Wi-Fi is finally on the tube.

So Wi-Fi is finally on the tube. Hurrah. Thank the sweet Lord. About bloody time! And other terms of thankfulness.

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But yes, for the Olympics (perhaps you heard?) Virgin Media provided functioning London Underground Wi-Fi and it was a real success. Virgin has already rolled out the Wi-Fi network to 81 stations with plans to expand to over 120 stations by the end of the year and enthusiasm has been high so far.  

Rory Cellan-Jones first reported on Virgin Media’s plans on a London Underground Wi-Fi network on the 31st May this year.  As the BBC’s premier Technology Correspondent and self-confessed lover of all things online, he was understandably excited at the prospect of being able to Tweet on the escalators of the then un-disclosed Tube stations and watch The Apprentice on his iPad whilst waiting for his train.  This in turn got us excited!  So we thought we’d wait and see what all the fuss was about.  And now, six weeks later, here we are with a full round up:

Firstly – we love Wi-Fi on the tube.  Like seriously love it!  I can Whatsapp my friends and let them know I’m running late (again), I can check emails, send a Tweet, stalk an old school friend on Facebook who I haven’t spoken to in years (don’t judge, we all do it). 

It’s also ridiculously easy to set up.  On my iPhone I just clicked to join the Virgin Media Wi-Fi network, opened up my browser, entered my email address and was immediately able to access free, and remarkably fast Wi-Fi.  And from the consensus in the office and outside, it’s seems to be a pretty unanimous response. 

In fact, the only criticism I’ve seen of the whole scheme is what will happen post summer 2012 as Virgin Media are being particularly cagey about how they will continue to provide the Wi-Fi and costings attached.  They’ve already confirmed that the service will remain free for existing Virgin Mobile customers, but those on other mobile networks will have to pay on a pay-as-you-go basis.  Annoyingly, the cost is still “unclear”.  O2 also rolled out an identical scheme to Virgin Media’s throughout the Olympics, but surprise, surprise, they are also keeping schtum about what will happen now the Games after the games. 

I’ll be interested to watch this one play-out – Virgin has revealed they’re actively looking for a media platform partner, and there have already been question asked about how much TFL will profit from the costings of Wi-Fi come autumn time.  However, one thing I’m certain of, Wi-Fi on the underground needs to stay.  It is after all 2012, and over a quarter of adults and nearly half of all teens now own a smartphone.  We live in a mobile, global world and the demand is there.  Figures published by Virgin Media in July, shortly before the Olympics started, showed that one million web pages, Facebook posts, tweets and emails have so far been delivered via the service, which is being used by more than 100,000 Tube passengers.  Whilst official stats have yet to be released now the Olympics have ended, you can bet they will also be high.  And with the Paralympics looking to sell out, I’m confident we will again see positive responses from Wi-Fi on the Underground. 

So in conclusion, long may Wi-Fi underground live, but let’s all hope that when it comes to deciding just how much it’s going to cost us, the powers that be are feeling particularly lenient – yes, they’ve got to be business-like about this and make a profit but at the same time, surely commuters throughout London shouldn’t be forced to pay extortionate prices just to access emails and Twitter.  And after all, Virgin Media what’s more important: your profit margin or me being able to access the Daily Mail online whilst I wait for my tube?!

Slogan vs. brand promise

A funny thing happened the other day. After a roguish water bottle exploded in my bag, my work diary was looking less than smart, so I ordered a mid-year A5 black day-to-a-page diary on Amazon. I specifically wanted a black one – always slick and classic.

A few working days later and I receive my package on time and unwrap it, eager to write my first to-do list on the fresh, new pages. Organisation Central, here I come!

To my dismay and, frankly, annoyance, this is what I was greeted with:

 

Yup, it’s red. And by way of explanation? A carefully written Post-It note: “Sorry. Red only.”

Well, sorry Amazon seller, but I didn’t want a red one; if I had, I would have ordered a red one! I felt like scrawling underneath: “Sorry. Only ordered black” and sending it back.  But that in itself is an annoyance; now I have to re-wrap it and make an unplanned trip to the Post Office. All they needed to do was send me an email to let me know.

