An illustrator’s homage to Mr. Jobs

This is the most exquisite and moving tribute to Mr. Jobs. Well done.

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“Look up in the sky – it’s a bird, it’s a plane. No it’s an iPad.”

I was listening to my 14 year old son discuss the relative merits of an iPad versus his iTouch with a buddy of his. Now my kid is Apple’d out – MAC, iPod, iTouch. No wonder he was intrigued by the iPad as all things Apple is inherently good in his world view.

“It makes no sense”, I hear my son saying”, “why would Apple want people to think of iPad as a computer – it would kill their other business”. He then declared; “To me, this is a bigger and better iTouch that I would use at home.”

His friend thought for a minute and replied simply; “Yeah, but Steve Jobs thinks this is the new way people will use computers. Maybe, Apple wants to be the Microsoft, Dell, AT&T and Google all wrapped up in one.”

At first I was surprised at the thoughtful way these kids were getting right to the business heart of the matter. What is an iPad anyway? More interestingly though, as a marketer, I was eager to ponder what implications the iPad’s “position” might have on its astonishing 1MM sell through.

Clearly, the physical sleekness of the device drove a big part of the sell through. Surprisingly though, the huge gap in how “Junior Consumer”  was interpreting iPad’s main function, a.k.a. hyper cool entertainment device versus Jobs’ declaration that this is “the most important thing he has ever worked on” usually spells D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R, but that seemed not to matter in this case.

This disconnect is amplified when one realizes that the iPad may well be the computing version of a wolf in sheep’s clothing because it becomes the gate/ portal and police of what services or apps or content comes out of that portal. I kinda hope my son’s friend was wrong and Apple is not interested in displacing other devices and services providers from Judy Consumer’s world. Uh – no – that’s not likely. So it seems to me that the shiny iPad Apple carries a time delayed poison within that will, ultimately, bind Judy Consumer to the Apple franchise with little hope of escape.

OK – I admit – I am playing drama queen here. But it seems in maybe 5 years, our digital world will be defined by a few major players – maybe a handful – who will deliver all information, content, communications and commerce to us.

The “so what” of all this mega aggregation of services is that Judy Consumer will have fewer choices and higher prices. In the future world of information services wars, over time, Judy Consumer will lose out just like she ultimately did in the telecom wars of the past (I am battle hardened veteran of those wars). The final result being that, in fact, when choices go down, pricing goes up.

If iPad is meant to be the point of entry for a new way of computing that inextricably ties hardware to services – I worry (yes – I am a Jewish Mother and we worry.) I worry that it will be harder for competition to evolve and over time we know without competition, Judy Consumer pays more for less.

So I wonder – do you think the iPad is a merely step up from an iTouch as a hyper cool content consumption device or is the iPad Steve Jobs’ attempt at creating a new computing paradigm (hence explaining his sentiment that this is the most important thing he has ever done)?

I fear my son’s opinion on this matter is borne of youthful naïveté. I think I’ll go read Snow White again … at least that has a happy ending.

Judy Shapiro

“Judy Consumer” gets a new digital life partner

I was reading about Google TV which comes on the heels of all the iPad buzz which comes on the heels of the new Verizon Incredible launch and so on ….

All these efforts seem to transcend the desire to sell a device. It seems that these devices are designed to fight for the  digital fidelity of “Judy Consumer”. In essence, these companies want her to commit to a monogamous, long term relationship with them as the sole provider of all of her communications, commerce and content consumption.

These are pretty high stakes for “Judy Consumer” since it is not just about buying a product – it is about making a long term commitment.

My advice to “Judy Consumer” – proposals for a long term relationship may sound seductive but choose wisely – breaking up is not so easy to do.

Judy Shapiro

Congratulations CES for becoming the hottest, consumer advertising buy on the planet

CES has descended upon the psyche of the tech world so that it dominates most reports and tweets and attention.

We all wait with bated breath for the declared best new product, most innovative game, most outrageous consumer electronic gadget. We are, in effect, like kids with our noses up against the window pane of the biggest toy store in the world.

