Sunday, 27 February 2011

Tablet computing heats up

Without question, Apple's iPad is the best-known tablet computer on the market today. Others came before, but the iPad redefined the concept with its usual high-style design, touch-functionality and multiple features. Now HTC, the master of smartphones, is developing its own tablet computer to challenge Apple's dominance. "I think we are just at the beginning for innovation in the tablet market," HTC's John Wang told the Guardian. In fact, HTC revealed a prototype of its Flyer tablet (left) just two weeks ago.Reportedly, the Flyer will run on Google's Android system and will feature a stylus as the main input method. The projected price: 499 euros.

Since iPad prices vary around the world (see Economist table below), HTC may decide to vary its Flyer price, as well. In fact, a study out today says that tablet prices will have to drop before this becomes a mass-market product with significant sales volume. No matter what the price, HTC's new entry will give customers a new choice and put pressure on Apple and other rivals to continue innovating AND dropping prices.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

2011: The Year of the Smartphone

Telefonica Europe--which owns the O2 network--projects that by the end of 2011, one-third of its huge customer base will have a smartphone (up from one-fifth today).

Obviously, smartphones enable users to connect to social media any time, anywhere. Not surprisingly, predictions indicate that social networking will expand even faster in 2011, thanks to the popularity of smartphones. Also watch for more apps and more mobile marketing as the installed base of smartphones grows and grows.

One of the surprises has been how the iPhone, so hotly anticipated when it debuted, is not at the top of the smartphone sales list right now. Instead, HTC phones dominate the top slots. Why? One major reason: Price. The smartphones that compete with Apple's iPhone are cheaper or are being offered at carrier-subsidised prices.

Still, Apple has new iPhone models on the way--more quickly than ever before. By the end of 2011, mobile users will have an incredible array of smartphone choices (if they haven't already upgraded to the latest tech).

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Should you mix social and mainstream media?

Can you create an effective marketing campaign using only social media? Yes. But should you?
  • Be ready to change your media strategy. Facebook and YouTube are gaining in popularity among UK consumers, according to Nielsen/Ukom. Facebook's rise to the top (it's #3 among Web sites accessed in the UK) has been particularly meteoric; YouTube is #8 (while Twitter is a surprisingly low #38). Twitter's 5th birthday is next month and it will undoubtedly move up the list in the coming months. The same Nielsen/Ukom study noted the rapid rise of sites from mainstream media, such as BBC. The lesson is: know your audience, know what media they use and be ready to change your media strategy as needed.
  • Consider mixing social media and mainstream media. Why? A new Hewlett-Packard study disproves the perception that “the most prolific tweeters or those with most followers would be most responsible for creating” the posts that drive trending topics to the top of Twitter. Instead, the study found that mainstream media such as BBC and CNN are actually amplifying topics, contributing to the trending that drives these topics to the top. In other words, mixing mainstream and social media may help get your message across to more people in a shorter period.
  • Don't forget mobile marketing. The mix of social media being used by consumers in different parts of the world offers ample opportunity for communication, says In Japan, Mobage-Town, a mobile-based social media platform, is increasingly popular (and profitable) because of the ability to connect and play games on the go. Now that Mobage-Town is expanding into other countries, will Facebook react? And how will that affect your marketing? BBC already has special pages that look good on mobiles, as do other media and marketing firms. Depending on who you want to reach and what you have to say, mobile may be an effective addition to your media strategy.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Who Do You Think You Are?

Who Do You Think You Are (the original UK series) set off an international craze for genealogy TV programmes...and it's still generating a lot of interest in family history products, from software to scrapbooks, magazines to seminars.
As a genealogy enthusiast tracing my ancestors from all over Europe, it's exciting to see so much media attention focused on family history. What about the marketing?

Smart marketing, indeed, with an emotional connection. The shows generate a lot of interest because they research the family histories of a wide range of popular celebrities, turning up unexpected discoveries and showing how the place and the time profoundly affected family choices and decisions. By bringing to life the social and cultural context of genealogy, the shows and magazine demonstrate that there's more to family history than a simple list of dates and ancestors' names.

