Why Pepsi Has Been Making Branded Smartphones In China

What Happened
Pepsi is experimenting with an interesting method of brand marketing in China – by offering consumers a branded smartphone with decent tech specs at a very affordable price. Rumors about a Pepsi-branded smartphone first surfaced in mid-October, and earlier today the soda brand has launched its first Pepsi Phone. Working with Chinese phone manufacturer Koobee, Pepsi China repurposed the new Koobee H7 phone to create the Pepsi Phone, and is selling the base model for just $78. This is not the first time Pepsi has ventured into branded phones. Previously, the beverage giant introduced a limited edition of Oppo N1 phones with Pepsi’s branding in December 2013.

What Brands Need To Do
Nowadays, the smartphone is arguably the tech device that most people rely on and feel attached to. In fact, some consumers would even experience “separation anxiety” if they were kept apart from their phones for a while. By offering a decently equipped smartphone at a very affordable price, Pepsi showcases a new way that brands can transform their loyal fans into brand advocates with a true value offer, and should inspire brands to think of other ways that brands can permeate consumers’ daily life.


Source: Engadget

Header image is a promotional image from Pepsi Phone’s page on JD.com

Why Brands And Podcasts Belong Together

A guest post from our Creative Team’s Director of Technology, Jason Fried.

Unless you’re living off the grid, you’ve probably heard of, or listened to, “This American Life’s” (TAL) newest podcast, Serial, from TAL’s producer Sarah Koenig. The response has been unprecedented, passing even TAL in total downloads, and where audiences go, brands follow, with sponsor MailChimp reaping the benefits of sponsorship. Far from being a new trend, however, this model is really just a return to the early days of broadcast.

A brief history of 100+ years of radio

Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi invented the first commercial radio system at the turn of the century, and a few years later, a Brazilian priest made the first wireless broadcast of a human voice. But it took until 1920—decades after radio was first invented—for the first commercial radio stations to begin to broadcast in the US. By 1933, FM hit the scene, and during the Depression, radio found its way into homes across America. Families were spending their time at home, huddled around the radio, listening to the nightly news and all sorts of new serial broadcasting. There were dozens of programs in different genres, from mysteries and thrillers to soap operas and comedies.

The world was ripe for this type of entertainment. Families were having dinner together and, after, spending time in their sitting rooms, listening to radio, waiting to hear what Orson Welles had cooked up for them. They talked about it at work, at the bar with their friends, and at family gatherings. The medium united Americans: for the first time, we were able to consume the same programming, no matter where we were.

As programming became more elaborate, costs went up and revenue sources were needed, leading to the birth of advertising on the radio. The first “soap operas” were broadcast during day time slots aimed predominantly at housewives, and as you may have already guessed, included ads for soap and other household products. Ad spots were often performed by the cast or the radio hosts, and often perceived as endorsements by the shows themselves. 30- and 60-second spots started appearing in the late 30’s, and by the end of the Second World War, it had grown into a mature segment of the ad industry.

After the second World War, everything changed: radio made its way into cars, while TVs in homes skyrocketed. As a result, stations started programming content that was easy to listen to no matter what time you tuned in. This was a drastic change in the way that stations began to think about content ,  and it had the advantage of being cheaper. No longer was there a need for actors and folly—a few hosts in a small studio could talk the morning away for a captive audience of drivers and workers. Music and talk radio ruled the airwaves because you could start listening at any time without the feeling of missing out, while soap operas and other serialized content moved to the television.

Enter the podcast

And for 60 years, this was the lay of the land. Music made its way from vinyl, to tapes and Walkmen, to CDs and disc players, and finally, to mp3s and mp3 players, while radio stayed largely the same. In 2000, however, the first ‘podcasts’ made their way onto the web and into mp3 players. By 2004, podcasts had become formalized (and even part of the iPod menu system) and slowly grew as a way for both amateurs and professionals to distribute radio over the internet. Before long, most news organizations were distributing their content in the format as yet another way to capture their listeners’ time.

Ten years later, you can get pretty much any audio information or content you want, when you want it. Podcasting and mp3s transcend space and time in the same way that DVR changed the way we consume television. “Radio” is no longer something that exists to tune into, but a format that, like music, I can take with me and listen to when it suits me. The same way that having radio in the car changed programming, this will change what type of content creators will make.

Serial is just one of the first examples—in the last few months, talk about podcasts has reached a fever pitch. Every day I hear more and more people talking about their favorite podcasts and sharing recommendation with friends. Serial has definitely helped the medium explode — there’s even a podcast, nay, two podcasts, about Serial. Podcasts about podcasts? Yeah. That happened—in addition to a podcast industry newsletter that just started called Hot Pod. But just like early radio programs, these podcasts have a revenue problem. Though they don’t require the same amount of infrastructure, they do need money.

