Posts Tagged ‘Apple’

Early iPad Impressions: Not an “Ad” Medium

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

A little more than a week ago I purchased an iPad. Typically I am an early adopter for tech toys such as this for a few reasons: First, in my job as strategy leader of a digital agency, my team and clients are eager to hear our take. Second, I am always looking for tools that will help me be more effective and/or efficient in what I do for a living. In this case I have been increasingly feeling the limitations of my laptop, especially when I want to, say, show a few slides or websites to a client over breakfast or lunch; the last thing you want to do in those situations is haul a heavy bag around and wait 10 minutes for the thing to power up and down. But I was really most interested in purchasing an iPad to understand for myself whether this promising/hyped new category of devices would be dominated by the old, interruptive model of advertising or start with a platform for Marketing with Meaning. And after a few days of use I can safely include that the latter is the case.

So far, the interruptive model for iPad advertising seems to be moving quickly up the hype cycle. Some people actually believe that this will—finally!—be the year of mobile advertising, even before Apple got into the game. Apple is preparing to launch its own advertising network for iPhone and iPad apps with special creative formats, dubbed iAd. It has raked in $60 million in commitments already from some of the biggest brands in the world who want to test it first, including Unilever, AT&T, Sears, State Farm, and Disney. The hope is that millions of app developers will earn a living out of turning a percentage of their mobile pixel space over to new ad networks and wait for the money to roll in—and marketers can reach people closer to where and when they actually pull out their wallets to buy stuff.

But a few of us are warning that mobile advertising is not necessarily the next big thing. Along with many others elsewhere, I wrote in this blog back in May about the limitations of iAd as an advertising option. The Wall Street Journal blog recently featured an interesting quote from Kevin Ryan, former CEO of online-ad company DoubleClick: “The answer that people want to hear is that mobile is going to be huge.” “The People” obviously means investors who hope to sell their mobile-ad companies to the highest bidder. But it also includes the largest advertisers in the world—who are watching TV commercial ratings and print subscriptions sink and know that they need to figure out a mobile solution quickly.

The central challenge, however, is the lack of “scale” in mobile marketing. At the end of the day, traditional advertisers such as the big names above depend on an interruptive model in which many millions of eyeballs are exposed to a short message in hopes that some small percentage leads to a sale. Just because they long for this scale does not mean it will actually arrive. There are already too many ad impressions to compete with, too many media options for consumers, and too many mobile-phone platforms to allow for such scale.

The alternative choice for mobile—and advertising overall—is Marketing with Meaning. In mobile devices this looks like creating value-added apps that a smaller percentage of people download (as compared to mass interruptions), but because the brand engagement is so much superior, this small group buys products and services at a much higher rate, over a much longer time period. This is the bet being placed by brands as diverse as Charmin (public restroom finder), Nationwide (car accident guide), Starwood (loyalty points tracker), and REI (ski report). The Gilt Groupe, a high-end online retailer, is now seeing 10% of its sales come from the iPhone and iPad. The reason? A killer interface made specifically for these platforms, and a business that has great deals for a limited-time only—i.e., if you wait to log on at your desk to check out the specials they might already be sold out.

Now to my handful of impressions after using an iPad for a few weeks:

