Android Needs More Marketing, Like Right Now

I finally caught up on the particulars from yesterday’s WWDC keynote, and I’m feeling better about this post.

I have a couple takeaways up front. First, Google’s surprise freebie of HTC EVOs at Google IO this year was incredibly smart, even if the 5,000 odd units they commandeered hurt the overall stock, in turn dominoing into an outage right after the official release.

Why? It immediately created an army of fanboi evangelists, including iPhone converts like me.

Case in point, last Friday, at Beer and Blog, a local geeky happy hour here in Portland, I found myself doing show and tell with my EVO to two would-be buyers (@skinny and @dieselboi), at least one a current iPhone owner.

This was very similar to the iPad show and tell we had with Aaron Hockley (@ahockley) right after its release. Turns out people know about the EVO and want one.

This, I did not know before Google IO anyway.

Which brings me to the second easy takeaway. Apple wins at marketing and will continue to do so until the carriers and Google get their collective acts together to get the word out about Android phones.

Apple has mastered the art of creating fanbois. For more, check out this timely piece from Gizmodo and fanboiism. Note, I’m sticking with fanboi because it creates an nice double i effect, like skiing.

Marketing is more an issue than the fact that the iPhone has a year’s lead time on Android. Looking back, the iPhone didn’t take off until iPhone 2.0 introduced the App Store and the 3G iPhone debuted in mid-2008. So, Apple had months of lead time, not years.

According to a Nielsen report (h/t Gizmodo again), iPhone has three times the market share of Android and enjoys a huge amount of brand loyalty.

Not sure I’m on board with this study entirely, since it shows RIM at only 35% and Windows Mobile at 19%, which seems like a weird sample, but regarding brand loyalty, I believe it wholeheartedly as a converted iPhone user.

Before IO, I didn’t even know the HTC EVO existed. The Droid was the apex of Android phones, and the only reason I knew about the Droid is because of its advertising blitz during NFL games.

Not even kidding. I mostly ignored the blog coverage.

Why? Because I was happy with my iPhone.

I have high hopes that because of Sprint’s exclusive with the NFL that they will reach a lot more potential Android users in the upcoming 2010 NFL season.

Fingers crossed.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t because I’m anti-iPhone. Quite the opposite. On the contrary, I want competition to drive innovation up and costs down so I can get more out of my phone.

Most of what was announced at WWDC this week was not a surprise, thanks to Gizmodo-gate, but for most, Steve Jobs’ assertion that “you won’t be disappointed” was accurate.

Case in point, this tweet.

I know Akshay (@dodeja) a little, and he’s no n00b. He is me, minus the free HTC EVO, i.e. the iPhone is great, everything else is noise about which I don’t care.

Again, marketing problem.

Never mind the fact that uber geeky features like tethering and mobile hotspot were not discussed (tethering) or not available in iOS4 (mobile hotspot).

Too bad these are not mainstream features that the average user wants. Chalk up one for Apple for knowing their user base.

Side bar, how funny was it that WWDC attendees, most notably Robert Scoble (@scobleizer), who also have HTC EVOs offered to allow Steve Jobs to connect to their mobile hotspots when his demo hit wifi saturation issues.

/me lolz for realz

What’s gone mostly unnoticed is the native Farmville app. This seems like a throw-in, but I suspect it’s a very shrewd move by Jobs and company. They know their customer base has expanded outside geeks. Having a native Farmville app appeals in a huge way to the average user, sadly.

Expect a compelling ad campaign around Farmville on iPhone from our friends in Cupertino.

The lasting impression I’m left with after WWDC is that Android needs marketing muscle. Specifically from the carriers and from Google too. Verizon found success with a traditional media blitz. Follow that model to gain mainstream adoption.

Anyway, there’s no shortage of coverage out there, e.g. Louis Gray’s (@louisgray) take as an EVO owner, so here are other fast observations:

  • Longer battery life and awesome hardware, specifically retina display, are the top features. Battery is becoming a huge issue with the EVO.
  • MIA are tethering details, mobile hotspot, 4G and most importantly, Verizon iPhone.
  • Face Time isn’t really that big a deal when you consider that it’s possible today with the EVO plus Qik as Rich and Anthony demonstrated.
  • AT&T continues to hamper the iPhone and iPad. Going with AT&T made sense in 2007 when iPhone was a gamble and needed international compatibility, but now, it’s a hindrance.
  • Fewer apps in the Android Market is a boon to developers because it’s like the App Store circa 2008. Your app is more likely to be found. It’s a bane to consumers though, which is why Apple keeps pounding on that message.

