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Posts Tagged ‘Apple’

What we’ve learnt about Apple from their new iPhone 6 launch

Posted Friday, September 26th, 2014

Apple claim to have shifted approximately 10 million iPhone 6 and 6plus combined. That’s a huge number in it’s first week and has been accompanied by the media sensation and long queues that we’ve come to expect

But what has the recent launch shown us about design, marketing and technology?

Design:
Apple’s phones have been designed consistently thinner since their original release and for the first time they’re big. Jobs famously said that consumers didn’t want large screens but the recent releases seem to suggest that Cook disagrees as a result of the demand from their customer’s demands. When I recently spoke to an assistant in the Vodafone shop 6 months ago she claimed people were selecting their phone devices on size so it has been no surprise that apple have responded accordingly.

Marketing:
Apple’s keynote is a major tech event which generates its own hype but interestingly problems have come since the event. The keynote was dogged by poor viewing, the servers were struggling to stream the event and for the first 20 minutes it was dubbed in Mandarin. Since then people have criticised the forced download of U2’s album, the bendy iPhone 6 plus and bugs with iOS8. Frankly, these issues won’t effect sales and nor have they deterred me in any way to order the iPhone 6 but it shows that life is never silky smooth even for the world’s coolest brand, voted by cool brands.com

Technology:
Each new iPhone release has major upgrades which improve the running and functionality of the phone but if you ask a consumer what the difference between the iPhone 5 and iPhone 6, I bet all they will say is size! Interestingly, iOS8 and the iPhone 6 are according to Apple the most significant upgrades since their first phone. As someone who takes  a keen interest in the upgrades and how it will effect my startup BeBirbal I’ve noticed that users will find taking pictures and videos will offer more options and iOS8 makes it a much easier to search for websites and apps.

To be honest whatever Apple offered with a new phone it’d be snapped up but I do feel that recent upgrades are an improvement to the user and even developers. We know apple are cool even if they do make some major mistakes, such is the extent of their customer loyalty. They’ve delivered what was expected, a slickly designed device with some fantastic technology and a strong message which covers any cracks.


The new iPhone 6 and video: how it effects BeBirbal

Posted Thursday, September 11th, 2014

So what have we learnt tonight about the iPhone 6 and the improvement to video?

From the apple.com site just published:
The iSight camera doesn’t only take great photos. It lets you shoot stunning 1080p HD video at 60 fps, capture more dramatic slo-mo video, and for the first time, create time-lapse videos. Continuous autofocus provides constant focus as you capture your footage. And cinematic video stabilization keeps your shots steady, even when you’re not.

What does this do for BeBirbal?
Simply, it improves video recording for users to capture moments and share. Secondly, time-lapse functionality will encourage people to record more video which will again generate more content. Any improvements in user experience and increased technology will no doubt make people excited to make their own short videos and with any new content they’ll want to share it.

We’re excited about the new video improvements and how the quality and fun of BeBirbal’s content will improve. Will time-lapse make you record more videos?

From: BeBirbal Tumblr

 

 


The best of iOS 8

Posted Friday, June 6th, 2014

Apple added some much-needed and much-appreciated new functionality to its popular mobile platform this week. here they are

1. QuickType / Third-party Keyboard Support

Text input gets two major improvements in iOS 8.

First, Apple is finally improving its auto-correct technology — and it only took seven years!

Apple’s new QuickType feature adds word prediction above the keyboard (don’t worry iPhone users, it’ll look much nicer on the larger iPhone screens coming this fall). The keyboard also now learns the language you use in different apps and when messaging different contacts, and it adjusts its predictions based on past messages.

2. Actionable Notifications

Simply put, actionable notifications allow users to perform tasks by interacting with a notification pop-up.

So, for example, instead of having to open the Messages app to reply to a new SMS, users can simply pull down on the notification at the top of the screen (or swipe on the lock screen) and type out a reply right there.

As another example, users can accept or decline a calendar invite without opening the Calendar app.

3. New Messaging Features

There are many more new messaging features in iOS 8, of course, including an awesome voice chat feature that lets users send voice messages back and forth right from within the app. Or, even better, users can play voice messages right from the lock screen simply by lifting the iPhone to their ear, and they can reply by voice with the same lift gesture.

