The Apple Energy Move


Last week, Apple created a new business unit called Apple Energy. Apple has been buying renewable energy to power its facilities using an instrument called an REC. (Renewable Energy Credit) Essentially, the idea with RECs is that renewable energy, bought by Apple and put into the grid in one place, is used by an Apple facility or store from the grid in another. Because the contribution of renewable energy and usage of energy match, the net is that Apple’s energy usage is logically renewable-sourced. And Apple has been buying a lot of renewable energy. So much so, that Apple is a mini-utility for clean energy. Why do that?


Well, for one, given the volume of clean energy it purchases, Apple can fairly claim itself as a sustainability leader to its customers and employees. Many of both constituencies are millenials, a group particularly focused on buying from and working for companies that act responsibly from an environmental perspective. So, there’s an argument to be made that Apple Energy is simply a smart marketing move to capture hearts of Millennial customers. That’s fantastic and frankly necessary for Apple anyway. But, it’s not the important take-away.


My theory is that it’s about service + product combos. Think about what Apple started in 2007 with the launch of the iPhone. Apple added massive value on both sides of the communication network and created a revolution… without needing to own the delivery network. Apple launched the iPhone on the consumer side of the network and the AppStore (and other services) on the Apple side of the network. AT&T sat in between.

With Apple Energy, Apple may be creating a renewable energy service on one side of the Enernet and matching that to new devices on the consumer side of the network. Devices like smart home tech, batteries and energy appliances that pair with Apple’s renewable energy and differentiate themselves as dynamic energy devices, powered by clean tech.

Depending on how that’s done that could be a transformative moment for energy. Imagine new devices from Apple in their HomeKit suite… Apple’s versions of Nest, Sonos, Sense, Powerwall, and Chargepoint, all with the option to be powered by renewable energy. How? Apple sells you a sexy product with the “guaranteed carbon free” energy as an add-on through it’s renewable energy service. This would be similar to how Tesla bundles in its SuperCharging network for its S and X models. Speaking of which…


It’s no secret that Apple is working on a car. If you believe that’s true, then Apple Energy is a logical move. It’s a place to house R&D into battery tech and EV charging products, and procurement of renewable energy for the fleet of energy devices necessary to support iAutos on the Enernet. It could also be a place, for now, to house some development around its automotive product.

Assuming Apple does launch a car, it’ll need charging stations, for home and community, and a lot of them. If the approach is anything like Apple’s charging philosophy for its phones, Apple will design a custom connector with innovative features that folks never imagined from a “cord”… like a guarantee that the electrons passing through it are green. Apple Energy could house all that.

If it’s not evident by now, I’m impressed by Apple and the Apple Energy move. If I’m right, it’s a massively strategic move for Apple, one that demonstrates leadership and vision. Assuming Apple is successful, the move may also portend a coming, Apple-led shift in products and how businesses and consumers think about energy.

YouTube Needs to Step Up Their Game

For the past few years, Youtube has been in the power position when it comes to dealing with artists. It is the one of the most popular sites on the web and certainly the biggest music destination. Every once in awhile, an artist will try to fight it, as well as the industry, but generally the music business knows that pulling songs and videos off YouTube is a losing proposition overall.


No other site offers as much music as YouTube and even though much of it is poor live footage and bootleg content, this is stuff that fans can’t find anywhere else. YouTube also has the stickiness of a video and the ability to engage two senses if you want, but you can also just let the users click open to another tab and just let the music run in the background.

However, there are signs that YouTube’s domination in music may be coming to an end. The big hit is that other streaming sites are finally starting to engage with video. Yes, I’m talking about Spotify. They’ve gotten massive raises recently and it’s pretty likely that they’ll spend at least some of that money increasing video offerings. The other threat is SoundCloud’s launch of its long-awaited streaming service, Go. Even Apple Music’s deal with Dubset to license mixes is a threat. YouTube’s ownership of the UGC and unofficial content space might finally be disrupted.

In reality, YouTube won’t lose artists tomorrow and frankly, it might never cease to be the site where the vast majority of the world comes to listen. This is an awakening though – that they need to begin stepping up their features to prevent any further losses. What could they do?

First, YouTube could market itself as a destination for music and create its own class of music starts within their ecosystem. When the NYC subway was wrapped with YouTube ads, all of the ads were for YouTube stars – none of them were for recording artists, even though they are a huge driver to the site. YouTube stars feature people who make videos about makeup application, cooking, video games and other topics. While YouTube has invested heavily in them, they could also invest heavily in the ready to be recording artists. Why not start their own record label and keep them in house?

