6 Tips on how to stand out: a slight difference makes no difference

March 11th, 2014 No comments

tip-how-to-stand-outLast night I participated in the SpitzBiz networking event, which included a 15-min presentation from Alan Morrice, art director in Ogilvy. After spending two minutes desperately trying to spot a difference between stripy grey circles, it was a real relief to see a blue circle. The question was – which one of circles stood out. Blue one, of course.

Simple, yet effective. It worked.

As Alan said, our brains are programmed to search for a difference … and the easier it is, the more you get noticed. Makes sense. But we tend to forget about it, concentrating on fine tuning the message, using benchmark to copy our competitors (who hasn’t said at one point in their career – this is what I want: I want to be like them?) and being too scared to push the boundaries, to get out of the comfort zone. But how can you possibly stand out from the rest if you look just like them?

Here are six tips on how to stand out, inspired by the circle example:

Tip 1: Stop trying to fit in when you were born to stand out.

Nice quote. Actually a fantastic quote. Think about the beginning – you did not create your brand or product to be like others. Most probably you were sure your idea or concept was unique and that you were going to make money out of it, be noticed, be talked about. Blending in is not going to make it, being like your competitors is not going to make it – maybe you will have a decent income, but … what happened to that dream? Go back to the beginning and remember your roots. Remember who you wanted to be. Your dream. Now write it down and it is not a dream anymore. It becomes a goal.

Tip 2: Stop fine tuning and be bold

Fine tuning is safe and nice, but ineffective if you are fine tuning a message or brand image that has not actually worked in the past. Be honest to yourself … it most probably won’t work in the future either. Remember that a slight difference makes no difference – for you it might seem like a huge leap to go from “thin stripes” to “bold stripes”, but if the change is still inside your comfort zone, a normal person is not going to spot a difference.

It is like the awkward moment when your friend shows you a pair of curtains and asks you whether you prefer beige curtains to a slightly-whiter-but-still-beige curtains. Ehm. However, if the other pair of curtains was a completely different colour or had patterns, the choice would be more immediate and easy.

Tip 3: Find out what makes you, your company and your brand unique

This applies to companies, brands as well as your personal career. There is something unique in all of us, and sometimes we are too closely involved in the project to see what is our unique selling point. Why do your customers prefer you over the competition? Ask them, ask your friends, ask people on the street, ask people online, ask people in a networking / LinkedIn group – do a quick poll. When you hear an external opinion on your selling points and where you could improve, it is easier to be objective and make a realistic, up-to-date list of your strengths and weaknesses. But watch out – sometimes what we hear is not what we want – or expect – to hear.

Tip 4. Use benchmarking as an inspiration, not as an excuse to copy

Benchmarking and campaign / CV / social media / App Store best practices and examples are great source of inspiration, but the point is not to copy them. Knowing what your competitors do is essential – do they go for quality, do they go for price, do they go for reliable, do they go for exciting and cool? When you know what they go for – do not even think about using the same message or a slight variation of the message. Again, a slight difference makes no difference in the eyes of the consumer.

Make a list they are good at and what they focus on and compare it with your own list of strengths and weaknesses. In which areas you are better they are, do you do something they are not able to do?

Using a personal example – I am a person. Well there are billions out there. Ok, I have a business degree and master in management. Less people, but still very high competition compared with the career opportunities. OK, I have over 6 years working experience in various industries. Yes and …? I am Social Media, Mobile and SEO expert with a thesis on Social Media. But we are looking for someone who has also International experience. Ok, I have international experience on EMEA roles. So do some of the other people. Yes, but I have lived in 5 countries and speak 7 languages, and it is quite difficult to compete with that. Now we are getting there.

Tip 5. Use that data, but use it well.

Once you have written down who you are, what you want to achieve, what makes you unique, why people prefer you or your brand or product over others,  what you are better at than your competitors and what can you offer others cannot – it is time to play.

This is the fun part, brainstorming. Meet up with friends or colleagues and have fun throwing in the air even the craziest ideas. It does not mean you have to use those ideas, but it is a matter of pushing the boundaries. And sometimes the more you look at an idea that seemed silly to you in the beginning, the less silly it looks like. Maybe that will be the big idea that is going to skyrocket your business or brand. Make sure that the brand identity and messaging also suits your target audience – be bold, be brave, but don’t go completely crazy.

Tip 6: Make a plan how to get there, but start with simple steps

Once you know what you want to achieve and who you want to be and what you want to say – the question is how to get there. While you are still excited, use that energy to make an overall plan with targets for a year. Then split it in quarters.

With the targets and timelines, make another list of actions to be taken to achieve these results. Important thing is to start with little steps – allow yourself little victories every quarter, that make you feel like you are achieving something and getting closer to the target. These little positive achievements will keep you motivated all the way to the top.

