An open letter to AT&T Wireless: I’ve always had options. Up until now, I’ve just chosen not to exercise them. You spent what you did on iPhone exclusivity in an attempt to “lock” in me and millions of others. In some respects, the strategy worked. But where you slipped was in mistaking my loyalty for a device with a devotion to your company. You’ve had 3 ½ years to build a bond with me – actually, if you count the AT&T earlier years, then the Cingular times, then now – I’ve been your customer for more than a dozen years. I can’t help but tell you that we’ve been in a loveless relationship. As much as I may not love you for your (let me be generous here) spotty network, pricing ($20 a month for unlimited text messages?), and times when your customer service felt more like a disservice, I know that you don’t love me. How else can I view zero effort to reward me for my business? As you know, beyond my iPhone, I continue to pay you monthly on a BlackBerry Bold account that has given me its own set of frustrations. From you, I’ve been waiting for a phone call, a text, or even a letter that acknowledges my value to you. I’ve been waiting for an offer (I have unlimited data grandfathered in on my iPhone 3GS so giving others unlimited data means nothing to me). I’ve seen only some communications about your 4G network. I’m a customer – the mailing brought me no news and no value. This week, I more expect Verizon to reach out to me. It’s going to be about dollars and cents, not loyalty. And it’s going to be about a disconnect. Not between iPhone and iPhone (that happens now and then, you know). It’s about a disconnect between company and customer. Yours (for now) Jeff
Few people would have predicted that Motorola would be in the same sentence as “Best of CES 2011.” But it happened. Motorola — the company that had risen to new heights with the Razr only to lose its lead to BlackBerry and Apple — had a week in Las Vegas only a lucky gambling high-roller could match. In voting by the editors and reporters of CNET, Motorola won the “Best of CES” award for its Motorola XOOM – dubbed as the first device on Google’s new Android 3.0 Honeycomb operating system designed from the ground up for tablets. In addition to “Best of CES” award, Motorola received two other award honors – “Best Smartphone” for the Motorola ATRIX and “Best Tablet” for the Motorola XOOM. By way of background, Motorola XOOM has a dual core processor, and an HD optimized 10.1-inch widescreen. Motorola ATRIX 4G was presented as the most powerful mobile phone available. Its webtop application runs a full Mozilla Firefox 3.6 and uniquely docks with computers and keyboards. Of course, this isn’t the first time that we’ve seen Motorola receive accolades for its innovation. Wikipedia tells us that, over the RAZR’s four-year run, Motorola sold more than 110 million units, boosting its position to second place in the handheld market behind Nokia. Was it an iconic device? You bet. PC World put the RAZR at #12 in The 50 Greatest Gadgets of the Past 50 Years. Now Motorola is considered an also-ran with just 17 percent share in the U.S. market and no dominance elsewhere. As marketers, we need to be ready to adapt. And we must remember that it isn’t over until it’s over. Success comes with innovation coupled with sought-after consumer benefits and backed by great marketing and the right pricing. If those elements are indeed present in devices like the XOOM, then down go the pundits who have written off Motorola forever. Read more on this here http://bit.ly/hXWZQ4.
What I know and still wonder about 686 days and 1,000 followers into my @jeffhasen Twitter life:
- I’m doing OK if you consider that I’ve been placed on the Top CMOs on Twitter list http://www.smmmagazine.com/exclusives/top-cmos-on-twitter/. Only 67 others worldwide have been so honored.
- I’m doing lousy if you average out days and followers that seem to indicate that I’m as popular as a nor’easter.
- I spend more and more time on Twitter. To help determine how much versus the rest, I went to Google and put in “time spent on t…” It came back with two choices -- time spent on Twitter and time spent on toilet. At least one of those deserves to be kept to oneself. As for the other one, I am getting older, you know.
- I realize that I can grow my followers’ list rapidly through all sorts of trickery. But I continue to believe that a smaller list earned is better than one with 3,000 “followers” who have no value to me – nor me to them.
- I refuse to use Twitter like most use Facebook (and many sadly use LinkedIn). Katie Couric famously said that “no one gives a rat’s ass that I had a tuna fish sandwich for lunch”. The minutiae of my life isn’t especially interesting to even those closest to me.
- I see no value in using a Twitter account as an RSS feed. If you provide a link with no context or analysis, I’ve likely seen the news elsewhere. Please tell me what it means to you and to me.