I should say that the hyper cool nature of CES is a fairly recent phenomenon. Back when I worked at AT&T, CES was an annual ritual that, frankly, rather inconveniently put a crimp on holiday festivities since many of us had to go the Las Vegas a week before to setup. There went New Year’s plans *sigh*. Sure it was fun to see what ingenious gadget was coming into the market, but make no mistake about it; CES was a serious B2C trade show where manufacturers worked hard to woo retailers into carrying their stuff. While there was some consumer coverage, mostly it was confined to the B2B press.

Then, somewhere in the last 4 years, I think driven by the gaming industry, Google, Apple and social media, it took on the glamour of the Oscars for tech set. If a product was even mentioned in a “from CES” report, that was cause for celebration (“I am so honored even to be nominated” kind of thing). CES went from being a B2B event to the event that plays itself out directly to consumers. That shift, in effect, caused CES to become the biggest consumer trade event of all time – even if every consumer is attending by proxy via social media.

But there’s more to it than that because at the current level of consumer exposure to the show, CES has transcended the trade show segment and was elevated to become a premier consumer media buy, kinda like SuperBowl. Think about with me. A media buy in SuperBowl was a strategy companies used to catapult themselves – think GoDaddy. This media buy cost a few million bucks, but if played right – you were made. I think CES has taken on that same level of media potential if you account for all the primary, secondary and tertiary coverage that live streaming and social media provide. And instead of a few thirty second spots, you get three days to strut your stuff. Make no mistake about – doing CES right is a multi-million affair. But the pay-off could be huge. In fact, it would not shock me if I learned that CES exceeded SuperBowl in the number of impressions delivered.

That’s awe inspiring. Never before has a trade show had that kind of reach and coverage. It seems cosmically fitting that new technology, e.g. social media, would elevate the very essence of CES itself.

Welcome to the year of living intelligently with technology.

Judy Shapiro

Blackberry – my technology line in the sand

I feel like Don Quixote from Man of La Mancha – tilting at windmills.  And I know, that sooner or later, the windmill will win (for those of you who never read the play – hint – it does not end so well for Don.)

But for now, I have drawn this technology line in the sand and have not procured the requisite Blackberry. My reasons for resisting this technology are numerous despite the clear and compelling benefits:

  • I am not that important that I need to be reached within 20 seconds. As it is, I check email with a frequency that is akin to an addiction anyway. If there is a real emergency, then my ever ready cell phone is my safety net.
  • It seems that a Blackberry seems to give permission for people to be rude, as in, “I am so important that instead of listening to you in this meeting, I will check to my Blackberry to see if someone more important than you have contacted me”.  I dunno – it seems the self grandiose nature of this is rather irksome.
  • You can not give good direction to a team using a Blackberry. The best you can use a Blackberry for is a; “yes”, “no”, “I don’t know” or I will get back to you later” type of answers – nothing more. It makes me crazy when I see junior managers trying to tap out a cohesive and meaningful set of directions using Blackberry. Please, please stop it. It does not work, but I see the seduction of it. With our trusted Blackberry you can answer quickly and you can mark that item off your “to do” list. It may be efficient for you – but I can guarantee you that your team probably has no idea what you wanted.
  • Finally, as it is, too much of my day is spent fielding people trying to reach me. I resist being that in contact with everyone for so much of my day. ‘Nuf said.

So there you have it. My list of why I won’t get a Blackberry. I say this with some irony, since some of the reasons I gave above were not dissimilar to the reasons I may have given about 10 years ago when I resisted getting a cell phone. Obviously, that line in the sand was crossed within months and I suspect this one will be too.

While I don’t know how long this line in the sand will hold (and I am unfortunately not optimistic), I intend to hold the line as valiantly as Don Quixote. A quote in the play comes to mind and seems pertinent; “When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Too much sanity may be madness! But maddest of all – -to see life as it is and not as it should be.” I know Blackberry makes total sense … but I choose “madness”. At least for now.

