Archive for the 'media' Category

Three Companies that Apple Could and Should Buy

By: Tim Baker
It’s amazing how a company that went from the brink of bankruptcy 13 years ago now has $51B in cash reserves,  market cap of $275 Billion and a share price of over $300. Last week, CEO Steve Jobs said that Apple plans to hold on to it’s $51B in cash to pursue “strategic opportunities.” As their war with Google continues to grow as does threats from music startups that could potentially dethrone iTunes as the de-facto digital music destination, here’s a list of companies that could be huge acquisitions for the Cupertino giant to buy that could potentially change the shape of the tech industry for decades to come.

Facebook
Facebook is currently valued at a little over $30B. While it would be an enormous investment for Apple to make, the rewards from purchasing the world’s number one social network could have seismic effects across all of Apple’s verticals. It’s pretty safe to say that Apple will be launching a music subscription service in the future and as physical music formats continue on their death march, streaming music startups such as Spotify, MOG and Rdio are winning people over left and right. As smartphone and home broadband penetration continues to expand, it’s only a matter of time until most music fans are enjoying their music in the cloud. Apple realizes this and it’s most likely why they purchased Lala.com last year. Should Apple buy Facebook, every user could have access to a streaming iTunes service instantly. Apple’s new music social network Ping would also have a much better home than living in the iTunes desktop & mobile software and Facebook credits could be used to purchase video rentals.

Putting aside the benefits that an embedded iTunes store from within Facebook could have, the most appealing thing that comes with the purchase of Facebook is their data. Apple’s foray into the mobile advertising business with iAd has put them toe-to-toe with Google and owning Facebook would give them ownership of the very lucrative Facebook ad platform to compete on the desktop as well. Facebook ads allow marketers to deliver very hyper-targeted messages based on the data found in a user’s profile and Apple’s merging of that information with the data they receive from their iAds could very well shift the power in online advertising for years to come.

Netflix
Netflix currently has a market cap of $9B and a subscriber base of over 15 million. While Apple dominates the digital music space, the same can be said for Netflix with regards to digital video. While Netflix started out as a DVD by mail service, their business model has shifted towards streaming video and as they continue to roll out streaming-only plans, their subscriber base is expected to explode. Analysts expect Netflix to have over 19 million subscribers by the end of 2010, which totals about 6% of the US population or 17% of the estimated 116 million US TV households.

An acquisition of Netflix would allow Apple the flexibility to focus on streaming video rather than the pay-per-view rental or pay-to-own model that they’re stuck in now. Streaming video is the way of the future and it’s only a matter of time when Blu-Ray users will see they can get the exact same audio and video experience via the cloud than on an overpriced physical disc that takes up space and is prone to scratching.

Additionally, a purchase of Netflix by Apple would give them enormous market penetration within streaming devices already in-use, such as video game consoles, TiVos, Roku Boxes and Netflix-enabled televisions. While the newest incarnation of the AppleTV is a huge leap forward compared to its predecessor, future success in streaming video will not come from being one of many players in the hardware game – one must control the content.

Last.FM
Last.FM is a popular music social network that founded in the UK and was acquired by CBS Interactive for £140 Million in 2009. While it may not have the cache or price tag as Facebook or Netflix, Last.fm would give Apple something that it’s failed to crack thus far – success in social media.

It’s pretty safe to say that most diehard music fans are finding Apple’s Ping social network to be a joke. Aside from the very lackluster initial offering of artists involved, it’s pretty much the most anti-social social network of them all. Artists that are on Ping are not interacting with fans like often found on Facebook or Twitter. Ping is basically a glorified RSS feed of artists news and events and feels as warm and welcoming as a hospital waiting room.

I don’t see Ping taking off ever in its current form. There’s no way for artists to create their own accounts; an Apple staff member must create the account on their end. There’s also a ridiculous list of rules for entertainers participating on Ping that is nothing if not laughable.

Music loves have embraced Last.fm for multiple reasons, but the three that are most popular are 1. scrobbling, 2. streaming radio and 3. social networking. Scrobbling is basically Last.fm’s way of indexing all the music you listen to on your computer or iPod and keeping a running record of it. It uses that data to show which artists and songs are most popular on the site as well as allows users to meet other music fans based on their compatible music tastes. Last.fm also leverages their API so other music services can import their data into a user’s Last.fm account for even more ways to scrobble music. Two great examples of the API use are Spotify and Blip.fm. Ping currently only automatically tracks your iTunes purchases. The streaming radio on Last.fm also allows users to listen to Pandora-like stations built for them based on their actual listening habits.

