Tag Archives: AT&T

Infographic: Does Big Business Control the World?

The infographic here reminds me of the 1970’s movie Rollerball, in which the world was controlled by seven corporations: food, energy, entertainment, transportation, etc. It seemed at the time, when I saw it, like a reasonable guess at the future.

But then there’s the change led by technology, which seems to splinter the world and allow for millions upon millions of individual business and smaller companies. So who knows?

I like the collection of related facts in this infographic. 

Is All Good Business Inherently Social Enterprise?

I liked the phrase social entrepreneurship instantly when I first heard it. It’s doing well by doing good, I assumed, building businesses that help people. A business doesn’t have to not make a profit to do good, so the idea of social entrepreneurship makes sense. Teach kids to read, help people stay healthy, clean the environment, fight discrimination, and make a fair profit doing it. The world will be better for it.

But wait: Don’t all businesses have to make the world better, and solve problems, just to survive over a long term?  A business can poison people or the Earth, or cheat people, for a while, maybe … but eventually that business will die.  Won’t it?

So doesn’t all new business have to be social enterprise? Or is it not so much doing good as just simply not doing harm? That’s a tough question.

Confused, I asked  Google to define: social entrepreneurship. The illustration here shows some of what comes back. It talks of making social change, solving social problems, and creating innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems.

What’s hard, though, is working some of this into real life. If social enterprises solve “society’s most pressing problems,” then damn, that rules out a lot of very good and very well intentioned business that I would have called social enterprise.  Does a restaurant serving healthy, local, organic  food qualify? How about a business selling all-natural no-animal-testing cosmetics? What about a business selling electric cars? Chevrolet and Nissan (the Bolt and the Leaf) are social enterprises now?  And if you start to expand, then what about AT&T (communication) and Exxon (energy)? Are they social enterprises? Maybe they trip up on the “innovative” qualifier, as in “innovative solutions to society’s most pressing problems.”

I’m still confused. I will say, though, that in my lifetime I’ve seen a gradual but steady increase in the general consumers’ concern for social and environmental considerations. Frustratingly slow, perhaps, but it’s there. And it also seems like we’re in a new age of transparency, whether the big behemoth companies like it or not; bad businesses have trouble keeping their badness secret for very long.

The underlying story of a business, the people behind it, and its values, these all matter more now than they used to.

Or am I just being too optimistic?

Verizon and AT&T Lessons in Marketing

One thing I’ve seen forever is the power of a strong simple reason to buy (if you like buzzwords, call it value proposition, or USP, for unique selling proposition) in advertising. Don’t be funny. Make a simple obvious point.

True, advertising is struggling to change as fast as media splinters. But the simple point is still very powerful.

This goes way back. “You’ll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent.”  “Colgate cleans your breath while it cleans your teeth.” A lot of us grew up with those advertising slogans. We only had three television networks. And research showed they worked better than cute, funny, or subtle.

Flash forward to AT&T vs. Verizon in their recent ad battles. I don’t like the mud slinging or bad-mouthing of competitors element in this duel, but I think they’re demonstrating something important about making marketing points. Watch how well they focus in on making the single point:

  1. Verizon assaults AT&T by showing us vastly unequal coverage maps. It’s Verizon’s 3G vs. AT&T’s 3G. Notice how their “there’s a map for that” strikes straight at the iPhone commercials. And makes a single point.
  2. AT&T strikes back by comparing its total map to Verizon’s total map. That one glosses over the 3G vs. all other distinctions. Strong point, single point.
  3. AT&T strikes back again with the browse-the network-while-still-on-the-call commercials. There too, those commercials (nice stuff, I like how they tell an actual story) make a single point.
  4. AT&T strikes back yet again with a list-of features ad. Not so powerful, in my opinion. Too much information.

I’m not suggesting that major league advertising for national audiences isn’t declining in importance. I’m not suggesting that bad-mouthing a competitor is often a good idea. I am suggesting, though, that this well focused advertising, each ad making a single point, is a lesson on marketing.

(Image: Knights Duelling, by Eugène Delacroix via Wikipedia)

Apple Computer Role Reversal as Big Brother

What delicious irony. The champion of the little guy has become big brother.

