Is it “time” for Apple to disrupt again?

Last week Apple launched the long anticipated and rumor rampant Apple Watch. As with all things Apple, product leaks and speculation had been swirling for some time. While not widely available for retail until April, CEO Tim Cook’s launch week was aimed squarely at building momentum and desire. Starting at $349 and spiraling upwards to over $1,000 with deluxe bells and whistles, and even available in a gold plated $10,000 model, this is obviously a product aimed at affluent early adopters in advanced economic regions of the globe.

Apple_watchThe question then begs, who is the target market? And will it be deemed a necessary addition to an Apple dedicated owners suite of products to compliment an iPhone and likely an iPad and Apple laptop or desktop?

The watch itself appears a slick marriage of technology, fashion and lifestyle. Christy Trulington Burns, an American model currently representing Calvin Klein’s Eternity campaign was chosen to launch the watch, no doubt for her fashion credentials. She is shown training for a half marathon in Africa using the watches fitness devices, highlighting her charity, Every Mother Counts, which works to combat maternal mortality. You can watch a video about how she uses the watch here. Given the watches personal trainer capabilities, Apple Pay system to tap and go like a wallet, and hands free messaging, being able to listen and dictate messages and emails, as well as general web browsing capabilities on a micro scale, my take is that the target market spans the fitness buff, the fashion forward, and the tech early adopter in general, and anyone who has already committed to other Apple products with fierce loyalty.

As such, the tap and go wallet or the hands free messaging capabilities on their own are enough to be a disruptive technology with significant uptake.


If you’re curious to learn more about the Apple Watch, here’s a link with some features and video about it.

Apple has a history of disruptive technology.

Just think about what the iPod did to the music industry, disrupting CDs and retail music distribution with iTunes. Just think about what the iPad did to ebooks, book retailing and distribution, and the way we interact with printed matter in general spanning to newspapers and magazines. And consider what the iPhone did to cell phone communication in general, launching the mobile internet, and a litany of apps we arguably can’t live without now, as well as disrupting the camera industry. One could argue their latest technology is now even disrupting their earlier technology. Why would you buy an iPod when your smartphone can hold it all? Maybe you don’t need an iPad mini if you have an iPhone 6 plus.

So could the Apple Watch do the same thing?

Certainly it changes the competitive turf for watch manufacturers. That’s a direct hit. What about credit cards and payment services? What about fitness bands like Nike Fuel and other fitness product devices? And what about smart phones in general? Could wearable voice activation communication eliminate the need to type on a device? It’s starting to feel a little like a Star Trek episode. Too bad Spock didn’t live to see it! The watch certainly could change the issue with distracted drivers texting. And it represents interesting challenges for faculty supervising students during exams.

Only time will tell once the early adopters have gobbled it up. If there is significant uptake, it certainly could be disruptive. There seems to a lot of buzz about wearable tech and the Apple watch could well be the gateway drug for broader acceptance.

What’s the lesson is all this for marketers?

I think we need to accept disruption and look for opportunity in it. Rather then fear the threats that come with it, focus on the changes needed now to possibly capitalize on shifts that could be coming. What might that look like?

  • Apps with simple interfaces suitable for super small screens.
  • Voice activated Apps.
  • Voice activated mobile friendly websites. While such a thing may not exist now, it likely will in the future. Perhaps I’ve just given you your next $1 million dollar idea?
  • Medical monitor of fitness vitals and wireless, remote one on one personal training.
  • Hotel room key free entry.

Remember, many people were stumped initially as to why we would all need an iPad when we already had a laptop and iPhone. And what on earth would we do with all those album covers if we could fit over 2,000 songs on a little thing called an iPod?

The marketing lesson ultimately is this: Sometimes we don’t know what we need until it arrives. And when there is significant uptake of a new disruptive technology, business needs to anticipate and prepare for the permanent shift taking place.


2014 Top 10 Marketing Wall of Fame & Wall of Shame

I was inspired to pull some thoughts together on this when I was approached by a producer at CBC TV to add a Vancouver spin to a national “Marketing Fails 2014″ piece they were airing by Dianne Buckner. If you’d like to view that segment, which aired Dec 29, 2014 you can link to it here.