How brands can participate

In other words, we’re back where early radio broadcasters found themselves. While some podcast producers like Roman Mars (founder of the Radiotopia network of podcasts) and Alex Blumberg (Startup) have gone directly to listeners for support, others are turning to traditional advertising formats like sponsorships. Both Mailchimp and Audible have been early adopters to sponsoring podcasts, seeing value from the plugged-in demographics of the medium.

Not all brands are as comfortable with the medium yet, but there are some very simple guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Targeting: There are literally podcasts about everything: muscle building, philosophy, comedy, cycling, you name it. As a result, it allows for very specific targeting and allows your brand to connect with a passionate audience.
  • Scale: The podcast audience in conglomerate is large, for instance, but each show’s audience tends to be small, albeit very focused. Companies looking for scale should think about scale in terms of exposure over time: you may have a smaller base, but you have an audience that keeps tuning in.
  • Format: Podcasts are an ideal medium for native ads. Listening to Startup recently, I loved hearing Alex Blumberg explicitly tell his audience that the sponsored part of the broadcast was beginning as he interviewed the CMO of his sponsor, Mailchimp.

Podcasts are a great opportunity for brands who want to remain relatable to niche audiences and see real brand lift. It seems we’ve come full circle from the early days of radio.

Image: Apple


MediaSpike Sells Product Placement In Mobile Games

MediaSpike, a company that aims to make it easier to run product placements in mobile in social games raised a $5.2 million Series A.  The clever technology, which is integrated with iOS and Android games, but tied to no particular platform to allow for the frequent updates demanded by the gaming industry, allows developers to create listings for standardized placements in their games, which advertisers then bid for.  The company’s network already reaches 20 million unique users, reflecting the rapid growth they’ve experienced in the last 6 months.  Mobile gaming is a booming field, and advertisers are looking for a way to natively advertise to their users.  With millennials and Gen Z’ers being particularly difficult to advertise to, this sort of integration could be an indicator that some progress is being made with the efforts to advertise to them.

Virtual Mob Launches PAM, a “WordPress for AR”

With the rise of Google Glass, it’s looking like augmented reality may gain renewed focus from many brands in coming months.  UK startup VirtualMob has geared up to help ease that process by launching what’s being called a “WordPress for AR.”  Their Point-at-Me (PAM) app allows the creation of AR experiences without the need to code, which can then be accessed via VirtualMob’s PAM app, or through a brand’s own app.  Several big players are already giving the service a try, including Time Inc, Cartier, and Hyundai.  The effectiveness of this form of simple development is yet to be seen, but for brands looking for a first step into the AR sphere, PAM could be a great place to start.

New Top Level Domains Keep Brands on Their Toes

As if last year’s launch of the dot-xxx top-level domain wasn’t enough to keep brands on their toes, defending against malicious and trademark-violating domain buys, the launch of hundreds of new top-level domains is now only two months away, and with that launch, another pricey set of domain buys for major brands.  The ICANN has set up a clearing house to allow trademark holders to preemptively purchase quantities of new domains. Set to launch are extensions like dop-app, dot-music, dot-sucks, dot-world, dot-docs, and potentially some brand-specific ones like dot-cocacola or dot-youtube, heralding in a new age of web organization and more immersive online branding experiences.  The dot-com age won’t go away immediately, as custom top level domains are prohibitively expensive, but for some high-end brands, they may be just the ticket to stand out once again on the web.

Branding in a new era of journalism

Branding in a new era of journalism (iStock) When Joel McHale’s character Jeff Winger on the NBC show Community spouts some dubious statistics in this week’s episode, he is promptly mocked by a friend who quips, “I think some of this research may have been done on Wikipedia.”  The user-generated encyclopedia gets its share of jabs from journalists, professors, and comedy writers alike, but that doesn’t stop 365 million unique visitors from happily trusting it as an information source every month.

This and other related topics were the subject of a SXSW Interactive panel last week titled “Process Journalism: Getting It First, While Getting it Right.”  Several panelists, including writers for the New York Times and SISeattle.com discussed a new generation of journalism in which sites like Twitter and YouTube have become essential to breaking news stories.

Through a variety of case studies including stories about Steve Jobs’ health and a Seattle murder, the speakers illustrated a new triple-threat of resources that professional journalists now tap: Technology, Social Networks, and Citizen journalists.  Continue reading “Branding in a new era of journalism”