iPhone’s Watching You. Always Watching

In this weeks installment of “What I Found In The Hidden Depths Of My iPhone”, I stumbled upon the database of my Location Services.

Locations
Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services > Frequent Locations

This database held a wealth of information about all the places I had been to since the start of 2017. It had recorded all the addresses (down to the house number) of places I’ve visited, including the frequency that I’ve been there, as well as the exact times and dates.

It’s good to know that my phone is keeping a close, VERY detailed eye on me.

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To some people this discovery might not be a surprise at all. Location Services can easily be turned off, and the app isn’t exactly secretive or subtle. The app often prompts you when another app or site is using your location, and it even asks your permission every now and then. How kind! 

However, what Location Services fails to tell you is that it’s storing all that data on your phone in order to “…provide you with location-related information in Maps, Calendar and MORE“. What exactly does that ‘More’ mean? I’m not certain. But I can bet that it benefits Apple in some way.

Now this doesn’t mean that Apple is definitely selling this information to other businesses or using it unethically, but it is interesting to know that they have the ability to monitor and record all the personal travelling information of their users without them necessarily knowing.

It is a huge deal for any business anywhere to know exactly where their customers are, where and when they visit a place and how often they go there, so I for one are hoping that this sensitive information stays on my phone exclusively. (Not that I have anything to hide, of course)

So what are your thoughts on this Location Services feature? Did you know about it previously, and do you care that its happening?

Am I Talking To A Robot?

Back in 2013, a YouTube video showing a call between a teen named Sheldon, and a telemarketer called Samantha West went viral. In the video, Sheldon tries to prove that the person he’s talking to is not a real person, but instead a robot. The 2 minute conversation consists mostly of Samantha denying being a robot, and trying to convince him that she is a real human person.

Lo and behold, Samantha was lying. Image result for Are You a robot

While the video doesn’t offer any definitive proof, a few days later, the people behind Samantha, Premier Health Plans Inc. in America came forward, admitting that Samantha was in fact, a telemarketing robot. One that they had built for the purpose of masking the thick non-American accents and language barriers of their employees.

Pretty spooky stuff huh?

The company explained that Samantha, while being a ‘robot’, operates similar to a remote-controlled car. She is controlled by a real human employee outside of the U.S. with her responses monitored and selected from a large pre-compiled list.

While this revelation proved that this was not the beginning of the robot apocalypse, it did have profound implications on marketing around the world. Marketers could now use these ‘robocalls’ to contact people in a new, unfamiliar way with the barriers of accents and language completely bypassed.

Since Samantha, many other large organisations, like phone companies and banks, have started implementing ‘robocalls’ as part of their customer support calls, all of which customers know that they are talking to someone ‘not real’. The initial problem with Samantha was that she had been equipped with the options to lie to consumers when asked if she was a robot. Image result for I am not a robot

I for one don’t mind ‘robocalls’, it’s always interesting to see how close we are to robots taking over the world, and how far they have progressed since Cleverbot.

So what do you guys think about ‘robocalls’ and robots in general? Are you okay with them or are you hesitant to accept our new robot marketing friends?

Any Publicity Can Be Bad Publicity

As a marketing student, one of things I’ve learned is that the quote “any publicity is good publicity” is definitely not true. Publicity is not always a good thing. Especially when its publicity that the brand doesn’t want. Here’s an example:

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In December 2006, tech-super company Sony was gearing up for another successful Christmas period for selling their first ever portable console, the PlayStation Portable (PSP). The console had been on the market for a year already, but the hype around it was still huge. One of the sources of all this hype was a fan-made internet blog “alliwantforxmasisapsp.com”. The blog appeared to be run by two Sony super fans who were VERY excited about the PSP. They routinely posted information and made cringe-worthy ads (including a rap) about the console.

Here’s the problem, the site wasn’t made by fans. It instead was site created by Zipatoni, a marketing company hired by Sony to create a marketing campaign for the console. When this revelation was discovered by consumers, Sony had to come clean announcing that it had been one big digital publicity stunt.

