April 13, 2011

R.I.P. Flip camera

Bye bye flip.

So Cisco decided to kill the flip video camera. Good decision? I am not sure. The word on the street has all facets of opinions.

Stephen Baker, Industry analyst from NPD calls it "a bad decision on so many levels that it is difficult to fit them all into one discussion." For a thorough comment I left on his blog apparently was not much space either as NPD decided to delete it. I had partially disagreed with the limited analysis as it only focused on past and current sales data, lacking a future outlook. It must not have sat too well with the NPD folks.

Sam Biddle from Gizmodo sits on the other side of the spectrum. He seems to welcome the decision as he calls the flip "a product nobody needed anymore or cared about." (links to both articles at the bottom of this article). I tend to disagree with him as well, for various reasons, and I want to tell you why both of them are wrong.

ONE: Mr. Baker from NPD calls Cisco's move a "cowardly act". Au contraire. In the business world, this is called a strategic move. Cisco made a strategic decision not to be in the consumer domain any longer and focus and invest in other parts of their business. So what? Apple is a consumer company. Cisco is not. Remember Sega? They decided to shut down their gaming console business when Microsoft announced they would enter the market. Sega was still doing solid numbers at the time. Nevertheless they left the playground. Simple business strategy.

TWO: Mr. Baker criticizes Cisco's "relative lack of exposure to consumer trends". Well, if you are a consumer goods company, then that would be disastrous. If you are not, and your value and supply chain is well integrated, and you are working with your business partners in harmony, then you need not worry about consumer trends. Your business customers sitting at that end of the value chain will take care of this part. This is called the division of labor and the focus on core competencies.

THREE: Mr. Giddle thinks "the blame should be aimed squarely at the smartphone in your pocket." According to the NPD market evaluation, flip was still doing pretty well in 2010 compared to 2009. Yes, the smartphones got better. Yes, the smartphones got smarter. Yes, the camera functionality got better. Yes, yes, yes, But! Does that mean flip never had a chance?

The good thing about NPD is that they have got the numbers. The problem with NPD is that they are too focused on their numbers, and can really only comfortable voice an opinion until the last submission from their retail sales tracking software. The good thing about Gizmodo is that they know their tech stuff. The problem with Gizmodo is that they too easily get lost in the technicalities of things, without a broader outlook.

Here are a few thoughts how flip could have lived on, or could have been saved (in my opinion of course. You are entitled to disagree.)

Cisco, as part of their business strategy, could have decided to enter the smartphone market by turning the flip camera into a flip smartphone. flip has a strong, and solid following, and it would have been only an evolution, a continuation of a story vs. the introduction of a completely new device. Other devices, such as Garmin or Nuevi GPS navigation devices have chosen such a strategy. If they will be successful, only time will tell.

Technical devices, especially in the digital day and age, tend to become more and more complicated with each version. More features, more buttons, more menus. Consequently that all adds up to more complexities, and I challenge you to confidently say you have already explored your devices capabilities at 100%. I actually doubt it. I just recently had a friend discover the 'Zoom' function on her iPhone after she had it for over a year.

This would have been the chance for the flip. Keeping it simple as 1-2-3. Not too many buttons. No confusing menus. Add to that Moore's law and the tendency of lower production cost as time moves on, and the flip could have been a low-cost device, easily replaceable and disposable. Not a big tragedy if it gets lost (vs. losing your iPhone or bberry!), but always a fun toy to have around at weddings, birthday parties, hiking and biking trips, you name it. Going Ultra HD with the flip was the wrong way. There is no way you enter the professional domain with this tiny device. Going the other way would have been a better option.

But Cisco apparently decided not go invest in R&D, and marketing, and a sales staff for such a device. So end of story. R.I.P. flip camera. You will (or will not) be missed.

Related links:
Stephen Baker's NPD Industry Analysis
Gizmodo's post
The flip website

April 7, 2011

Brilliant - NCAA's 'Going Pro'

You may criticize the NCAA for taking advantage of their student athletes. While the league is raking in hundreds of millions of dollars year after year, it doesn't even allow its athletes a free meal. But that's another story.

What they have done right for many years, however, is their advertising. Year after year after year. There is a consistent message. Actually, it is exactly the same message. The only thing that changes is the creative execution that keeps it fresh, keeps it contemporary. The commercial above actually ran last year, but it doesn't matter, as you will see many versions on tv this year that all play the same tune.