What did you think of WWDC and the iPhone-related announcements? Find the comments.

Update: Less than an hour after I published this, I saw a Sprint ad for the EVO. Android needs more of this, talking total media blitz.

AboutJake

a.k.a.:jkuramot

23 comments

  1. My 3GS is new enough to me that I've been employing willful ignorance WRT iPhone 4 stuff (the same “no new hardware” mental veil that I use to extend my enjoyment of a new computer). At this point, I haven't even tried to figure out when my contract allows upgrades, or when iPhone 4 will be available up here in Canucksville. What I have heard so far, though, doesn't make a compelling case for an upgrade to me. When it comes to new shiny things, I'm far more tempted to try out an iPad before iPhone 4.

  2. Interestingly, the retina display has been cast in an ironic light wrt to the iPad, which is decidely not that high resolution. Natch, it's assumed that the next generation of iPads will have it too. Weird, considering that might further cripple sales, but then again, Apple knows its users. This is definitely a nerdy feature, so the average person wouldn't know or care.

    But I digress. Most people like you, i.e. in the know, are informed on the benefits (and losses) of upgrading. I suspect most of the iPhone faithful don't care.

    They care more about the carrier, which is a big anchor for iPhone to carry.

  3. Yeah, Apple's ability to sell iPhones while saddled w/ AT&T is, by itself, a testament to the power of its marketing. At least we have three iPhone carriers to choose from up here.

    I haven't seen the most recent Android ads, but the ones that simply touted “Lots of apps! And you can run multiple apps at once! Droid!” always kind of bugged me. I know why multi-tasking is important, but it always felt like they needed a more direct example to explain the appeal to less-nerdy consumers. That's the big gap compared to Apple's marketing: “Here's what our product does (runs more than one app at a time)” vs. “Here's how you live your life with our product (listen to Pandora while you check your email).”

  4. From day one Apple took he ownership of the marketing of iPhone. With Android it's been the carrier mostly with some google homepage love and that poses issues. There is no consistent message, there is no focus to show the features of Android, there is no central message to show the range of devices available and choices of carriers available. Google should own this and drive it, otherwise masses are not going to get it.

  5. Maybe in a perfect world, but I think the carriers need to push their offerings and add a “with Google” tagline like the Droid. Google could push the Nexus, but it can't appear to favor carriers. They should add equal push to all the carrier offerings and pitch in with the online love.

    For the average customer, the carrier is the primary marketer, with Google as an ancillary player. We tend to overvalue the technology side, e.g. AT&T and Apple. I think that relationship shows who the real power player is. As much as we talk up Apple and their market cap, telecoms are established big businesses with real world clout.

  6. Ah right, I'd forgotten that internationally the iPhone is free of a single carrier. Must be nice.

    Fully agreed with the Droid campaign. We discussed that very point on another post, but at least they tried, even if it missed for some of us. The Sprint EVO ad left me feeling meh too, but again, Apple is *so* good at marketing, comparisons will always be tough.

    I still hope that Sprint will blanket the NFL season with ads for the EVO. That can't hurt.

  7. The 5,000 Google IO EVOs wouldn't have made any significant difference on launch day if estimates of 320,000 EVOs sold on June 4 are correct.

    I still see Verizon Droid commercials on TV every day, now mostly for the HTC Incredible or Eris, not the original Motorola Droid. My feeling is that they are mostly meant to keep existing Verizon customers from defecting to the iPhone, though.

    I have the feeling that the tethering feature wasn't discussed in Steve's keynote because of the recent AT&T data plan change. And really it's not a new iPhone, sorry, iOS 4 feature since it exists in the 3.0 version (just not enabled on AT&T devices).

