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Archive for Mass Consumerism

Analyzing The 5 Biggest Flaws of The NEW Apple iPhone 4g… via [yahoofinance]

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5 Big Blemishes for the Apple iPhone 4

by Scott Moritz

 

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Apple’s (AAPLNews) redesigned
iPhone is destined to be a knockout success. The phone scores high on
style points with its sleek glass and stainless steel design, and it
wins points for its multitasking software and improved screen.

There are, however, a few shortcomings.

The Apple iPhone 4 is set to go on sale Thursday. Judging by the
record demand during the pre-sale period, the newest iPhone will make a
huge sales splash, especially with old iPhone owners trading up.

All the presales excitement and Apple-driven hype have set
expectations very high. But mighty Apple plays to a tough crowd. It’s an
affluent group that has been eager to buy the next new thing out of
Cupertino, Calif. It’s also a highly discerning group with a refined
taste in gadgets, and that makes them a bit fussy.

Here are five bruises on the new Apple iPhone that may engender
complaint.

No. 5: A Skimpy Camera

As smartphone challengers like HTC, Motorola (MOTNews) and Nokia (NOKNews) embrace the
megapixel race with 8-megapixel and 12-megapixel cameras, Apple’s new
iPhone keeps it cheap with a 5-megapixel model.

This will be a bigger point of contention this week when Verizon (VZNews) and Motorola
unveil the Droid X Wednesday, the newest Google (GOOGNews) Android
phone, which features an 8-megapixel camera. Android phone giant HTC has
also been generous with 8-megapixel cameras in its Droid Incredible
and Sprint’s (SNews) EVO.

Meanwhile, Apple, always the laggard in cameras, won’t enter the
8-megapixel class until next year when it debuts a sweet Sony (SNENews) camera in its
2011 iPhone. But by then, who knows where the rest of the pack will be?

No. 4: No Swype

If you’ve seen Swype or used it, you know why this omission makes
the list. Typing on a touchscreen is a challenge as the flat glass
surface offers few clues to where your fat fingers are precisely making
contact. It’s an error-prone process that gives one a longing for the
raised keys of the BlackBerry keyboard from Research In Motion (RIMMNews).

But the Swype keypad software helps tame the new medium. Swype
follows the pattern of your finger movements to type words or predict
words without the usual hunting and pecking.

Apple did wonders with the touchscreen, but Swype makes it more
useful for those among us who like to type.

No. 3: Video Calling

Okay, it’s not totally bait and switch, but Apple’s hot new iPhone
video calling feature, FaceTime, comes with lots of asterisks and a
limited applicability.

Say you want to video chat with someone using the Apple iPhone 4.
That someone has to have a WiFi connection and he has to use the same
application on his own iPhone 4. You’re looking at a small club of
people — not exactly an application of global Skype-like proportions.

No. 2: iPhone 4 Shortages

Strong demand is only half the story for Apple’s iPhone sales debut.
Limited supply is the other. A shortage of in-plane display panels,
the crucial part of Apple’s touted retina display screens, has forced
Apple’s contract manufacturers to cut production rates in half to 1
million iPhones a month.

This means there won’t be enough iPhones on hand to meet the
presumably high demand. Though it’s not a terrible problem to have if
you are a gadget maker, sellouts and delivery delays will mar Apple’s
big iPhone 4 debut. The frustration could push buyers toward other
phones.

No. 1: No Verizon iPhone.

A new iPhone is big. But a new iPhone at Verizon? Much bigger.

Apple’s exclusive partnership with AT&T (TNews) has been a point
of discord among iPhone owners and it has tarnished the public
perception of both companies. It also has done almost nothing for
AT&T’s stock.

Investors have been waiting for the Verizon iPhone. But that’s
apparently not going to happen until next year, if ever.

So Apple fans who want the new iPhone have to lock in for another
two years with AT&T. This scenario is not particularly pleasant
considering that AT&T’s new subscriber plans put penalties on
people (like iPhone users) who happen to be heavy data users.

–Written by Scott Moritz in New York.


