Cookie Monster?

26 06 2012

Sometimes I wonder about companies and organizations. They do funny things. Not funny “ha-ha,” but funny “what were they thinking?” Like Lowe’s when it canceled its advertising on TLC’s All American Muslim last December. Like the Susan G. Komen Foundation when it pulled funding from Planned Parenthood last January, and then later flip-flopped. Like McDonald’s when it created its own Twitter hashtag and expected people to play nicely with it.

In all three, social media played a significant role, and mostly not good. Things get out of hand. People go crazy. And the companies and organizations get crazier.

Which explains my wonderment with Kraft Food’s decisions yesterday to announce on its Oreo Fan Page that it supports gay rights. Now before typing another sentence, let me be clear that I have no problem with gay rights, and I wish to ensure them the same rights that I have as a heterosexual. The rainbow Oreo was a mighty attractive image on the page, and made it perfectly clear of its support.

I furthermore have no problem with Kraft Foods supporting gay rights either. It’s just that, by making this announcement, it unintentionally opened a can of worms. Unleashed a tempest in a tea pot. Invited the cookie monster inside.

And boy did it ever create controversy. Naturally, comments were as far apart as night from day, but like all too many a good party turned bad, the conversation turned to religion.

Watch where you step. There’s dogma on the floor.

Let me also state that I have no problem with people having their own religious beliefs. I have mine. You have yours. And let us keep them that way. But I am sure the last thing on Kraft’s collective mind yesterday was their Facebook page being turned into a biblical debate.

Which leads me to wonder why Kraft felt the need to come out with its support. Certainly they had to know that someone, somewhere, would disagree, and do so in a very vocal way. The public commons we know as social media, though, not only invite everyone to join the dialogue, but gives them a stage, microphone and amplifier along with it.

Kraft could have supported gay rights without opening itself up to invective by not broadcasting on its Facebook page; instead, it could have sponsored events, made donations, etc., to causes and activities central to the LGBT community, and perhaps done so in a way that would not alienate other customers.

The court of public opinion often has a hung jury, and sometimes the unwitting defendant hangs itself. Kraft did just this yesterday. Sometimes it is better to love everyone without giving someone a reason to hate on you.

Because in this case the Cookie Monster has a bigger appetite for destruction than he does cookies.

Dr “Make Mine Triple Double” Gerlich

By The Books

26 06 2012

One of the challenges in teaching a course in Evolutionary Marketing is figuring out how to blend the new with all of the old that has gone before. It would be inappropriate to focus only on the new (in spite of there being an abundance of it), nor would it be appropriate to lean too heavily on the old. Somewhere in the nebulous middle ground there exists a happy balance, a place where both coexist in the right measure, one complementing the other. After all, the goal is to get people to buy more stuff, and it is imperative that we use what works…whatever that might be.

Equally challenging is finding books that strike this balance. This summer we have used Martin Lindstrom’s Brandwashed, and Dan Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness. The former, while summoning every modern tool of the trade, focuses on the age-old concept of getting consumers sucked into the brand, while the latter jumps into the deep end of the social media pool and explains how ideas go viral.

Having done a lot of research lately on controversial topics, companies and organizations that bore the brunt of virality (e.g., Lowe’s, Susan G. Komen and Facebook’s Timeline feature), I have a much deeper appreciation for how things can get out of hand. Fast.

I was deeply enamored of Lindstrom’s final chapter in which he re-created the fictional movie account of The Joneses, except he did it in real life. He noted a lot of interesting influences we exert on one another. While we have always known that WOM (word-of-mouth) was powerful, it is when we take this notion and plug it into the social graph that things get interesting.

Lindstrom observed that males and females respond differently to peer influence. Women tend to be more egalitarian, and are more likely to consider the inputs of virtually all others in their social circle, while men are more likely to question another man’s authority and only accept input if that other person is indeed deemed to know that of which he speaks. But men and women alike are both influenced by others…it’s just that we are influenced differently, and regarding different product categories.