CBC Vancouver Marketing Fails 2014: Rene Filiponne interviews marketing strategist, Mary Charleson – who comes on at the 2:39 minute mark to talk about Vancouver examples.

2014 Marketing wall of fame

1. Ikea’s Book Book
In a world of high tech, going low-tech or no-tech can be a way to stand out. Witness Ikea’s brilliant spoof on an Apple product release to preview their new catalog and its distinctly analogue features.  You can view the ad here or link to my original article about the campaign.

2. Lululemon Give Presence for the holidays
The #givepresence Christmas campaign from Lululemon gets top marks in my book for it’s simplicity of drawing attention to the obvious – our collective obsession with technology and multitasking at the expense of real connection with the person we are with. You can view the original ad here, now at over 3.5 million view or read more about it in a blog post I featured on it.

3. Westjet’s Christmas Miracle 2014
Quite simply it was the authenticity that the company can claim by supporting a community in the Dominican Republic that makes this true spirit of giving spot a winner. You can view it here or read about the campaign.

4. Sam Sung, former Apple employee auctions off his Apple gear on eBay for a cause
This isn’t a campaign you’ll find in the awards books, but it’s a winner from a personal branding standpoint as well as the simple gesture to help others. Read more about the campaign here.  Or you can get the original background story on how it is a guy from Vancouver with a real name of Sam Sung found himself working as a product specialist for Apple. You can’t make this stuff up!

5. Wren clothing’s “First Kiss” viral hit on a $1,500 budget
The idea of pairing up 10 couples, that did not know each other and filming their first kiss was edgy and original. Then toss in the fact that they just happened to be wearing Wren clothing, but that’s about as commercial as the spot gets. It was immensely shareable, tapping emotion, vulnerability and voyeurism and achieved over 69 million views in the first week, and substantial media coverage for doing so. You can watch the video here or read more about the campaign.

2014 Marketing wall of shame

And now for the ones that were memorable for all the wrong reasons…

1. Malaysia Airlines bucket list contest
A bucket list is generally accepted as a list of things one wants to do before they die. How seemingly inappropriate it was then, as a contest name for an airline that lost two planes this year. Did the term get lost in translation?  You can read more about it here. Old

2. Air Canada got #rouged
It’s never a good thing when your new discount carrier name “Rouge” becomes a trending negative hashtag on Twitter. But that’s exactly what happened when some Air Canada pre-booked seats were switched to Rouged flights and passengers were left with less leg room and no seat back entertainment. You can read the full story here.

3. Old Spice taps Moms insecurities to sell to teen boys but forgets who buys the product when they’re living at home
This is one of those ones where I actually think the creative is brilliant, but I’m just not sure it sold product. The crazy portrayal of pathetic Moms taps Freudian attachment theory and societal shifts as boys live at home longer. But while the target user may have loved it, Old Spice offended many of the actual buyers – Moms. View the spots here. And read more about the campaign.

4. Veet’s Don’t risk dudeness
While women may hate to shave their legs, they certainly don’t need their man to infer they’re a hairy beast, which is exactly the trap that this ad fell into. It was yanked promptly after consumer backlash on social media. You still view the spot here.  Or read about how a campaign that was supposedly tested got through.

5. Joan Rivers Tweets from the grave about her new iPhone 6
It wasn’t enough that Apple paid U2 a ton to be able to gift the new album to customers this year, and then had to promptly add a remove button for customers who were angered that it showed up without permission. Yes, Apple appears to have had a deal with Joan Rivers to Tweet about her new iPhone 6. Problem was, Joan died unexpectedly and the pre-scheduled tweet wasn’t deleted. Oops. Apparently Steve Jobs could not be reached for comment either…

And that wraps up the Top 10 list of marketing fame and shame for 2014. I’ll be back next week with some marketing trends and predictions for 2015. If you enjoyed this post and you’d like to receive my 5-Minute Marketing tips enewsletter directly weekly, you can subscribe here. I share lots of insider marketing knowledge and insights with content aimed at entrepreneurs and marketing managers.

iKea’s iBook Book – Brilliant marketing

Amidst the marketing flurry around the latest announcement from Apple about their much-anticipated iPhone 6 and wearable technology, comes a brilliantly timed piece of marketing from Ikea.

