  In many ways, Apple users are tech snobs.  And they’re proud of it.
5.  Apple’s frenzied cult.  This brings us to:  Is Apple a cult?  Of course, it is.  It was always Steve Job’s vision to create the best computer in the world, the MacIntosh.  Then the iMac….then the MacBook…..iPod….iPhone. And now, Tim’s Watch.  Apple customers have been enraptured by the company’s products, its culture and position as a truly luxury brand, they have almost a blind passion for any new product.  They will ‘blindly’ buy their next new thing because  even if they may not need it, they want it.  This is based on customers wanting to always be “cool”, “chic”, tech-savvy, smart.  Apple customers believe so strongly in the Apple methods of inventing new things, they want desperately to be the owner of their latest invention.  It’s a sign that “I am truly a member of the one of most exclusive clubs in the world.”  I may not be able to join the country club, but I can own an Apple Watch and enhance my own brand at the same time.
Passionate Apple users also believe they truly own and depend on the best products in the world that makes their life better.  Apple is not a commodity — it’s the #1 brand in the world today (and the most valuable) that stands for something truly great — Superior Invention.  Superior Design.  Superior Innovation.  These are the common themes in the reviews we have seen on previous Apple products, and the Watch is no different this time around.
6.  Apple takes advantage of its market position.  They are not fools ….they can be arrogant for sure, but for the most part, it’s deserved arrogance.  They have earned, time again and again, the loyalty of their customers because they have delivered in the past.  Consequently, they rely on an established and proven methodology for creating and marketing new products that limits (or eliminates) failure.  There have been glitches — the antennae on the early iPhone was one — and the Apple Map app was a disaster.  Since Jobs created the first new Macs after his return to the company in 1996, their development and marketing process has essentially remained the same.  The only difference Jobs made the second time around was to open up the source code so they could extend their programming and offerings to users without having to spend the $$ on them.  Hence, there are over 1.2 million apps today for the iPhone and developers are now pushing for new apps for the Watch, although we doubt it will handle that many apps.
7.  Apple is the World’s Biggest Tease.  Think about it:  We have been teased about the Apple Watch for over a year.  This teaser campaign is perhaps the best marketing strategy ever created in the history of new product launches.  Nobody does it better.  Not even James Bond.  And what this does is create a “feeding frenzy”.  I asked a gentleman last night in a restaurant who was dining with his wife….they were both looking down at their iPhones — he had a 6, she had a 6 Plus (and proud of it).  I asked him if they ever talk at dinner anymore….they laughed.  Of course we do.  Are you getting an Apple Watch…she emphatically said “no.”  He, on the other hand, nodded ‘yes’, with a huge grin.  “Have to.  It’s my destiny.”  Think about that….his “destiny”?  Every brand marketer in the world wants this kind of customer loyalty.
8.  Apple is the ultimate creative force.  There is an old marketing adage:  The Creative Plan is the Marketing Plan.  I learned this while at Disneyland years ago.  Disney’s creative plan — designing and operating the world’s best outdoor attraction — was the reason for its success.  Not its marketing.  And what makes Apple’s marketing so effective is that their products are so damn gorgeous and work flawlessly (most of the time), they require less marketing than what their competitors must spend.  The brand extensions from Apple II to the Watch have proven winners every time.  Steve Jobs is responsible for building this creative culture.  And yes, he was a meanie.  He wasn’t always the nicest guy.  They got rid of him once.  But it was his devotion to creating the world’s ultimate products that serves today as their foundation for being the world #1 brand and most valuable company.  
 
With every new launch, Apple takes its brand equity for a spin.  They use this equity — tangible and intangible assets — to insure that their products are superior in every aspect of their design, function, and purpose, but more importantly, Apple hires the best “experts” in their field to guide the company down a new path — in this case, the watch business.  They recruit the best and brightest (“who can resist?”) from the world market and make sure that they pay attention to their cultural beliefs and practices at every turn.  They may, perhaps, stumble on the Watch launch, but for any company to take on such a mammoth undertaking in a whole new category — such as the tradition-bound watch business, there is no company better qualified to take this plunge than Apple.  They’re not betting their farm on this one product — but they are indeed dealing from a position of strength.  It’s a marvel to watch, pun intended.

Am I going to get the Watch?  Yes.  When?  Not sure.  I have gleaned myself from the frenzied rush to stand in line for hours or dial 17 times to reach an Apple order taker after the clock strikes Midnight.  I’m older now…and besides I have learned that, like with the Watch, I don’t really need it.  I want it.  And yes, it’s my destiny.

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Film Festivals Embrace High-Tech

In brand-building, mobile & tablets, social media, Technology, Video, Movies & Television on March 30, 2014 at 3:19 pm
RiverRun International Film Festival April 4-13

by Jeff Sandgren

riverrunThe 16th annual RiverRun International Film Festival will be running from April 4 – 13 in Winston-Salem. Held annually each spring, RiverRun screens a wide variety of feature-length and short films from all genres, and also presents a broad range of special events, including high-profile regional premieres of significant films. This year, festival winners can even become contenders for next year’s Academy Awards.

The festival, like its more famous cousins at Sundance and SXSW, relies increasingly on new technologies to develop and deliver the wonder of traditional moviegoing. We spoke with Christopher Holmes, Program Coordinator for RiverRun, about how they use small-screen and other new technologies to bring this banner event to the big screen in the City of Arts and Innovation.