  • First, the device is exceeding my expectations. I do love it! I expected to have a tool that would allow for easy reading of email, books, and websites, as well as something simple for presenting slides. It does that more than adequately, and so much more. The keys to greatness lie in a brilliant piece of hardware. The device is thin, lightweight, features an incredible screen quality, responds well to the touch, and you cannot beat the easy on/off button. This is really what computing should be about in 2010, rather than the endless boot-up of bloatware operating systems and unknown creatures in the taskbar bin. With this platform and basic OS, the possibilities for developing apps that make best use of it are limitless. So far I’m loving Netflix, Kindle, The Weather Channel, TweetDeck, and GoodReader. And I’m now reading the paper newspaper again thanks to USAToday and WSJ apps. So many great apps and we’re only in the first couple of months of this thing, folks!
  • The “magazine” model of advertising is weak. I have downloaded a few magazines such as Wired and Esquire to test what this experience is like. Chris Anderson, editor of Wired, talked at an Ad:Tech speech a few months ago about how his company was betting heavily on the iPad and promised to have many cool bells and whistles in its digital version. I also checked out Esquire on an app called Zinio that lets you subscribe to digital editions of many popular magazines. At Ad:Tech, Anderson was excited about the fact that people would be “forced” to flip past each full-page ad in his virtual magazine. (See more on his speech here.) In my experience, the iPad magazine reading is fine, but I hated having to swipe past each ad. This is a worse experience than a physical magazine, which you can simply shuffle past quickly. In this case you’re likely to get a finger cramp with the number of ads crammed in! Again, maybe people notice such ads in the short term because this is a novel experience, but after a while we will all just tune out another piece of unwanted clutter.
  • Improved websites might eliminate the need for apps. What I mean here is that the Web-surfing experience with the iPad is so strong (despite the lack of Flash) that you might not need to develop apps to provide similar value to users. For example, I considered buying the ESPN app for iPad, but then I just pulled up ESPN.com on my iPad’s Safari browser. The latter experience was outstanding because the network has built a site optimized for iPads. So there’s no need for the $4.99 app. Remarkably, this is something I have not heard in relation to the launch of the iPad. It could be a threat to Apple’s desire to “control” the user experience for its own profit, as there is no need to purchase or download a special app. For consumers, it means you skip finding/downloading/updating apps. We are already working on making iPad-ready adjustments for some of our clients.

Despite marketers’ desire to make the mass/interruptive model work in mobile, and Steve Jobs’s record of overturning and improving business models, my advice to brands is to create an app (or an optimized website), not an ad buy, as a way to connect with consumers on the iPad. There are simply too many challenges of making an interruption pay out—and too many opportunities to delight people by creating added value on the iPad platform.

Why the iAd Model Faces an Uphill Battle

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

(Kudos to Fast Company for this image)

Steve Jobs has a well-earned reputation for willing Apple to success in markets with innovative products that consumers fall in love with. He’s done it with computers, music players, mobile phones, and tablets. Now he is turning attention to a market that is desperately in need of his genius: advertising. Jobs recently announced that his company is creating a mobile advertising service called iAd, which will arrive with the next operating system upgrade in June. With iAd, app developers will have the chance to embed their games and tools with advertising brokered by Apple and receive 60% of ad revenue. Sounds like a great deal for the millions of entrepreneurs around the world who are dreaming up better games and tools for Apple products. But there are five six reasons that I believe iAd will fail to meet the lofty expectations for a world-changing ad model:

1. The cost per engagement model is not variable.

Apple has been known for simplifying pricing in every market it enters. It chose to set music prices at $.99 for a song, and $9.99 for a movie download. Although the music and movie companies fought for more variable pricing, Apple stuck to its guns because it felt consumers wanted a simplified model. With iAd, the company has announced that it will charge one penny per advertisement exposure, and $2 per person who clicks on (or otherwise chooses to engage with) each ad.

I think marketers will accept the penny-per-exposure pricing.  That translates to a $10 CPM, which is high compared to Web banners but below most TV buys. On the other hand, a $2 per interaction comes with a big problem: It is an arbitrary number that is set with no knowledge of the end value. After more than a decade of Web marketing, brands still have little ability to measure what a website visit or banner click-through is worth. I’m surprised that Apple did not implement a bidding system like Google Adwords, where brands compete for space and pricing ends up rising or falling to what the market will best bear.

2. There is no scale opportunity.

At the end of the day, no matter how much excitement Apple’s products generate, iAd will be just another of the dozens of new and old places where marketers can run advertising. There are 85 million iPhones, iPad Touches, and iPads out there worldwide today, on which users spend 30 minutes a day with apps. But not all of these apps will have advertising. Meanwhile, there are 300 million people in the U.S. alone who watch television an average of 2.8 hours per day. There will be many, many more people who read newspapers, buy magazines, or ride subways than own iAd devices.

The big brands that Apple is targeting desire to create an advertisement once and spray it across as many of these media options as possible. But in its efforts to improve the advertising market by controlling it, Apple is making it a hell of a lot harder for marketers to include it in an ad buy. The service will not allow Flash programming–making most banner ad creative units obsolete–and it will have other rules and processes that are still being sorted out. Apple will also use its own measurement system instead of tying into other services that allow comparisons across media choices.