In a world of high-tech, sometimes going low-tech or no-tech is the way to stand out. With my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, I’d like to acknowledge how Ikea has taken a “page from Apple’s playbook” with the release of their 2015 catalogue.

Enter the bookbook. Or as I’ve decided to call it the iKea iBookBook.

iKea_iBookBookIf you have yet to see it, you MUST have a look at this ad. It is brilliant in it’s use of hyperbole to emphasize the attributes of the 2015 catalogue, framed from a play on technology perspective, meant to yank us back to the reality of enjoying a good old fashioned book, or in this case, a catalogue.

View the ad here:

The spot opens with, “Once in awhile, something comes along that changes the way we live, a device so simple and intuitive, using it feels almost familiar…” It then goes on to note that the new device has no cables or power, comes fully charged, uses tactile touch for navigation to browse, has no lag time loading images, and can be downloaded free through your mailbox or in person.” So why does this ad work so well?

  1. Timing. Make no mistake, in the world of advertising, this was a well-timed execution, meant to go viral on the tails of this weeks announcement of much anticipated new product from Apple.
  1. Parodies work. Especially when a company with a lot of online traction and social followers such as Apple, is the object of the joke. The parallels and poking clever fun at the way the product features are announced compared to an Apple commercial are striking. Parodies go viral because they are usually funny and entertaining, two key components for getting material shared.
  1. They zigged when the rest of us where still zagging. While it seems many brands jump on board the latest trends, getting caught up in technology and social media, Ikea was different by drawing attention to the old fashioned attributes of book browsing. In an age of ebooks and online everything, it made them stand out. Plus it called out the elephant in the room, the fact that people still like to browse a catalogue to shop, and it made it socially acceptable to admit it. Well done.
  1. It was optimized for social media. Of course this ad could have been placed on TV, but when the objective is to make it viral, allow your army of Ikea followers to use their media channels, and to no doubt generate free publicity and pick up from traditional media such as TV and print, why would you? Putting it on Youtube and making it easily sharable through social channels was a brilliant media strategy.
  1. Simple works. The communication is simple and the visuals are simple, in an iconic Ikea design sense. Even though the audio is in English, and much of the play on words rely on this, the concept of what is being communicated can be understood through visuals.

Well done Ikea. This is brilliant marketing.

Leveraging your personal brand – the Sam Sung story

I love Apple products, but I have to say right now I’ve become a huge fan of Samsung, as in “Sam Sung” the man, not necessarily Samsung the product. Sam is a former Apple employee, an irony not lost on many, when reading his business card that states: “Sam Sung, Product Specialist, Apple.”

Sam_SungNow working for Halloway Schultz & Partners, a recruiting firm in Vancouver, Sam put his name on the line recently through eBay for a good cause. He auctioned off his old Apple uniform and business card to raise money for Children’s Wish BC and Yukon, an organization that grants wishes to terminally ill children. The auction closed on Aug 15, and the top bid was $2,653 US ($2,894 Cdn) from a buyer in Germany. While there were several bids topping $10,000 they were later proved to be invalid by eBay. He plans to donate back all funds raised. What an incredible gift to a worthy cause.

Sam_Sung_auction_finalAvid readers of my blog and past newsletters may well recall my interactions with Sam Sung. It all started when a customer of his Pacific Centre Apple store posted a photo of his business card and it went viral. You can read the original post here:

While I picked up the viral chatter initially from a friend in Australia, and then another in the southern US, I was actually able to confirm it was indeed true, rather than a hoax, as many were speculating at the time. I subsequently had several interactions with Sam as an employee at the store (and yes I have his business card), and we’ve stayed in touch since his move into recruitment. Perhaps most memorable is his wicked Scottish brogue, having moved to Vancouver from Glasgow Scotland several years ago. The juxtaposition of his accent and obvious Chinese heritage was somewhat disarming in Vancouver, a heavily Asian populated city.

This selfless act to auction off his former uniform and business card for a good cause is a terrific way to have leveraged his personal branding and identity. Indeed Sam has noted that while an employee at Apple he was quite uncomfortable with all the attention his name drew. It was only after he had left that drawing attention to it seemed appropriate, and then not specifically for personal gain.