Now consider Facebook. I have begun to notice more and more “personalized” sponsored stories showing up both on my Wall and my phone. Invariably, these feature my friends, and in some cases even show their profile pics. “John Doe likes New Belgium Brewing” may greet me the next time I check in.

And God only knows how many times my liking has shown up on the devices of people I call my friends. Actually, I pity them, because I have over 400 likes. I’m sure my friends really don’t want to know all the pages I have “liked” simply because I was intrigued by their social media strategy and not their products.

Still, those little sponsored stories are the 2012 equivalent of Lindstrom’s little wine-and-cheese parties, or guys gathering ’round the workbench. They are endorsements…and we never even knew we were making them.

Worse yet (or better yet, if you are Facebook), FB is selling our likes to companies so they can be the conduit of these glowing endorsements. Typhoid Mary should have been so efficient. And profit-centered.

The long and short of it all, though, is that we still live in the balance of modern and traditional marketing techniques. We still need brand managers whose task is to get our jaws flapping about products. We still have to advertise and communicate. But we do it differently.

I have enjoyed reading both of these books this year, and hope that my students will hang on to them (whether in print or e-book format). There’s a lot hanging in this precarious balance, and companies who simultaneously understand the past and present are those best poised to survive into the future. And perhaps one of my students will write the book telling us how it all happened.

Dr “Brand Aid” Gerlich


22 06 2012

I said it back in 2008, and I will say it again today: social media can be used to win elections. President Obama’s staff masterminded the then-early use of social media to propel him to the White House, merrily tweeting away while opponent McCain was still trying to figure out email. More recently, the Troy MI Library was saved through the spectacularly effective use of social media to save itself. Here, watch the video:



What I find amazing is that, while the Tea Partiers framed the issue as one of taxation, the Library and its supporters used tweets, status updates, and videos along with old-fashioned yard signs, flyers and print ads to reframe a small tax increase as a book burning. And did it ever catch people’s attention.

Regardless of your political affiliations (or aspirations), it is very clear that the Tea Party sees the world primarily through the lens of taxation. Thus, they will seek to frame nearly every issue as just that. It is a strategy that speaks to the pocketbooks of most Americans. But, as opponents in Troy found out, it is a strategy that is easily flipped on its side by tactical reframing.

A book burning speaks to us on an emotional and intellectual level, which is precisely what the Library group desperately wanted and needed to do. While the notion of the book burning in this case was a subterfuge, in the arena of public attention, their megaphone was louder.

Better yet, their use of social media allowed the Library supporters to spread their message more virally than just public protests and posters. In so going, they completely “changed the conversation from taxes, taxes, taxes to library, library, library.”

The city library is a symbol of education, as well as the community’s commitment to supporting it. When supporters changed the conversation, they implicitly made the Tea Partiers look like they were anti-education and anti-knowledge. That’s a hard image to overcome, no matter how much the tax increase might be.

And it is not a whole lot different from how the Obama camp made McCain look four years ago: uncool, old and chained to an analog past. Furthermore, both the Library campaign and Obama’s campaign managed to get the least likely voters out to the polling place: the tax supporters in the case of the former, and young adults in the latter.

Most importantly, though, is that both instances show the power of social media. While the playing field may be a little more even this time around in the Presidential election, there are still opportunities to seize the microphone. As for the residents of Troy, I am glad that someone did. While libraries are necessarily in a state of transition now as the public and books all go digital, they are still the storehouse of all things knowledge. The thought of shutting one down just burns me up.

Dr “Binding Decision” Gerlich

No Turning Back

22 06 2012

While it is often fun to speculate what tomorrow will bring (anyone remember The Jetsons?), it can be just as amusing to look over our shoulder to see how we have come. Earlier this week, my Dad turned 91. If he were able to go back to 1921, I am sure it would scare him, because we have so far in his lifetime.

Now let me set the stage: Dad is no technophobe (he adopted digital cameras back in the late-90s, long before most people did), was among the first to own a plasma TV, and loves his Kindle Fire today. But he has never embraced computers, does not know (or care) that I had to set up a Gmail account for him (in conjunction with his Kindle), and knows only that somehow, but virtue of magic or something, he has wireless internet throughout his apartment.

