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Posts Tagged ‘IPhone’

Looking back and forward on 5s Journey

In Apple, brand-building, iPhone, retail, Steve Jobs on September 22, 2013 at 3:48 pm

by Robert Liljenwall

The journey is over. And it is now beginning. I have my 32GB Gray iPhone 5s in hand … and I am warming up to it. If you really want to experience it before you buy it, download iOS7 and you’ll get the (almost) complete look/feel, which takes time getting used to. I hated the color and font scheme of iOS7 but my passion to get the 5s overcame my dissatisfaction with the look I had on my 5 after downloading 7.  Thought the pastel/light gray scale was very inappropriate and still do, but I am getting used to it. If you need glasses to read your screens on your iPhone, you’ll need them for sure on the 5s.

But back the journey. As you may have read, I canceled my phone order for a gold 32GB when I realized that I could actually get one on 5/20 at the Pasadena Apple store (instead of waiting until Oct. 8). They still had plenty of gray 32GB in stock … and the wait was a very tolerable 45 minutes in line. The Apple sales people were extremely helpful, courteous and gave me all the time necessary to feel comfortable with some minimal training. The entire transaction took less than 20 minutes, and it was seamless. I was, indeed, thrilled I made the right choice to stop by for a second time at the now infamous Pasadena store (where fights broke out early 5/20 with homeless stand-ins who were cheated by a rather unscrupulous creep who refused to pay them to stand in line for 10 hours). The line at Apple was 3 times longer than when I got inside … apparently word spread that they had some inventory – AT&T had only 64GB.

iphone-5s-loveWhy am I so passionate about this?  Brand marketers love people like me – we put up with lines, some dissatisfaction with the product, and still plow forward through what most people think is insane. This is what Steve Jobs has done to me and millions more. Is the torch passed?  I think so. Business Week had a great cover “What Us Worry?” – showing CEO Tim Cook and his two henchmen – Craig Federighi and Jony Ive. But like I said earlier, “it’s too early to tell.” I can tell you this:  It’s fast. Video and photo quality are the best ever. Downloads are quicker. New pull-up that gives you immediate access to key programs is brilliant. And thank God for iCloud – all apps and programs perfectly preserved.

So far, the Journey with Apple has been a real treat, actually. Well that’s not totally true. My girlfriend, Julie, wasn’t particularly happy with me waking her up on 5/20 at 4:45 a.m. to run me down to the Apple store (some 5 miles away) to see how the line was (too long) … and she continued to comment on this ‘sacrifice’ during the day. “Yeah, but haven’t you had fun telling all of your friends about your ‘experience’?” “Of course …” So, I just provided her with some great story-telling fodder … so she benefited, too, wouldn’t you say?  She agreed. – RJL

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My Perilous Path-to-Purchase the iPhone 5s

In Apple, iPhone on September 20, 2013 at 9:30 pm

RJL official shotOur intrepid Brand Editor, Robert Liljenwall,
shares his Homeric quest for his very own iPhone 5s

Time:  9:22 a.m. PDT – Sept. 19, 2013

Called AT&T and they immediately had a message that if you wished to order an iPhone, “please go to our website, ATT.com.”  Which I did.  Discovered they had purchase options for every phone except the 5s and really no mention of it … all of their in-store phones were posted.  I think they could have had a posting of the 5s with the notation that orders will not be taken until Sept. 20.

Time:  9:30 a.m. PDT – Sept. 19, 2013

Called Apple to find out the best way to order an iPhone 5s.  ”Order it over the phone because we will probably run out of inventory Friday in the stores and the insure that you get the best chance of picking up a 5s right away is to order for store pick up. ”  OK – that’s my path.

Time: 9:35 a.m. PDT – Sept. 19, 2013

Called Jeff Sandgren, my BTN partner to inform him of the ‘path’ (order on phone) … and then he hit me with – “what time zone are they talking about, New York time?”  Hell, I don’t know.

Called them back immediately.  ”Sir, it’s Pacific time.”

There you have it.

Time: 1:15 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013 

When to call?  Apple told me it is probably best to call ahead of midnight – long queue and you will probably not get connected right away.  I’m slitting my own throat on this recommendation – so please wait until I get my iPhone 5s before you call.  I will notify BTN immediately when I have confirmation.

