“Hello” is adding fuel to the “Fire”

“Hello” is an innovative feature in Firefox, that is adding more elements of competition in the browser market lately. The leading browsers—Chrome, Firefox and Opera—have their own differentiation propositions (Safari for Apple users alike). In fact, these browsers appear to be running out of unique ammunition in their arsenals. All of them claimed to be hello2concerned about speed, privacy and user-friendliness. Now it is time to offer something unique that others are not offering. Chrome started offering “music streaming” in the browser. Firefox started “Hello”—an innovative app to make free video calls and chats inside the browser, without downloading or installing any further application. Not to mention the loads of extensions and plugins that one can use to customize whatever browser one is using.

Could this be the Firefox’s answer to Microsoft’s browser-based Skype plugin? It looks like there is much going on in adding bells and whistles for browsers to compete with each other. Now it is time to see how users react to these frills offered by these competitors.

(Firefox Hello image credit: http://mozilla.org)


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Failure by Design

Expert marketers may oftentimes skim your marketing plan and can tell you the prospect of its success at the end. It is possible because professionals handled similar situations in their lives, and can do a good guesswork of forecasting failures. Why not encourage risk-taking leading to failures? Learning from failures is good, but nobody wants to ensure that you fail at the end willingly. This is where lies the inept program design that is doomed to fail.

Cutting corners while preparing advertising budget could be the biggest candidate for future failure by design. Lowering product quality could cut down cost and increase profit, but only at the cost of losing customers’ loyalty. Losing a key executive might save you few bucks at the end, costing long-term creativity in your marketing strategy. Let’s not forget the loss of relationship based assets in this process. Insufficient distribution plan could cost you market share. In a nutshell, failure by design is about “cutting corners” when you need to create sharp edges to push your boundary. It is about preparing a product to fail after hard work, which could easily be avoided by preparing sharp edges, and not cutting corners.

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What are the aftermaths of death of a celebrity in entertainment industry?

The title may not be appropriate, the content may even be considered pathetic! But the fact remains that profit opportunities open up for entertainment industry as celebrities die, mostly for singers and actors.

Mourning by fans is natural, as it is by other celebrities in the industry. The continuous media vigil for a few days spikes the personal brand recall by fans. In the process, new fans could be created who used to hate him/her, and less loyal ones might suddenly become hard-core loyal because of compassion and sorrows. It is about being human at the end of the day, isn’t it?

Here comes the industry that has to make a living by aligning with viewers and fans to keep their revenues flowing. It is about meeting customers’ demands, getting along with the market trend, that is. We already know that Michael Jackson “earned” over US$ 1 billion since his death. In addition, over 50 shows were cancelled all over the world, and ribbon-blackfans did not want a refund because they wanted to keep the tickets as souvenirs. What happened to Prince’s albums lately? Currently, in Amazon’s digital music store, 19 of the 20 best-selling albums as of April 22, 2016, belong to Prince. The 20th place goes to Chris Stapleton’s “Traveller”. The top-seller appears to be the album “The Very Best of Prince”, followed by the “Purple Rain” and “Sign O’ The Times”. Same happened to Robin William movies after he committed suicide in 2014. The top 12 DVDs at amazon.com consisted of Robin William movies that hardly saw any place in the top-50-list before the event. There was also a surge in piracy as amazon.com was not able to offer a variety of older movies, thus peer-to-peer “experts” showered Robin’s fans with torrents!

There are other socio-psychological consequences as well, particularly when celebrities commit suicide or face unnatural deaths. In 2014, the suicide helpline (a free counseling line for those who feel like to suicide, but seek professional counseling) was flooded with calls from people who wanted to do it, most likely triggered by the news of Robin William’s suicide at that time. Real fans, whoa!

So the next time we face another sad event, industry needs to be ready with enough supplies to meet the market demand. Death of a celebrity may not mean the death of business.

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Should we take funny facebook quizzes?

Who thinks that you are cute; find out who is your best friend in facebook; find out your real personality; which of the famous actress do you look like? Who is your secret admirer? – facebookers want to know the answers to these funny questions, even for the purpose of just having fun no matter whether the answers are scientifically true or not. In a world of stress and monotony, facebook gives us a window to breathe out these bold questions, not that we really believe that the answers would be correct.

But wait, most of these quizzes are run by third party apps that require a number of permissions like access to your friends’ lists, their posts, your profile information, permission to send you emails, and many other permissions in fine prints that we often ignore and click “yes” to get the right answer without any delay. Of course, they have privacy policy written in fine prints. However, in a virtual world, how do you ensure that nobody is playing around with these policies to make an extra buck? These apps are wonderful tools for their developers to collect profile information and make a “network” database of grouping people based on their background and usage behavior. Most apps will leave cookies and permission intact even after you stop using them, just to keep tracking your online usage behavior.

The question is, isn’t facebook already doing this? The answer is yes, but these apps are run by third parties and there is reasonable doubt whether they would be as careful as facebook in not annoying their clients by selling these profile information to unscrupulous fourth parties, or even to the fifth or sixth parties, where you see more and more spam status and emails after several days of using these apps.

