Wednesday, September 19, 2012

My Reservations about the New iPhone 5

It seems like every time I turn around, a new Mac product is coming out. I can never keep up; it seems like whenever I get an Apple product they come out with a new and improved version a few months later. Most recently, I upgraded to the iPhone 4S; inevitably, Apple has come out with the iPhone 5 to follow. I am debating whether to upgrade to the new iPhone so I have been doing some research on the main differences between the two.

As far as aesthetics go, the new phone is slightly larger, including a larger screen, but thinner than the 4s. Additionally, the plastic backing of the 4/4s has been replaced with a more durable metal back. The edges of the iPhone 5 are more rounded compared to the old phone, but at first glance, the surface difference of the two phones are subtle. The larger screen offers wide views that the 4/4s does not, but as far as the quality of the picture, not much has changed. There are mixed reviews, but many consumers state that there is virtually no difference in picture quality to the naked eye.

The main benefit of the new iPhone seems to be the speed of internet connectivity. According to Apple, the iPhone 5 is twice as fast as the 4s. Getting on the internet, checking email, and downloading apps almost instantly is my main draw to this new and improved iPhone. Another benefit is the camera; the camera on the iPhone 5 seems to be better than that of the iPhone 4 or 4s. The quality of the picture has improved and the camera now has the capability to shoot in panorama.

A huge drawback is the iPhone 5’s updated connectivity port. The port is now much smaller than it was previously. This would not be such a big deal, if every Apple product before had not used the larger port. The Apple products that many consumers have bought prior are no longer compatible with their phones. Car chargers, radio adaptors, iHomes, and USB ports are just some of the things that will need to be updated upon buying the new phone.

Of course, Apple has announced it will offer iPhone 5 adapters at $29 a pop. It will be interesting to see how well they solve the compatibility problem. I wouldn’t be surprised if many users find their adapter-equipped iPhone 5 unable to fit inside their older iPhone boombox or car cradles.

For example, imagine this…

iPhone 5
iPhone 5

…connected to this…

iPhone 5 adapter change
Lightning to 30-pin Adapter (not to scale)

…fitting into this…

iPhone boombox
iHome iP4 boombox

And even where the iPhone/adapter combination would “fit” with existing accessories, it is far from a good solution. For instance, imagine your brand new iPhone 5, precariously sitting even higher atop the connectivity cradle on a treadmill, as you run at the gym.

I have literally spent years collecting iPhone accessories that were compatible with my previous iPhones. In fact, we share a lot of these accessories at our Spotted Frog main office where I work; chargers in particular. It seems like it would be such a waste of money to upgrade to the iPhone 5, only to find myself having to “upgrade” all of my accessories as well. Plus I couldn't borrow my coworkers' chargers when I forget mine at home, unless they also upgraded to the newest iPhone.

Many people wonder why Apple would not just keep the old port. Besides the obvious business matter that a new port will forced people to buy more Apple products to accommodate it, apparently Apple and other providers are trying to move into a wireless world where accessories can be accessed without having to use the port. The Lightning port is still needed for charging, though.

Regardless of their reasoning, it is still a costly choice to switch to the iPhone 5 and, although there are some definite, albeit subtle, improvements; I am not sure the pros outweigh the cons. I might just have to wait for the iPhone 6.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Challenges of Marketing a Clothing Line

Marketing can make or break your business. Most companies fail within the first five years of opening, many simply because the owners do not know how to properly market and promote their product or service. This is especially true for a clothing line. Properly marketing a clothing line is what makes the difference between a fledgling company that eventually fails and a fledgling company that eventually thrives.

The Relationship Between Risk and Experience

In the beginning of any kind of risky venture – as this certainly is – there will be a great deal of work before a return is realized. The elements for success in the apparel industry can be earned (a tenacious entrepreneur who eventually gets it right, undeterred by failures along the way) or they can be bought (an investor who takes a chance on a new clothing line by funding someone who already has extensive experience).