Users can also mute notifications for a specific messaging thread, and sharing photos is far easier in iOS 8.

4. Continuity

Continuity opens an active connection between devices. So, if you’re working on your Mac and you get a new SMS, a notification will appear on your Mac’s screen. You can even reply to the SMS right from your Mac.

5. Widgets

Apple finally added real widget support in iOS 8, but unfortunately not to home screens. Instead, users will be able to add widgets to the Notification Center.

This is a decent compromise for Apple. It allows the company to support iOS widgets without worrying about clutter and battery drain.

Were you excited or disappointed by the updtae?


Reskinning Apps- the opportunities to reskin differently

Posted Friday, April 4th, 2014

Here’s a blog post I wrote for an app blog which is about to go live and I thought I’d share. It looks at how many indie app developers are reskinning apps with he same old code and having trouble standing out in the app store. Here’s thoughts about a different approach and how reskinning could even help people around you.

Smashing Apps

We’re all in the app reskinning business and hopefully everyone is smashing it! It took me some time to get my head round how it all works and implementing the systems that helped me release quality apps quickly. But as I’m sure many people experienced, I hit some early financial losses when I started which I couldn’t afford and what’s more, I was worried whether the app business would work for me or I would get it right.  It forced me to find a way of making guaranteed income from reskinning before I spent all the money I had to build apps

I’d love this article to be about how I’ve cracked it, instead it’s a couple of thoughts on the opportunities reskinning offers and how I’ve used what I’ve learnt to make alternative revenue. Initially I needed to find a way to cover my costs to reskin my own apps but eventually I realized how reskinning could apply to any new business. Hopefully there’ll be a follow up message on how I’ve nailed it!

The Background

I run a company called SWARMbuzz which helps businesses with their online, social and mobile strategies. I’d been running the business for 3 years when I discovered how to build an app, I love everything mobile so I thought I’d give the app game a go. But I took a massive early hit; I made some poor decisions on my first app, severely overspent and finally got nailed by the developer. It was a disaster. But I tried again and whilst I’d learnt a few lessons, I still made mistakes and made a loss, poor developers and my own inexperience were costing me. By my third attempt I had an app released which saw some good early downloads but it would have needed to be a smash hit to recover expenditure on 3 apps, 2 of which didn’t even get released!

I couldn’t afford to keep losing money but I wanted to continue having a go at building apps as I believed it was a great market and I enjoyed it. I needed to find a way to cover my early losses and get some quick income to fund further projects. I continued to release some small games which were making money but my P&L sheets weren’t looking very healthy and I needed to do something about it

 

How can I play the reskinning game differently?

Initially I thought that the reskinning game was a secret I should keep. As I’d spent the time and money learning only I should know about it. But this didn’t last, partly because I think it’s better to share knowledge and secondly I’m not very good at keeping secrets! The more people I told, friends and clients, the more they were interested and saw the sense in it. Until a friend who owns a successful company asked me to produce monthly games for his business targeting families. He knew they were reskinned apps and he was happy they were, I wasn’t cheating him, I was helping him. He’d been producing apps for his other companies paying tens of thousands of dollars but I was telling him I could produce apps at a fraction of the cost and quicker, he was naturally very happy and I now produce small games for him each month. You may ask why I wouldn’t just produce these games for myself but in the early days the money I charged allowed me to recover my loses, I liked working with his company and we’re about to start new mobile businesses together because it has worked so well

When we think reskinning we think of games immediately because that’s what we’ve seen our teachers do and what we’ve read most about. But I’ve come to realize that the opportunities are truly endless, so far I’ve found a source code that has suited all of my crazy ideas! As an example, my family run a charity to help educate children less fortunate in India and Africa so I decided I could take a wallpaper source code I owned and use it to build a charity app. I wanted to offer it to other charities so I contacted local charities to show them the app I’d built and how I could do the same for them. I covered my costs and time and whilst it made a little money, it was the chance to help charities reach a mobile audience and acquire donations via an app which was all for good causes.

Where are these opportunities?

