It’s The PR & Marketing, Stupid!

History is littered with the decomposing corpses of businesses that had great ideas, but failed to convince enough people that they needed the product or service they were selling.  Why?  Because their marketing mix was wrong.  They had the product; they might even have had the price.  Many will have had the place right.  I suspect the majority of failed companies, however, didn’t get the promotion right.  They failed to tell the right audience – people who would be interested in buying their product and service – why they would want to buy it.

In a landscape that offers an increasing number of social networks with which to spread the word reaching those people ought to be easy, right?  Right… and wrong!

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Unrequited Love, or The Start of Something Beautiful at RIM?

Having criticized RIM for its lack of marketing innovation I wanted to share this video, made for the company’s BlackBerry Jam currently taking place in San Jose.  The event – a developer conference – hopes to encourage developers to create new applications for the next generation of handsets running BlackBerry 10 [BB10] slated for launch in Q1 2013.  The video is a spoof of the REO Speedwagon hit “Keep on Loving You”, “performed” by a band of three senior RIM executives – including Alec Saunders, VP of Developer Relations. Somebody has spent days rewriting the lyrics to fit the BlackBerry message.

While this one video alone won’t turn around RIM’s fortunes in the smartphone market, it is at least a sign that it’s prepared to take risks with the marketing around the BB10 launch.  I’m not sure that it will hit the mark with its target audience [developers] but does demonstrate that BlackBerry is thinking creatively [at last] about how it communicates.  When the company starts communicating with customers and prospective BB10 buyers it’s going to need to do something amazing – certainly better than this.

The video has got me thinking about what the next song that band could be.  BlackBerry Magic Woman? Anything from the Stevie Wonder album Songs In The Qwerty Keyboard of Life? Paint It BlackBerry?  Why not share your ideas in the comments section below?



I was asked earlier this week what the PSY – GANGNAM STYLE videos were all about and why they are getting so many hits right now.  I have to confess I don’t get it, but I do understand why they, and the spoof videos, are getting so many views on YouTube.  It’s the perfect marketing storm of having the right product in the right place, at the right time, and targeted at the right audience.  The video above has been viewed more than 230 million times and has introduced the Korean rapper PSY [real name Park Jae-sang], and his music, to millions of people who wouldn’t already have known anything about his work.  As a result, I’m guessing he’s probably going to sell a few more albums – many of them outside of his traditional markets in Asia.

It’s also a perfect example of how things can go viral.  Why are the videos so popular in North America and Europe?  Because they were hot in Asia, were spotted by taste-makers in North America and Europe… the videos were then shared with their peer group, spoofs started to emerge [relevant to audiences unlikely to see the original videos], which prompted viewers to watch the videos that inspired the spoofs.  Repeat this a few times and you get to 230 million views.  If you want an example of the power of social media communications, I can’t think of a better one right now!

While I can’t guarantee that following this model will deliver hundreds of millions of viewers for your viral video, getting the marketing mix right will give you the best chance of attracting new customers.

Other posts you might like:

The Rules of Viral Success

Is Your PR Company Taking The P Out of Marketing?

Apple has lost its competitive advantage

Back in June I asked the question ‘Is Apple losing it’s competitive advantage?”.  After watching the iPhone 5 launch, I’m sad to say that I believe the answer is an unequivocal “Yes!”  [And I’m not the only one, even ‘Fake Steve’ thinks so!]]

Heres’s my original post:

Apple’s #WWDC is upon us again and consumers are waiting with baited breath, hoping for something new and shiny.  But, if this article from Business Insider is anything to go on, they might feel more than slightly disappointed come the end of Tim Cook’s opening keynote.  The most exciting announcement according to the report, is likely to be the launch of iOS 6.

Which begs the question, if the reports are correct, is Apple starting to lose its competitive advantage? Will a company notorious for the legendary marketing of its latest products be able to convince an audience anxiously waiting for the iPhone 5 and mythical Apple TV set, that it’s worth spending thousands of dollars for evolutionary improvements to existing hardware?