Whether it is designing/selling clothing, or investing in those who do, it all comes down to experience. There will always be risk involved, but this is lessened by the amount of relevant skills and knowledge that are possessed. Louis Pasteur once said "Dans les champs de l'observation le hasard ne favorise que les esprits préparés", which is often translated/abbreviated to "Fortune favors the prepared mind." or something similar.

Although the original quote was referring specifically to Pasteur's work and experiences in microbiology (many medical breakthroughs were discovered "by accident"), the phrase applies to just about any pursuit. When you have developed extensive knowledge and experience in an industry, you are more likely to recognize the "next big thing".

So I should note, before you read any further: This is not a post that will tell you how to start a clothing company. This post examines some aspects of starting/marketing a clothing company. Starting a clothing company is obviously not something you just do all willy-nilly. (I know I did not need to write that last sentence, but I really wanted to work in a phrase with “willy-nilly”.)

OK, moving on…

Target the Right Demographic and Communicate

It is key to know what demographic you are targeting before marketing your clothing line. Some clothing lines target a large range of people in order to sell more products, but if you are just starting out, I would suggest just sticking to one demographic to focus on. For example, if you are creating clothes for girls or juniors you need to understand how to advertise in places and ways that would grab that age groups attention. Research the most popular magazines, television shows, websites, etc. of that particular demographic. This way you will know how to reach your client.

Using fashion trends that are popular in these types of mediums will quickly appeal to the clients, but you need to offer something else in your products than what currently exists. This may include better material, an edgier take on the design, or a more creative adaptation of the current trend. Highlight these features when communicating with your market and do not forget to use the most important tool of all - the internet. With all the social media websites out there today, it is downright foolish for a clothing designer to ignore this opportunity.

When it comes to sites like Pinterest and Facebook, you will find that users who like your designs will be more than willing to share them with their friends. If you put the right time into understanding marketing on social media, or hire a company that specializes in this type of marketing, you will enjoy some of the best PR and advertising from a comparatively small investment on your part (especially when compared to traditional media).

It is important to understand, though, that different demographics utilize the internet in different ways -and to varying extents. Keep in mind the time commitments required to do this right; oftentimes rolling out a half-baked social media campaign is worse than not venturing onto these networks at all. If you do not have the financial or personnel resources for in-house social media management, seriously consider hiring an outside specialist.

Make it Appealing and Distinctive

First, ask yourself regularly if the clothes you are marketing are something that your target market would want to wear. This may sound obvious, but it is often overlooked by marketers in any industry. When marketing to consumers who differ in some way from yourself - whether in style, gender, age, education, income, etc. – it can become tempting to think of what you would prefer, rather than what your customers would prefer. The best marketers know their target market so well that they are even adept at thinking like their customers.

You need to create a certain “look” that the consumer could envision for themselves. Styling is everything when it comes to marketing clothes. For example, take notice of the mannequins in clothing stores. The outfits displayed on the mannequins are always the most demanded product in the store – retailers are not just selling the clothing, they are selling the idea of wearing this brand of clothing in a certain way. Not everyone can look at different articles of clothing folded on a table and put together an outfit in their mind, which is why showing how good different pieces can look when styled together is critical to selling your product.

While much of this takes place at the retail level, it is also something you have a large degree of direct control over. Consider how images of clothing lines are modeled on websites, billboards, social media, catalogs, etc. Developing a style – then capturing it in print, image, video, and other media – is the foundation of communicating your clothing line’s vision to your target market. Make your clothing line more than just a clothing line; make it a way of life for the consumer.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What is "Do Not Track"? - A Quick Explanation

Internet Tracking

Tracking people on the Internet is not a new thing. Beginning in 1994 with the introduction of cookies, websites have been tracking who visits their site and what they do for a long time. This tracking has been used for every conceivable reason, from tracking user accounts to targeting advertisements to offering personalized suggestions to shoppers. They are also used by SEO companies as a part of their web analytics programs. Tracking of any sort is such a common thing that most people take it for granted, marketers use it out of hand, and many consumers do not even realize they are being tracked.