Networking networking networking! Speak to new people on social media, forums and friends at the bar!. Reach out to new people and speak to your friends to share your app knowledge because mobile is still very new to many people. I made a point of listing the people I knew who ran a business which could best benefit from apps. I sent them an email and just asked if we could meet for a chat. All of them agreed and those who understood mobile liked apps and they loved reskinning because quite frankly, it makes sense! Keep in contact with the people you know who own or work in a small business with a simple email or text message; majority of your business will come through people you already know.

To help my online business I took out a $1500 loan from my family and joined a networking group which could be hard work as it started at 6.30am once a week, but it gave me the chance to meet local businesses and talk about the online and mobile world. Remember we’re tech ninjas, there are a lot of people, even young people, who don’t understand the mobile game and how it’s conquering everything! When I decided to offer reskinning commercially I arranged meetings with fellow members and we discussed how I thought apps could help them. Over the course of my two years with the group I did $25000 in business (a mixture of mobile, social and app work) so I was thankful the investment was worthwhile.

It’s not as though my time is now filled with building other people’s apps, I still have plenty of time to build my own. But it brought in some early money to help cover my mistakes. What I’ve enjoyed the most is being able to help companies build a low cost app that is equally effective as one that would’ve cost far more money. It also started conversations with successful business owners who now want to build other mobile businesses together.

The fighting talk

What’s cool about all of this is that I’ve never written a line of code, I can’t design an icon or implement a chart boost SDK. That’s not what I do, a property developer doesn’t build the walls, they try to spot the opportunity and that’s what I enjoy the most; now and again it pays off!

It might not be your bag getting involved in other businesses; personally it’s what I love to do. If you’re in reskinning just as a passive income then you can still consider how your app flipping knowledge could pay for your first app, your next app or a big app you’ve been dreaming of releasing. You could reskin an app for your local restaurant or even your or your kid’s school and then multiple schools in your area. Charge whatever you’re comfortable with or enough to pay for your next app. Or simply find fun opportunities to utilize your app reskinning knowledge.

How cool would it be to build fun apps, extraordinary businesses and potentially help others, with the app reskinning lessons we’ve been taught, there’s no reason why we can’t!

Good luck to you all!

Get in contact:
Twitter: owhittle

 


Best of 2013 Apps from Apple

Posted Friday, December 20th, 2013

Apple has just published its Best of 2013 page, highlighting some of the most popular music, movies, TV shows, iOS apps, ebooks, and podcasts from the past year. In the music section, Lorde’s “Royals” took the pick for Song of the Year, while Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ The Heist was named Best Album.

Gravity, the box office hit starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, was named Movie of the Year. Despite the confusion it caused when its final season was broken into two separate purchases earlier this year, Breaking Bad was Apple’s pick for Show of the Year.

On the App Store, the language-learning app Duolingo took home the title of iPhone App of the Year, while Disney Animated won the iPad’s version of that award.

You can find the entire list—including more awards, best sellers, and a solid editor’s choice lineup—on the Best of 2013 page in iTunes.

 


iPhone 5 ‘lacking wow factor’ receives mixed reaction from fans and experts

Posted Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Apple’s iPhone 5 has been criticised for not being ‘innovative enough’ and ‘lacking wow factor’ by some fans following the unveiling of the device at a press conference yesterday.

Following the announcement fans of the smartphone took to the internet to give their reactions to the much-anticipated gadget.

The technology giant revealed the smartphone at an event in San Francisco along with several new iPods.

The iPhone 5 is taller and slimmer than the 4S due to its 4” screen, which allows users to view videos in a near 16:9 aspect ratio.

Battery life is also increased and the smartphone will be available on 4G LTE when it is released in the UK on September 21st.

The company’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller described it as an ‘absolute jewel’.

David McQueen, Principal Analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media, admitted the iPhone 5 offered few surprises but said the company was banking on its ability to create cool products.

‘While the new hardware may not quite stack up against other products expected in market, it is Apple’s ability to create stylish, desirable products attached to a rich set of services that it hopes can still set it apart to create differentiation,’ he said.

Paul Armstrong, head of social at media agency Mindshare UK, agreed with this, and added Apple had demonstrated ‘its commitment to technical and design excellence’.

What do you think of the iPhone 5- Apple rocks or Rotten Apple?


BEST GLOBAL BRANDS 2010

Posted Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Apple‘s brand value has increased by 37% but it has only charted at 17th place in this year’s annual Best Global Brands survey from Interbrand, way behind IBM, Google and Microsoft.

