The Carly Fiorina campaign has answered a question politics and tech bloggers have been asking of themselves for months: How will campaigns used location-based social networks?
Fiorina’s camp launched a location-based check-in iPhone app that lets users earn points checking in to rallies and other campaign events. This is just a few days after Fiorina’s use of text messaging and a mobile-based phone bank system drew positive media coverage. And, even though the story glosses over it just a bit, it’s worth noting that Fiorina’s app targets college students – an important piece of strategy, given that the general population is still getting used to mobile applications.
Earlier in the year, Scott Brown’s Massachusetts Miracle campaign was lauded for its use of remote phone banks and hyper-local online ads to identify key supporters and topple the ghost of Ted Kennedy. If Fiorina pulls off a victory that would have been unthinkable a year ago, you can bet in the days after November 2 the interblogs will buzz about her online strategy.
It’s certainly a far cry from the Demon Sheep.
This morning, TechCrunch innocently poked fun at a press release from an iPhone retailer announcing that iPhones make men more attractive according to a survey of 1500 women. Neither the retailer nor their PR agency knew anything about the somewhat embarrassing release, which led to an email exchange with blogger Robin Wauters. Wauters, predicatbly, has made the whole thing public. (As Wauters reveals, the retailer and the PR agency eventually determined that the release was sent by another consultant, which through some mix-up in communication thought it was cleared to send the release.)
That second post detailing the back-and-forth calls parallels the story of former U.S. Senator William Scott of Virginia, who was named “The Dumbest Congressman of Them All” by New Times Magazine in 1974. New Times only lasted for a few years, and was best known for investigating conspiracies and left-leaning social commentary. Polling data from the era is sketchy at best, but it’s a safe bet that if Sen. Scott had constituents that subscribed to New Times, they weren’t people who were going to vote for him. Still, Sen. Scott held a press conference to denounce the magazine article – a move which only served to give the story legs and make sure more of his constituents knew someone had called him an idiot.
Sometimes, if you shut your mouth, the bad news just goes away.
TechCrunch is a great, widely read blog; but if the retailer and their PR consultants had said nothing, would this morning’s tongue-in-cheek post have resulted in fewer iPhone sales? It’s doubtful. Much more likely to hurt sales is the perception that the retailer is disorganized and has the fingerprints of professional public relations operatives all over their brand.
When negative information gets out there, the objective is to put out the fire. Sometimes, if you throw a blanket over it, the blanket bursts into flames.
The lather over Gizmodo’s exposure of the new iPhone 4 has ignited some debate over whether the techno-geek blog went too far in buying a possibly lost and/or stolen iPhone prototype for their exclusive. Joe Wilcox does a pretty good job summarizing how Gizmodo’s scoop broke the law:
California’s “Uniform Trade Secrets Act” is unambiguous, partly defining “trade secret” as “information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process.” The Act uses several definitions of “misappropriation,” of a trade secret with one being: “Acquisition of a trade secret of another by a person who knows or has reason to know that the trade secret was acquired by improper means.”
An unreleased phone accidentally left in a bar and sold to Gizmodo surely qualifies as acquisition “by improper means.” Proper means would be purchase of the device from Apple, following its public release.
Wilcox also mentions the recourse Apple would have if they chose to pursue it. At this point, it doesn’t look like Apple is going to make a move – and from that fact follows the point which makes the whole discussion moot: Apple doesn’t want Gizmodo to take down their “exclusive look” at the iPhone – not even the post where the phone gets dissected it like a science class frog – ostensibly, the party that tips Apple’s hand the most to industry competitors.
Of course Apple wants the pictures up on the internet, and of course they want everyone talking about the brand new secret product. Consider that Apple announced the existence of the iPad months before the official release date; this staged rollout allowed Apple to break into two news cycles.
Not to play conspiracy theorist, but Apple could benefits from three rounds of coverage – the current stories about the leak, stories about the announcement, and finally the release (complete with the requisite long lines around the block early in the morning at an Apple store near you). Is it far-fetched to think Apple would have left this “lost” phone in plain view as a brilliant guerrilla marketing move? Then again, maybe Apple wouldn’t have any security systems in place that would prevent an engineer from taking a super-secret prototype out of a lab and into a bar. Apple may not have purposefully leaked the iPhone 4, but they clearly aren’t crying about it now.
Apple has rejected a proposed iPhone application because it is, as ReadWriteWeb reports, “politically charged.” The app in question helps advocates for nationalized, single-payer health insurance organize and make an impact – or it would, if anyone could download it.
There are plenty of people who would disagree with the app’s goal. But, as with any speech, the answer is to respond in kind – perhaps to create another app that helps people organize and speak out for a patient-driven health care system.
Apple has every right to reject any app it wants. That may not be the best business decision, though. Part of the iPhone’s appeal is it’s ability to be the Swiss army knife of mobile devices through the various applications. By rejecting political applications, Apple is cutting out a large segment of potential users. (And incidentally, the Obama campaign released a similar app about a year ago to help mobilize voters and volunteers.)
If this move was an attempt to avoid political controversy, Apple couldn’t have gotten it more wrong.