3. The cost to play is too high.

Reports are trickling out that Apple will only allow advertising by companies that agree to spend up to $10 million on the iAd platform. This compares to similar deals in the $100,000 range for other mobile ad networks, which I would guess is often cast aside anyway. Again, even the big brands that Apple covets and that are used to paying for media in the millions of dollars will be loathe to bet so many bucks on a relatively small, unknown, and untested advertising model.

Big marketers want the chance to test and play with a new medium before going in guns-a-blazing. What they like best in new media is a self-serve advertising model that even allows them to place a few ads with a few thousand dollars to see what happens. Google Adwords and Facebook Ads, for example, both allow brands to learn with limited expense. No matter how cool it might seem to place your brand on the most discussed ad network ever, it takes a big personal risk to move so many dollars so early.

4. Better creativity cannot be forced.

Apple showed off its iAd platform by mocking up what ads for Nike basketball shoes might look like. Of course they look cool–like just about anything Nike does. Jobs has spoken often of how poor the world of banner ads is, and he believes that marketers will do a much better job with the tools that Apple is creating with iAd. But not every brand is Nike….

In fact, most advertising is for stuff that people likely won’t want to click on, no matter how cool the iAd platform can be. Will people want to engage as much with day-to-day companies such as banks and toilet paper? Nope. And while Jobs thinks most banner advertising is crap, that’s not because there aren’t enough tools to spiff them up. Flash and rich media banners allow a great deal of creativity and engagement already. You can play games, request samples, get geo-targeting, and watch cool video from a banner today.  Sorry, Steve, but most banners suck because the companies that buy the space don’t believe that the extra cost of creative development and rich media buys are worth it. Why would these same advertisers Jobs wants suddenly believe that iAd is now the answer?

5. Apple will have a hard time building a sales competency (NEW).

I added this after my original post after reading a great Twitter comment from David Rubinstein. If Apple really wants to get into the ad game, then it needs to play by the rules. And Rule #1 is that you need a sales force that can start wining and dining the clients. This has got to be a pretty foreign concept for Apple. It is the coolest kid on the block, and more used to companies coming to its campus in Cupertino for help and advice versus begging for a 30-minute meeting in Manhattan. But that’s not how it works in the advertising world. While some clients will be enamored enough with the company to write a big check right away, most trust their media planning and buying agencies to do the hard work of deciding where ad dollars go. So the Starcoms and GroupMs of the world are the ones with the power. Apple will have to put the hard sell on these tough negotiators in order to build up an ad business.  They will have to play the game of relationship building and create a true sales organization. This is not easy. Just ask Google, which built its billions on a self-service and self-selling ad platform, and is only now, slowly, getting its arms around selling to big, billion-dollar brands. It’s been tough for the Google engineering-driven culture to figure out how media planners and mass marketers think, despite hiring many folks from the traditional ad-selling side.

6. Apps are more meaningful than ads.

Regular readers knew that this point was coming. I believe Apple does have an opportunity to make a few bucks by creating a slightly better option for interruptive advertising. But Apple has already done so much more for marketers by creating these killer platforms for value-added apps. In fact, I would wager that brands have already spent more on creating apps than they have in buying mobile banners like what iAd will sell. Examples such as the Kraft iFood, the REI Ski Report, and Charmin restroom finder apps all provide value to the consumer and create much more meaningful connections for life. These brands and a growing number of others would rather create apps that directly engage with the consumer, instead of buying ad space on someone else’s irrelevant game or utility. This is where the marketing world is going, and surely where marketers will play most on Apple’s platforms.

Steve Jobs is not afraid of taking on a large, old industry with inefficient practices by bringing the end consumer a better way of living. In music, for example, he created an iPod device and iTunes software that improved the music-listening experience so much that the music industry had to play ball.  With iAd, Jobs is challenging the advertising model built around cheap GRPs, poor creativity, and buggy software. But while this new platform might be marginally better, it is still an interruptive advertising model that is barely a fundamental improvement for the end consumer.

Don’t Fear the “Splintered Web”

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

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It didn’t take long for Apple’s iPad announcement to be co-opted by industries that worry about how the iPad will upend their legacy businesses. You might assume this to be the book publishers, who might fear lower margins on e-books, or newspapers, who are struggling to figure out how to profit from companies that make it easier to enjoy their content at no cost. But actually the biggest voice against the iPad so far is my very own industry: Digital Advertising.