It is like doing a house renovation project. First you are excited and make big plans, but the more the work advances, the more tired you get – it seems like the project is getting nowhere and you will never reach a target. Nothing is ever that simple, there are always complications on the way. However, if you write down a list of little things to do to push it forward, that you can physically cross off the list when done, then you are well on your way without even noticing. Allow yourself for example an hour every two days for the task – it is more productive, motivating and efficient than dedicating a day for a huge list of things to do.

A bonus tip – stop being a hamster.

Most of these things are of course obvious, but sometimes we need someone to remind us of the things we know make sense, but  have forgotten in the pile of day to day tasks and worries. It is tough to step back and leave the familiar hamster wheel even for a minute, as we are reluctant to give up the things that we consider important and a priority. If the week is too busy – start with little steps during the weekend. A slight difference does not make a difference, yet a small – bold – step towards the right direction might change things for the better.

Anyway, it is worth a try.

Google vs. Apple: Next Battleground … Cars. Open Alliance or iOS in the Car?

January 11th, 2014 No comments

android in carWho doesn’t love CES Las Vegas? Every year there are interesting announcements and CES 2014 is no different. This time I’m not talking about Smartwatches, Devices or weird geeky high-tech stuff. The most interesting news for me was Google’s announcement of the Open Alliance – a project to integrate cars and Android OS.

Connected Car: the next OS battleground?

OS in a car? Haven’t we heard it before? Yes indeed – back in June 2013 Apple announced it was working with car manufacturers with a project called ”iOS in the car” to integrate cars and iOS. Great stuff. Now let’s mix it up a bit: Ford happens to be using Microsoft technology in their Sync system and Mercedes has QNX by Blackberry.

It looks like Google and Apple are spreading their OS dominance war in cars, and the first connected cars – iOS as well as Android – are expected to arrive by the end of this year. But what makes this very interesting is the fact that car manufacturers haven’t really committed for a specific OS yet, with Honda and Hyundai openly signing up for Apple’s iOS in the car as well as Google’s Open Alliance.

So which OS car manufacturers should go for? Let’s have a look at the mobile statistics first.

Android dominates Europe and China, Windows Phone grows in Emerging Markets

According to Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, in September 2013 Android continued its OS dominance in Europe with 71.9%, while Windows Phone accounted for one of 10 smartphone sales across the big five European markets, overtaking iOS in Italy. What comes to UK, the battle of the OS is a bit more equal, with Android holding the top position with 58.4%, Apple’s iOS accounting for 27%, and Windows Phone munching its way to 11.4% of the market.

Now this is where the data becomes even more interesting: The latter OS – mainly thanks to Nokia – has shown strong growth in Russia, emerging markets in Europe as well as in Latin America. In Latin America Nokia has a strong presence and brand recognition even if its popularity decreased in the past few years due to death of Symbian OS. However, with its budget Lumia 520 Nokia is grawling back to the top of the chart, as most of the consumers are upgrading their old Nokia phone to the newer model.

In China Android has a very strong foothold with 81.1% of the market, but not because they are going for the cheap. Actually, Chinese consumers are prepared to invest a lot in their Smartphone and are expecting a great value for their money. The local brands are getting better and better and this is why most of the Chinese consumers are choosing a local Android Smartphone with high specs and good quality – such as Huawei, Lenovo, Coolpad or Xiaomi – instead of an entry-level global brand with lower specs.

IOS in the Car or Open Alliance?

Looking at the statistics, the choice seems quite obvious. However, there are strong differences between iOS and Android consumer behaviour, and what should not be forgotten is that iOS consumer is more likely to spend more money – also on their car. In addition, Microsoft might very well announce something similar this year.

Then again … buying a car is a far bigger commitment than buying a Smartphone, and forcing consumers to commit to a specific OS when they are purchasing a car might affect negatively in their purchase decision. First of all, a family car is used by more than one person and most likely there are at least two different OS per family. Secondly, can you really imagine a pure Android fan buying a car with iOS onboard … even if he loves the car brand?

Personally, the best strategy would be not to commit to only one OS, but find a way – or technology – to support all three OS in the car, leaving the choice for the consumer himself. In the end, connected car should enhance the driving experience, whether it has iOS or Android – or Windows – onboard, and if consumers do not commit to one specific OS, why should the car manufacturers do so?

Interesting times, looking forward to seeing which OS manages to be “in the car” first.

 

Social Media: Facebook is about reach, Google+ is about engagement. Or are they?

October 1st, 2013 No comments

social-media-week-london-2013During the Social Media Week 2013 in London, or as you might have seen it on Twitter #SMWLDN, two things became clear: Facebook was highlighting strongly that the platform is all about reach, not engagement as it used to be, while Google was claiming Google+ is all about engagement, not reach. Interesting. It seems like these two giants swapped their key messages and were attacking each other’s “weak points.”