- There is no doubt that Twitter has led to business relationships that I could not develop elsewhere. Want to make a sale? Know your target and go where he or she lives. Twitter is full of potential contacts that are only reachable there.
- Don’t be overly concerned by your Klout score or any other tool that claims to measure your influence. If you can grow your business, career or just your mind via what you see and say on Twitter, it’s an experience worth taking.
The number of Tweeps I’ve followed over the same period
My tweeting activity since late October
The availability of multiple device connectivity is the biggest news coming out of the Verizon/Apple marriage. Specifically, the new CDMA iPhone 4 will act as a mobile WiFi connection for up to five devices. Other phones on the market have that capability already, but some believe that the inclusion of this feature on a Verizon iPhone will bring the concept of a personal hotspot to the masses. So how big is this opportunity really? According to Ericsson, mobile broadband will reach one billion users in 2011. Ericsson expects Asia to drive the spike in users, followed closely by North America and Europe. By 2015, Ericsson estimates that there will be 3.8 billion broadband subscriptions. You can argue that nearly everyone will want to be connected everywhere they go. However, there is another argument to consider. People want that connectivity, but they want it in the form of one connected device – part-mobile, part-computer. If this is the case, then there will be relatively little appeal in offering the option to connect multiple devices. What should you do? Some answers here http://bit.ly/hXWZQ4.
Forty percent of all tweets are created on mobile devices. Surely, that’s a data point that shows the convergence of social media and mobile. The attraction of social networking comes in the connectedness it provides us and in the ability to stay connected to friends wherever and whenever. Users are way ahead of marketers in understanding that there is no meaningful difference in how they connect. So why are there marketing silos? First, this approach splits marketers into two camps (social and mobile) with fierce defenders who are convinced that their focus is the right one. (Why can’t there be only one?). Second, it ignores that fact that there are limited marketing dollars. So splitting budgets between social and mobile (viewing it as a case of “either/or”) is not beneficial to agencies or brands. Put another way, it’s a huge mistake to not follow consumers on their journey and understand that for them there is no line separating social and mobile. Read more on this here http://bit.ly/hXWZQ4.
Related to the last post, Mobile Marketer asked me several questions about the opportunities for local businesses around Valentine’s Day. In the piece, I said: “The wise retailer will differentiate long before the frenzy of Valentine’s Day buying begins. Advertising and offers now lead to preference when consumers rush to fill their Valentine’s Day needs.” And: “We love salmon in my house. We love it more when it’s on sale. The great opportunity is to have me opt-in to a top retailer who will send me offers late in the day when I’m on my way home and more likely to purchase. “Retailers can prove this capability before Valentine’s Day and have a regular customer moving forward.” The full article is here: http://bit.ly/hdgMKs.
Second beyond the question of whether this is the year of mobile are the queries we hear about consumer interest (or disinterest) in walking by a Starbucks and receiving an offer on their mobile device. Brands talk about it. Consumers wonder about it. Media loves the topic. Hence, the attention to my new Adweek opinion piece called The Hyperlocal Opportunity. “The temptation to jump into the hyperlocal waters is high. However, before taking action, marketers are advised to first run through a quick hyperlocal marketing checklist. You can read the checklist and rest of the piece here http://bit.ly/hWjhxO. If your preference is Brandweek, the publication ran the story here. http://bit.ly/hYWG83.
Should text messaging be the only element in a mobile marketing strategy? Here’s what I told Mobile Marketer for a story they prepared for its new Mobile Outlook 2011 Guide. “SMS has come a long way, but still suffers from the tag by creatives and others that it is the least sexy mobile execution. That is why we continue to preach the pyramid strategy where you employ SMS for reach, then build on richer applications that deliver better brand experiences but reduce the number of people who can participate.” The full article is on page 34 here http://www.mobilemarketer.com/cms/lib/10942.pdf.