Late last week two of the leading voices of digital marketing emerged with very public warnings for the advertising world if “walled gardens” continue to proliferate. In his blog, Randall Rothenberg, President and CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, claimed that the iPad is a “threat to advertising.” And Forrester’s Josh Bernoff, the co-author of Groundswell, wrote in Advertising Age and his blog about how this new technology and others “means the end of the Web’s golden age.” When these two people quickly jump to pull the fire alarm, we all should probably listen.

Their overall argument is that the rise of new devices with proprietary software such as the iPad, Kindle, Android, iPhone, Facebook, and TiVo is ushering in an era of a “closed” Web. Bernoff calls this “The Splinternet” to suggest that we are splintering off into many sub-Webs with their own rules and access privileges. Rothenberg calls these “attempts to semi-privatize the Internet.” What both men fear is that this will make the jobs of marketers and advertisers much, much more difficult because of the additional work needed to adapt advertising to multiple relationships, creative units, and measurement standards—among other limits to “scale.”

From the leader of the biggest representative of the digital advertising industry, Rothenberg’s words carry a lot of weight. He is fearful of how this proliferation of semi-private Web devices will significantly weaken his members’ businesses:

“Put simply, a company’s opportunity to create, sell and use advertising effectively and profitably will depend on its ability to deliver it seamlessly across multiple devices…. …The creative agencies on the IAB Agency Advisory Board have said categorically that their single greatest obstacle to advertising effectiveness and growth is their inability to deliver the same rich-media ads to tens of millions of households across multiple sites because, as they put it, ‘the rich media toolkit differs too much from site to site.’”

As a former client-side digital marketer and current leader of a digital advertising agency, I certainly appreciate Rothenberg’s representation and passionate focus on protecting and improving our industry. However, I humbly disagree that this “splintering” of the Web will kill digital advertising. It might kill mass, interruptive banner advertising, but it is already ushering in incredible new forms of meaningful marketing.

First, the reality of economics is that you often have to get some level of privatization for market economics to take hold. Apple has created a great deal of privatization in the music industry through the iPod. This has led to a real, thriving marketplace in which Apple has an incentive and ability to continually improve the user experience. The better it makes iTunes, the more music it sells. Further, consumers like that Apple is protecting them from porn and malware. Many real, thriving businesses and happy consumers have been spawned by Apple’s efforts so far. The old music industry (like the old advertising industry) did not like how this market opened up, but it was their own fault for not accepting the change and figuring out how to win.

Google has also privatized the Web in a way, too. It has a search engine that sets rules about the content that it crawls and ranks, filtering out the “open” Internet into a closed ranking system that it alone fully controls. Its algorithm treats some content better than others, and the company even decides which countries’ laws it does and doesn’t want to obey. The result: A fairly well-organized tool that has made consumers’ lives much better, and created billions in value for both shareholders and advertisers. Again, this has taken money away from old advertising players such as traditional agencies and the Yellow Pages. Sorry, guys.

At the end of the day, marketers were not put in their jobs to ensure that the mass banner-ad market keeps running well. Marketers want to sell their products and services. Interruptive advertising spread across many digital properties at once is but only one of many ways to achieve this goal. In fact, it is a marketing strategy that is looking worse and worse—both in the online and offline world—whether standardization exists or not. People pay decreasing attention and trust to the growing number of interruptive ads that we experience in our lives each day.

On the other hand, tools such as Google and the iPhone are allowing marketers to find and forge meaningful connections with their customers and add value to their lives. Tools such as Nike+ or Kraft’s iFood app are not “easy” for marketers to execute with the push of a single ad unit. But they are taking marketing to a much higher level both in terms of the impact on customers’ lives and the company’s bottom lines. Standardized banner ads are the absolute least interesting way to win in this exciting digital world. I think leaders such as Rothenberg and Bernoff can take the bar much higher by helping us adjust to where the marketplace—and society—wants us to go.

