|Just when I thought I have seen it all, life found ways of taming my ego. Kraft Foods, the global conglomerate with almost 100 years of experience seemed an unlikely victim of marketing-by-committee insanity until it announced plans to change its name to the unpronounceable Mondelēz International. Turkish advertising crew Marka have crafted an ad for male shampoo, featuring the original footage of Adolf Hitler. Hitler. Urging his clientele to be ‘real men’. Apparently, Goldman Sachs tends to call its clients ‘muppets’; Muppets stroke back with a defamation claim. Samsung has shown admirable creativity with video mapping technique in its 2 SIM card Galaxy Y Duos phone ad. Finally, Absolut vodka, a veteran of breathtakingly beautiful ads has proven that a well-managed brand can stay at the top of the game for decades.|
The importance of being social
Social media steadily gain in influence and reach. The Rio Ferdinand and Katie Price Snickers tweets were cleared by the Advertising Standards Authority as “not clearly identifiable as ads”. Twitter brand pages are getting bigger in an attempt to make users spend more time on the service as oppose to using it purely as a link aggregator. Micro-bloggers will even have a say in choosing the new head of the Church of England – how much more of-the-people can social media get? They help unmask bigamists. They give voice to Angelina Jolie’s right leg. People love social media and gladly spend time browsing it, time that can be converted in ad revenue. Social media seem to be a heaven for brands. When praising new tools that give direct access to millions of consumers, marketeers, however, seem to forget the crucial distinctive feature of social media – it is a two-way street. The embarrassment of McDonald’s’ #MeetTheFarmers campaign followed by the FC Bayern Munich’s ‘new signing’ disaster should not have been forgotten so fast. The root of these public humiliations (and I am sure there are plenty to come) lies in the inability of those who plan the campaigns to understand how social media work. For instance, McDonald’s has been promoting the image of a decent, cheerful American family, discussing the upcoming baseball game over a Big Macs for so long, it forgot how far off that image is from real-life McDonald’s clientele. As you can see, the tragic outcome of Coca Cola’s ‘little social experiment’ was quite predictable.
Belvedere goes down
The Belvedere rape ad story is so ridiculous it could be taken for an early Fool’s Day joke. On 23rd of March a post published on Belvedere vodka’s Facebook and Twitter pages included an ad that seemed to make fun of rape victims. Belvedere is a young luxury brand. Its image is based on the stereotype that Easter Europeans have centuries-old (the Belvedere website refers to “over 600 years”) traditions, and thus know-how, of making supreme vodka. Ironically, at 16, the company itself is way under drinking age, but then again, teenagers often like to come across more mature than they really are. Produced and distributed by the global luxury giant LVMH, Belvedere comes in a sleek bottle, featuring the 17th century Warsaw presidential palace that gives vodka its name. In spite of the semantic lasagne of stereotypes and clichés, “the world’s first super premium vodka” found its place on the market. The ad in question was based on a screenshot from a comedy video that has nothing to do with either the Belvedere brand or its owners: Alicyn Packard, the actress who appears in both the clip and the ad has already filed a lawsuit against LVMH claiming emotional distress. The Belvedere brand president Charles Gibb has apologised for the faux pas and even made “a generous donation” to an anti-sexual assault charity. The initial reaction of the company, however, shows that Belvedere simply doesn’t understand what the fuss is all about.
Is Apple worth $1 trillion?
In December 2008, having lost 56% of market capitalisation in 12 months, Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of marketing, was putting together a keynote for the company’s last Macworld event. I can’t imagine it being the time of his life: as if it wasn’t enough that he had to replace the usual host, whose sheer presence made headlines, the company didn’t have much to show. No ‘iPhone nano’, no new Mac Mini or iMacs, just a bunch of software updates and one sad MacBook Pro upgrade: big deal… The rumours that Apple might launch a netbook did not help – it would take another year to announce the iPad. Apple’s market capitalisation at the time stood at $75.9 billion. In the three years that followed, having used the super-successful iPhone4 and the iPad to convert tens of millions into iOS, the company has grown almost four times to become one of the largest businesses in the world. By April 2012 it was by far the largest. The headlines of the last months are a propaganda tornado: 25 billion apps sold, Apple market cap is now larger than the rest of the US retail sector combined; the company sold more iOS devices in 2011 than Macs in 28 years and is the most admired company in the world.