The company, boosted its brand through controlled messaging and an endless wave of buzz surrounding new product launches, but still failed to make the top 10.

It has recently come under heavy criticism in public perception due to problems with the iPhone 4 reception handset, leading to the offer of a free rubber casing for those who were dissatisfied with their purchase.

The brand barometer placed Coca-Cola as its top global brand, with technology brand IBM taking second place, Microsoft third and Google fourth.
BlackBerry made great gains with a 32% increase in brand value. At 54th place it is the most popular smartphone for business users, despite pressure from Apple as it edges into the corporate world.

The annual survey from the consultancy said that a number of brands had faced extraordinary crises in 2010 resulting in stalled growth and loss of value.

BP fell out of the ranking this year, on the back of the Gulf of Mexico disaster and its poorly received response.
BP‘s disaster and inability to produce results on its brand promise of “Beyond Petroleum” led to it falling off of the list. Worse, it saw competitor Shell emerge as the leading oil industry brand, now ranked number 81, up from number 92 in 2009.
Toyota still ranked a surprising 11th place despite the biggest product recall in its history, which caused the brand to lose 16% of its brand value as its long-standing reputation for reliability, efficiency and innovation took a serious knock.

During a difficult year for the auto industry, Mercedes Benz (12th place) and BMW (15th place) were able to sustain and build their value “through innovative design and a focus on delivering premium value vehicles with luxury features”.

Using customer feedback, largely drawn from YouTube, Flickr, Twitter and Facebook to launch the 2009 Fiesta, Ford at 50th place stood out as one of the best example of how to use social media. Award-winning products like the Q5 and rich heritage helped Audi to 63rd place with a 9% increase in its brand value.

In the financial sector, Citi (40th place) and UBS (86th place) lost double-digits in brand value, while Santander (68th place), Barclays (74th place) and Credit Suisse (80th place) made their debut on the list for the first time.

Their ability to stay true to brand promises in unsure times, and avoidance of the subprime mortgage crisis, helped them stay the course.

“2010 was the beginning of a long road back towards economic recovery,” said Jez Frampton, group chief executive at Interbrand.

“From real-time customer feedback through social media to increased transparency about corporate citizenship, brands were faced with a profound change in the way they relate to customers and demonstrate their relevance and value.

Despite this new paradigm of brand management, the advantages of building a solid brand remain the same.”

Despite the economic downturn, luxury brands Cartier (77th place), Armani (95th place), Louis Vuitton (16th place), Gucci (44th place), Tiffany & Co (76th place) and Hermes (69th place) all saw the value of their brands increase in 2010 by “continuing to invest in their heritage and legendary status.”

Last year’s survey saw financial brands take a hammering due to the global downturn, with internationally famous names such as Citi and UBS seeing the value of their brand slashed in half.


Recession: The Mother of Innovation?

Posted Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

Our special report looks at innovative ways businesses can turn the troubled economy to their advantage

BusinessWeek, July 22, 2009

Necessity may be the mother of invention. But could a recession be the mother of innovation? After all, many of the world’s enduring, multibillion-dollar corporations, from Disney (DIS) to Microsoft (MSFT), were founded during economic downturns. Generally speaking, operating costs tend to be cheaper in a recession. Talent is easier to find because of widespread layoffs. And competition is usually less fierce because, frankly, many players are taken out of the game.

Recessions can also help executives figure out how to improve products, services, and processes internally and for customers. Ideally, the creative thinking that’s needed to weather the storm of an economic downturn can lead to new markets and revenue streams. “Innovation originates from challenges,” says Vineet Nayar, CEO of HCL Technologies, a Noida (India)-based global IT services company.

HCL recently partnered with Xerox (XRX) to provide tech support for corporate customers using Xerox systems meant to reduce the amount of wasted paper. The systems themselves were inspired by the dual challenges of helping to save the environment and the need to slash office expenses during the downturn.

Inventing cost-effective and time-saving processes becomes a priority in a downturn, and it’s an area of interest for companies and organizations in a variety of fields, from high tech to health care. “In a recession, you can innovate to be more efficient,” says John Kao, author of the book Innovation Nation and the head of Deloitte’s Institute for Large Scale Innovation.