Remember the groundbreaking first Macintosh television commercial, in 1984, with the young woman throwing a hammer into the giant video screen on an evil big brother, smashing it into bits? There’s a role reversal going on.

Apple Computer has taken the establishment role in the booming new iPhone application market. First the iPhone, then well-publicized stories of trivial iPhone apps making thousands of dollars daily, and then the application review process got swamped. And now there’s Apple Computer, the gatekeeper, protector of the establishment, standing between all those developers with stars in their eyes, on one had, and admission into the app store, on the other.

The original idea of review was a combination of protecting the software from crashing, and protecting the Apple store from embarrassment. Ever since the stories of iPhone application fortunes first broke — I fear it was with a fart app making $10,000 a day — the software developers are flocking to iPhone apps. Of course I have no special knowledge, but from the outside looking in, it would seem like the crush of applicants makes long waits, unfair rejections, and inconsistencies inevitable. I’m guessing Apple’s private-sector resources to manage the tidal wave are completely overwhelmed. Mobclix, which tracks iPhone applications with analytics, is reporting that there are more than 85,000 applications approved by Apple so far, and the wait has gone from days to weeks, and is rising.

On a Mobclix blog about the iPhone applications market, iPhone app developer Max Zamkow says:

iPhone developers live in constant fear of receiving an email from Apple with what can only be termed the ‘Death Sentence’: “We’ve reviewed your application and we have determined that this application…will not be appropriate for the App Store.”

He’s developed an app called FruitShoot Lite that lets unhappy iPhone developers (or anybody else) vent their anger by mock shooting at mock apples on their iPhones. But the default fruit target is a banana. And it passed the review.

It’s a couple of months ago now that Jason Calacanis, celebrity entrepreneur and blogger with a known taste for controversy, lashed out against Apple in The Case Against Apple–in Five Parts, in which he complained not just about the “draconian policies” of the iPhone app review, but also four other sins including “anti-competitive” practices with MP3 players, “monopolistic” dealings with telecommunications (a reference to AT&T’s lock on the US iPhone), “hypocrisy” of blocking competing browsers on the iPhone, and blocking Google voice on the iPhone.

TechCrunch highlighted a dumb-but-approved “upskirt” app last week, mocking the glaring inconsistencies:

Let me just get this straight: A hilarious satirical app made by the Someecards guys cannot get approved because it contains cards that, for example, mock Hitler. But an upskirt app is just fine? That is so ridiculous.

Yes, ironic indeed. On first glance, I look at the rising tide of complaints and I think they’re all delusional: Apple is a business, not a public service, and it owns the iTunes store, so it can do what it likes. Developers waiting weeks to get into the market, living in fear of rejection after all that work? It’s Apple’s clubhouse, so Apple can admit whoever it wants. However, as the whole thing starts to sink in, I have to add that Apple Computer has made this bed for itself, so it deserves to lie in it.

Not that I don’t like Apple. I’ve been a serious Mac user twice, first for about 10 years from the beginning in 1984 until the middle 90s, and again for the last two years. I like the Mac, love the iPhone, love Apple’s products in general. However, I’ve never quite accepted the odd phenomenon of Macintosh and Apple as crusade. The whole phenomenon of some connection between operating systems and good (Apple) or evil (Windows) has always seemed a bit creepy to me. After all, they’re just products for sale. Apple, IBM, Microsoft … they are all big companies.

Apple Computer, however, has actively catered to this odd canonization of brand throughout its history. It wasn’t for nothing that the Macintosh anti-big-brother image is part of our cultural heritage. It wasn’t for nothing that IBM became “big blue” and Microsoft “the dark side” … Apple spent a lot of thinking time, effort, and money on building that anti-establishment tinge to its brand. And it’s not totally crazy to suggest that Apple managed to change brand to aura, or halo.

Live by the anti-establishment brand, die by the anti-establishment brand. What we’re seeing, I think, with the rising protest of developers against Apple, is something akin to a jilted lover, or the famous Shakespeare epithet about a woman scorned. It seems like the backlash is whipped to a frenzy with Apple in a way that it might not be if it were some other big company, or, say, the US Patent and Trademark Office. Companies move slowly, government agencies move slowly, but not Apple Computer. The woman with the hammer in that 1984 commercial, crashing big brother and all. Say it isn’t so. Disillusion.

(Photo credit:wikipedia)