So what would you do if you already have used such apps? You may still continue using these apps at your own risk, just like we are using internet knowing all the risks of viruses and what not! Panic should not take over our joys. Alternatively, you may go to your app setting, and deny/stop the permission that is already given. You may also “report” apps to facebook if you think the app is violating its privacy policies. Wish you a happy facebooking!

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A watch that disconnects you from time

We often talk about brand promises, something that a brand needs to fulfill to satisfy customer expectations. So what does a wrist-watch promise to you? It is a stylish, accurate time keeping machine, isn’t it? How about Hautlence’s Playground Labyrinth? A wrist-watch that is NOT designed to show you time. It is for something else; it is appealing to your need to take your “time off” and be yourself.

Hautlence has been a luxury Swiss watch maker since 2004. The company is well-known for its eccentric and rule-breaking designs for its time pieces. The Playground Labyrinth model actually contains a miniaturized mechanical maze game that places a platinum ball inside the watch, with which people can play around like a labyrinth game. The whole idea of this watch is not to show you time, but to let you take your time off and enjoy being yourself.

The brand is being promoted as a “useless yet entirely essential object”. As Reginelli, the Hautleco-founder explained, labyrinth was an old game that people played in their childhood— so the wrist-watch is a throwback to the good-old time when we were young and cheerful, and let our imaginations ran wild and disconnected ourselves from the world. So what Hautlence is presenting here is a new vision of time that doesn’t show the time, so that people can disconnect and embrace this dimension where they decide what they want to do.

The price is around 9,000 British Pounds per piece, and only 36 pieces are offered for sale. Surely it’s a great collector’s item, and a superb example of branding to the extreme.

. (photo credit: http://www.hautlence.com)

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Political Journey of Coke

Coke, one of the consistently ranked top brands in the world, has more political history than we know of today. After being invented in 1886 in Atlanta by a pharmacist, the drink grew in popularity for its unique taste and color. The first sign of its globalization was visible in 1906, when Cuba, Panama and Canada became the first overseas bottlers of the drink. However, Coca Cola closed-off their Cuba plant in the ‘60s and never returned until today. The first Asian plant was set up in the Phillippines in 1912. The growth continued for the next two decades, where over 25 countries were bottling this brand by 1930. However, the golden boost came in during the World War II, when US troops and allied soldiers were given Coca Cola, supported by over 60 military-controlled production plants around the world. The civilian consumers, of course, were able to get a taste of it as a spillover effect of military consumption. Gradually, it became a powerful symbol of American dream and a sign of freedom.

Well, not everybody would agree with this symbolic meaning though. During the ‘50s, French protesters thought Coke as a threat to the French society (via the influence of coke1anything American), and the mob on streets smashed trucks loaded with Coke. During the cold-war period between the USA and the former USSR, Coke was not sold in the USSR fearing that the communist regime would enjoy the profits to fund their agenda against the USA. Pepsi, perhaps, was smarter by taking the opportunity and captured the Russian market! Over time, Coke almost became a symbol of freedom to pro-Americans, whereas it evolved as a symbolic difference between “gnawing capitalism” and “equitable socialism” to pro-Russians. In the Arab-Israel conflict that spurred at different points of time in the history, the general consumers on the Arab side would first call of boycotting products made by the USA or Israel, and Coke was probably the first brand to be named (making it a more sought-after brand after all these days of habitual consumption!).

Another side of Coke’s political journey has been associated with the US foreign policy as well. There are certain countries on which the USA has various types of embargoes, mostly of trade embargoes. Among these countries, three countries may be mentioned where one may not legally find Coke due to trade restrictions on American companies. They are Myanmar, North Korea and Cuba. Myanmar could not legally import or bottle coke since the embargo was in place from 1962 to 2011. Recently, the trade embargo has been lifted after the general election resulted in the establishment of a civilian government. So Myanmar consumers now can enjoy both the democracy and Coke(?).

Now it would be interesting to see how Coke’s next political journey would fare with North Korea and Cuba.


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Are Facebook videos hurting Youtube’s business?

From business perspective, the answer is a definitive “yes”. Is the difference dominantly visible in users’ eyes? May not be so, or it may be too early to tell. Here are some interesting stats (from socialbakers.com), summarized for easy digestion for common readers:

  • Youtube is still the dominant platform for sharing videos, and its growth in terms of sharing videos is expected to be up in coming years.
  • Photos are still the dominant sharing option in Facebook, whereas videos constitute about 5% of Facebook contents.
  • However, Facebook surpassed the engagement and sharing ratios for Facebook videos as compared to Youtube videos. Youtube videos draw less comments and engagement than Facebook.
  • Here is the headline news: Many advertisers and brands have stopped sharing Youtube videos in Facebook, rather they are sharing videos directly in Facebook. By doing so, brands are drawing-in more fans than they could do so in Youtube. Really a bad news for future Youtube revenues.
  • Brands are still having their own channels and videos in Youtube, but viewership is going to be affected. We need to wait and see what brands will do with two channels of video sharing options, whether Youtube will be used for more elaboration or demonstration purposes and Facebook for stunning promotion only? Really an upcoming PR challenge for brands.
  • It is expected that general public will still be uploading non-commercial videos on Youtube, therefore, the relevance may not be lost in general. However, Facebook is a strong commercial contestant which would be a major source of Youtube’s headache.

