Archive for the ‘technology’ Category

Apple Watch: PR Blunder or PR Perfection?

May 14, 2015

Two words can instantly spark a heated debate: Apple Watch. The device has created two schools of thought- it sucks, or it’s genius. Try to find someone on the fence and you’ll be sorely disappointed. For Apple “fanboys” like me, there’s no doubt it’s a cool device – well-designed, fills a niche no other technology I have does, and above and beyond any other wearable on the market. To everyone else it’s “Why do I need it?” “Why would I spend $800 to not look at my phone as much as I do now?” or “They’re just dumb.” Debate aside, one thing seems to escape everyone talking about it. If you’re debating the watch, Apple’s unmatched PR machine is working.

Does anyone need a smartwatch?
Apple Watch is a hard sell. It has incredible capabilities but do mainstream consumers think they need them? Probably not, but they may want them eventually and Apple has the clout to make that happen. Before Apple Watch, smartwatches were clunky, fairly ugly and nearly all were marketed to the same audience as Casio’s calculator watches from the 80s. They had no mainstream appeal and even less functionality.

On the other hand, Apple has an ecosystem of more than 3,500 apps for Apple Watch alone and 1.2 million on iOS. Developers will innovate new apps specifically for Apple Watch, leading to more coverage of the watch, more interest and more debate as the device’s appeal continues to grow.

Apple is making smartwatches cool.
Apple’s already won the battle in making a smartwatch cooler than they’ve ever been. But is that enough for a device with a price tag ranging from $349 to more than $14,000? Apple’s betting on fashion-aware celebrities and consumers to adopt the watch. And shortly before launch it was already around the wrists of Beyonce, Pharell, Drake, Sam Smith, Katy Perry and Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld. Meanwhile the Apple PR team made no small effort to make sure the watch was reviewed by fashion magazines from GQ to Vogue and the most influential watch experts in the world, making the device known as more than just a “mini-computer.”

In order for Apple Watch to be successful it needs to be seen as cool, fashionable, desired, capable and most importantly worth your money. For an item nobody truly needs, Apple’s already proven that they’re able to make people want it. In the end, that’s all that matters. The reviews have been positive (with a caveat here or there), the thousands of articles keep on coming, the debate wages on, yet the bottom line remains – Apple has already sold 3.2 million watches in just over a month.

The Apple Watch is already set to outpace the iPhone in first-year sales. It looks like their PR team is succeeding where others have failed, again.



Mean Girl-ing the BlackBerry

October 17, 2012

Remember when the BlackBerry was the most popular device in the school of smartphones?  Sophisticated and savvy, it was a status

Soooo 2008.

symbol of business pros, world travelers and social butterflies.  Me? I loved my BlackBerry during my years as a travel publicist, with its international data plans and QWERTY keyboard.

But, like most BB users, I grew frustrated watching friends use fabulous apps that I couldn’t access.  I can’t recall how many times I had to ask my husband to look up a restaurant or map directions on his iPhone because my BlackBerry was too slow, or couldn’t access a web page.

This loss of enthusiasm has culminated in a trend of BlackBerry shaming, as chronicled in a recent New York Times piece. When I needed a new smartphone in early 2012, I made the iPhone switch.  Now, I sit with Siri and all the “cool” kids at the lunch table.  I feel accepted…. and we all laugh at BlackBerry, downgraded to social outcast.

The stereotype of iPhone users, as portrayed in current Samsung ads, is of smug hipsters, blindly devoted to grouping in line for a product with trivial upgrades, all while teasing rival devices.  The iPhone seems to have become smartphones’ Mean Girl.

Speaking up in its own defense, BlackBerry manufacturer Research in Motion (RIM) declared that the Times never contacted it to obtain a balanced viewpoint.  Loyalists are flocking to support site CrackBerry and blogging about why using a BlackBerry “can still be cool (seriously)”.  And RIM is gearing up for the release of its BB10 platform, designed to compete with the Android, iPhone and Windows Phone.

All the sniping aside, the harsh truth is that BlackBerry’s brand image is in the dumps. How can it regain its role as Queen Bee?  It’s a stretch, but this could be achieved through one heck of a successful launch of the BB10 OS.  But that hinges on the system holding up to the slick speediness of top smartphone devices.   A clever marketing campaign, integrating grassroots movements to resurrect the BlackBerry, would also be key.

As unlikely as that seems, let’s be a little nicer to the BlackBerry folks.  After all, one day that could be us sulking in the corner.