Where Apple stole a march on the mobile market with the launch of the original iPhone, the 3G and 4, the competition has made significant inroads into Apple’s market leadership in recent months:

Google’s Android OS is now the leading smartphone platform in the US.  Devices from the likes of HTC, Motorola and Samsung offer consumers 4G wireless internet speeds.  Samsung is also making a strong play for consumers wanting a larger screen than the 3.5″ offered by Apple.  There appears to be growing support amongst consumers for a larger screen iPhone, but this Tim Cook appeared to rule it for the iPhone at the recent All Things Digital D10 conference.  Without a revolutionary new iPhone will Apple still be able to claim to be at the cutting edge of mobile device innovation?

The competition is also getting smart about how it markets its new devices. A failure by Apple to deliver substantial updates to its mobile and personal computing lines at today’s WWDC will, undoubtedly, provide fodder for competitor marketing campaigns and bolster the competition – although I hope that they do a better job than RIM did recently.  Consumers are also starting to see through Apple’s ‘distortion field’ – as widespread reports of Siri’s lacklustre performance have grown.

So, is Apple starting to lose its competitive advantage?  How long can it maintain the reality distortion field without new products? What do you expect Tim Cook will unveil later today?

Other posts about Apple:

Why Apple’s ‘TV Dream’ may become a nightmare!

Why Apple Will Acquire RIM

How Apple will spend it billions

The new iPad is another step in Apple’s bid to change the face of TV

How to launch like Apple!

As we prepare for another Apple product launch I thought I’d write a short post about the company’s product launch playbook.  I’m surprised that more companies haven’t tried to copy the company’s model;  for those that do, here’s a look at the key elements.

  • Know your audience: nobody knows its audience better than Apple – it’s built its brand on its knowledge.
  • Create pre-event hype: easy to do if you’re Apple, you might think, but every company can do this.  It takes time, strong relationships, a plan, and passionate product advocates.  It could be argued that Steve Jobs started this process when he launched the first Mac in 1984, but it’s clear that it has definitely been part of the company’s game plan since he rejoined the company as CEO in 1997.  15 years on and the hype generated by Apple fan boys and girls before product launches is self-perpetuating.
  • Make product launches a big deal: in a generation where there are the tools to communicate non-stop, Apple keeps quiet about launches until the invites are sent out to a handful of high profile technology journalists. It makes sure that there are enough rumours floating around that the launch doesn’t come as a complete surprise, but the data and focus of the event are kept secret until the very last minute.
  • Establish a launch pattern: Apple traditionally announces product launches at particular times of the year.  Whether it’s software, Mac hardware, iPad, iPod or iPhone, Apple has established a rough schedule throughout the year that updates its product portfolio.  This helps consumers plan their technology investments and gives journalists something to write about regularly.
  • Ensure absolute secrecy: Apple guards it’s new product information fiercely… at least that’s what it wants you to think.
  • Simplify your proposition: rather than listing every new feature or function of a new product, Apple picks a handful and focuses on them.  Why? Because it knows which features and functions will sell its products quickest.
  • Write the headlines: whether it’s, “The world’s thinnest notebook”, “A whole new vision for the notebook”, “1,000 songs in your pocket”, “This changes everything. Again.” or “There’s an app for that”, Apple gives journalists a ready to print headline that tells its audience exactly what it wants them to remember.
  • Support your launch: Apple supports its product launches with PR, advertising and in-store promotion.  By the time the media leaves the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts tomorrow afternoon they’ll be surrounded by product messaging for Apple’s latest products, TV ads will be ready to run and the Apple homepage will be proclaiming another new product.
  • Demonstrate: one of the most important parts of any Apple launch is the demonstrations – it’s all very well talking about why a new product or service is better than your competitors’, but showing why will leave your target audience in no doubt you have a winner on your hands.
  • Make it available: the majority of Apple products are available within days or weeks of the launch – and your should be too.  If a product or service isn’t ready to be launched, all you’re launching is a concept.
  • Use partners: Apple is known for having a string of high-profile partners present at product launches.
  • Be clear on price: if you can’t put a price on a product or service, how do you expect customer to buy it?
  • Be prepared for things to go wrong: despite the best laid plans, things can – and will – go wrong – so be prepared.  How you deal with things when they go wrong can make or break a product launch.

Explained: Why #BB10 Won’t See #RIM Through The Next 10 Weeks

Since I wrote that BlackBerry 10 [#BB10] won’t see the company through the next ten weeks, let alone the next 10 years, as CEO Thorsten Heins claims I’ve been accused of not knowing what I’m talking about, misrepresenting what Heins said, and of being naive.

