Mobile's Misses in 2010

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, 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 -

Perfect Bundle From Drugstore? Netbook & Aspirin

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 -

Avis: Instead of Trying Harder, Try Smarter

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.

Mobile Subscribers To Brands: Can You Hear Me Now?

Brands are still not fully taking advantage of consumers’ willingness to participate in mobile marketing, specifically in loyalty clubs, according to Hipcricket's third annual survey The survey found that 35 percent consumers are interested in joining mobile loyalty clubs. However, despite this interest, 80 percent of respondents stated that they still have not been marketed to by their favorite brands via their mobile device. This represents huge missed opportunities to engage with willing customers on an ongoing basis.

Saluting or Chiding Salespeople Via "Megaphone"

In a post called Let’s Start A Movement, Glenn Ross implores satisfied customers to salute extraordinary employees. “When you experience truly exceptional customer service, grab your smart phone and send out a tweet or post it on Facebook, MySpace, or your favorite social media platform.,” Ross wrote. “Give the employee's first name and the name and location of the business (if you have enough characters.) Also, before you leave the store (or get off the phone) take the time to compliment the employee and if the manager is nearby, let him or her know. Let's start a movement here. We're always talking about how bad customer service gets social media exposure, I challenge you to step up and make the effort to recognize exceptional service.” The post is in line with my belief that it’s immaterial whether it’s a feature phone or smartphone – consider them all megaphones where consumers have influential voices. According to eMarketer, social networks are becoming the primary way mobile users exchange information. As of summer 2010, 63 percent of Twitter users posted via a mobile device. They instantly – and undoubtedly impulsively — tell us when a car salesperson pull a bait and switch. And that their friends should get to the store quickly before the “must have” sold out. And that there is a cockroach crawling up the restaurant wall and you would be insane to ever go there. And don’t forget to tell your friends. This is the intersection between personal technology and what I call Moments of Trust, those critical touchpoints between a brand and a consumer that make or break businesses and impact sales and loyalty. Mobile is key to it all.

Forgetting or Ignoring What We Learn As Children

As children, we learn the concept of permission. We know to ask (and say “please” even), and we understand that others should treat us the same way. So, why is it some marketers don’t follow these ruleswhen they engage with consumers? This week U.S. regulators floated a Do Not Track proposal for Web users aimed at enabling them to stop advertisers from tracking them online. As USA Today reported, a program like this would allow consumers to effectively ‘opt-out’ and ask not to be tracked by advertisers – a request they would have to respect. Predictably, the program has some powerful forces fighting it. As USA Today observes: there is a catch. “The burgeoning industry of advertising networks and online tracking services that have devised dozens of sophisticated ways to identify and profile specific consumers must be compelled to obey consumers’ wishes.” Coincidentally, we learned in the same week that the vast majority of consumers surveyed by Hipcricket see value in interacting with brands provided it’s on their terms. According to the 2010 Hipcricket Mobile Marketing Survey – a survey of 526 U.S. consumers –57 percent of respondents would be interested in opting in to a brand’s loyalty club via a mobile social networking application such as Facebook. It also found that 90 percent of those who had participated in a mobile loyalty club said they had gained value from the participation, a result that represents a significant untapped opportunity for brands. Marketing is more common sense than brain surgery. The idea of giving consumers what they want – and nothing more – is simple. Permission-based programs are the future (in my view, they are the present as well). The survey clearly shows that people will interact with brands and join loyalty programs if we ask them first. Tracking people online (particularly without transparency into the process) flies in the face of this practice and does anything but encourage interaction between people and brands. So I ask myself:Why is it so difficult for some marketers to understand the requirement for permission-based marketing – let alone implement permission-based programs? Here's the rest of my MSearchGroove column

