Amazon Fire Phone Unveiled

Amazon took its first steps into the ever-evoling smart phone battlegrounds last week with its introduction of the Amazon Fire Phone. A natural progression into this field, for sure, as an extension of its Kindle Fire and Fire TV, but is Amazon really going to be the next big contender in the smart phone world? I’m sure it’ll take some time to for the Fire to gain its footing and awareness spreads, but just around the water cooler that is social media, I have yet to hear of any one of my friends, family and/or co-workers rushing to ditch their iPhones or Samsungs to make way for the Fire. Normally, there’s at least a bit of chatter with the release of a new iPhone or Samsung, but I really haven’t heard much other than from reviews from tech outlets. The Amazon Fire Phone does bring several new elements to the table and it’ll be interesting to see how those elements are ultimately viewed by consumers, if they are truly positives in the Fire’s corner. Here are a few:

Unlimited Photo-Sharing

This is pretty much unprecedented and could serve to set a high bar. Every single photo you take with the phone is backed up to a cloud. Period. No going over storage limits ever again. If this phone takes off, this seems like a great selling feature that could become a standard across the board in order for the competition to stay in line.

3-D Display AKA Dynamic Perspective

Well, not truly 3-D, but 3-D-ish. I personally don’t know that I care all that much about this feature, especially when taking battery life into consideration. With a front facing camera to track your head and moves, the phone is watching you to create its 3-D effect. It’s cool for about 5 minutes, kinda like those stereogram posters you had to stare at in the 90s to see the hidden picture, but after seeing it everyday will it still wow?

Flinging to a Second Screen

The Amazon Fire lets you essentially “fling” a video you’re watching on the phone to a second screen via your Amazon Fire TV. This integration seems like a no brainer, but its the first of its kind to truly do that. Anyone that has tried to explain to their parents how to hookup a tablet to a TV for watching videos will be jumping for joy over this feature (I’m just hoping it sets a trend of expectation for other manufacturers!).

Mayday: Instant Tech Support

Much like what already exists for the Kindle Fire, the Amazon Fire Phone will have an integrated Mayday app that allows users to immediately connect to support. Depending on how hard the phone is to use, this feature may be well-used or simply viewed as a nice-to-have.

Firefly

Probably one of the most heavily touted new features of the Amazon Fire Phone, Firefly is a one-button launching pad for getting information. If it hears a song, it’ll not only identify it through Shazam, but also prompt you to buy it on Amazon or look for tickets on Stubhub. If you take a picture of a barcode, Firefly’ll automatically pull it up at Amazon.com for a one-click purchase. It can even identify book covers and art, directing you purchase through Amazon.com. This feature seems like the key reason for Amazon to get into the smart phone business in the first place. Amazon benefits the most from showrooming, so why not essentially endorse it and give consumers a scanner that also happens to be a phone and a camera?

Though these features can be found in various apps, this is the first time it will be innate with a phone and it should be a glaring red light for retailers, who are already concerned with showrooming. So what does this mean for retailers? I think it’s going to require aggressive action to combat showrooming, by offering to match or beat prices, ensuring their stores are stocked properly, educating their salespeople and offering free, quick shipping for when someone wants to purchase a product the store does not have in immediate stock.

For instance, I was in DSW over the weekend and saw POS in several places throughout the store exclaiming “Can’t find your size? We’ll ship it to you for free.” At this particular store, they also had sales associates out in the aisles offering to check you out in addition to the registers, which is a tactic more and more retailers are using to combat showrooming. Your shoppers’ time is valuable and considering they don’t have to wait in line to check out online, in many cases, it’s just one click; retailers should be making every effort to make check out a smooth, easy and personal experience already, but even more so, if your stores are susceptible to showrooming.

So, ultimately, is the Amazon Fire Phone built for consumers with their needs in mind or a product that consumers will use that pushes purchases to Amazon above all else? And that’s the thing. I have yet to read a review that remarked about the Amazon Fire’s actual phone capabilities. Is this device more of a supped-up, easy touch retail scanner that also happens to have camera and phone functions? Consumers will have to be the judge.

Video: PC Mag and YouTube

Photo: Amazon

No Strings Attached

As the digital age advances, people are becoming increasingly more independent and self-sufficient. Social networking sites and interactive apps are creating unprecedented accessibility to resources and knowledge that have empowered consumers to ask more of brands and question their loyalty. With so many options out there, consumers are feeling less of a need to commit to just one brand, or to even make a commitment at all.

Some companies, such as T-mobile, have recently taken an aggressive approach to this trend, telling consumers to “break up with your carrier” and switch to no-contract wireless plans. Ride-sharing companies like Uber and ZipCar are on the rise, making it convenient for people to only use cars as needed, as opposed to buying or leasing. Even trends in listing personal items for resale, or even the option to rent, are showing growth in the form of websites and apps.

RentTheRunway is an e-commerce site that was created under a comparable mindset, solving for both consumers who have champagne taste, but not the budget, or those who are in a bind and quickly need an outfit for an event, never to be worn again.

This idea of being able to indulge in designer fashions and accessories, without permanently investing in the retail price, has become increasingly appealing for many young Americans.

