Is it really time for the Smart Watch?

By Sam Milkman, President, knowDigital

Right now, Apple’s got most of us talking about the iPhone 5C, 5S and next week’s release of iOS7 including iTunes Radio. However missing from yesterday’s excitement was any mention of the rumored iWatch. An iWatch announcement could come next month, but perhaps Apple is checking its swing after watching Samsung, Sony and others receive tepid reaction from consumers. Consumer electronics industry analysts might say Apple is working out production issues while trying to shave size and cost, but I believe a larger branding issue is lurking.

Hands on iTunes Radio

By Sam Milkman, President, knowDigital

What will Apple call “iRadio”?

As anticipation grows for the announcement of the Apple streaming music service the world has been calling “iRadio”, an interesting branding question stands out in on our minds: What will Apple call this service? While it may not matter all that much provided the service itself delivers the innovative streaming experience we’re expecting, we do believe a good name goes a long way in planting the idea in the minds of consumers.

Apple’s iRadio – Game changer?

Apple’s rumored streaming music service—believed to be called “iRadio”—is likely to be revealed next week. The big question is: Will iRadio be a music game changer like iTunes was many years ago, or is this simply a game of musical chairs in the streaming music space? The buzz grows more intense with the latest news of Warner Music Group jumping aboard just one week before the upcoming Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC).

Fresh Faces in Social Media

So you have Facebook and Twitter covered; as you plot your digital strategy, what should you be thinking about for the future? Social media obviously has boomed, and new contenders/leaders are emerging to make the arena more diverse. And with Facebook itself even admitting that teens are tiring of the social media giant, there is obvious opportunity for fresh competition.

What’s next for musical artists at CES?

I spent the week before last at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas, hoping to see the latest convergence of music and electronic devices and new media. While the show floor was filled with hundreds of new tablets, Ultra HD TVs, app-filled car dashboards and wireless everything, the next level of artist-centric electronics and new artistic expression in digital media seemed pretty lacking.

A googol of Googles: A Siri-ous mistake?

The tech world is abuzz about the impressive features of recently released “Google Now,” Google’s voice-powered digital assistant. Google Now’s features compare favorably to Apple’s own voice-powered digital assistant, Siri. But, in our minds, “Siri,” as we all know and love her, already has one leg up on this generically named product ”Now”: Siri has a brand name, and as of now, Google Now does not. It seems that Google has, once again, confused consumers. Indeed, even Siri appears to be at a loss as to what to make of Google Now.

Did Madonna cross social media fans with her promotion of MDNA?

Remaining relevant for more than a decade is an unusual feat for a Pop icon, but Madonna certainly pulled it off for quite a long time. Over the years, she credibly re-invented herself and found her way back into the spotlight long after many would have expected her career to have waned. For her latest release “MDNA” her marketing team pulled out all of the stops, mounting a marketing push that included both traditional and digital media.

Free-for-all vs. paywall: The content battle

Nothing is better than getting something for free. Or is it? The coffee at your office may be complimentary, but how many of us go pay for that premium brew at Starbucks instead? There is something about the hand-ground coffee beans, the friendly barista, the extras you can get (whip cream anyone?) and the distinctive atmosphere that make you willing to dig out your credit card many mornings despite the free alternative.

Windowing Music—A Window of Opportunity?

You can’t talk about the music industry these days without hearing discussions of how to fix the business model and bring an end to rampant piracy. Anyone involved with selling music wants to know how to recapture profits in our increasingly digital world and stem the tide of “free music.” How do streaming platforms like Spotify, Rhapsody, Pandora and YouTube change the purchasing behaviors of consumers? How can music artists and labels ramp up sales and convince consumers to buy rather than stream or steal?

The end of the Kodak moment?

For a generation, the “Kodak moment” branded family memories. Your family didn’t just visit Disney World—it had a “Kodak moment” there. You would think that such a timeless concept would sustain a brand long into the future, but Kodak’s recent bankruptcy proves it takes more than a memorable slogan to succeed long term. So what did Kodak do wrong? What could it have done to successfully transition into the digital realm? Is there still hope for the Kodak brand even though the corporation looks like less than the picture of health right now?

More able than cable? How smart are smart TV makers?

Rumor has it that Apple wants a bite out of your living room. The tech world anxiously anticipates the introduction of the “iTV” in the near future—a significant remodel of the traditional television set that is more able than cable featuring Internet connectivity, streamed live cable & network content, direct on-demand digital content and more. Samsung, Sony & Google have already made a foray into this realm with their smart TV designs, and others like LG and Microsoft have ideas up their sleeves as we’ll likely see at the Consumer Electronic Show next week.

There’s an app in their lap! The second screen scramble

When was the last time you watched TV with just a remote control and a bag of chips? Instead, I bet you have out your laptop, tablet and/or smartphone—multitasking—checking email, tweeting, Googling for more detail on the content you’re seeing, shopping online, watching YouTube, checking the weather or something else. If you are, you are not alone. Viewing the “second screen” as it has come to be known has become common practice for many users and it is only going to become more prevalent as smart devices proliferate.

3D Movies—Ticket for Success?

3D movies are no new phenomenon in the world of film technology, but their newfound success has many filmmakers considering 3D revamps as a ticket to profit in a time when making money in the movie business is increasingly difficult.

Tablet Market—iPadlocked?

