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.


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:



It’s Just A Manly Thing

From the archives: I wrote this for Brandweek in 2006 and thought I’d share it.

WHILE there’s always been money to be made preying on men’s insecurity, it seems to have reached truly ridiculous proportions of late. How else to explain the prevalence of the Hummer or "nutraceuticals," whose only effect is to enlarge the seller’s wallet? Since Brokeback Mountain broke, this trend seems bigger, firmer and more pronounced than ever.

Brokeback forced us to face the fact that the more "manly" a man is the more he will enjoy the company of other manly men. And, if the classic American cowboys—who spent all day in the company of other guys also wearing crotchless leather pants—aren’t paragons of heterosexuality, who is? This painfully obvious realization has been a huge boon for marketers. Any product now is ripe for man-lification. A kind of straight eye for the straight guy process that allows us dudes to convince ourselves that when we thought, "Hey, Heath Ledger is kind of cute," we really meant "WOOAH ALL RIGHT! Another Jenna Jameson tie-in!" Male anxiety is so rampant these days that no product is safe from being drenched in Y chromosomes.

Now there’s a more manly brand of branded meat. Specifically, Nascar officially licensed hot dogs, bologna and smoked sausages. Lord, how I wish I was making this up. Let me see if I can get this, pardon the word, straight: The way to sell more pounds of pork-related products is to associate it with large cars and overpowered engines? Dr. Freud, Dr. Freud, the dry cleaner called, apparently your slip is ready. Exactly how far in the closet do you have to be before you realize what it means to ask, "Hey Jake, would you like some of Jeff Gordon’s sausage?"

If we have reached a moment when the popular culture has a need for a butch-er butchered animal carcass, then it can come as no surprise that there’s a macho merlot to go with it. California vintner Ray’s Station is selling Sonoma County Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, and calling them "Hearty Red Wines for Men." They are sold in extra thick glass bottles and a black label embossed with . . . wait for it, wait for it . . . a stallion. Should that not be enough to get the message across, the accompanying ads show a rugged 19th century "wine country pioneer" doing a little hunting and fishing. Of course those two activities mostly involve men spending time with other men while using devices that are shaped like . . . well, you know.

Wine has always been a sexually ambiguous topic for guys. Showing off your knowledge about wine is a good way to impress women which makes it a virility enhancer. But wine also is made from crushed grapes, is associated with France and requires you to use words like "bouquet" and "clean glasses." This definitely makes it less than Cro-Magnon friendly. Perhaps it explains why most liquor stores keep wine in its own special section—so it’s easily avoided by guys who aren’t sure if there’s a difference between Miller and Miller Genuine Draft.

What’s next: would you believe, candy bars. Yes, Nestlé ran ads in the U.K. last year proclaiming that its Yorkie brand Footie candy bars were "not for girls." The campaign played off the idea that football (aka footie, aka soccer) is only for guys. Packaging contained slogans such as, "It’s definitely not for girls," "no passes to lasses," and "no wenches on the benches." Per a Nestlé rep, "The spirit of this is to reclaim chocolate for men, based on the consumer insight that there are not many things that [a man] can look at and say that it’s just for him." That’s because Three Musketeers and Pay Day are just too damn effeminate.

This year, Nestlé is moving its alleged consumer insight from the U.K. to Russia with "Nestlé Classic for Men," a dark chocolate candy bar made with "whole almonds." Dr. Freud, Dr. Freud, call on line two . . . The line is in keeping with a Japanese manly candy called Men’s Chocolate Pocky, available at most grocery stores. What is it? Why it’s a long, cylindrical cookie covered with chocolate, of course. Hard to get more heterosexual than that.

Why is it that the more desperately us guys try to prove we only are interested in the opposite sex, the more we look like we’re trying out for parts in the Village People reunion tour? Not that there’s anything wrong with that . . .

