QR Codes and Other Marketing Myths

Does anyone think QR codes are the answer to our marketing problems? Of course not. Anyway, let's hope not. But they are symptomatic of a bigger problem.

A recent article about the generally poor consumer adoption of QR codes got me thinking about all of the reasons that might be true. Then it hit me, probably because the article said it very clearly:

QR codes are pushed by brands, not people. This isn't the path to mass adoption.

That's absolutely right. We live in a world where people are in charge. People decide that Friendster, or MySpace, or Facebook, or Twitter is going to be the next big thing. Then brands race to catch up.

The other way around doesn't work. Kids today don't give a damn about what the brands are into. (Sorry, I just like saying "kids today." Makes me feel old.) But brands better know and care about what the kids are into.

I think it's funny that Rebel gets branded as an out of the box thinker. We don't sit around and come up with wild ideas. Instead, we go out into the world, and on the web, and make sure we know all about what consumers want, and what they're already doing.

Our best ideas come from identifying things that consumers already like to do, and then thinking about all of the ways a client make those things better. We think about how brands can give back to culture, and then how to use that to create business results.

This is the future of marketing, and the present. If you aren't thinking about how to make people's lives better, what are you thinking about?

iPad: Maybe So, Maybe No

apple ipadIf you're like me, you're among the many who were disappointed with yesterday's reveal of the Apple iPad, and possibly even more disappointed by the name. But the public reaction is even more interesting than the product itself, and it speaks to the incredible power Apple has built in its brand.

I had two client meetings yesterday. The first one was right around 10am — the time of Steve Jobs' keynote — and was repeatedly interrupted by various people in the room reporting real-time announcements they got from their smartphones. Ironically, none of these people were using iPhones, and they described themselves as "non-Apple people." But they were glued to the news just like the rest of us, illustrating the extent to which Apple has ingrained itself into the fabric of American culture.

In the second meeting, the guy went on for about a minute listing all of the things wrong with the iPad: No camera, no Flash, no phone, etc. Then, almost on cue, he stops and says, "don't get me wrong, I'm buying one."

Me? I don't love it, but truth be told, I'll probably end up buying iPad 2, or should I say iPad Super.

Tell us what you think. Are you going to buy it? And what can we learn from Apple about branding?

Blackberry // Don't Believe the Hype

BlackBerry is blowing it. The long-standing mobile email champ took the early lead by focusing on product, making devices that worked and appealing to consumers' practical, rather than emotional needs. That's fine when you're the only - or the main - game in town. But like it always does, the game has changed. And BlackBerry hasn't done the work to integrate the brand - not just the product - into its customers’ lives. The one notable branding effort has been a John Mayer tour sponsorship, a clear demonstration that it doesn't understand its customers.

For the creative class, and what's more accurately described as the cultural class, BBs have been a staple in the tech arsenal, along with Apple laptops of various incarnations. Before it loses too much ground to you-know-who and the other you-know-who, RIM needs to begin a conspicuous and consistent demonstration that it values the lifestyles of the folks in which its products play such an important role.

Rebelize it:

- Collaborate with interesting visual artists to make limited-edition cases, skins, and other accessories. Then host art openings to launch those products and get them in the hands of the real influencers. Send out invites via BB Messenger or direct PIN messages so only BB owners and their +1s are hip.

- Do the same with music. Commission custom ringtones or original recordings and then host listening parties. Involve BB owners in deciding what artists to support.

- BlackBerry is about business, right? So facilitate growth in your users’ businesses with a series of networking events and conferences, then extend that community online. Do you think people are going to jump on the latest trendy phone if you’re actually helping their businesses?

There's lots more work to do, but this is a good start at building real relationships with people who care about the brand and will gladly lend their influence if approached in the right way.

Gen Art Fresh Faces of Fashion // On the Run

Peonie swimsuit, photo from Gen Art Last week I went to Gen Art's Fresh Faces of Fashion at the Peterson Automotive Museum. Love that place. You definitely feel like you’re somewhere special. We threw Scion's first LA event there back in 2002, and had a line of about 4,000 people wrapped around onto Wilshire Blvd. Fire marshal wasn't too happy, but it all worked out. There's something about free drinks among one-of-a-kind cars that just feels right.

I've always been a little skeptical of Gen Art. Not really sure why, but it sort of felt like too much hype. So I've never been. I went this time to support minha camarada, Maira Caren, who premiered her swimsuit line Peonie.

As fashion events go, this was pretty good. Just precious enough to remind you that you're somewhere stylish, but not too stuffy at all. It probably helped that I ran into some good friends.

What was not so good was BlackBerry’s sponsorship. I hate to keep picking on them, but they keep getting it wrong. First, there were the promo models with cigarette trays carrying demos of the all new BlackBerry Curve. That is, the year-old-plus Curve. Come on, people, the point of Gen Art is that it attracts fashion-forward, tech-forward consumers. If they’re buying two-year-old phones, then by definition they’re not trendsetters. Why not have sneak peek Storms, or at least Bolds there for people to get their hands on?

Even then, is a fashion show really the right place to check out a phone? What exactly am I supposed to learn about the phone in this environment? There was also an artist painting a live mural — not a terrible idea at a Gen Art event, but what does that have to do with BlackBerry? As if to create some kind of “authenticity,” the mural incorporated pictures of the phones. That’s as lame as it sounds.

I will say, one of the reasons I'll go to more Gen Art events is as I mentioned above, I ran into a lot of folks I hadn't seen in awhile and learned they're up to some great things. Check them out - Rickey Kim from 944 and Evilmonito, Danny Zusman from Adcamp, Jennifer and Yosi from Evolutionary Media.

The Airlines and AT&T // Don't Believe the Hype

I’m trying not to pick on the airlines. Enough smart people are doing that. Read Seth Godin’s piece for someone who knows what he’s talking about. If they’re not listening to him, they’re surely not going to listen to me. But I need to get this off my chest - on my flight to Paris there was an AT&T flyer on my dinner tray. I’ve seen ads like this before, and I usually get annoyed and refuse to look. I kept this one so I could make fun of it. It says the phones work in over 200 countries. Hey, good for you! First problem is I get nothing out of this ad. Drinks weren’t free on the flight; AT&T wasn’t sponsoring American’s new in-flight wi-fi, which wasn’t even in effect on my flight. Nothing.

Second problem: I’m already an AT&T customer. Even if I wasn’t annoyed by the ad, what am I supposed to do? Call and make sure my I can use my phone overseas? I’m already on the plane. And I already did that. And guess what? When I did, they offered shit for options.

So I found another solution: Rail Europe: the U.S. marketer of European train travel. The purchase process led me to a company called Call In Europe, with a special discount for Rail Europe customers. For $29, I got a Euro SIM card with BlackBerry service, and a domestic forwarding # so you can still reach me on my regular number.

AT&T should have offered me this. And they should have bought me a drink for the privilege of advertising to me in-flight - then I might be talking about about how cool AT&T and American are, instead of talking about how wack they are.