New Guns N Roses = Free Dr Pepper? But wait, there’s less…

Want that free Dr. Pepper coupon? Hurry up...

Want that free Dr. Pepper coupon? Hurry up!

Today’s sleazy, shortsighted marketing move is brought to you by Dr Pepper. This company made a grand, fun, high-profile gesture and got considerable positive publicity for it. But then, they made it such a hassle to cash in on their offer that the truly cynical nature of this marketing ploy is laid bare.

In the world before the internet, they might have gotten away with it. But online, people do talk.

Apparently, today — and today only — you can get a coupon for a free Dr Pepper soda. And you can thank Guns N Roses singer Axl Rose for it.

…That is, you can get the coupon IF you jump on it before 6 pm ET today, and if you jump through a bunch of hoops. And if the site doesn’t crap out on you. Then you wait 4-6 weeks for your coupon to arrive in the mail. Once you get it, you’d better use it fast!

Here’s the backstory, and why this could become a perfect example of anti-marketing in the online age…

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Live-tweeting an event? Set your hashtag UP FRONT!

I do a lot of live event coverage via Twitter, and I also follow a lot of events (especially conferences) via Twitter. One thing I’ve learned: It helps your Twitter audience immensely if, before the event (or at the start) the people tweeting it develop a consensus on the hashtag for the event.

That’s what Horn Group VP Susan Etlinger did earlier, for the PR/Blogger panel her company is hosting tonight. She’s one of several Twitter users who helped launch this hashtag simply by adopting and promoting it:

Susan Etlinger helps launch a hashtag by using it.

Susan Etlinger helps launch a hashtag by using it.

And here’s the fruit that this kind of coordination can bear: Check out the #PRblog hashtag

…So: what’s a hashtag, and why is this so important?…

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Mars Phoenix Talked to Me!

I love starting the day with this kind of conversation:

I asked the Mars Phoenix lander...

Phoenix said....

Wow, that is so cool!

…Of course, I’m not talking to the real Mars Phoenix lander, but rather to people at the mission’s PR team who are tweeting as if they’re the lander — via the account MarsPhoenix. A June 12 FCW.com article explained:

Rhea Borja, Media Relations Officer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory… came up with the idea to create a feed on Twitter, a microblogging Web site, to help attract a younger group of space enthusiasts. …It worked. ‘The people who are following the Mars Phoenix Twitter, they’re people who don’t typically read air and space stories or follow missions,’ Borja said. ‘It’s like a whole new world for them –– literally.’

“The lander’s personality comes from Veronica McGregor, manager of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Media Relations Office. She set up the feed a few weeks before Phoenix, which was launched in August 2007, landed on Mars on May 25.

“The plan was to set up a blog to update people about Phoenix’s progress, but that involves a lot of people and can be very time-consuming, McGregor said. A blog was still set up, but Borja’s idea to use Twitter seemed like the ideal way to give people up-to-the-minute information, McGregor said. ‘The great thing about Twitter is that you don’t have to be in front of the computer to get updates. You can get them on your cell phone wherever you are,’ Borja said. ‘So, I thought, how cool would that be if you were out and about with friends and you’re having dinner and getting the countdown of the spacecraft [to its landing]?’

This is one of the smartest uses of Twitter for public outreach I’ve ever seen — giving folks a sense of a personal connection to this high-tech mission to find water (and signs of life) on Mars. (Some members of the Phoenix team are also blogging.) I especially like that Mars Phoenix is replying to questions sent in by its Twitter friends (like me).

Makes it all seem so much less… alien!

In the past, I’ve railed against “character blogs” as stupidly inauthentic. I think it’s counterproductive to maintain the ruse of a false persona in the blog format, unless posts are very short. But for a space mission, “character tweets” from the spacecraft seem like a brilliant fit.

I’m not sure why the difference in length of posts and the nature of the medium makes a difference, but to me it does. Need to mull this over. Thoughts?

Why I keep talking about Nokia’s US Service

Some people have asked why I keep talking — on this blog and elsewhere — about Nokia’s US service problems. This video explains my motives. In a nutshell, it’s because I want to keep options open for journalists. Tools like the Nokia N95 represent a way for journalists to make their own opportunities, regardless of the fate of news organizations. But if Nokia continues to mishandle its US market, it could easily lose out to the Apple iPhone — which, while slick, is not the best tool for mobile reporting/blogging.

Nokia Talks More (Much More) About US Service Problems

Nokia Conversations Blog
Nokia’s Conversation Blog has launched an extended discussion on its myriad US service problems.

I’m happy to report that there has been some progress (small, but real) from Nokia in terms of addressing it US service problems, which I’ve written about extensively.