While a purchase of Last.fm would be a drop in the bucket for Apple, it would allow them to buy into an established and trusted network of music lovers. They could also leverage all the data they obtain from users on their listening habits to offer a better targeted buying experience within the iTunes music store.

I believe all three of these aforementioned services provide excellent growth opportunities for Apple as they continue into the next decade. I’d love to know what other companies you think Apple could and should realistically buy. Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Social is not a Campaign!

A recent study of US marketers by the Direct Marketing Association and COLLOQUY found that brand awareness was the most popular objective of social media “campaign”. How can this be I ask? For starters, “Social” is not a campaign, it is an ongoing dialogue between a brand and a consumer.  Secondly, how can companies expect to build brand affinity without first establishing customer loyalty?
My opinionated attempt to explain:
Think back to the days when marketers referred to word of mouth as the best form of “advertising” a company could ever hope for, yet there were very few ways to prove that positive or negative word of mouth affected brand or impacted the bottom line. Even more puzzling was the fact that marketers had very few ways of touching consumers on a personal level if they needed to remedy a problem, or thank someone for being a loyal supporter.
Today, those same “word of mouth” conversations still take place, except now marketers have an opportunity to see them, understand them, influence them, and most importantly, connect them to individual customers. Never before, have Marketers and Brands had an opportunity to get as close to their customers as they can today, yet so many of them limit their “social efforts” to simply “advertising” to consumers within social forums.
Those who understand the value of today’s social ethos, know that social media is not about a “campaign”.  Its not how much money you sink into advertising on social networks, and it’s not about how many leads can be delivered. It’s about making sure your company in sync with its customers – It’s about providing value. When you provide value to consumers you establish trust and loyalty, which lead to brand affinity & awareness. It is only then, when companies can expect to see the fruits of their labor through increased sales, and overall growth etc.
Now that I’ve got that off my chest, I will say that I do believe its beneficial for Marketers and Brands to “advertise” in social environments, but these efforts should not be looked at a social media, they simply should be looked at as advertising campaigns (which is what they are). And should not be measured any differently than other “campaigns” with specific and measureable KPI’s.
I welcome your thoughts.

To Take Action or Make Action

By Anthony Nunno

I’m a person with strong opinions and have always been very vocal about them. I make no attempt to hide them, nor make any apologies; I’m a native New Yorker, it’s just not in my DNA! One reason I believe in voicing my opinion is in an effort to Make Action.

Making action is different than taking it. Making action means making things happen, it means not sitting idly by and letting others make the laws; it’s going out and telling them what I want it to look like, who I want it to effect or who I don’t—it’s getting involved in the planning process. Its’ also the very premise that allowed Facebook to grow and prosper over the years.

One topic that is particularly irritating is how our federal and state elected officials try to close budget deficits by raising taxes on the average Joe. I’m not talking Income Taxes, I’m talking vice taxes, sin taxes, bottled water taxes, sugar taxes, fat taxes… the list goes on and on. These taxes are the reason why the drink you ordered last night was $14, the reason why you’ve had to switch to generic soda, the reason why you have had to choose between food and cigarettes, or at least one of the reasons. I think these tax agendas are giving a new meaning to the old adage, being nickel and dimed to death!

So what does the average American do? Well, you can sit back with the $14 martini in your hand or you can speak up and Make Action. Whatever your issue may be there is a site that allows you to voice your opinion. So, get up and make action!

A great example of online advocacy is the destination site www.AxeTaxesNotJobs.com, which has been developed to fight federal and state tax increases on beer, wine and beverage alcohol. This type of sponsored advocacy is created for every person as a mechanism to reach out and Make Action by telling state and federal officials that there is opposition to the decisions and issues that affect lifestyle and checkbooks of the people they represent.

What I find amazing is the way emerging media has created a wealth of opportunity for each of us to Make Action. Through destination websites and microsites, Facebook, Twitter, mobile apps and even augmented reality you can contact just about anyone in order to get things done and make things happen. As of late, I’ve used the Internet in efforts to evaluate issues that are affecting me. I’ve researched the issue, formed an educated opinion and set out to search for ways to make the appropriate action.

I use www.AxeTaxesNotJobs.com as an example of fighting unfair tax increases for the purpose of this post. There are advocacy site for a gazillion issues citing both sides of the issue; the tools are there for you, so research, educate and MAKE ACTION in your favor because your opinion counts or at least mine does.

