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The insiders guide to smartphone launches

Reading Time: 2 minutes

MWC is one of the key dates in the diary for smartphone launches by manufacturers. Apple marches to the beat of its own drum, but Android manufacturers try and go close to MWC:

  • Samsung has gone out the week before with its foldable smartphones
  • Huawei starts off at MWC as one of a series of launch events for their products
  • Sony Mobile launched there, as well as other minor Android manufacturers

The reason why they go to MWC is that it has a critical mass of journalists in Barcelona covering bigger impact stories.

Mobile World Congress 2014

Expect all kinds of hype on 5G that the smartphone vendors can then ride on.

Why are smartphone launches news?

So we know that smartphones are the most personal technology for consumers. For many of us it accompanies everywhere from waking us up in the morning, to work and back again. Some people even take it to the toilet. By definition the devices that we’ll be using through the next year or two will be news.

But its a miracle that the launches make news since the details of the phones are often leaked. Specifications usually come out through sources in the supply chain. This usually affects both iOS and Android devices.

Where Android device manufacturers differ is in later leaks. Handsets are often photographed during testing revealing the industrial design. There is often video giving an idea of device real world performance.
These leaks aren’t accidental, but is often down to egotism or hubris of senior executives. This is very different to the discipline and self-control shown by Apple executives.

This is often post-rationalised as building buzz. This is counter-intuitive to PR and marketing perceived knowledge. It would make it very hard to justify the kind of large scale dog-and-pony show used to showcase a new phone.

So far, no phone launch has been seriously hurt by the ego-leak. But now things might change. We’re at a stage were smartphones are a mature sector. Total global unit sales are down year-on-year, this will impact media coverage of smartphone launches over time.

The launch isn’t the end of the beginning

The launch event is just the start of activity. Next comes the review programme. This means putting phones in the hands of media journalists and increasingly in the hands of influencers.
Influencers are more important for a few reasons:

  • They flood social channels in particular YouTube with positive content
  • They’re naturally more likely to react positively as access and devices are still novelties for them compared to journalists
  • Influencers provide reach of marketing messages. Many manufacturers don’t advertise as much as they should relying too much on PR in their marketing mix
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ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우에 대비해서

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The Kraft Heinz experiment in radical cost-cutting has failed. | LinkedIn – imagine if 3G Capital had succeeded in their hostile bid Unilever as well?

Number of ‘McRefugees’ increasing, study finds | HKEJ Insight – a seven fold increase over 6 years. More on the background on McRefugees

Luxury Brands Learn How to Speak Streetwear Their Own Way | High Snobriety – High Snobriety on the luxury fashion hybridisation. If you like that article you’ll love Louis Vuitton, Supreme and the tangled relationship between streetwear and luxury brands

Explaining p-values with puppies – Hacker Noon – best bit of content that I’ve read all week

LG’s Dual Screen foldable phone breaks apart – BBC News – probably much smarter approach. I still don’t get what the use case is

Malaysia Airlines pitch called off – agencies get apology from CEO and compensation – Mumbrella Asia – be a client organisation like this

Chinese Whispers: Tourists Spend Less on Luxury Goods When Traveling in Japan and Hong Kong, and More | Jing Daily – the massive size of China’s e-tailing sector is insane

Forrester: Why Brick-And-Mortar Is Failing Luxury 02/25/2019 – the failure is department stores rather than ‘owned’ stores. You could also argue that department stores are primarily aimed at the mid market part of luxury which is being crushed

Why Meituan Dianping is one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies – recommendation of services a bit like Amazon’s product recommendations

CYC – Technology overview – one of the best critiques of machine learning that I’ve seen. Cyc have spent decades building rules to move towards artificial intelligence. They now have products that do narrow jobs in certain verticals (PDF)

‘Huawei Mate X’ foldable phone leaks ahead of unveiling – 9to5Google – where’s the screen from; I thought this was Samsung exclusive technology. Why would they help Huawei?

