I’m ready for the slew of people I follow to react poorly to this headline. You know who you are. There is a point that I’m going to make and whether you like it, agree with it or believe in it, it’s true and it’s going to change a lot of things about the way we move through the day.
On September 9th, Apple introduced Apple Pay, a seemingly new take on something that many people have been doing for a while. After all, Apple Pay is very simply a smartphone based way to pay based on NFC, a technology that Android based phones have had for a few years.
So what makes this introduction different? The answer is simple; Integration.
Walking into a Chase bank earlier today, I was greeted by the usual big screen TV’s displaying various marketing messages. I was stunned when I saw information about Apple Pay. Right there in Chase was targeted messaging about a product that was announced just 3 days earlier. The same messages have been all over social media in the last few days as everyone from Target to MasterCard jumped on Twitter to jump on the Apple Pay wagon.
This wasn’t just a measly smartphone launch for Apple. This was a highly coordinated marketing effort that is trying to disrupt the payment industry.
Integration makes Apple Pay work. While Android phones have had the ability to use NFC technology for years, they were victims of their own success. With so many varying technologies out there, Google wasn’t prepared to flood the market with enough of an impact to make retailers care about NFC. Now that Apple is leading the charge, retailers care…a lot.
We’ve seen this before. Remember when you could download music before iTunes? iTunes didn’t do anything fundamentally different than other (legal) music download programs. What it did was work, on a mass scale, because of Apple’s ability to flood the market with technology that reflects the real life use.
Apple Pay could do to mobile payments what iTunes did for music.
Just for fun, find someone who has an Android based smartphone and ask them the last time they used the NFC function for something practical? I’m not talking about touching phones together to share a picture. I’ll venture a guess that they’ve used it about 3-6 times in the last year, if that many.
Wait a few weeks. Once retailers are fully up to speed on Apple Pay, you’re going to see it each and every day and it’s going to change the way iPhone users pay for things. Apple has the market reach to put this technology in the hands of thousands of people on September 19th and millions by the years end. If consumers are walking around with credit cards attached to their phones, rest assure retailers will quickly adopt the ability to use the new technology. After all, it’s all about the money.
Twitter, like your mouth, is a medium. It is a way to express your feelings on something. Twitter, like your mouth, does not have feelings and does not have the ability to form opinions. This week, Paul George became the latest in a long, long line of athletes to Tweet something he (or she) should not have, quickly deleting the message and then apologizing. The issue is not that athletes have access to Twitter, the issue is that athletes have these feelings and can now express them to the world.
Maybe it was Johnny Manziel openly discussing his frustration with Texas A&M. Maybe it was a few years ago when Rashard Mendenhall Tweeted about his skepticism about 9/11. Maybe it was capped off last year by the class of Philadelphia Desean Jackson, telling the world that he can’t play with Michael Sam because he “wants what’s in my pants.”
Wouldn’t it be easier if athletes were simply banned from using social media? We saw it during the olympics when athletes were banned from using many of the social media outlets that they use daily to communicate with their fans. Couldn’t the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL install the same policies? Of course they could. Unfortunately, banning social media for athletes would hinder the amazing connections made by fans worldwide.
Social media is not the problem. The athletes are the problem.
Social media does not cause someone to lash out. All social media does is bring out peoples true inner selves. It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Twitter doesn’t care if you’re drunk, furious, tripping or half asleep. All Twitter cares about is your ability to type 140 characters into a box. If you’re able to do this in a rational way then you won’t have any trouble. If you’re a naturally problematic person, then social media simply amplifies your particular brand of crazy.
We’ve seen cases in which athletes used social media perfectly. A few years ago, Kevin Durant joined a pickup flag football game via social media, creating a memorable event for a few lucky fans. Other athletes use social media to spread information about the charitable work they do. Even lesser known athletes like Justin Turner can use social media to comment on other players and help build a miniature brand for themselves (Turner is more popular on Twitter than he would be inside a stadium). He has 160 Twitter followers for every hit he’s ever recorded in the major leagues (35,000 followers. 219 career hits).