Time: 1:23 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013

Talked with Apple again regarding the requirement to have iOS7 on your existing phone to transfer data to your new iPhone 5s or 5c.  You don’t need it.  I have downloaded it anyway onto my current iPhone 5, and not thrilled with the interface.  But that’s my preference – at least I want to be able to read better-reading font that isn’t lightface.  Let me know your opinion … Calendar is especially weak.

Time 3:49 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013

Been navigating the new iOS7 on my iPhone 5.  Clean, slick but of course, you can’t read half of the content because the designer specified a light-face font that is used on all standard Apple applications (calendar, weather, mail, contacts). The trouble with their design, which will annoy anyone who even has 20/20 vision, will be that the type face, when used in a secondary treatment, is converted to color gray, and the font is then apparently screened back to 20 percent, which means, simply, you cannot read it quickly or easily. This is extremely annoying and I consider this a major design flaw that will endanger the acceptance of the new iOS7 interface. The Apple tech rep I just talked with said – “well that’s the way it is. It cannot be changed.” So there you have it. Be prepared to struggle with readability. I am a huge Apple iPhone fan, but this design alteration is going to cause the company problems.

Time:  7:15 p.m., PDT, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013

Apple Store – Pasadena.  Frustrated with the interface look/feel, I decided to descend upon the Apple store in Pasadena (#2 store to open) … ranted a bit with an employee who had no idea what I was referring to … asked for manager.  ”What’s the problem?”  I told him gently and calmer this time:  ”I find that the interface design on Calendar, Call screen and Address book, along with several other apps, were terrible – type is too light…you can’t read the thin-faced font that is 20 percent gray (like on the phone record for time called; calendar (Saturdays and Sundays).”  I show him what I meant … and Steve (the Manager), agreed.  He was calm, helpful sympathetic and empathized with me – “I agree with you.”  He said he was a part-time app developer and already noticed this deficiency and had notified Apple about the color scheme.  He said hopefully they will fix this soon … and I told him I think this is similar to the “map” fiasco … I would shoot the graphic designer responsible for this.  There are numerous issues with color, backgrounds and contrasts – but I won’t go into this now.  It’s set.  Nothing we can do about it tonight.  I’m still moving forward in buying the 5s tonight (after midnight), so I am not giving up on Apple.  But I wasn’t the only one to complain – seems like there were about 45 other customers in Apple with the same complaint … we’re not alone.  See you later … Are you listening Apple? 

Time: 12:22 a.m., Friday, Sept. 20

Called Apple at 11:38 p.m. to check on “best time to call” and this lovely miss from Austin, TX . “Best to call around 11:58 … so you’re not held in the queue too long.”  So I did.  Slammed shut.  ” … due to the high call volume …”  Well, you know the drill.  I even contemplated driving to the Apple store and waiting in line, but my late-in-life maturity kicked in.  So, after 35 calls later, I’m in the queue now. Yes … I’m “in” … and I’ve been on this call for 8:05 minutes so far and counting.  I’ve gone from depression to elation. (You see, how whip-sawed Apple treats us?)  I’m not there yet … but hopeful.  Keep you posted.

Time:  12:50 a.m., Friday, Sept. 20, 2013

I am somewhat elated – after 35 calls, holding for 21 minutes, I got through to an Apple rep in Portland who was very helpful.  I did get a ‘gold’ 5s because I could … and 32GB … and with Apple Care, which came to $475.  However, it is being shipped (as all orders are over the phone according to the Apple rep) … which means I get it in three weeks or so.  Not happy about that.  I honestly thought I would be jumping into my car and standing in line to get a phone, but the line was long already at 4 p.m. today and I thought it was crazy for me to head down there at midnight and stand there – perhaps if I was 30 again … but I’m more than twice that age now, and that was a deciding factor.  I can wait … done it before.  The point is: I do have a 5s coming.  BTN will be covering the progress/success of iOS7 as well as how the new iPhones are selling.  Apple was OK – and frankly, I’m getting use to iOS7 a bit more.  As I was waiting to dial tonight, I called my friend Eric Kuhne in London who is also a big Apple fan – and he just raves about the new iOS7 and shares some of my concerns about the color scheme and font treatment.  I will say this, the iOS7 is super-fast and I can’t wait to test out the other features when I get up Friday.  It’s almost 1 a.m. here in Pasadena … so it will be another Day of Adventure with Apple.

Time: 7:28 p.m., Friday, Sept. 20, 2013

 This is the last communique regarding the pursuit of the iPhone 5s.  I have it in hand.  But it was a circuitous route, filled with intrigue, mystery, discovery, luck, and a couple of good Samaritans along the way.  It is a happy ending … but the journey to finally have the iPhone 5s in my possession was also fraught with danger and some chaos.