Until Monday, Klout’s clout came from many social influencers who consider the tracking tool a meaningful measure of importance. Yesterday it was announced that VCs with clout bought more Klout while giving the company $8.5 million in new funding http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=142689. Who are we to doubt VC powerhouse Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byer? But all of us who are spending even a little time in social circles wonder about our clout -- or lack thereof. And consistently we have found that no tracking company has produced the definitive measures we desire. I’m nearing 1,000 followers on Twitter (@jeffhasen). Beyond tracking the growth that way, I can point to the many relationships that have been created with people worldwide, not to mention the business contacts established with folks from Fortune 100 companies in the States. Where do I sit on Klout? Giving me a score of 49, Klout.com says the following: Jeff Hasen is an Explorer You actively engage in the social web, constantly trying out new ways to interact and network. You're exploring the ecosystem and making it work for you. Your level of activity and engagement shows that you "get it", we predict you'll be moving up. A 49 means what? I’m not sure. For perspective, Best Buy’s CMO Barry Judge, known as an active social media influencer, has a 54. Political consultant Joe Trippi comes in at 51. The Moments of Trust Implications of Klout: Admirably, Klout doesn’t claim to be the end-all. On its site, it says Klout isn’t about figuring out who is on the “A-list.” We believe that every person who creates content has influence. Our mission is to help every individual understand and leverage their influence. With those words, Klout has attempted to lower the expectations. But VCs are VCs so the expectations are now raised.
They love us. They really love us. Can you believe it? Retailers are so concerned about our satisfaction and succeeding at the Moments of Trust customer touchpoints that they have introduced so-called buy back programs that give us the opportunity to return electronics to the store before they get retired to a drawer, trash can or recycling bin (for those who think green). According to The Boy Genius, Best Buy’s new protection plan allows consumers to sell back their devices for a percentage of their original MSRP. The program had a soft launch this week, covering phones, laptops, netbooks, tablets, and TVs priced under $5,000. The report said that the service will be expanded to “other product categories” sometime during fiscal year 2012. Look for a super push of Best Buy’s program during the Feb. 6 Super Bowl telecast. The pricing structure for television “buy backs” varies from that of computers, tablets, and smartphones. TVs under 6 months old can be turned in for 50% of the original full-retail price; 6 to 12 months, 40%; 12 to 18 months, 30%; 18 to 24 months, 20%; and 10% during the third and fourth years of ownership. The report said that all “buy backs” will be issued in the form of Best Buy gift cards. If the program proves to matter to prospective buyers, other retailers will surely introduce similar buy back programs. Why? Love for us. Or maybe it’s the understanding that shoppers don’t freely agree to long contracts. Beyond the costs that come with a 24-month or so arrangement, it’s obvious that, with the pace of innovation, a new device today is destined to be yesterday’s news in 6-12 months. Or less. With the buy back program, the consumer gets the latest and greatest and the retailer gets a contract re-up. What a lovely idea. First published at http://technorati.com/business/article/whats-behind-consumer-electronics-buyback-programs/#ixzz1AfRxuBOs
The amount of speculation over the years on the sale of the iPhone on Verizon is about equal to the number of dropped iPhone calls seen on AT&T. But it’s wrong to believe that the great majority of current iPhone owners will burn their AT&T contracts and storm Verizon’s doors. Why? Mobile subscribers are uncommonly loyal. Part of it is the nuisance and time it takes to switch. More that that, many contracts are tied to family plans (for instance, my brother has four BlackBerrys on Verizon with minutes shared). Plus, the iPhone no longer runs unopposed as the phone to have. I’ve been as fed up as anyone with AT&T’s poor network. But a switch to Verizon is by no means a sure thing. First, I have a grandfathered contract, providing for 1,500 monthly minutes for $49.99. Further, I have an unlimited data plan since I’ve had an iPhone since the beginning. Whether Verizon offers an unlimited data plan – and for how long – is the subject of rumor. So is pricing, colors, whether more carriers will get the device, and which one, if any, will have the next version – iPhone 5 – before the others. While Tuesday ends the will the iPhone be sold by Verizon questions, the news brings a set of whole new ones. As to the Moments of Trust Implications, many who buy the Verizon iPhone will be buying a smartphone for the first time. This is important for brands since these consumers will have more access to product and other information via the mobile web and apps as well as the ability to use their devices as megaphones. In the last few days, we learned that 40% of Twitter use is via mobile. This number will rise with more iPhones in consumer hands.
