iWow! iPhone Kills Dozens of iTrees and Ships in its Own iBox

August 15, 2007 at 11:39 am | Posted in knowledge management, Mobile and pervasive computing, Web 2.0 | 2 Comments

If you haven’t seen the video of a woman opening her 300 page iPhone bill, check out the article and link here.  I’ll admit – I’m not currently a fancy phone kinda person, so you won’t see me commenting a lot on the mobile industry unless I get assigned that as a research topic. However, brand management and information management are passions of mine and in those terms I consider this a minor disaster.

From my view it’s a cautionary tale in 3 ways:

  • The potential for collateral damage to brand image from partnerships. Manufacturers of products endorsed by athletes have often had to deal with this type of problem. In fact, it has become so prevalent that some companies and sponsors of events have decided the risk of collateral damage outweighs the benefit and now avoid such spokespeople. Now it’s Apple’s turn. Apple has earned a strong brand image that associates them with sleek, streamlined, innovative (not tied to legacy), understanding young people, and hip. But their relationship with AT&T has resulted in a brand management issue that is getting heavy exposure (including CNN Headline News) that will associate “Apple” and “iPhone” with something non-sleek, tied to an old way of doing things, unhip, and abhorrent to the values of many young people.
  • The Web 2.0 generation has massively greater power to embarrass large organizations than previous generations. Accordingly, large organizations need to allocate budgets massively greater than those of a generation ago to mitigate this risk through continuous monitoring of legacy and Web 2.0 communication channels as well as a general PR contingency plan for unpredictable disasters.
  • Old information dissemination practices must be reviewed in light of new information demands. When the only thing a cellphone did was make calls (and expensive ones at that), a paper itemized bill made sense. Text messages are far more numerous (an astounding 30,000 for Justine) so the same format will be practically useless.  Even if one was interested in the information on those pages, they would have great difficulty finding and using it.

And to those people who say it’s her fault for not selecting e-bill, you should have to opt-in to a bill that may require being shipped in a box, not opt-out. And I don’t think one would reasonably expect that their paper billing would result in a few redwoods worth of itemization.



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  1. This is quite a classic case of the challenges of brand and customer experience management that occurs when two companies partner. However, I am not suprised about this having spent years in telecom both domestically and internationally. The AT&T teams and believe me there were likely hundreds or thousands involved — were likely so focused on activation, rollout, customer service (note customer service not experience) and general billing deployment that no one thought about the expereince of having every text message displayed on a bill. I heard the woman would had the bill on NPR last Thursday evening and sounds like she is an extreme text messenger. Something like thousands per day, which I find not to hard to believe in the world of the new Twitter services. Anyhow, cool sleek Apple brand mashed up with centuries old telecoms billing. We will see more of this.
    Blake Cahill
    Visible Technologies

  2. I haven’t seen an explanation yet of how someone does 1,000 text messages per day (more than 1 per waking minute), but you’re right – with a stream like Twitter it wouldn’t be tough.

    Hopefully the overexposure this issue got makes an impression on companies like AT&T.

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