To cut the 5s chase, I found that I could get “immediate gratification’ at the Pasadena Apple store who had 5s 32GB still in inventory Friday afternoon.  I canceled my “midnight order” because it would be shipped in October … what were they thinking?  I decided to drive by the Pasadena Apple store and only a relatively small crowd was milling about … were there 5s phones available?  Yes, there were! I got in line and after 45 minutes, I was given a personal Apple “support” person to assist my purchase.  I canceled my previous order … and the entire transaction for the 5s was completed in just a few minutes.  An AT&T rep was there to assist … and I asked if she was busy…”not at all.  Apple really has their act together this time around.”  I was so impressed with the ease and seamless process.  I was ‘in and out’ within 20 minutes.  The Apple personnel were incredibly helpful.  Yes, I believe the iOS7 system is plagued with design challenges – but I am really impressed with the speed, the intuitive insight they have designed into each program … and I am getting use to the graphics.  At the end of this journey, I’m a very happy 5s owner.  Powerful, sleek and smart.  That’s the 5s. The Apple brand is “safe” for now … stay tuned. – RJL

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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

Shopper engagement sounds like ‘war.’ It is.

In Apple, brand-building, retail, Shopper Marketing on August 21, 2013 at 4:29 pm

By Robert Liljenwall

Retail isn’t the same anymore.  Consumers are marching into their favorite retailer with their smartphones at the ready … these handy data companions are helping customers analyze retailer offerings and give focused advice on their shopping list where and when it’s not available from the retail shelf.  Shopper engagement is not managed by the retailer as much anymore as by the shopper, who is now in control.  Armed with new ‘shopping weapons’, today’s shoppers know exactly what they’re looking for. And if they don’t find what they want, they either move on or order online when they get home.  Shoppers are on the hunt, especially in these challenging economic times (and, yes, we know that recession was officially over in June 2009.)??????????????????????

It is not always ‘bad news’ that consumers are now empowered with more information than ever before.  Retailers and brand marketers who truly know their customers’ needs and wants are able to capitalize on the shopper desires.  And as Internet sales continue to rise in all sectors (e-commerce rose 18.4 percent through the first six months of 2013 compared to same period in 2012), we spent more than $64 billion online during the second quarter of this year according to the US Census Bureau, which tracks these things … an increase of 4.8 percent over same period in 2012 of total retail sales of $1.126 trillion for 2013 2Q.

So what does this all mean?  We know several things:  One out of four Americans work in retail services.  Retail sales is increasing … slowly at a rate of 0.09 percent for the second quarter, and, no, retail is not going away.  Also, we know that mobile commerce is not going to take over retail (projected that only 1 percent of total retail sales will be on mobile devices by 2016.) And according to latest consumer research, the average consumer uses 10.7 different sources to make a purchase decision.  It all doesn’t just happen in the store.  But we know that, too, don’t we?

But what is happening is that individual retailers are fighting to keep their customers happy and keep them buying “in-store.”  Best Buy is notable for its struggle against Amazon and was able to make a dent in their California market by forcing Amazon through legislation to pay sales tax, but is that enough?  Target kicked out Amazon Kindle products – each were tired of being “showrooms” for Amazon and its own products.

Enter POPAI – the Global Association for Marketing at Retail – which published their fourth edition this spring of “Marketing at Retail – Understanding, Influencing and Winning Today’s Shopper.”  POPAI itself has experienced a metamorphosis in its 76-year history – starting out as a vendor-driven point of purchase trade group attracting producers, retailers and brand marketers.  But as technology expanded across all fronts, POPAI today reflects the broad array of “interests” that serve the entire retail industry – both in-store and online.

Marketing At Retail

Marketing At Retail

In this 386-page text – the largest ever – you will certainly recognize the change in the retail and technology landscape.  New chapters on mobile commerce, social media, and technology advances and online integration with in-store merchandising.  You will find an expanded offering presented by 23 of the top professionals in marketing at retail.  This publication is also available on an e-Version.  You can order your copy at http://popai.com/book/buythebook. Hard copy sells for $39.95 and the e-Version for $35.95.

Starting in summer 2011, we found that in putting this publication together we wanted to have the most complete resource for everyone serving the retail industry – and subjects not previously covered such as mobile commerce and social media were going to play a major role.  Throughout the editing process, too, we were constantly updating the chapters because technology and new retail initiatives were coming into the industry and we wanted to insure our readers they had the latest.