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“BUY*OLOGY: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy” by Martin Lindstrom via [USA Today]

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‘Buyology’ offers a peek inside
buyers’ heads

Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We BuyBuyology:
Truth and Lies About Why We Buy
by Martin
Lindstrom

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By Seth Brown, Special for USA
TODAY

Picture a mad scientist in his
laboratory, cackling with glee as he tries to unlock the secrets of the
human mind. Now, consider the unsettling possibility that the scientist
may be on to something.

Marketing expert Martin Lindstrom is that
scientist, caught up in the excitement of research in his new book, Buyology.
Lindstrom first became aware of neurological marketing research
through a Forbes magazine article, “In Search of the Buy
Button.”

The article discussed a lab in England, where a
neuroscientist teamed with a market researcher to scan the brainwaves of
subjects watching commercials. Lindstrom was thrilled that unbiased
access to the consumer brain was finally available.

A difficulty of standard marketing research,
Lindstrom says, is that people will not — or cannot — provide accurate
information about their mental states.

When asked why they prefer a brand of soft drink,
or how a warning label affects them, most people cannot give a straight
answer. This, Lindstrom says, is the great advantage of brain waves.

“They don’t waver, hold back, equivocate, cave in
to peer pressure, conceal their vanity, or say what they think the
person across the table wants to hear. … Neuroimaging could uncover
truths that a half-century of market research, focus groups and opinion
polling couldn’t come close to accomplishing.”

Two technologies were used in Lindstrom’s
studies: SST (Steady State Topography) and fMRI (functional Magnetic
Resonance Imaging). In a series of tests spanning three years and more
than 2,000 subjects, he concluded:

  • Warning labels on cigarettes don’t work. They
    stimulate activity in the part of a smoker’s brain linked to cravings.
  • Traditional advertisements no longer create lasting
    impressions.
    By age 66, most people with a TV will have seen
    nearly 2 million commercials. That makes it hard for an ad to increase a
    viewer’s memory of a brand, despite the millions spent.
  • Product placement only works when fully integrated. It
    works when Coke-bottle-shaped furniture is part of the set design on American
    Idol
    , for example, or when Reese’s Pieces candy was used for bait
    in the movie E.T. However, when a product is not integrated,
    such as FedEx packages appearing in the background of Casino Royale,
    there is no measurable effect with regard to viewer recollection of
    brand.
  • Sex sells itself. Viewers of sexually suggestive
    ads did pay attention, but more to the sex than the ad. In one study,
    fewer than 1-in-10 men who saw a sexually suggestive ad could recall the
    product, while twice as many remembered the product in non-sexually
    suggestive ads.
  • Successful branding functions like religion. Simple
    rituals, such as putting a lime wedge in a Corona or slowly pouring a
    Guinness, give the brand added cachet. Brands attract zealous followers —
    “I’m a Mac; I’m a PC.” Scans using fMRI technology showed that some
    viewers had the same neurological response to strong brands that they
    did to religious iconography.
  • Subliminal advertising can be highly effective. When
    watching an advertisement, viewers automatically raise their guard
    against its message. With subliminal advertisements, viewers’ guards are
    down, so their responses are more direct.
  • Marketing isn’t restricted to the visual. Many
    companies use smells to sell products. Fast-food restaurants and
    supermarket bakeries use artificial fresh-cooked food smells. Sounds
    also effect buying. A study showed shoppers purchased French or German
    wine depending on which nationality’s music was playing on store
    speakers.

Lindstrom’s research should be of interest to any
company launching a new product or brand. “Eight out of 10 products
launched in the United States are destined to fail,” Lindstrom writes.
“Roughly 21,000 new brands are introduced worldwide per year, yet
history tells us that more than 90% of them are gone from the shelf a
year later.”

It’s likely that the information in this book
will be used in future marketing campaigns, so even if you aren’t in the
marketing business, it’s a worthwhile read as a measure of
self-awareness and self-defense.

