AXA Creates QR Codes with Paint Pots

I have been somewhat damning of QR codes in the past. In principle I like them, but outside of Japan, most consumers aren’t interested. Marketers tend to think that the very code itself is interesting enough to create engagement. Generally that just isn’t the case. However, AXA Belgium have done something with QR that I believe is genuinely exciting enough to interest people. They have created a giant QR code using different coloured paint pots (the lids are effectively the pixels) and stuck them on a billboard. This is from the same company that previously did the ‘cracked pavement’ magazine and iPhone ad. Their theme is all about making 2011 their year of innovation; not a bad start. The only issue I have is that the QR simply goes to a mobile site and the URL is shown beneath it. Surely such an innovative use of QR should have a more innovative call to action?

The Problem with BlackBerry: still loosing sales to Android

The indications have been there for some time, but the rise and rise of Google’s Android seems to be at the expense of RIM’s BlackBerry. Whilst iPhone sales are slowly increasing, RIM is seeing its market share eroded. In an attempt to bring back their market share the Canadian company announced a number of new handsets (and launched their poorly received Play Book) at BlackBerry World this week. One interesting development was the announcement of an NFC enable BlackBerry Bold for contactless payments and ticketing. At the moment the handset has only been announced for the US users. The potential of NFC is significant and the fact that RIM are early to market in this technology could give them an advantage.

But are these handsets enough to increase BlackBerry’s position in the handset wars? Not according to Wall Street, with analysts predicting that the developments were little more than incremental and did nothing to deal with the underlying problem: good handsets but a poor operating system. The bottom line is that RIM are attempting to play catch-up by adding iPhone-like features. In a time when OS choices are driving smartphone adoption, Wall Street analysts claim that they are not addressing the ‘ineptness’ (as one analyst described it) of their operating system.

Although Blackberry was positioned primarily to the business market, their key success in the last few years has been BBM, their free, built-in messaging product. It has been widely adopted by teenagers in a similar way to the adoption of SMS ten years ago. Unfortunately young people are not the key demographic for success in the market. It’s the 25+ professionals (so, people with money) that are defining the iPhone and Android sales. Getting sales are not just about operating systems and great handsets, these days it’s also about app stores. Apple defined the market, but Android are rapidly catching up with iTunes. They already have more free apps, and the latest predictions show Android Market overtaking Apple’s offering the autumn. Does anyone buy a BlackBerry for the app store? Not very likely.

Privacy: Is This the Main Barrier for Mobile Marketing?

Concerned about phone privacy? Here's one solution.

It’s an issue that brands often ignore, but over the last few weeks privacy in mobile and online has been at the forefront of the news. We had Google storing WiFi location information, we’ve had Android and iPhone storing users’ location data and Sony’s hacking problems which saw over 100,000 users’ data compromised. In a recent poll by The Wall Street Journal nearly 50% of 8,000 respondents said they were ‘very concerned’ that Apple were tracking and storing location information. This was confirmed by a Nielsen study which found that 52% of men and 56% of women also had privacy concerns about their smartphones.

From Apple’s perspective this was not a deliberate attempt to access this information but rather a bug in the operating system, that has been updated in a version of the iOS 4.3.3 which has just been released. Apple are different to Google. The latter are very much in the business of selling advertising, and location-based information is useful to that end. Apple, however are basically in the business of selling devices, their OS and apps (iAd aside).

However, it is significant that such a large number of people should show concern about the storing of location information. The internet has posed a threat to individual privacy for many years, not least of which, privacy issues from social media. But when it comes to mobile phones the issue of privacy is even greater. Mobiles are the most personal devices that we have – we don’t share them and it’s often where our most personal of communications happen. When brands get involved with mobile they are entering into, perhaps the most personal space of all. The same sentiment was obvious in a slightly different context. When we carried out our messaging study (DMA/IAB 2010) issues such as trust and control were important factors for people to accept brand marketing on their mobile phones.

We are now seeing a rapid growth in mobile marketing and advertising. Whilst privacy policies offer some consumer protection, ultimately it is essential that brands go out of their way to ensure that they are projecting their customers’ information as well as they possibly can. For many people, they clearly don’t feel that is the case.

New £10 Tariff Gives Boost to Comic Relief Mobile Donations

Mobile Interactive Group has announced that this year’s comic relief raised over £15 million via text donations. The company ran the campaign in conjunction with Harvest Media Group on behalf of the charity. Comic relief has pioneered SMS donations and was the first charity to not pay VAT on them, as well as receiving 100% payout from the operators. Previously the maximum text donation was £5, but a new £10 SMS charge allowed the 4 million plus mobile donors to give more money.

Comic Relief is the UK charity which has seen by far the greatest success with text donations. This is largely due to their high profile TV event.

More on the donations here.

Keep Taking the Tablets: iPad and iPad magazine sales statistics

Update: Click here for the latest 2012 Tablet Stats here

2011 has been described as ‘the year of the tablet’ with numerous manufacturers entering the market. The latest entries come from Sony; one device has a 9.5inch screen and the other is a clam-shell design with two 5 inch screens. However, when it comes to tablet sales, Apple’s iPad still rules . When it comes to publishing, we were told that the iPad would change publishing for ever. So is that change happening?