Companies Should Embrace Internal Social Engagement

Using social media inside a company can help turbo-charge a brand

By Andreas Panayi

I am witnessing more and more senior leaders within large companies finally come to terms with how much more direct influence employees can play in helping to preserve and advance the sentiment of a company’s brand and enterprise-wide value.

I am sure critics of the statement above will say this has always been the case. Yes, although companies have always known their employees play a role in shaping the sentiment around a brand, some companies are now embracing the fact. A few of them are actually going out of their way to support and nurture these internal ambassadors because their voices just got louder and their access to the “outside world” just got even more direct through Social Media channels.

Because of this, it’s increasingly important that organizations have more than a set of
off-the-shelf guidelines to help employees (senior management included) deliver a consistent “social” brand experience that aligns with consumer expectations. Smart companies are recognizing there’s no better way to do this than to tap into the same digital technology we all use to share our thoughts and ideas with friends and neighbors. We will witness more leading companies leveraging social networking, Twitter, texting and other open communication channels inside the company to help shape external brand perceptions and sentiments

Why this change? The Social Web, or “Collaborative Web” as we like to call it, is transforming how senior leadership within organizations listen and learn through social technologies. Company intranets are no longer the only content destinations that organizations and their employees “share” within the confines of the internal structures. We now have blogs, Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare, YouTube, and many others that have yet to arrive. But participating and listening online is not about cool technology, it’s about engaging with employees and hearing what people that make up the company and drive the brand have to say.

When senior leadership previously stated in staff meetings, vision statements, annual reports and earnings press releases that employees are their ‘number one asset and consideration’, we are finally beginning to see real activity around this statement. Of course the flip-side of ‘number one asset’ is unthinkable – ‘number one liability’; senior management is also seeing the possibilities of assets turning into liabilities with access to tools and public forums that can create distractions, and even end up causing large-scale problems with negative effects on the brand and consumer perceptions.

While I think about where we are today and how we arrived here, I remember back to when I shifted my carrier from general advertising to what was referenced as the ‘information super highway’. Usually, when you go back in history, you can predict the future, so I searched deep and found this great line that was thrown at me at the end of one of my very first ‘new media’ presentations.

It was the very early 1990’s and the public side of the “information highway” was just starting to push its way into high-level discussions at companies, such as the one I was pitching  development of a “web page” to. The audience was seven men and three women executives, averaging in age around 50 years young.

I finished what I believed was a fabulous presentation and the audience was mesmerized; I had them all speechless. I was 26 and on fire, blazing down the ‘information super highway’ doing 120. That is until the guy sitting at the head of the table looked up, zeroed into my eyes and said – in a very authoritative voice with a hinge of sarcasm – “We’re going to slow this project down because this highway is going to hit a dead-end before I retire.” Needles to say, my presentation was a bit ahead of its time for this gentleman, as I am sure he is retired today and the super highway is still going strong.

As a matter of fact, the highway now has multiple lanes – all four-way streets with new exit and entry ramps that can drive you crazy. The highway is now more collaborative and complex than ever.

So, the moral of this history lesson is that senior leaders who thought they will retire before they actually need to embrace the fact that the Collaborative Web is transforming internal communications into business-critical brand assets – or liabilities – may want to re-consider their retirement plans. Emerging communications tactics, alongside the Collaborative Web, have entered the halls of companies and have finally placed much deserved urgency and emphasis on strategic internal employee communications.

What kind of leader are you? Are you a driver or passenger in today’s  internal communications landscape?

Check out this article from PR Week: “Dell goes mobile to bolster its employee engagement.”

Apple, Microsoft and the War on Google

By Tim Baker

There’s an all-out war brewing and it’s about to get really nasty. I’m not referring to the situations in Afghanistan, North Korea or Iran; the turf where this war takes place will occur on screens all around the world. Computer screens, mobile phone screens and even television screens. This is a war on Google fought by Apple and Microsoft.

Over the past few years, Apple and Google have had a very publicly rosy relationship. The heavy integration between Google Maps and the iPhone was a mutually benefical win for both companies. Apple was able to bring mobile location services to a level unlike any other handset manufacturer had done prior while Google finally had an outlet to take over the mapping market that was dominated for so long by MapQuest.

The inclusion of a YouTube app on the iPhone and the ability to upload directly to YouTube from within the OS on the iPhone 3GS is just another example in a long history of these two companies working together in a close partnership. Safari’s default search engine has been Google for as long as I can remember while the map data from the most recent version of iPhoto is provided by – you guessed it –Google!