Still we can note that he has brilliantly leveraged his name, brand and identity via a social cause. While his chosen charity was the primary benefactor, there is no doubt that his identity as a recruiter will benefit in an industry where personal integrity is critical.

This story really helps drive home the fact that when you do things for others, it will no doubt benefit you, perhaps just not directly. It was far easier for Sam to gain publicity around this initiative since he made it about others and not himself. His name and the irony of being a former Apple employee had curiosity, but it was the charitable component that gave it traction and made it attractive to the media. By giving people a reason to share his story he gained far more coverage and social media sharing than he would have otherwise. Both a terrific cause and a great guy benefited. It was brilliant marketing.


Harnessing the Power of One

I found myself reflecting on pivotal events of 2013 recently and in honour of Nelson Mandela’s passing, I watched again a 1992 movie called “The Power of One” set in South Africa during WWII featuring a young English boy raised under apartheid. It was a powerful movie of racial injustice, and had one amazing soundtrack. I downloaded it to my iPod for inspiration moving forward into 2014.

The “Power of One” theme seemed a fitting beginning for 2014, with the promise of the internet as a marketing tool available to the masses, enabling that power of one to connect with the power of many. But as I reflected more, I realized for many marketers, there is a missing step in reaching the masses. Many forget that to reach the many, they first have to reach out to one, and give that one person a reason to share it with their community, thereby achieving the many. It’s actually a three-step process: one-to-one-to-many, rather than a two-step of one-to-many. When we frame it from this perspective, it becomes about others, not about you or your business.

So why do people share online? In my experience, people share content that makes them look smart, look connected, look funny or look insightful. If you can provide content that allows your readers to appear smart, connected, funny or insightful, the chances of it getting shared go up exponentially. While this is a subtle shift of thinking, it’s an important one in harnessing the power of one.
Another key to getting content spread from one to many is having something that lends itself to a great headline that people will want to open, link to, and ultimately share. So what are some ways to boost the sharing of your content?
1. Lists. In an abbreviated world of sound-bite communication, lists seem to resonate. (Headline example: 10 ways to glow your Twitter following in 2014)
2. How to do something. The world loves a teacher especially if there is a willing pupil. (Headline example: 5 sure fire ways to get publicity)
3. Facts & statistics. Generally statistics only get people excited if they are proving something unexpected. Graphic presentations work best. (Headline example: Social media metric shows huge user growth during 2013)
4. Negative spin. In a world of ‘how to’ advice, ‘how not to’ can cut through the clutter. (Headline example: 5 reasons people are not reading your Tweets)
5. Research. Quote research from respected sources and all parties instantly appear smarter! (Headline example: Yale University study on why women CEOs fail)
6. Case study. Nothing gets better than real life application when it comes to learning. (Headline example: Social media disasters of 2013)
7. News story. Put your own spin on a news story, or break news yourself. I did this last year when the Huffington post reported that Sam Sung was working for Apple in Vancouver. Since I live in Vancouver, I was able to add my own spin to the story, by doing my own journalistic investigation. He does work for Apple and he’s very good. It made for a great personal branding story. You can read it here: (Headline example: Does Sam Sung really work for Apple?)
So yes, the “Power of One” is a great marketing theme for 2014. And framing your content from a one-to-one-to many perspective is critical. Just remember the reasons why people share, and give that individual person you reach out to motivation to share with the power of their many, making it about them, not about you. Until next time, Tap the power of one.

Mobile disruption: Are you ready to buy with a #hashtag?

Market forces, technology, and opportunity are converging on the mobile phone front, and about to launch a huge disruptive force in commerce. While we have become accustomed to promotional and communication opportunities enabled by the internet and social media, the distribution and pricing channel is about to heat up.

