Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cupidtino and Exclusivity

With Apple’s newest iPhone and iPad being such hot topics, there’s been a lot less chatter about its new social website, Cupidtino. The site, still in its beta version, is an online dating site playing off the baby angel of love and Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, Ca. Here’s the catch; you have to be a Mac user to access it. Social media, dating sites included, are about connecting and we’re supposed to be able to choose who we connect with. Not allowing PC users to gain access limits that choice. The idea is that there’s a common interest here, catering to the Mac culture. Is Steve Jobs trying to breed Mac babies? I'm kidding of course, and I'm a Mac user myself. Still, this exclusivity is like a whole new form of prejudice. It’ll be interesting to see if PC users are upset by this exclusion. Are you a PC or Mac? If you’re a PC, do you feel excluded by this site? If you’re a Mac, would you join this site?

With Foursquare, Life's a Game

Foursquare Everywhere

This year, Foursquare’s considered one of the most up and coming social media players. And I do mean player, because in the world of Foursquare, life is a game and everything is worth points or badges. Foursquare’s founder, Dennis Crowley, made it that way because he enjoyed earning points in video games so much. He wanted to see his video game world become a reality. Check-in to different places on campus, or anywhere else, and earn points each time, watching the points value increase with each check-in that day. Check-in to some place the most, and you become the mayor. Each Sunday night the points system restarts, so you’ll find that when your best bud is beating you by five points on a Saturday night, you’ve got some extra motivation to leave your usual hang out and check-in to a new venue.

Foursquare makes being social in your daily life just like a game, creating incentives to try to new places for more points. And even the least competitive personalities will find that when they’re ousted as the mayor of their favorite hot spots, they’ll feel that impulsive, stubborn need to go for a check-in to gain their title back.

Not only is Foursquare creating a little friendly competition, it’s connecting us too. Checking our smart phones, we get to see where our friends are hanging out, or where there’s a trending hot spot in real time. Maybe you’re headed to Dunkin’ Donuts for your usual fix, but you see your friend just checked-in at a local mom-and-pop bakery down the street so you head there instead. So much of social media is about connecting. With Foursquare, we get to take the virtual interaction of new media and make it social in a face-to-face setting.

Some late adopters have argued that social media actually makes people less social. Foursquare helps to prove quite the opposite. That's my PR thought for the day.

Image was taken from Google images.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Brand Loyalty: Apple's Awesome Experience

Some more branding here, with one of my favorite companies that is no stranger to anyone - Apple. Apple is one of the most innovative and influential technology companies in the world. How did they do it? I'd love to give you my opinion from a branding perspective, though there's a lot more to it. With its products, and with customer service, Apple enhanced the level of loyalty its customers feel toward the company.

A few months ago, I was lucky enough to attend a guest lecture at the Syracuse University's Whitman School of Management. The lecture with Jerry McDougal, Vice President of Retail for Apple, provided me with some great insight into Apple's brand and strategies.

Experience with a brand strongly affects brand loyalty. Apple embraces the idea of customer experience by creating a tech-savvy and hands-on environment in its stores. Customers are encouraged to come into the stores to work, and to play. As McDougal says, “99% of stores that sell phones have dummy phones that don’t work. At Apple, you can really test the product." Apple does this with all of their products and they don’t limit the amount of time you can use these products for free either. Here's a fun fact for - there have even been authors who don’t own computers who have written entire books in an Apple store on a test-drive computer. Many stores wouldn’t have allowed this to happen, but Apple strives to foster good customer experience. These authors didn’t have to pay Apple anything, and they weren’t asked to leave after a few hours. Instead, Apple employees helped them out when they needed a coffee or had a technical issue.

What else has helped Apple's branding? Oh right, Steve Jobs the wonder-CEO. Literature on brand loyalty has stressed the importance of CEOs in brand management. Steve Jobs has always been the face of Apple, even during his hiatus when he wasn’t the CEO. People in the tech world love him and here's what I love about him; he unveils each new Apple product personally, so customers are hearing about the new technology directly from the source. Okay, maybe the iPhone 4 unveiling wasn't perfect, but at least if was straight from Jobs himself. Jobs even has such dedicated fans who admire him as a hero, like the fan who created a site, allaboutstevejobs.com.

Even more proof of Apple's incredible branding is a research study conducted by Cornell University, which revealed that the Apple store in Manhattan was the fifth most photographed place in New York City, and the 28th most photographed in the world. Loyal customers are the best marketing tool a brand can have, and Apple’s dedication to customer experience has created just that.

Satisfied customer will act as marketers without even realizing it. Apple enthusiasts rant and rave about their technology, and they make people who don’t have Apple products jealous. They think they are the best because they have Apple; and they tell people they are best because they have Apple. The evidence is all over the virtual world, with blogs dedicated solely to discussing Apple, and Facebook pages such as "We Love Apple." Apple Inc. didn’t ask its customers to rant and rave; they just provided the products that compelled its loyal customers to do so. Simply by providing a good product experience, Apple enhanced its brand loyalty.

Apple is awesome, and their loyal brand enthusiasts prove it. That's my PR thought for the day.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Transparency, You Really Still Don't Get it?

Transparency has been written and talked about a lot. I won't pretend it hasn't, and I'll try not to beat a dead horse. That's why I don't understand how people still don't get it. Every day I see Tweets, Facebook updates and blog posts that are promoting a product or service, but the person isn't disclosing their connection to it. Unfortunately, it even happens within my own social circle. I see it and I'm excited because a friend or connection, who I trust because of past experience, is recommending something. Naturally, I want to check it out. Later I find out they were doing it selfishly because they're connected to it, or because they "had" to because they work for the company. I start to wonder if the product/service is reliable. I second guess my judgment and theirs.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't promote a product you're connected to in your social networks and circles - I know I've done it. In fact you should do it because you should support, like and believe in the organizations you're connected to. The difference is disclosing the connection. I know I've genuinely liked everything I've ever discussed in my social networks. The value of social networks is the ability to gain honest, third party perspectives and feedback. There will always be people out there who aren't honest and who are only looking out for number one. But if even people in my social networks are doing it, the ones who I consider the "good guys and gals," what's going to happen to that third party value I've enjoyed so much? Am I just dreaming of an idealistic social world that simply can never truly exist?

So all there is to it, is be transparent. Promote your product, promote your friends and promote your clients - just disclose your connection to us loyal followers, fans and friends in your social networks. That's my PR thought for the day.

Image was found using Google images.