Opting Out

Another cookie that can leave crumbs behind.
The core of the Do Not Track project is giving a user the ability to opt out of tracking on the Internet. While disabling cookies is a start, some sites may not respect that. Others have non-cookie methods for tracking users. The goal of Do Not Track is to establish a standard protocol for opting out of tracking.

The idea is that a user can enable a setting in their web browser that will signal a bit of code at the start of any web page. This signal will tell the website that this particular user wishes to remain anonymous, have no information tracked about them, and opt out of any possible tracking. Currently, every major browser has an option for Do Not Track, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, and Opera.

Privacy Concerns

The biggest reason a user may wish to opt out of tracking is, of course, privacy. Many users simply do not want anyone else to know what they do online, whether or not they are doing anything out of the ordinary. They do not want personalized advertisements or product recommendations.

As it stands, websites are not currently forced to comply with the Do Not Track standard. Many sites do, as a gesture of good faith to their users. However, because the code works on the honor system, it stands to reason that most people hunting and gathering information will not comply with a Do Not Track signal. In other words, the sites that collect information and use it in ways many users would find issue with are generally the sites that would not respect their desire to opt out.

In the News

Do Not Track is a current and hot issue, deeply contested by privacy advocates, advertising agencies, and other involved groups. Legislation is ongoing, and no decision has yet been reached. The next few years will see a fierce battle between the companies that rely on tracking users and the advocates of the users that wish to remain anonymous.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Adobe Creative Cloud: An Alternative to Buying Creative Suite Software

Years ago, when I first started to get into graphic and web design, software titles such as Photoshop and Dreamweaver were fast becoming the dominant tools of the trade. Now, almost a decade later, proficiency in using Adobe Creative Suite products has become de rigueur for anyone hoping to make it in the industry.

One of the major barriers, though, has always been the high price of these programs. Currently, the price for the latest full version of Photoshop will set you back $699 (Note: All figures in this post are presented in USD). If you need Dreamweaver as well, you'll spend over $1K if you aren't eligible for any discounts. Students (as well as teachers and other educational faculty and staff) can save some serious money after proving their status in an educational institution.
Adobe Creative Cloud
Creative Cloud offers users access to the full line of Adobe Creative Suite software titles for a monthly fee.

Although these discounts exist, many students still have trouble spending hundreds of dollars on software just for an opportunity to learn how to use it. And what about everyone else? A graphic designer needs this software as a carpenter needs power tools, but funding this major purchase all at once can be quite a challenge. This is especially true for organizations like our web design company that end up buying multiple licenses of the same software.

Adobe has now begun offering "Creative Cloud", a month-to-month subscription based service that allows unlimited access to the latest versions of all Creative Suite programs, as well as cloud-based synchronizing and storage capabilities. Prices start at $49.99 per month with a 1-year contract. Another option is the $74.99 per month plan, with no contract required.

A major selling point of Creative Cloud, aside from the much lower upfront costs, is that every CS program is available at any time. A subscribed user might download and install Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and InDesign right away. Later, if they need to use Illustrator or want to try out Premiere Pro, they can download and use them on-demand.

A subscription will usually run you about $600 per user, per year. Although buying the full versions of all the software you need might sound more appealing, you should consider the desirability of paying a small amount each month vs. one large sum up front. If purchase the Creative Suite 6 "Master Collection", which will currently set you back about $2599, it would take over four years before it becomes more cost-effective than paying $49.99 per month for the same functionality.

Even "Design Standard", the lowest priced CS6 edition, would take more than two years of use before you "save money" over using Creative Cloud - and that's only if you don't end up needing to buy additional products that aren't included in that edition. It is important to keep in mind the cost of upgrading as well. With Creative Cloud, you always have access to the latest versions. This should mean that upgrading to CS7 would not cost you any extra.

For more information: Adobe Creative Cloud buying guide