Back to School Edition: PR for a Healthy Campus

September 5, 2012

It’s the unmistakable signs – moving vans, sales on student supplies, young adults flooding back into the neighborhood – that make it clear: it’s back to school time.  We realize that today’s technology affords college students and teachers alike a world of conveniences that some of us at EZG never even dreamed of.  From e-books and classroom WiFi, to Facebook pages for study groups and planning course schedules on a mobile phone, universities are enjoying the benefits of modern tech.

If it’s not online, will students see it?

But administrators are also harnessing the power of social media and technology to launch public relations campaigns encouraging responsible behavior from students – and the results could be life-changing.

Case in point – Northwestern University and more than 60 schools offer a “Red Watch Band” program to curb high-risk binge drinking amongst students.  It teaches students to recognize the warning signs of alcohol poisoning and to call for medical help.  There are Facebook pages dedicated to the cause, training sessions posted online, and a website sharing instructions on how schools can start their own program.  Some schools go one step further in engaging students about drinking.  DePaul University in Chicago actually requires freshman to take an online self-assessment to analyze their alcohol use before they get to campus. eCHUG (electronic CHECKUP TO GO) is an on-line alcohol intervention and social norming program developed by San Diego State University and used by many institutions in the U.S.

Eating habits on campus are getting a PR push through smartphone apps.  Dining management company ARAMARK, launched its CampusDish® Mobile App to help students easily check their campus dining hall menu’s nutrition details to make informed meal selections.  Versions of this app are available at more than 600 college and university locations, including New York University, University of Virginia and John Hopkins University.

Sleep for students is also a major cause this semester, with colleges and universities creating campaigns to encourage better sleep habits, spirited by sharing news electronically.  Boston College’s “Sweet Dreamzzz” is the school’s official sleep health campaign to help students identify barriers and strategies to achieve better sleep habits. The University of Louisville is planning a campus-wide “flash nap“, which students are already tweeting about.

With recent reports of binge drinking deaths, obesity, and affects of sleep deprivation at higher learning institutions, we can all certainly appreciate how administrators are harnessing the modern tech sphere to help students improve their health.  And as our own kids head off to school, we look forward to the innovations to come.

YouTube, YouAds…YouKnow?

July 20, 2011

YouTube’s most recent endeavor has them pitching advertisers to exclusively sponsor YouTube Original Series.  This initiative would take original programming from being solely based on broadcast or cable to be strictly on YouTube…not just repeats or clips. With this idea YouTube would use big stars to draw in advertisers and views to the interactive big screen.  Advertisers get the ability to have an exclusive sponsorship of the program therefore owning advertising property on YouTube.  Exciting, right?

At first glance this seems like a natural progression of television in the digital age, but it’s actually much bigger than simply bringing together TV and the internet.  If this really catches on it would be quite a turn of events for media planners/buyers.  If an advertiser could truly buy interactive television advertising (assuming it has the same popularity as shows we watch today on broadcast or cable), media planners would then be able to utilize the benefits of being online. Selecting the right program and or daypart would evolve into something more…they would be able to target an audience by a certain behavior.

For example, Honda would have the ability to their ads to viewers who recently searched for new or used car online.  Orbitz could utilize remarketing to make sure that 5 days after you booked your flights to Aruba they were running TV ads for hotel or car rentals during your favorite television program. Talk about big brother!  All your interactive behavior would begin to work in synch.

I’m not entirely convinced the general public is willing to allow advertisers to have this much accessibility at the risk of becoming too invasive.  Advertisers, on the other hand, would probably be very interested in seeing this initiative move forward.   Today more and more clients want the ability to measure traditional advertising in the same way that we measure interactive.   As for advertising professionals this would certainly be beneficial to help develop even more targeted media plans to reach the most qualified consumers for their clients.

Could this be the next “big thing”?

Too much Lebron? Maybe, but at least it’s all in one place

August 9, 2010

With the vast amount of information on the web, users are spending less and less time on an individual site.  The clear trend is for searchers to gather information by jumping from one site to the next, and companies are desperately looking for ways to keep their viewers engaged for a longer period of time.

One new technology that has surfaced to answer this dilemma is NetBat, which allows sites to link photos of celebrities or athletes to related YouTube, Google and Twitter posts without leaving the site.  When users hover over images, apps pop up at the bottom of the picture to provide the latest news, tweets or videos on the subject matter.

I can’t decide if this is over integration at its finest or the greatest use for apps I’ve seen to date.  The ability to “learn more” just by rolling your mouse over an image is genius.  It allows the website to become a one stop shop for a full story, plus feature the videos, tweets and latest news (or gossip).