According to the recently released Comscore 2013 Digital Future in Focus Report, smart phones in Canada now represent 62% of the market, up from 45% in 2012. This is significant in that we have now passed a tipping point where the majority of phone users are mobile internet enabled. Couple this with Canadians spending on average 41 hours/month online, second only globally to Americans at 43 hours/month, and the stage has now been set for market forces and opportunity to collide with new disruptive offerings. Here are a couple early examples:

Twitter has paired up with American Express to enable purchases to be completed with the use of a hashtag. Essentially once a consumer tweets a specific hashtag to the company requesting a purchase, the transaction would be completed once acknowledged by the company and then confirmed by the customer. Online shopping with all the extra hassle of security and transactions would be taken out of the system. It’s a bold social media move by American Express, and could indicate a disruptive shift in the way commerce will be conducted online in the future. It does however beg some privacy and ethical issues. Will people want their purchase history on Twitter? Does this make impulse shopping too easy? But beyond this dark side, there is certainly opportunity. Consumers will automatically be promoting brands to their followers while buying them. Suddenly there is equity to a company in how many followers a purchaser has, and that could lead to some interesting promotional offers to prospective customers. Privacy and ethics aside, there is a solid win/win formula potentially in there, as marketers look for ways to leverage their brand within social channels. Read more here:

Apple has applied for a patent to get into the mobile micro-lending banking business, via an innovative APP. They want to be able to turn iPhone users into potential ad-hoc cash dispensary locations. Essentially a consumer, who needs, say $20 but is not close to a bank machine, could use their APP to find another iPhone user in close proximity. They would receive the offer to lend that person $20 cash, which would then appear as an Apple credit on their iTunes account, plus a bonus transaction fee for having facilitated the exchange. This essentially makes everyday consumers into cash machines, while denying the banks their exorbitant service charges. You can bet that Apple plans to sell more than music in their iTunes commerce site, and I would think this signals a major move to tread into Amazon territory. It certainly would be more appealing to accumulate credits that could be used to purchase a broad range of things beyond just music. Read more here:

Both of these examples work in a mobile enabled consumer environment. Expect more of this type of innovative thinking from companies as technology, market forces and opportunity disrupt traditional distribution channels.

Super Bowl Sunday: The battle for eyeballs and wallets is on. How will RIM and BlackBerry 10 hold up?

First off, a confession: I’m not a huge football fan. Being Canadian however, I love to both play and watch hockey. So on some level, I do understand the primal urge to sit around the big screen, partaking in a shared social experience, beer in hand, tossing back munchies and cheering for the favored team. And that is exactly what millions of football fans will be doing next Sunday afternoon, as the sports premiere annual event, the Super Bowl, takes place.

It could be argued however, that increasingly the Super Bowl is less about football, and more about the half time show, and the advertising that runs during the big game. With an average of $3.7 million per 30 second spot being spent this year, the battle for eye balls, and the wallet that accompanies them, has hit a high mark. The usual suspects such as Pepsi, Coke, Bud Light, Century 21, Go Daddy, Audi, Toyota, Axe, and Volkswagon, all big national brands, have returned. See a sneak preview of some of them here:

But it is the premiere appearance of RIM and the launch of the BlackBerry 10 that has caught my attention. The 30-second spot was created by London-based creative agency AMV BBDO.

“A Super Bowl commercial is a great opportunity to show the redesigned, re-engineered and reinvented BlackBerry to tens of millions of consumers on the largest advertising stage of the year,” RIM CMO Frank Boulben said in a statement.

Of course, like most Super Bowl spots, a social-media campaign is slated to run alongside the commercial using Twitter and Facebook throughout the game. Selective leaks on Youtube pre-game are likely.  And they can count on an even larger audience realized through Youtube and social media as winning creative gets viewed again and again, and both discussed and shared online after the game. Or let’s hope, for the sake of our good old Canadian home team company RIM, that that is what actually happens. RIM risks having come to the party about a year late with their Black Berry 10, having lost customers to Apple and Samsung, as business and their IT departments (RIM’s traditional core market) increasingly have allowed employees to bring their own devices to work. This is a big stakes play for RIM on the world’s largest advertising stage. Let the circus (or should I say game?) begin!

Update: January 30th – news coverage of the release:

Sam Sung a specialist for Apple?

Shortly after this card was posted online about a day ago, Twitter and Facebook went crazy sharing it.  And for good reason. Could there be anything more entertaining than imagining that Sam Sung “Samsung” is actually working for Apple? Or perhaps considered the other way, the possibility that Apple would hire Sam Sung as a specialist for their products.

When I first saw this card, it was framed as likely being a hoax, albeit a clever one to perhaps fuel an online viral marketing campaign.