U.K. cites big se­cu­rity is­sues with Huawei (The Washington Post), 21 Feb 2019 – Huawei shockingly slow at fixing Infosec issues

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PR trends and Edelman’s recent results

Reading Time: 4 minutes

David Brain has written a good PR trends piece over at his blog on Edelman’s recent results. In particular, David focuses on the PR industry’s reaction to those results (some find it amusing to see the class swot get a B-grade). There is a temporary amnesia of other agency group problems. Go and have a read of David’s piece here.


PR Week ran a piece asking if Edelman’s problems were down to the agency focus on creative talent? This quote from Fleishman Hillard’s Jim Donaldson digs into some of the perceived challenges:

“We have a slightly different approach based in part on the fact I’m not aware of a huge amount of success coming from bringing traditional ad creatives into PR agencies,” Donaldson (below, with deputy CEO Ali Gee) tells PRWeek. “That doesn’t mean this particular hire [Judy John] won’t work; maybe they’ll crack the formula. But it’s not necessarily the way we’re looking to pursue it.”

“Partly it’s a financial thing. They can be enormously expensive. But also we haven’t seen it work elsewhere, so we look for a different sort of person that approaches things from a slightly different way.”

Fleishman’s approach is to drive creativity throughout all parts of the agency from the bottom up, rather than bringing in crack teams of creatives.

PR Week – Edelman’s ‘earned creative’ is noble, but does it work?

Now you’re all caught up here’s my thoughts on David’s piece:

  • Richard’s approach isn’t right for every PR business; but that that doesn’t dispute the validity of his approach at Edelman. I still speak with corporate agencies who are still trying to ‘work out digital’. And these are successful businesses; who have had good growth and peer respect. We have PR agencies at all stages on the adoption curve . Secondly, if you are in a large marketing combine, there is a strong incentive to either integrate a la Ogilvy or hand it across the silos

There are reasons why Fleishman Hillard et al are more conservative in there approach. PR Week covered some of the reasons. Some of the industry commentary in PR Week I viewed with a certain amount of skepticism. Here are some others to consider:

  • Having brought both digital and ‘ad agency style’ strategy to PR agencies, I know that can be hard to implement and make it stick. It’s even harder to bring it to management teams who don’t really want it. The C-suite of a global agency say one thing, but getting to regional and country level is very different. It’s a miracle we have any pioneer thinking in the PR sector at all. As an owner-manager Richard has more power than most
  • The wrong lessons were learned from the digitisation of political campaigning during the Obama elections. Some agencies thought they could replicate it as they were political wonks and roll into consumer marketing. They messed up and are now gun shy in creative and digital. I was in meetings watching agency execs talk on the benefits of democracy and political campaigning. This was in China. It was after the 2008 crisis diminished the western system’s legitimacy in the eyes of Chinese people. There are some specialists like Blue State Digital who have been much smarter

Richard is probably having a diminished reward for his change at a time when marketing functions are changing dramatically:

  • Inhoused advertising and creative teams are now doing major strategy work. In addition to the original rapid response, tactical content. Organisations like Oliver are providing the flexibility of agenciey style staffing to inhousing operations. So brands get the best of both worlds. Its part of the uberisation of services. Oliver does run the risk of disruption by the likes of Adecco or Manpower
  • Vendors such as Adobe have stripped out some of the pockets of agency value pricing out of digital build and measurement work. Once configured automated marketer friendly reports are a lot easier and automatically distributed. You can put up local / brand specific websites much faster than legacy systems in use like Vignette / Open Text. (I don’t mean to pick on Open Text, but they are an iconic player). Having gone through the painful process being the client on the build of a global web template, I can appreciate the gains made. The template is then rolled out to local country websites via the company-wide CMS. You could have teams doing this process across tens of brands at a time around the world
  • There is a changing media agenda to a more media neutral media approach is healthier for brands than digital at all costs. Anything that promotes more critical thinking around paid and earned digital is good for the industry in the longer term. It is important to remember that thought leaders like disruption commentary has an implicit agenda. McKinsey and Deloitte look to have a series of ongoing projects in a client, rather than solving a problem. The digital disruption meme has meant that businesses have taken their eye off long term brand value. Until recently, the digital disruption meme prevented critical evalution of channels. This has changed. But with CMOs staying in their roles for short tenures, brand building may not be secure in its place on the agenda