I’m old enough to have gotten my news from Walter Cronkite. Now it comes from @fillintheblank. And @fillintheblank hardly has the gray hair, much less the resume, to warrant the job. Like many, I learned about the horrific Arizona shooting via Twitter. It came sandwiched between my attempts to bring something new to the iPhone/Verizon saga and my rewarding experience of identifying and following some of the leading social stars through http://socialfresh.com/top-social-media-career-moves-of-2010/. Of course, my activities halted as I monitored news of the fate of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. She tragically had died. Then she hadn’t. It immediately took me to the 1980s and my days as a wire service reporter. For some reason, I thought of the time when someone called our newsroom to say that Frank Sinatra had been shot dead by his wife. Only he hadn’t. But if Twitter provided the megaphone those days, might someone had jumped at the faulty information and created a “story”, not to mention heartbreak in the Sinatra family and beyond? Little more than 24 hours after the awful events in Tucson, like most, I’m left with more questions than answers. Was someone -- or more than one -- irresponsible or reckless in reporting the news that spread amazingly fast on Twitter and the Web? After all, the tweets primarily came from reports from CNN and NPR, two reputable news organizations hardly known for their poor journalists. Did personnel at CNN and/or NPR fail at their Moments of Trust with us by reporting the “death” faster than they would have before the advent of Twitter and the 24-hour news cycle? Does Twitter pressure journalists to rush to judgment? Who’s a journalist anyway? Anyone can be an iReporter, iWitness or iKnowItAll and have ample channels to “report” on something as important as life or death. NPR is asking its own questions today, including whether you can – or should even try – to unring the Twitter bell by removing a tweet http://bit.ly/faBmbs. We’re too chronologically close to begin to have the answers. Suffice it to say that each of us with a voice that can be heard – and that means everyone with a Twitter account, blog, Facebook page, etc. – has to think before pushing the send button. You never signed up for that task, you say? Tough. It’s our responsibility to be responsible.
This week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was billed as an introduction of new products. But what’s really new? And — more importantly — what really matters? With more than 80 tablets introduced in Las Vegas, some called it atabletpalooza. However, many of the products are destined to be loozas(losers). This should be a warning to marketers that have been (in my opinion) ill-advised to spend their time and resources trying to reach consumers (and engage with them) via these second, third and fourth-tier tablets devices. More than 100,000 people made their way to CES, a trade show that provides a platform for thousands of manufacturers to bring their products to the world stage. You could say that the attendance signals an improved economy and increased business confidence. Or you might also conclude it shows a little foolishness on the part of companies who jockeyed for our attention by showing off products that were little more than tweaks on what was previously shown. In any case, the progressive companies were able to have their day in the sun (figuratively that is since it actually snowed in Las Vegas). Others, such as Intel, were deemed to be behind the times. (In other words, loozas). It used to be hard to drive headlines during busy trade shows like CES. Today, in the Twitter era of instant and often communications, it has become nearly impossible. In fact it could all just be too much of a good thing. It’s conceivable that wireless products shown in Las Vegas that fail to get the attention of the press/blogosphere will matter to marketers down the road. And keep in mind that still more products will be introduced next month at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. What we hope to see in Barcelona is a CATEGORY breakthrough, not just so-called enhancements to existing product lines within existing categories. The tablet device was a game-changer and marketers have had to get smart fast as they consider the product for their marketing mix. But they are fast on their feet. I’m still waiting for the next something that really changes the marketer’s world and transforms the messages we deliver. More from my weekly www.msearchgroove.com column.http://www.msearchgroove.com/more-verticals-are-more-active-in-mobile-marketing-but-dont-get-blinded-by-more-devices/
Like many of you, I will spend most of an hour tomorrow morning clearing a holiday inbox overrun by unwanted email. It will take me zero seconds to rid myself of spam delivered via text message since the total was none. This is no accident. Parties in the mobile ecosystem worked with the Mobile Marketing Association to create Consumer Best Practice Guidelines that are designed in ensure that mobile does not duplicate spam hell that many email users visit. Included are explicit instructions to protect mobile subscribers. Among them, are the following guidelines: • Content providers must obtain approval from subscribers before sending them commercial SMS (text messages) or MMS (multimedia) messages and other content. • Upon entering a program, the subscriber must be told how to opt-out of the program. • Selling mobile opt-in lists is prohibited. • It is fundamental to the concept of control that a subscriber maintains the ability to stop participating and receiving messages from a shortcode program when desired. • A subscriber can stop participating and receiving messages from any program by sending "STOP" to the shortcode used for that program. Violators are subject to penalties by the mobile operators, including rejection of subsequent programs submitted by the brand and/or the mobile provider that licensed the shortcode. I’ve received only one spam message in the five years that I’ve been carrying two mobile devices – ironically it came from AT&T when the carrier violated the Moments of Trust by breaking the rules and sending an unsolicited SMS about American Idol. AT&T sent the following to many of its 75 million subscribers: “AT&T Free Msg: Get ready for American Idol! AI 8 starts this Tues (1/13) at 8pm on FOX. Check out AT&T's official AI web site from you [sic] PC - www.att.com/idol for the latest info on our $1MM sweepstakes, test your AI IQ by playing the trivia game, and much more. Reply stop to end mktg msgs.” You may remember that AT&T received quick and loud criticism. However, and most importantly, it has never repeated the stunt. Back to our email inboxes, several reports say that unwanted emails worldwide total between 100 billion and 200 billion daily. Microsoft has said that approximately 97 percent of all emails sent are neither requested nor desired. If only there was an effective STOP button on our keyboards. (Article first published as Dreading The Holiday Inbox on Technorati.)