Santa's Arrival Upstaged by Coming of Holiday Mobile Commerce

I like to think that I get in the holiday spirit as much as anyone, but when I look back at 2010, more than Santa’s arrival, I will remember this as the year that mobile for holiday shopping dramatically came on the scene. Beyond anecdotal evidence, many reports make the case for mobile’s unprecedented success: PayPal saw an approximately 310 percent increase in mobile shopping on Black Friday. Overall, the company reported approximately a 27 percent increase in total payment volume on Black Friday 2010, compared to the previous year. Zong, which powers mobile payments for virtual goods, says sales were up 117% year-over-year on Cyber Monday. Scanbuy claims it saw about 30 times more scans last weekend than it did a year ago. While reaching records, 2010 mobile activity will pale in comparison to next year’s and into the future. While we don’t have many individual success stories or failures, it’s safe to say that marketers who planned, integrated, provided relevance and value are the big winners. Those who didn’t will learn from their mistakes – or won’t be around next year to repeat them. As for my purchases, I made one on Black Friday – a Virgin Mobile Mifi personal hotspot device that I bought at a brick-and-mortar Radio Shack after checking prices and availability on my iPhone. Please see the rest of my weekly MSearchGroove post here

Journalism's Rules Blown Up In "Exploding" Droid 2 Story

Pictures tell 1,000 words but how many of those are lies? Claims of injuries caused by defective mobile devices are not new. Some have shown to be legitimate and others were bogus like this one from the prehistoric era in mobile – 2007. As you likely know by now, a Texas man got TV time to allege that his Droid 2 exploded and caused significant damage to his ear. In this era of immediate “journalism”, headlines across the world read like this one from Alley Insider – “Droid Phone Explodes, Destroys Man's Ear In Bloody Mess”. The Texas television station was as guilty with a rush to judgment. Has the word allegedly been blown up, too? In a high profile “Moment of Trust”, Motorola said it would contact the supposed victim and begin an investigation. Is it possible that the incident happened as the man claims? My mobile device expertise is all about benefits, not components. So maybe yes, maybe no. Having spent 12 years as a journalist, I heard all sorts of stories, including tall tales. During those years, boxing promoter Bob Arum said, “Yesterday I was lying. Today, I’m telling the truth.” The Droid 2 either exploded or it didn’t. Expect this story to have legs – as well as a bloody ear.

Tweet and AT&T Will Listen?

I have no idea how many times I’ve said a bad word about AT&T but a good guess would be two for every dropped call since I bought a first generation iPhone. So we’re talking thousands. While not a replacement for better service, AT&T does deserve credit for its efforts to monitor outages through customer tweets. According to ReadWriteWeb,, “those (at AT&T) monitoring the system then uses the time-stamped tweets and locations and compares the data to customer service calls. Twitter trends can even indicate service problems faster and more efficiently than customer complaint logs, which take longer to log and analyze.” I’ll take the half-full view this time and say this will lead to improved customer experiences. The half-empty view is that this is a publicity stunt that will do nothing other than put AT&T in a good light.

SMS Saves Money If Not Lives

One Kaiser Permanente clinic in California says it has saved more than $275,000 by sending appointment reminders via SMS. While no demographic breakdown was given, it is believed that the patients ranged widely in age, providing further proof that texting is more than a young person’s activity. In other Moments of Trust involving mobile, a Mobile Marketing Forum workshop recently learned from Alcatel-Lucent that the most effective way to build permission-based databases is to offer transparency, bring value, and build scale before you think of monetization. These items and others are in my new iMedia Connection blog post

Second Chance To Make First Impression?

Last month, I wrote how AAA broke our trust by having rental cars reserved on its sites fulfilled by something called PAY FOR IT NOW AND SAVE If you recall, my first rental experience came on a week that my office computer was overtaken by spyware. It turns out that rental went without a hitch – low rate, my reservation was there, and my credit card was not fraudulently used. So yesterday I booked another car.  And the confirmation came from AAA Washington – which is what I expected the first time. In Moments of Trust, do brands have a second chance to make a first impression?