Amazon has a brilliant reputation but this was not good form from one of its ‘trusted’ sellers. It got me thinking about brand promise and expectation, so I checked to see what Amazon’s slogan is on the website, ready to tear it apart with my recent poor customer service experience. After all, a brand is only truly successful if it delivers on its promise all the way through the consumer experience.

But Amazon has no slogan to tear apart. Interesting; I hadn’t realised that before. I guess, when you’re as big as Amazon and everyone knows who you are and what you do (normally very well, I might add), do you need a slogan at all? Google, Starbucks and Virgin clearly don’t think so.

Is not having a slogan a cop out? Arguably it is one way of not having to live up to a very high expectation, which if a brand (inevitably) doesn’t reach every time, might “undershoot and sully” its reputation, as Helen Edwards asks in her recent Marketing magazine column. Maybe, but she goes on to make the important point that, “It is more subtle than that. You can bet that a great brand like Google, with smart marketers on board and skilled agencies alongside, could devise a stunning sign-off if it chose to”.

Whether a brand chooses to have a slogan or not, one thing’s for sure – actions speak louder than words. On that note, I wish Nike did diaries, JUST in black.

This time it’s (too) personal?

Real-time location based marketing – the ideal made real or a step towards a very scary future?

“There’s been some increasingly excited chatter about real-time location based marketing recently, with some particularly interesting examples that have been generating debate about whether this new technology is a really good or a really bad idea.

It’s no secret anymore that smartphones and branded apps are an incredibly effective way to target and engage consumers, in a way that is also very cost effective. By creating tools that your customer base can download and use on a regular basis you can integrate with their lives in a way that ‘mere’ advertising never has. Virgin’s iPhone app for example, based around its ‘Flying without fear’ course allows consumers to access relaxation exercises, fear therapies with a personal video introduction from Sir Richard Branson himself. It’s smart, intimate and useful on a runway (in safe mode of course).

However, the next generation of apps are all using smartphone’s GPS capabilities in a way that enables brands to hit a moving target, so to speak. The mobile social network / game Foursquare signed up its first national UK brands (Debenhams and Domino’s Pizza) this month. The app detects players’ whereabouts and when they visit shops and restaurants they gain points for ‘checking-in’.

Brands get involved by offering deals to users based on for example the number of times someone ‘checks in’ to their local branch. Businesses get increased footfall, and ideally, a network of brand ambassadors who will pass on recommendations. The consumer gets great deals that are relevant not only to who they are, but where they are.

Win-win right? Well not according to pleaserobme.com which aims to highlight the dangers of giving your exact location on social media sites in case the information is used to burgle your house.

Personally I think that’s a bit reactionary (although a number of Liverpool FC’s players may disagree with me) but it does raise an interesting point all the same. The ideal of advertising is similar to the ideal of PR in that the greater the relevance to the audience, the greater the value, whether it’s a genuinely interesting and newsworthy story to a journo or a half price burger to a hungry commuter. But where do you draw the line?

Don't be...

Google Buzz is another new development which has been getting a great deal of ink but it’s the mobile version of the platform that appears the most powerful, by some distance. However, as has been pointed out, you could argue that “Google isn’t really a search engine, or a chat tool, or an email provider. It’s an online advertisement-pushing juggernaut”

So just as Gmail scans the content of your emails to present you with relevant ads, Buzz will combine this with your locational data.

All of which could lead to a day where from waking up and being immediately offered a hangover cure (because Google knows you were at the pub last night) to the local Buzz-linked McDonald’s ‘Buzzing’ you at lunch time and asking if you’re in need of a quarter pounder (as Google knows you went there last week) to a local bar ‘buzzing’ you to see if you fancy another post-work beer (because Google knows what time you leave the office)… And so it goes ad infinitum until there’s no one point in your day when you’re not sharing personal data with Google, and having personalised ads thrust upon you.

It will be fascinating to see how brands will be able to heap innovation upon innovation with this new technology, but it will be crucial that consumers are handed the power to control the medium, otherwise the potential for brand damage could exceed the huge opportunites for new forms of engagement.”