Judy Shapiro

You know you’ve made it to the big time – when you get Mac Attacked

I was somewhat prepared I suppose – Mac users have a reputation for being “passionate” – even a bit nut case-y. I was girding myself for a bit of a backlash when I wrote an article for Ad Age on how easy it is to be slippery with the truth in technology advertising because “heck Judy Consumer won’t know the difference anyway”. The article, for instance, questioned whether Mac’s emphasis on virus free operation was giving “Judy Consumer” a false sense of security.

While I may have prepared, I figured I am not important that anyone would really notice. I was wrong. The Ad Age article did catch the attention of a Mac daily digital daily newsletter, which took exception to my article. Politely, I will restate their point which was they felt that my lack of technological knowledge did not allow me fully appreciate how bullet proof Macs really are.

Got it – they really really disagreed with my point. I respect that.

But then they launched a guerilla attack that was pretty well coordinated to lobb every conceivable personal attack. Many were very funny. Someone took a fair amount of time to create reusable content for others to hurl at me. I was described as an idiot”, worthy only of being in the kitchen, a dishonest reporter (pretty funny since I am not a professional writer), an archetype of silly women everywhere who don’t understand technology. They even pulled the old, tired, “you ignorant slut” why don’t you get some “recreational activities” and stay out of tech. In short, the onslaught was saying – I was worthless as a human being and had no right to even invoke the precious Mac name – much less challenge their sacred reputation.

In many ways, the attack reminded me of a guerilla organization. They come out of the weeds – do their dark deeds and then skulk back into their holes.  The editor deliberately took my article and edited it in such a way to suggest the focus of the article on why Macs can not claim their bullet proof status (that wasn’t the focus at all). They created a bunch of content so users could flood me with a barrage of personal insults that had no intelligence in it. They even accused me of being in the pocket of MS or the security company I quoted in the article.

And just like any guerilla terrorist organization, there is no honor in their fight. There is no desire to keep the conversation focused on the real issue — how real people must grapple with new challenges as we all become more dependent on the Internet.

Nope. The site wanted to whip up a frenzy to drive traffic. They did exactly what my article was complaining about – they played with the facts to satisfy their business needs. There was no straight talk in their harangue.

But I am consoled by the fact that I must have hit big time … otherwise they would not have bothered. I know others have been in this Mac Attack club including a recent article from Fortune’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt in his article; “Why are there no Mac viruses?”
http://brainstormtech.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2009/09/02/why-are-there-no-mac-viruses. But they seem to reserve their special ire for “ignorant women”…

I thought the days of persuasion by coercion were only reserved for close minded fundamentalists. I was wrong and on this point – I wholly admit my error.

Judy Shapiro

http://twitter.com/judyshapiro

“He BING’d it!”

If any of you track how “Judy Consumer” is faring with the new BING, you will know that “Judy Consumer” has been pretty hard on BING. “Judy Consumer” recently dinged BING for its lack of delivery on its “decision engine” promise. “Judy Consumer” could not figure out how to get the decision engine price chart promised so beautifully in the spots by JWT.

I, Judy Marketing Geek, was also down on BING but for entirely different reasons. IMO, the BING campaign took two clumsy missteps.

First, they made the mistake of using the rational thinking of research and strategy to drive a creative strategy (what’s more rational than a “decision engine” position I ask you). That’s not so bad except the resulting campaign is all corporate bore that hangs loosely on a form but it still lacked the ability to really connect to “Judy Consumer”. It lacks “techno-soul”, it lacks creative sparks.

If one compares these spots to say, Apple, the contrast is clear. Apple spots are well grounded in rational thinking but give primacy to the creative spark that animates it all. Every Apple spot has that techno-soul. The BING spots don’t and so they can not really reach “Judy Consumer’s” heart. No spark and no campaign can go from “ok” to great (again think Apple spots).