YouTube could also help artists solve the big problem of monetization. Last year, they rolled out more e-commerce options, but they could allow artists to make money on everything. Any time Beyoncé wears a dress in a video, I need to be able to hover over it and see a link where I could theoretically buy it, once I won the lottery. More realistically, any time an indie artist wear a cool piece of clothing from an up-and-coming designer, I could hover, buy it with one click, and the artist would get a cut, along with YouTube. Everyone would win.

One last suggestion I have is to harness some of Google’s power. Some of the smartest data scientists on earth work there, and could surely help artists comb through all their information and route the most effective tours or plan great marketing campaigns, and some of those AdWords gurus could assist artists in figuring out how to get in front of casual listeners who just want to hear something that sounds like their favorite band.

What do you think that YouTube should do?

Show Your Company Culture on Instagram

Over the past month, I’ve been looking at the social media use of some of the biggest tech startups. I chose 100 unicorns (private companies that are valued at over a billion dollars) and collected data on how they use social media. The results were pretty interesting.

I chose to focus on unicorns because they have already proved that they can build a big company and attract a large following. What makes these tech startups interesting is that they don’t have an abundance of content to post from their various products such as trendy glasses from Warby Parker or delicious food from Blue Apron. Most of the Unicorns so not have a physical product. They have services or apps that are difficult to show on Instagram because honestly, we don’t really want to see dashboards or app screenshots.

Naturally, there are a few lessons that businesses with social media should learn from them. The biggest lesson is to sell your audience on your brand or company culture. For example, show how amazing your office is or people using your product. The point is, make it about people.

  • Evernote has 30k followers and uses their account to show off their office. They get around 400 interactions per photo.
  • Lyft has almost the same amount of followers, but features a lot of cityscapes they drive in. They received about 300 interactions on each photo.
  • Eventbrite has 7k followers and mainly posts pictures of their office or employees. They get an average of 75 interactions.
  • Hootsuite is my favorite because it has been posting all dog pictures. They’ve racked up 21k followers with 200 interactions per post.


These may not seem like the highest numbers to you because you’re used to seeing high numbers of companies with physical products. However, I believe that these numbers are still impressive and deserve a round of applause!

In conclusion, for the app developers around the world – think about the culture that you stand for and think about how to visualize it just like these companies have through behind the scenes photos of their office, team members or photos from everyday work. It is not impossible for you to grow your social media audience, it just takes some creativity from your team.

Additionally, I don’t think that this idea of sharing your culture should be restricted to companies without a physical product. Even if you do have a physical product, I believe that showing your company culture will help you connect with your audience in a stronger manner.

McDonald’s As We Know It Will Change


As humans are realizing how much junk food affects their health and rejects fast food restaurant, McDonald’s is trying to revamp its image. First, McDonald’s introduced salads to its menu, then there were McCafes and now they have a futuristic menu, fit with a futuristic environment in their Hong Kong franchise. I’m sure that you have even seen some slight changes in your very own local McDonald’s – some items are bumped off the menu and a more modern looking seating area, maybe the play area for children has even been removed.

The golden arches of McDonald’s are iconic, a symbol of America. They are even a strong part of the collective conscious around the world. Remember the long lines of people waiting for the first McDonald’s to open in Moscow in the 90s? The golden arches stand for fun, families and friendship. There are memories for every person connected to a McDonald’s and creating a new menu or restaurant will be hard to adjust to. I can remember the very first time that I went to McDonald’s as well as stopping there for breakfast during road trips, hanging out there late at night after a movie with my friends and even now, stopping in when I just can’t get a McFlurry off of my mind. Does McDonald’s simply have too much baggage to change?

There is no question that the pressure to change is very strong. However, the reinvention of such a large and iconic brand seems unimaginable. If McDonald’s does decide to change it’s brand on a worldwide scale, it would need to be significant changes to really make people think of McDonald’s as more of a healthy option rather than standing for fat and bad diets. One thing that I think that McDonald’s should hold onto are the colors and form of the golden arches. However, everything else will need to change from the original or else people will only think of the original.

Rejuvenating a brand is quite the balancing act. Knowing what to keep and what to let go of is a very important design challenge as well as understand how the implications will be perceived by old and new customers. What will McDonald’s decide to do in the future? We will have to wait and see. Would you be sad to see the iconic brand significantly change or are you in support of them embracing a healthier menu and updated atmosphere?

