The world in December
|Although December is traditionally a month of retrospectives and forecasts, I have firmly decided to resist the temptation of diving into either and make the last edition of the year as packed with fresh news as the previous eleven. December is a month we expect to be filled with positive, pleasant and non-earth-shattering news. Like the public launch of the BBC’s Your Paintings project; or the attention Anonymous has given to neo-Nazis; or perhaps, the description of Coca Cola’s special edition white cans in support of WWF as “blasphemous”. Admittedly, the month also saw the collapse of one of the most anticipated mergers in recent times but who pays attention to such trifles when Santa is abseiling down the chimney?|
Silly little claims
Good marketeers are expected to be creative. At the end of the day, it is in the job description – we create stuff. Usually a piece of copy or an image, should the muses be gracious – a new product perception. On a very rare occasion the best of us get to think of something that consumers pick up and actively promote themselves. December celebrates two great teams: Del Campo Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi, who seem to have developed a working photoblocker for South American beer brand Cerveza Norte, and Air New Zealand, who showed us that great promotion is not about global media campaigns with exorbitant budgets.
Sometimes it takes more than an average amount of restraint to stop us from jumping up, hands lifted in dismay, shouting something along the lines of “come on! Really..?!” The industry is full of examples of bitter rivalries – Pepsi vs. Coke, Mac vs. PC, not to mention the legendary BMW-Audi-Subaru-Bentley standoff; picking on the competition comes with the territory. Instead of embarrassing itself by publicly accusing McDonald’s of “breaking the rules of comparative advertising by degrading the Burger King brand” the chaps from sunny Florida should have learned from the ad and fought bullying with a touch of creativity.
Come on! Really..?!
Remember the humiliating Facebook-Google scandal of May 2011? Burson-Marsteller, the crisis management PR experts hired by the Social Media giant were caught trying to pay journalists to criticise Google’s Social Circle. Well, guess what? Now the PR gurus have someone to discuss their woes with. Unbelievable as it seems, Bell Pottinger, the legendary spin masters whose list of patrons includes such gems as the government of Belarus, Augusto Pinochet and Ali Abdullah Saleh, were caught being very creative on Wikipedia. To do something so blunt is shockingly unprofessional on its own, but to be caught boasting about it? Hilarious.
Blue Chip Facebook
A possible IPO for Facebook, the company that has long become the symbol of the Social Media economy, has been discussed for ages. A year ago we rather sarcastically commented on the company’s $50 billion valuation. Twelve turbulent months later that number has doubled. In a way, investing in Social Media makes sense: with new wars looming in the Middle East, the European economy slipping in and out of comas, Japan in ruins and the United States losing its top-tier credit rating, people certainly will not be short of subjects to discuss. In that context and considering the company is allegedly responsible for a remarkable third of UK divorces, investing in suicidal post reporting tool will not be a waste either. In preparation for the IPO, Facebook will start incorporating sponsored stories into the main news feed of the site. Considering the woes IPOs brought tech firms in 2011, going public is a brave decision for a company whose valuation surpasses its current annual revenue 25 fold. On the other hand, who wouldn’t want to grow a blue chip company in 8 years?
Sick of Apple
I am often (deservedly) criticised for writing too much about Apple. Whereas I totally agree that there are plenty of other important players in the industry, and trying not to give in to the hype and not treat every newsbite tagged “Apple” as if it announced the discovery of life on Mars, the Californians do provide an unrivalled amount of stories. Just for a laugh, I have counted the main ones from December; you may decide whether they are newsworthy for yourself.
- December 1st: Apple: stopped supporting Carrier IQ with iOS 5.
- December 3rd: Apple licensed iOS scrolling patent to Nokia and IBM, offered license to Samsung.
- December 9th: Motorola Mobility wins German patent suit against Apple. How often does that happen?
- December 12th: Amazon.com announces Steve Jobs’ biography to be the best-selling book of 2011. It hit the shelves in October.
- December 13th: Federal Aviation Administration approves the use of iPads as electronic chart and digital flight manual readers in the cockpit.
- Another one for December 13th: Apple is rumoured to be discussing buying Anobit, an Israel-based flash memory manufacturers. For Californians it would be a rare acquisition of a non-software company.
- Yet another one for the day: a three-page contract that established Apple Computer Co. is sold for $1.59 million at Sotheby’s, soaring past the presale estimate of $100,000 to $150,000.
- December 14th: Steve Jobs becomes the hero of a graphic novella.
- December 16th: it is reported that the Samsung A5 processors used in iPads and iPhones are manufactured in Austin, Texas. Samsung builds microchips in the States. How often does that happen? Seriously…
- December 22nd: Apple is investigating fuel-cell-powered MacBooks.
- December 22nd: Apple posts a document detailing the international availability of iTunes Match and iTunes in the Cloud.
- December 23rd: It is announced that Steve Jobs will be awarded a Special Merit Grammy. Steve Jobs. A Grammy.
- Another one for the same day: the Vatican Library’s collection of writings and drawings by Michelangelo is available on iPad.
- December 29th: The US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that offers a possible glimpse at next generation device security: Face & Presence Detection.
Oh, there is one more thing… On December 28th it was reported that the next generation of Windows Phone is going to come with a cloud backup tool. Now, I could say that the description sounds a little like iCloud but hey, 14 stories are enough.
The Times are A-Changin’
Even in the (generally alien to most people) world of luxury goods, few brands attract as much spite as Vertu. Founded 14 years ago, the British-based division of Nokia became the unrivalled symbol of status toys. Its concierge service may indeed be very good but then there are professionals one can hire just for that. Vertu phones are hand-made and the simpler models indeed look very “solid”. For as long as the differences between the mobile handsets were determined by differences in manufacturing quality, Vertu had a reasonably solid stream of clients. Simply put, one could pay £400 for a piece of plastic or £4,000 for a piece of polished steel (£40,000 for white gold etc.). Provided money was not a factor, the purchase made sense. Unfortunately for Vertu, the unprecedented technologic progress of the last decade changed the conversation. Suddenly, the company found itself in a corner: the market for technically outdated handsets that cost tens of thousands of Pounds is small. It certainly still exists but it relies on people who are either very conservative when it comes to technology or status hungry nouveau riche. The more conservative clientele would not buy a touchscreen, those younger in spirit would prefer something cool, the upper middle class – something a touch cheaper, while the elitists (and it is safe to assume a considerable number of Vertu’s clients like the idea of belonging to a small private club) would abandon the brand altogether if it dropped the price. In good times Nokia could afford an eccentric aristocratic uncle who shuns the plebs. In days of global recession that see both Nokia and many of its customers bleeding cash, the kooky relative has become a nuisance. Ironically, financially, he is not a liability, but there are two aspects more important than money, both casting a shadow on the core Nokia brand that doesn’t seem to need any assistance sliding into the cold abyss as it is. The social aspect aside, it is the technology. Combining the concept of Vertu with cutting edge specs is impossible – these handsets are not bought for 18 months; keeping the status quo is embarrassing, the phones are archaic. The sale is unlikely to be the end of the brand though. It has fans in China, the Middle East and Russia, countries less finical when it comes to social stratification. Very much like Maybach, Vertu cannot stay in the West, not in this day and age.