I believe it will be impossible for the advertising tail to wag the device/technology dog. One might argue that profit incentives will press device manufacturers such as Apple and Amazon to embrace standardized ad units. But frankly there is probably not enough incentive for them to do so. First, why adjust everything to make $.01 per viewer (or less) in ad revenue when the same viewer will pay $.99 (or more) for apps? The economic pressure is to dump the ad sales force and hire more software designers to keep upgrading the devices. Second, by embracing standardized units these companies are selling out their superior user experiences to the lowest-common CPM. Making all media and devices equal devalues the difference of an iPad.

As a digital advertising industry, we need to force ourselves to stop trying to dumb down our work to standardized banners and counting impressions. We must become more focused on making digital marketing work—especially in a way that has a positive impact on people’s lives. Instead of holding up a sword against the horde of change, our industry needs leaders who will help marketers understand the reality of societal change and start building what works next.

As I wrote in a guest post on the 1to1 Media blog recently, mass, interruptive scale might die—but meaningful, personal connections between marketers and their customers will rise.

Will “Droid Does” Be Meaningful?

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009


(Today I’m turning over the keys to guest writer Marty Boyer, one of our top technology leaders here at Bridge Worldwide. Marty had some great thinking about a new campaign for Verizon that is meant to steal share from the iPhone, and I asked him to add his thinking to this space. Please also check out Marty’s blog over at Famine City.)

If you are going to call out the iPhone for its shortcomings, you better bring a great product and the marketing cavalry. Unfortunately, I have to say that while the technology might deliver on the brand promise for Android, the “Droid Does” campaign is not delivering on meaningful marketing quite yet.

As a technologist, I was very excited to see Verizon’s Droid Does campaign surface on television a couple weeks ago. Finally, competition that is so confident about its product that it is directly taking on the iPhone. Though I own an iPhone, I also own a G1—the first release of the Android phone. The first release of the Android phone wasn’t exactly a consumer-ready device. However, with the release of the Droid Does campaign and Android 2.0, I was anticipating some strong competition for Apple, which needs a strong competitor to hasten upgrades to the iPhone. I was assured through the bold statements and the nature of the commercial that this device is ready to deliver.

Then I visited droiddoes.com, the call to action on the television spot. Verizon piqued my interest, I came to its website, and I was fully engaged. I’m the exactly the visitor Verizon wants blogging about the next release of the Android platform. I was hoping for something meaningful. But…

Verizon did not deliver anything meaningful. When I visited the site, there was an email sign-up box, circa 2000, to get updates on availability. DroidDoes.com missed the opportunity to send me wistfully into their purchasing funnel. I committed my time to visiting their site and even signed up for the newsletter, but was underwhelmed from the marketing experience. I wanted to be sold. I wanted something meaningful.  To be competitive in this space, brands must remember that they are trying to attract converts and early adopters. So what might a meaningful effort have looked like in this space?

Provide the opportunity to join a revolution.

The iPhone isn’t simply a phone; it’s a cultural icon. From the headphones on down, it is an absolute status symbol. There are many buyers who want another option—a better option for their specific needs. Help us believe, Verizon. We want to be part of an early-adoption revolution. Allow us to take a blog badge, join a Facebook group, or leave a comment about what I want by joining the Android revolution. As I am writing this post, a tweet came across from Adam Kmiec, “So want a Palm Pre or Pixi. Wish Palm had a program for people to trade in their iphones for a pre/pixi.” We all want options and an alternative to the iPhone; capitalize on it.

Use all of the energy and comments in the social-media space to share features about the Android.

Alternatively, allow iPhone users to download an iPhone app that posts what they want from the Android. Solicit feedback about what people are really looking forward to from the Google product to help build buzz and then share this content out to social networks. The people who are visiting Droid Does are early adopters and converts, but there is not a method to harness their energy to build Android momentum.

Show the anatomy of a “Droid.”

I can easily Google “Android phone” and find video, features, functions, and more content than is delivered on the website. Verizon has an opportunity to show us the latest, greatest, and best of its product offering, yet it has given the responsibility over to other consumers. If we have to rely on other consumers more than the brand itself for product information, then there’s work to do. Again, the company has not delivered a meaningful experience or even (simply) information. At this same time I might recommend that Verizon use the opportunity to clear up why its service is different than T-Mobile’s G-Phone product. Consumers in the United States (unless you are an iPhone user) tend to shop by carrier first, and phone second. This is more FAQ content and does not even really engage the user, but is a step toward being useful, if not meaningful.

