Month: January, 2010

Launching the iPad: A Marketing Perspective

Digital Strategy, Social Media19 Comments

apple-ipadWith the interwebs (especially Twitter) all aflutter over the launch of the Apple’s latest technological marvel, the iPad, I thought it would be timely to post my reactions. However, instead of passing judgment on a device that I am yet to get my hands on (hint, hint Apple reps), I thought it would be fun to look at the launch from an entirely different perspective.

First of all, this is not the first Apple product unveiling I have borne witness to. I was there (well, not actually there, but aware of it anyway) when Steve Jobs announced the iPod, iTunes, the switch to Intel chips and the original iPhone. Yet somehow, the hype leading up to those pales in comparison to the amount of speculation and praise that has been heaped on the iPad in the weeks and months leading up to Jan 27. It was hardly surprising that Mac Fanbois, spurred on no doubt by Steve Jobs own comments,  claimed that the then-unnamed Apple tablet was going to be a “game changer”, but then so too did the mainstream press who heralded it as ushering in a new era of computing, entertainment, media, etc.  all before the device had even be released.

While it might turn out to be a game changer, my first impressions are that it is nowhere near the giant leap forward that the iPhone, iTunes or even the iMac were. To me, those three did more to revolutionise how we think about mobile phones, music and the computers place in the home.


Irrespective of whether the iPad lives up to the hype, full marks must go to Apple’s marketing team for another outstanding product launch. They have leveraged the reach and power of internet (not to mention the brand’s mystique) to ramp the rumour mill into overdrive by saying, well, very little. Instead of shouting about it, they leaked snippets of information and essentially left their fans and industry analysts to let their imaginations run wild.

Next time you think about putting out another piece of collateral telling consumers how great you are, stop and ask yourself if you are saying more than you need to. Too much and you run the risk of painting yourself into a corner and alienating potential customers. Not enough and they won’t know what you’re about. While chances are you don’t have the same brand cache and fervent fan base as Apple, it is worth considering how much detail you need to put out there to tantalise your audience and to know what will get them excited.

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Sun Tzu and the forces of marketing

Marketing3 Comments

“All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.”
– Sun Tzu

The Chinese military general and author of The Art of War, Sun Tzu, says that in battle, there are only two forces at play – direct and indirect.

Direct forces, he says, are how most battles are conducted, by matching the enemy head on and slugging it out till the death.

Indirect forces, however, are about outmaneuvering the enemy and winning by targeting their weakness and turning elements such as terrain and cover to your advantage.

While it is important to use the right combination of direct and indirect forces in your strategy, it is always the indirect that wins the war.

Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat

Marketing is also made up of direct and indirect forces.

Most marketing tends to be focused on direct forces. It becomes a case of churning out one tactic after another in an effort to match your competitors. Your biggest rival starts a Facebook page, so you start one too. They drop their prices, you follow suit. They launch a new TV campaign, yours is on the air within weeks. Direct methods can be easily imitated and unless what you’re doing really strikes a chord with your audience, it will rarely lead to any real long term gain especially when you consider that once the campaign is done and dusted and the budget is blown for the year, consumers will have moved on to something else. Even product innovation is only a short term advantage unless you have the resources to keep staying one step ahead.chess_strategy

Strategising might be slow, but it works

In order to succeed, you must be relevant and engaging, and the only way to do this is by taking into consideration the indirect forces at play. What gives a brand a sustainable competitive advantage is the how they leverage the indirect forces in the marketing. Take Apple for example. The iPod wasn’t the first MP3 player or even the most innovative, but it is the one that went on to dominate the market. The reason was partly because of Apple’s innovative design but mostly because of how the Apple brand is positioned and the in-built cool imbued in all its products.

From a marketing perspective, indirect forces are the intangible elements that can’t be easily copied by your competitors. Fundamental to achieving this is a superior understanding of your customers and competitors so that you can identify where the gaps and opportunities are in the market and positioning yourself to claim this space. At the risk of oversimplifying, it is then a matter of leveraging these insights and developing an appropriate strategy to inform your tactics.

Ultimately, what this means is that if you want to succeed you need to get your brand right and not get obsessed with the tactics. While direct forces are essential to keep you in the game, it is the indirect that will win it for you.

In the words of the late Theodore Levitt, “determine a mass market, identify a small niche within that market and do it better and differently than anyone else.”

(Anyone else think the title of this post sounds like an awesome B-grade HK kung fu flick?)

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Flipping the script on campaign websites

Digital Strategy, Social Media7 Comments

“Build it, and they will come”

Or at least that was the early thinking around websites. But what history has shown us is that just because you’ve built a website doesn’t necessarily mean anyone is going to come or give a crap.

Coke’s decision to abandon the tried-and-tested formula of building one-off campaign websites and driving traffic towards that with massive advertising campaigns is perhaps the best proof of that.

Instead, Coke will reinvest to expand their social media presence on YouTube and Facebook to go where the people are rather than forcing them to go to it.

Pardon the interruption

This is a great move by Coke.

Instead of having an expectation that customers will type in a URL to visit their site, they are going where their customers are already playing thus causing the least amount of interruption. It’s a sign of respect that Coke understands how their customers behave and are willing to play in there too rather than forcing customers to come to them.

The web also isn’t getting any less crowded with well over a bajillion sites (at a guess), a hefty portion of which probably lie dormant. Especially since most campaign-specific sites are typically neglected and rarely updated once a campaign has run its course. Sure there are long-tail benefits of having a campaign website, but it’s far more effective to be where your customers are.

It’s clear that there is some real strategic thinking on Coke’s part about how social media can deliver against their business objectives and that social is no longer a novelty but a serious marketing tool.

More bang for your buck

Also on a side note, if you want to talk about accountability (not that Coke need to watch their pennies), it seems to be a better allocation of Coke’s resources to focus on building lasting relationships on a relatively inexpensive platform rather than plow wads of dough into what will most likely amount to a temporary engagement.

N.B. I’m in no way saying you should abandon your main website in favour of a Facebook fan page. Having a website that you can call your own to illustrate who you are and how you think outside the confines of someone else’s platform is a critical part of any organisation’s digital strategy.

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The Biggest Social Media Mistake Businesses Make

Social Media2 Comments

The biggest mistake businesses make using social media is that they all too easily forget about the ‘social’ part.

Social media is not and should not be used as a pure promotional channel.

The problem is, most businesses treat it the same as they would TV, radio, magazines or newspapers. You can’t treat social media (or any digital channel, for that matter) that way – the audience just isn’t as captive and it’s easy for them to look away if they don’t like what you have to say.

If you spend enough time reading about digital trends and social media, it’s easy to start thinking that everyone knows about this stuff. The truth is that most businesses still have a very old-school marketing mentality and approach any new platform as just another opportunity to spruik their message.

The real value of social media only comes when you are being social.

The strategy most businesses seem to employ is to harvest as many followers as possible and then spam the hell out of them. Not good.

Instead of shouting your message, find a way to be useful to your community of friends and followers. Add real value to your interactions by sharing cool links to stuff they might find interesting as well as to your own great content whether it be funny or actually useful. Simply put, do something beneficial to your community instead of self-serving.

While some self-promotion is tolerated and can even be helpful when it is targeted and timely, too much and you may find that your audience will start to switch off.

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