iPhones and iBasketball

Rogers and the iPhone. iPhone and Rogers. A match made in… well… Canada. Here’s the story: Rogers announces iPhone price plans for the Canadian roll-out of the Apple phenom. Customers/consumers kick up a storm as the prices are seismically higher than in the US or anywhere else for that matter. Then Rogers announces a dramatic price drop.

Veritas’ Touchdown & Fumbles weighed in calling the original price roll-out a “fumble” but giving points for Rogers’ recovery.

Rogers Wireless Communications Inc. still dropped the ball in the run-up to today’s Canadian debut of the much-vaunted iPhone, with respect to rates for the kind of wireless package needed to support the device. Rogers was deluged with angry e-mails and phone calls, and more than 50,000 people signed an online petition protesting the announced package price of $100 per month for six gigabytes of data. The company was smart – and I think recovered the Fumble – by rushing out a $30 per month special price for the plan, provided you sign up by the end of August and commit to a three-year contract. It showed them to be responsive and listening to their customers. However, I say the original Fumble call stands, because Rogers failed to see the backlash coming despite the incredible amount of online chatter on blogs, social marketing sites, you name it – in other words, all over the geekosphere where the iPhone’s bulls-eye target market lives. Responding prior to launch is good, but not letting the wave of discontent get as huge as it did – when all they had to do was watch what was brewing right in front of them online – would have been much, much better.

I take issue with Veritas here. With a product roll-out, Rogers has only one chance to get it right. While supposedly listening to their customers and finally acquiescing, Rogers comes off less responsive and more foolish. As a potential iPhone purchaser, a dramatic price drop reminds me how arbitrary prices are set for this market. If prices can be lowered from $100 to $30 a month, why shouldn’t I kick up a storm and hope they go down to $10 in a few months? Rogers should have set a more reasonable price, yes, but if they had set $60 prices and kept relatively quiet, they’d be in better reputation shape right now.

The wireless industry is a hard nut to crack in terms of determining a fair price. Like airline tickets, it’s almost impossible to discern what goes into the pricing of a cell phone plan. Economics says Rogers should charge as much for the iPhone as consumers will pay. Maybe consumers will consider it a “rip-off” or “overpriced” but it is not in Rogers’ best interest to point out the seemingly arbitrariness of their pricing by slashing as soon as the blogs start to roll.


From sloppy accommodation to responsive heroism, The Score, Canada’s perennial third sports TV network, showed how to listen to potential customers’ needs by picking up Team Canada’s qualifying tournament in Athens next week. Sports blogs and newspaper columns bulged with confusion as to why the last ditch effort for Canada to make the Olympics was not going to show up on anyone’s dial. Granted, the chances of centre  Samuel Dalembert and crew of making it out of this tournament were slim like Leo Rautins’ knees, but there was no denying the appetite for all things basketball, especially in sports-poor July.

The Score is establishing itself as the basketball station in Canada and with responsive moves like this, it’s not hard to see why.

The difference in responses: The Score saw a public demand and stepped in whereas Rogers took a chance, got slammed, and scrambled to recover. I can’t wait to watch YouTube highlights of Team Canada on my (imaginary) iPhone.


Veritas fumbles Scrabulous assessment

Veritas Public Relations puts out an excellent newsletter called Touchdown & Fumbles which is a round up of the best and worst communication plays of the week. I’m a long time subscriber and I’d be lying if I said that the format of Stractical was not largely based on TD&F.

But Veritas’ principal media coach, Bob Reid, missed the boat when awarding a “Fumble” to Hasbro for their actions against Scrabulous (reported on yesterday here). Here’s what he said and why he is wrong with my comments unbolded:

Hasbro Wants Scrabulous Scrapped

Viral marketing buzz is worth its weight in gold these days, and smart marketers are using social marketing websites like Facebook to try and get it going. That’s precisely why here at Veritas we recently launched our com.motion division – Keith McArthur and his team specialize in that stuff. So it’s really kind of astonishing that Hasbro, the company that makes the Scrabble board game, is coming down on Facebook for its wildly popular “Scrabulous” application. It’s essentially an on-line version of Scrabble, though by a close-yet-different name, that Facebook members can play with their friends. Scrabulous has quickly become one of the hottest Facebook applications going, and it has made good ol’ Scrabble kinda cool again – to the point that many Scrabulous fans are going out and buying the old board game. But despite all this cutting-edge buzz, Hasbro has gone lawyer on Facebook, crying foul over copyright infringement and telling them to cease-and-desist or else.

The reporting is just plain wrong here, Bob. Hasbro specifically said they are attempting to come to an amicable solution which includes trying to incorporate Scrabulous into the legitimate Scrabble realm. As well, to comment on the communication strategy, we must take into account that the invention and popularity of Scrabulous may be good for Hasbro. It may be prompting sales of the board game. It may be making Scrabble cool again. It may also be the perfect time for Hasbro to capitalize on this phenomenon.

Scrabulous fans have rallied, establishing countless “Save Scrabulous” groups on Facebook. Why Hasbro would look this gift-horse of publicity in the mouth is beyond me. Even if it’s because they’re in the midst of developing their own on-line version of Scrabble, they’d be much smarter to try and bring the two guys who developed Scrabulous in the first place into the tent somehow, rather than attempting to shut the whole thing down. Should an official on-line Scrabble game come to pass, I predict a major backlash as a result of Hasbro’s Scrabulous scrap.

Again, these rally cries and Facebook groups are only increasing the publicity of this story, and how often does Scrabble make the news these days anyways? Hasbro is trying to bring the Scabulous founders in while at the same time protecting their copyright. Left unchecked, Scrabulous may become so closely aligned with actual Scrabble that consumers can’t make a brand distinction. It is the impetus of the stewards of the brand (chief marketers and communicators) not to let that happen. As well, as I discussed yesterday, the introduction of the Scrabble brand supporters vs. shady copyright violating profiteers storyline is almost epic in its effort, if not entirely believable. Yet the story is getting reported almost exactly as Hasbro has framed it. Backlash or not, every news reader now knows that Scrabble is breaking an official online game. As long as its free, will users decry playing official Scrabble instead of its illegitimate cousin? It says here they won’t. Here’s hoping the otherwise excellent Touchdown & Fumbles reads the defence the next time out.