We do recognize that retailers certainly know that their #1 goal is to gain customer insight.  Consumer behavior, as Dr. Dan Flint (University of Tennessee) points out, is changing as technology changes, because consumers now have more data available to them than ever before.  “They can make choices quicker and more accurately because they have current data at their fingertips.”  And the authors point out that retailers are learning how to provide better customer technology support inside their stores with Wi-Fi and local data points on what’s on sale and to guide them to their own personal shopping needs.

Speaking on behalf of the authors, I want to share with you one grand example of how stupid some major retailers can be.

I have a Macy’s revolving account and pay my monthly bill online.  When I made a ‘confirmed’ payment on my Macy app. via my iPhone, I noticed that the payment had not been subtracted from my account within a week’s time.  I called Macy’s only to learn from the Macy’s customer service rep that…”We’re sorry, but we’re finding that many payments made on the iPhone do not get recorded even though you receive a confirmation!”  “Well, is this new?”  “Oh, no, it’s been going on for some time.  We’re sorry.”

Sorry!!!  I couldn’t believe it. But wait … the nightmare continues … I went to make my payment online with my iMac, and then I can’t seem to get a confirmation, so I called customer service again. The Macy’s rep asks what kind of browser I am using.  “What do you mean?  I am using Safari.”  “Oh, sir, we don’t really support Apple.  Do you have a PC you can use?”  True story, so help me Steve Jobs.  Can you believe that a major retailer would allow this to happen?  My next purchases were with….guess who?  Amazon.  (We awarded Macy’s the Lemon Award for August.)

Retailers who don’t give the same kind of attention to detail and support that an Amazon gives to its customers is going to find defections growing.

Is there a ‘war’ going on?  You bet.  Retailers who understand the stakes are Disney, Costco, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Starbucks, In & Out Burger, Nordstrom’s and Apple, of course.  They have their customers in focus – they have gained keen customer insight, which should be the goal of every brand marketer and retailer.  There are many great retailers who are embracing the “new, smarter shopper” and are eager to support them online and in-store with technology that enables them to easily get the ‘stuff’ they want.

Shoppers have more choices than ever … and when retailers make it difficult to do business with them … you lose them, perhaps forever. You have to win the shopper battles to win the war! – RJL

[Note: both editors of BrandTech News are also contributing authors to the POPAI textbook, and Robert Liljenwall is Co-Editor]

A Day in the Life of Canadian Retail

In brand-building, Canada, retail, Shopper Marketing on August 21, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Challenges and Champions in Canadian Retail

by Jeff Sandgren

Dawn breaks over the eastern Maritimes, and the great economic engine of Canadian consumers revs up for another day.  Breakfasts and school lunchboxes, clothes and cosmetics—millions of consumer goods will all be synthesized into the activities and lives of thirty-five million Canadians.  Virtually every one of these items passed at some point through the vast enterprise of Canadian retail.

Happy Canada Day

Happy Canada Day (Photo credit: Anirudh Koul)

As Canadians awaken and prepare for their workday, one out of every eight will be heading to a job in retail; in the US, the retail sector employs about twice that proportion.  Yet while retail’s activity accounts for approximately six percent of Canada’s economy, the ratio in the US is triple that.  This significantly lighter saturation of the Canadian retail market, relative to that of the US, is one of the notable disparities luring the attention of US-based retailers to growth opportunities north of their border.

Powered by the engine of Canadian consumers—and by their annual shopping infusion of over $12,600 per capita (totaling over $450 billion)—Canadian retail was up before the dawn.  In fact, it never sleeps. Complex global supply chain networks source goods around the clock and around the world, as Canadian retailers—both domestic and foreign-based—constantly seek to better serve the changing tastes and escalating demands of the shoppers of Canada. Sophisticated retail technology systems ceaselessly churn through mountains of data. Retail merchants strive for the perfect assortment of goods, offered at the optimal price and promotion; while retail operators execute the merchants’ plans to ensure that all the right items are in the right places, each at the right time, with just the right number of retail store associates to deliver the ideal shopping experience.