While this is an understandable trend in consumable goods, this non-committal tendency seems to have successfully seeped into our personal lives as well. Some people have started entering marriage with the negative impression of “well, if it doesn’t work out, I can always get divorced.”

People are more publicly being caught cheating on their spouses, and others are beginning to question if this is happening because we have more “access” to each other, or because we are simply decreasing our loyalty due to an increasing desire to maximize our options?  Could we really thrive in a society with the mentality of “no strings attached,” or will the primitive mindset lead to our eventual demise? Only time will tell…

Marketing at the World Cup

Just 48 hours until one of the greatest sporting events in the world kicks off: the FIFA World Cup. I’m looking forward to seeing how marketers are leveraging the World Cup fandom, utilizing the marks they own or being creative on leveraging the fan’s passion for the game if they don’t have rights to the marks. It seems like during every World Cup, a brand gets aggressive and tries to ambush the event. In 2010, a Dutch Beer maker had 36 beautiful women dressed provocatively in the brand’s signature colors walk around the various venues in South Africa during the matches. Thereby infringing on rights that Budweiser has, not only in venue, but with anything even remotely associated with soccer in that country for the length of the tournament.  FIFA caught wind of it and promptly threw them all out of every venue. I wonder which brand will try to ambush in Brazil.

In the U.S., the worry will be use of the team marks in order for a brand to drive that affinity around the national teams. In 2010, Verizon used an actor wearing a green soccer jersey in many of their Hispanic TV spots. This made AT&T (The Mexican National Team sponsor) contact SUM, who manages the U.S. rights for MNT, and try to force Verizon to pull the ads. AT&T was livid, and they had every right to be. They have been a loyal supporter of the team for years, but you can’t blame Verizon for trying to be creative.

It will be fascinating to see how the brands use this next month. Soccer, which has historically been a “Hispanic” sport for brands in the U.S., will become more popular with mainstream America. Even the casual sports fans will be captivated by the allure of Brazil as the backdrop, the favorable match times, and a U.S. team which will face some very tough, high-profile, competition in the first two weeks.  What will happen if/when the U.S. and Mexican teams fall? What will happen if civil unrest in Brazil mars the Cup? Will marketers pull back? Are brands hitching their message to the national teams, the game of soccer, or the Cup? It will all be captivating. There is a lot of marketing dollars tied to the World Cup, and I can’t wait to see which marketers make those most of this once-every-four-year investment.

Gaming, For Life

I’m an innately competitive person.  Whether that has to do with growing up playing almost every sport imaginable or just loving the gamification of life, I’m not really sure… But sometimes I find it next to impossible to contain myself.

This is a trend to which many can relate. Everyone has played some version of the “time game.” You know, where you feel like you’ve been working for hours, you guess the time, only to be immediately devastated when you learn that your guess was at least an hour ahead of reality. Or when you’re using a GPS and do everything in your power to beat your estimated time of arrival.

For some reason, everyday tasks just feel so much more fun and rewarding when you turn them into a little competition.

So how can we translate this practice into our lives for us to become the “best version of ourselves?” According to TED speaker Jane McGonigal, “we feel as if we are not as good in reality, as we are in games,” so we should try to find ways to make the real world function more like a game.

Hundreds of apps have picked up on a similar theory. Coupled with geofencing, users can earn points for visiting new locations, redeem rewards and advance to different levels just like they can do in most games.

Websites like Lumosity also follow this premise, going as far as stating that you can actually “train your brain” with games, and become faster at everyday tasks and retain more information.

So how can you get away with applying similar gamification to other aspects of your life, particularly the workplace?

It’s not like you can take bets on how long your weekly client call will last, or how many times your boss will throw around industry jargon in a presentation. Many question the ethics and legality of office pools and similar activities as it is, even in the most innocent of circumstances.

Furthermore, when office “games” are an effort from HR to encourage teamwork and bonding, they usually end up being more of a pain than pleasure to participate in.

Playing games, says McGonigal, boosts four types of resilience: physical, mental, emotional, and social — which are all needed in our personal and work lives. So if the science behind it is right, then we really should be making the everyday tasks of life into games to make a better world, and a better you. Let the games begin!

All Things Walmart

It’s that time of year again. Northwest Arkansas welcomes thousands of Walmart Associates and Shareholders from around the world to their annual Shareholders meeting. The meeting takes place on Friday, June 6 at Bud Walton Arena on the University of Arkansas Campus in Fayetteville, but events and concerts will be taking place all over Northwest Arkansas throughout the week. Northwest Arkansas REALLY becomes all things Walmart.

The buzz is all about what celebrities will be here. Last year, Hugh Jackman andTom Cruise hosted the meeting . Several musicians sang, including: Jennifer Hudson, Kelly Clarkson and John Legend.

Doug McMillion, Walmart President and CEO, will speak at Friday’s meeting and has already mentioned a few key strategic areas of discussion:

  1. Serving the customers through relevant and personalized experiences
  2. Expanding opportunities for Associates
  3. Driving operational excellence
  4. Serving communities through a deeper focus on social, environmental and local responsibility