The Cult of Apple has adored Google for quite some time, almost embracing them as an extension of the company they worship in an almost God-like fashion. This outpouring of love and admiration coupled with Google’s “do no evil” attitude and constant innovation had been a match made in Heaven.

That was, until just a short time ago.

The first sign of trouble in paradise was made public when Apple refused to allow the Google Voice app into their app store. Denying apps had been nothing new to Apple and had caused them some bad press throughout the blogosphere, but for the most part those stories fell out the public interest after a day or two. This was different; this was Google. This was like stabbing your brother in the back and running off with his wife. Unlike most rejected apps, this one had a giant behemoth behind it that was refusing to take “no” for an answer. The entire saga turned into a he said/she said pissing match that resulted in an FTC investigation and the eventual departure of Google CEO Eric Schmidt off the Apple board of directors where he served for three years.

Some will claim that the announcement of the Android OS in 2007 was the first sign of bad blood between the two companies, but I don’t see it that way. I would classify it as a tiny little blip on a seismograph. The iPhone was already leaps and bounds ahead of other devices at this point that a little competition in the mobile space was good for everyone. Also, a lot of people in the tech world were very underwhelmed by what Google first showed off with Android, an OS that has come a long way since its first unveiling.

Since Eric Schmidt left the Apple board of directors, the gloves have really come off between the two companies. Apple and Google have both been on buying sprees as of late with Google acquiring AdMob and Apple countering with their acquisition ofQuattro Wireless. Apple also recently purchased the music streaming service LaLa, a company that Google was also attempting to buy, as well as a mapping software company called Placebase.

Yes, it’s getting ugly between the two companies, but what about the 300 lb. gorilla in the room –Microsoft? We all know that Apple and Microsoft are fierce rivals and that will not change any time soon, but this whole situation between Google and Apple allows for some interesting opportunities for Microsoft.

The Zune is a commercial failure, Windows Mobile is bleeding market share to Apple, RIM and now Android, and even Internet Explorer is feeling some heat from Firefox and Chrome in the browser wars. The Xbox 360 aside, things haven’t been as great for Microsoft these past couple of years as they would’ve hoped.

This is where it is going to get really interesting. Can Apple and Microsoft put their proverbial guns down and fight the common enemy? I believe so – at least to some extent. There’s already rumors that Apple may make Bing the new default search engine on the iPhone, but I don’t see it ending there. Google is killing Bing (and everyone else for that matter) in search, their Google Docs are getting closer and closer to Microsoft Office every day and now that Google is entering the OS market with Google Chrome OS, Microsoft is scared, and they have every reason to be.

While I don’t expect Microsoft and Apple to buddy up as close as Google and Apple have in the past, at least this year, I do think we’re going to see some very interesting collaborations between the two rivals. Perhaps we will see an official Microsoft Office suite for the iPhone or Tighter integration between the Mac and Microsoft Exchange. Maybe some of the great things about Bing, including the travel search and maps, will find some integration into Apple’s offerings. These are all small but doable things that I would not be surprised one bit to see occur in 2010.

What the Apple fanboy nation lacks in numbers it makes up with in loyalty. If Steve Jobs convinces his followers in ever-so-subtly ways that Google is not their friend anymore, there is going to be number of people that turn on the company. Will it have a huge effect on their bottom line? No, not at first, but what it will do is legitimize Microsoft as a partner, giving them more ammunition in their never-ending battle with Google.

Microsoft doesn’t have the same stigma with the younger generation of Apple lovers today as it did back in the 90’s. When Apple announced a partnership with Microsoft, which basically kept them from going bankrupt, the entire hall of people booed and hissed. It’s not like that today. iPod and iPhone lovers grew up using Windows machines in school (and still do). They have very little malevolence towards Microsoft, especially when so many of them have an Xbox in their living room. The culture is different now and Apple teaming up with Microsoft has the potential to cause seismic shifts in the technology landscape in the coming years.

Regardless of where you stand, this is going to get very interesting. Lucky for us consumers, there’s a good chance we’ll come out winners of this battle in the end when the dust settles.

If it ever ends, that is.

Foursquare: The Game That’s a Real-Game Changer

One of the hottest trends in social media is the growth of location-aware mobile applications. With the immense popularity of the iPhone, BlackBerry and Android-powered mobile devices, software developers are pushing the mobile platform forward faster than any segment of consumer electronics.

