How far is too far… hmmm? *squints eyes

I’ve been ingrained at an early age that plagiarism will ruin your life, academically and otherwise.
If you dare to plagiarize, you’ll become the pariah of society and be shunned in shame for all of eternity. Eventually, so full of self-loath, you’ll commit suicide. End of story.

Needless to say, I’ve never plagiarized in my life. I have however done some “creative paraphrasing”. Honestly, who’s gone through post-secondary (or even high school) without doing that?
Point is, plagiarism is bad.
However, in marketing we glorify it a tad and call it “prototyping”. Taking the market leader’s products and prototyping our own to resemble it. Thus lending all the positive association with the market leader’s product to our own. Pretty convenient.

To some extent this amazing. It leverages all the marketing the market leader’s done and boosts our own products by eroding the leader’s market share. But now we ask ourselves as marketers, how far is too far?
If we prototype too much isn’t it just copying their product and implicitly admitting defeat to their superior products?

Case in point is the recent lawsuit between Samsung and Apple.

http://hitechanalogy.com/apple-files-lawsuit-against-samsung-blaming-samsung-galaxy-s-phone-tab-as-copies-of-iphone-ipad/

Let’s start off by saying I own both company’s products and am personally a huge fan of Samsung’s new products and their (generally) strategic direction. Also, I have a school boy admiration of the sales and marketing skills that are masterfully displayed at each Apple keynote by Steve Jobs.

This lawsuit alleges that Samsung copies Apple’s iPhone and iPad designs.
I’m not here to pass the judgment on who’s in the wrong – that’s the court’s job.
I’m here to analyze the effectiveness of prototyping and its role it plays in modern mobile technology industry.

The industry and its trends
Since the beginning of time, prototyping has been around. From copying the designs of weapons of neighbouring countries during war-torn eras to the modern day Apple vs Everyone-Else-That-Has-Produces Tech-That-Resembles-Apple-Products, it’s been around.
A recent, notable event in history is the introduction of what I’d like to call the Apple Fever. Very much akin to the b***** fever (to protect the little boy’s privacy). I draw parallels because there are obviously better alternatives out there but people just flock to them. It’s unimaginable and illogical, right?
Because of this craze, people started “prototyping” the iPods. There was even an episode of Simpsons that poked fun at the fact that all you need are Apple ear buds stuck in your ear to make others believe you have an iPod.
Because of this, more and more companies are copying the big A’s product designs (HP Envy series, Samsung Galaxy smartphones, Galaxy Tab 10.1, etc etc).
It’s harder to find “innovative” designs nowadays. Of course, it doesn’t help that the innovative designs are often duds (ahem BlackBerry Torch).
So why “innovate” and risk a big R&D flop?

The role prototyping plays
In my opinion, prototyping is an important aspect in capturing market share. It is absolutely vital in the early stages when trying to slay Goliath.
The first few products pushed out should be textbook examples of prototyping with a few distinguishing features to differentiate it from the market leader.
Here’s where I give kudos to Samsung.
With the introduction of their super AMOLED display, they have a strong differentiating feature.
Slowly however, as their brand matures in the market after a few products that are prototyped from the market leader’s, the company should start to capitalize on the distinguishing feature and diverge away from the prototypical design.
I believe Samsung is going to approach this step near the end of the next quarter or latest, end of this year.
Sony (you and your arc/xperia play) kinda jumped the gun. But I admire the guts you displayed and give kudos to you. However, recently with the bad PR (PSN hack) and the natural disaster (3.11, prayers still with Japan), it’s hard to make a strong comeback in the next little while.
All in all, to establish yourself as a strong brand, companies that aren’t the market leader in their industry can do one of two things:
1. Do something radically different and hope it flies.
2. Prototype a little while and diverge.

So now that we’ve understood more about this prototyping business, we get back to the main question: how far is too far?
I draw the line when the two products look exactly the same when you place it a few meters away and squint really hard. Of course when you pick it up and play around with it after riding the teacups and it seems exactly the same to you then; that’s also too far.