Lessons to Be Learned
Sure, there have been some signs lately that the economy might be picking up—Apple‘s (AAPL) quarterly profits jumped 15%, for instance. But a recent survey by consulting firm Bain & Co. found that 60% of 1,430 global executives polled expect the current recession to last through 2010.

And smart companies will continue to apply the innovation lessons learned during today’s tough times even when things pick up. The innovative processes, products, and services that hatch now can help executives understand how to curb costs or take risks on fresh ideas when the economy rebounds.


Global Brands

Posted Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

BusinessWeek/Interbrand rank the companies that best built their images – and made them stick.

Advertisers who want to reach the Bublitz family of Montgomery, Ohio, have to leap a lot of hurdles. Telemarketing? Forget it – the family of five has Caller ID. The Internet? No way – they long ago installed spam and pop-up ad blockers on their three home computers. Radio? Rudy Bublitz, 47, has noncommercial satellite radio in his car and in the home. Television? Not likely – the family records its favorite shows on TiVo and skips most ads. “The real beauty is that if we choose to shut advertising out, we can,” Rudy says. “We call the shots with advertisers today.”

BusinessWeek, August 1, 2005

The Bublitzes and other ad-zapping consumers like them pose an enormous challenge these days to marketers trying to build new brands and nurture old ones. To get a reading on which brands are succeeding – and which aren’t – take a look at the fifth annual BusinessWeek/Interbrand ranking of the 100 most valuable global brands. The names that gained the most in value focus ruthlessly on every detail of their brands, honing simple, cohesive identities that are consistent in every product, in every market around the world, and in every contact with consumers. (In the ranking, which is compiled in partnership with brand consultancy Interbrand Corp., a dollar value is calculated for each brand using publicly available data, projected profits, and variables such as market leadership.)

The best brand builders are also intensely creative in getting their message out. Many of the biggest and most established brands, from Coke to Marlboro, achieved their global heft decades ago by helping to pioneer the 30-second TV commercial. But it’s a different world now. The monolithic TV networks have splintered into scores of cable channels, and mass-market publications have given way to special-interest magazines aimed at smaller groups. Given that fragmentation, it’s not surprising that there’s a new generation of brands, including Amazon.com, eBay, and Starbucks, that have amassed huge global value with little traditional advertising. They’ve discovered new ways to captivate and intrigue consumers. Now the more mature brands are going to school on the achievements of the upstarts and adapting the new techniques for themselves.

So how do you build a brand in a world in which consumers are increasingly in control of the media? The brands that rose to the top of our ranking all had widely varied marketing arsenals and were able to unleash different campaigns for different consumers in varied media almost simultaneously. They wove messages over multiple media channels and blurred the lines between ads and entertainment. As a result, these brands can be found in a host of new venues: the Web, live events, cell phones, and handheld computers. An intrepid few have even infiltrated digital videorecorders, devices that are feared throughout the marketing world as the ultimate tool for enabling consumers to block unwanted TV ads.

Some marketers have worked to make their brand messages so enjoyable that consumers might see them as entertainment instead of an intrusion. When leading brands are seen on TV they’re apt to have their own co-starring roles – as No. 9 Toyota Motor Corp. did in reality show The Contender – rather than just lending support during the commercial breaks. All are trying to create a stronger bond with the consumer. Take No. 41 Apple Computer Corp., which last fall launched a special iPod MP3 player in partnership with band U2. Not only did the “U2 iPod” say “U2” on the front and have band signatures etched into the back, but the band starred in a TV ad and buyers got $50 off a download of 400 U2 songs. No. 8 McDonald‘s Corp.’s sponsorship of a tour by R&B group Destiny’s Child means that fans who want access to exclusive video and news content about the band have to click first on the company’s Web site. “It’s hard here to tell where the brand message ends and where the entertainment and content begins,” says Ryan Barker, director of brand strategy at consultancy The Knowledge Group.