BTN: How has technology changed the realization of your film festival?

RRIFF: Online streaming platforms have made all of our jobs tremendously easier. Keeping up with the programming landscape at major international festivals like Cannes has become so much more manageable – without ever having to leave the office. In the past it might take several emails back and forth and then the mailing of a physical DVD screener to facilitate the consideration of just one potential film, or even schlepping to the festival in person.

Online filmmaker services such as Cinando and Festivalscope now exist that allow us to request and receive invitations to watch streaming versions of many films, and this can all happen within the span of an hour or less now, given the response time from a particular filmmaker or distributor. Likewise Vimeo and YouTube have become high quality, legitimate receptacles for screeners from filmmakers that respond to our open call for submissions, so it’s really changed things for the better in terms of how quickly we’re able to preview titles that pique our interest.

BTN: How does it help support and promote the event?

RRIFF: Social media tools and their mobile apps have become integral to the way we promote the festival. We used to rely heavily on our in-house printed film guides and brochures, and local print media to get the word out, but now we can do that worldwide within a matter of minutes using Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. These tools additionally allow us to maintain a direct running dialogue with our supporters in the community and make everyone feel actively engaged with what’s happening at RiverRun on a consistent basis.

Keeping in touch with our audiences and staying on their radar in the many off months has always been a particularly challenging undertaking and technology has allowed us to accomplish this in a more purposeful and conversational way. And just in terms of design and implementation of graphic elements, it speeds up turnaround time on the creative end as well, since sharing high-res mock-ups and proofs via email is now very simple.

BTN: What is this new connection with the Academy Awards?

RRIFF: This year, for the first time in our history, we’ve been approved as a qualifying festival for the Academy Awards in the category of Short Subject Documentary, of which there are only a handful in the Southeastern United States and just a few dozen overall. Each year we assemble a jury for each competition category, comprised of noteworthy professionals, writers, academics and other personalities from the cinematic arts. Those juries deliberate during the festival to distinguish films with awards in their respective categories.

What the Oscar-qualifying tag means is that whichever film our Documentary Shorts jury awards with the Best Documentary Short prize is automatically in the pool of films that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences members ultimately consider for Oscar nomination. Basically we are a necessary filter between the entire mass of documentary shorts produced every year and what the Academy members are able to consider with their extremely limited time. So there’s a decent chance that one of the films programmed will be among the Oscar nominated shorts this time next year, and directly because of its participation in the festival.

BTN: We hear a lot about multiscreen user experience these days. Are you discouraging or encouraging it for events like this? 

RRIFF: We are certainly discouraging it during the screenings themselves!  There’s nothing more magnetizing to the eye than seeing a screen light up, and it is an enormous disruption to the immersive environment filmmakers covet when creating their work, so we do everything we can to be faithful to that interaction. However we are certainly encouraging the integration of all sizes of screens and technology in representing the festival more generally—talking about viewing experiences our audiences have had, sharing viewpoints on films we’ve shown, events we’ve put on or experiences we’ve created, and including things like trailer links and other visual content on our web-based analogs.

BTN: How can moviegoers use their mobile devices to select films and track showing and ticket availability?

RRIFF: Our website has a mobile version which enables sorting through film listings, viewing the schedule, watching trailers and buying tickets online. Additionally we have a mobile app for both iOS and Android devices that makes simply sorting the films even easier … it even allows the user to filter out a combination of attributes such as genre and venue to achieve a very specific set of recommendations based on a lot of different variables.

BTN: Looking ahead, how do you think wearables – especially devices like Google Glass – may change the film going experience of tomorrow … for better or worse?

RRIFF: Hmm, we wonder…

We don’t see a small-screen application like Google Glass as particularly conducive to the large scale, projected effect that cinematic communication necessitates. After all, larger screen sizes have been positively linked to viewer engagement and interactivity (even on a physiological level) so the smaller the viewing space, the less control the filmmaker has over the way and degree to which the audience engages with the content.

For more small-screen, commercially driven applications like viewing sports, news, film trailers and social media, we can imagine it being very appealing, even if only from a novelty perspective. People are constantly looking for new user experiences and ways to keep their messages fresh and vital, so Google Glass and other wearables seem like they could present new opportunities in that respect.

Perhaps there’s a way to integrate the glasses with 3D moviegoing and TV experiences, as well?  How about it science? – JTS

Finally! Microsoft wakes up.

In Apple, Microsoft, mobile & tablets, Technology on March 28, 2014 at 6:48 am

MS Office comes to your iPad

by Robert Liljenwall

Office on iPadThe announcement happened March 27, but it has been in the works for months. Microsoft Office is coming to iPad.  I already knew this:  I learned about it a week ago – while ‘camping.’  My Airstream was parked next to another Airstream in Northern California, recently purchased by a just-retired Microsoft executive. We got friendly, and I told him that I would not get an iPad until it had Microsoft Office, one of my major objections to the tablet world.  (I have a MacBook Air, which I love).  He then informs me “… that’s going to happen in the next two weeks!”  “You’re kidding?” He said it was decided that “Microsoft has to be where our customers are … and they’re on iPads, and so we have to be there, too!”

