Ted Simon Says

Marketing blog offering insights on brands, strategy, social media, technology, innovation and new products.

Unlocking a Better Deal for Consumers?

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I came across a very interesting Quartz blog post on T-Mobile’s move to unlock iPhones. T-Mobile will start selling iPhones at full price, but consumers will not be required to lock into a two-year deal as they currently must do with other carriers. The author's pov: this shift in the competitive pricing model landscape could transform how Apple does business here in the US.

It made me stop for just a marketing minute to think about the implications.

The theory: increased transparency will result in better consumer understanding of the true costs and value of options, thereby leading to greater diversity and choice for consumers. This would strike both the handsets themselves as well as pricing models. Apple's premium price point vs. Android handsets would become more apparent to consumers. That could dramatically shift the Apple v. Android battlefield, not to mention carrier battles on the service plan front. To make his case, the author points to India's mobile market where fierce competition drives data plans as low as $2 per month. Yes, you read that right...two dollars. 

As a die-hard consumerist, I'd love to see market forces break down the oligarchical market of telco and create more, better choices for people. More product options and innovation at lower prices. More service plan alternatives at lower prices. I don't know about you, but I'd love to have a phone service data plan better suited to my needs and use than the one I currently have to utilize.

This might make it tougher for certain companies to maintain their stranglehold on market share, but IMO it would be better for the consumer. What do you think?

The Lure of the Measurable: Why Social Strategies Fail

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Charlene Li of Altimeter is one of the smartest people on the planet, especially when it comes to the world of social. Once again, she's nailed it. In her recent post: Why Most Social Strategies Fail, Charlene highlights the key issues underlying where most companies come up short, namely failing to create coherent social business strategy. She points out that while many companies have a series of tactics, those tactics all too often are not guided by a set of clear business objectives. In fact, in many cases there is no strategy, just a series of tactics without a clear goal or purpose.

Ted Simon Says: Hal-le-LOO-yah! I couldn't have put it better myself and only wish I had.

Tactics Over Strategy

It's been my observation and experience that this "tactics before/instead of strategy" issue has been growing steadily over the past 15-20 years. Not coincidentally, that mirrors the growth of the development of the Internet and digital marketing.

We all know how helpful it's been to utilize the measurability of the digital channel to inform our marketing efforts. However, there is also the downside of overdoing this practice. In this period, I've seen many marketing and business leaders falling prey to what I call, "the lure of the measurable."

The Lure of the Measurable

In the digital marketing and business world so many activities are measurable via the vast array of tools that have developed that they replace strategic thinking with executing their way to success. In many cases, upfront strategic thinking and planning have been replaced by a business culture nurtured on testing tactics, selecting the best performers and iterating up the performance ladder. This mentality has clearly spilled into the world of social as well.

A wise colleague once told me: "You can't A/B test your way to success with a flawed strategy." That pretty much sums up the issue of tactics before/instead of strategy in my mind.

So, how about you? Do you have a clear business strategy guiding your social tactics, or do you have it the other way around?


Ted Simon Says...

Below are some older posts and musings from my previous blog, Just a Marketing Minute, where I offer observations on marketing, brands, business strategy, social media, technology...and other relevant items of interest.

Twitter - It's all about ART

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I came across a helpful tips post today in Marketing Profs entitled "Creative Ways to Use Twitter for Business." It's a shortened version of this post from Social Media Examiner, "16 Creative Ways to Use Twitter for Business." I love to share practical tips, or what I call "news you can use," with friends and colleagues, and I'm happy to share these two posts. Good stuff.

While there are a number of good tactical tips in these posts, there was something important missing. Tips like "use a picture" and "create a custom brand-reinforcing background" are great and helpful, but if you don't get the fundamentals right then all the tactical wallpapering you do will ring hollow, fall on deaf ears...pick a oft-used phrase of your choice; you get the idea. 

Remember Your Fundamentals
I took just a marketing minute to reflect on this and came to a simple conclusion. Bottom line, if you're going to utilize Twitter as part of your marketing mix for your brand, then you need to keep in mind this content rule of thumb: to boost your brand, influence, followers, impact, etc. you need to provide or add value. 

Right...I know...this is not anything radical. Fundamentals rarely are. I understand...it's been said before. Fundamentals usuallyare repeated many times (that's core to them being "fundamental"). I might add that they typically bear repeating as well because they are, well, fundamental...and important.