  8. I know tethering isn't new and said as much in a previous post. AT&T has held that up for a year. Maybe I don't watch enough commercials, or maybe they're not memorable enough. Apple's are. Do you think Android phones have a high profile, as compared to iPhone?

    The non-technical people I know talk about iPhone and Blackberry. They don't talk about Droid or other Android phones. From what I've heard from a wide range of people, defection from Verizon to AT&T, iPhone or otherwise, is uncommon.

    I was just riffing about the EVOs. That was money well spent for all the parties.

  9. Wait, Android needs better marketing because iPhone fanbois have tunnel vision and refuse to even acknowledge other phone news (as you yourself admitted to doing)???? Realistically, those fanbois are already a lost cause, unless Google possibly puts a phone all of their hands.

    I dont disagree that the phone manufacturers could do better at marketing, but lets quit trying to force Android to be Apple.

    Apple is trying to sell you a feeling. A sense of exclusivity and style. Android is just a platform. Android is not trying to make you feel cool when you're not. And you're never gonna get that from Android. There are going to be $39 knock-offs running android and $800 high end phones and everything in between.

    It will be impossible for Google/Android to give you that smug sense of self-satisfaction when you look next to you and see a cheap Tiawanese knock-off running the same apps and OS that you are with your $800 super phone. Get over it and enjoy having a truly functional platform to play with.

  10. Marketing isn't for the fanbois. It's for everyone not attached to a smartphone or pondering a change. And for the record, not all iPhone owners are lost causes. Now that iPhone 4 is out, many OG and 3G owners will look to re-up, and they're not all happy as clams. As I mention, a couple approached me about the EVO.

    Suggesting that Android needs marketing isn't in any way suggesting it be Apple.

    Most people don't want a feeling. They want a smartphone, and the iPhone is heavily advertised and has mindshare among a large segment of users. I'm suggesting that the carriers and Google push their various devices just as heavily because, as you say, there is a wide range of choice that is sure to appeal to customers.

    The Sprint ads that ran during last year's NFL season were a good start. They showcased choice, i.e. HTC Hero, Blackberry and Palm Pre, which makes a lot of sense. I'm hoping to see more of that from Sprint, Verizon and others.

    My desire to stay out of contract and fully amortize the OG iPhone I've carried for three years doesn't make me a fanboi. The reason I didn't pay much attention to Android coverage is as much for practical reasons as it is for satisfaction with the iPhone.

    Does that make me unqualified to evangelize Android now?

  11. No, Android phones aren't nearly as well-known. (Big) part of it is marketing. Part of it is fragmentation. I've been a smartphone fanboi since I got my Treo 180 (and before that, I had a Palm VII !). But nowadays, with HTC and LG and Motorola cranking out new Android devices every month or so for US carriers, I have a hard time keeping up with what's going on. I can spot an iPhone from 100 ft but good luck trying to identify any Android device.

    That doesn't make iPhones any better or Android devices less exciting. In a way, having the choice among different devices is great. Want a physical keyboard? Get a Droid. Care more about size/weight? Get a MyTouch 3G. Want 4G or a big screen? EVO's for you. Want a working phone? Apparently all of them will do better 🙂

  12. Unfortunately, the fragmented approach means the major marketing effort is up to the carrier. Google's fast failure at selling the Nexus One direct is a shame, since that model could have bolstered another channel.

    It's funny to read some of the Android blogs that speculate about whether so-and-so new device is running Android, almost like concept car spotting.

    Choice is good, but it has to meet demand in order to push competitors to innovate. Apple has done well carving out a piece, but there is a huge portion remaining, 77% of all mobile consumers if you believe that Nielsen report.

    The Android carriers need to understand the sweet spots for each of their devices and push them hard.

  13. I never claimed marketing was just for fanbois, *you* used Apple fanbois in your example of how “Android” needs to improve its marketing. Nor did I claim that all iPhone owners are a lost cause.

    I was merely making the point that just because iPhone fanbois have tunnel vision, does not mean that Android marketing sucks. It may very well suck. But failing to pull eyeballs from the true believers is hardly a measuring stick for success.

    And please, evangelize away… we're all enjoying it. Didn't mean to imply that *you* shouldn't. My use of “you” in the comment was meant to mean people in general, not you in particular.