Even if Facebook has increased its profits especially on mobile after the IPO disaster, it has cost the platform dearly in terms of usability and user engagement. With the ever changing “Edge rank”, both companies and users are struggling to get their message across – without paying – and news feeds end up looking like a cluttered advertising board with status updates from not so relevant people and companies. However, when “clutter” was mentioned in the Facebook keynote QA, the company was quick to reference to their constant user studies and polls, as well as random user engagement testing on the platform: according to Facebook, some users see 1-2 sponsored stories per day, while others see 12-13. Apparently the amount of ads does not have any negative effect on time spent on platform. Hmm, maybe not the time spent, but engagement yes. But as we “all should know”, Facebook is not about engagement anyway, it is about reach – with tailored ads you are able to reach whoever you want to target wherever you want 24/7. User engagement is so last year.

Google on the other hand has been toughly criticised for the small amount of users it has on Google+ platform – also during #SMWLDN – and it most probably decided to focus on user engagement instead of global reach, because it knows it does not have as many users as Facebook. To boost the stats, the company recently gave YouTube users a Google+ profile as well as integrated Google+ comments last week together with YouTube comments. Still, some people – and company representatives in panels – said the platform is a waste of budget and time. I would have agreed few months ago, before Google refreshed the social network and I started using it personally. I realised that just because you don’t understand it does not mean it is useless. I have collected few key points I have learned in the last few months.

 8 Tips on how to use Google+:

  1. Don’t assume Google+ is Google’s version of Facebook – it is not. Google plus is not about friends speaking with friends – they have Facebook for that. Google+ is about communities and social recognition as well as connecting with like minded people across the world. Let’s be honest – how many of your Facebook friends or real friends love what you love? How many of them sigh or start playing with their mobile when you passionately talk about the marathon training you are doing – again for the 5th time? In Google+ whether you love running, Android, Windows, iOS, Linux, travel, or photography, there is a group of people who are interested in same things you are and are willing to give tips, help, and comment AND they even get as excited as you are of your new computer wallpaper or photograph you made with your new Lumia 1020. Getting social recognition with “1+”, comments and shares in the community that understands your passion brings a boost of confidence – as “like” button used to.  
  2. Don’t post same posts as in Facebook – they don’t work. Why? The audience is different. Almost everyone is on Facebook, but Google+ has more selective audience, which brings me to the next point…
  3. Investigate who your audience is and what they are interested in. Test different posts and users’ reaction to them. Do they appreciate funny things, travel, cars, mobiles, high-quality photographs, exclusive information, backstage photos, product images, etc. Have a quick look at users’ profiles – which communities do they belong to? If your post is targeted to that community, the user might very well share the information in that specific community for a large amount of users.
  4. Reach out to communities to offer help, information and support – but do not spam. Don’t even think about posting an offer in an external Google+ community – it will be classified as spam and will result in negative feedback. What however is welcome, is giving your industry – or product – related advice or tips. You are also able to reach out to community creator to see whether you could do a collaboration. For Nike, think running. For Mercedes, think cars. For HTC or Sony, think Android. Use common sense.
  5. Identify YOUR influencers and interact with your users. Google analytics is great, but it is also worth checking who shares and comments your posts most. Also check who has most followers and which communities they belong to. Constant feedback I get is that brands don’t talk and interact with people in Google+. Of course they don’t if they just copy paste whatever they post in Facebook and leave the community alone. Google+ community also needs cuddles. Be different and stand out in community management.
  6. Track performance. Sounds obvious, but is often forgotten.
  7. Remember it is clutter-free: No ads, few competitors. Do I need to say more?
  8. Do not underestimate the power of Google. Google+ as a social network does not have as incredible global reach as Facebook, but don’t forget that no-one beats Google in search. Having an active Google+ community and having G+ recommendations on your site, blog and Android app have a strong effect in search algorithm and ranking. G+ is integrated in whatever Google does. Whether you are convinced to have a Google+ page or not, can you afford not to?

 Even though sometimes sarcastic, I am a strong believer in both Facebook and Google+ platforms. Both have what other does not, and used well together they both can boost your business and social relevance across the globe. Both platforms need relevant content, that makes users tick. In Facebook, instead of massive sale creative, use something related to your industry and tie it together with sale. Make the sale relevant – why do they need the product or service? In Google+, not having a lot of competition does not mean you can send various messages per day – just like in Facebook, test the best time and day to reach your audience and influencers.

When you understand the way platforms work and get into the minds of users – no social network can be classified as “a waste of time.” Instead, you enjoy boosted sales when the other companies “do not get it”.

Google i/O 2013 top announcements: Android, Search, Photos, Social … and Robots.

May 16th, 2013 1 comment
google i/o 2013 announcement top

top announcements google i/o

Equipped with a Red Bull and a bowl full of popcorns, I had a chance to watch the three-hour-long Google I/O keynote yesterday. The event I wait with excitement every year was full of quite interesting announcements – or should I say “improvements” – especially in Google’s key areas of business for consumers and developers.

