Friday, June 09, 2006

Could the iPod be beat by good marketing?

The iPod kingdom has been built on two things. Phenomenal design with integration into iTunes and even better marketing. When it was first introduced, everyone looked at it and saw an instant failure. Who would pay $500 to hold 1,000 songs? Plus it was only available to Mac users at first. But guess what. It sold. Then they opened it to Windows and it sold even more. Last I heard Apple commands something like 70% of the MP3 player market. No one has been able to unseat them. Many have tried.

Now it's Sandisk's turn. They are marketing the new Sansa e200. I like how they are marketing it, however. Through the website It's a call to all those who don't want to be a sheep. Those who don't want to have white headphones like the rest. It's an interesting approach. No corporate ads. Just a website and some guerilla marketing targeting a younger crowd. It's really inciting a revolution against the iPod phenomenon. There are even some nice features the e200 has that the iPod doesn't. So why won't they win?

Three reasons.

1.) Despite the anti-corporate revolution message, most people are smart enough to know this campaign was thought up by the fine people at Sandisk and their ad agency in the very corporate halls of their headquarters. The conference table they sat around probably cost more than the average e200 buyer's car. That doesn't exactly scream "REVOLUTION!" does it? There's nothing wrong with that, it's just hard for a corporation to put out an anti-corporation message. Plus, if the e200 really took off and they sold tens of millions of the players, then your revolution would turn into a large group of ... you guessed it ... sheep. That's always the irony of using anything corporate to show how unique you are.

2.) They can't put the Apple logo on the e200. As much as they might hate to admit it, Apple has the market cornered on cool. And they didn't do it by saying they are cool. They just are who they are, and if you think that's cool, great. If not, they are cool enough to not care what you think. Like it or not, Apple seems to be firing on all cylinders these days.

3.) SanDisk does not have a player that integrates seamlessly with it's own online store and jukebox software. At least not one as good as iTunes. I'll use myself to prove how important this is. I was never a huge music person before the advent of the iPod. Christmas of 2003 rolls around and I buy my wife our family's first iPod. She loves it, and I love it. I found myself listening to music more than usual but not a lot more. Still it was a great gadget. Then the iTunes Music Store appears a few months later. This was the hook. Four iPods and 3,000 songs later and I always have something going. The iPod in and of itself is great, but the music store is what hooks non-music people like me. Sandisk doesn't have this, and that is the single greatest reason this is a losing battle.

All that being said, I really do like their new campaign. It's an interesting approach that I haven't seen from the companies that have stepped up to try to compete.

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