As can be expected when consumers find they’ve been lied to by a company, there was HUGE backlash! The company’s honesty, authenticity and integrity was put to serious question all over the internet, with consumer’s feeling betrayed by the company they had once trusted. The actual quality of the PSP was second guessed as well, because if Sony lied about who was making the blog, what’s to say they haven’t lied about what’s on it as well.

All in all, this publicity was not good for Sony or their console. While it may have seemed a good idea at the time, consumers seldom enjoy being tricked or deceived by brands.

 

So have you seen any digital marketing campaigns or stunts that have resulted in bad publicity recently? If so, what were they?

‘Subtle’ Product Placement

Does anyone else ever wonder what happened to those creative old music videos that were engaging and told a story? Because I do. Here’s my personal favourite:

Music videos were once an outlet for artists to express themselves in a way that they couldn’t do with just their music. They were made to compliment songs, tell a story and paint a picture.

Today, music videos are used for a very different reason.

Like anything in today’s society with enormous global reach, music videos have evolved into a VERY effective method for brand’s to create awareness and advertise their products.

As an example, lets look at just your average Coldplay song. Coldplay’s 2016 song “Hymn for the Weekend” generated just under 725 million views on their official YouTube channel alone. That’s just one channel, ignoring all the other places that the video would have played around the world.

Judging that, its a fair assumption that most semi-popular to popular music videos earn close to, if not much more than a billion views, as Adele’s “Hello” did in 2016 with 1.95 billion views.

With that in mind, its easy to see why marketers have targeted music videos as a platform to “subtly” show off their products. Music videos are cool (most the time). They are new and relevant, and they’re practically a celebrity endorsement for any brand appearing in them. Because if Justin Bieber is using the new iPhone 7, then I better be as well.

However, its not as easy as just calling up Bieber or Adele and saying “put me in your next music video pls”, like all good advertising, it costs money. And probably a lot of it. Britney Spear’s 2011 song “Hold It Against Me” reportedly netted her $500,000 in endorsements for including brands like Sony, Make Up Forever and Plenty of Fish momentarily in her music video.

Just for fun, here’s some of the worst and most obvious product placements in music videos of the last few years.

So do you watch music videos routinely or at all? If so, have you noticed an increase of brands and products ‘sneaking’ their way into them?

Opting Out of the Ad Game?

Recently I stumbled upon a feature on my iPhone that I found to be quite interesting:

Limit Ad Tracking on the iPhone

This feature that’s hidden deep in the iPhone’s “Settings” tab allows you to view exactly what information Apple is collecting from you in order to personalise your ads, in addition to giving you the option of turning off ad tracking on your phone all together!

So, by following the ‘View Ad Information’ button I arrived at this page:

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On this page I could see a whole bunch of information which represented the data that Apple had collected about me based on things I’ve searched for, looked at and the Apps I’m using. These were things to do with my interests, hobbies, sports teams, news channels, date of birth, location, gender and I’m sure so much more that I didn’t quite understand.

Now for most people, this would be quite horrifying to learn that their phone is recording all their activity, but the reasoning behind it is quite innocent, and actually exists to make our lives just that little bit better.

Companies like Apple and Google have been utilising these highly complicated ad tracking systems in order to provide its users with a more personalised and relevant experience. This assures that when you run into ads online while browsing, that they are somewhat relevant to you and your interests.

In this way, its really a mutual benefit for both the consumer and businesses. Businesses don’t have to waste precious resources advertising to the wrong people with zero interest in their brand, and consumers don’t have to waste their time looking at ads for things that aren’t relevant to their lives.

 

What are your thoughts on this feature to turn off ad tracking? Will you be opting out or do you not mind being given personalised and relevant ads?

[Paid DLC] An Industry Destroyer?

I don’t know how many of you consider yourself gamers, but if you do, then the term DLC might trigger annoy you just as much as it annoys me.