Here are my two cents. Facebook’s video sharing is still at an experimental stage. The traditional positioning of Facebook being a social platform of interaction is a strong proposition as long as it is the dominant platform in its category. Sharing too much commercial videos apart from users’ own “status” videos might hurt its classic positioning, unless it is controlled by user-fed choice algorithm that goes on in the background of such social giants (make no mistake about it). On the other hand, occasional exposure of “controlled” videos is not annoying. For example, have you noticed the muted sound “by default” in Facebook videos? This is the kind of caution that must go behind every experimental stage of shifting focus of a successful brand. Soon, Facebook will know us better about our liking and disliking based on our huge database of video watching habits that they will collect at their data centers.  So this is not our headache as users anymore, let Youtube have it this time!

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Gender-type products and branding

Genders-specificity has significant meaning in marketing. In many cases, the brand personality depends on it. Typically, we still associate a doll and a football with girls and boys respectively. But there are many products that are out of this classification, kind of gender-neutral. How about a laptop? Does a bottle of water have gender association? Most likely not.

However, marketers see opportunities where others don’t. How about making a gender connection to a gender-neutral product? For example, in many cultures, pink is perceived pink_laptopas a “female” biased color. How about making a pink laptop and transform its gender neutrality? Such a change may make certain segments of female customers to crave for these laptops. In fact, Google Trend shows that “HP pink laptop” is the most searched word among “pink laptop” brands. There are other “pink” words that are associated with these searches, although it may not necessarily imply that all of them were done by female consumers. Interestingly, many people searched for “pink elephants” as well. Most likely inspired by Disney’s Dumbo? No wonder marketers have better tools today to know what you are thinking!

Do you think such transformation will always contribute to a brand’s strength?

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Three challenges in E-branding

E-branding could be seen as an extended part of general brand management with some extended characteristics typical to online environment. Therefore, what we know about brand management is also applicable in e-branding, with the difference that the modus operandi, situational factors and customers’ issues could be different. Based on past research and consumer experiences, there could be three key challenges that we need to face when managing e-branding efforts. These are: managing off-line branding, managing online reputation (consists of managing online community, word of “mouse”, and online credibility), and adoption of technology and design. In fact, these three factors are critically interconnected to each other.

First, we often forget the fact that offline branding acts as a backbone for online branding. It matters a lot how offline advertising, pricing and distribution are designed for efficiency. It matters how the product delivers its promise to actual customers to create an offline reputation that will ultimately be reflected in online messages. Think of Apple. Its online reputation is backed by its core product features and offline services.

Second, managing online reputation is a huge challenge. Consumers may have some negative experiences which can have quick and devastating effects on potential customers, even though the percentage of faults may Emailbe meager. It matters how quickly the complaints and redress requests are taken care of. Trust is another factor in online environment. Customers need to know that their personal information, including credit cards will not be abused. Flood of spam emails after buying something online may indicate that the company has sold your email address to advertisers, of course, with your inadvertent consent written under “agree” button in fine prints that we hardly read. How careful is the company in sending a quality product, on time, and as advertised in their websites?

Online community is another front that company should take care of. Product enthusiasts write blogs, comment on facebook, or even write opinions in company’s facebook page. The e-branding plan must spell a interntclear strategy on how these online communities will be managed and engaged effectively. Well-managed and engaged online communities offer three unique advantages to companies. These online forums provide valuable feedback on customer experience, brilliant improvement ideas may come from customers, and customers often help other customers to solve product related problems. Canon camera blogs could be excellent examples where users provide help to other users in their product/photography problems. Some brands tend to have only online presence and almost no consumer engagement (look at the facebook page of Batabd). Mere online presence and no interaction with consumers are synonymous to online notice boards! This is not what e-branding is all about. In contrast, the facebook page of Banglalink Mela could be a good engaging example. Ultimately, employing PR professionals in handling online communities may save money and reputation for the company in the long-run. This is not an easy or trifle job that a company may overlook, underemphasize or underfund.

Third, the technical backbone, particularly security and user-friendly web-design have great impact on online branding. Is your infrastructure geared to handle the peak number of visitors? How secure is it from online threats and information leaks? Do customers feel comfortable to navigate and get all the information they need? In addition, the online environment neither has a front-desk executive, nor any sales person that approaches you for a sale. The web-design serves these difficult roles at the same time! A well-thought-out design is imperative besides offline branding and a vibrant online community.

These challenges are not easy to handle at the same time, when they are blurred by many smaller challenges as well. These tasks cannot be handled by only IT professionals or brand professionals alone. It needs cohesive and comprehensive teamwork under a common e-branding plan. After all, putting up a facebook page like a notice-board is not e-branding.

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