Here is a run-down of the current state of the tablet market:

iPad Market Size

According to Apple, in March 2011 they had sold 15 million iPads in 9 months. Not bad at all. But compare that to the iPhone, which has sold around 100 million units in three years.

Predicted Tablet Sales

Total sales for 2011 – 28 million (UBS Research)

Total size of tablet market 2014 – 208 million (Gartner)

Tablet sales to represent 23% of all PC sales by 2014 (Forrester)

Portability: do you take your iPad when you go out?

Is the iPad just a big iPhone? It uses the same OS. You can make calls on it through Skype. So is it a big phone? Unfortunately not. What is it that defines a mobile phone these days? Given that most devices from PCs to tablets can all do very similar things, surely the difference is not in the functions but how it is used. These days we can define the mobile phone as the always there, always on device. It is also highly personal and not shared. Can we say the same for the iPad? Based on these stats from Comscore, it would appear not:

iPad Magazines

It is clear that many iPad users like reading magazines on their devices. The YouGov survey found that 51% of people prefer to read then on their iPad. However, this does not necessarily mean that magazines have found a new digital format. It is likely that many people buying iPads did so in order to read publications. And of course, whilst most of the population read print magazines, only a small number of people own an iPad. In the meantime publishers have been investing heavily in tablet versions of their magazines.

In September 2010, UK MD of Conde Naste said:

“I would expect 70% of our sales to come from print and 30%, or even 40%, to come from products such as the iPad”.

But how does this stack up against the reality? Take Wired. If there was any magazine made for the iPad, this has to be it. The first issue sales in June 2010 were very good, but by December 2010 it was less that a quarter of the launch issue:

Wired Magazine in Ipad
– Launch (June 2010) 100,000
– July Issue 34,000
– Dec Issue 22,000

Other magazines have fared less well:

Average iPad Monthly Paid Magazine Sales
Vanity Fair – 8700
GQ – 11,000
People Magazine – 10,000 (weekly)
Glamour – 2,270
Men’s Health – 2,000

These figures represent between 1% and 7% of their print circulation, some way off the 30-40% that Conde Naste were hoping for.

Click here for a complete list of UK iPad publications as of Feb 2011

So, it would appear that rather than seeing tablet-based sales increasing steadily, the reverse is happening. They are falling and appear to be something of a niche product. There has been no study published into why people are not reading iPad magazines, but you only have to read some of the discussions on sites like Quora,  to find that the general view is that the subscription model is not attractive enough. In spite of some preference amongst iPad owners to read on their device, on the whole people do not value digital magazines in the same way they value print ones. This is a similar problem that Rupert Murdoch is finding; it’s not easy to monitise digital content through pay walls and subscriptions.

There are other problems as well. From the publisher perspective the 30% paid to Apple is a barrier to selling subscriptions via iTunes:

However, it’s not just about cost. Many iPad magazines are available either for a one-off download cost or at less then the print subscription. Whilst some iPad users enjoy reading magazines on their device, the problem is that many still don’t. Comscore tell us that for iPad owners the preference is as follows:

Besides the subscription model, part of this seems to be that many magazines simply fail to engage the user well on tablet devices. Whilst it costs almost nothing to create a pdf and punt it out via the app store, this is not the kind of experience that users want. Below are some examples of a more engaging approach to the tablet-based magazine:

 Cool iPad Magazine Apps

SPIN Magazine
Letter to Jane
Post Matter
Financial Times
The Economist
ANWB Stedenspecial

What is the Future for the iPad and Tablet Devices?

Apple has a history of creating and defining markets, so it would seem that their aim to change publishing for ever is quite achievable. What’s more, the investment by almost every PC and phone manufacturer to create their own tablet suggests that there is a large market. However, I think that could be optimistic. Whilst everyone wants or has a phone, not everyone wants a tablet. Far from it. Those that do own those devices are not necessarily interested in reading magazines and books on it. And of those that want a magazine, even fewer are prepared to pay for a subscription. In the end the market is really not very big.

However, the underlying problem for tablets is simply this: it’s a temporary technology. A stop-gap. True, ultimately all technology is temporary, but it would be safe to say we will always have some kind of device akin to our mobile phone. The same cannot be said about the tablet. It largely exists to fill the gap whilst phone technology catches up. There are many past examples of temporary technology. Take the PDA for example. Who carries a separate electronic diary, address book, note-pad with them any more? That function has been subsumed into the smartphone. With better input such as gesture and voice control, navigating the small mobile screen will become much easier. Surely the phone screen is too small to replace a tablet device, I hear you ask? True, but in the future mobile screens will be expandable. You just pull it out to make it bigger. Sounds impossible? Well Sony have already developed a screen that can be rolled around a pencil and pulled out when you need it bigger. The military also have similar devices. Perhaps the best vision of the future of mobiles comes from this video:

Random iPad Fact

A YouGov study in the UK found that 21% of men and 12% of women read their iPad on the toilet.
Those with iPads use their computers 39% of the time less than before.

More here: