iPhone apps are the bleeding edge of marketing mistakes

app storeThe iPhone’s apps have been a marketing problem for Apple pretty much since they debuted. The problem is really that Apple wants to approve of all apps before they go on the store. This would be fine, if there was a consistent or even coherent policy guiding what goes in and what doesn’t.

This week’s examples:

Apple has removed an iPhone app from its online store created by Exodus International, an anti-gay religious organization that promotes the idea that homosexuality can be “cured.” … The app, launched in mid-February, initially received a 4+ approval rating from Apple, meaning it did not contain any “objectionable material.” … The app provided users with an event calendar, podcasts, video, “real answers,” “real stories” and links to Twitter and Facebook, and was designed to “be a useful resource for men, women, parents, students and ministry leaders.” … “We removed the Exodus International app from the app store because it violates the developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people,” Apple spokesperson Tom Neumayr told FoxNews.com.

SOMEONE APPROVED THIS? Are they hiring from the Westboro Baptist Church? Possible explanation: There is either a very stupid algorithm or person responsible for vetting these apps. And Apple takes the hit for it because they make it clear they are control freaks who get final OK. Google, however, says we will take something down if we get told about it: “While Google does not intend, and does not undertake, to monitor the Products or their content, if Google is notified …” Because Apple’s guidelines for what is acceptable in an app are  basically, “It depends,” they are guaranteed to continue to run into this problem.

Which leads us to example #2:

Senators: DUI checkpoint apps are “harmful to public safety” … The apps in question range from those that try to put DUI checkpoints on a map in real time to those that help users alert one another about police on the prowl for drunk drivers. One app that we found in the iOS App Store called “Checkpointer” specifically advertises its $4.99 offering as being able to save you “thousands of dollars by helping you avoid an arrest for a DUI.” (The company that sells Checkpointer also offers bail bonds, so it’s clear which demographic this company is catering to.) Another app called “Buzzed” says it will alert you when a DUI checkpoint shows up or is planned for your area, though it also offers a “call a cab” service based on your GPS location.

SOMEONE APPROVED THIS?

Meanwhile, those two having already been approved, Steve Jobs himself killed an app for detecting radiation – created by cell phones: “Tawkon, makers of a mobile application that measures cellular radiation, have been blocked from releasing their app for iPhone. In response, the company on Wednesday released the tawkon app for iPhone via the Cydia jailbreak.” Is there an app that turns the iPhone into a general-use Geiger counter? If so I know at least one major market for it.

For those of   you not keeping score, a few of Apples other app mistakes:

 

Round-up of the week’s odd marketing stories

  • Anti-Religion ad banned: Last month the South African Advertising Standards Authority banned an ad from a church for claiming miracles, this month UK’s ASA banned posters from the British Humanist Association asking people to check the “No Religion” box on census forms. The reason? They had the “potential to cause widespread and serious offence.”
  • 575-pound spokesman for Heart Attack Grill dies: ‘Heart Attack Grill is an unabashedly unhealthy restaurant – the menu consists of huge burgers, milkshakes and fries cooked in lard – and having such a big man as a spokesman was part of its tongue in cheek “glorification of obesity.”’
  • LA Clippers celebrate Black History month after Black History month ends: Not surprising really. As AdFreak points out “given [team owner Donald] Sterling’s standing as a poster boy for racial intolerance and bigotry, I’m amazed he missed it by only two days. By all accounts, this meathead is about as racially progressive as Archie Bunker. This is a guy who paid $2.73 million in 2009 to settle a federal lawsuit that claimed he discriminated against blacks and Hispanics when renting apartments in L.A.”
  • Del Monte unveils individually plastic wrapped …bananas. In case that wasn’t silly enough, the company claims the biodegradable wrappers are part of a “green initiative.”
  • Aussie schools sell booze for fundraising:  “The Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD) has written to every school principal in the country asking them to reconsider the sale, use and promotion of alcohol products when raising money. In the open letter, chairman Dr John Herron said there were concerns students were being used as "couriers" between school and home for advertising material, forms and payments for alcohol as part of fundraising activities.”
  • Russians use insane squirrel as mascot for anti-alcohol campaign

    Trying to get Russians to stop drinking is one of the few things more doomed to failure than trying to get The Cubs to win the The World Series. Still, in both cases, you have to try – right? The Russians have purposefully turned this job over to one of the least appealing mascots ever – an insane squirrel with a terrifying case of mange. This is not as bizarre as it sounds. According to The Telegraph:

    In Russian slang, delirium tremens, the moment of inebriation when people start to get the shakes and to hallucinate, is known as “belochka” or “a little squirrel.” The squirrel in the video, who is red-eyed and bedraggled, is therefore shown ranting, singing, and delivering a nonsensical monologue.

    That’s kind of how I imagine Glenn Beck is when he first gets out of bed.

    He talks about “chasing spiders up the walls” and finishes up by offering to kill his neighbour’s wife because she is “the devil.” “Are you a boozer?” the deranged squirrel asks in the finale. “Then I am coming around to your place.”

    Just replace “spiders” with “Nazis” and “his Neighbor’s wife” with “Democrats,” and it’s practically a transcript of Mr. Beck’s show.

    Demon squirrel wants you!

    To say Russia has a severe problem with alcoholism is to dangerously understate the case

    Alcohol is to Russians what coals are to Newcastle. Russians drink more than 32 pints of pure alcohol per capita per year, more than double the World Health Organisation’s recommended maximum. During the Cold War, the Soviet Army was constantly having to guard against its soldiers drinking the brake fluid from vehicles. In his great book Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of The Soviet Empire, David Remnick expressed his total amazement at a Soviet general being sacked for drunkenness this way: “I’m not sure it is possible to describe just how hard it is to acquire a reputation as a drunk in Russia.” At the start of World War I, Czar Nicholas threw a bone to the serfs and got rid of the government tax on vodka. This cut the government’s budget in half.

    This ad campaign follows a decision to reduce the amount of alcohol permissible in motorists’ blood to 0 and the introduction of a minimum price for a half-litre bottle of vodka of 89 roubles ($2.80). To put the price issue into context consider that a Russian airline pilot has a net average monthly salary of $864 and a bus driver nets $242.

    It also suggests the Russian economy is doing better. In November 2008 stockpiles of Russia’s national drink were six times higher at the start of the month than the same time a year ago because factories were producing vodka faster than they could sell it.

    Tennessee legislature makes it legal to mix guns & bars

    The politicians in Tennessee must think the state suffers from overcrowding. How else to explain the recently passed bill allowing handguns in bars and restaurants.

    Democratic Sen. Doug Jackson, the main sponsor of the bill, said state Safety Department records show handgun permit holders in Tennessee are responsible.

    guns-booze-296x300 Sans booze many people are considered responsible. Perhaps the good senator thinks the bill addresses the issue because while you can bring a gun into a bar – it is still illegal to consumer alcohol while carrying one. So only the designated driver can pack heat? Who gets to enforce this one? Because the only way you’re going to know that part of the law has been violated is when you find out you have a drunk armed guy to deal with.

    Kind of redefines what it means to order a shot at the bar.

    Supporters no doubt point to the fact that  the new law still allows owners to ban weapons from their establishments. But I have to wonder how many bar and restaurant owners are going to think people are going to want to go to a joint that has to post a sign reading, “No guns allowed.” Either you’re a namby pamby who thinks the place has a problem with guns or you’re cowboy-wannabee who doesn’t want to go anywhere his pistol isn’t welcome.

    Hmmmn, how about “No shoes, no shirt, no Smith & Wesson, no service.”

    I would love to know A) What problem this was supposed to address?; and B) What kind of condition Tennessee is in that the legislature would make passing this bill a priority?

    OMG – here is a truly sobering fact: Tennessee is the 37th state to adopt such a law.

    Question: Is it legal to bring guns to AA meetings?

    I write this as someone who actually has no problems with people owning guns. While I do not own any myself, during a six-week summer vacation with the US Army I actually learned one the lesser acknowledged facts of life: Machine guns are fun. I can say with no false modesty that I have killed my fair share of skeets. My problem is not with guns it is with a basic fact of the human condition: People are stupid. If everyone were as diligent and responsible gun owners as either SFC Big Brother Collateral Damage or the population of Switzerland (there is literally a sub-machine gun in the home of nearly every adult male in the country) then I would have no problem with NRA’s guiding policy of “Guns for babies.” But until then …

    (PS, thanks the Tennessean for the graphic.)

    End times alert: Russians buying less vodka

    Ruh-roh.

    Ruh-roh.

    As economic indicators go this is pretty much all four of the horsemen of the apocalypse and the opening of the Seventh Seal all in one:

    The global financial crisis has grown so bad that Russians are cutting back on vodka. Stockpiles of Russia’s national drink were six times higher at the start of the month than the same time a year ago because factories are producing vodka faster than they can sell it.