Still Learning From Sesame Street

All these years later and we’re still learning from Sesame Street. The media property that has won more Emmy Awards than any other turned 41 last week. But there’s nothing outmoded about its approach to mobile. To the contrary, the non-profit educational organization that helped many of us learn the basics continues to play a meaningful role in the lives of children – and their parents – worldwide. Moreover, Sesame Street is also teaching the industry an important lesson: the future of our children (and our own future as well) involves mobile. Sesame Street used the Mobile Marketing Forum, which took place earlier this week in Los Angeles, to share its vision for mobile. The discussion sparked debate, stirred discussion and stood out as one of the presentations that gave us the clearest glimpse of just how mobile will affect education everywhere. . Anita Stewart, Sesame Workshop Vice President, Corporate Partnerships, told us that mobile applications have proven to be a valuable learning aid. Sesame Street lessons are delivered via mobile in 140 countries. But it’s not just about reaching kids; Sesame Street also uses mobile to engage with young moms who may not watch TV, but want to participate in the experience with their children. Interestingly, this experience can go beyond education. The Sesame franchise views mobile as the quickest and most effective way to educate youngsters on critical issues such as childhood obesity, healthy habits and financial literacy. HOW I SEE IT: Mobile marketing has a successful and sustainable future provided it can gain and maintain trust with mobile subscribers. Sesame Street “gets” this – which is why studies consistently show that the Sesame properties are the most trusted among parents. In this make-or-break time for mobile, there is no better ambassador than Sesame Street to show that mobile does good. Mobile can reach youngsters (and their parents) with important lessons and skills. Mobile therefore deserves a central place in households across the globe. Please see the rest of the post for

Smartphone Users Dumb To Share Personal Info?

A recent study reveals that the most people feel uneasy about apps and content that access their personal information such as identity data, payment details and messages. Lookout, a company that offers security services for a number of smartphones, reported that more than 91 percent of consumers have some level of concern about the privacy of the personal identity data and information stored on their phone. Only 7 percent of smartphone users feel extremely confident that they understand what private information is being accessed by the apps they download from stores and destinations to their phones. Lookout also found that – on average – users have 31 applications on their phones that can access their identity information. Of these 19 apps can access their location and five apps can access their SMS and MMS messages. Sensing a business opportunity for security software that puts us in control of what personal data our apps are allowed to access, Lookout has introduced a new paid service that allows users to scan every app they download and determine the threat to their personal data. The premium offer is an enhanced version of the free app the company claims has already reached 3 million subscribers. HOW I SEE IT: For the most part, consumers won’t believe that there’s a threat to mobile devices until the first – or several – security issues appear and cause mayhem. Or maybe Hollywood will jumpstart the panic with an updated version of The Net, where the heroine has her identity stolen by the gaming app she downloaded from a brand. In any case, no technology is hacker-proof and mobile is next. In my view, marketers should be prepared for the eventuality. We are selling trust. And whether it’s mobile commerce (linked to the user’s presence in the store) or mobile coupons (connected to a loyalty card), we are the one to blame if our sites or apps don’t do what they promise. Do you have a crisis plan in place just case your mobile business or offer is targeted? Please see the rest of the post here -

Internet Insecurity - Invasion of the Bad Guys

I reserved a car with Hertz. Maybe I didn’t. In day 4 of the Invasion of the Bad Guys on my computers, I have seen system takeovers, link redirects, and emails from unknowns. Good unknowns or disruptive unknowns is, well, unknown. Case in point - yesterday I found what appeared to be a $20 a day deal with Hertz from the AAA website. The price was 50% less than I saw elsewhere so I booked. Confirmation came via email from something called PAY FOR IT NOW AND SAVE. What? After 10 minutes of searching on Google, I believe the entity is related to Travelocity. And I did plug in the confirmation number on and the reservation appears legitimate. If that’s the case, what is AAA thinking in this Moments of Trust failure? It’s understandable if you outsource the reservation system, but to have your customer have to spend time verifying the transaction is irresponsible and damaging to your brand. If you think I’m being overly cautious, last week was my turn in spyware and malware hell. A spyware program first hijacked my Windows 7 computer. After company IT “cleaned” it, another program appeared minutes later. Oh, and later in the day, links in my search engines redirected to sites certainly after my credit card information and my sense of security. Supposedly we’re good now. Then this morning, on a MacBook Pro, attempts to log into two websites redirected me to elongated and unfamiliar URLs. Supposedly this is nothing more than a hosting issue. Maybe. In recent weeks, I’ve written about my refusal to conduct Internet banking. Mobile banking is even more a long shot given its nascency. According to a recent study, 19 percent of consumers are less cautious using the Internet on their mobile device than on a computer. People, get a clue. Take more care or it will be PAY FOR IT LATER AND CRY. (Article first published as Internet Insecurity - Invasion of the Bad Guys on Technorati)