I'm going to offer up three key tips, news you can use, on how to achieve this fundamental goal. Keep this mnemonic in mind: It's all about ART. To provide value or add value, you should strive to be:

  • Authentic - The ultimate rule of social. Phonies and posers are sorted out in short order, so be true to yourself, your brand, or however you define your purpose.  
  • Relevant - Tweet, share and respond to topics that further the conversation with which YOU want to be associated. 
  • Timely - Offer your comments, information, observations on matters that are current, meaningful and provided in time to add value to the conversation.

If you can keep this mnemonic in mind and follow those three guidelines, you'll find that you are soon on your way to turning Twitter into a powerful tool for building your brand, your company, customer loyalty...not to mention all of you out there trying to build your own personal brands. And, when put in the context of ART, all those other Twitter tips will work that much harder on your behalf.


Good Ideas are Necessary...but Not Enough

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Yesterday’s big headline from Dean Takahashi’s GamesBeat column read:   Cloud-gaming service OnLive reveals details behind its asset sale and new investor

Translation, OnLive just went kaplooie. Or, to state it more accurately, the company sold all its assets, trademarks, IP and toilet paper to a new company (not named) who will continue to run the service under the OnLive brand. All employees were let go (although half received job offers from the new operation), all shares and equity were essentially worthless. If that’s not kaplooie, it’s pretty close.

A Great Idea
I remember feeling very excited when I first heard about OnLive’s cloud-based gaming service when it came out of stealth mode in 2009. Incubated for a number of years by high profile serial entrepreneur Steve Perlman, this looked to have all the makings of success, including that OnLive

  • Was on the forefront of leading technology trends (in this case, cloud-based applications) 
  • Was disrupting a large and potentially lucrative market – the $50 Billion games industry (that’s the way to attract users, investment and carve out revenue) 
  • Had sex appeal  - see above, plus don’t underestimate the value of high profile founders, leaders and investors

I viewed OnLive as a terrific product idea and consumer proposition. I thought it was a game changer and watched it with high hopes and best wishes. I believed in their model and was rooting for them to be successful.

What Happened…?
I’m not close to the situation, so I really don’t know what happened, especially in terms of how the company went about managing itself, marketed its services, etc. But, if I had spent Just a Marketing Minute thinking about potential issues and challenges, maybe I would have been more careful in how much koolaid I consumed. 

Now, with the advantage of hindsight, here are some fundamental market factors that likely contributed to OnLive’s demise:

  • Supply Issues – OnLive relied on game companies for content, and they just did not have many good games (at least not the AAA titles). In games, as in any form of entertainment, content is king. I’m pretty sure that major companies were cautious about providing their precious content to be delivered through this new service out of concern that they would be shooting themselves in the foot. Making your top tier entertainment IP available through a service that might disrupt your business…well, that line of thinking can be scary in a hits driven business. That’s closely related to…
  • Channel Issues – OnLive offered a new channel of distribution for game companies to get IP into the hands of gamers. Ironically, that may have actually been a key part of the issue from the industry’s side; companies were (and mostly still are) wed to the retail distribution of hard goods, i.e., game disks sold through stores. Fear of “upsetting the channel” likely froze many company executives in their tracks when OnLive came a-knockin’.
  • Competitive Issues - Given the proliferation of cloud-based, digitally delivered technology capabilities, many companies have chosen to essentially do what OnLive proposed to do, but do so themselves (thereby saving the middleman fee). Whether it was developing online distribution on their own or white-labeling services such as Gakai, OnLive’s potential customers essentially became potential competitors.

If We Build It, They Will Come…Not
Finally, as a marketer, I can’t forget about the consumer issues, in particular consumer need/demand and the ability to change or alter entrenched behaviors.

Being first to market is usually a good thing…except when consumers are not ready or interested. In that instance, being first to the party is like going to a party where not many people show up…it’s kind of lonely.

Most gamers already have entrenched habits and plenty of options for playing their games (Xbox, Playstation, Wii, computers, mobile devices…). The promise of “instantaneous access” may have been a solution to a problem that was, well, not such a big issue for gamers, especially when you consider the above noted factors: a) they couldn’t get their favorite games through OnLive and b) other companies were making their favorite games available either offline or via digital distribution (e.g., via Xbox Live). Net: OnLive may have been “solving” a non-problem.

I still believe the concept of games that are delivered digitally, reducing the friction for the consumer, is a great idea. It not only will disrupt the games industry, but IS disrupting the industry today. That’s why I see so much potential in free-to-play, digital content. So, OnLive had a great idea and was early to the party.

But, in the end, the countervailing market factors seem to have won out. Which goes to show you -- some time good ideas, while necessary, are not enough if you don’t recognize your potential challenges and properly address the prevailing market dynamics.

What do you think?