Scheduled Tweets Aren’t the Same

Surprisingly or not surprisingly, a large number of companies got confused with their 24-hour clock on the last day of 2015. Instead of tweets and other social media messages going out at midnight on January 31st, they programmed them for midday on December 31 or January 1 – opening themselves up for some ridicule. As someone who has been using social media over the past few years, pre-programming content is not a good idea.


The Internet is full of mistakes that range from being tragic to funny, however they all give the same impression. The face is that if a company, brand or celebrity cannot be bothered to manage its social media in real time, then it does not understand what is going on in the world. Social media is meant to be a two-way conversation, but tools like these are making social media just like billboards and magazine advertisements.

It is like throwing a bottle into the sea with a message in it and thinking that everything will be the same once it is found this is the problem with brands and their social media today. There will be no news of the impact to change the dynamics of a conversation, lacks context, thinking it won’t affect your company’s reputation and that your words are immediately forgotten. Once your message is out there, it is out there so make it worth it.

My advice is to keep control of communication and above all, do things sincerely. Find people within your industry with something to say and establish a genuine conversation. Let’s not forget that we use social media for awareness, to connect with our consumers and to listen to what they are saying. When you compensate the last two reasons, then your social media efforts are doing little for you and your brand.

Using scheduling tools can be very convenient and I do want to say that they are useful in situations such as live events – instead of posting details or guests as well as photos and quotes of everyone having fun, you can most certainly have some of the important information surround the event scheduled as you wrap up last minute concerns.

Overall, I am writing to remind you to be aware of how you are managing your conversations on social media and to evaluate if you are having real conversations or not – make sure that it is always a two-way street.

Marketing in 2016

There are rumors that another Google Algorithm update will occur before the end of the year. This kind o
f update always creates tension for the online marketing community.
They want to know what type of changes to expect so that they can understand how their site will be impacted. These updates have to be taken seriously because they can cause a lot of trouble like broken links caused by being part of an unauthorized link building program, maybe lack of updating and too much reliance on a domain’s name.

Each time that this happens, it is important to focus on linking your company brand name with its location and services you perform. Make sure that all five of these things appear.

  1. Company name and location- continued focus on brand name recognition
  2. Location – locally, regionally and nationally
  3. Product(s) / Service(s) descriptiondownload (4)
  4. Name(s) of company representative, stressing client service
  5. Value Content – blog, content marketing, reports
  6. Marketing Channel – where to invest time in delivering the company message

This list should look very familiar to you. Yes, we work on building our reputation through SEO and content marketing, but there is another side. The part that I feel the need to stress on is mobile.

Mobile Apps

Many companies think that apps are a long-term strategy, but for now we are still in the erly stages. This audience will definitely grow, but we are still missing almost three-quarters of the population – it is just too early in the game.

Strong Brand Recognition

It is now more important than ever to link all six of the above listed items together. If you leave one thing out, your audience will now see the overall value. More emphasis needs to be made to connect all of these things together. That means that you may need to provide more information to emphasize points like price and personnel.

Valuable Content

The definition of content has drastically changed. It is more than just knowledge information. Now, content requires more information such as specific reports and video presentations. It is critical for companies to look at the content production process from a news media standpoint to product higher quality content and delivery.

The Right Mix of Channels

Where are people going for their information? There is a huge disruption right now with Internet and technology. Now, companies need to find the right channels within the two to make them succeed.

Starbuck’s Red Cups Are Not Bringing Holiday Cheer

Starbucks has come under fire from some Christians who say that the company isn’t representing Jesus enough on their recent holiday cups. What do they look like? They are red, plain red. Why? Political correctness.


Joshua Feuerstein, an evangelist and “social media personality” said in a widely viewed anti-Starbucks rant on Facebook titled “Starbucks REMOVED CHRISTMAS from their cups because they hate Jesus.” It was shared by many, being viewed by more than 11 million people within four days.

He also argued, “The cup is symbolic of a larger war against Christianity in this country. The policemen of political correctness have demanded that the silent majority bend its knee to a vocal minority.” He added: “Starbucks and others know that Americans are drawing a line in the sand and refusing to remain silent any longer.”