Some things are best left unexplained.

It’s not that he couldn’t learn to embrace computing technology; he simply chose not to, and probably because his job did not demand it. I, in comparison, have been using computers since 1974, but only because my Math courses required it (and am I ever thankful).

It’s hard to imagine a world without internet, but Dad certainly lived it

During Dad’s prime time, marketing efforts focused on what we now view as traditional outlets, meaning print (newspaper, magazine and catalogs), outdoor (primarily billboards), radio, and television. Yet even these latter two were “new” things that Dad’s cohort lived through, much like we are now living through the era of ubiquitous internet, mobile devices and social media.

I can hardly imagine gathering the family ’round the console radio to listen to the news, music or a melodrama, yet that is exactly what he and his family did. Announcers with schmaltzy voices would beseech listeners to lend an ear, and run to the nearest store to try the sponsor’s latest product.

Too bad the Scan/Seek button would not be invented for decades.

By the 1950s (after he and all his World War II buddies were busily procreating and buying homes), television entered the mainstream, and cars culture took over. By the time Dad and his two pals motored west on Route 66 in 1955, outdoor advertising began sprouting. Perhaps the most memorable ads of that time were the Burma Shave signs (which had been started in 1925, reached their acme in the 50s, and then quickly declined in the 60s).

Today someone might argue that reading so many little sequential signs could amount to distracted driving.

Television ads often seemed contrived (if you ever get a chance to watch uncut versions of the old I Love Lucy show, you’ll know what I mean). Viewers must have been passive little robots, incapable of critical thinking, or else marketers at least thought them dumb. We were not a rich family while I was growing up, and we did not acquire a color TV until the early-70s. We had to imagine that The Green Hornet was…well…green.

As Mashable depicts in its infographic of life without the internet, life has suddenly become far more complicated in the last 40 years (thank you, Al Gore, for whatever you did to make this happen). Just as we 70s citizens waxed nostalgic about the halcyon days of the 50s while watching Happy Days, so, to, do we recollect what life was like during the Nixon era. while simultaneously pondering all the things that today we take for granted.

As for Dad, he still gets the bulk of his marketing material fed to him the same way he did since the 50s. His cell phone is a simple 10-key, so he will never know the joys of checking in at Five Guys for lunch, receiving a text alert from Johnny Carinos about 2-for-1 drinks, getting a coupon sent to that email account, or interacting with myriad apps. He does well to interact with his Kindle Fire, and sticks to his Newsweek and Chicago Tribune, Weather app, and stock information (all stuff my brother and I set up for him). He gets his digital content seamlessly from Amazon, yet has no clue about the e-commerce behind the scenes (nor the technology) that made it happen.

But at the end of the day, marketing today is really not much different from when Dad was born. Sure, the methods are different, and we cannot begin to picture life without them, but it still boils down to one easy equation: Putting the right product in the right place, at the right time, and at the right price. How you tell that story is one thing, but the deliverables are still pretty much the same.

Anyone mind if I change the channel?

Dr “No Static At All” Gerlich

Counting Pennies

22 06 2012

A few months ago when JCPenney announced its revamped marketing strategy, I applauded it like a breath of fresh air. Gone would be the trite sales and weekly flyers announcing “Hurry In Soon! Sale Ends Friday!” Instead, JCP would rely on an EDLP (Everyday Low Price) model and full-dollar amounts, with selected feature items each month. Newspaper inserts and catalogs would reflect this simpler retail approach. There’s never any hurry. Come on In. Our prices will always be low.

In the last year, JCP hired Ron Johnson as CEO, who earlier had helped c raft Target and Apple Store strategies with great success. Johnson then brought in Michael Francis as President, and tasked him with revamping the company image, merchandising and pricing. And, no doubt, a la Target and Apple.

But something isn’t working, and yesterday the beleaguered Francis stepped down. JCP’s stock price continued tanking, and analysts started wringing their hands as if they were preparing for a retailer funeral. Sales have not materialized. So what went wrong?