One hour later, in the Eastern Time zone that stretches from the mouth of the St. Lawrence to the western bank of Lake Superior, dawn wakens the heart of the French Canadian market. The urban centers of Ottawa and Toronto comprise over 60% of the population of Canada, a large majority of whom live within 90 miles of the US border.   Fashionistas make plans for shopping trips in the apparel stores of Quebec and Montreal, where the latest styles from France, Europe, and around the world adorn the storefront windows.  The apparel tastes of the world are brought to these markets by merchants like Larry Rosen, Chairman and CEO of the Harry Rosen chain, founded by his father in 1954. Although his chain already accounts for 40 percent of the Canadian market in high-end menswear, Larry personally visits fashion centers around the world every year, immersing himself in the customers’ shopping experience there at clothiers large and small.  These days, Larry make his visits with his new iPhone in hand, having replaced his business-worthy Blackberry with the device that he finds helps him better identify with his target consumer.  Customer-centricity is a mission that never ends.

Local markets across the culturally diverse greater Toronto area serve up the particular tastes of their local enclaves.  The strategy that ethnic eateries, handbag boutiques and neighborhood booksellers have always known—that of being obsessively tuned to the tastes and experiences of their local clientele—now drives all of retail. Some have had to adapt, like Eleanor LeFave, whose bookstore, Mabel’s Fables, has recently countered the pressures of online and big box booksellers by finding new sales opportunities in wholesaling to school book fairs.  In the ceaselessly competitive world of retail, the courageous merchants who innovate and adapt to changing customers and competitors survive and thrive. Those that have failed to steer by the customers’ compass lose their way, and ultimately fall behind.

Sunrise in the eastern prairies shines each morning on one of the most notable sites of changing retail formats.  Portage Avenue in Winnipeg was once the home of “The Big Store”, Winnipeggers name for the then-giant Eaton’s, where in the 1960s they spent 50 cents of every shopping dollar (excluding groceries).  The store, however, was only a small part of the giant catalogue fulfillment centre which covered 21 acres and employed 8,000 workers.

As times changed and Canada’s population became increasingly urban, more and more consumers had local access to stores; by the mid-1970s over 60% of Canada’s suburban population lived within a thirty-minute drive of an Eaton’s store.  In January of 1976, Eaton’s announced their last catalogue, and a massive layoff.  A string of missteps over the next two decades culminated in filing for bankruptcy in 1997, acquisition of assets by Sears a few years later, and the eventual retirement in 2002 of one of the most iconic Canadian retail brands.  Today Portage and Main in Winnipeg features shopping malls connected by an underground concourse and the Winnipeg Skywalk—both measures taken against the location’s legendary (if unproven) status as the coldest and windiest intersection in Canada.

As morning reaches the western prairies in Alberta, another day’s preparations begin for the 23,000 employees who work at the West Edmonton Mall—with over 350,000 m² of leasable area, the largest mall in North America (the world’s largest until 2004).  In the mid 1990s this mall included two full Bay department stores, the second having been added when the chain took advantage of space vacated by the bankruptcy of Woodward’s.  Other retailers leaving at that time included Canadian Tire and IKEA, part of a trend towards ‘big box’ standalone properties; but the space was subsequently filled by T & T Supermarket.  Since then, new additions have included the first Victoria’s Secret in Canada (2010), and La Maison Simons’ first outlet outside of Quebec (2012).  Today there are over 800 stores and services offering world-class retail experiences to over 28 million visitors per year.

Finally, dawn lights up the Rockies and the westernmost Canadian urban center of Vancouver.   Here, as in many urban areas, fewer young people are getting driver’s licenses—healthier lifestyles, digital socializing, and online shopping are making personal automobiles less relevant as the Millennials move into the mainstream. Smart retailers are reading these winds of change, and finding opportunity there.

Mountain Equipment Co-Op, a pioneer in healthy lifestyle merchandising since its founding in Vancouver in 1971, was also an early innovator in multi-channel retailing.  In 2013 it won the Canada Post E-commerce award for Best Multi-Channel Retailer of the Year.  Lululemon began here in 1998, also with a focus on healthy living.  Its 4,500 “educators” (a.k.a. store associates) mentor customers—traditionally females, but now including male yoga enthusiasts—towards the benefits of healthy lifestyle (with, of course, the proper apparel) in over 200 stores.  In a model to which many retailers aspire, the focus of retailers like these on quality goods and a well-educated customer base are overcoming the traditional “race to the bottom” on price discounting, which has dragged down other low-cost-focused retailers.  It’s working: Lululemon is now expanding into the US, UK, and across the Pacific to Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand. MEC has over 3 million members in Canada and internationally.

