Palm Pre vs iphone: it helps to be a cool brand

Many people (well those who didn’t like Apple) were pinning their hopes on the Palm Pre offering a smartphone that would rival the iphone.
However, after a few short months, Palm have slashed the price in the US and there are rumours (depending on who you believe) that their are lay-offs at Palm.

The reviews certainly gave the palm a glowing report. However it has failed to ignite the public’s imagination. This is a similar echo to that of the ipod … there were (arguably) better music players out there, but the ipod became ubiquitous due to a combination of styling and user interface.

And that’s the point. What counts as better? Having used (and lost) the Google Phone (G1), it has better functionality than the iphone in many ways. But, it’s user interface doesn’t look as nice, and the handset itself looks kind of cheap. Apple have always known how to style their products, and user interface has always been their forte.

When it comes to phones, there’s no doubt that style and form win out over pure functionality or power. You only have to look at the best selling phone in 2005, the Motorola Razar. It’s usability was terrible (try downloading and adding a ring tone), but people loved it because it was slim and came in hot pink.

The reason is simple. Phones are also about identity. They are as much (if not more) of a statement about ourselves than the clothes we wear or the car we drive. And Apple and the iphone is a cool brand. So, maybe their competitors should spend less time on the technology and focus on becoming a cool brand.

iphone app usage and demographics

Update: see latest blog on iphone sales figures 2009. A case of some dodgy maths?

I have been happily quoting a statistic about iphone usage revealed by comScore that 70% of iphone users in the UK and some European countries are men. However I am finding myself in an interesting situation. I am beginning to feel that the annecdotal evidence doesn’t support this fact.

I was running a seminar for the Institute of Direct Marketing yesterday, and 1/3rd of the audience had an iphone. All women. But it’s not just that one seminar. I see it with my friends, and I see it on the street and the bus. Women like the iphone! And it’s fair enough. I don’t see the iphone as marketed specifically for men, nor is it the kind of techie gadget that will appeal to just they boys.

The sales of iphones are so rapid that it could be the demographic is simply changing quickly and the previous research is out of date. It will be interesting to see what the next report on iphone usage show us.9

Mobile Research into Spam SMS

Finally, after some weeks of writing and designing, or mobile research study into Spam SMS is published.

The study reveals some interesting things:
90% of respondents had received mobile marketing messages
68% of people have received unsolicted text messages
34% of people would complain to their operator about it
53% would like to choose the time of day to receive messages
66% think that clicking a link in a spam SMS will make a charge to their phone bill

That’s the downside from a marketing point of view, but it also revealed some positive things:
62% of people did not thing that Mobile Spam was on the increase
55% of people were happy to accept marketing messages where there were offers from specifically opted in companies

In short, it would seem that most people have a narrow permission spectrum when it comes to mobile marketing: most people are happy to get messages but only where they are offers that they have specifically asked for. However, stepping over that line means that messages may just be regarded as spam. And in the world of mobile, where things are highly personal, that means damaging the reputation of a brand.

Click here to download the Mobile Research into Spam SMS

It’s still all about iphone Apps

Speaking to prospective clients about marketing campaigns, the focus is still very much on iphone apps. To some extent it is the inevitable fact that these apps can be exciting, add functionality and best of all, they gain external PR.
I was recently approched by a luxury brand, who wanted to make a mobile offering. As usual, I outlined the options, form SMS to mobile web. I pointed out that most of their clients were Blackberry users (who represent nearly double the number of iphone users) and that the Blackberry App may be the best way forward. And guess what? They still want the iphone App.

The iphone demographics suggested that over 70% are men. Shame really as most of the decision makers/buyers in the luxury goods market (even men’s products) are women. And 90% of apps are opened once or never at all!

Ultimately I guess for a brand it’s all about impressing people. It would seem that an iphone app is the best way to do that.

Making Mobile Marketing Work

In my DMA role, we ran an event on Tuesday called ‘Making Mobile Marketing Work’. The aim was to be very practical and present case studies that shows how mobile marketing can work successfully for brands.
We were very fortunate that we had four excellent presentations from brands all covering different areas of mobile marketing. There were quite a few note worthy points that came out of the day:

Along with some data from their Exposure 2 study, Steve Ricketts, the Orange speaker mentioned a number of really interesting campaigns. Orange Weds, the two for one cinema offer is perhaps one of the best known campaigns in the UK. An interesting result though has been that Wednesdays has gone from being the quietest day for cinema attendance to the second busiest (after Saturday), thanks in part to the Orange Weds programme. A great example of an offer and voucher scheme for mobile.

In many ways, Marks and Spencers were the star of the show, and provide a great example of how brands can implement mobile. M&S has a pretty traditional customer base, many of them represented by women over 50. They took the approach of starting small and working up from there. Vouchering for their Back to School campaign, and offers such as Eat In for £10 have been very successful mobile campaigns for them.
They have just started putting QR (well technically 2D barcodes) on their juice packs which go to the M&S mobile site. This is quite significant for M&S, as they are getting their customers to download and get used to the idea of QR. It means they can introduce more sophisticated campaigns using that technology.

This is the digital communication section of the UK Government covering every aspect of health, transport, taxation etc. When it comes to mobile marketing, it is a nice surprise to see the government actually leading the way. In particular, their mobile site is highly functional and well produced.

The homeless and housing charity did a brief presentation on how they have used mobile as a means to retain direct debit donors. Although not an entirely new idea, it works well for Shelter. Their focus was to send the donors positive messages about the way their contributions have helped particular individuals. The result was a much higher level of direct debit uptake.

I summed up the workshop, and noted that a few clear themes came out of the session:
Mobile is very personal so marketing must be highly relevant.
It needs to be innovative, interactive and work across all channels, not just mobile.
And above all, there must be TRUST.

I also warned brands not to get too hung up on ROI. Looking at the experience of the brands like M&S, Orange and COI, they focussed on developing their mobile marketing first. Experimenting and finding out what works. The ROI will follow on from that.

Finally to echo something that Sienne Veit from M&S said, don’t worry if your customers are ready for mobile marketing. Your customers are already there. The question to brands is ‘are you on mobile’?