It has been a busy week in marketing and social media. One of the biggest news items from the past week was the launch of the new MySpace design. MySpace, which seems to have played second or third fiddle to Facebook for a number of years now, updated their design to focus more on the entertainment side of social media. Among the worst things an organization can do is change their look, brand or logo because they are bored of it or feel like it's time for a change. If you're re-branding, you do so with a purpose or a reason, a reason that is supported by your choose re-branding strategy. Mashable is quick to point out that MySpace is not just changing the wallpaper, that their updates are "the start of a fundamental shift in focus" for the website. That focus? According to their coverage of the event, the shift is toward making MySpace a “social entertainment destination".
As according to Mashable, MySpace's new target demographic is Gen Y, the 13 to 35 year-old segment, and is looking to become a premier destination for connecting with entertainment-oriented "fans and curators". To me, this move takes a lot of sense. I think that MySpace understands that they are no longer the premier social networking site and that their model needed to be focused on a need that was not being fully satisfied. Sites, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, are excellent platforms for connecting with friends and colleagues and building on connections. Twitter is a brilliant idea-sharing and quick messaging platform for meeting industry leaders and like-minded individuals. However, MySpace realized that there was no platform adequately catering to the sharing of music, videos and entertainment. Mentally, I have always associated MySpace with music: how many bands have presented themselves there. Further, how many of had a break there? I think a lot of MySpace's potential success lies in their ability to nourish up and coming artists and giving them the platform they need to get exposure.
There is one thing that still concerns me. We cannot forget that there is one platform that is already giving many musicians and artists exposure: YouTube. YouTube doesn't allow for the same networking that is possible through a site like MySpace, but I wouldn't be surprised if this improves in the near future. Members can subscribe, like and rate other's content. If MySpace doesn't blow us out of the water, there is a chance their move has come too late.
Another huge piece of news to come to light was that, for the first time ever, Apple overtook RIM and the Blackberry in the heated-battle that is the smart phone market. According to Michael Babad in the Globe and Mail, citing new research by International Data Corp., reported this past week that Apple's iPhone enjoyed sales that "eclipsed those of RIM's BlackBerry in the third quarter for the first time", with Apple shipping 14.1 million to RIM's 12.4 million. Both companies enjoyed growth however, with Apple's market share reaching 4.1% in the quarter, up from 2.5%, while RIM enjoyed a quarterly increase of 0.7% market share, up to 3.6%. This growth was helped by two new products: The Blackberry Torch for RIM and the iPhone 4 for Apple, two products which have brought smart phones to the next level for many consumers.
So what does that mean? It could mean that Apple is starting to get a stronger foot hold into what has been a predominately been Blackberry territory: the business application. In recent years, I feel that Apple iPhone and RIM Blackberry have been closing on meeting in the middle. In 2007, Blackberrys were business machines: efficient, productive but not stylish or particularly attractive. In 2007, Apple came out with the iPhone: a stylish and attractive phone, but not particularly effective or efficient for business applications. With the most recent models, the line between business machines and stylish devices is blurred, both products being strong media and business performers. However, as Apple delves deeper into the business world, Blackberry will need to respond to the Apple threat through marketing and their product development.
Or do they? A friend and fellow graduate of mine at Laurier, and employee of RIM, informed me that the data cited by Babad may not reflect the truth. According to my friend, due to the different in quarters-ended, the sales numbers quoted do not include the month of September for RIM, which is traditionally a big sales month for them. If this is the case (I have his word, but have no found any publicly available information to confirm the numbers independent of each other), then these numbers may not reflect anything at all. They serve only to remind us that the battle is far from other, and hotter than ever before. (Author's note: if you do know where this information is available, please let me know on Twitter, I'd be most interesting in finding out more! @andrewbasker).
This week also saw our first peek at the new Samsung Galaxy Tab. However, I am not going to talk about it here. Not yet at least, not until I have the opportunity to see it in person. More over, I want to be able to experience all three of the big players in this market: the iPad, the Playbook and the Galaxy. I have experienced the iPad but was not instantly won over. As I have discussed before here, I am an iPod Touch owner and see no need or desire to have an iPad (apart from the data, something readily available through the iPhone (and it lets you make phone calls), or those who want to access the Internet but lack the knowhow to use a full computer OS). However, I only spent a few fleeting moments with the machine in a Bestbuy. Why Bestbuy? Have YOU tried spending any time in an Apple store to see one? Yeah, exactly. Watch this space for a review of all three machines, something I am aiming to do as soon as I can.
However, there is something I want to talk about before this post is over. That is the Chevy Cruze. For years, Chevrolet has been known for making very affordable but depressingly poorly build vehicles. I have attended the Toronto Auto Show for the last number of years and every time I go, I always make a point of checking out the GM stands to see how the cars feel and look. Five years ago, you could sit in a Cadillac and find buttons plucked directly from the Pontiac Sunfire. Even a couple years ago, their new vehicles like the Traverse were build better, but still suffering from poor build quality and cheap materials. Chevrolet would like us to think differently about them now though, as they being their new car to Canada and the US: the Cruze. GM spent a lot of money to make the first genuine 'global car', excluding cars made my Suzuki under the Chevy brand. 'Global' cars refers to having one design sold around the world, something many car companies have been doing for a long time: Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Mazda and starting in 2012 Ford as well. Chevy is also spending a gigantic sum of money updating their factories and marketing their new product heavily. Using traditional media, and slowly breaking into social media, Chevy is putting a lot of their future in the success of this new, more technological and quality-driven vehicle. If you want to learn more, check out this good article from autoobserver.com.
Will it work? Well, I'd like it to work but I am cynical. I've seen these promises before from GM, I the skeptical consumer inside me doesn't want to believe everything I see or read. This is one of the most worrying aspects of being a marketer in today's market: the levels of skepticism are higher than ever before. You can't simply say you're the best, consumers are looking for you to prove it.
So go on then Chevy. People want you to fail, and it'd be convenient if you did. But if you want to slug it out with your competitors, you need to prove you belong.
*** Author's Note: Shortly after this post was published, I got this response from Chevy:
@CruzeMore - Chevy Cruze
@andrewbasker I belong! I belong! You said it yourself: I'm quality-driven :)
I sincerely hope 'you' are, because if it's true 'you' could be the turning around point for Chevy as a brand.***