Meanwhile, in the global time zone of cyberspace, where the sun neither rises nor sets, retail is always open.  Retailers with strong e-commerce programs are continuously retuning or reinventing themselves.  Staples, voted the most trusted brand in Canada in 2008, and a top 10 most trusted brand ever since, just re-launched its already successful loyalty program, and plans to add another 200,000 items to its e-commerce site by the end of 2013.  In the world of consumer-driven retail, continuous improvement is now de rigueur.

The machines and merchandise of Canadian retail, with their planning and problem-solving, never sleep – because they dare not.  Because the retail and consumer goods sectors are as challenging as they are rewarding, and as brutally competitive as any industry.  Because shoppers today have more choices and knowledge of alternative sources, more access to product and price information, and more connection with the influence of their peers than was dreamed of even a decade ago.  The dynamics of Canadian retail are accelerating at an unprecedented pace – and retailers that are slow to keep up are thrown out of orbit. – JTS

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Chicken soup ain’t good for the Apple soul

In Apple, Healthcare, Shopper Marketing on March 8, 2012 at 11:07 pm

by Robert Liljenwall

Samgyetang, a Korean chicken soup

Image via Wikipedia

Well, excitement filled the air again last week when I accidentally spilled chicken soup on my MacBook Pro while recovering from the flu.  A late 2009 model, my MacBook Pro was toast.  Gone.  Dead.  Logic board destroyed.  No matter how good chicken soup is for your soul, it’s absolutely not good for your laptop, Apple or not.

I had little time to decide – heading out for a 10-day trip back East in two days, it was now or never. And I soon discovered that sending my computer to the Apple hospital would take almost a week, and $1,240.  Soup cost me $1.99, laptop repair would be about the cost of a new computer.

Disgusted with my own stupidity and lack of dexterity, I looked around.  Surely in SteroidLand, there was a solution waiting for me.  Ah, ha, the MacBook Pro Air – sleeker, slicker, lighter, sexier, and actually, younger (a 2012 model vs. 2009).  And it only cost $9 more than my rehabbed three-year old sister.  After confirming that this was the right decision with two very helpful Apple customer service reps, it was a done deal.  And since I had recently put iCloud (via Lion) on my iPhone 4s, the migration was instantaneous:  I transferred my contact list, calendar, and over 20,000 emails instantly onto my new Air.

I was such a happy camper, and as I was walking out the store with my new Air under my arm, a young man was walking with me as we approached the front door.  I stopped and asked him:  “Did you buy anything?”  He answered, “No.”  “Well, you know, the alarm goes off if you don’t buy anything.”

For just a second I knew he thought I was serious.  He gave me a quizzical look, which quickly faded to relief and a broad grin as I was smiling, too.  “Naw, just kidding.”  He seemed relieved.  And I was relieved, too.  I was a very happy Apple camper, on steroids, again!

Let me see? A new iPhone 4s, a new Air in the past two months.  Yup, I’ve done my job of helping Apple this past quarter – along with millions of others around the Planet.  I just can’t leave an Apple store without buying something.    — RJL

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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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Apple Tops BrandZ’s ‘Most Valued Brands’ Study

In Apple on May 22, 2011 at 8:28 am
Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

by Robert Liljenwall

Apple has now climbed to the top of the World’s Most Valuable Brands, according to the latest study published by mega-agency WWP in their 6th Annual BrandZ list earlier this month.  WPP companies, which include some of the most eminent agencies in the business, provide national, multinational and global clients with a broad range of marketing and advertising services.  Their annual BrandZ study, conducted by Millward Brown, measures the brand equity of thousands of global “consumer facing” and business-to-business brands, based on interviews of over 2 million consumers globally.

When you scan the Top 100, you’re not really surprised by the rankings.  The “usual suspects” remain strong and relevant in 2010.  For example, behind Apple comes Google, IBM, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Coca Cola, AT&T, Marlboro, China Mobile (a newcomer to the Top 10), and General Electric.

It’s important to immediately point out that brands are in good shape: While the overall recovery has been tepid, the report states, the value of the world’s best brands grew at a considerably faster rate than what we saw in 2009. Compared with an overall improvement of 13% in the world’s equity markets during 2010, the best brands grew their value 30% faster, registering a 17% increase since last year.

Inside BrandZ

The BrandZ report is a brand goldmine – full of segmented rankings and data on a variety of how the Top 100 brands are connected within their categories – while pulling out insights on trends, emerging markets, and how ‘we’ – collectively – are coping with the merging of brands and technology.