Unstoppable Android & Android Studio – Google I/O 2013

The keynote started with interesting news about Google’s Android OS, with company stating there had been 900 million activations of Android devices. Great.

Now to the best part: Google announced a new tool for developers called ”Android studio”, which provides more options for Android devs to play with, making the process faster and more productive. It surely looks great and I have to say I’m excited about the beta tester, localization and tracking possibilities. Can’t wait to use it myself!

Google Conversational Voice Search – Google I/O 2013

I’m not sure if this is “end of search as we know it” as it already exists on Android phones, but it is surely very interesting addition to a desktop search. The company announced in Google I/O 2013 that the conversation-like voice search is now moving from Android mobiles also to users’ computers through Chrome, giving people a new search experience where no typing is required.

Don’t be deceived – this is not like Apple’s Siri. It is much better. Why? The real power behind this search function is not in the voice recognition technology itself, but in Google’s data backend and what it knows about you. Apple might have a similar technology, but Google simply knows much more about you -  especially if are signed in to Google and Google+. This gives you a truly personal and relevant “conversation” experience (which can be sometimes scarily accurate…)

It will be interesting to see whether Google will add option “voice search” in their AdWords target options.

Google Photo – Google I/O 2013

Google is also improving its photo services in Android and Chrome with a cool feature allowing it to automatically create a photo album from hundreds of images uploaded to your photo cloud storage. Google picks the best photos based on aesthetic and image quality, landmark locations, friends and family members recognition, and it even checks whether people are smiling or not! It also disqualifies duplicates, blurry and under/overexposed images.

Social Media: Improved Google+ – Google I/O 2013

Whether you like Google+ or not, its new look and feel is eye-catching. I personally think the way posts are presented is more clear, more attractive and reading and posting in the platform is much more user-friendly.  The new dynamic display does not only allow you to have up to three columns, but you can choose whether you want to show your content in 1,2 or 3 columns. One to watch, as Facebook is moving to a sales focused format in their platform alienating especially younger generation. Watch out Facebook – Google Plus is finally starting to look sexy!

Mixing Social and Search?

Google also introduced a new feature called ‘Related Hashtag’, which allows Google to automatically add its own hashtags to your posts based on the text within your post. What comes to images, by using a new feature called “Image analysis” Google is able to analyze your image and decide whether there is any recognisable content in it. And then add an hashtag such as #Rome. Quite #cool.

If it is too much for your privacy conscious brand / mind, you can opt out for one post or all of them quite easily.

And of course …

… robots fighting with light sabers. How could anyone possibly not like that? :)

In action: http://techcrunch.com/2013/05/15/willow-garage-pr2/

Mobile Marketing Trends: Mobile OS Wars – Is There Life Beyond Android and Apple?

January 30th, 2013 2 comments

apple samsung behind scenes

Back in 2010 I looked at the mobile market dynamics and OS market share statistics in the US and Europe, as all marketers talked about was Apple, iPhone apps and Apple’s products. In reality, was it all about Apple? Not really.

In those days Android had started eating slowly, but steadily iOS market share, and Symbian OS was still dominating Europe.  2010 seems like a long time ago – things have really changed.

Last year was full of lawsuits, clever advertising, product launches, failed mapping headlines, and a whole lot of drama between Google, Samsung and Apple. But … is it really all about Samsung and Apple?

Samsung vs. Apple – a clever PR stunt?

In 2012 Samsung established a very strong position as an Android developer fighting against Apple and received strong support from the Android community … and from a part of the media as well. But is this battle really that strong or did these two companies take advantage of the tension between Apple and Android fans to fuel the fire and get their names out there? Looking back at the big amount of Samsung vs. Apple law suits and the cocky “apology” to Samsung by Apple, it is possible. And if they did, it worked: for a month or two all media and people talked about was Samsung / Google vs. Apple. You had to make a stand – either you were Android fan or an Apple fanboy. It was all or nothing. All nicely timed with iPhone 5 launch as well as Galaxy launches.

Samsung became almost a symbol of fight against overly-confident Apple, but there are much more great Android developers out there including ASUS (creator of the highly successful Google Nexus 7 and Nexus 4), HTC, Sony, etc. But did anyone talked about them in Google vs. Apple battle? Not really.

So what is really happening behind the scenes?

Constantly changing mobile market dynamics

1.5 billion handsets were shipped in 2012, a 2% increase compared to 2011. 700 million of the handsets were Smartphones, yet even if the global smartphone shipments increased by 490,5 million units (43%), the saturation in Western Europe and North America impacted the slower growth.

Samsung, Apple and Nokia were named the top three vendors with Samsung shipping 30% of the handsets in 2012. Company’s Smartphone sales were mainly fueled by its record sales of the popular Galaxy models (396.5 million) yet the total handsets it sold were 400 million. Apple shipped 135.8 million iPhone units (19%) strengthening its position in North America, but the company failed to reach developing markets such as Africa as well as certain European countries. Meanwhile Nokia’s market share dropped in 2012, but the launch of Asha and Lumia 920 / 800 had a positive impact in Q4 2012 with 86.3 million units sold, in which smartphone accounted for 15.9 million units composed of 9.3 million Ashas, 4.4 million Lumias and 2.2 million Symbian smartphones. Chinese handset manufacturer ZTE settled for fourth place.