Amazon explanation fails to actually explain

Online retail giant issues an explanation for delisting of books — many of which had gay and lesbian topic matter:

amazon-sucks "This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error," Drew Herdener, spokesman for the online retailer, wrote in a statement. "It has been misreported that the issue was limited to gay- and lesbian-themed titles," he said. "In fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as health, mind and body, reproductive and sexual medicine, and erotica."

As David Sarno reports at the LATimes this explanation has more than a few holes in it. Among the books effected (not impacted!) were:

“Ellen DeGeneres: A Biography," "Milk: A Pictorial History of Harvey Milk" and "Greek Homosexuality"…  Herdener did not respond to requests to clarify the cause of the error, nor about why works such as the "Milk" pictorial — which did not appear to be listed in any of the categories mentioned by Amazon — may have been removed from the search listings.

I am told that “Heather Has Two Mommies” was delisted. Would it fall under health, mind and body, reproductive and sexual medicine, or erotica?

Well, this certainly means those book orders not filled by my two favorite local dealers – Pandemonium Books & Games and Brookline Booksmith – will be going to Powell’s and, as a last resort, Barnes & Nobles. If you’ve ever seen my house you know this is no small revenue stream.

UPDATE: Turns out Amazon has a history of dropping LGBT books from its lists. Friend Erik Sherman reports the full story & gets more wishy wash from Amazon.

FURTHER UPDATE: Amazon now tries to blame this on the French (I wish I could make this stuff up)

Amazon managers found that an employee who happened to work in France had filled out a field incorrectly and more than 50,000 items got flipped over to be flagged as "adult," the source said. (Technically, the flag for adult content was flipped from ‘false’ to ‘true.’)

Amazon unveils homophobic computer software

Over the weekend Amazon seems to have broken through the Turing barrier and unveiled an artificial intelligence that is predisposed to homophobia. At least that’s how I read their explanation for why the sales rankings for books with gay, lesbian and other non-heterosexual “adult” topics.

“We recently discovered a glitch to our Amazon sales rank feature that is in the process of being fixed.  We’re working to correct the problem as quickly as possible.”

That’s one highly selective glitch. As Peter Kafka (who is skeptical of both sides) points out: “Amazon’s listing for Annie Proloux’s “Brokeback Mountain” doesn’t have a sales rank. But the author’s newest book does have one.”

The story of the glitch or suppression is one of those twitter-nightmares marketers now live in fear of. #Amazonfail is the #1 trending topic there at the moment.

While the sales rank for Brokeback had been restored by this morning( #18,894 far ahead of “The Shipping News” which I love), the damage has been done and it’s going to be interesting to see how Amazon tries to fix it. As yet no official press release from them on the topic.

If this was an attempt to hide gay content it was doomed to fail. The High School Musical DVDs are the top 6 bestselling DVDs for tweens on Amazon. Nothing could counter that.

Sex & The Super Bowl (ads)

There were actually a lot of sexually subversive ads in this year’s crop of Super Bowl premiers. My favorite was the one for the car where all the guys stripped off their clothes in order to touch “it.” The Doritos one where the plus sized cashier got to actually be sexually attractive and assertive was also a nice change of pace. Then there was the Snickers ad where the to guys working on a car have a kind of Lady & The Tramp moment with a candy bar, then realized their lips have touched and as a reaction have to do something “manly.” In this case what they did is pull out large swaths of chest hair and howl with pain. Now I saw this and took it as a really funny comment on homophobia.

See the ad here.

Now the Human Rights Campaign took umbrage at this in what I thought was a complete show of a lack of humor. I thought this until I saw HRC’s reference to “Three alternate endings to the commercial spot are posted on the Snickers website, one of which includes the two men violently attacking one another – which sends a dangerous message to the public condoning violence against gay Americans. … Two other video clips posted on the Snickers website feature players from the Bears and the Colts watching the ads and responding to the two men kissing.”

Looked for them today and haven’t been able to find those alternate endings any where. Now I’m intrigued. Anyone know where to find them? Bueller?