For example, many of us would never suspect that Amazon.com would become a more valuable brand than the world’s largest retailer – Walmart – but this year, WPP has put the world’s largest “online” retailer ahead. Who would have thought just a few years ago that Apple would be the world’s #1 most valued brand?

It should be noted that Interbrand’s Top 100 Global Brands competes for attention with the BrandZ ranking although its criteria and methodology is different.  One of the key unique elements of this methodology is the ‘Trust-R’ assessment, which looks at the relationship between trust and recommendation.   WPP finds that there’s a high correlation between high Trust-R and bonding, which drives sales.  The other unique element is the ‘Value-D’ assessment, which seeks to measure the gap between the consumer’s desire for a brand and the consumer’s perception of the brand’s price.

The Top 100 Brand List focuses on “actual monetary (quantifiable) contribution to the brand’s success.” For example, the BrandZ ranking notes that the Coca Cola brand value is based solely on the “value of Coca Cola” – and not all of the other company’s 3,500 brands owned/managed/distributed, such as Fanta and Minute Maid. Apple’s brands, on the other hand, are based on its broad monolithic brand structure where all of its products are considered part/parcel of the Apple brand.

Our Observations

As BrandTech News reviews the comprehensive rankings in the Top 100 Most Valued Brands, it is clear that technology brands continue to dominate – 12 out of the top 20 brands are technology companies.

Facebook, just seven years old, made it to the Top 100 (35th) in a meteoric rise and with 500+ million registered users already – of whom 50% visit daily – is quickly morphing into the alternative Internet where it has become the premier connection for brands, consumers, and everything promotional. Only 30% – 150 million – of the users are in the United States.

But what is propelling Apple has been the phenomenal success of the iPhone and the iPad. Before the launch of iPad2, there were 15 million iPads around the globe because Apple made it available on Verizon and distributed through a bank of hungry retailers. Apple expects to sell 30 million iPad2 this year – giving it a dominating 80% market share in the tablet market. And just how in the world will the other 100 tablet makers share the remaining 20%?

What does this success breed? Apps – and lots of them. Today there are 350,000 apps created just for Apple and another 250,000 for the Android. What does this do for the merging of brands and technology? Consumer obsession, frenzy – on steroids.

Another key point in the brand study was that we are seeing an upward trend in all surveyed sectors in the study: All 13 product sectors measured in the BrandZ Top 100 ranking appreciated in overall brand value – which didn’t happen in 2009, when only four of the sectors grew. To some extent, this bodes well for 2011 and beyond if we truly believe the recession was officially over in 2009. Since these WPP surveys cover events of the previous year (2010), the ongoing Middle East unrest and higher oil prices are of course not reflected in these rankings. The leading sectors in brand value growth was insurance (137% increase), fast food (22%), luxury (19%), technology (18%), and apparel (10%). These were followed by financial institutions, beer, cars, soft drinks, personal care, retail, oil & gas, and telecom providers.

The top retail brands were Amazon, which rose 37% in brand value last year alone. Walmart, Tesco, Carrefour, Target, eBay, Home Depot, ALDI, Auchan, IKEA, Lowes, Marks & Spencer, Best Buy, Costco, Lidi, Kohl’s Asda, Sam’s Club, Sainsbury’s and Safeway. The growing use of mobile devices, pre-shopping on the Internet, and discriminating shoppers who are more deliberative before the purchase decision – have made shopper marketing much more challenging. Lower prices weren’t always enough – shoppers wanted a better shopping experience, and private labels grew but not at the rate they had during tougher economic times.

Walmart tinkers and retreats
According to BrandZ, Walmart executed a course correction to reassert price leadership after alienating some of its US customer base by reaching for affluent consumers with edited merchandise displays and less cluttered, more efficiently run stores. The previous effort, Project Impact, was intended to hold on to higher-income shoppers.  Walmart decided in 2008 to reduce POP displays from 700 to 300 per store, and to eliminate 15% of the items carried in store. This perceived, less-cluttered look was to give Walmart the chance to expand and clean up their aisles – not necessarily appealing to the ‘value-happy’ customers.   Instead, at stores open for a year or more, sales fell 1.5% in its second quarter, ending July 31, 2009. Third-quarter sales dropped 0.5%, followed by a 2% retreat in the fourth quarter.  In March of 2010, Walmart reversed course to correct this trend.

On a significant note, Walmart is in the throes of negotiating to buy Massmart Holdings in South Africa, and if that occurs, many predict that Walmart will have a positive impact on improving local economies wherever they go on this continent. Is Walmart a game changer? We think so.