His honourable judge Brian Leung presiding.
My verdict: Samsung is not guilty of copying Apple’s design.
There are so many features available only on Samsung that aren’t found in the egoPods.

Final word:
Technology are like girls. All the top-notch ladies are very similar on the outside, but once you get to know them and discover their unseen attributes you’ll really find out that they’re all different. In the end, lucky lady you choose to keep says a lot about yourself as a person. Obviously there will be dudes who will just want to date people purely based on outward appearances, there’s a market for everyone. To each their own.

To the millions of companies out there trying to climb to the top of the market by stepping on other companies: please exercise moderation and common sense when prototyping. Consumers are smart. We don’t appreciate (for the most part) excessive copying.

Cheers and stay busy!

PS. If you’re an xx chromosomed being or your orientations are different, change the gender thing to your liking. I write in the first person and in my personal views. Life’s too short to rewrite things to accommodate everyone, I hope you understand. No hard feelings

Clearly the better choice…

This is a true story.

I was intrigued about why my friend’s family got a Mercedes-Benz instead of one of those cool-looking BMW’s. When I brought this up, I was hoping for a convoluted answer that would spark a very interesting debate about the awesomeness of BMW’s versus Mercedes-Benz. Instead I got a very trivial answer with him replying, “We went into the BMW dealership and wasn’t even greeted within the first 15 minutes. My mom got pissed and we went next door to the Mercedes dealership.” Then I asked whether it was just a matter of convenience and his reply was that the order of visiting dealerships were already planned ahead: first BMW , then Mercedes-Benz next door, then Lexus down the street from there.
I was speechless. At how insignificant these points were compared to the myriad of rebuttals I came up with.

However, this story does serve a point.
Imagine the difference in sales volume a certain store can get if all customers were greeted upon immediately as they entered the store.
It’s a simple concept: everyone has an ego, they want to feel important.
If you make them feel important, then they’ll more likely be inclined to pry open their wallets and fork over their hard-earned disposable income during this recessionary stage.

Oh, it also helps not to judge your customer’s by their appearance. I’m not implying that the sales people at that certain BMW dealership were not greeting them or acknowledging their existence because they were dressed humbly and casually. Perhaps they were just busy.

To illustrate the power of social media as customer service tool, let’s take a look at one of my top picks for budding companies: ClearlyContacts.ca.

As their name suggests, they started their business with sales and distribution of contact lenses. In my opinion, it wasn’t until they started to enter into the framed glasses business were they truly successful.

Their social media
With two customer relations representative extraordinare, Julia B (JB) and Maria J (MJ), at the helm their communications through facebook and twitter is fast, efficient, and effective.

http://www.facebook.com/ClearlyContacts.ca

Firstly, I was exposed to their facebook page. With frequent announcements of special deals, their facebook page is a solid vehicle through which to deliver strong promotional campaigns.

http://twitter.com/#!/ClearlyContacts
Their twitter serves in a similar capacity to announce promotions and address customers’ questions and complaints.

The most powerful way they’re leveraging this is replying to posts within a short period of time, often within two hours during a work day. Emails are then sent to confirm the problem is addressed and outline the actions they’ve already taken.
This is value-added customer service people.

Their print media
ClearlyContacts.ca has also taken a very aggressive approach to their marketing through print media. If you check out the local newspapers in Toronto right before the holidays (Christmas, New Year, Valentine’s, Mother’s day etc) you’ll see huge ad spots for ClearlyContacts.ca.
Amazing deals such as the current buy one, get one free deal.
Also it helps to have some good-looking models.

Frankly, with how their business is set up, the company is aiming to change the purchase pattern and consumption/shopping behaviour of consumers. This is perfectly complemented by their aggressive promotional offerings as well as quality products. The highly experiential process of purchasing a pair of glasses is leveraged by creating an environment where customers are treated as royalty so as to encourage repeat business.