We at BTN have always felt that Microsoft was too narrow-minded in refusing to allow Apple to have the Office suite – it was a strategic decision to drive customers to Surface, their tablet version.  But it clearly wasn’t working – Surface sales have always languished, and while it’s very versatile, it never had Apple’s panache and the new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recognized that if must deliver services to both businesses and consumers wherever they are, especially on mobile devices.

The new Office Suite app will be live for free on Apple’s App Store immediately, but for creating and editing content, you will need an Office 365 subscription, which their Home Subscription costs $9.99/month or $99.99 a year.  The expected revenue for Microsoft is estimated at $1.4 billion, which outweighed any risk to Windows.

So, the Microsoft brand has somewhat righted with its iPad move.  Microsoft has been trying to make it in the non-Xbox world of hardware with phones and tablets, but it continues to struggle.  A recent study showed that Apple and Samsung have now just about crushed any attempts from others in the smartphone and tablet business.  So, Nadella may just be on a roll to adjust Microsoft’s focus to the services business.

Always, there were tensions between Microsoft and Apple, stemming from the Bill versus Steve battles from the early days of the PC development in the late 1970s. Microsoft swiftly grew to soaring heights, leaving Apple in its dust.  But Microsoft invested $150 million in Apple when it needed it in 1997 to integrate Microsoft Office into the Apple line of products, which provided Jobs the boost he needed for selling computers.

Apple has not provided any sales projections yet – but BTN will keep you posted. Hmmm … time to go shopping? – RJL 

iPad Air’s Magic Ride

In Apple, innovation, mobile & tablets on November 8, 2013 at 3:37 pm
Image representing Apple as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

by Robert Liljenwall

Perhaps the biggest ‘noise’ generated since Apple introduce its Fall Lineup of new devices and software was the iPad Air. It’s lighter, sleeker and faster. But its Retina display makes it so pleasing and attractive to the eye; one can’t help but want to plunge right into the screen.

I have an regular MacBook Air now and while I love its lightness and quickness, I don’t love the screen, and I am tempted to get an iPad Air. But then what?  Honestly, with my current Air, I still enjoy the luxury of the lightest-weight laptop out there that can take all of my applications, like Microsoft Office – which has become a major battleground between Microsoft and Apple. As long as Microsoft is in the tablet business, they’re not going to let Apple have Office – regardless of how Microsoft’s sales for its Surface are not setting any sales records. Does this really go back to Jobs versus Gates “days”?  Probably. Can you imagine the day Microsoft announces that they have struck an Office deal with Apple for the tablet market?  My suspicion there was someone in Seattle who made the statement … “over my dead body.” (Bill is only 58, so don’t hold your breath.)

But getting back to the iPad Air. Macworld‘s Jason Snell (11/6) couldn’t say enough good things about the new iPad Air – “they made the best tablet better!” And while initial sales figures have not been released, according to Chinese suppliers, the initial sales response is nearly three to four times that of the iPad4 (a year ago) … which means that the iPad Air will most likely be the holiday’s premier, high-end gift under the tree.

With the world’s fastest processor – A7 – the iPad Air will most likely not sway too many iPad Mini owners to switch since it is expected that Apple will convert the Mini to a Retina display come early 2014. And then there’s the issue about “hand-ability” – the Mini is easier to hold with one hand versus the Air or regular iPad4.

But in the end, I know if I wander into the Apple store, I will be reaching for my wallet. I’m still unhappy with iOS7 and its pastel-colored, hard-to-read screens on its apps … but I’m patient. – RJL

New Valassis Survey Reveals Fresh Insights on Millennials’ Shopping Behaviors

In brand-building, mobile & tablets, retail, Shopper Marketing on September 13, 2013 at 3:00 pm

by Jeff Sandgren

This week Valassis released the results of its Sixth Annual RedPlum® Purse String Survey, to gain insight from today’s shoppers and learn more about their shopping behaviors – especially where and how they look for deals. The study, based on insights from more than 5,100 respondents, found something surprising about Millenials in particular: although they are more ardent digital devotees (no surprise there), they prefer good old paper coupons.

Lisa Reynolds, Valassis Vice President of Consumer Engagement

Lisa Reynolds, Valassis Vice President of Consumer Engagement

“The RedPlum Purse String Survey results are somewhat counter intuitive from what you might expect based on what we know about Millennials,” said Lisa Reynolds, Valassis Vice President of Consumer Engagement. “While they are heavy digital users, this group also embraces tried and true methods for savings, as much as any other age group … they area a true testament to the use of savings from both print and digital sources.”

Perhaps most surprisingly, 51 percent of Millenials indicated that print is their first choice for savings. Unlike other groups, they rely slightly more on in-store coupons and deals than retail circulars; but like other groups, their top four sources are newspaper, emails/coupon alerts, Internet searches and their mailbox.

We wanted to learn more, so we were fortunate enough to get some Q&A time with Lisa Reynolds. Here’s what she had to say.

BTN: Millennials are seen as being less brand loyal than other demographics.  What strategies do your most recent findings suggest for Retailers and CPGs to at least hold ‘share of wallet’ with this segment?