To quote Jim Croce, “You don’t step on Superman’s cape.” You are calling Apple into the fight. You are telling the world you are better. If you are better, you have to deliver. Every phase of your plan must be on point, meaningful, and executed to take on a market leader. At some point, the Google phone will make inroads into the Apple iPhone’s world. At minimum, I am expecting some of the market forces to hasten upgrades to the iPhone itself. If you are going to compete with Apple, your products better deliver on the brand promise and start with meaningful marketing experiences.

Marty Boyer is an Associate Director of Technology at Bridge Worldwide. He leads interactive solutions for his P&G brand efforts. Outside of work you will find him engaged in the social-media space, blogging, and in the Twitter-verse.

BlackBerry Loves U2: Who Cares?

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

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Over the weekend my wife and I took a break from everyday life to head out to Las Vegas for a long weekend featuring the U2 concert on Friday night. Your dedicated blogger took the opportunity to spend a little time sampling BlackBerry’s enormous sponsorship of the band’s 360 Tour, and what I found is Marketing Without Meaning.

By now you have probably seen BlackBerry’s splashy, sexy TV commercials featuring U2 and the tagline “BlackBerry Loves U2.” The concert arena in Las Vegas had plenty of banners put up (like the above) announcing the brand’s love for the band. BlackBerry reportedly paid up to $150 million for the rights to love U2 in public and brag about it in a massive advertising campaign. Here’s the thing: Who cares if BlackBerry loves U2?

For one thing, let’s take a step back and think about how the tables have completely turned in the sponsorship world. Today, celebrities are in so much demand by desperate brands that they don’t even have to really support the products that pay them! It’s not “U2 loves BlackBerry,” but the other way around. Heck, I love U2 and I didn’t have to pay anything more than $200 for a concert ticket. This reminds me of a raft of other examples that I wrote about a few months ago; for example, the AT&T commercials with TOMS Shoes in which the guy from TOMS never once praises or mentions AT&T.

There are also lots of issues around BlackBerry trying to gain popular acceptance and credibility with a wider audience by borrowing interest. Slate magazine does a great job of hacking away at the brand’s strategy, suggesting that it’s much better off sticking to its positioning as a more serious business tool, rather than trying to become as cool as Apple.

BlackBerry did create one piece of meaningful marketing as part of its U2 tie-in: The U2 Mobile Album, an app for BlackBerry only that includes music, videos, news, and a way to see where other app users are at a concert. It’s interesting but not exactly a news-maker. I believe that it was a mistake to not create the app for the iPhone platform as well as its own. It might seem odd to do something for competing phone owners, but by doing this BlackBerry could show iPhone users that it has cool apps, too, and win over some who are tired of AT&T’s poor service, for example.

It looks like a big waste of money, and the early results suggest this is in fact the case. In parent company Research In Motion’s 2nd quarter financial report in September, sales came in weaker than expected and the company might now have to cut prices.

So now that we’ve established that BlackBerry is pursuing a meaningless path, let’s turn the tables and examine how U2 is fairing from the deal. Financially it’s difficult to argue that this was anything less than genius in the short term. The band pocketed many millions in sponsorship dollars and every ad featuring the band was more free marketing for its music and concerts.

But many seem to believe that U2 is taking a brand equity hit from “selling out” to a brand that doesn’t build the U2 equity. Most of the doubts and complaints come from the band’s technology partnership switch from Apple to BlackBerry. The Apple tie-ins, which helped in the launch of the iPod, felt good on all sides: a great, creative band and a great, creative brand to match. The co-branded U2 iPod was a coup, and Steve Jobs and Bono are buddies; it was a great match. But by switching to BlackBerry, a brand most popular with financial types, felt like U2 was just selling out to the new highest bidder. The lack of anything very interesting and positive for the U2 fans from BlackBerry makes this connection even weaker.

That said, band brand fans are pretty forgiving, and the incredible music and history of the group will likely overcome any short-term dint from this tie-in. I will conclude by adding that I enjoyed how U2 allowed its concert fans to take unlimited pictures, video, and audio of the show. Last year I went to a Bruce Springsteen concert in Cincinnati and the bouncers were pulling camera phones out of people’s hands like they used to pull lit joints away years ago. I’m not sure if this was an official U2 acceptance policy or if we’ve reached a point in society that you just cannot prevent people from pulling out their phones. Either way, it gave me and the other 40,000-plus fans a chance to take away a few visual memories to share with friends.