It’s no accident that most of the companies with the biggest increases in brand value in the 2005 ranking operate as single brands everywhere in the world. Global marketing used to mean crafting a new name and identity for each local market. America’s No. 1 laundry detergent, Tide, is called Ariel in Europe, for example. The goal today for many, though, is to create consistency and impact, both of which are a lot easier to manage with a single worldwide identity. It’s also a more efficient approach, since the same strategy can be used everywhere. An eBay shopper in Paris, France, sees the same screen as someone logging in from Paris, Texas. Only the language is different. Global banks HSBC, No. 29, which posted a 20% increase in brand value, and No. 44 UBS, up 16%, use the same advertising pitches around the world. “Given how hard the consumer is to reach today, a strong and unified brand message is increasingly becoming the only way to break through,” says Jan Lindemann, Interbrand’s managing director, who directed the Top 100 Brands ranking.

Possibly no brand has done a better job of mining the potential of these new brand-building principles than Korean consumer electronics manufacturer Samsung Electronics Co. Less than a decade ago, it was a maker of lower-end consumer electronics under a handful of brand names including Wiseview, Tantus, and Yepp, none of which meant much to consumers. Figuring that its only shot at moving up the value chain was to build a stronger identity, the company ditched its other brands to put all its resources behind the Samsung name. Then it focused on building a more upscale image through better quality, design, and innovation.

Beginning in 2001, the newly defined Samsung came out with a line of top-notch mobile phones and digital TVs, products that showed off the company’s technical prowess. By vaulting the quality of its offerings above the competition in those areas, Samsung figured it could boost the overall perception of the brand. Besides, consumers form especially strong bonds with cell phones and TVs. Most people carry their mobile phones with them everywhere, while their TV is the centre of the family room. “We wanted the brand in users’ presence 24/7,” says Peter Weedfald, head of Samsung‘s North American marketing and consumer electronics unit.

Now that strategy is paying off. Over the past five years, No. 20 Samsung has posted the biggest gain in value of any Global 100 brand, with a 186% surge. Even sweeter, last year Samsung surpassed No. 28 Sony, a far more entrenched rival that once owned the electronics category, in overall brand value. Now, in a nod to Samsung, Korean electronics concern LG Electronics Inc. has followed its rival’s playbook. Cracking this year’s global list for the first time at No. 97, LG has also sought to elevate its product under a single brand led by phones and TVs.

Some of the older brands in our ranking are clearly struggling to remake their marketing and product mix for a more complex world. This year’s biggest losers in brand value include Sony (down 16%), Volkswagen (down 12%), and Levi’s (down 11%). VW acknowledges its brand value slippage. “Volkswagen is well aware of the current deficiencies,” says VW brand chief Wolfgang Bernhard. Sony, which disputes that it is losing brand value, has suffered from an innovation drought. The electronics giant pioneered the Walkman, but left Apple to revolutionize portable MP3 players, as well as digital downloading and organizing of music. Meanwhile, Sony‘s moves into films and music put it into areas where its brand adds no value. Worse, those acquisitions made Sony a competitor with other content providers. That, notes Samsung‘s Weedfald, gives his company an advantage in linking to the hottest music and movies. Samsung, for example, is lead sponsor of this summer’s much-hyped movie, Fantastic Four, in which a variety of Samsung gadgets play a part. VW faces different problems. It has attempted to move upmarket with the luxury Touareg sport-utility vehicle and Phaeton sedan models; but that has left car buyers, who associate VW with zippy, affordable cars, confused. Similarly, Levi’s introduction of its less pricey Levi’s Signature line in discount stores means it now competes on price at the low end, while trying to fend off rivals like Diesel at the upper end with its core “red tab” brand.

Of course, defining the essence of a brand is only part of the battle. Communicating it to the consumer is the other. On this front, there has clearly been a divide between newer brands that use traditional advertising as just one tool in an overall marketing plan and older ones that grew up with it. Sony, for example, far outspends Samsung on traditional advertising in the U.S. on electronics products. (Samsung advertises on TV only during the last six months of the year, its peak sales period.) Many young brands that scored big gains in value, like Google, Yahoo!, and eBay, depend on their own interactive Web sites to shout about their brands.

Now some older brands, like Coke, ranked No. 1 in overall brand value, and McDonald‘s are decreasing traditional ad spending. In the past four years, McDonald‘s has cut TV advertising from 80% of its ad budget to 50%. Most of the shift has gone to online advertising. What’s evolving, then, is a model in which most brand builders use a variety of marketing channels. HSBC has branded taxis to carry customers for free. And although eBay spends most of its marketing budget on Internet advertising, it also relies on TV to some extent to boost simple brand awareness. “With fragmentation and ad evasion, you can’t count on one medium,” says Tom Cotton, president of Conductor, a branding strategy firm.