Seth Brown is a freelance writer and the
author of Rhode Island Curiosities. His website is
http://www.RisingPun.com


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Shoptimism by Lee Eisenberg via [WSJ]

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The Bonhomie Of Buying

Shoptimism: Why the American Consumer Will Keep on Buying No Matter  WhatShoptimism: Why the American Consumer Will Keep on Buying No Matter What by Lee Eisenberg
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Our shopping habits may be easily manipulated, but they are not as irrational as critics like to believe.

book110209

As the economy tanked last year, pundits claimed that we were entering a new age of frugality. We would stop shopping and learn to “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without,” like our grandparents who lived through the Depression.

There was just one problem with this prediction: Given how much money is riding on the consumer economy, legions of people now spend their lives figuring out how to make the buying experience more alluring than the days of pulling Gold Medal Flour down from the shelves of the general store. As an IBM report once noted: “We probably know as much about the behavior of the human shopper in its natural habitat, the mall, the grocery, or the department store, as we do about the activities of any species of animal in the wild.” Now former Esquire editor Lee Eisenberg adds his own take, examining why modern Americans find shopping so irresistible.

Mr. Eisenberg’s previous book, “The Number,” was magnificently hyped as offering a new way of looking at retirement; “Shoptimism” aims to offer a similarly novel view on the big idea of buying and selling. There is a coincidental affinity between the subjects: One of the reasons we have such trouble saving for retirement is that merchandisers are so good at getting us to part with our money in the here and now. As for his credentials, Mr. Eisenberg tells us that he was once a senior executive at Lands’ End, in addition to being “a breadwinner, which means I take a proprietary and sometimes overbearing interest in how my wife and kids choose to disburse what hard-earned money I bring to the party.”

Mr. Eisenberg approaches consumer culture more as an anthropologist than as what he calls a Buy Scold (berating Americans for spending money on things they neither want nor need). He turns up some interesting tidbits. Black Friday shoppers, just after Thanksgiving, say that they’re battling the crowds on behalf of themselves rather than shopping for loved ones. November is usually the second biggest month for buying things, after December, “but not every year—global warming,” Mr. Eisenberg says, “can play havoc with sales of sweaters and winter outerwear.” The brains of tight-fisted folks react to high prices in the same way they do to physical pain. We absorb advertising messages so well that—in a world saturated with PC Guy vs. Mac Dude ads—we actually perform better on creativity tests after being cued by references to Apple products. At the same time, brands are losing their vice grip as shoppers figure out that generic items are often made in the same factories as branded ones and as retailers like Whole Foods manage to turn their private labels into desirable goods.

Much of this information has been written about before—Paco Underhill, the author of “Why We Buy” (who makes an appearance in “Shoptimism”), has explored shopping habits for some time now, and Martin Lindstrom‘s “Buyology” tackled the neuroscience of shopping last year. But it’s entertaining to have it compiled in one big box store of a book, packaged in Mr. Eisenberg’s genial prose.

After a while, though, his endless taxonomies of shoppers (e.g., Bring-Back Queens and Friends of Faux, with a soft spot for designer knock-offs) get as tedious as finding the right tie from a sales rack at Macy’s. And Mr. Eisenberg misses opportunities to create a more compelling narrative. As part of writing “Shoptimism,” he took a job working at a Target store during the holiday season, but he offers maddeningly few details about the day-to-day realities of the experience, aside from the fact that he learned not to touch the wheelchairs of disabled customers. By contrast, we hear more than we need to about his field trip to help his wife buy a little black dress. This escapade is supposed to show the shopping experience from initial idea to postgame wrap-up, but it seems to take the same hour and 45 minutes to read that Mr. Eisenberg reports he spent in the store.

Despite such meandering, Mr. Eisenberg does eventually stumble onto the overarching argument inherent in his title: Shopping, in modern America, is fundamentally an optimistic activity. While our shopping habits are easily manipulated, they are not quite as irrational as critics like to believe. For most of us shopping, when done right, really does make us feel better. We buy because it “confers instant membership in a community.” We buy “to express ourselves.” Most important, we buy because “buying is fun, sociable, and diverting, an escape from boring, predictable existence.” If a sweater or an iPod can do that, and Mr. Eisenberg is convincing that it can, then no wonder, recession or not, it’s hard to keep Americans out of the stores.

Ms. Vanderkam is a writer in New York.


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