I’m willing to go as far as to make the case for athletes using social media. By using the medium, fans, owners and other players get a glimpse into what a player is like off the field. It changes the way the athletes interact and shows the fans who the good guys are and who the bad guys are.
Take Desean Jackson as an example. He sent out his Tweet in what was probably a snap judgement. Is he truly homophobic? Who knows. Still, he had a thought and then used judgement (or a lack thereof) and sent out a Tweet expressing his concern. Is it better as a general public that we understand what’s going on inside Jackson’s head? If he hadn’t sent the Tweet, he may have felt the same way but expressing it shows his lack of a filter, paired with his poor outlook on another player.
It’s the old school thinkers that often criticize social media. WFAN’s Mike Francesa is one social media biggest opponents when it comes to sports. He believes that athletes use it only to say stupid things and don’t feel that is part of their job as athletes. Still, social media is becoming a larger part of every day life and in sports those conversations are amplifying the good and the bad. For every bad Tweet that is sent out, thousands of good natured Tweets follow.
This week, Paul George became the latest in a long line of athletes to use poor judgement on Twitter. He openly defended Ray Rice which couldn’t be a more unpopular stance on an issue. George quickly deleted the Tweets and then apologized but the fact remains. We now understand more clearly what goes on inside George’s head and that is a good thing for the general public.
Social medias part is showing us the winners and the losers. A good guy (or gal) isn’t going to use social media in a way that negatively effects his career. That’s saved for the bad guys in sports. Social is simply the medium. The athletes need to take responsibility for what they Tweet and the media needs to recognize what they say as such. It is from their mouths and negative or positive, it is now part of the news cycle.
This is a simple story of 2 brands. 2 experiences. 2 lessons in brand awareness when it comes to social media.
Ironically, both of these stories happened within a 48 hour period. Both involve restaurant chains. But, only one of these stories ended with me actually enjoying a meal.
Sunday afternoon, I found myself in West Hartford, Connecticut eating at a place I had not been to since college. The Counter is a burger chain with over 100 locations (both company owned and franchised) nationwide. This is a place that I had been to dozens of times during my college days and I was eager to return and enjoy one of their custom built burgers.
Later that evening, hours after I had devoured my burger, I hopped on my tablet to catch up on what I had missed on Twitter during the day. I was pleasantly surprised to find a reply from Craig Albert with a simple response:
"How was it?"
His Tweet was in response to a FourSquare check in that happened to post to Twitter earlier that day. After four and a half seconds of research I found out that Albert was the Co-CEO of The Counter. It was a simple gesture that took Albert and his team mere seconds to execute and suddenly, I felt like The Counter had missed me. Whether or not he does this to everyone who checks in on FourSquare is irrelevant but for a few seconds, I felt as if this brand that I love, loved me back.
This interaction with Mr. Craig Albert shined even brighter the next day. On my way back from my short trip to Connecticut, I was desperate for breakfast. Locating the nearest Starbucks, I made a beeline for it, assuming it was a safe breakfast option. After ordering my coffee, I was informed that they were out of breakfast sandwiches. The barista informed me that the connected Subway served breakfast. Usually I wouldn’t have bothered but I was extremely hungry and decided to give it a shot.
After ordering an egg sandwich on an English muffin, I waited patiently.
As the “sandwich artist” at Subway began to wrap my sandwich, we both noticed a green patch right on top of the English muffin. I was shocked as he continued wrapping my sandwich after we had both clearly seen what appeared to be mold.
It was such a shock to my system that I paid and left without saying another word. As soon as I reached my car I unwrapped the sandwich, assuming that my eyes had played a trick on me. After all, how could a fast food chain whose motto is “Eat Fresh” not have fresh bread? I had not seen a mirage. There was a mold spot the size of a quarter right on top of my sandwich.
I tossed the sandwich in the garbage before jumping into my car and doing what any millennial in that situation would do. I Tweeted, Facebooked and Instagramed about my experience. I assumed that my use of the words “mold,” “disgusting” and including the hashtags #subway and #eatfresh would catch someones attention at Subway.
I was wrong.