For those non-gamers, DLC or ‘Downloadable Content’ is summarized pretty well in the following picture:

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How DLC Was Born – Dorkly

However, DLC is not a new concept. It stretches back as far as the early 2000’s, where dedicated gaming consoles were fairly new. DLC was made possible here by the introduction of internet connectivity.

With the internet, game developers could now update their game online and add, fix or remove content as they pleased. Here’s where the first signs of DLC could be seen in the form of story-extensions, new maps, new characters, cosmetic changes and so on.

In this early era of gaming, DLC was great. It was cheap (or completely free), it was new, it was good quality and it was really cheap.

Later, the wider integration of internet connectivity onto all gaming devices meant rapid changes for the gaming industry. Games were higher quality, they took longer to create and there was stiffer competition. As the industry continued to grow, prices only naturally went up.

But gamers were still happy to pay for DLC. They still got to play a full game, and had the option of paying a little extra for some more content.

But then it got serious!

Some game developers realised that it was totally unfair for them to have to release a FULL game and then have to work on DLC as well. So why not just make a game, split it into small segments, and release it gradually as paid DLC? Its less work and more profitable in the long run.

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DLC Then and Now

So that’s the approach that a number of large, successful game developers started taking. Developers make 1 game, split it a number of times, and release keep on releasing it with more paid extras.

Marketing changed as well. From, “what you see is what you get” to “what you see is still mostly 6 months and 3 $20 installments away”. Games were no longer released with the promise of quality and excitement, but instead with the promise of DLC to come soon.

Of course, this isn’t to say that the entire industry is doomed and every developer is guilty of this, but the rise of “DLC/Coming-Soon Marketing” has caused some serious backlash among gamers worldwide.

So what are your thoughts on DLC Marketing? Have you ever purchased DLC for a game and regretted it?

Crates of Loot from Affiliate Marketing

If you’re a nerd, geek or pop-culture freak just like I am, there is a good chance you’ve heard of the incredibly popular subscription service that has been taking the nerd-world by storm: Loot Crate.

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For the uninitiated, Loot Crate is a monthly subscription service that sends themed crates of loot all around the world filled with fantastically geeky gear and goodies. The perfect gift for pop-culture enthusiasts, gamers and gurus everywhere. Since 2012, this small privately owned business has been shipping out thousands of crates across 35 countries worldwide.

But Loot Crate aren’t small anymore. Now based in Los Angeles with a rough valuation of $116 million, Loot Crate took out the number one spot on America’s 2016 Inc. 500 List for the fastest growing privately-owned companies. With a 3 year growth of 66,789%, Loot Crate are a force to be reckoned with among all subscription based services.

But how does a small South Californian start-up like Loot Crate evolve into the nerd-world powerhouse company it is today? Through a very close understanding of their target market, and some well placed affiliate marketing.

Since their humble beginning, Loot Crate has sought to partner themselves among popular companies, channels and personas within the gaming, entertainment and pop-culture community for a very simple and deliberate reason.

Because that’s where their target market is most present.

Why bother trying to advertise to the masses of mostly uninterested people, when you can directly expose yourself to the people who are most interested in what you are offering.

Knowing this, Loot Crate has developed an extensive Affiliate Program that allows for literally anyone with some sort of online presence to partner with Loot Crate for some mutual benefits.

While Loot Crate obviously benefits from extremely valuable exposure, the affiliates themselves receive a sizable commission for each person who subscribes to Loot Crate,  as well as a few extra Loot Crate goodies. Some of the most notable affiliates are hugely popular community channels like Rooster TeethGeek and Sundry and PewDiePie.

Not a bad deal for the affiliates, who get to promote Loot Crate is creative ways of their choosing. Just like this:

But that’s not all! Loot Crate also throws in some special offers and discount codes to all those who subscribe to Loot Crate through an affiliates recommendation. So really, its a win-win for everyone.

So had you heard of Loot Crate before this post and what do you think of affiliate marketing?