Marketers who do turn to TV are trying to make brand messages as engrossing as the programming. Last year Toyota, whose brand value rose 10%, paid $16 million to have its vehicles be part of the storyline on NBC reality show The Contender, about small-time boxers competing for a nationally televised bout. The grand prize: a million dollars and a Toyota truck. Rival Nissan, up 13%, has been parking its Titan pickups on Wisteria Lane in hit ABC show Desperate Housewives. The trucks will also ride into the new Dukes of Hazzard movie this month.

Nor are TV and movies the only target. No. 1 Coke, McDonald‘s, No. 88 Smirnoff, No. 16 BMW, No. 23 Pepsi, and No. 61 KFC are among brands striking deals to plant their brands in video games and even song lyrics. Deborah Wahl-Meyer, who headed Toyota marketing until recently moving to the company’s Lexus division, says both divisions attempt to seed magazine and newspaper articles with vehicle references and pictures. “We have to be more a part of what people are watching and reading instead of being in between what people are watching and reading,” Meyer says.

In an echo of Procter & Gamble Co.’s creation of the soap opera on radio and then TV, some brand builders are taking control of the programming themselves and creating content that tries to draw in ad-allergic consumers. BMW, whose brand value rose 8% over the past year, turned out a series of popular short films on the Internet starting in 2001. The seven-to-ten minute films starred BMW cars and were produced by A-list Hollywood directors like John Woo. The German auto maker has moved onto comic books based on the films aimed at Bimmer-aspiring teens and adults alike. “It’s imperative to create media destinations that don’t look like advertising,” says James McDowell, who headed marketing for the BMW brand before recently taking over as chief of the parent company’s MINI USA business. BMW has also embraced the enemy, TiVo, the television-top gadget that consumers use to skip ads altogether. Since last year, BMW has produced short films and long-form ads accessible through TiVo’s main menu page. BMW fans are alerted to the films in the on-demand video menu when a BMW ad runs.

Such old-line brands as No. 14 American Express Co. are heading down the entertainment path, too. Tipping its hat to BMW, AmEx ran long-form Internet ads/films starring Jerry Seinfeld last year that succeeded in drawing consumers to its Web site and Webcasted concerts. AmEx Chief Marketing Officer John Hayes says flatly: “Brands are not being built on [traditional] advertising.”

Still, none of these marketing ploys are sure bets in a world where old-school advertising means less. That’s why more marketers are investing in design as a fundamental way to distinguish their brands and to stay on the leading edge of technology. “Design isn’t just the promise of a brand, like TV advertising – it’s the reality of it,” says Marc Gobe, chief executive of design consultancy Desgrippes Gobe. Samsung has tripled its global design staff to 400 over the past five years. No. 73 Motorola, whose brand value rose 11%, and No. 53 Philips Electronics have boosted design spending. The move sparked the launch of Motorola‘s hot-selling Razr phone, the thinnest flip phone ever made. No. 85 Nissan gained 13% last year on a wave of bold designs, like its curvy Murano SUV and Altima sedan, as the Japanese company differentiates itself from Toyota and Honda through design rather than quality.

Good design implies more than just good looks. It’s also about ease of use. Apple demonstrated this with its iPod. Users can pick songs or download music from the iTunes music bank with the swipe of a finger. That’s blunted sales of Sony‘s Walkman MP3 player, which has been criticized as too cumbersome. Design can also mean sound. Samsung insists that all its products make the same reassuring tone when turned on. The Samsung tone is even being used in some advertising. “We want to have the same sound, look, and feel throughout our products so it all works toward one Samsung brand,” says Gregory Lee, Samsung‘s global marketing chief.

The era of building brands namely through mass media advertising is over. The predominant thinking of the world’s most successful brand builders these days is not so much the old game of reach (how many consumers see my ad) and frequency (how often do they see it), but rather finding ways to get consumers to invite brands into their lives. The mass media won’t disappear as a tool. But smart companies see the game today as making bold statements in design and wooing consumers by integrating messages so closely into entertainment that the two are all but indistinguishable.


 
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