Monthly Archives: February 2014

Mobile World Congress Plays Backdrop to the Telecoms’ Brand Fight

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As the great and good of the mobile world gather in Barcelona for this year’s GSMA Mobile World Congress, an event attended by none other than Mark Zuckerberg fresh on the back of his WhatsApp purchase, what will a crowded category of brands announce next?

Samsung, Apple, LG, Blackberry, Sony, Nokia, Huawei, Motorola and the list goes on. The number of mobile brands out there is large, so how does this mass of brands gain affection? Samsung has just launched a brand marketing platform in a bid to become the ‘most loved brand,’ while this year we’ve seen Huawei ink a partnership with Arsenal. The opportunities for these brands to overstep each other are limitless, so who will win this aggressive marketing match?

You don’t have to look far to see evidence that the world of successful, high-end smartphone makers is shrinking to a few major contenders dominated by Apple and Samsung – while other important brands, like BlackBerry, LG and Motorola, fade in prominence or struggle to compete. Still, lesser known brands have a chance to grow, even thrive, in emerging markets. Lenovo is picking up steam in China, the most important growth market there is; and, even though they’re on the brink of extinction, BlackBerry phones are still selling throughout Africa, South America and the Middle East. ABI Research says that smartphone penetration is at 20 percent out of a global population of 7.2 billion people. Looking at it another way, smartphones accounted for a little over half of all mobile handset sales in 2013. That means there are a lot of people who will be shopping for their first-ever smartphones, people who perhaps aren’t as focused on brand loyalty as they are on value.

So what are these brands doing to gain market share? Sponsorship is a core strategy for many of these brands. Huawei hopes its tie-up with Arsenal will boost awareness of the brand in the UK. It had a 0.9 per cent share of the UK smartphone market in November, according to comScore, putting it 9th in the rankings behind brands including Samsung, Apple and BlackBerry. That is also well behind its global share, which Strategy Analytics estimates at 5 per cent in the third quarter.

Then, there are the beloved celebrity endorsements that catch many an eye. However, it remains unclear whether they have helped some of these ailing tech businesses. HTC had been struggling, but hoped that its signing of Iron Man star, Robert Downey, Jr., last year for a two-year deal could turn things around. In picking a big-name actor to not only front its campaign, but also help shape it, HTC is following a well-trodden path; however, the endorsement has failed to attract at a high level as its net income fell by more than 90 per cent last quarter.

The problem is that there are so many brands out there and the ones that are winning the match are those that have strong brand identities. Whilst Apple focuses on experiences for customers rather than sponsorship and celebrity, the brand keeps consumers at the heart of everything it does, allowing it to anticipate what they want next, breaking new ground in design and performance. Samsung’s products are equally as good (just look at the recently launched S5) and the brand’s marketing approach, a large investment set to drive brand loyalty, is as scientific as its nearest rival. A “brand dependence” index revealed at CES suggested that more people are dependent on the Samsung brand than any other in consumer electronics. As part of its brand strategy, it has invested heavily in social engagement and that too is paying off as it clearly knows its audience and how to target it. With EE in the UK announcing a 68% increase in 4G customers, consumers want a handset which not only compliments the network, but also meets their needs – whether this be functionality, speed or style.

For brands on the periphery to succeed, there needs to be some deep-seated consideration taken in what the brand stands for and what its target audiences are. The brands out there at the moment seem to be clambering after everyone rather than taking a step back and establishing a concrete outlook into the future and where they want to be. Nokia, which – we don’t need to be reminded – is now owned by Microsoft and oddly launching an Android device, is a great example. As with any demographic, brand is everything. For a category that we cannot live without in this connected world (where our smartphones get thinner, get larger in screen size and become not only phones, but also cameras and media devices), these brands could possibly transform their businesses by holding back on the random star endorsements and sponsorships until they know who they’re targeting.

The land grab opportunity is huge and everyone attending MWC this week knows the value of a 1% global decline in emerging markets as predicted by GfK, but who will dominate and buck this predicted trend in our brand-fickle world?

Written by Daniel Todaro

Read the full article at http://www.brandingmagazine.com/2014/02/25/mobile-world-congress-2014/

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The top 5 wearable technology gadgets in 2014

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Wearable tech is already one of this year’s hottest trends. Are you dressed to thrill?

If the headlines dominated by the latest and greatest smart watches and activity trackers following last month’s Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas are anything to go by, 2014 is set to be the year of wearable tech. Wearable technology is changing the way we communicate, exercise, socialise; and in many ways is enhancing the way our society operates. From fitness-tracking bracelets to smart ski goggles, Daniel Todaro, MD at field marketing agency Gekko, writes for us about the five wearable tech gadgets of this year that you would be happy to wear and use…

1.Fitbit Force

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Fitbit Force, the latest standout offering from Fitbit, is a hyper designed and developed wearable fitness tracker. The subtle wristband displays daily stats, steps taken, calories burned, distance travelled as well as allowing the users to easily log food intake, sleep patterns, and even health information like glucose levels and blood pressure. The device can also easily be synced with a smartphone app or through a wireless dongle for PCs.

Expected to go on sale in the UK in the spring, we can expect the Fitbit Force to fly off the shelves.

2.Pebble Watch & Steel
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Launched towards the end of last year in the UK, the Pebble has gained a large following in a relatively short space of time.

