Facetime and DVD Players in Cars

Facetime: When voice calls fail, try pixelated video from your mobile home (but stay home and buy an AT&T cell)

I’ll bet you thought this would be a post about Apple’s Facetime (glorified video-conferencing via a wireless network but not carrier). Maybe you expected people to be Facetiming via the DVD players in their car. Oh contrair. You get a free mini-MBA lecture in high-tech marketing with a few topical references. If you’re an MBA student, bring this post into to your professor for extra credit. If he smiles, he’s smart. If he dismisses it, he’s locked in circa-1990 and his obsession with Kottler will be his undoing. If he is indifferent, you should ask him why he really decided to stop marketing and start teaching. If I got the gender of your professor wrong I apologize. In 1996 the ladies only taught the organizational behavior classes. Anyway if it spawns an intelligent marketing debate, send me the footage please. And tell your damned professor and university bookstore to buy my book.

So wake up for today’s little marketing lesson. Failing to differentiate based on a meaningful attribute, a marketer may turn the customer’s attention to something very specific where his or her product is not the best… but the only. Being “the only” is a delicious place to live, especially if you can connect that to someone’s affirmed need. I usually introduce myself as the “only career marketer who also is one of YouTube’s most-viewed entertainers.” Then I try to explain how that unique POV (as a business guy who knows the new medium) can help a brand become relevant in social media’s most visceral form (online video). Convinced? Good because I’m too busy to take any new assignments. Anyway in today’s post I’m turning up the arrogance meter “up to 11″by likening myself to marketing authors Jeffrey Kottler and Geoffrey Moore. Nobody wants to hire an arrogant douche bag.

I was at first struck by the absurdity that Mac hung its iPhone4 campaign on Facetime, a novelty feature that gets old in exactly one 34-second call for 97.4% of Americans. Take this horrible execution of Santa Facetiming his son… an act of pathetic desperation to milk emotion out of Christmas and transfer it to the shiny feature. It’s revolting on so many levels. But it makes sense to me (at least the strategy if not the cheese-wiz execution).

By contrast, I first thought the T-Mobile campaign (ripping so directly from the Mac/PC campaign) was pathetic — blatantly borrowing equity from a market leader. But then I realized it’s a bold and savvy ol’ Judo “art of war” marketing/positioning technique: turn your competitors energy against them (this is risky and doesn’t generally work for a market leader). There’s no question it’s helping T-Mobile redefine itself as a company otherwise lost in the shuffle. I haven’t been able to look at my iPhone without thinking of the smug guy with the old fart cruising him around on the razor scooter. It’s the first time I actually considered T-Mobile despite loads of ads that have chomped at my ankles. By the way, if Jeffrey Kottler, Geoffrey Moore and I were in these ads, I’d be the hot chick on the motorcycle.

Back to Facetime. I began to appreciate the campaign (despite its horrible creative manifestation) because I’m guessing the strategy was derived for three reasons. These are the things I think about while I’m forgetting where I placed my to-do list:

  • At the launch, video conferencing wasn’t so common, and appeared to distinguish iPhone 4.
  • Early adopters aside, something can’t cross “tipping point” if it’s too confusing or feature laden. It’s a good idea to focus on one feature (facetime) and turn it into a benefit (you’ll be a better parent!). Apps are too confusing to serve that objective in 30-second spots.
  • It was likely driven from a “consumer insight” via research. Apple knows it’s got the hard-core users by the balls, and could issue an iPhone with a unicorn horn and we’d buy it. So it looked at the outer ring of the target (“considerers”), and asked “what can we do to guilt the “Airport Dad” (Blackberry user) into switching to a phone made for a teenager?” Clearly he might be turned off by iPhone’s inability to, um, work like a phone, or its inoperability with his company’s technology system, and he may not even care about music and movies. He’ll like apps but he doesn’t know that yet, and short-form advertising won’t get that through. So we’ll punch him where he already hurts… you’re not buying a piece of electronics, airline papa, you’re buying perceived proximity to your family and loved ones. Boom- we shifted this consideration process from a rational purchase to an emotional one. It’s like ad agencies and their cursed theatrical pitches, oh how we hate and love them, but buy them either way.

So what’s this have to do with DVD players in the car? We purchased a new van recently (you may recall me giggling like a stoned teenager at the absurdity of the used-car store). My wife was trying to┬átantalize┬áme with what mattered the last time we bought a used van (about 4 years ago)… DVD players, GPS, etc. I quickly took those off the table, knowing that the “shiny electronic objects” would become obsolete long before the automobile.

As a marketing student for live, I can sometimes use my evil genius to resist being prey to my peers.

Don’t try to change my consideration method with your shiny objects. It would be foolish of an automotive manufacturer to try to differentiate based on an accessory (DVD, GPS, wireless) that cost less when purchased alone… but it’s still happening and always will. Jo told me one van has an ice chest. Really? If I want a friggin’ ice chest burning down my battery, I’ll check the DIY sites. I’m commuting not camping, damnit. (I just Googled, and I think she might have been referring to the Honda Odyssey’s “cool box,” which isn’t even cooled.. just insulated).

Hey that reminds me of my dad’s old statement about “the smartest gadget on Earth.” A thermos, he’d say. It keeps hot things hot. It keeps cold things cold. So what, you’d say? He’d respond: “how DO it know?”

So all I’m saying is I don’t need Facetime, I don’t need a crappy GPS built in my automobile that can’t even discern between Pine Wood and Pinewood. And I sure as hell don’t need a fancy thermos deciding what van I buy. Call me crazy.

In conclusion, marketers use gimmick features/benefits to “level the playing field” or twist the consideration process. I’ll bet Kottler never learnt you that. Maybe Geoffrey Moore, but not Kottler. And there is such a thing as Facetiming while driving, and yes I’ll probably do it to my own demise.

Author: Nalts

Hi. I'm Nalts.

1 thought on “Facetime and DVD Players in Cars”

  1. Agreed and Agreed. This is why I am no longer in Auto Sales/Fixed Operations. Primitive and ignorant sales techniques. My time is much more well spent making stupid videos and watching awesome videos and doing everything in the name of the Father (Google) the Son (Google) and the Holy Spirit (Google) Amen.

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