24 hours later, no response. No PR guy trying to apologize or a marketing representative telling me that the location I visited somehow didn’t represent the Subway philosophy. Nothing. Being served a mold ridden sandwich falls on the individual store and employee that made the error. Not reaching out to a distressed customer via social media falls on the company as a whole.
Here’s the kicker. The Subway that served my mold ridden sandwich was located just a few miles from the company headquarters in Milford, CT.
When bad things happen, ignoring them is never the right solution. Especially when it comes to social media. My moldy sandwich picture has now been heavily circulated around Instagram and Facebook and Twitter. The amount of negative buzz surrounding Subway can not possibly be measured but the act of not responding to such a violation of health codes is shocking to me.
While it is not possible for brands to respond to every mention, the night and day between these two interactions really made me think about brands that get social media right. And the ones that don’t seem to understand it’s impact on the world we live in. Congratulations to The Counter for getting it. Congratulations to Subway for serving the following sandwich and then making no attempt to make the situation better.
In 2009 and then again in 2013, the FTC released a document entitled “Guidelines For Disclosure in Advertising.” This document gave a very clear and pointed declaration that bloggers had to clearly identify if there was paid content or advertising on their site. Here’s the disclosure as it reads on my blog, The Truth About Music:
As a consumer, I consider myself to be amongst the loyalist of brand loyal shoppers. I love the brands I love. I don’t use the brands I don’t. When it comes to arenas such as hotels, coffee, credit cards and restaurants, I’m 100% covered when it comes to brand loyalty and I do not like change. The problem is that as a casual flyer, the airline system doesn’t fit into my brand loyal lifestyle.
It ends up boiling down to price. The airline industry has been struggling with flight costs since the beginning of time. The next time you’re on a flight, ask the person sitting next to you how much they paid for their ticket. Depending on where they bought it, how they bought it and when they bought it, you will end up with drastically different answers.
You might be thinking that this is the same in every industry. I’ll call bullshit. Try to book a hotel in New York City on a random weekend. While there will be a variety of prices, hotels with similar luxury amenities will all be very close in price. The less you pay, the faster the amenities fly out the window. Still, hotels that off a similar experience for consumers will be similar in price.
This is not true when it comes to airlines. For some flights, American will be the cheapest. The next week, that same route can be found cheaper on Spirit.
Airlines also struggle with something that all hotels can provide. A unique experience. They offer two types of planes. Ones with entertainment systems and ones without entertainment systems. The rest of it is all smoke and mirrors. You get the same array of bland snacks, the same drink list and (for the most part) the same uncomfortable seats.
Still the disparity in price exists because of complex routes, airport taxes and up charges.
This article is not lamenting the cost of flying. I’m willing to pay my fair share for a flight. The issue is the wish to be loyal in an industry that makes this impossible. No matter how much I want to fly JetBlue (the airline with the least amount of countable flaws), how can I possibly rationalize paying a 30-70% premium for the same seat on the same route? You can not!
That’s where the airline loyalty falls out of place. When I head to Priceline, Expedia or Hotwire to book my flight, I’m given a grid that shows flights that often feature price differences of hundreds of dollars. 9 out of 10 times, I’m going to end up settling on the cheaper flight, no matter how much I’d like to fly a familiar airline.
Here’s the real life comparison.
My preference for hotels is Hilton. I am a member of the Hilton Honors program and earn points with every stay. Trust me, it’s not about the points. It’s about a predictable experience that seems to always deliver. When I go to book a hotel, rarely is there more than a $5-$10 difference in cost between Hilton and other comparable hotels. I’m willing to pay the slight premium. I’m not willing to pay the type of premium that would be forced on me if I chose JetBlue over a competing airline.
Of course if JetBlue happens to be the cheapest, which it sometimes is, then I jump on the opportunity. This same issue can and does arise with every single airline.
As one of a brands most valuable assets, loyal customers are people that defend, promote and purchase from a company. The message to the major airlines is clear. Either give me an experience across your entire fleet that will make the premium worth it or get your prices in line with your competitors so that I can get comfortable with one airline, one terminal and one set of on board snack options.
