What’s in a name? Branding your product.

by alec on October 31, 2011

I stood at the cash at the local Tim Horton’s (a Canadian doughnut chain), and ordered a “combo” – sandwich, coffee, and a doughnut. 

“And which baked good would you like with your lunch, sir?”

Baked good.  Wow!

Questioned, he explained that “baked goods” just seemed an easier and shorter description than enumerating all the possible confections I could order in place of the doughnut with my lunch.

Tim’s sells doughnuts, and plenty of them.  But they also sell other (ahem) “baked goods” such as croissants, pastries, muffins and cookies.  You see, over the years it has evolved from a doughnut shop to a coffee shop, and more recently into a chain of what might best be described as sandwich shops.  My clerk just didn’t want to go through the agro of asking “Would you like a doughnut, muffin, or cookie with your lunch sir?”, because then he would have had to ask the follow on question “Which one?”.

I suspect for most Canadians, however, Tim’s is, and always will be, the corner doughnut shop.  Timbits hockey, a Tim’s coffee at the rink, the working man’s breakfast — that’s their brand.  And that’s why the young guy at the cash surprised me with his casual offer of “baked goods”.

Naming things and creating brands is tough.  You just have to look at the launch of the BlackBerry Jam franchise a couple of weeks ago at our DevCon America’s event.  The brand team worked for months on concepts that would evoke the idea of communications and collaboration which are core to the BlackBerry brand, but still fit the developer ethos.  Personally, I love what they’ve done.  The idea of developers working together in a Jam Session, like musicians, plays perfectly in today’s reality of co-working spaces and hackathons.

Even so, when we started to extend the brand concepts to all of the places we wanted it to go, everyone stumbled over the BlackBerry Jam Recognition Program.  It didn’t exactly roll off the tongue, and it lacked emotional intensity – the connection that has to be made between the value proposition of the brand, and the audience that it’s speaking to.

So internally we started calling the awards “Jammies”.  The rest played out on the stage at DevCon in San Francisco.

Whether you’re selling baked goods, or communications devices, the brand you build needs to connect with your audience.  The best are descriptive, evocative, emotional, and easy to understand. 

Now, anyone for a doughnut?


Is RIM doomed to repeat history?

by alec on February 11, 2011

I invite you to cast your memories back to 1992.  No, not the election of Bill Clinton, but the IBM launch of OS/2 2.0.

OS/2 2.0, IBM’s multi-tasking OS with the ability to run Windows applications in virtual machines was widely touted as “a better Windows than Windows”.  And indeed, compared to Windows 3.1, it had many advantages.   It could run Windows applications and OS/2 applications.  It could isolate Windows applications in separate virtual machines so that when one instance of the notoriously unstable Windows OS died, you could keep working.  And it multi-tasked oh-so-smoothly as IBM’s pre-eminent OS/2 sales pitcher David Barnes demonstrated over and over again to rapturous audiences.

OS/2 was a huge hit with technophiles.  Developers, however, didn’t take to it as readily.  Why write an OS/2 native application, they reasoned, when a Windows application would do?  The OS/2 market was small, the Windows market huge, and the extra expense for a native OS/2 application wasn’t justifiable.

In 1995, Microsoft released Windows 95.  Technically it closed the gap with OS/2.  More importantly changes in the Windows OS made it more difficult for OS/2 to virtualize.  Without a developer base of native OS/2 applications, OS/2 withered on the vine and died.  In 2006 IBM stopped building new versions.

The lesson of OS/2 vs Windows is that there is no substitute for building a strong native application ecosystem.

It has been widely speculated since the RIM Playbook announcement that RIM might include some kind of Android compatibility in the Playbook.  The rumours, it seems, just won’t die.  This morning’s Postmedia Network papers contain a piece by Hugo Miller and Olga Kharif making this claim again, BGR reported January 26th that RIM might be choosing the Dalvik Virtual Machine for Playbook (which Android is built upon), Fortune wrote about this rumour in December and so on and so on.

The strategy under discussion is the addition of an Android compatibility mode to the Playbook’s QNX operating system.  The thinking is that enabling Android applications to run natively on QNX would allow customers to use the 200,000+ native Android applications that are out there already.  Instant ecosystem.  QNX would become “a better Android than Android”.

This is a risky strategy.

Bringing Android apps to Playbook risks ceding the developer ecosystem to Google. Developers wouldn’t need to write Playbook apps – an Android app would allow them to cover both bases.

Bringing Android apps to Playbook risks giving control of the Playbook user experience to Google. In order to have the best Android experience on Playbook, RIM will need to devote a team to just ensuring that their VM retains compatibility with the Android VM.  And what should developers target?  A native Android experience, or a native Playbook experience?

Small changes in Android could cripple Playbook. What if changes in the Android VM made it harder to virtualize on Playbook?  What if Google decided to pull Android Market support from RIM?

In short, RIM’s success could become tied to Google’s good will, and over time there may be fewer and fewer native RIM applications as developers put their energy behind Android’s momentum confident in the knowledge that their applications will run on RIM platforms.

We still don’t know what RIM’s actual strategy is.  Let’s hope that their strategy is more than just hitching themselves to the Android band-wagon.


Apple revives long dead marketing practice

February 10, 2011

When I first started in the technology business, the practice of marketing differently in various geographies was common.  The same product might be sold in Canada for 10% more than it cost in the United States.  And watch out if you were European – 100% mark-ups were common.  Ostensibly companies localized products for various markets, […]

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Lies, damn lies, and statistics

December 1, 2010
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Like a lot of mobile software developers, we track which handsets and operating systems are most popular. It’s critical to our business to understand which platforms have market share, are in ascendancy, decline and so on.  That’s the reason I read Royal Pingdom’s study of mobile OS usage so carefully this morning.  Region by region, […]

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How not to launch products online in a world of TSA pat-downs.

November 23, 2010
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Twenty years ago, prior to a product announcement, marketers would hit the road and visit all the major publications in their industries.  One on one with journalists, they would pitch the story, answer their questions, and then move on to the next.  At Microsoft in the early 90’s that meant a two day west coast […]

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Dropbox and the Golden Rule of Referral Marketing

September 14, 2010

Dropbox is a service that I both use extensively, and admire. It synchronizes all of my data across all of the devices that I use – seamlessly, effortlessly, with no errors. It makes my documents totally mobile.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve reached for my iPad to grab a contract or a […]

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Boingo’s sponsored hot spot program is clever marketing.

November 12, 2009

Boingo’s sponsored Wi-Fi program caught my eye earlier this week.  I’m a student of marketing programs, especially when quantitative measurement is involved. Boingo claims to have increased revenues by up to 35% at selected airports by allowing sponsors to subsidize internet access for travellers.  The program requires the user to watch 30 seconds of advertising […]

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Apple responds to Microsoft ads with… more of the same?

May 13, 2009

I can’t decide whether Apple’s response to Microsoft’s Laptop Hunter series of ads is smart marketing, or an indication that the folks in Cupertino don’t know how to respond to the head shots that Microsoft is dishing out. Smart marketing says if you have a winning message, stay on message.  That’s what Apple has done.  […]

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Twitter is a megaphone

April 17, 2009

Social media gives marketers a lot of tools to add to the kit bag.  So how do you know what the right tool is, and can they be used in an integrated fashion? Easy! Podcasts are great for creating intimacy, and delivering longer high value messages.  That’s because they’re often consumed during commute time, and […]

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A Magpie No More

April 11, 2009

I run a test of the Be-A-Magpie twitter advertising services. Over a period of a couple of weeks, nobody clicked the advertisements and I made no money. Account deleted.

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