Mobile OS market share in 2012

According to Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, Android has shown strong growth in Europe and Australia in 2012 and is holding now 61.1% of the EU5 and 55,8% of Australian market share. The growth has been significant in Britain, France and Spain in the EU5, but increase has been slow in Italy and its market share has decreased – surprisingly – in the USA. What comes to other markets, in Brazil Android increased its market share to 47.1% and in Mexico to  37.3%.

statistics OS mobile europe us australia

What comes to iOS, despite iPhone 5 and iPad mini launch, iOS market share in the EU5 has increased only 0.2%. The biggest growth in EU5 happened in Italy and France, yet the iOS market share decreased 1.7% in the UK and Spain. The US market share increased 6.3%, while Australian market share shrunk 3,4%.

In Europe Windows Phone’s market share has more than doubled to 5.4%. The strongest market in EU5 for Windows phone is Italy with 13.9% of the market share (11.1% increase from 2011) and Britain with 5.9% market share (up from 2.2% in 2011). However, the growth has been slower in other EU5 countries, Asia and the US. In Brazil the market share has jumped up to 12.2% and to 2.7% in Mexico.

Symbian OS, Bada and Blackberry’s RIM have suffered the market changes most in developed countries.

Mobile market in 2013

Apple seems to be struggling with a falling market share – and shares. The launch of the iPhone 5 in 2012 was a disappointment for many, and especially Apple’s infamous maps have created headlines. iPad mini launch was also the first time when Apple moved from innovator to a follower by comparing openly iPad mini with Google Nexus 7 in the official press conference. Is launching a new model so rarely Apple’s strategy to make the products more special? Or is there perhaps nothing new to publish?

Anyhow, Apple has still a very strong ecosystem and it has done a brilliant job on introducing Apple products in all aspects of user’s life from home stereos and in-car assets to music and apps. Once you have bought Apple related things during years it is very difficult to switch to another Smartphone / tablet. That being said, Apple has made “switching” to other OS a bit easier with the introduction of the new cable, which means the things you bought for your previous iPhone are not compatible with iPhone 5 or any other new model Apple launches.

There has also  been a lot of speculation whether Nokia made the right choice of choosing Windows phone OS instead of Android. Maybe it did. If Nokia would have picked Android as an OS, what would differentiate it from other Android developers in Samsung’s shadow? It will be fascinating to see whether Windows phone platform keeps growing strongly. Other interesting game changers to watch in 2013 are Blackberry 10, and Linux / Ubuntu based devices.

Android is going strong, but we might see a change from a role as a market challenger to a leadership defending OS. And the OS with the biggest market share tend to get challenged by the smaller OS – just what happened to Symbian and Apple. As mobile market is changing so rapidly, it could be possible that in two years time Apple has become a dinosaur, Android / Google the bad guy and Windows phone the new trendy platform … and the fighter of justice.

Apple vs. Google: More Lawsuits, Improvements or Perfect Occasion for Nokia?

September 2nd, 2012 No comments

apple vs google war mobile“Google and Apple are doing more and more things together. We have similar goals, similar competitors.”

Eric Schmidt, Chief Executive Google (2007)

I’ve been enjoying the last few months, as finally the market dynamics are changing and there is a lot of interesting things happening in the mobile space. It is quite fascinating to watch the war between Google and Apple, with lawsuits, new Smartphones and unexpected news. The war has become so huge, that it has awakened the interest even in the non-tech audience – Google vs. Apple makes headlines.

Apple heading for a Google-free mobile

Back in the days Google and Apple worked on various projects together, but ever since Google’s Android started eating Apple’s market share, the relationship between the two got ugly. Now, prior to the new iPhone launch, Apple announced that iOS 6 will not include YouTube or Google Maps. This is a big shift in dynamics as iPhone has had three of its important functions from Google since the iPhone launch in 2007: maps, search and YouTube. There are also rumors that Apple is considering removing Google as default search, as it is said to cost Apple 1 billion dollars per year in shared advertising revenues. In China, the company is already using local search engine Baidu instead of Google – if Apple decides to change Google to Bing or Yahoo in other markets they will be attacking Google’s core business.

This may go in two ways: either Google will pick up the game and improve its Maps and YouTube user experience in apps, or these two will focus on different ways to make other company’s life miserable.