LR: When asked to self-identify as promotion sensitive, price conscious, brand loyal or time crunched, Millennials like all other respondents indicated they were promotion sensitive (69 percent  versus all respondents 75 percent). Given their desire to seek out savings from a variety of sources and the multitude of influencers along the path to purchase, retailers and CPGs must utilize an omni-channel approach, using not only digital but also print and in-store initiatives to reach this consumer.

BTN: You mention various vehicles for conveying offers – have you observed any correlation between offers types and conveyances?  i.e., what types of offers work best as retail circular deals versus mobile coupons?

LR: While we didn’t specifically ask a question correlating offer type, what we do know is that Millennials use their smartphones to a higher degree for savings and in a variety of ways. For example, 45 percent (compared to 24 percent all respondents) of Millennials accessed a coupon in an email on their smartphone; 38 percent downloaded a savings app (versus 21 percent of all respondents); and 36 percent compared deals on their phone (versus 20 percent overall). The RedPlum Purse String Survey also found that these promotion-sensitive Millennials are getting their savings the same way as all other consumers across age groups and income levels with 51 percent indicating newspaper is their first choice for savings.

BTN: You note several differences between Millennials and all age groups.  What trends are you observing in these gaps – are Millenials pulling away from the herd and becoming more distinctive in their behaviors over time, or are any other age groups (if so, which) becoming more like Millenials, closing those gaps?

LR: The RedPlum Purse String Survey confirmed Millennials’ penchant for all things digital. They are leading the way using more mobile coupons and using their smart phones to access a coupon in an email, a coupon code, compare deals and download a coupon to a loyalty card. These trends will continue. We also found some distinctions between the Haves (those with an income over $60,000) versus the Have-Nots (those with an income under $60,000). Haves spend about 10 percent less time looking for deals to achieve the same savings. Both use their savings for basic necessities; the Have-Nots to a higher degree (65 percent versus 52 percent for Haves). Next, the Haves use their savings on dining out while the Have-Nots put it toward paying down debt. As a result, besides groceries, the Haves are more interested in coupons and deals on dining out and entertainment.

BrandTech News View: Regardless of demographic, consumers embracing digital coupons still rely heavily on paper coupons. Wise retailers and brand marketers need to tightly integrate their omni-channel offers and messages to make sure they engage all consumers at the Zero Moment of Truth.

Apple debuts new stuff … is it enough?

In Apple, mobile & tablets, Samsung, Steve Jobs on September 10, 2013 at 11:11 pm

by Robert Liljenwall

A sage marketing professional said that when someone asks you how it’s going, a safe answer always is:  “It’s too early to tell.” For no matter what the question is…this response always seems like a very intelligent answer, especially when commenting on Apple’s release of its new phones and iOS7 today.  The cat was already out of the bag weeks ago, as reported in BTN, so today’s event was really anti-climactic.  Anti-climactic for several reasons:  1) really, no new product was introduced and it’s been two years since Steve Jobs departed and we haven’t seen a new product, only updates and enhancements; 2) there was no home run – a bunch of singles and perhaps a double … and Apple left players on base; and 3) the ‘brand vote’ was negative – the stock didn’t go up, it went down – 2.28 percent loss in overall value today (9/10). Touch ID

#3 is really not surprising.  Carl Icahn touted Apple as a stock near $600 and there have been buy recommendations for $525 and $540 before the event … .so the fact that Apple went down is a bit depressing if you’re an Apple lover … “how could you leave me?”  But the reality is that until Apple makes a major move with something new besides cosmetic and interior system improvements, people will question Apple’s vision.  Yes, the new enhancements are quite nice – such as finger-print ID … faster processor … longer battery life … and better camera.  And a cheaper phone will help Apple in China.  But Apple does not appear to be a forward-thinker these days, and it pains me to write this.  The Samsung people must have smiles on their face … although the iPhone 5C could give them trouble in China … but we’ll see.

It’s really too early to tell … until Sept. 20 when Apple starts putting the iPhone 5S and 5C in people’s hands.  I will most likely trade up – always do because I love my iPhone and trust Apple…and that’s the core of the Apple brand – customers who love their products and trust them.  Do Apple people want bigger screens?  Perhaps, but frankly, I love the way my iPhone fits in my hand – and I have short fingers, so a wider phone would not help my experience.  And besides, Apple’s legacy and quality of design simply cannot be matched by the Galaxy.  Just can’t.

Apple was rumored to have the iTV in the wings – but it was a no-show.  And when that does happen – I suspect next spring – it will restore some of the lost luster on the Apple brand.  Yes, the Apple brand lost some buzz today … sorry to say.  I remain loyal but am still waiting.  A good friend, Robert Page, sent me this rather poignant quote from Steve Jobs this morning which bears passing along to you:

 “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backward to the technology.  You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you’re going to try to sell it … A vision for Apple [is] ‘What incredible benefits can we give the customer?’ … I think that’s the right path to take.” – RJL

Apple’s Latest iPhones: The Parallel Paths Taken

In Apple, mobile & tablets, Samsung, Steve Jobs on September 10, 2013 at 11:06 pm

by Jeff Sandgren

Not one, but two new iPhones. Not one, but two chips. Not one flash element, but two. Not more pixels, but more light. Not a new screen size, but a new home button. Apple’s latest product release wasn’t as much about “… the right path to take …” as it was about the path not taken.new iPhones

