iPhone at Walmart?

Wading through my daily RSS nightmare on the way in to work this morning, it became apparent that marketing and technology bloggers are freaking out about what the selling of Apple's iPhone at Walmart means for both of the brands. The sentiments seem to fall into a few different buckets:

  • "Maybe it'll make Walmart cool."
  • "What if it destroys Apple's brand mystique?"
  • "Apple is smart to try to open up their distribution channels"

All very interesting to think about, this collision of seemingly very opposite brands.  Though taking a closer look will reveal that the Apple/Walmart bus left the station a long time ago. Sorry to disappoint…

Self-Indulgent Navel-Gazing about the Economy and THE FUTURE

I've been thinking a lot about what the current financial situation means for agencies and how people and companies can navigate the downturn in such a way that slingshots them into the eventual upturn.  The following should be taken with a grain of salt however, as not even Warren Buffet seems to know which way is up.

One thing that is going to come out of this is that companies are going to shift how they spend their marketing money.  If the growing number of retail focused ads running on TV right now are any indication, this shift is already taking place.  Marketing is shifting focus from long-term brand building to retail selling messages. My wife has been clipping coupons and telling me about deep discounting going on with brands like Coach, Bloomingdales and Saks.  Cadillac is taking part in GM’s Red-Tag event for the first time ever.  It looks like maintaining an upscale brand image has taken a back seat to survival, just like the green trend seems to be taking a back seat to the economy … but more on that in a later post.

Not that any of this is out of the norm for a recession, but there does seem to be a perceptible panic that I’ve never noticed during a downturn before (though viewing an economic downturn from the safety of college probably skewed things a bit after 9-11).

If this does turn into the very long, protracted recession that some analysts have predicted, I think you’re going to see companies start to rethink how they are marketing.  They are going to be forced to be much more efficient with their marketing money.  Suddenly, the client who demands:  “where’s my Elf-Yourself!” one week only to buy TV scripts and print the next might actually listen when creatives are presenting their non-television ideas.  Those CMOs who are in the news every few months for talking about how agencies don’t get it, how their agencies are behind the times, and how agencies need to adapt, might actually start start taking time to look at the forward thinking creative ideas that their agencies have been bringing to them all along.  Wouldn’t that be a change?

In other words, while everyone has been dancing around this idea that things have changed and that the old way of marketing is dead for the better part of a decade (or two?), I think this economic environment might finally, and violently, kill that old way of doing things dead.  If that happens, it’s not going to be an easy transition.  Large, iconic agencies that were built to churn out TV ads could find themselves in a bit of a pickle, while smaller, smarter, more nimble shops might have room to flourish like they never have before.

But I think it goes much bigger than that.  With automakers needing bailouts, giant banks failing, the New York Times mortgaging their building, and even thoughts of the major television networks needing Federal money, it seems like we might be at a watershed moment in time.  We are at a point now where industries and companies that have been hanging on by a toenail through even the best of times are being pushed over the edge (except those being bailed out), making room for new technologies, business models and industries.  The old growth canopy is burning down, leaving a vacuum for new companies and ways of doing things to flourish.  This could be the economic event that we will look back on as the dividing line between two eras: the death of the 20th-century way of doing business, and the birth of what we have always thought of as being The Future.

I've already got my Future Shoes ready to roll, just in case:

Advergaming Works.

Water Cooler Games points us towards a study done by the Missouri School of Journalism that shows advergaming to have a positive affect on brand opinions. This makes a lot of sense if you subscribe to Raph's theory that games are essentially teaching mechanisms.  I think that work like this shows that there is incredible value in understanding why we game … Here's hoping we see a continued emphasis on research like this. 

 From their incredibly academic mouths:

Our
results provide further evidence that the transfer of positive affect
elicited by entertaining media content to the sponsoring brand likely
involves a mental process that could improve brand attitudes. According
to an associated network view of human memory, advergame features that
increase the mental connection between game content and the sponsoring
brand also should increase the ease of positive affect transfer, leading
to a stronger relationship between attitudes toward the game and brand
attitudes. Our finding that increasing the thematic connection between
an advergame and the sponsoring brand makes attitude toward the game
a stronger predictor of attitude toward the brand is consistent with
a theoretical explanation of this phenomenon based on affect transfer.

The
immersive and interactive nature of the advergame might distinguish
it from other advertising platforms such as product placement, which
in turn could facilitate stronger affect transfer in advergames than
in product placements. However, it remains unclear how the relevant/irrelevant
distinction might differ between these two context. Researchers also
have suggested that these features may weaken memory for in-game advertising
by increasing demand for cognitive resources (Yang et al. 2006). These
distinguishing features of an advergame provide a unique opportunity
for researchers to study nuances in the relationship between ad attitudes
and brand attitudes, as well as memory for advertising messages.

Nintendo will be short on Wii ‘ s for Christmas again

OK.  This is starting to get ridiculous.  Nintendo is reporting that once again, despite Wii production being at an all time high, despite having already been out for three years, despite being smack in the middle of the worst financial crisis since the end of the Roman Empire, and having three years of sales data to help plan for the holidays, they're STILL not going to have enough inventory to meet demand during the holiday season.  Again.  For a third time.  Yes, really. 

"We're producing an unprecedented
level of hardware to try to meet demand… Look at retailer circulars.
Go to their websites. We're flowing products into stores on a very
regular basis. Once you see it on the shelf, you ought to buy it." [emphasis mine]
~
Reggie Fils-Aime, President, Nintendo of America

Football coaches like to justify running the same kind of play over and over again with the  saying: "keeping running it until they show you they can stop it."  Nintendo seems to be borrowing liberally from that way of thinking right now.  Tell people it's sold out, and they will become so overtaken with rage-lust for a Wii that rational thought couldn't POSSIBLY get in the way of their animal desire to have one and have it NOW.  If "must-have" Christmas items have taught me anything in my life, it's that product scarcity is a very. powerful. marketing tactic.

After checking around briefly, it looks like Best Buy.com and Target.com are both sold out, but it looks like there are bundles available around at places like EBGames

So you heard it here first.  Buy some Wii's now and enjoy a foreclosure-free January.