    Alcohol is to Russians what coals are to Newcastle. During the Cold War, the Soviet Army was constantly having to guard against its soldiers drinking the brake fluid from vehicles. As David Remnick puts it in the great Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of The Soviet Empire, ” I’m not sure it is possible to describe just how hard it is to acquire a reputation as a drunk in Russia.” The phrase “too much vodka in Russia” is like the phrase “Cubs win the World Series”: a linguistically logical construct with (until now) no chance of ever happening.

    Social networking for people in “recovery” — or the 2nd A in AA stands for what?

    From an organizational standpoint, Alcoholics Anonymous has many admirable qualities. First, it doesn’t accept money from anyone but members of AA. Second it has a long and cherished tradition of anonymity.

    The principle of anonymity is a basic tenet of our fellowship. Those who are reluctant to seek our help may overcome their fear if they are confident that their anonymity will be respected. In addition, and perhaps less understood, our tradition of anonymity acts as a restraint on our members, reminding us that we are a program of principles, not personalities, and that no individual A.A. member may presume to act as a spokesman or leader of our fellowship. If an A.A member is identified in the media, we ask that you please use first names only (e.g. Bob S. or Alice F.) and that you not use photographs or electronic images in which member’s faces may be recognized.

    pillsThese two policies may have something to do with the fact that AA has survived so much longer than other groups which have tried to help alcoholics.

    Sadly neither policy is in evidence at the Recovery Media Network’s new social networking site, 12StepSpace.com. There you are free to post a picture & profile of yourself and tell the world of your struggle to recover from alcoholism/gambling/overwork/internet addiction/stuffed animals/men& women who love too much, et al. Once you have added your profile sleep soundly in the knowledge that your effort is putting money in the pockets of the site’s owners & sponsors. The featured sponsor? A drug company hawking its drugs to help you overcome your dependence on drugs. That’s some catch that Catch-22. While it is disgusting, it isn’t novel: Another drug company already started a MySpace page under the guise of helping others.

    Mashable pretty much nails everything that’s wrong with this attempt.

    While 12stepSpace celebrates things like a user’s Recovery Birthday, and offers a buddy to chat with if you need someone to talk to on an immediate basis, there’s no distinct emphasis on recovery or the 12 step process. Having a dedicated section for online and offline resources, as well as inspirational stories or a physician or clinic finder (that’s not an advertiser) would make the community feel more like a place for sharing stories and finding help, and less like a MySpace clone.

    Yeah, but that suggests there’s anything besides cynicism at work here.

    (UPDATE: My apologies for attributing cynical motives to the organizers of 12StepSpace. It’s the drug company that’s cynical. Judging by their complaints I’d say the site’s organizers are just amazingly naive.)

    Fastest growing UK demographic: Women alcoholics

    Women drinking at home make up the biggest growth opportunity in the UK’s alcoholic beverages market, according to the latest Datamonitor forecast.

    This means a major new source of customers for both the distillers and AA. Speaking of AA, a new study has scientifically proved the efficacy of their method of recovering from the effects of alcoholism:

    In a study of more than 125,000 people, one cup of coffee per day cut the risk of alcoholic cirrhosis by 20 percent. Four cups per day reduced the risk by 80 percent. The coffee effect held true for women and men of various ethnic backgrounds.

    Researchers offered no indication on whether the quality of the coffee effected the recovery. (A friend told me once that there is no such thing as coffee that is too bad for a member of AA to drink. I’ll take his word for it.)

    Ironically being an actual tea-totaller doesn’t help.

    The researchers found no reduced risk of cirrhosis for tea drinkers.

    Which would, of course, be bad news for AA in the UK. 

    French winemakers going after the all-important alcoholics-still-in-denial market segment

    A new batch of el cheapo French wines are hitting the shelves. And I say El and not La cheapo for a reason: The label for Los 3 Bandidos has fake bullet holes and a story that alleges a link to Pancho Villa. Apparently, Les Froggies think Ripple sounds better in Spanish. All right, so at $8 a bottle it’s a top shelf Ripple so it’s clearly aimed at alkies with delusions of grandeur (there’s another kind?).

    This is just one of several branding efforts which the makers allege attempt to capture the attention of young people who couldn’t tell a merlot from a muscatel. Another is XL Wine’s Jet Lag. You can get either a white and red in small screw-top bottles that, at just under 9 ounces, “may remind U.S. consumers of shampoo or cologne,” says Reuters. Mmmmm, shampooey. XL says the XS bottles are meant to fit in a carry-on bag and complement an airline meal, a “French Mediterranean wine for globe trotters.”

    Equally odd is the standard-sized bottles which have “no labels but simply times and a clock face on the bottle. Their 11:30 a.m. could be the first glass of the day, with 12:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. for later.” What, no 7:30 AM? Sacre merde!