Speaking of Moments of Trust and Mobile

Three more talks added to the speaking schedule on the homepage at Conversations upcoming with diverse audiences, all eager to engage on Moments of Trust and Mobile. Hope to see you at one of these events. USC Marshall School of Business In this presentation to MBA students, we introduce the Moments of Trust concept and discuss the new interaction between brands and consumers November 11 Los Angeles Workshop At MMA Mobile Marketing Forum In this discussion for agencies and brands, I present The Unstoppable Rise of Mobile Marketing: An Introduction to What’s Possible November 16 Los Angeles “Moments of Trust” at Boomer Summit 2011 Lessons on how marketers can effectively interact with some of the 300 million consumers who are armed with a mobile device and a voice that can instantly change or reinforce public opinion April 29, 2011 San Francisco

Reach 'Em Via Mobile or Wagon Train

I was asked in a wide-ranging interview whether mobile should always be part of the marketing mix? This is what I told Mobile Marketer: Always is, of course, an absolute. Given the popularity and reach of mobile devices, you would be hard-pressed to have only non-mobile subscribers in your target group. But if that is the case – perhaps in a rural area that has not seen a cell tower – mobile should be left out. Leave delivery of the message then to the Wagon Train. The rest of the interview, including in-depth comments on the award-winning Arby’s campaign, is here

iPhone Stunt Would Make Lucy, Ethel Proud

Separated by 56 years, Lucy, Ethel and Atomic Tom have lots in common. Each knew how a well-crafted stunt can create buzz and publicity that money can’t buy. In a minute, we’ll get to the I Love Lucy episode where the ladies posed as Martians atop the Empire State Building.;recap In the same city this week, an unheralded band named Atomic Tom created a stir as well, breaking out in song on the B train backed only by music generated by iPhone applications. Because I had never heard of them until Friday, I can’t say how many of the band’s 27,000 Facebook fans existed before the boys took to the subway in one of the most inspired viral efforts in years. The band says they turned to lyrics and iPhone apps after their instruments were stolen. Not likely – and not important. The “performance” was “captured” on video – further debunking the thievery setup. As of Saturday morning, there were more than 132,000 YouTube views of the most eventful ride on the B Train in years (actually, having lived in New York, many B train rides are eventful). There have been several calls for Apple to use the footage in a commercial. The Making of story will be fascinating, no doubt imitated, and would certainly gain a salute from Lucy and Ethel, those wacky women from yesteryear. You may be old enough to recall that in the episode Lucy's lies to her rich and snotty ex-schoolmate put her on the hook for a $500 charity pledge. In order to come up with the money, she and Ethel agree to a publicity stunt ahead of the opening of a movie about Martians. Fifty-six years later, we’re still talking about it. As for Atomic Tom, call them masters of new media. They got on our radar using viral marketing, personal technology and creativity – all for little more than the cost of four subway tokens. (Article first published as A Notable iPhone Stunt On Subway on Technorati)

Innovation, Marketing Spends Accelerate Adoption

The implications from the Windows Phone 7 launch? Innovation and the huge marketing spend will not only speed up the adoption of smartphones, they will create opportunities for marketers to reach consumers in richer ways. That will translate into more sales and brand loyalty. More at my weekly blog post for MSearchGroove.