First, here’s their most concrete step forward so far: Today, Nokia announced that the long-awaited firmware update for the US N95-3 should be available by early June.

Note that this does not mean Nokia has improved its firmware update process — which (as Beth Kanter, Robert Day, and I noted) is PC-only and very cumbersome, confusing, and annoying. And, in my experience, Nokia’s firmware update process is also risky — it’s what bricked my N95 in April.

…But still, a lot of US N95-3 users have been waiting (and waiting) for this firmware update. News that it’s coming soon appears quite welcome in that community, judging by the initial comments to the announcement.

Also, I’m encouraged to see that Nokia’s Conversations Blog yesterday launched a series of posts on its myriad US service problems. So far, there’s been:

I think the fact that Nokia has made this discussion so public, and is respecting and addressing concerns raised by users, is a very positive step. Frankly, this is far more than most major companies are willing to do. Nokia is willing to publicly acknowledge its significant problems, and doesn’t seem to consider this inherently risky or bad for business. Many, many companies and organizations could take a lesson from Nokia on this front.

That said, Nokia’s blog does try (understandably) to put as positive a spin as possible on its US service problems. As far as I can tell, they’re not painting a specifically inaccurate rosy picture — but so far they haven’t directly tackled the hardest issues.

Therefore, it’s still up to current and would-be US users of Nokia N-Series phones to keep pushing for clear answers to our most pressing questions and concerns. This is going to take time, folks.

Here’s what I mean…

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Nokia USA promises changes, but still misses the point

Steve Jurvetson, via Flickr (CC license)
Venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson had some nice things to say about the Nokia N95 in March 2007. Wonder what he thinks of the US service and support?..

Looks like Nokia USA is making some initial moves toward improving how it serves the US market. So far, these seem focused strictly on the hardware — and not the service, support, and availability problems American consumers face. These steps may improve Nokia’s chances in the US market in a year or two.

Well, it’s a start…

Still, there is MUCH more room for Nokia USA to improve significantly in the short term by offering better (i.e. reasonable) service terms for high-end phones. I’m puzzled why the company is not pursuing this low-hanging fruit. While the changes Nokia is planning for its hardware might please US carriers and retailers, the company is still shooting its US reputation in the foot among high-end US consumers with its abysmal US service and support.

This might end up being a surprisingly difficult market problem for Nokia USA. We high-end consumers — especially mobloggers and journalists (professional and amateur) — do talk! Right now, even though Nokia has the best mobile product on the market for our needs, more and more of us are frankly scared to buy or update a Nokia N-Series phone. Why? Because we suspect (with good evidence) that Nokia doesn’t really care much about our experience after we buy their phone.

We are willing to pay a premium price for a Nokia — but we’re not willing to risk being left twisting in the wind.

To catch up, here’s what Nokia USA has said it would do for the US market so far, and why (even though these are constructive steps) they’re still missing the point…

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Nokia USA: How to turn talk into action

Brymo, via Flickr (CC license)
Talk is a good start, and it need not be cheap, but by itself it generally doesn’t get much done.

Earlier today Nokia’s Charlie Schick posted a thoughtful comment about how Nokia and its current and would-be customers might, through talking openly together, improve the situation in the high-end US phone market. (Also, Nokia director of corporate communications Mark Squires also just left a comment on this theme.)

Here’s my response to the excellent points Charlie raised…
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Nokia’s Blog Starts Discussing Problems

Nokia.com
Nokia’s Conversations blog is getting interesting now that it’s not all just happy talk.

Recently Nokia launched its Conversations blog, a good first step any company can take toward transparency and engagement with its customers, partners, and critics. Not surprisingly, most of the initial posts were “happy news” of one kind or another. I don’t begrudge them that — almost any company is doing some good things worth discussing.

But the real proof of how serious a company is about embracing public conversation is whether it’s willing to openly discuss thorny problems. Today Nokia’s blog took a first step in this direction with this post: When things go wrong with updating your device software.

There, Nokia staffer Charlie Schick picked up on the discussion that’s been happening here on Contentious.com, and on other blogs (like Beth Kanter’s and Jenifer Hanen’s), and via social media like Twitter concerning the myriad obstacles encountered by current and would-be US users of Nokia’s high-end N-Series phones. He focused on the firmware update problem I and other US users have encountered and mentioned Nokia’s support forums — which can indeed be a useful resource for solving some problems with Nokia devices.

Schick’s blog post is a good start. But I found his comment today on my blog even more to the point.

…All in all, I think this is a promising start to the public conversation. Of course, so far it’s all “just talk” — but real progress comes from action. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of action Nokia and its US market can muster together.

I left a couple of comments on Nokia’s blog — which will probably be approved for publication to the blog after people get to work in Finland. So in the meantime, here’s what I commented…
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