This waterproof smartwatch is designed to display messages from an iOS or Android smartphone and can send users notifications when they receive an email. Simple and stylish, the Pebble can be purchased in red, orange, black or grey, and comes with a removable 22mm watch strap. Alternatively the Steel is a great-looking wristwatch with top-end construction.

With an impressively long battery life and easy-to-use buttons, I suspect both Pebble variants will be huge in 2014.

3.iWallet
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Perhaps one for the most security conscious out there, iWallet is a revolutionary biometric locking wallet that protects personal information, cash and cards using the latest cutting edge technology.

What’s the standout feature? If the user’s iWallet and smartphone are more than 10 -15 feet apart, the phone will sound. Pickpockets beware.

4.Epson Moverio BT-100 smart glasses
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Another potential game-changer on the market, with transparent lenses and Wi-Fi connectivity, these smart glasses allow you to update your social network accounts, catch up on the latest news and watch videos online while still being able to see your surroundings. With the Android™ 2.2 platform and a 4GB SD memory card, you can choose from a whole host of viewing options, such as MPEG 4 and H.264 videos, to watch content wherever you want.

The smart glasses offer a big-screen experience equivalent to a 320-inch display viewed from 20 metres away. The ‘control-at-your-fingertips’ touch-sensitive track pad means you can effortlessly navigate between menus and find exactly what you’re looking for.

This is the perfect hands-free alternative to small smartphone and tablet PC screens.

5. Oakley Airwave Ski Goggles
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These ski goggles allow gadget-obsessed skiers and competitive adrenaline junkies to stay connected on the slopes. Sitting at the bottom of the left goggle lens, the technology senses and shows a range of speed and distance metric notifications, including buddy tracking, navigation, music and iOS/Android smartphone synching so you can view incoming calls and text messages with low energy Bluetooth connectivity.

Packaged with everything you expect from Oakley, the goggles include anti-fog technology, dual-vented lens designed to keep vision clear, 100 percent UV filters and Iridium lens coatings to to balance light transmission.

Daniel Todaro, MD at field marketing agency Gekko

Read the full article at http://www.londonlovesbusiness.com/business-news/tech/the-top-10-wearable-technology-gadgets-in-2014/7519.article

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Sport sponsorship: the good, the bad and the politics

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Sponsoring major sporting events on an international playing field can bring rewards to brands. It’s any marketer’s dream and brings boundless opportunities for brands. There is return, beyond the cache of being associated with such high profile events. After all, there is the index-linked effect on sales, which can’t be ignored, as well as the value of a brand’s stock and overall stature in today’s economic climate.

You only have to tot up the figures to see how lucrative this market is. Adidas claims that the London 2012 Olympics boosted its sales, while Kantar reports that from 2004 through 2013, the Super Bowl game has generated $2 billion of network advertising sales from more than 130 marketers.

However, while sponsorship can give brands a chance to promote themselves on a global stage, as well as enter new markets, they must be prepared for the politics too. The 2008 Beijing Olympics saw sponsors targeted for their association with the event, with protesters putting pressure on them over China’s human rights record. There was also much scrutiny spotlighted on the London 2012 over brands that were not aligned with the Olympic values. Heineken and Cadbury, McDonalds and Coca-Cola bore the brunt of the negativity in light of not being wholly associated with good health. When people took to the streets in Rio over the Brazilian Governments preparations for the 2014 World Cup, the media turned to the sponsors for their response.

Now, it’s Sochi where some sponsors have found themselves having to handle difficult political questions over human rights and the government’s controversial law banning so-called gay ‘propaganda’. These are brands that simply signed up to sponsor one of the biggest events in the world, and presumably support the ethics of the Olympics movement. When McDonald’s started using #CheersToSochi on Twitter to cheer on athletes, protestors hijacked the hashtag.

Now when you search for the hashtag you’ll see reams of fiery messages directed at sponsors. Commentators have used the same McDonald’s branded Twitter feed to attack Visa, Procter & Gamble and other long-time Olympic sponsors that have issued statements backing a non-discriminatory games — but stopped short of condemning Russia’s “homosexual propaganda” laws. AT&T, a Team USA sponsor but not a global Olympics backer, has been the only brand with official Olympic ties to publicly condemn Russia’s laws.

Many brands take a ‘politics-neutral’ approach, avoiding taking sides on controversial or political issues. Silence can often be golden if a brand doesn’t have anything relevant to say or the credibility to say it. However, when they’re involved in massive sponsorships, it becomes very difficult for brands to maintain this position. And when they don’t respond they’re deemed as complicit anyhow. Or they could be like Google and change their Doodle to the colours of the rainbow.  

But regardless of whether a brand decides to jump headfirst into the political ring or stay well clear, if they do so they must be prepared for the consequences.  The reality is that we need these global brands to support the global events they sponsor. They serve to inspire us, our children, our nations and create a bubble where for several weeks of the year, the world unites around one event together in the name of sport. We should never ignore the issues but for the sake of the athletes, perhaps put the politics to one side and get on with the games and applaud human endeavour made possible with the support of brand sponsorship.

By Dan Todaro, MD, Gekko

Read the full article at http://www.utalkmarketing.com/Pages/Article.aspx?ArticleID=23636&Title=Sport_sponsorship:_the_good,_the_bad_and_the_politics

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