But if you know anything about printing, you will understand that the reflection on the Apple logo, indicates a foil application – a rather expensive one off endeavor for someone to make this card up. That and the fact that, being from Vancouver and an Apple customer at this store, I knew the address, phone and website to be accurate.

I visited the Apple store this afternoon, and was able to verify that yes indeed, Sam Sung works there. In fact he has since 2010. Apple staff were however rather guarded around my inquiry, acknowledging that the card had gone viral very quickly. And it appears that a previous LinkedIn profile for Sam Sung in Vancouver has now been removed. Curious…

That fact that Sam Sung, as shown in his LinkedIn profile prior to its removal, is a Marketing graduate intrigues me.

Could this be the cleverest personal branding viral campaign ever? Might Sam Sung be able to leverage it for his own personal gain? You betcha!

What do you think?



Look out Google – here comes Apple! Again.

There has been a lot of excitement over the iPhone 5 recently. Frankly, the dark horse story is not the phone, but a feature that has been built in that replaces Google Maps.

What Apple has done in launching Apple Maps with the latest iOS6 running on the iPhone 5 is an astute, intelligent and pre-emptive move. Not withstanding the fact that Apple Maps have had some wrinkles with accuracy, and may have been released too soon, this is Apple. They will fix the issues quickly. Apple Maps is a global play to gain geo-location data, personal communication and data analytics.

What Google has been able to do with Google Maps, and what Apple will now be able to do with Apple Maps is enable augmented reality (AR) – the ability to see your data layer associated with where you are in this world. The promise of AR is impressive and a significant game changer. Your Smartphone knows where you are, and it also has access to information about everything you can currently see.  If advertisers can tap into that, they would have the power to push information to you that is geo-specific, time-sensitive and tailored to you for where you are at that exact time.

Apple is hedging that the popularity of their iPhone device, now loaded with their own maps feature, will buy them market share in the fight to own the AR market. Google has been the king of data, search and analytics, but this may be the beginning of a seismic shift, with Apple as the benefactor. Hold onto your Smartphone!!

The little sign that could

Poised below a former iconic sign landmarking HMV’s presence at Burrand and Robson in Vancouver, is a little iPod sign. Appearing without threat, but determination like the children’s tale of the little red engine that could, it in fact did. Did topple an iconic brand from its throne.


HMV closed some months ago and now sits vacant waiting new tenants willing to pay high rent for a prime location. HMV was a victim in the end of changing technologies and distribution of its product. The fact that that the iPod was the product that introduced music digitization and sharing, and was ultimately the downfall of music sellers like HMV was poignant. Even more poignant since the iPod sign was the only thing left hanging in the store.

The iPad has recently disrupted another industry as well.

I was lamenting the closure of one of my favourite bookstores, Book Warehouse, in Vancouver recently. Although not encumbered by debt, overexpansion or an invisible cash flow, the owner was selling off the stock from multiple locations, and calling it quits. It would seem that the forces of increased online competition, a squeeze on margins, the emergence of e-books and readers, and a publishing industry reeling with the forces of technology and trying to redefine itself had taken its toll. That and the fact that the founders, all ready to retire were looking to sell their business at a time of great turmoil in the publishing and book industry.

But as the owner, an accomplished professional musician, said with a smile on his face the day I talked to him moving fixtures out of the Lonsdale location and packing up what was left of inventory to be donated to a first nations library, “The book business fed my music habit for over 30 years. I’m, happy!” Admittedly, it was a pretty positive spin on what could only be lamented as a huge shame in the face of changing technologies. A shame because there will be 5 less bookstores to browse in Vancouver. And a shame because, along with all the people who those stores have employed, the owners will not realize any equity from pouring over 30 years of time into the business.

Book Warehouse fended off the onslaught of big box bookstores in the 90’s when many independents failed. It withstood the ongoing price competition from online retailers such as Amazon. They had carved out a niche based on selling books bought back from publishers at huge discounts and then selling at bargain prices, while still achieving higher margins than their competitors. They were able to sell best sellers at huge discounts and still make money, unlike most competitors because their entire business model was based on low costs and no leverage. It worked for many years because it was not easily copied.

The lesson learned through these two examples? While you can have a defined market niche, a great product or service, and be at the top of your game, the external forces of technology and changing consumer habits can put it all into question. In the end every business must monitor and adapt to change.