That being said, some of the technological innovations are noteworthy, if not necessarily as mind-blowing as Jobs-era Apple devotees have come to expect. From a technologist’s point of view, here were the sound moves:

  1. Splitting the line. Dividing iPhone 5 into the C and S lines is good technology – and good business. There’s a big market out there for those who aspire to flash the Apple logo, but not pay the premium price. The choice of a polycarbonate shell is also smart, keeping down the cost while preserving the premium brand value of the upscale model. The big question here is: is it cheap enough?
  2. 64-bit microprocessor. The A7 is a smart move, and a smart response from Apple to quad processors like Samsung Galaxy S4’s Snapdragon 800 quad processor. With iOS 6 and the upcoming 7, Apple has more control over their micro architecture than Android has, so it makes more sense to unleash the power of 64-bit processing while others add more cores. The big question here is: is it fast enough?
  3. The Motion Coprocessor. A very interesting response to Samsung’s Galaxy Gear watch, on a lot of levels. It makes sense in the way that a graphics coprocessor does, and the combination of the now-ubiquitous sensors of acceleration, gyroscope and compass into a continuously monitored and integrated sensor array, complemented by the CoreMotion API, should thrill developers almost as much as the A7. And Nike’s immediate jump onto this bandwagon with the Nike+ Move app is probably a great first example. The big question here is: is it a precursor for an iWatch?
  4. Bigger aperture and pixels, dual flash. As with more processing cores, so with pixels in digital photography; the strategy of competitors has been to add more in order to improve performance. But optics is optics, and the simple science is that if you can smack more photons into a photoreceptor, you theoretically ought to be able to goose the performance. A lot of the camera features touted in the new iPhone 5 were “catch-up” (e.g., slow motion capture and burst mode), but improving the optics and the equally bright move of having dual-toned flash elements that deliver the optimal ‘heat’ for the lighting are smart steps toward better photography. The big question here is: will users see the difference?
  5. Touch ID home button. Apple’s acquisition last year of AuthenTec made this almost a foregone conclusion, but it’s still a great example of the Jony Ive’s mantra of “more useful and more elegant” and of the blurring of hardware and software in subservience to the user experience. The iTunes purchase authorization is also a no-brainer smart move in this regard. The big question here is: is there an alternate sign-on for icy cold outdoor winter fingers? We assume so.

display comparisonSo much for the Path Taken. Equally notable are the Paths Not Taken. Top of that list has to be the decision not to change screen size, or pixel count (and density). The number one comment I hear when people see an S4 for the first time is “look at that screen.” At an eye-pleasing 441 pixels per inch, the 1920X1080 S4 screen is like crystal meth for the eyes – once you’ve tried it, you’re pretty well hooked (see comparison of two a’s, Galaxy S4 is on the right). Time will tell if Apple succumbs to the chant of ‘You scream, I scream, we all scream for more screen.”

And there are many other me-too’s not pursued, like the lack of Near Field Communications. Instead, Apple has apparently chosen to go with a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) solution in iOS 7, called iBeacon. Other cool features like the Galaxy’s Air View, Smart Scroll and Smart Pause also didn’t make the cut. One can’t dismiss the possibility that some of the choices are driven by recent patent wars. If so, it’s not exactly the customer-centric vision that Jobs espoused. – JTS

12 Important Social Media Tools for Brand Marketers

In brand-building, mobile & tablets, social media on August 24, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Future Trends globe and handby Jeff Sandgren

Today was the wrap for the Social Media Insider Summit, and the sponsors had the good sense to stream the final session to those of us not fortunate enough to be at the event by the shores of Lake Tahoe.  Social Media Insiders – who could resist a bit of Saturday afternoon multitasking bandwidth to hear what these Technorati had to say? After an interesting discussion of the possibility (or near certainty, depending on the pundit) of a Facebook Apocalypse (think MySpace) in the not too distant future, we got down to the really juicy insider stuff: what’s next?

So in case you weren’t with these folks, or sitting like me at home wishing you were at Lake Tahoe, here are 12 social media sites & tools that you might want to keep on your radar. To be clear, the order of these sites is as they came up in conversation, and shouldn’t be interpreted as bestowing any more importance on one than on the others. Except the most important one is last … and no fair peeking.