Apple vs. Android Lawsuits

After winning a 1 billion lawsuit against Android-powered Samsung, Apple has decided to ask the court to include other Samsung hardware, such as the Galaxy S III, Verizon Galaxy S III, Galaxy Note and Galaxy Note 10.1 into its complaint against the Galaxy Nexus. Meanwhile, Google-owned and Android-powered Motorola has filed a lawsuit against Apple, stating that all Apple products in the U.S.(except iPod and iPod Nano) infringe upon seven patents, including location reminders, email notifications, video playback and Siri. If Motorola is as successful as Apple against Samsung, all Apple products might be blocked in the US market. Irony.

The question is: what do the users gain from this? While it might be good that manufacturers are forced to think beyond Apple and offer more innovative and different designs, it is a pity that the focus has shifted from developing ground-breaking products to lawsuits. While competition should be fair, the battles should happen in the market – not in the court rooms. Maybe it was the months Apple spent talking to the lawyers, that delayed the new iPhone launch?

Apple vs. Android – perfect occasion for Nokia?

If Apple and Android continue the lawsuit war blocking each other’s mobile devices in different markets and forget what is best for the users, consumers may move to another system. In fact, Nokia is launching a new Windows phone 8 on the 5th of September 2012, prior to the new iPhone launch. As both Nokia and Microsoft have a lot in stake, they will invest millions to make it huge.

Nokia has had a rough path lately, but hopefully the Windows phone 8 system will be more flexible making it easier for the developers to create apps, and shaking power dynamics between the OS. Nokia should definitely not be ruled out, as the conflict and lawsuits between Apple, Google and Android manufacturers may be a perfect occasion for Nokia to get back in the game. Who knows? In the end, even Apple’s Siri said, that Nokia Lumia 900 is “the best Smartphone ever”.

Brand Domains: Passing Trend or The End of .com?

June 18th, 2012 No comments

During the London press conference last Wednesday, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) announced the first 1,930 applications received for the new brand, or generic, domain endings replacing .com. The list includes brands such as L’Oréal, Chanel, Nike, Gucci, Macy’s, Swatch, Target, Zara, Next and Wal-Mart.

Almost 50% of the proposals (911) were from North America, more than 30% of the proposals were from Europe (675) and 16% came from Asia Pacific region (303). Only 1% of the proposals came from Africa (17) and 1,3% came from Latin America and the Caribbean (24).

What is a brand domain?

Brand, or generic, domain means website urls ending .brand, .thing or .idea instead of .com. The idea is to allow businesses that joined Internet later to find alternatives to “dot com”, but in practice these domains would most likely sit alongside established domains such as .com and .org. The possibilities vary from hobbies, demographics, and professions to corporate brand names. Few examples are .lol, .bank, .baby, .music, .doctor, .loreal, .youtube, .google, .coke, .apple and .twitter.

ICANN announced that the companies that have applied for the brand domain names are now going through an independent review process with a 60-day comment period and a 7-month objection period. The organization will review each proposal, make a criminal background check for each applicant, and assure that company’s financial plan is stable and contingencies exist in case a company goes out of business. If there is a conflict between names, ICANN encourages competing bidders to reach an agreement together, but the organization will hold an auction if the parties fail to reach a compromise.

Expensive – but a trend to watch closely.

These domains do not come cheap.  There is a $185,000 fee per application, and so far ICANN has collected about $350 million from the bidders. ICANN states that the main reason for the high cost is the technical complexity as it is not simple to run these top-level domains. The first domains are estimated to go live in the first quarter of 2013.

It is expensive, but most of the brands are registering the domains for defensive reasons to avoid competitors and other public to acquire their brand domains. The application cost now might be $185,000, but if a competitor or counterfeiter registers the domain first, the acquisition cost in the future may become extremely expensive.

End of dot com or a passing trend?

Besides of applying for brand names, some companies such as L’Oréal are also registering generic domains such as .skin, .hair and .makeup. This is expensive, but it may be a very smart move against the competitors if the trend takes off and the brand will receive more traffic and consumer interest. It will be interesting to see what Google’s point of view is regarding the subject, and how this will affect the SEO as the keywords in domain name have a positive impact on ranking. Maybe Google itself will start giving or selling .google domains for businesses and users to increase its prominence in the cyber space?

At the same time, people are used to .com and country specific domains such as .co.uk, .es and .it. When the system is launched, how do you explain people that “doctor” is a website without www or .com? It is also to be seen how the system and new domain endings work in practice. For example, if the user types “doctor” in the browser bar, he is expecting location based search results. Instead, he might end up in the page of whoever owns the domain .doctor, which will most likely only annoy him. This is why the url structure change may result confusing for general public and the adoption rate may be low. If the consumer interest and adoption rate are low, after the first excitement brands may start simply redirecting these brand domains to their  .com site.

It is an expensive game to play and at the moment only the big players can invest in these domains. However, if the technical cost goes down after the first wave of brand domains, it might be the end of the “dot com”. Or then we only end up with a big bunch of 301 redirects.

Social Media: Facebook IPO Fiasco – Is It Time to Make Users Pay?