One of the more common retorts is that JCP told its custoemrs what they were no longer going to be, but failed to effectively communicate what they wanted to be. Of courswe, Monday morning quarterbacking is always spot-on, so it’s easy to make that assertion. But there’s much to discuss before we reach this conclusion.

My reason for liking EDLP is that it is helps even out sales across the month and year, and takes the guess work out of shopping. A steady stream of sales, however, encourages and fosters deal-prone customers, people who put off purchases because they know what they want will eventually go on sale. Or, in the case of linens and such, that come January the annual white sale will blow in like so much winter snow. And, as most retailers know, sale items can be used as loss leaders to attract consumers like moths to a light bulb, whom they hope (the consumers, not the moths) will purchase lots of other things at regular prices.

But deep sales only serve to remind me just how outrageous MSRPs can be, and make me hate on the retailer all the more. I would much rather know that I can pop in today or a week from Friday and get a dress shirt at the same price. On the other hand (and notice I am aware of flip-flopping here), without the urgency of a sale that ends Friday, customers like me can put off that new shirt for another month. Or longer.

There is also considerable debate about whether EDLP can work at a mid-level department store like JCP. It works great at Target and Walmart, and its opposite (EDHP) works magnificently at Apple. Witness the stock price of Apple if you do not believe me. But do middle income shoppers expect price steadiness in a department store? Furthermore, do these customers not crave sales and possibly treat them as trophy items in their hunt for great deals? Maybe so. And maybe I am innured to such retail posturing and primping simply because I teach this stuff, and some of these tactics just get plain old.

While no one seems to bring up that retail sales have not exactly been strong for anyone during JCP’s new strategy rollout, it is quite possible that the customers have spoken. And you can bet your bottom coupon that the stockholders are not going to put up with anyone or anything for very long if the bottom line continues to sag like a gangsta’s pants.

Which means that EDLP can apply to them just as well, if you think about it.

Dr “2 For $20” Gerlich

Just Checking

22 06 2012

After I received my drivers license and became preoccupied with sowing the wild oats of a misspent youth, my parents still required me to check in. Of course, back then we did not have cell phones. It meant that I had to either use the phone at a friend’s house, or be sure to carry a dime with me.

You know. Pay phones. Those were the original mobile phones, because it meant you weren’t at home.

Today, “checking in” has an entirely new meaning, thanks first to the likes of Gowalla and FourSquare, and more recently Facebook and GetGlue. The social graph is alive with posts from our friends who are apparently living far more exciting lives than are we.

But now there’s another twist on the check in, one that involves shopping. Checkpoints is a mobile app that rewards users with points for checking in at stores and for examining products. Check in at the store as soon as you walk in, and then the app takes over, telling you specific products to seek out. Of course, we can cross-post to Facebook and Twitter, and rewards can be redeemed in a multitude of locations.

And if you are on the same wavelength as me, your initial response might be, “Oh my God, this is GENIUS!”

This is better than paid product placements. It is better than the new Tivo/Paypal point-and-click TV ads. Why? Because it puts products in your hands that you might not have otherwise ever given the time of day. You behold it. You scan it. You engage with it. And hopefully, you put it in your basket.

Checkpoints has been used primarily with new consumer product introductions, mostly because it is a great way to acquaint shoppers with something they may not have even heard about yet. It can be used with any product, though. As long as manufacturers are willing to pony up money to Checkpoints, any product can be featured.

The cynic in me, though, says that shoppers go to Target because they already have a shopping list, and do not have time to merrily waltz around the store scanning every item that Checkpoints tells them to find. The vulgar side of me says that shoppers may even be whoring themselves for the possibility of a free meal at Chili’s. I guess if you’re hungry you might do anything, but the last thing I want to do is go on a Checkpoints Scavenger hunt.

Still, for those who are willing to participate, it truly is a genius plan. Gaining product trial is a daunting task for marketers. Giving stuff away in sample sizes is costly. But enticing people to actively look for your product helps overcome some of those roadblocks. Maybe scanning the item results in an instant coupon, thereby giving instant gratification. Perhaps it causes you to add the item to your choice set for future consideration. Maybe you will one day purchase it.