  1. Waze is an app that enables “fun, community based mapping, traffic & navigation.” The 50 million + “Wazers” outsmart traffic by reporting backups, hazards, police and cheap gas to help you find the best way to your destination. By driving with Waze and GPS active on your smartphone, you passively feed data that helps the system automatically detect slowdowns and faster routes. So big bennies for users; for marketers, it means location-based marketing, geofencing and consumer behavioral insights. Right there on the edge of am-I-sharing-too-much, but if you can save me time and gas, well …
  2. LoudDoor claims to be the leading research and targeting platform on Facebook, offering proprietary audiences for market researches, built on the big kahuna of social media sites. Unless the apocalypse actually happens.
  3. Compendium wants to help you calm the chaos of content marketing. Their platform lets you manage all steps of the content marketing process. It’s used by retailers like Bass Pro Shops and Gymboree, event managers, colleges, online marketers … potentially anybody who want to leverage the power of content marketing (like us) with less pain and effort (yeah, OK, like us.)
  4. Kenshoo is a digital marketing company whose mission is to empower every marketer in the world with technology to build brands and generate demand across all media. Brands, agencies and developers use their solutions to direct more than $25 billion in annual client sales revenue, with campaigns running in more than 190 countries for nearly half the Fortune 50 and all 10 top global ad agency networks.
  5. Offerpop positions itself as “the most widely used social marketing platform” with more than 50,000 global customers (supporting 17 languages), and more than 270,000 campaigns created. They promise to enable you to launch campaigns on Twitter and Facebook in minutes … and offer a free two-week trial.
  6. Tagkast solutions support Brand-sponsored photography at live events by integrating them with social sharing. Based on the idea that social media marketing begins and ends with photos, they leverage the social media advantage that 92 percent of consumers trust friend referrals, but only 33 percent trust digital advertising. Their landing page ticker indicates they are approaching 5 million branded moments shared. There’s still time to sign them up for your participation at next summer’s event of the season: the BrandTechNewsaPallooza. Be there or be square.
  7. LINE is a communication app that enables free voice calls and free messages. It’s been ranked the number one free app in 52 countries. Their ‘Home’ feature lets users share photos, videos and location info, and an ecosystem of LINE apps support stickers, cards and all manner of addictive social doodads. Teens and tweens can’t get enough of it.
  8. Vibrant Media is the world’s leading provider of in-content contextual technology that gets brand content and advertising discovered across platforms. With more than 6,600 premium publishers, reaching more than 300 million unique users per month, they offer brand marketers the opportunity to deliver highly targeted advertisements and branded content within text and images. They say Content is King, but Context is Queen.
  9. Percolate helps brands create content “at social scale.” Their solutions help brand marketers create smart hits of curated content that are relevant and inexpensive, but still convey quality and allow the brand to leave their stamp. Sounds great, but where’s the part where someone brings me coffee?
  10. Jive offers enterprise social software to streamline the workflow by making marketers more productive, aligned and innovative. A recent report finds that more than 90 percent of US, British and Australian employees work during their personal time. Jive aims to lighten that load. Ooh, ooh, me next, me nex
  11. Wildfire is the social marketing platform just purchased in July by Google, which lets brands run contests, sweepstakes, branded games and more … and serve marketing and ad campaigns on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and LinkedIn.
  12. BrandTech News is here to help keep you in the know on all the latest at the dynamic intersection of branding and technology. Well, yes, it’s us. Forgive a moment of self-serving sentiment in the midst of our journalistic integrity. But, hey, we’re doing it all for you. Just scroll down a little bit and hit the ‘Sign me up!’ button so you don’t miss a beat of our hard-hitting coverage.

A Global Road to Mobile Marketing Success

In brand-building, mobile & tablets on October 28, 2011 at 10:40 am

Lessons from abroad, courtesy of InMobi

by Jeff Sandgren, Technology Editor

Mobile is top digital channel in Africa

Mobile is top digital channel in Africa

Here in North America, mobile devices are in the process of overtaking traditional PCs – Gartner predicts that combined sales of smartphones and tablets will exceed desktops and laptops for the first time this year.  In other markets the mobile devices have already established their dominance.  So it makes perfect sense that leadership in mobile marketing solutions reveals a top player who leveraged a true reverse market strategy.

That company is InMobi, a global mobile advertising network launched in 2007 who mastered their boot camp skills in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, all markets where mobile is the number one digital channel, before market timing and marketing savvy set the stage for their big beachhead assault on the North American market.

At this summer’s Mobile Marketing Association Forum one of the best presentations was delivered by Anne Frisbie, InMobi’s VP & Managing Director for North America, backed up with some very solid market intelligence developed by James Lamberti, InMobi’s VP of Global Research & Marketing.  Anne and James were the first two strategic hires for InMobi’s North American market entry, and we had the opportunity to spend time with both of them.InMobi VP's Anne and James

We asked Anne what surprised her most about the recent studies presented at the forum.

“Two thirds of mobile shoppers make direct purchases on mobile,” Anne revealed.  “People used to think it would all be digital, games and ringtones.  But we’ve found that a third of the users are buying physical goods and services on mobile.”

InMobi now serves over 50 billion impressions per month, according to the company’s website.  Their US push includes two recent catalysts: a $200M investment from Japan’s SoftBank, and their opening this month of their new Manhattan offices. Although the office is new, Anne and James have actually been busy in the US for a few years, since most of the advertising inventory comes from the US.

“We’ve been working with lots of publishers here in the US for the past three years,” Anne explained.  “There’s been a big leap here over the past year.  Marketers have really woken up.  The immersive, rich media ad experience that became possible on the smartphones was really eye-opening.”

Anne’s a straight talker.  “It’s pretty schizophrenic out there,” she told us, “about half of the top 200 brands don’t have a mobile optimized website.”

Analytics point the way

Marketers now are trying to measure all the way through to the point of sale, Anne contends.  InMobi has seen a big increase in their customers’ usage of the available analytics.  This seems to be indicative of a real turning point, as advertisers and agencies are driven more and more by the need to demonstrate return on marketing investment.  Test, Learn & Evolve is a common mantra of advertisers these days.  Numbers rule: it’s been demonstrated that ad budgets are growing faster in channels that have more metrics.