Before I forecast the next six months in mobile, I revisited my last series of predictions http://bit.ly/fxm7qg to see if I was a seer or a fool. Happily and perhaps surprising to some of you, I envisioned much of what went down over the second half of 2010: Last June, I said that more ads were coming and so were questions and concerns about privacy. According to a new report by Millennial Media, verticals stunningly got active in mobile marketing during 2010. The financial services category grew an eye-opening 802 percent year-over-year, while retail and restaurants moved by 745 percent. The telecommunications vertical was right behind with 719 percent growth. Overall, according to market intelligence firm IDC, spending on mobile advertising in the U.S. grew 138 percent to reach $877.2 million in 2010. As for privacy, Facebook, among many others, continued to be cited for lapses (if not downright intentional information sharing). According to an October report in the Wall Street Journal, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304772804575558484075236968.html\ many of the most popular applications on Facebook had been transmitting identifying information—in effect, providing access to people's names and, in some cases, their friends' names—to dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies. The issue affected tens of millions of Facebook app users, including people who set their profiles to Facebook's strictest privacy settings. Still, Facebook had a stellar 2010 with a high-profile movie, appearance by Mark Zuckerberg as Time’s Person of the Year, and the site eclipsing Google as the most visited on the Web. In my last set of predictions, I said that mobile loyalty clubs will continue to gain favor given their success to date. According to Hipcricket’s third annual survey http://bit.ly/ecsIpx ,both interest and participation in mobile loyalty clubs remained steady at 35 percent and 9 percent respectively. However, the research found that 90 percent of those who had participated in a mobile loyalty club gained value from being a part of the club, representing a significant untapped opportunity for brands. In June, I said that complexity was returning to phone bills positioned by the carriers as more transparency. In 2010, Verizon and AT&T moved to tiered data pricing. Has anyone stopped to think that text messaging became a mass activity – 72 percent of all U.S. subscribers – and super easy, if not easy peasy, when unlimited plans were introduced and suitably priced? Now we are going to ask mobile subscribers to count “MBs” and “GBs.” Yeah, you can go to a Web site or send a text and get an update, but who has the time or interest to do that? Finally, I predicted that Google and Apple were in back rooms trying to wrest additional influence from the mobile operators. A CNNMoney.com story in late December http://money.cnn.com/2010/12/30/technology/google_wireless_carrier/ suggested that Google could become a mobile carrier in 2011. The report was widely dismissed by Google and mobile watchers, but it doesn’t change the fact that Google and Apple are all about gaining additional control from carriers who need them. Their maneuvers in 2011 are likely to be among the most intriguing. (Article first appeared on iMedia Connection -- http://blogs.imediaconnection.com/blog/2011/01/02/assessing-the-last-set-of-mobile-predictions/)
Proving to still be in the holiday spirit, a genie (OK, my sister-in-law, Jeanie) granted me three wishes for 2011. Without consulting a mobile app or my Tweeps, I offer them up one-by-one: Wish one -- To do my part to boost adoption of smartphones, I recommend the sale of mobile devices at the barista stands I pass (really, honey, I drive by them) on the way to work. Unless you live in Amish Country, you know the coffee shacks I’m taking about – those with scantily clad girls mostly blocked from our views by the dudes in the F-150s. Crazy idea? Nothing could be wackier than selling netbooks and other personal technology in drugstores. http://momentsoftrust.com/perfect-bundle-from-drugstore-netbook-aspirin/. It’s illogical to ask the consumer or the drugstore stock boy to be informed about consumer electronics products being introduced virtually every hour in the era of technology on steroids. But those baristas? They can pass the Microsoft entrance test, I’m sure. … Wish two -- Four months ago, I blogged about the continued confusion in buying, then setting up a wireless router. http://momentsoftrust.com/confusing-route-to-new-wireless-router/. Akin to wearing an Italian suit with Buster Brown shoes, at that time I paired my new MacBook Pro with a wireless router I bought in 2005. I’m still confused – and still with the 2005 device. 