After watching Alan Cumming learn about his family's secrets and Hugh Quarshie follow his family tree back in time to Ghana and the Netherlands, it's not surprising that many viewers click on the programme's Web site and try to find out more about their own family histories.

Now fans of the series can buy tickets to Who Do You Think You Are Live, featuring some of the celebrities who have traced their family histories on the show--and, of course, more than 100 companies offering goods and services to help consumers get started on their own genealogical adventures. Because of the genealogy industry's new-found popularity (and prosperity), we can subscribe to databases filled with documents that help us trace our ancestors and buy magazines that help us understand the periods and places in which our families lived. In short, the marketing encourages us, as customers, to find out who we really are.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Pandora makes an emotional marketing connection

The Danish jewelry firm Pandora has had a decade of success with upmarket charm bracelets. The company encourages women to collect charms that reflect special occasions and personal meaning. Now Pandora jewelry is sold in 50 countries, with new designs introduced regularly to encourage repeat purchasing by the wearer or gift-givers.

As Marketing Week points out, Pandora has glamourised collecting for grown-ups--and that's a powerful, emotional marketing appeal. The magazine points out that the availability of counterfeit charms is a growing problem for Pandora. Exclusivity adds to the value of collectible charms. If fakes flood the market, Pandora will have difficulty keeping its customers satisfied (not to mention keeping its premium pricing and its profitability).

So far, Pandora's marketing (through TV adverts and other messages)  has kept brand awareness high. So high, in fact, that in the week before St. Valentine's Day, "Pandora jewelry" was among the most searched-for jewelry phrases on Google.

Of course, Pandora's brand marketing is only part of the story. Jewelry stores that carry the brand also market it. For example, an Australian jeweler has created a video showing prospective customers how to measure for a Pandora bracelet. Will Pandora use its marketing to encourage collecting of other jewelry items? What's its next big marketing move?

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Marketers still thinking about RFID

Fakes and thefts are a problem for upmarket apparel marketers, pharmaceutical firms and other marketers of expensive goods. Can RFID (radio frequency identification) tagging help?

An RFID tag (or chip) contains unique and specific data about the item, such as manufacturer name/origin/date, size, colour, model number, and so on. When read electronically, the RFID tag indicates whether that item is what and where it should be. This enables companies to track their products throughout the supply chain and, just as important, determine which items are genuine and which look-alikes are fakes.

The tags have been tested before, but as the price of the technology continues to drop, more marketers are likely to give RFID a try. Gerry Weber, the German fashion firm, is attaching RFID tags to distinguish its genuine products from fashion fakes made by counterfeiters. Other marketers have tested RFID, as well. One use is to check inventory levels and pinpoint any losses.

However, privacy issues remain a concern for consumers. The European Commission has a page devoted to practical RFID uses. For more on the latest RFID news, click to the RFID Journal.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Getting ready for Red Nose Day

Friday, 18 March is Red Nose Day and you know what that means: Fun fundraising with a serious goal in mind--to raise serious money for charitable causes in the UK and Africa.

Comic Relief's Red Nose Day challenge launches on 7 February (that's tomorrow). Schools, work places, and individuals are all organising their own fundraisers; celebrities are getting involved with or leading fundraisers, as well.

Corporate sponsors include BT, TK Maxx, Walkers, Sainsbury, and more. Brands are participating with various cause-related marketing schemes, such as this one from Cafedirect. Between the BBC spots and all the media coverage and social media activity, this year's Red Nose Day should be the most successful ever.

At this moment, nearly 200,000 people have clicked to "like" the Red Nose Day Facebook page. On Twitter, the Red Nose Day account has more than 35,000 followers. Red Nose Day's YouTube page has more than 13 million video views.

Social media weren't yet invented when Red Nose Day debuted on 5 February 1988, raising 15 million pounds from that first fundraising effort. This is great marketing for a good cause--how much will this year's event raise?