  14. Hmm, my point about marketing was that Android and its carriers haven't created as large an army of fanbois, yet. Tough to compare, since Apple has been doing that for a long time, but I still think they could do better.

    Android marketing doesn't suck, but it could be better.

    You're right. You didn't claim that all iPhone owners are a lost cause, and you're right that true fanbois are. I've comingled too many thoughts to keep it clear.

    Apple is taking a course that will alienate would-be users and drive some to find alternatives. The fanbois won't leave (as you say), but other rational people will.

    I'm living proof that mercenaries exist on both sides, i.e. provide a better option and open the eyes to it. Ahem, marketing. I'm a mercenary with no allegiance to either side. After all, I got the phone for free from Google, which has opened my eyes.

    Looking back, had I not got the EVO for free, I'd be in a bind right now with an OG iPhone. I'd probably nurse it along for a while before making a choice. I can't say for sure where I would have landed, but I'm glad there are options.

    While I understand Apple's desire to control the experience (ostensibly for the good of users), I'm increasingly appalled at their cavalier attitude. I'm not a fan of being treated like a child.

    Anyway, let's just say I would have landed on the Android side anyway 🙂

  15. No, Android phones aren't nearly as well-known. (Big) part of it is marketing. Part of it is fragmentation. I've been a smartphone fanboi since I got my Treo 180 (and before that, I had a Palm VII !). But nowadays, with HTC and LG and Motorola cranking out new Android devices every month or so for US carriers, I have a hard time keeping up with what's going on. I can spot an iPhone from 100 ft but good luck trying to identify any Android device.

    That doesn't make iPhones any better or Android devices less exciting. In a way, having the choice among different devices is great. Want a physical keyboard? Get a Droid. Care more about size/weight? Get a MyTouch 3G. Want 4G or a big screen? EVO's for you. Want a working phone? Apparently all of them will do better 🙂

  16. Unfortunately, the fragmented approach means the major marketing effort is up to the carrier. Google's fast failure at selling the Nexus One direct is a shame, since that model could have bolstered another channel.

    It's funny to read some of the Android blogs that speculate about whether so-and-so new device is running Android, almost like concept car spotting.

    Choice is good, but it has to meet demand in order to push competitors to innovate. Apple has done well carving out a piece, but there is a huge portion remaining, 77% of all mobile consumers if you believe that Nielsen report.

    The Android carriers need to understand the sweet spots for each of their devices and push them hard.

  17. I never claimed marketing was just for fanbois, *you* used Apple fanbois in your example of how “Android” needs to improve its marketing. Nor did I claim that all iPhone owners are a lost cause.

    I was merely making the point that just because iPhone fanbois have tunnel vision, does not mean that Android marketing sucks. It may very well suck. But failing to pull eyeballs from the true believers is hardly a measuring stick for success.

    And please, evangelize away… we're all enjoying it. Didn't mean to imply that *you* shouldn't. My use of “you” in the comment was meant to mean people in general, not you in particular.

  18. Hmm, my point about marketing was that Android and its carriers haven't created as large an army of fanbois, yet. Tough to compare, since Apple has been doing that for a long time, but I still think they could do better.

    Android marketing doesn't suck, but it could be better.

    You're right. You didn't claim that all iPhone owners are a lost cause, and you're right that true fanbois are. I've comingled too many thoughts to keep it clear.

    Apple is taking a course that will alienate would-be users and drive some to find alternatives. The fanbois won't leave (as you say), but other rational people will.

    I'm living proof that mercenaries exist on both sides, i.e. provide a better option and open the eyes to it. Ahem, marketing. I'm a mercenary with no allegiance to either side. After all, I got the phone for free from Google, which has opened my eyes.

    Looking back, had I not got the EVO for free, I'd be in a bind right now with an OG iPhone. I'd probably nurse it along for a while before making a choice. I can't say for sure where I would have landed, but I'm glad there are options.

    While I understand Apple's desire to control the experience (ostensibly for the good of users), I'm increasingly appalled at their cavalier attitude. I'm not a fan of being treated like a child.

    Anyway, let's just say I would have landed on the Android side anyway 🙂

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