Social media often exposes a brands largest weakness. Generally speaking, large, far reaching companies have a difficult time acting quickly when it comes to public outreach. Unfortunately for them, the core of social media is speed.
Last nights Super Bowl featured a flurry of “big moments.” From the blackout to Beyonce to the near epic comeback by the San Francisco 49ers. A post Super Bowl recap from me usually comments on the ads but they were simply terrible. Instead, let’s talk about a brand that used the Super Bowl platform to pitch a social media perfect game.
It all started with the flick of a switch. As a blackout encompassed the Superdome, fans worldwide took to Twitter to comment on what was happening. Twitter registered 24.1 million total Tweets during the game with the peak performance coming during the blackout when 231,500 Tweets were posted per minute!
The official Major League Baseball Twitter account (@MLB) chimed in just a few minutes into the blackout with a simple message:
Simple in substance, the Tweet showed poise by Major League Baseball. After all it was well after normal business hours and centered around an event that was completely unpredictable. They had a hunch that if football was on pause, smartphones would be Tweeting away. They jumped right into the middle, racking up 8,200 ReTweets and 1,500 favorites. Those numbers stand out against other Tweets from @MLB, showing the importance of taking advantage of this situation.
Major League Baseball shined during the 2013 Super Bowl, a feat that should not go overlooked. While commercials flopped, power fizzled and the Ravens won, baseball hit a home run in the social media world on Sunday.
As the game ended, @MLB posted a few followups. One read:
"It’s our turn now."
The other was a picture that summed up the night and the season to come:
There are first times for everything. From things as simple as a first cup of coffee to a first trip out of the country. Each first brings a rush of new feelings, changing your perspective on things large and small.
The first in this story wasn’t my own. Instead it was a man I sat next to on a recent train ride. Separated by an open middle seat, a man set next to the window and looked to be pushing 90. He didn’t say a word as I sat down, adjusted and then readjusted my electronic devices preparing for the hour trip from Grand Central Station.
It’s weird how a year progresses. Sometimes, 365 days seems to take about 2 weeks while other times it seems to last forever. Whether it’s a slow year or a quick year, December arrives shortly after the close of November and 25 days later, America’s biggest and brightest holiday is celebrated nationwide.
As a social media consultant, I come across campaigns of all sizes. Some are funny. Some are emotional. Some are just plain horrendous. In 2011/2012, a company stumbled across a campaign that has taken the entire world by storm.
For those of you who are not sports fan, Aaron Rodgers is a Superbowl winning quarterback who commonly celebrates his touchdowns by putting on an invisible championship belt. This was a celebration known in the sports world but was not something you’d associate with anyone other than the Green Bay Packers quarterback.
The next move is a pure stroke of advertising genius. In 2011, the world was re-introduced to Rodgers, standing in a State Farm office explaining his touchdown celebration. The State Farm agents took credit for the celebration, claiming it was the Discount Double Check celebration. It was a simple act of brand association. The brand, State Farm wanted to associate with Rodgers and his broad appeal. Rodgers wanted to associate with the huge check State Farm wrote him.
What has happened in the year since that commercials debut has been nothing short of extraordinary. The touchdown dance that was once referred to as the Championship Belt, is now known throughout the sports world as the Discount Double Check. Commentators on networks such as ESPN, FOX and CBS have commonly used “…the Discount Double Check…” to describe the act.
It is truly amazing when a brand can not only associate with someone, but help to define the celebrity they choose to associate with. If you were out in public, and recreated the now famous touchdown celebration, people around you would be more likely to mention Discount Double Check than Aaron Rodgers. The Discount Double Check has even appeared in other sports. Steve Novak, one of the NBA’s top three point shooters and a Wisconsin native, often celebrates clutch shots in the same way. Commentators rarely miss a beat, saying things like “Novak with the three followed by an emphatic Discount Double Check.”
Brands can’t buy this type of association. State Farm picked the right celebrity at the right time with the right campaign. That campaign will likely pay dividends for years to come, with free plugs in sports commentary throughout the world. Was it strategy? Was it luck? I’ll let you judge that for yourself.