Fanfair and hoopla aside, I made a visit yeaterday evening at 8:30 PM to Apple's flagship store in New York.
The store, open 24/7, 365 days a year, is easily spotted just across from the Plaza fountain on Fifth Avenue. Its entrance has been touted as a giant glass cube, leading down a circular glass stairway to an open retail space which has taken over the entire front of the original GM building.
The architects must be turning in their graves. Apple's references to the Pyramid at the Louvre in Paris is a far cry for this glass eyesore and is insulting to the French.
As you reach the retail floor, you are confronted by an enormous spacious display area for everything Apple and then some. The store is not exclusively Apple and is difficult to negotiate. Circuit City, or any other major electronics retailer, do a better job of store design and display.
Asking for assistance is a joke. "You can make a reservation at this computer for our help desk".
All I asked for was a set of earphones that I lost. "Oh...those are not sold here. You'll need to make a reservation......". Dissapointment after dissapointment.
Shame on Apple. They still don't have their act together. This is one Apple that needs to be tossed out of the Big Apple barrel.
As CBS Corp. moves away from its Paramount theme parks in a $1.24 billion sale to Cedar Fair, is it missing an important and emerging outlet for content distribution?
CBS' seven theme parks, tagged with a 10 year licensing deal for familiar Nickelodeon characters (Sponge Bob Square Pants) may have, in the long run, been sold for a song.
With an explosive evolution in media access, the sites for these parks could have been integrated into a broader media strategy to create theme based content (ie. online gaming, rides, streaming adventure videos) for distribution to broad based, young consumer groups.
Kids, teens and young adults are the demographics marketers dreams are made of .... CBS, a network whose programing has always been associated with an older audience, missed the forest for the trees with the pruning of this asset.
The CBS deal brings the number of Cedar Fair theme parks up to 19. The right digital advances, coupled with a digital strategy to leverage its licensing deal, has the potential to place Cedar Fair in an enviable position as a major distribution channel reaching the fickle, elusive and valuable young audeince.
Just one year ago, the three top ranking social networking sites combined (Classmates, MSN Groups and AOL Hometown) generated 35 million unique visits during April 2005.
Fast forward to April 2006..... MySpace leads the social networking pack with a whopping 367% increase to 38 million unique visits while the original top three performers slip to 33 million visits and YouTube makes its debut with 12.5 million.
The reality of this phenomenon should be taken seriously by the mainstream media channels as marketing opportunities expand in squared fashion. The integration of new and ever-changing options require a keen eye on the direction young America takes to establish themselves on their own media platforms.
Nielsen maintains that these sites enjoy a high retention rate. MySpace, for example, boasts a retention rate of 67%. Word to the wise ... that retention rates include existing but inactive accounts that contribute to the overall picture in an unhealthy way.
Marketers note: be wary that the lax supervision of questionable postings (pornographic or otherwise) doesn't slap a lid on its unbridled growth and the consumer tide turns against it.
Are You Web 2.0 Savvy? Do You Need To Be?
Turn to any consumer (and some marketers) and ask them how they like Web 2.0 compared to Web 1.0. Chances are you'll get a blank stare.
The concept is simple and unless you're a web designer or manage bells and whistles on your site, you don't really need to know all the terminology (AJAX, an acronym for Asynchronous JavaScript and XML, for example) that created Web 2.0.
This new and improved version of the web allows for greater interactivity through blogs, Wikis, Social Networks, RSS Feeds and Virtual Conferencing among a host of other applications. Visitors to interactive sites can apply their own tags (keywords) to the information on hand, creating a public directory .... or folksonomy, generating a sense of community and, in the case of marketers, providing a platform for interactive testing and brainstorming with their customer base.
Web 2.0 has also created a new bubble of sorts with venture capitalists rushing to fund new versions of stale material.
While you do not, as a marketer, need to understand what makes Web 2.0 work, you do need to understand how it can be applied to leverage your business.
More power to the people.
OnLine Media Auctions .... Coming of Age
Action by a group of heavyweight marketers, led by Wal-Mart and facilitated through the ANA, provides a healthy break in the clouds that have been hanging over this initiative for several years. A call by Wal-Mart's Julie Roehm to pool $50 million for the development of a market system and test will likely be met with resistance from major media outlets and major agencies.
That comes as no surprise given a similar test that proved successful, by HJ Heinz with Ariba several years back, seems to have been squelched when major media properties turned up the heat.
But several years and $50 million can make a difference.
While Julie Roehm and 10 other marketing partners will ante up the $50 million pool, we question the need to "reinvent the wheel" when reverse auction models have already made significant headway and investments into the framework and process that drives such models. The focus should be on process refinement across all media formats.
Enversa, funded by IMC2, is one such outfit that begs a hard look. Pouring millions into process development harkens back to the days of Mediaport .... a failed multi-million dollar attempt by major agencies to re-write agency process for the creation of a new-age, agnostic, enterprise-wide management system.
The marketers are to be applauded for this bold, visionary step forward. The ANA has the dedication and diversified intellectual capital to facilitate the experiment. But both marketers and the ANA should not attempt to pull this off without the benefit of agency and media partner input. And at the very least it should review models that are already planted in the marketplace and not rely solely on the Google's of the world to do so.
RFID....A balanced View
The controversy over the utilization of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags and how they may or may not impact privacy concerns, is a speed bump that suppliers and retailers must navigate in order for the technology to achieve widespread, consumer based use.
ROI data for businesses is now coming to light and it is more than encouraging. From Wal-Mart to P&G, to the Pharmaceutical firms, RFID tags are tracking the movement of pallets and case shipments from warehouse to retailers. Interrogators (readers) are also dropping in price to allow for case tracking from inventory to sales floors, preventing out of stock situations and lost sales.
Just recently, one firm announced the cost of the low frequency retail tags at just 5 cents (in bulk), pushing acceptance even further along. The next step for retailers is to integrate RFID data into back-end systems for refined control.
All this must be tempered with the potential abuse at the consumer level and steps necessary to minimize it. It is an issue that will likely demand government regulation.
The benefit to the consumer can, however, be significant and boundless. Consider, for example, a RFID tag on an airline boarding pass. Checkpoints at the gate can assess whether the passenger is within range of the gate. Children's clothing can be tagged by parents while traveling or in school as a deterrent to abduction. No doubt there are enormous advantages to be had.
RFID is here to stay. But PLEASE, take a lesson from consumer concerns about PC cookies, and temper its introduction with the proper education concerning its use.