"There are over 400,000 student athletes, and just about all of us will be going pro in something other than sports."

Wow! Speaking of strong messages. It cannot get any more powerful than this one. While the rest of the sports media focuses on the very few, lucky ones that get drafted by the NFL or the NBA every year, and hundreds of sports writers try to top each other with their draft, and pre-draft, and pre-pre draft predictions, the NCAA spends money to focus on the other 399,600 athletes, reminding us that there are more important things in life than signing a multimillion dollar pro-sports contract. That's a powerful message. I hope the NCAA will keep it this way. Forever.

After all, imagine you're a rookie on a NFL team, your knee gets shattered in the first game of the season, and you end up with a doctor such as the one in the Sprint commercial reviewed yesterday. Better to get a degree, and a real job, no?

April 6, 2011

Sending the wrong message: Sprint's 'Injury' commerical

Ok. We get it. Fast network. Low monthly fees. But that's not the message here. There is something so fundamentally wrong with this commercial, I don't think the creatives who wrote this script ever thought about the deeper implications, or they didn't care.

The story that carries this commercial, is a very realistic one. Every season, quite a few professional athletes get seriously injured, and very often with career-ending injuries. There are tragic stories out there, and every once in a while we read about them. But the individual tragedy is not the subject matter here.

The underlying message implicit in this commercial is this: Although my profession is one that should be defined by helping others, by unselfishness, and by compassion, I don't give a damn. I am only acting selfishly, without caring about you at all whatsoever, only having my very own, personal benefit in mind.

The other few versions of this series are not as bad as this one, but they all carry the same message: I don't care about you. That's the takeaway for me from this series of Sprint commercials.

It is the same egotistic human behavior that made commuters on a San Francisco freeway scream "jump" at a suicide candidate, who had been blocking a bridge, from which he intended to jump, for three hours. It is the same self-centered thoughts we have when a co-worker gets laid off, and we crawl back to our cubicles not thinking about him or her, but about ourselves instead: Thank god not me. Better him than me. It is appaling. Definitely not the right message to wrap your cell phone services around.

Tomorrow will feature a commercial that does the exact opposite.

April 5, 2011

Powerful message: Anheuser Busch's 'Thank You' commercial

The commercial is already a few years old, but there is something incredibly powerful about this message. It gets under your skin - whether you like the beer-like substances Anheuser-Busch sells or not (I don't). But I do like this commercial. It shows you why AB is always on top of its game (except for their brewing skills).

Thank you.

April 4, 2011

Yuck - BK's Meat Math Commercial

Sometime during the NCAA tournament, Burger King introduced their 'BK Stacker' sandwiches with the above commercial. From the first time watching it, it struck me as odd. Here is my interpretation of it:

Opening shot: We see a sign reading 'Meat Mathematics Institute'.

Me: Mathematics Institute? What?

Then the voice over kicks in: "The world's foremost meat mathematicians were summoned by Burger King to solve this equation: How can we achieve maximum meat flavor for minimum money?"

Me: Yuck! Not real chefs in the kitchen, trying to achieve maximum TASTE, but scientists in a lab, trying to go for maximum FLAVOR! Yuck! This has artificial flavors, filler materials, and other disgusting ingredients, all cooked up in a science lab, written all over it! It brought memories of the movie Fast Food Nation back, instead of stimulating my taste buds.

Furthermore, they are trying to achieve it for "minimum money"? Oh my gosh... now they are telling us that they don't put very much into it (certainly not the best ingredients), and that they are a very cheap company, trying to save themselves as much money as possible when putting together the burgers they sell to us. It doesn't come across as savings for consumer, the way it was intended.

Last but not least, "achieving maximum meat flavor for minimum money" is an economic impossibility and misleading, because you can either try to achieve:

a) maximum flavor - at whatever cost associated with it (depending on the market price for wagyu kobe beef for example, and the exclusivity of the cheese on top)

- OR

b) minimum money - meaning you know what you want to sell the damn burger for ($1, $2, $3), you know the cost structure of the burger, which ultimately dictates how much real beef you can allow yourself as a company to put inside the burger.

Doing both - a) and b) is impossible. Anyway, the thought of scientists calculating my burger is stuck in my mind now, and I find it quite disgusting. I think I have had enough BK for a while.


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