For those without a smartphone, though, Checkpoints is a moot point. That leaves out 50-percent of the US population. You’re on your own, pal.

And while I seldom have time to just be entertained at the store, I think I am game for a test drive…all in the name of research, of course. Something tells me that this thing could take off, in spite of my naysaying. I’ll meet you over in Aisle 7.

Dr “By The Buy” Gerlich

Make A Wish

22 06 2012

They are the bane of our Facebook existence. Friend Requests are fine (well, most of the time). Shared pop art, while often lame, is still acceptable. Heck, even the ads are OK.

But really riles us all up are the incessant invites from people to join their app. No, not games. Apps…like MyCalendar, Flixster, BirthdayCalendar, and BranchOut. I ignore them. All of them. I appreciate the “invite all of your friends” sentiments,” but no thanks.

Today, though, was different. I received my first invite to join Wish, an app whose tagline reads “Discover products you”ll love. Share with friends. Unlock special offers.”

Well, if that doesn’t have “Marketing” written all over it, I don’t know what does.

Basically, it is like a digital hope chest (hmmm…I think I have said the same thing of Pinterest before also). But Wish takes it a few steps farther by keeping tabs on the things for which people are pining, and then tries to negotiate deals with vendors to help connect all the dots (and credit cards). Naturally, Wish stands as an intermediary ready to take its share of the transaction, an agent in the newest sense of the word.

At first blush, this may seem like a valuable service. Let’s take our consuming desires (wait, maybe it’s the desires that are consuming us!), make them social so others can tag along, and then see if we can broker a deal on a truck load of them. Everyone wins, as the Wish website happily proclaims.

I am not sold yet, though. Why should we tell the world (and Wish, Pinterest, et al) everything we want? They are not Santa Claus, and in fact will unleash all manner of insidious marketing attacks upon us. It reminds me of one of Gary Larsen’s best Far Side comics. “Bummer of a birthmark, Hal, one deer says to another.

So why paint the bullseye on ourselves then?

My business sixth sense says this app just might fly, though. It is human nature to want to share our wants among friends. The question remains whether we will do it on Facebook, because that’s the only way this app works.

As for me and my invite, I declined. Nothing against my friend. I am just not into FB apps. I mean, unless, I go on to develop one of my own. I’ve got a few ideas, and more than one of them center on photography.

Hey, have I told you about the new camera I want?

Dr “Canon EOS-5D Mark III” Gerlich

Radar Love

22 06 2012

In days of old, the only way we knew if an acquaintance were nearby is if we actually bumped in to him or her. It was a completely random crap shoot, much akin to traveling to Chicago only to find your third cousin walking down Michigan Ave. At the same. Exact. Time.

Yeah, pretty random.

More recently, the social graph and mobile devices have combined forces to let our friends (or us) check in at places, and then this breaking news appears on Facebook and Twitter feeds. If you happen to have your settings for this person assigned to All Updates, or have chosen them as a Close Friend, this stunning announcement of whereabouts will pop straight to a user’s smartphone. How easy it would be to stalk people and…um…casually drop in at a bar or restaurant 15 minutes later. “Oh, what a surprise! Fancy meeting you here!”

But now it is getting way too easy to not only know if a friend or acquaintance is about to cross paths, but also people of like interest. You know. Strangers.

Jeepers creepers.

The advent of SoMoLo (social, mobile, local) apps like Highlight and Glancee. Better start wearing a disguise if you don’t want to keep running into people you know. Or who want to know you.

So significant is this trend that Facebook bought Glancee on 4th May 2012 (right after Instagram, but before Karma). It plans to shutter Glancee and roll it completely into the FB experience, software engineers and all.

I suppose we had better get ready for a new-and-improved Facebook location-based service coming soon. This will make Timeline seem like a breath of fresh air.