InMobi is big on analytics.  “We offer real-time analytics,” Anne continued “and can track over two dozen variables, back to whatever event people want to monitor: engagement actions like videos views, or right down to conversion and sales.  More importantly, this real-time analysis drives the ad-serving logic, so the ad serving can truly be optimized.  At the publisher level we’ve seen a huge difference.”

This big difference in Marketer perception complements the growing usage by consumers.  The research reported at the MMA event showed that the demographics of smartphone shoppers who say they prefer mobile to PC shopping now includes all age groups except those over 65.  “Every six months, you bring another decade of consumer demographics into the market,” said James Lamberti.  According to this study, even non smartphone users prefer mobile to PC shopping.Smartphone and Feature Phone users prefer mobile to PC shopping

James, who previously pioneered some of the top tools on comScore, including qSearch™ and Video Metrix™, now widely used by hundreds of clients around the world, has played a key role not only in driving the focus on analytics at InMobi, but also in helping see where the market was going at an early stage.  According to James, “we recognized earlier than many that Android and IOS would be game-changers, delivering compelling consumer experiences at scale, globally.  And we recognized that it would be a ‘developer economy’ with application developers becoming publishers, and doing so in a new way that was truly global.  We saw them focusing on global monetization, without a lot of ‘country bias’, so that’s been key in helping us architect the right platform.”

In fact, over half of the developer/publisher revenue comes from outside the US.  Let’s recap that important distinction: over half the ad inventory comes from inside the US, but the majority of revenue comes from outside.  So InMobi has built itself to be “a one-stop shop for global monetization”, according to James.

The Privacy elephant in the boardroom

The privacy issues commonly come up in conversations about mobile marketing.  They technically center around the UDID (Unique Device ID), which, as the name suggests, is an identifier unique to each individual device.  The UDIDs are pretty critical to Application functionality, so they’re necessarily accessed.  Will they be classified as personally identifiable information, from a personal privacy standpoint?  How will they be allowed to be used by marketers?  The Mobile Marketing Association is developing a Point Of View and recommendations on dealing with privacy in mobile marketing, as one of its top initiatives.Privacy concerns are top-of-mind for mobile marketers

According to James, the Tier 1 players are all aggressively managing privacy issues, as a group.  They’re leveraging the learning from privacy concerns on PC-based web marketing, so the hope is that they will solve these issues fast and better than their desktop/laptop predecessors.  But not everyone is on board.  James cautions, “If some Tier 2 providers are promising a high degree of targeting, marketers should be sure to ask the tough questions.”

The investment by SoftBank might be a significant validation of InMobi’s leadership.  SoftBank is a big, big player in digital media, the dominant Japanese Digital Media company.  Case in point: they have a 40% stake in Alibaba, the Asian counterpart to eBay.  They’re clearly staking a big bet on InMobi as a key investment in mobile.

Looking ahead

InMobi offers advice to those who haven’t yet optimized.  Looking ahead, Anne expresses a consumer-driven vision.  “We expect over 100 million Americans every month will enjoy a better mobile ad experience by the end of this year.  I would love to see every ‘top 2’ brand optimize on the mobile platform BECAUSE it matters to consumers.  Not all CMOs fundamentally believe yet that people are buying on mobile.  But it’s changing fast.”  Brand Marketers have good reason to heed the trend.  InMobi shared a case study from ten Memorial Day campaigns that showed clients realizing a 74% reduction in cost of conversion.  Marketing, Shmarketing, now you’re getting Finance’s attention.Aggregate of 10 campaigns with 74% reduction in conversion costs

For those ‘sub-optimized’ brands, Lamberti counsels that you start safely and solidly.  “There’s a lot of distracting shiny objects in mobile right now, that don’t all scale well and may have high opportunity costs.  You don’t want to start off with a bad first impression on mobile.  Start with the common elements, aspects of Mobile that are working now, not just all-in on rich media.  Build a holistic plan.  And don’t just take what worked on a PC and stick it on the mobile phone.  There are five main calls to action for mobile – you need to make sure you use them all.”

James sees the evolution in phases.  “Deployment at scale was Phase 1.  Achieving real consumer engagement, at scale, was Phase 2.  We’ve done both. Phase 3 comes when you solve the problems of privacy and tracking, and when you solve the equally important challenges of bridging the analytics and message delivery between mobile and other channels.”

InMobi, we guess, is working hard on both these challenges.  We think bigger things in mobile marketing are yet to come.  -JTS

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A Snappy Approach to Mobile Advertising

In brand-building, mobile & tablets, Shopper Marketing on October 5, 2011 at 10:07 am

by Jeff Sandgren

Quiz: What innovative 2-D tag image solution was used in these advertising campaigns this summer?

  • Ocean Spray, in their cross-country mobile sampling tour
  • Toyota Motors’ ToyoTag, to “move the consumer closer to the transaction”
  • Gap, in Glamour Magazine (right on the cover, next to Rihanna’s … personality)
  • Office Depot’s nationwide back-to-school promotion offering $500,000 in mobile gift cards
  • Wrigley’s Orbit gum back-to-school in 100 million packages of gum
  • Bud Light’s “Ultimate Fan Experience” promotion
  • Casa Noble Tequila and Bar Louie restaurants offer chances at tickets to a Santana concert
  • Chivas Regal’s “Brotherhood” campaign

If you answered Quick Response (“QR”) Codes, or the more colorful Microsoft Tags, you’re wrong.  The correct answer is SnapTags, a solution offered by SpyderLynk, a mobile activation and marketing platform company.

