September 2007

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Wild Ride

My day job is director of marketing at Zude, a social computing company that has developed a drag-and-drop interface which makes it easy for beginners, intermediates and experts to build websites.  Just as the iPhone is much, much more than a phone, Zude allows users to build much, much more than websites — but for the purpose of context, let’s just say that’s our business.
What is exciting about Zude is that it will open up social computing (social networking grown up) to a whole new class of user. Similar to the video gaming industry which is reporting that its market is moving beyond hardcore users — thanks to the Wii and Nintendo DS — we at Zude feel teens and adults who have not been bitten by the MySpace and Facebook bug will jump on board when they see how easy it is to have their own online presence.
People still ask me about my Prius “How do you like it?” My smiley response is always “It’s a car and it gets 50 miles to the gallon. What’s not to like?” Now that everyone can build a website simply by typing and dragging and dropping objects, I once again ask “What’s not to like?”
Everyone will have their own website. You know it. I know it. It’s a matter of time.
And as the intermediates and experts also embrace this drag-and-drop technology and see how its impact will change the market, we will really be in for a wild ride. (Independent Facebook developers, are you listening?)

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I have long been a supporter of Steve Jobs and Apple. With their market-changing introduction of the iPod, I really jumped on board, but this whole pricing debacle with the iPhone was foreseeable…and avoidable.

Everybody knew the price was going to drop, but to do it so soon after launch sent a couple of really stupid messages to the market. The first messages, reported by the business press, was “Apple earnings must be off for such a reactive price drop.”  The second message, this one to Apple’s most passionate and loyal fans was “If you stood on line for days, were among the first to buy an iPhones and then ran around doing free demos for all your friends, you were a sap.”
This was a no-brainer. Everyone in the world expected the price cut to happen prior to the Christmas/Chanukah holidays, but Labor Day? Someone was out to lunch on that decision.

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How low can you go?

Pepsi and Coke are fierce competitors in the next wave of non-carbonated drinks. The full product lines are rich and complex starting with soda at one end, moving down through the diet sodas and enriched waters ending at plain water. In between are various shades and flavors. The problem here is that people are going to realize at some point that water is free and as we move down the food chain from soda to water — with less everything – it’s getting a little silly. It just doesn’t make sense to pay for water.

That said, could there be a water product in our future where the bottle is half full? Half water, half air? Mountain air! I think I’m on to something here.

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MTV is showing its crow’s feet. Those are wrinkles around the eyes for you younger readers. Here’s a franchise that blazed new trails in music, thanks to video, and has now lost much relevance. They are into many, many things today: cable TV programming, video games, movies, online portal content — I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a consumer food product in there somewhere.

The MTV Awards has been flagging in viewership the last few years and this is their biggest chance each year to be relevant. And relevant in a core business way.

Some say MVT has lost touch with kids’ media consumption habits, missing the boat in online video and social networking. I completely agree. As TV and computer morph together, you have to know that MTV wasn’t paying close attention.   MySpace became the online venue of choice for small and mid-size bands. YouTube became the purveyor of online videos. And the next video platform is still being figured out and I don’t think it will have an MTV brand associated with it. (Sadly, this will be a pay-for service.)

This was, and is, all MTV’s turf. A couple of weeks ago I wrote that Volkswagen should have owned the small car, energy efficient vehicle market. It was a natural. They missed the boat too. MTV can turn its sh*t around, but it needs to hurry.

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Talk about public relations nightmares. Mattel keeps hitting the news as its toys are found to be defective. The latest word is, some toys produced in China contain lead paint.

Mattel has issued full-page ads explaining to parents how they’re all over the issue and have made promises to rectify the problems.  
This makes me think of the Reverend Al Sharpton’s 2004 democratic national convention speech, in which he tells president Bush African Americans’ vote “is sacred to us.” Well, you want sacred? Think about the lengths a mother will go to protect her children.   Toys that might injure or make a child sick are not held in high regard, I’m guessing. You want brand disloyalty? You want a brand grudge? Outsource your production to a place where they cut corners to save a buck on toys.
Mattel doesn’t need to create full-page ads telling moms they promise to fix the production processes in China. They don’t need to provide a URL for moms to read up on what Mattel is doing about this problem. (Are they kidding? A URL?)) They need to stop producing in China and tell America’s moms about it. At least until the problem is fixed. They need to really “do” something and bleed a little to prove they mean business. 
Children are sacred to their moms and dads, Mr. Mattel president. This may be an issue you cannot survive. So you had better act quickly.  

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A challenge.

Hi, my name is Alex Bogusky. I’m a guest columnist here with What’s the idea. My hard-edged insights are going to turn heads and make everyone smarter communicators. Responsible for the Burger King king, the Mini Cooper launch and Miller Lite’s misunderstood but effective Man Laws campaign, I’ve been advertising’s most visible spokesperson for the past 5 years.  
Surprise! It’s not Alex, it’s me, Steve. I had you going, didn’t I? 
This is the tactic Ford is taking with their new “Swap My Ride” campaign. The campaign positions Ford by allowing new owners of other car brands, e.g., Toyota, Nissan, to drive Fords with the Ford identity concealed – under the guise of market research. Low and behold, the tricked consumers like the Ford automobile and say so in TV commercials. 
OMG. This is challenger brand stuff. It says to consumers, “we’re just as good” as our competition. The problem with this approach is it puts competitors into the equation. It uses them as context.  Ford needs to tell its own story.  
If Ford continues to act like a challenger brand, it will remain a challenger brand. They are beginning to exhibit some vision and nice car designs. How about looking within? THAT would be a bold move.

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