Of course, this will bring another series of changes in privacy settings. Every time there is a new feature, FB manages to make it a little more difficult to not broadcast your entire life.I can only imagine the uproar that will ensue when this goes live to 900 million happy people.

From a marketing perspective (you knew this was coming, didn’t you?), it presents numerous opportunities for precision ad placement. For example, suppose that the Glancee/FB feature sense your best friend is right around the corner. Knowing what it already does about both of your likes, past check-ins, etc., it could easily serve up an ad that is a good match for an impromptu dinner and drink (because it knows you will bump in to said person).

Furthermore, the whole concept is similar to developments in near-field communication (NFC) in which we are constantly being monitored by our service provider or other app. Basically, GPS is a two-way transaction, not just data we are pulling down. We are unwittingly pushing it back up. “Hey there, ATT! I’m headed south on Soncy…it’s 5:15pm…there’s gotta be a Starbucks around here somewhere…”

Wait. That’s ATT’s job…tell you about the Starbucks next to Sports Clips, and, oh, here’s a little coupon for your next purchase. “Turn right after the 7 Bar & Grill, Nick. Hot coffee. Mmmm.”

I have mixed emotions about all this right now, but I also did when LBSs like Gowalla and Facebook entered the fray a couple of years ago. Now I check in fairly regularly on FB. I was a little squeamish when I saw how well FB could geo-tag my photos, but I got over it. In fact, photos are probably the most frequent thing I post.

Which is another way of saying I will probably learn to embrace Glancee when Facebook unleashes its power. And if you don’t want to run into me when we both round the next corner, either learn to run fast, or start carrying a disguise.

And as for total strangers who might share interests in me (thank you very much, Facebook), I can always pretend to speak only German, or, better yet, scare the daylight out of them by launching into a fit of fake glossolalia. Just a glance of them getting out of Dodge would be the highlight of my day.

Dr “Off The Radar” Gerlich

Rested Development

22 06 2012

I have heard it said that USAmericans are exposed to as many as 5000 ads per day. They come at us from a variety of directions, some subtle, some in your face. Broadcast. Print. Online. Outdoor. Mobile.

Some are so subtle that they fly under the radar. For example, last summer about this time we went to see the Padres and Nationals at Petco Park in San Diego. Other than possibly being the perfect cure for insomnia (two lousy teams duking it out for the honor of being the league’s doormat), it was a nice evening spent in the cool June Gloom of Southern California. Little did I realize I was being marketed to at every turn.

Corporate naming rights are now being sold for anything and everything. Stadia are perhaps among the more common, but universities as well are getting in on it (thanks to state governments decreasing funding for higher education). But now it appears that we may have one more location in which to soak up monetary messages: highway rest areas.

If anything, rest areas have remained virtually ad-free for decades. Sure, there might be vending machines and state tourism attendants, but it’s pretty much virgin territory for marketing. If the recession has taught us anything, though, it is that governments either cannot or will not continue to pay for the things we once took for granted.

So imagine taking the freeway exit and being confronted with signage like this: Welcome to the Coca Cola Rest & Safety Park! Park your car. relax. Stretch your tired legs. And have an ice cold Coke!

Yeah, it could happen. Well, maybe not quite that extreme, but with state budgets getting ever tighter, and now a few states willing to give this notion a whirl, it could happen.

It’s something that should have been considered in Texas. In the last year, TXDOT shut down dozens of small picnic areas, citing budget problems and escalating upkeep costs. Imagine if these picnic areas had been sponsored instead by companies? They could have remained open…and continue to provide not only a place for a family snack, but also a safe place to take a rest from driving.

I am sure that some social critics will find this reprehensible, but it is something we must come to accept in the future. I would not be surprised to see bridges and entire road segments underwritten by corporations.

Heck, it’s already happening to some degree. For example,, the Amazon shoe subsidiary headquartered in Las Vegas, has paid handsomely to be the exclusive Adopt-A-Highway along I-15 from the California state line all the way to Sin City. Every mile, in both directions, there is a nice blue sign saying that Zappos is picking up your litter. The irony is that Zappos hires another company to actually do the dirty work (all that bending and bagging takes time, you know, plus it sounds a bit like work). Drivers along that stretch of freeway are peppered with little Zappos reminders every 50 seconds (or less, depending on how much of a maniac you are).

