Monday, October 22, 2007

Ripe, Juicy Apples: Quarterly Mac Sales Top 2 Million

Things are looking pretty good in the orchards of Cupertino, CA. Apple just announced its quarterly results, demolishing analyst estimates. The best part about this is that one of the main drivers of this performance was Mac sales, which topped 2 million units in the quarter.

This is the first time Mac sales have ever reached this level and it really validates Apple's strategy, which I will hereby dub "brand resonance". The strategy was to use the iPod and the iPhone to expose a wider range of consumers to the whole Apple "experience". This is the elegant melding of form, function and user experience that is at the core of Apple's brand. The theory (now proven) was that this little taste of Apple would leave consumers hungry for more, and drive some portion of them to abandon their Windows and jump into a Mac. Of course, that will make them more likely to stick with Apple's other media devices, and so the consumer's attachment to the brand will resonate and become stronger and stronger.

As a longtime Mac fan, and someone who loudly protested more than a decade of prophesies of Apple's demise, I guess I'd just say.... I TOLD YOU SO!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Has CAPTCHA been captured?

CNet is reporting that spammers have hijacked YouTube's email-a-friend feature to send out phishing emails. The thing I found most notable in the article is the reference to software that automatically decodes and defeats CAPTCHA. This is a new, and troubling development for anyone who uses viral marketing or web forms.

CAPTCHA is a system that requires a web visitor to retype a set of letters into a form field in order to submit the form. Those letters are presented in a somewhat distorted or garbled image. The idea is to prevent automated scripts from being able to hijack the form. From an online branding perspective, the email-a-friend forms, blog comment forms and contact forms that CAPTCHA protects are critical to developing an effective online brand conversation. If these systems cannot be adequately protected, we may lose some of our most effective tools for online branding and marketing.

If CAPTCHA is indeed in danger, my question to ponder is: "what will take its place?" What type of system can simultaneously be easy to use for website visitors, while being difficult or (improbably) impossible for the hackers and spammers to get around?

Leave a comment. I think this is an important discussion to have now, before our online forms become as compromised as our junk mail folders already are!

Friday, October 5, 2007

King on the Road: Burger King Goes Mobile

Here's a tasty piece of news. Marketwatch is reporting that Burger King has signed a deal for the development of a set of branded games for mobile phones. This follows last year's offering of three Xbox 360 console games featuring "The King" ("Pocketbike Racer," "Big Bumpin'", and "Sneak King") which sold over 2 million copies!

The games will be produced by Mobliss, a company which has publishing agreements with Sprint, AT&T, Alltel, Verizon and T-Mobile, which means the games will have significant consumer availability.

This isn't the first time Burger King has willingly embraced new marketing techniques and reaped benefits. From its successful viral marketing campaign with "Subservient Chicken" to its user-generated content site at, BK continues to show itself as an industry leader.

This lastest effort is an equally smart move. "The King" character has rejuvenated Burger King's mind-share and BK's willingness to embrace branded games has really upped the fun level of a brand that has to compete with the world's most famous clown.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Frozen Apples: The Unlocked iPhone Dilemma

In an effort to combat the "unlocking" of iPhones, Apple has made its latest iPhone software update into an assassin, capable of permanently freezing iPhones that have been illegally unlocked to work on networks other than AT&T, or that have been hacked to load unsanctioned third-party applications. This essentially turns the iPhone into a sleek, sexy, $500 brick, perfectly suited for holding down a pile of papers or being used for lively games of spin-the-iPhone.

Hardware makers have always struggled with cracks that allowed consumers to get around their licensed content or use their products in ways unintended by the manufacturers, and any consumer who tries to skirt the rules should be prepared for the potential consequences. The question is whether the punishment fits the crime, and what implications can this have for Apple's brand.

It is widely known that Apple is not profiting from the iPhone itself, but from the business relationship with phone providers like AT&T, who get to be the exclusive providers of the iPhone in their respective countries. Apple's position, and profit potential, would be severely impacted if people can just unlock an iPhone and use it with other carriers. This relationship is definitely something Apple must defend. The issue of third-party software installations is a murkier one. Is an attempt to improve your iPhone really an offense that should be punishable by death?

In my own opinion, Apple needs to tread carefully here. Those who unlock their iPhones to try to get around Apple's licensing deals should pay a price for it, although Apple's response of "buy another iPhone" may be a bit extreme. On the other hand, those who "mod" their phones to add new functionality are not trying to erode Apple's business model. On the contrary, they are the company's true fanatics. By permanently freezing those iPhones, apple risks alienating this group of rabid fans. Brian Lam, editor of Gizmodo, called this move "uncharacteristically evil". That is NOT something Apple wants associated with its smiling, happy, groovy brand.