So, here’s a summary of why I think BlackBerry 10 will – for all intents and purposes – be dead on arrival.

  • The iPhone 5 will, and apologies to Apple, ‘Change everything. Again’.  The new iPhone will raise the bar on what customers expect from their handsets.
  • RIM is marketing its phones to the wrong audience. BlackBerry calls its users ‘hyper-connected’ and “people of purpose” – “not the average smartphone user”.  But, by chasing iPhone customers, RIM is targeting its marketing to the average smartphone user.
  • The fact remains that BlackBerry handsets are seen by most consumers [both B2B and B2C] as a business tool – not a consumer device. RIM believes that BB10 will help make it compete with the iPhone for consumers affections. It won’t.
  • RIM’s proposition is confusing. Its adverts say ‘tools, not toys’, but it’s focus – using Heins’ BlackBerry Jam presentation as evidence – is that BB10 is primarily about toys.
  • BlackBerry still has around 77m subscribers – most of them, I’d argue, use BlackBerry handsets primarily for business.  But, as Bryan Glick – Editor of UK IT trade magazine Computer Weekly – points out in a recent article ‘RIM / Blackberry is just one upgrade cycle from oblivion‘ this could change quickly.
  • Consumers, ultimately, don’t care how good the OS is technically – that’s just the geeks and nerds like me.  Consumers [B2B and B2C] do care about whether their phones allow them to do what they want to do, quickly and easily.  It won’t matter whether BlackBerry 10 is technically better than iOS and Android if the user interface is perceived to be inferior, and a shortage of apps mean handsets will likely fail to deliver.
  • Apple’s new iPhone will be available within days of their launch. By the time devices running BB10 are released [sometime in Q1 2013] many consumers will already have chosen an iPhone or Android device rather than a BlackBerry.
  • Apple gives its customers [and prospects] what they want.  The iPhone 5 will likely deliver what consumers want – even if they don’t yet know what that is. RIM, on the other hand, is still trying to figure out who it’s target audience is these days.

If you need more evidence to support my position, I offer Nokia’s recent experience.  On the day the company launched its new Windows Mobile 8 handsets – the 920 and 820 Lumia devices – which were supposed to help the company out of the smartphone wilderness, its share price fell 13%.  Couple that with admissions that the main  functional advances had been simulated for demonstration purposes and… well, the talk is now that a new feature phone for developing markets may save the company.

In my industry, there’s a saying – “Perception is Reality”.  Unfortunately, regardless of what the reality of BB10 is, the perception that it’s ‘too little, too late’ will likely mean that it will be dead on arrival.

“Things Are About To Change”. No Kidding!

The tag line for Nokia’s latest product launch claimed that ‘Things Are About To Change”.  They weren’t wrong.

If you hadn’t already heard about Nokia launching two new #Lumia smartphones yesterday morning, it’s a fair bet that you knew about it by the end of the day.  While media coverage of the launch of two new Nokia smartphones – its first based on the Windows Mobile 8 platform – had been generally positive, a story broke last night that overshadowed even news that the company’s shares had fallen 13%. On the day the company unveiled the phones that were supposed to start the company’s fightback against the likes of Apple and Motorola/Google it was the one story that Nokia did not want telling.

An eagle-eyed reporter spotted something in the launch video for one of the company’s killer new applications, PureView, an advanced video tool on the Lumia 920 handset – that didn’t look right.  Nokia had led everybody to believe that the video was shot using the new handset – it made sense, given it was one of the major wow factors for the new phones, and offered, the company claimed, a much higher video capture quality than on competitor handsets.   Unfortunately, the promo had actually been created using a DSLR.

Nokia quickly admitted it, and issued an apology. But the damage has been done.  What appeared to be the start of a real fightback by one of the establishment of the mobile industry has turned in to a unmitigated PR disaster.  Having persuaded some that they actually might have what it takes to fight back against the likes of Apple, Motorola/Google, Samsung and HTC, Nokia may have to accept that it fluffed its last chance to be taken seriously as a smartphone maker.  It’ll certainly subject future products launches to more detailed media scrutiny and scepticism.

I’m not suggesting that Nokia will disappear – at least not any time soon.  It has a strong business in low cost handsets in developing mobile markets, and a not-insignificant one at that [where have we heard that before?! The same is said of RIM], but the opportunity to be a serious player in the mainstream handset market is all but over.  Isn’t it?