May 30th, 2012 No comments

Facebook New Zealand testFacebook has a lot to prove. The much hyped Facebook IPO turned to be a fiasco, as the company and bankers evaluated the social network to be worth $100 billion while investors did not. Despite the little peak ($45 share) during the launch on May 18th 2012,  the Facebook share price has dropped from the opening price of $38 to about $28 this morning.

So, what went wrong?

Too high and optimistic expectations

First of all, let’s look at the numbers. There is an impressive quantity of users in Facebook and the social network has been predicted to reach billion users this year. But does it justify that Facebook was being valued at almost 100 times last year’s profits? This is much higher than tech companies Apple and Google, who in fact make much more money.

In addition to above, in February 2012 Facebook admitted that it did “not currently directly generate any meaningful revenue” from mobile even if more than 425 million monthly active users, representing 50% of the total MAUs, were utilizing its mobile products in December 2011. This has serious implications, which probably were not bypassed by the investors.

What comes to the launch itself, there were too many shares in the market. Also it did not help either that Facebook insiders, such as Facebook board member Peter Thiel, increased the amount of shares they wanted to sell. This raised suspicions – what did they know, that normal public did not?

Is it time to make Facebook users pay?

Facebook has launched a test in New Zealand to see whether it would be possible to make profit also with the users. According to CNET, the social media platform has recently tested out a new service that permits users to make their status updates more prominent in exchange for some money. The new service works like the premium ads to businesses. By paying $1.80 New Zealand dollars ($1.42 U.S. dollars), Facebook users can promote their status update and assure it remains in their friend’s news feed.

If this business model would result successful, Facebook could possibly make a nice profit and gain investors’ trust back. As the user’s friend base, likes, groups, and applications grow, user’s status updates are likely to get lost in the middle of it all. Facebook users also love friends’ “likes” and comments, especially if we are talking about top influencers, and sometimes they have something important to say that is worth highlighting, such as a lost mobile or an item on sale.

On the other hand, the hidden/not seen status updates are mainly caused by Facebook’s own features, issues and sorting algorithm, that sets up the top stories as default and makes everything very cluttered. It highlights stories such as the games people play, music they listen to, apps they use and articles they read – and do not forget to add the brand communications and ads on top. The social media platform has already been pushing its luck, and it is to be seen if this will provoke users to leave the site.

To be honest, I am interested to see how this works out and what users’ reaction will be. How important showing status update is for users? How much are they ready to pay to be “liked”? And if they are ready to pay to be “liked”, are they ready to pay to access the platform in the future? Maybe this is just the first step towards a Facebook membership fee.

Mobile Marketing Trends: Samsung Galaxy S III Launching First in Europe

May 7th, 2012 No comments

galaxy-s3-launch-europe“It sees us”,

Samsung representative, Galaxy S III London Launch

 

Samsung’s new Galaxy S III is smart … very smart. The mobile manufacturer unveiled last week in London the highly expected addition to its Galaxy S family, after creating a lot of hype around its launch. Even if the launch event itself was not as impressive as Nokia’s Lumia’s, the new Smartphone makes iPhone look a bit “old school”. Maybe the iPhone5 launch is so delayed, because Apple needs to reinvent phone’s features after each Android launch to seem innovative? Who knows…

Very Smart Mobile Technology

Besides its big screen size and 720p resolution, Samsung Galaxy III is differentiating itself from the competition with eye tracking capabilities. The technology called Smart Stay allows the front facing camera to monitor your eyes and know when you are looking at it. This allows the mobile not to “sleep” from inactivity if you are watching a film or reading an e-book, for example.

Other interesting smart feature called Direct Call is well adapted for real life. For example, if you are sending a SMS to someone, but decide it is actually simpler to give him a call, you can move the phone next to your ear to make a phone call to that number. With the Beam sharing function, that combines NFC technology with Wi-Fi Direct, you are able to share movies and music with other phones by simply tapping them. You can also throw content to TVs, as well as make the TVs mirror what is on your Smartphone screen.

The mobile device uses ‘S Voice,’ an advanced natural language user interface, to listen and responds to your words. You are able to use it to command the phone with only your voice to snooze, play songs, turn the volume up or down, send text messages and emails, organise your schedules, or take a photo. It is to be seen whether it understands the Scottish accent better than iPhone’s Siri.

Samsung Galaxy S III Launching First in Europe

Samsung announced that it will launch the 3G version of the Galaxy S III end of this month, and 4G version is arriving later this summer. Surprisingly the manufacturer has decided to launch first in Europe on 29th May, before launching in the North America in June. There has also been rumours that the phone would be launched before the USA also in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Interesting choice. One of the reasons might be the objective to strengthen Samsung presence in the other continents as it has a strong presence already in the USA.

According to IDC, the global sales for mobile devices (feature and Smartphones) increased 11.1% in 2011 compared with 2010 with Nokia leading with 27%, Samsung with 21.3%, Apple with 6%, and LG with 5.7% of the global mobile market share. The top device manufacturer by market penetration rather than sales is Nokia in Western Europe, Samsung in the US and Sharp in Japan.