Meanwhile, Dollar Stores won shoppers by tinkering with range and promoting low prices (they are the fastest growing retailer segment in the US today). Target countered the high-price perception of its trendy approach to discount retailing, expanding food selection to drive shopping trips and increase basket size.  The largest global brands continued their expansion into China and other fast-growing markets such as India and Brazil. Each of these countries has brands that are now solidly placed in the Top 100 Brands.

This 52-page report (which you can download at www.wpp.com ) can be overwhelming in the amount of data it has collected. In conclusion, however, we congratulate WPP on another great report – and while it’s a ‘good-news’ report for brands, retailers, and technology providers (compared to the previous two years – we continue to be optimistic about our retailing future – where it occurs.         RJL

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A Love Story

In Apple on January 8, 2011 at 1:00 pm

by Robert Liljenwall

We met three-and-half years ago in the summer of 2007.  It wasn’t exactly love at first sight – I thought she was very thin – I had been used to more robust, full-bodied types, and I found out quickly that if I touched her in the wrong place, all sorts of hell would break loose. But she had a pleasant, rather intriguing face – and she had so many facets to her personality that I’m still trying to figure her out.  She was a stunner, though; that is for sure.  She just overwhelmed me from the beginning, and I’m still trying to understand this lady.  She is so terrific.

Of course, after we got to know each other, we became inseparable.  We would take long walks together…no matter when I went, she would go with me.  I would panic if I didn’t know where she was at all times.  She was soon becoming the love of my life.  We went everywhere together – to the movies, on vacations, and soon, we became very, very intimate.

Naturally, as our relationship developed, we slept together every night.  I soon found out that I would panic if she wasn’t next to me – even when I was away from home.  I remember when I couldn’t locate her…where was she?  Did she leave me?   I thought I was getting a bit obsessed about this new relationship. But I had become so dependent on her.  Was I becoming obsessed with her?  I have never felt this way about anyone, and it began to worry me.  Even my friends noticed that I was becoming obsessed.

But we had so much fun together.  Even in the craziest moments, I could talk to her about anything.  She was so smart – she seems to have the world at her fingertips…and she would give me answers in an instant…

I loved the way she looked…compared to everyone else in my previous life, she was just a beauty – her face and body were so delicious and she could change faces in an instant…making me laugh, cry, or become more thoughtful.  She had so much talent and knowledge…

I found out quickly how addicted I was to her…she always gave me the time of day, and she was an incredible help to me on everything in my life – my business, my family and friends…she seem to have this uncanny knack for keeping track of my chaotic lifestyle, and even when I wasn’t the least bit interested in her, she would demur, patiently waiting for me to come to her.

And I always did.

She had her bad sides, though.  What drove me nuts sometimes is that I would be talking on the phone, and if she was nearby, she would cause havoc with my phone calls by hanging up on me.  At first, I blamed her for these rude acts, but I soon realized that it wasn’t all her fault.  It was the phone carrier of all things!

She was a slippery devil, too.  If I didn’t treat her right, she would literally slip away, out of view…where did she go?  I remember looking for hours at a time to find her…I would become more and more desperate.

I couldn’t understand why she would disappear if she loved me like I loved her.  “Silly,” she said, “I was always near you…you just get all wrapped up sometimes and didn’t remember where I was.”

Every year, she would want a new look…”I always have to be my best for you, darling.” I understood that.  So every summer, she would disappear for a few hours and then re-emerge as this refreshingly new lady in my life.  It was amazing – she would be able to do all these new things just to please me.  Just me! She seemed to know exactly what I wanted, because when I complained about anything, she just made a note of it and Voila! She fixed it.  She always kept her promises doing this or that.

It’s getting late, and I have to run.  I wanted to finish this little love story before I go.  She is sitting right next to me as I write this…and I am so very, very happy.  She is the sexiest, classiest lady I know.  She is full of life, and always at my side, giving me support no other can ever give me.  She is so special.  I truly love her.

Of course, I’m talking about my iPhone4.  Julie, my girlfriend, thinks that she has definitely been replaced as #1.  Not true!  My friends at Apple have always kept their promise…and as a devoted – even downright biased iPhone user/owner – I’m hooked, obsessed, and so thrilled she is in my life.

She is the Apple of my eye…uh, both of them!                    RJL

©Copyright 2011 Robert Liljenwall.  All rights reserved.

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