2011, please bring simplicity to this situation so those 25 percent of us who buy, then return a router, can have a nice day – and the connection and security we desire. … Wish three: I wish that manufacturers would build scam-proof devices so inept journalists don’t give airtime in 2011 to some idiotic publicity seeker who manufactures a lie about some exploding phone supposedly causing damage to a body part. Of course, we fell for the trick again about a month ago http://momentsoftrust.com/journalisms-rules-blown-up-in-exploding-droid-2-story/, driving inane stories about “unsafe” technology and how we need to think hard before we put a mobile device in the hands of a loved one. As sure as I’ll have to tweet about AT&T service 8,000 times in 2011, a TV crew will find some clown who tells a tall tale about a destructive mobile phone. After I lose it, we’ll categorize that incident as a true explosion.
Asked to play the Bah! Humbug! role in this season of celebration, my job is to identify and try to explain some of the mobile misses in 2010. But before I throw stones, I will say that mobile matured this year. I saw evidence of that often, especially while judging the worldwide Mobile Marketing Association awards. Programs were smarter. Results were better. Mobile subscribers benefitted. We, however, were not without our low moments, which I will break down by category: Lack of consistent mobile integration in marketing campaigns. As I wrote in a Mobile Marketer column, advertisers received failing grades for mobile marketing during the Super Bowl telecast. There simply was not much mobile marketing despite the massive Super Bowl audience primed to participate with mobile devices no further than four feet from them for the better part of four hours. My biggest disappointment was with fast feeder Denny’s, which gave away Grand Slam breakfasts without employing mobile to create a loyalty club. My advice then? Why not have viewers text in for the offer, then create a mobile club where customers can opt in for future trackable offers and product information? Contrast this with another fast feeder, Arby’s, which has built a large database – actually 172 local ones – by offering free products in exchange for consumers texting in and subsequently joining the loyalty club. Another Super Bowl fumble came from domain registrar GoDaddy.com, which easily could have directed viewers to a mobile Web site or even an iPhone application to watch the series of “too hot for TV” shorts. You do not think those would have been shared at water coolers for weeks to come? Ill-conceived products or products that failed because of weak marketing plans. Do we start with Microsoft’s Kin or with Google’s Nexus One? Designed to be your social networking companion, the Kin lasted less than three months before the next of kin were notified. Kin phones did not provide access to the Windows Phone Marketplace application storefront, preventing customization. Also, the marketing did not adequately explain the features and benefits. The Nexus One had other issues, the largest being an ill-conceived sales strategy that made the phones only available online. What is wrong with that? Try selling a new product and operating system without giving consumers a chance to give it a test drive at retail. Better yet, do not try. Another product that did not make it to the holiday season is Flo TV, which failed to gain enough subscribers despite a hefty TV spend on Super Bowl Sunday and beyond. Why? Consumers have many video options via mobile and are not ready in big numbers to pay for television broadcasts. Increased messaging fees from carriers. T-Mobile’s pricing structure increased the charge for standard-rate messages – both mobile-originated and mobile-terminated – sent over its network by $0.0025 per message. By doing so, T-Mobile upped the cost for brands to run campaigns, hardly a wise move in these early days of mobile spending. The carrier also gave brands a reason to exclude T-Mobile from contests and other programs. This is problematic because the carrier does not want to be in a position to have its customers excluded. One of the big questions entering 2011 is whether other carriers will follow T-Mobile’s lead. The introduction of tiered data plans. How about we rally around children’s rhyme “Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezie” to stop the insanity of metered data plans? In 2010 Verizon and AT&T moved to tiered data pricing. Has anyone stopped to think that text messaging became a mass activity – 72 percent of all U.S. subscribers – and super easy, if not easy peasy, when unlimited plans were introduced and suitably priced? Now we are going to ask mobile subscribers to count “MBs” and “GBs.” Yeah, yeah, you can go to a Web site or send a text and get an update, but who has the time or interest to do that? Will we make mistakes in 2011? We are doomed if we do not. Innovation is not without risk – and some failure. (Originally posted for Mobile Marketer - http://www.mobilemarketer.com/cms/opinion/columns/8634.html)