What is the combination to the iPadlock, Apple’s lock on the tablet market? That is the question HP and so many others are asking themselves as they watch their gallantly organized efforts at a tablet computer competitor decisively fail, overshadowed by the ruling iPad. Clearly TouchPad couldn’t touch iPad. But why? Does Apple just have the Midas touch? Is everyone else out of touch with what consumers want? Or is there another missing combination?

A few initial thoughts on the new iHeartRadio

You can try the new iHeartRadio here. A few initial thoughts from us at knowDigital:

(1) There’s no branding other than the (somewhat feminine) iHeartRadio name—what is iHeartRadio, and what does it mean to me? Is Clear Channel making a mistake by assuming the masses know what iHeartRadio means? What makes it cool/special/different/important/must have? All I hear about is a concert in Las Vegas, and I’m not sure how that relates to the coolest new online music experience.

Spotify—Spot On?

Spotify is in the spotlight. The music-streaming service from Europe entered the US last week to the delight of many. And we wondered—what makes it so delightful? We already have iTunes, Pandora, Grooveshark, Rhapsody, Amazon, Google Music, etc. etc. etc….why should American consumers want yet another digital music service? What separates Spotify from the crowd in terms of both features and branding?

Is your message getting through the filter?

In a world of Starbucks, you can order every type of coffee under the sun, your way, to the point you aren’t even sure its coffee anymore: “Quad, Grande, 6 pump, whole milk, a little dry, no whip, white mocha.” Some of us are such Starbucks regulars that the barista doesn’t even have to ask us our order anymore—our “usual” is blended up and waiting before we hand over our Visa. In this increasingly individualized world, personalization is all the rage.

Facebook: More Than Just Friends

Face it. If you’re a business and you’re not on Facebook, you should be. Why? The answer is simple—immediate access to over half a billion potential consumers at no cost other than your time investment. What’s more, in recent focus groups, Facebook users told us they “live on Facebook,” spending four to six hours a day on the site, either on computers or smartphones. They expect businesses to be on Facebook—not being there can make your brand appear out of touch.

Forecast Calls for Clouds

The big leaguers are here. Apple and Google are joining the ranks of music “cloud” contenders ready to compete with the likes of early entries like Amazon. The clouds just got a little more crowded, but that can only be a good thing for consumers.

Does The Daily offer a better experience?

As a follow up to our March 16th blog about the latest digital news offerings, see our recent study of The Daily among iPad users with interest in news. Download our full report here: Real iPad Users' Early Reaction to The Daily

Digital news brands must deliver more than “a better experience” to win

A new battle has begun in the war to transform news and information into a profitable digital business. With the battle cry “new times demand new journalism,” Rupert Murdoch launched “The Daily”, a news application designed exclusively for the iPad that delivers original tabloid-style news, sports and lifestyle content for 99 cents a week. Murdoch hopes to reach an audience beyond traditional news media consumers, specifically the “growing segment of the population…that is educated and sophisticated that does not read national print newspapers or watch television news.”

The "Paradox of Dominance"

And why you shouldn't believe Customer Satisfaction Scores during the early growth phase of a product category

Tune in?

Recently, knowDigital researched a variety of new mobile offerings to broaden our company's knowledge base in this area. One of the most striking findings: the lack of awareness of "mobile television" among technologically engaged consumers. Mobile television, like FLO TV or MobiTV) that delivers live television programming to a dedicated, portable device or smart phone -- simply has not defined itself as a category in the minds of consumers just yet.

Does Google violate the first rule of branding?

Google is, well, everywhere. On your phone, the search engine on your computer, your map, of course, your mail, your browser, calendar, documents, and more. Google is everything. Phone, television, advertising.

But doesn't this ubiquity violate the first rules of "branding" – that a brand should be focused on just one thing? That's a pretty serious accusation to lodge against the brand BrandZ calls "the most powerful brand in the world."

S.O.S. for AOL

AOL is clearly in search of a new direction. As the Wall Street Journal reports a decline in AOL earnings, on the consumer level focus group participants continue to tell us that "AOL isn't cool." In their minds, AOL is a dinosaur. From the 90s!!

Is it possible to turnaround Time Warner's former partner? It sure isn't easy to reinvent cool. How do you get there, when you are known as "the dial-up service I used in middle school"?

Pandora partnership with Facebook -- good news, bad news

Pandora incorporated the Facebook "Like" feature this week, meaning your Facebook "friends" can see what you like on Pandora, and you can peek at what they like too. As songs begin to play on Pandora, a box pops up that says "Alexander Milkman likes this song too." While this is a far cry better than the generic social networking / sharing feature Pandora created on their own, I'm not sure this means the sky is falling for other social network sites or audio streaming services.

If you build it, they will come? Maybe not anymore...

That's a misquotation of a line in 1989's "Field of Dreams" often suggesting that in business, if you create something it is just a matter of time until consumers line up to buy it.

But is that how it works in new media? And if consumers really do line up for your product, will you ever make any money in this hard if not impossible to monetize new world?

Just give me something to waste some time...

What sort of video content do consumers really want to buy for their iPod? Perhaps something much different than what you initially think.

In recent focus groups we asked consumers what sort of video content they'd like to buy for their iPod. Many consumers want movies and television shows – but which ones? And what other video offerings are of interest?

What motivates their selections might surprise you. And the key is how consumers use video content on these devices – often as a distraction, to fill time while they wait in line, between classes, just to waste a few minutes.

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