Top mobile manufacturers, by market penetration, Q4 2010, according to ComScore (2/2011)
USA Japan Germany UK France Spain Italy
1 Samsung 24.8% Sharp 25.3% Nokia 33.1% Nokia 30.4% Samsung 34.1% Nokia 47% Nokia 47.4%
2 LG 20.9% Panasonic 15.0% Sony Ericsson 18.2% Samsung 19.4% Nokia 20.6% Samsung 15.3% Samsung 21.4%
3 Motorola 16.7% Fujitsu 11.7% Samsung 17.8% Sony Ericsson 13.7% Sony Ericsson 10.7% LG 10% LG 7.2%

What comes to only smartphones, according to IDC, also smartphone sales showed strong growth worldwide in 2011 the global sales growing 31.8% in 2011 compared with 2010, and Smartphones represented 31.8% of all handsets shipped. Samsung leads the way with 19.1% market share, Apple follows closely with 19%, Nokia is third with 15.7%, RIM with 10.9%, and HTC is fourth with 8.9%

Samsung Galaxy S III to conquer Europe?

It is an interesting phone with interesting features, but it does not seem world changing. It seems more like a refreshed version of their already successful model. However, as the company is planning pop-up stores across Europe to give customers the possibility to play with the Galaxy S III, I am hoping to see a stream of American tech tourists arriving to Europe to get it – just like we used to travel to the USA to get an iPhone.

And yes, I will be happy to go and play with the Galaxy S III as well.

Social Media Trends: Pinterest in Europe – Pin it or Bin it?

April 21st, 2012 No comments

Pinterest in EuropePinterest. Surprise, surprise – another new social network everyone talks about. There is a lot of hype around the platform, but is it really necessary to invest again money, time and resources in another social network?

Yes. There is actually a very good reason why Pinterest should not be ignored: the total number of global unique visitors in Pinterest increased 2,702.2% since May 2011 reaching 11,716,000 visitors by January 2012. It has 1,36 million visitors a day.

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is a social photo sharing network that allows people and brands to create image collections, Pinboards, based on their interests, hobbies, products, beliefs, humour, art, events and more. The idea is to connect people through the things they find interesting and get inspired by. Users are able to browse other users’ collections, re-pin images for their own Pinboard, follow other users, and like their photos. Pinterest allows users to share pins also on other social networks, which increases the social visibility.

Pinterest – user demographics and engagement

The average Pinterest user spends almost 16 minutes on the site per visit compared to 16.4 min. in Youtube, 12.1 min. in Facebook, and 3.3 min. in Twitter. Surprisingly, Pinterest provides more referral traffic to other sites than Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn combined together, and the apparel retailer referral traffic from Pinterest increased 289% between July and December 2011.

50% of the Pinterest users have children, almost 70% of Pinterest users are female, and 97% of Pinterest’s Facebook fans are women. Instead of teenagers and young adults, the platform seems to appeal most for the older age groups: largest age group is 25-34 year olds (27.4%) followed by 35-44 year old users (22.1%). Interestingly 45-54 year old users represent 17.9% of the user base, which is a high number compared to other social networks.

Pinterest in Europe

In Europe Pinterest has grown exponentially since May 2011 becoming the fastest growing social network. According to Comscore, in January 2012 the UK had the highest number of unique visitors in Europe (245,000), Germany had 67,000 unique visitors, and Spain had 62,000 unique visitors. What comes to the growth, from May 2011 to January 2012 Germany had the highest growth rate of 2956% in Pinterest, followed by Spain (1348%), and Italy (794%).

Pinterest statistics Europe 2012Even if the unique visitors decreased in France and the UK between December 2011 and January 2012, engagement on Pinterest increased by 1740% and 20%, respectively.

Is Pinterest worth investing?

Pinterest is currently the fastest growing social network in the US and Europe, and it is very interesting from a brand perspective. You have a possibility to target people according to their interests in real time without being their “friends”, provoke a stronger response with images as people are very visual, and obtain social recommendations when people “pin” or like your image. With a proper preparation, the social photo sharing platform may be very beneficial for sales,  and looking at the demographics, it is great especially if you are targeting women and more mature demographics.

How brands can use Pinterest? For example, ecommerce sites and brands can use Pinterest to pin their products (fashion, clothes, shoes, accessories, interior designs, household items, wedding items, baby products, etc), travel companies and hotels can pin location pictures, food manufacturers can pin beautiful dishes, pet food companies can pin cute animals, etc. etc. The list goes on, but as with other social networks stop and think before you start pinning. Pinterest has a lot of potential, but if not done properly the end result may not be what you expected. To be successful as a brand you need a proper Pinterest strategy to reach right people, and if you have a good strategy  – an image can be worth a thousand words.