Foursquare LogoOf all the location-aware mobile applications, Foursquare is perhaps the most exciting. Foursquare was created by Dennis Crowley and Neveen Selvadurai and launched earlier this year. Crowley’s previous project, Dodgeball, was one of the pioneering social networking services for mobile devices. Dodgeball required users to text their location into the service and they would be instantly notified of friends, other Dodgeball users and points of interest all in their close vicinity. Dodgeball was purchased by Google and has since morphed into Google Latitude, Google’s up-and-coming foray into location-aware social networking still in its infancy.

Foursquare takes the basic principles behind Dodgeball but presents it in a much more robust and user-friendly way. Rather than text in one’s location, Foursquare users simply fire up the mobile application on their device and it utilizes the phone’s GPS technology and data network to presents them with a list of venues near their current location. The user selects their location from the list (or adds it if it’s not currently in the system) and they are “checked in.” By connecting to Twitter and Facebook, users can instantly and automatically alert their social networks of their location.

Foursquare doesn’t end there; Crowley and Neveen have implemented an ingenious reward system into their applications that not only encourages repeat use of the applications, but truly bridges that gap from “virtual world” to “real world.” Based on the city one is in, Foursquare users can unlocked badges basedjavascript:; on their check-ins. For example, New Yorker’s that check into a venue above 59th Street can unlock the “Far Far Away” badge. Check in to three karaoke venues unlocks you the “Don’t Stop Believin'” badge while checking in at a gym venue 10 times or more in 30 days earns you the “Gym Rat” badge.

foursquare_badges

Perhaps the most innovative feature built into Foursquare is the “Mayor” system. Users that check into a venue with the most frequency in a set period of time are tagged as the mayor of that particular venue. Aside from the bragging rights that come along with being the mayor, more and more locations are taking Foursquare off the mobile devices and into the real world by rewarding mayors with a variety of prizes. Restaurants are offering free food to the Foursquare mayor while some bars have been known to give free drinks to their respective mayors.

Foursquare users also have the option to leave a tip for others at the venue they are checked into. Whether it’s raving about a particular restaurant’s salmon dish or urging others to try the Long Island Iced Tea, Foursquare’s system is posing a real threat to popular social review services like Yelp and CitySearch.

Crowley and Selvadurai have created a system that not only is immensely fun for its users, but allows local businesses to market themselves leveraging social media in a whole new way. Whether this was truly intended or is simply a side-effect of the game’s popularity, there’s no denying that Foursquare is creating a new level of interaction between businesses and customers that is sure to be a growing trend in 2010 and beyond.

Motrin’s Pain: Viral Video Disaster

By Brian Wendel

The economy is in a slump. Companies are worried how they are going to meet next quarter’s profits. So McNeil Consumer Healthcare, the largest consumer company within Johnson & Johnson, chose to hire an ad agency to come up with a viral video campaign that was supposed to be fresh and inspiring and to boost Motrin sales.

Enter the “Motrin Moma-Alogue” campaign.

The results: a slick online video narrated by a snarky woman saying babywearing on a sling, the shwing, the pouch, whatever, is fashionable and “supposedly it’s a real bonding experience” but moms that wear their babies “cry more.” But don’t worry mommies of the world “Motrin feels your pain.” They are here to help.

Motrin Mom Babywearing Ad

Two days after the advertising push and receiving online backlash, Motrin pulled the campaign and is now begging the mommy-blogging nation for forgiveness.

See Motrin apology

Oh yeah, this viral video worked in the sense that it went viral but not in the way Motrin was hoping for. Just hours after the campaign launched moms began blogging, tweeting and posting Facebook updates about how offensive the new Motrin campaign is to mothers.

Talk about a PR disaster.

More than 100 blogs featured headlines such as “Motrin Makes Moms Mad” to “Motrin Giving Moms a Headache.”

Click here to see the comments

The campaign was an attempt to connect with moms through the common experience (and pain) of carrying a child. But the implication felt by some of its vocal critics was that moms wear their babies as fashion accessories, or because it “totally makes me look like an official mom.”

Did the ad agency bother to consult real moms and test this concept? Did any PR or marketing executives who happen to be mothers and work for McNeil/Motrin bother to look at this campaign?

How did this concept even make the storyboards?

Whether you like it or not, your customers have as much, if not more control than you do over your brand. Marketing people everywhere need to learn to love that. They also need to be joined at the hip with their PR people.

I can’t imagine the headache waiting for the Motrin PR person each morning.

This is just the beginning.


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