The take-home message for this case study is that for any company out there aiming to change purchase patterns and behaviours of consumers this is a viable strategy. But be prepared! The margins for the first year or so will definitely be a write-off. If you can tough it out through that rough patch, then the margins will surely return as you build a strong customer base and a loyal following.
Of course, those have a foundation in superior customer service.
A tool to achieve that superior customer service is through the fast, efficient and effective communications done through facebook and twitter.

For their outstanding and sound marketing strategy, ClearlyContacts.ca has earned
9 b’s out of 10
b.b.b.b.b.b.b.b.b.b.

And of course, the bee Choice Award!

 

PS. Let me know what your inclination is: BMW or Mercedes-Benz?

marketing… the good fight

As consumers, ourselves, we all know that it’s hard to grab the audience’s attention.
Whether it be that we PVR our favourite shows to skip through the commercials or zap and zip while we watch TV, consumers almost never really pay full attention to the advertising and marketing that’s going on.
Marketers are always fighting the consumers for their attention.
Enter the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship). Standing 5 ft 11 in tall. Dana “Big Boss” White!
I honestly think this guy’s brilliant.
Pushing the sport of mixed martial arts from the brink of certain death to becoming a worldwide phenomenon. And the company does amazing marketing.

I can almost say with confidence that there’s only one other company that does a better job at social media marketing that I know of (more on this at a later date).
The company broadcasts fights on their facebook page, how innovative is that?
On their facebook page is says: “Like us to see the UFC 130 prelims” (see picture below).

http://www.facebook.com/UFC

Only this, but Dana White has over 1,450,000 followers on twitter.
Recently, the day before the historical first fight in Toronto, On (my hometown and favourite place in the world) Dana White gave out tickets to a sold-out event at the busiest intersection (Dundas and Yonge).
One tweet and 30 minutes later almost 200 people showed up. Can we say successful guerrilla marketing?

When I say integration, I really mean integration.
Twitter in this organization has a huge role in hyping up a fight and selling tickets.
Almost all fighters have their own twitter account; and often these accounts are used to, rather publicly, call out or taunt other fighters.
Another high point that I feel other companies can take a page out of the UFC guide to twitter marketing book is how you can tweet the big boss and often get a response back. Now that’s two-way communications.
When the customer/client feels connected, things will go a lot smoother. Unless your client is like that annoying suspicious girlfriend that keeps calling you when you’re not by her side. And even when you’re there in front of her, she keeps asking you about what happened that time you were in the showers didn’t pick up. But I digress.

Social media aside, this company has all the propaganda lined up as well (and I use this word not in the negative connotation). They have a magazine, their own videos, the UFC gym franchise, online forum, TV show/reality series, DVD’s of “classic fights”, and their own “fan expos”.
I guess when you have money to throw around you can do all this sort of thing.

The take away message should be how twitter is being used.
Emails are nice and great, but if you want a quick response, then twitter is much more effective for a company.

Overall, the UFC with its mass marketing strategy and its amazing social media integration deserves a 9 b out of 10.
b.b.b.b.b.b.b.b.b.b.


Also it deserves a bee choice award!

Congratulations UFC!
You’re doing well in my books. If that’s at all meaningful or not.

Oh I forgot about the PR this company gets. But I guess that’s a whole new post.
So for now, let’s sit back and admire the UFC’s effective use of twitter for two-way communication.
Bravo!

Actually, when it comes to effective communication and good customer service the next blog entry is a very good case study of a burgeoning online company that is revolutionizing its industry. Stay tune!

introducing….

introducing….

I’m bee.
Busy bee.
B is for Brian.
That is my name.
I like marketing.
Do you?

This is a blog I created to document my opinions and views on some creative and not-so-creative marketing ads, campaigns and such.
I hope you find some wisdom in these, at least that’ll make one of us if you do.
Share your comments, questions, criticism and trolling.
Though, frankly, I wouldn’t care much about your trolling.

Stay busy.

Bee