This could be mobile marketing’s worst kept secret.  While Quick Response codes seem to dominate the news, and Microsoft Tags fight for a share of media attention, SpyderLynk continues to build up an ever-growing stable of successful campaigns.  And there are two good reasons why.

The first, from a brand point of view, is looks.  QR codes are functionally nifty, but they’re ugly … by design.  They were developed by the Denso Wave Company as a better way to track car parts, with more information than traditional ‘striped’ 1D barcodes.  Nicole Skogg, SpyderLynk’s Founder and CEO, is also the inventor of the SnapTag, which feat she performed before she’d even heard of a QR code, so the whole angle of approach is different, coming from a visual, brand-friendly starting point.  Where the visual appeal matters (e.g. Rihanna on Glamour), the choice of a simple, attractive logo with a surrounding circle, rather than the black and white QR checkerboard, has better brand appeal.

The second reason for SnapTag’s success, from an advertising effectiveness standpoint, is reach.  At issue is the question of how many cell phones are “feature phones” (cell phones with cameras) versus how many are “smart phones” (iPhones, Androids, etc.), which matters because SpyderLynk’s SnapTags work with both, so they simply cast a wider marketing net.  Two equally credible reports came up with different answers this summer.  Nielsen finds that 40% are smartphones vs. 60% feature phones.  The report from comScore found an even smaller slice for smartphones, at around 35%.  SnapTags can potentially be “read” by virtually all of these devices.

Smartphone adoption is growing, but the numbers for now still give feature phones the majority.  On top of that, comScore also found only 6.2% of mobile phone users actually scanned a QR code in the most recent test period.  Here in the US, camera phone users can use a service from another company, Scanlife, to send a photo of a QR code via MMS to a special number, where a server decodes it and sends back an SMS message with the web link or other info that the user can then input to get more content.  Did that sound too involved to you?  Precisely the point.

We spoke on two separate occasions with Nicole Skogg, SpyderLynk’s Founder/CEO and Jane McPherson, SpyderLynk’s CMO, who have had a great view of the development of this new solution over the past few years.  We wondered, would the trend in QR adoption make it easier or harder for SpyderLynk?

Jane prioritizes brand strategy over technology:  “The bigger questions should be, are brands really giving consumers a reason to use them?”

“There’s a bit of risk,” Jane explained.  “If everyone throws QR codes on everything without offering consumers value beyond a web connection, will it turn consumers off?  Right now there’s still a novelty factor, but marketers are going to have think more carefully about the best times, places, and ways to use mobile activation codes.  We try to focus our clients on really meeting a market need.”

According to Nicole, “We’re moving into a Marketing 3.0 landscape.  Consumer-driven conversations are the next phase, an ongoing, on-demand dialogue with the brand.  It’s about brands getting close to consumers, and to their decision-making process.”

Adoption by brand marketers has come in waves, according to Jane.  “Traditional advertising was the first big wave, then event marketing, now retailers.  We’re finding that shopper marketers are focusing more on purchase consideration, rather than just dropping brand and awareness.  Their focus is on helping consumers in making a purchasing decision.  HP is doing a good job of serving short videos to help them answer questions about products.  For Coors, sweepstakes still work, because that’s a high engagement brand.  It varies by product.”

An interesting example of on-package marketing with SnapTags is the recent work of Colorado Native, a brand of AC Golden (MillerCoors) that’s marketed locally in the Rocky Mountain state.  According to Jane, they put SnapTags on their bottles.  Participating consumers are first “age-gated”, then drawn into a back and forth dialogue with trivia, polling questions, and social networking.

“They are doing a great job of crafting campaigns that drive loyalty in the marketplace.  Colorado Native contributes a portion of all sales to a charity. Right now, if you snap and send (with your cell phone camera) the SnapTag engagement lets the consumer decide which charity.  Now the consumer feels connected.  Colorado Native has also become arbiters of event news.  So they ask via SnapTag conversations: what events do you care about?  Consumers choose the event, and they send out messages about the appropriate events.  Their SnapTag community is as big as or bigger than their Facebook community.”

SnapTags were also used to clever effect in DVD launches, like Warner Brothers’ “Inception” and Sony Pictures’ “This Is It”.  Ah, but show business has a way of drawing the unwary into its web.  Nicole’s innovations were recently honored by The Producers Guild of America, in association with Variety, who chose her as one of the 2011 “Digital 25” Leaders in Emerging Entertainment.  That puts her in the heady company of Lady Gaga.  We’ll be looking for her first SnapTag tattoo soon.  -JTS

Editor’s Note, March 2012:  We learned from a David Alex that there might be some name confusion.  In the completely-unrelated world of biological research, a Professor Kai Johnsson developed ‘novel tools to study protein functions’ and calls the technology a SNAP-tag.   Spyderlynk’s mobile marketing technology is called a SnapTag and enables marketers to offer consumers the opportunity to activate commerce, social, promotional and couponing campaigns from any location. Nicole Skogg, the founder of SpyderLynk invented and patented the SnapTag.  We are not sure she how much she knows about protein functions … but she is a wiz at mobile technologies and marketing platforms.  Thanks, David, for helping with disambiguation.

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