UPDATE: Over Halloween weekend I turned on my TiVo and saw that I could watch the band’s Rose Bowl show, which took place a few days after the Vegas one.  After walking my kids around the neighborhood for trick-or-treating I settled in and watched this entire show for free on my TiVo thanks to YouTube and U2.  Very, very cool!  And many other people found it cool, too, as there were as many as 10 million streams of the concert on YouTube as of October 29.  If this were a TV show, it would have been a top 8 rated program in terms of number of viewers.

In that spirit, check out a few photos that I snapped (with my iPhone) during the show, including one of my wife and me having a blast. Thanks, U2.

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u2 vegas ticket

Lucky Charms to Sell Jeans

Monday, October 13th, 2008

Can a little thing like branded buttons sell jeans? The other day I received the propaganda above in an order of clothing from Lucky jeans. The buttons came loose in the shipping box, and I later found the fortune in the right front pocket of my new denim. It got me wondering about the strategy behind these little tokens. There has to be some reason the brand invests the money and time to produce and distribute them, right? I believe the answer is yes—and it’s another neat example of meaningful marketing.

One of the platforms of Marketing With Meaning is what we call Connections. A brand can make meaningful connections when it provides entertainment or an experience. Like the philosophy best described in the book The Experience Economy, the products and marketing are mere props that contribute to a personal experience. These experiences more deeply “connect” us to the brand and drive loyalty beyond reason.

Lucky is a brand in a category that has the best chance of winning by building meaningful connections. Let’s face it, jeans are jeans. Sure, some fit and look better or are made with higher quality materials, but there is no real intellectual property to protect style, color, or material (sorry, Levi’s). So jean makers have embraced branding to set themselves apart. Since around 1979 when Brooke Shields introduced the world to her Calvins, the brand of jeans we wear has come to stand for who we are; and while the physical products are basically the same, a wide variety of brands have risen in recent years, each fighting to connect with a niche of consumers.

I personally discovered Lucky in San Francisco a little over two years ago. My wife and I were enjoying our 10-year anniversary there and took advantage of the time without kids and work to do some shopping. She mentioned to me that Lucky was known for having great experts in fitting—a key need for a 6’3″ guy like me. The first thing I noticed on the first pair I tried on was the catchphrase “Lucky You” sewn into the inside of the fly. It made me smile, and I later discovered that this was a very controversial decision by the cofounders in 1990. I had a great shopping experience and picked up a couple of pairs.

Since then I’ve been happy with the fit and wear of my Lucky jeans. But I have also come to feel that they are my brand. It is a brand that fits both my body and my personality. So it was a no-brainer to head to Lucky.com recently when it was time to update the wardrobe. I came for a pair of jeans, but ended up buying a few retro t-shirts at a ridiculously high price. I got the shirts because I felt like broadcasting my Lucky personality to the world. The little surprises in the form of these buttons and the pocket fortune further solidified my passion for the brand.

Lucky isn’t the only brand that invests in showing such a connection to fans. Perhaps the best player in this area is Apple. For years, Apple has included window stickers of its logo in new computers and iPods. And, sure enough, we have seen the sticker everywhere from cars to notebooks to bedrooms.

Years ago I tried to include some similar brand propaganda when I launched Mr. Clean AutoDry Car Wash. After studying guys and cars for years, I was convinced that we needed to invest in making Mr. Clean a cult brand for, well, car guys. We did several new-to-P&G things at the time to encourage this, like giving devices to online discussion group moderators and going to car shows. I really wanted to include a Mr. Clean sticker in each Starter Kit package. I knew that “Tuners” love to place stickers of their favorite brands on their cars, and I figured that by including a sticker we could encourage cult status. Alas, it was something I just couldn’t convince my organization to spring for.  Our costs were already a little over budget, and it was hard to guarantee that a 1-cent sticker would pay out.

I couldn’t show the ROI on a Mr. Clean sticker, and I’m sure that the marketing departments of Lucky and Apple can’t either. As marketers we sometimes need to go with our guts and invest in little things that build connections between brands and the people who buy into them.