The second misstep the campaign took and is the one I personally find the most difficult to bear, largely because Microsoft is held as a role model for technology advertising. The BING campaign failed to deliver something as basic as an honest, clear and simple understanding of what BING does actually do. Instead, JWT created a simplistic (note I did not say simple) campaign lacking in any real meaning? How does BING help anyone decide anything? Is the price chart just a gimmick?

“Judy Consumer” does not need to know the algorithmic nature of how results are generated, but she needs to understand how to connect BING’s abilities to what she does everyday. She deserves to understand the basics behind the big promises.

These two missteps represent mistakes made on the part of both the client and agency. Microsoft made the mistake many tech advertisers make – they confused simplistic messaging (that’s a bad thing) with simple messaging (that’s a good thing). Simplistic marketing tends to appeal to lowest common denominator and this often limits its ability to connect meaningfully, emotionally because it vaguely assumes “Judy Consumer” won’t understand anything too complex. On the other hand, simple marketing boils down your value proposition to a comprehensible and honest articulation of what you deliver. BING’s advertising is simplistic and assumes the “Judy Consumers” won’t understand much. That’s an underestimation and its flaw. Its simplistic promise is all big rational promise without its techno-soul.

But what mistake did a great agency make? They failed to drive the campaign to achieve a key magic ingredient – the techno-soul of the campaign. It lacks creative spark. I can’t say what happened for sure, but 12 years on the agency side gives me a pretty good idea. The agency strategy folks (left brainers I’ll call them) probably did some research (quantitative and/ or qualitative) to learn that people are dissatisfied with their current search experiences because they often yield lots of irrelevant results. With that key insight in mind, then multiple ideas were spun off and then another round of testing was done to refine the concept.

Next, the “rational” campaign was smoothed out and polished so that it played well in presentations and board meetings. It probably tested well too. Yet, in all this left brain, rational massaging to get the campaign sold-in, the techno-soul was lost.

In fact, the decision engine position sucks the soul out of BING. Why? Because that type of position goes against the concept of the Internet as a free information resource for all. Not all information seekers are seeking a decision.  In fact, this whole decision engine positioning vaguely suggests a new class system within the Internet that favors those who can make decisions, techno-code for people who can buy stuff. Maybe it’s just me – but this approach seems to be limiting the Internet’s natural capacity for unfettered expansiveness. A creative mind would have understood that.

Now as any good client understands, after you’ve told the agency what you don’t want, you must give clear direction on what you do want. So now let me have some fun for a moment and I’ll pretend I am “Judy Client” thinking about how BING might be marketed. My brilliant agency has shown me reams of research to tell me that consumers often get frustrated with search results that are off the mark.

As “Judy Client”, I would want to hear how real people describe their BING experiences. I would ask anyone I knew about their experiences (much to my kids’ chagrin as I interrogate their friends on this type of stuff). Then invariably the inspiration moment would come with my husband being the messenger this time. He described how his friend “BING’d” for an obscure piece of information and was greatly surprised and delighted when he found it.

And then in a breath, I knew he had expressed the perfect position.  BING can become synonymous with a new type of search … one that is great at finding the informational needle in the digital haystack. He even said the word BING with a “ring”, suggesting that the word BING is so auditory and should be more overly integrated in the campaign. Or maybe there’s an effort to create “He BING’d it” as a techno-colloquial phrase. I can even imagine how BING becomes the sound you hear when you get a great result.

I get that positioning and I think “Judy Consumer” would get that.  I would excitedly call my brilliant agency kindred spirit to share with him/ her the insight. And I would trust they will know how to create life and a soul around that idea. In the end, no research can take the place of gut creative judgment. No amount of rational strategy will help an ad campaign rise above the mundane to greatness. It takes a rare combination of brilliant agency and client talent along with a healthy dose of intuition to create brilliance.

So remember Microsoft, if some clever agency person comes to you with a recommendation to establish “He BING’d it” as colloquial term, remember – you heard it here first.

Judy Shapiro

http://twitter.com/judyshapiro

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