No, I’m not talking about Point of View, I’m talking about Post Olympic Viewing. As Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt get their medals through airport security, the rest of us are getting used to life without the Olympics. NBC has returned to showing crappy game shows. Newspapers here in the US are relieved that the Democratic National Convention is in full swing. Though, let’s face it, it’s hard to switch from pure entertainment to speeches urging us to solve the world’s problems. What the lack of Olympics shows is:
1. How good these Olympics were. Whatever your views on China and its human rights records you have to admit they put on a stunning event and one that will be almost impossible to follow.
2. The end of the Olympics has created a vacuum into which a smart company or politician would launch themselves. However, it needs to be someone or something very smart. Anything average will be viewed as either blatant publicity seeking or perhaps even worse be ignored altogether. On that basis Obama would appear to have a great opportunity.
OK, so my little survey is far from statistically accurate but when asked: “who does the best PR?” Apple got over half the votes. 55% to be precise. Indeed the rest (Dell, IBM, Cisco, Intel and Microsoft) were bunched pretty tightly with only a few votes separating them. Now these results could be interpreted several ways:
1. You could argue that Apple is doing a great job with its PR. I struggle to agree with that. I think they’ve launched a great product that is getting tons of attention and their PR is therefore very visible. I wouldn’t say they have done bad PR but I equally wouldn’t say it has been great.
2. You could argue that this quick poll shows that people don’t really differentiate PR form other marketing forms. In other words the brands doing the most marketing get noticed the most whether it is through PR, advertising, sponsorship etc. Sadly I think there is some truth to this. Even PR people (who voted on this) judge these things at a very superficial level.
3. It could be that this poll doesn’t reflect who has done great PR but rather who has received the least negative PR. I firmly believe that we are in an era where people are more aware of negative PR than they are of positive PR. Indeed I’ve seen research for a client that proved this point. If this applies here it would suggest that Apple has received almost no bad PR in recent weeks. Aside form the concerns about Jobs health that surfaced I’d say that was true. Indeed given the potential for poor reviews of the iPhone thanks to its horrid battery life it could be argued they have very skillfully avoided bad press. Put another way, do a quick test and ask yourself what news you remember around any of the big companies right now. I can almost guarantee you can recall more negatives than positives.
In reality, the answer lies in a mix of all of the above. That sounds like a cop out I know but I think it is true. Apple has maximized the opportunities you get when you have a great consumer product (I think the iPhone is spectacular apart from its battery life issue). I also think it has managed to avoid bad press and commentary and instead get people focused on tips and tricks to solve the poor battery life issue (if you don’t believe me here just go online and see how many people have put up blog entries with ways to save your iPhone from dying). I also believe that this shows that when a company gets its overall marketing to be tightly integrated then people pay attention.
I was just reading the Live Text coverage of the Olympics on BBC.co.uk (which incidentally is a great read of you like British humor). Someone made the point that if Phelps were a country he would be fourth in the overall medal table. That puts one person ahead of almost all the developed nations in the world. Some of the world’s smaller nations will no doubt start scouting their local swimming pools looking for their own Phelps.
The BBC has introduced a clever system to help boost its Olympics ratings. It seems (potential) viewers can sign up to get a couple of text messages a day reminding them that a certain event is about to be shown on TV (such as Phelps going for another gold medal). You could see this idea being applied to a whole range of things. For example radio stations could text you to tune in when a certain song is about to be played. Equally, your favorite sports team could send you a text message when they score and provide information on where you can watch or listen to the game. Businesses could text you when a certain item goes on sale. The list is really quite endless and I wonder if there isn’t a business here for someone to create a site called ‘Reach Me’. On the site you would sign up for things that you would like to get messages about. I’d suggest that this site go beyond text messages and use a range of other ways to get hold of you. As I say the list could be anything from sports news to product availability. There are some technologies that touch on this space from people like Varolii but they seem to focus more on the company selling than the person who is receiving or buying.
NBC reportedly paid a $1 Billion for the rights to show the Olympics in the US. I guess when you have paid that much you don’t want people to feel like they are watching a re-run and instead want them to feel they are watching it as it happens. Sadly, given the time difference with Beijing, this means many of the events would drop out of prime time if shown live. NBC’s answer is to say the event is live, as they did with Phelps 200m butterfly event, even though the event happened hours ago and you can easily find out who won by surfing the web. Indeed by the time Phelps dived into the pool for the 200m race on NBC, he was already warming up for his next race, a team relay (which he also won). Given how good the NBC.com coverage of the Olympics is, I know they are web savvy. So why don’t they just admit that their coverage isn’t really live or at the very least not try and pretend it is? As it is I now find myself checking bbc.co.uk in the evenings to see the results of things that NBC keeps saying is ‘coming up live in the next hour.’ Come on NBC. In a world where people use the Internet as much as they do their TV you really need a better solution than to try and pretend your coverage is live.
Welcome to the era of what I’d like to call ‘Thinventory.’ This is an era where retailers are so scared that the economy is going to leave them with unsold products on their hands that they would rather carry too little stock than too much. It is also the era where even hot products like the iPhone are deliberately understocked. It is of course the smart way to run a retail business – match inventory to demand. For the shopper it is frustrating when they are using traditional retail outlets but almost invisible when they are shopping online. The smart retail operations are the ones that can blend this online shopping with the traditional environment and have the product you want shipped to your home overnight. This problem is particularly troublesome for sellers of say shoes and clothes, where the same product comes in multiple sizes. Carrying enough of every size is expensive and risky but if they can provide a thin level of inventory in each store and then hold a further amount at a central store to either replenish store stocks or service customers online they will likely do better than having every store hold all the stock.