Very much like the steep rise of Facebook, the hysteria around Apple smells increasingly more of a bubble. First of all, market capitalisation figures look great in headlines but do not really reflect company’s value. Secondly, the über-successful Siri and new iPad were both developed under Jobs – the question whether the company will be able to deliver revolutionary gadgets on yearly basis is highly arguable. Thirdly, the market cap spike of 57% within a quarter is not necessary a trend but a reflection on Tim Cook’s decision to pay $35 billion in dividends, a strategy that, by the way, is defying the approach that seemed to have worked for Apple for the last 17 years.
How unrealistic are the expectations of a $1 trillion market cap (four times that of IBM, two and a half times that of Exxon Mobil) for a company that offers trendy and somewhat over-advertised gadgets?
Flexible e-paper misses headlines
A very interesting news with a very modest media trail: LG has announced a paper-thin (0.7mm) and feather-light (14g) flexible e-paper that is, allegedly, quite durable and is expected to appear in e-books as early as next month. Ironically, the most interesting aspect of the news is that in spite of its potential, the Korean conglomerate failed to create even a modicum of hype around it. Like our colleagues at The Verge, we couldn’t even locate the original press release, just its re-prints in various media. Although the concept of flexible electronic paper has been around for quite some time, if the deadline is kept, LG will be the first company to offer a mass-market product based on the technology. The melancholic tone of LG is odd bordering on annoying: if the new e-paper is as good as the press release suggests, why the low profile? If the company is unsure what (whether) it can deliver on time, why bother with the release at all? If LG is trying to be secretive and ‘pull an Apple’, it should bear in mind that although the Californians keep the details of new releases secret until the bitter end, they are also masters in building, maintaining and (mostly) matching their clients’ expectations.
©opyright Math™ in 5 minutes
While the argument may seem awfully modern, the cloud of copyright piracy has been hanging over the honest and hardworking creative community since the dawn of times. The technological progress has empowered copyright corsairs, providing them with an enviable choice of sophisticated and affordable weapons, most of which can be bought in broad daylight- camcorders, mp3 players, laptops. The Motion Picture Association of America provides shocking statistics on the costs of content theft: 373,000 foregone US jobs, $58 billion of annual loses in economic output to the US economy and so on and so forth. The association also quotes an extensive report commissioned by NBC Universal that claims that 25% of all internet traffic is infringing copyrights. The summary of the report indeed paints a rather gloomy picture: the infringing traffic accounts for 23.76%, the other 76.24% represent the (irrelevant) legal traffic and pornography. The figures are very impressive. It is hard to argue that the issue of an annual loss of $58 billion ($200 billion in 2005 internationally) needs to be addressed. But where do these astronomical numbers come from? In 5 minutes of this brilliant, clever and insightful TED talk, Rob Reid unveils ©opyright Math™.
The end of Lulz
Lulz Security (commonly known as LulzSec) was a hacker group active for a few memorable months in the middle of 2011. In the best traditions of rock’n’roll’s ‘live fast, die young’, ‘the crew of 6’ carried out an impressive number of bold attacks in just under two months and disbanded itself. In the world where servers and individual computers get hacked all the time, LulzSec stood out. They did not hack for profit nor did they have a political agenda. Having put together an impressive list of victims that included Sony Pictures, Black & Berg Cybersecurity Consulting (leaving a cute note), FBI-affiliated security experts Infragard, the United States Senate and the public website of CIA, amongst others, they didn’t capitalise on the media attention but closed the project before getting bored. As a matter of fact, avoiding boredom seemed to be their first and foremost goal. Bearing in mind the rather public humiliation of US security services, finding the pirates and hanging them out to dry quickly became a matter of principle. An international task force has claimed to have arrested some of the Lulz several times but the final blow was struck on 6 March 2012 when five of the six hackers were arrested after the last one was turned by the FBI. The story made for Hollywood has a veiled happy ending: people may be arrested, ideas are viral.