Having grown up among tollroads in Chicago, I am also very familiar with the companies that paid significant sums to have the gasoline and fast food exclusives. Somehow, we did not mind all that commercial activity along I-294. It was just part of the landscape.

There are lots of untapped opportunities for marketers along our nation’s highways. Numerous states provide free wifi at rest areas. Why not let companies underwrite that? The opening screen could be all advertising as you look for the TOS box to click. Bathrooms and picnic benches could be sponsored. CoinStar could place Seattle’s Best coffee machines (caffeine is a great waker-upper, and thus ties in nicely with highway safety).

Let’s take this a step farther. Why not see if Petco would be interested in sponsoring the doggie runs? It seems like a natural fit. And I guarantee it would be more fun watching dogs fight over bones than viewing a couple of last place teams vie for obscurity.

Dr “Play Ball!” Gerlich

A Smarter Smartphone

22 06 2012

When the iPhone was introduced in July 2007, everyone was in agreement that it signaled a paradigm shift. A new way of doing old things. A new way of doing new things. And a convergence of a whole lot in the process.

The only problem was that no one was exactly sure how it would be used, including Steve Jobs. It was a grand experiment, a noble product launch that, in true Apple fashion, addressed needs we did not know we had.

As it turns out, two of the most popular uses of the iPhone (and most other smartphones, for that matter) have been mapping and photographs. In the former, uses include GPS, mapping and directions, and basic trolling for general types of places (trying entering “Mexican food in your map app and see what happens). In the latter, it includes everything from taking the pic to editing and sharing it, by email, social media or SMS.

Oddly enough, Apple has utilized a Google-based mapping application, which is kind of like pre-loading a MacBook Pro with Microsoft Office. But tomorrow, this will all start to change when Apple is predicted to announce both new mapping and photo-sharing features with the upcoming iOS 6.0.

And it makes good sense, since these are two hotly contested applications on our phones. We have done away with our Garmins and TomToms, and in other case, quit carrying heavy and expensive cameras. Our phones can do it all. It just makes sense for Apple to ditch arch-rival Google and offer an improved mapping interface, especially when Google is also upping the ante with its own maps on Android phones.

As for photos, I for one never saw it coming. While I am an avid amateur photographer with nice gear, I still use my iPhone to shoot things. Lots of things. OK, almost 5000 things.

But here is the big take-away: mapping and photography are inexplicably intertwined, and everyone has been leaving advertising revenue on the table. Sure, Google has sold some minor mentions in its map app (like when you look for a Red Robin but instead get a pin for an Applebees). But this is small potatoes.

Recall that our smartphones are GPS-based. The map app needs location services turned on in order to work. And we geo-tag our pictures without even knowing it (on your iPhone, while looking at your Camera Roll, tap “Places” at the bottom to see what I mean).

OK, so why don’t Apple and Google start selling location-based ads for their phones? Imagine opening up your map app, and, after typing Red Robin, receiving not only a map with directions, but also a coupon. Or, for that matter, when you shoot and share a pic within proximity of, say, Abuelo’s, getting a Happy Hour reminder and promo?

Yeah, now you have it. They really have left ad money on the table.

Before everyone excoriates me for opening the door to ever more advertising, allow me to remind you that I am the marketer here, and it is my job to show my students how to make money. There. Absolved from all wrong-doing and sin with one pithy little statement. Don’t you just love pith?

I am excited to see Apple and Google ever refining our smartphone operating systems, as well as features. Look how far we have come in just five years. And try to imagine a life in which you did not have your handy little portable brain in your pocket or purse. Good luck there.

As this refining continues, we need to expect not only improved services, but also more precision marketing aimed specifically at an audience of one. Yes, that would be you. And me.


“Hello? Oh, just a sec.”

I think it’s for you.

Dr “Map My Life” Gerlich