I’ve always thought that a drugstore was a place to treat a headache, not to receive one. But we’re in dangerous territory these days. No, not the kind of danger where your wife or girlfriend asks you to pick up a feminine product that will be in your hand just when your buddy—armed with a mobile device and Twitter and Facebook feeds—is in line for his daily dose of beef jerky. Consumer electronics have found a home at CVS between the deodorant and Pepto Bismol. How convenient, you say? How crazy, I say. Why? It’s illogical to ask the consumer, or heaven forbid, the stockboy to be informed about consumer electronics products being introduced virtually every hour in the era of technology on steroids. CVS began selling a $99 Sylvania netbook computer over the Labor Day weekend and quickly sold out in many locations, according to news accounts. It features a seven-inch display, 128 MB of internal memory, and 2 GB of NAND Flash. The computer runs Internet Explorer on Windows CE 6.0. How wonderful. If you walked down the street or into your local CVS store (otherwise known as your consumer electronics destination of choice), do you think more than three in 100 could tell you the benefits and downside of 128 MB of memory and 2 GB of NAND Flash? What the heck is NAND Flash anyway? None of your Facebook or Twitter followers can help here. Consumers were driven to CVS by Sunday circulars that proclaimed the “New Netbook… Wow! $99.99.” InformationWeek reported that “several users said they hoped to find a way to eventually download some Android apps to the netbook.” If you are going to hold your breath for this one, please consult the pharmacist. Other users said they bought the netbook for their children, while still others said they would give the machines as holiday presents. Shouldn’t this treatment of children be reviewed by the authorities? The netbook can’t run Microsoft Office 2007 but gives lucky buyers WordPad, DocViewer, XLSViewer, and PDFViewer. Not to mention the headache that can be treated by CVS’ aspirin. Which brings us to the consumer electronics stores. Whole new categories and operating systems are—or soon will be—for sale. Tablets are being offered that promise an iPad-like experience for a fraction of the cost. Smartphones are so plentiful that you have to wonder if every device can be that smart. The better retail experiences will feature informed, patient salespeople educating the eager and uninformed. They will deliver on the “moments of trust” for the store and manufacturer. But that will likely be the exception, given staffing levels and the near impossible task of having anyone keep up with all the products and services that the tech world is introducing. You’ll be hearing all about the pain on Twitter, Facebook, and a blog near you. It’s fortunate that aspirin is as mobile as the netbook and smartphone. (article first appeared in Social Media Magazine - http://www.smmmagazine.com/blog/2010/12/27/the-perfect-bundle-a-netbook-and-an-aspirin/)
One year from the 50th anniversary of the We Try Harder corporate motto, Avis may want to try smarter. My first experience as an Avis Preferred customer (it ain’t that big a deal – anyone can be one by asking and having a credit card) leaves me to wonder whether there will be a second. For peace of mind, I reserved an SUV for a one-day trip to Minneapolis earlier in the week. My flight arrived in a snowstorm, giving me more reason to believe that I was wise to pay $15 or so extra dollars for the “safer in bad weather” vehicle. That’s when things got dumb. Despite confirmation of a Ford Escape or similar, the guy at the Preferred desk offered me only a Dodge Nitro. “Is it four-wheel drive?” I asked. “No, it’s all-wheel drive,” he responded. “But I reserved one,” I said. “They’re all gone – everyone wanted one in the snow,” he said. Upon entering the Nitro, the first knob I saw was one that allowed me to shift from two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive. Dumb. Twenty-four hours later, it got dumber. As I always do, I returned the vehicle with a full tank and was prepared to pay $80 and be done with it all. A different guy at the Preferred desk handed me a bill for $161. I received a correct bill after pointing out that he charged me for an empty tank. The only thing empty were Avis’ promises in one grand failure at the Moments of Trust.