Advertisers can capitalize on this new tool by sponsoring the apps on sites that offer targeted integration.  The concern as we start to integrate content into content is whether viewers will be able to delineate a solid news source from a site that compiles credible sources with this type of tool.

Take this piece on the Lebron decision — within the image of Lebron, readers are able to click through to tweets, Google news, YouTube, etc.  This takes interactivity to the next level, but it also becomes a little unclear where all this information is coming from.  It’s been an ongoing theme of the Internet, and social media takes it to a new level…what content can you trust?  Is this a step too far when it comes to proliferating information on the internet?

Message in a megabyte; lost in a sea of social networking

June 30, 2010

In the 1990s, there was a famous anti-drug use PSA which opened with the juxtaposition “This is your brain,” and, “This is your brain on drugs.” As times have changed, I soon see another anti-addiction PSA opening with “This is your brain…This is your brain on technology.” Steve Rubel recently blogged about an Experian study that revealed “43% of online Americans [are] addicted to social networking.” Just this morning, Good Morning America followed up on a New York Times article which exposed an entire family addicted to computers, video games and cell phones. Brian recently posted about how to get retweeted, highlighting not only the importance of being online, but also spreading your online message both far and wide.

At EZG, we often tell clients that, much like traditional media exposure, social media success is based on reaching the right audience. If your audience is online, you should be online—but simply being online is not enough. You have to be online and know what it will take to capture your audience.  A question that is often overlooked when assessing your audience is “Why are you online?” Experian asked that question, and revealed the following numbers:

According to their research, the top three reasons people use social networking is to stay in touch with friends, to have fun, and to keep in touch with family. Only 29% are looking for information that is relevant to them; 25% are looking for recommendations. This may explain why some brands, online and off, are turning to entertainment, also known as conversation starters, rather than showcasing their products features and benefits.

If Experian’s research is correct, that means that for every Coors Light fan that signs onto Facebook and searches “Coors Light,” most will likely stay on their Facebook long enough to play with the apps, maybe send something to a friend and only one of four will stay there long enough to see if there are any recommendations for the beer. Does that “reach” your target audience? It all depends on what your goals are for your brand and audience.

Much like print ads in a magazine, the online world is fighting every nanosecond for your attention. There are billions of blogs, Twitter,YouTubeFacebookflickrslideshare, even what some may call a dying MySpace. You can publish, share, discuss, network, microblog, livecast, broadcast, game, download, upload, and even create a virtual world. iPhone users alone can talk, type, tap, listen and see anything their heart desires at the tip of their fingers. With all these options, it’s easy for companies to flock to the largest social media sites and “set up shop” so to speak. Yet without answering why your customers or audience are online, and what your goals are for a social media campaign, your message is bound to be lost.

So the tools have changed but the song remains the same: right message, right audience, right result.

iPad off to a strong start, but will it last?

April 6, 2010

Monday morning’s headlines were a quick reminder of all the things that happened over Easter weekend. But more prevalent than the White House Easter Egg Roll or Tiger’s return to golf was the record sales, and in turn, reviews of the iPad. It seems we’ve been hearing of the new product for weeks, and now that its arrived, everyone is a critic.

What’s most interesting to me is the amount of people who purchased the iPad on its initial debut: 300,000 units sold in 15 hours! At the baseline $499 price tag, that’s $149,700,000. And we’re in a recession?  It makes me wonder who these buyers are and what their motivation is for buying a device that hasn’t fully been categorized yet. Exactly why do consumers need an iPad? A hybrid of an iPhone and laptop, the iPad still has lots of kinks to work out. The iPad doesn’t appear to be highly productive in nature, lacking fully functional word processing software or full size keyboard, making it nearly useless in school or work settings.  Steve Rubel has committed to taking a week-long tablet only challenge, sure to uncover the practical from impractical capabilities along the way.

Some may say the allure of the iPad is the mystery of the product or the fact that it’s new, drawing on the old branding joke that if something has the words “new” or “improved,” it’s sure to hold buying power. I think it has much more to do with having the “i” in front of the name. Buyers have come to trust the Apple brand so deeply, something named the “iPad” has forgone the bathroom humor jokes and found itself in the wallets of all walks of life. As many news outlets have pointed out, the iPad’s success has yet to be seen. Initial sales are great, but it’s the long term viability that will make or break the product for Apple. In the meantime, there are sure to be thousands more reviews on the product, asking consumers to spill on why we all need the iPad.  Are Americans thoughtful consumers or wasteful spenders?  What’s the draw that gets Americans to shell out nearly half a grand for a new toy during a recession?

Jimmy Kimmel asked the same question:

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