However, some commenters, even a few that claimed to be current or former Starbucks employees said that the company has never endorsed explicitly Christian messages. One person on Twitter responded, “If you need a coffee chain to be your ambassador of Christ you need to re-examine your relationship w/ God,”

10_28_13_starbucks_holiday_2013_1Special holiday cups have been a tradition at Starbucks since 1997. They have featured symbols of the season such as vintage ornaments and hand-drawn reindeer.

Starbucks did not expect this when it released its holiday-themed cups last week. In a press release, they stressed that the cups are not Christmas cups, no crosses, no Mary and no Jesus.

“Creating a culture of belonging, inclusion and diversity is one of the core values of Starbucks, and each year during the holidays the company aims to bring customers an experience that inspires the spirit of the season,” the company wrote in a news release. “Starbucks will continue to embrace and welcome customers from all backgrounds and religions in our stores around the world.”

It is all a misunderstanding. Starbucks wanted this year’s design to invite customers to create their own stories with a red cup that mimics a blank canvas.

Sadly, it appears that even though Starbucks was trying not to offend anyone this year, some of their customers are a little disappointed that they will have to bring their own holiday spirit to their mocha latte.

What do you think? Are you disappointed or understand where Starbucks is coming from?

Airbnb & San Francisco Are Just the Beginning

Some advertising campaigns just don’t go as planned. Marketing teams can come up with something brilliant and excitedly put it together to get it out as fast as possible. However, sometimes we may not have our audience completely figured out or maybe you fail to reach your target audience by the way you’re advertising. These are just some of the things that have gone wrong in Airbnb’s latest advertising campaign that they launched in San Francisco.


Airbnb appears to be telling the city how it should be spending its money on public projects using platforms like billboards and bus stops throughout San Francisco. Instead of people feeling intrigued and motivated to make a change in their community, viewers took the advertisements as whiny and passive aggressive.

Airbnb has responded to the backlash, admitting that they “displayed poor judgment and do not live up to the values and humanity of our global community.” Airbnb has confirmed that the ads will be taken down immediately.

“The intent was to show the hotel tax contribution from our hosts and guests, which is roughly $1 million per month. It was the wrong tone and we apologize to anyone who was offended.”

However, when you take a closer look at Airbnb’s relationship with San Francisco, it doesn’t appear to be all blue skies. Airbnb had been avoiding paying for taxes over the last few years and finally agreed to pay several millions of dollars. Here is where it makes sense – before February, Airbnb had refused to pay San Francisco’s 14 percent hotel tax. Airbnb probably owed as much as $25 million.

Recently, Airbnb had been feeling pressure from San Francisco’s proposed ballot initiative, Proposition F. What is Proposition F? The most important thing is that it wants to restrict unregistered short-term rentals just like Airbnb.

Now, Airbnb is spending more than $8 million to fight the initiative. Their biggest argument is that the city will not be able to collect as many tax dollars from its services if the ballot is approved.

So even though Airbnb agreed to pay the back-tax in February, Airbnb is still arguing that San Francisco is unfairly trying to double-tax their hosts while accessing users’ personal data. In a sign of mounting pressure, back in August Airbnb agreed to collect taxes on rentals in Paris – which is now its biggest market worldwide.

This advertising campaign was probably not the wisest way to aid their crusade. What do you guys think?

Volkswagen is Another Black Eye to the Auto Industry

For car buyers who were looking to buy a car that both performed well and supported the clean energy movement, Volkswagen’s diesel line was the perfect fit – until recently.

FILE - In this May 23, 2011 file photo Martin Winterkorn, CEO of Volkswagen, participates in a news conference at New York's Museum of Modern Art. Winterkorn promised full cooperation with the government following the company's admission it rigged nearly a half million cars to defeat U.S. smog tests. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Just yesterday, Volkswagen confessed that 11 million vehicles worldwide are equipped with the now-notorious software that was used to cheat the EPA as well as their customers. They claim that they were concerned that meeting the EPA’s high standards would degrade the power of their engines. The VW executives have been lying to us for more than at least a year and while some are calling this criminal, at the minimum it is extremely damaging to the brand and reputation of Volkswagen.

Let’s take a look at how VW came to this decision. First, instead of spending their money on research and development to find a way to either meet or exceed the EPA’s strict emission guidelines, the executives at VW decided that it would be a better idea to cheat the system. They thought that no one would find out, of course until countries like Germany and China started to audit the auto industry to ensure results. It was not until they felt pressure that they admitted to doing something wrong. Now, Volkswagen has come forward and said that the device was installed on more than double the amount of cars that they had previously stated.

imagesWhile the VW crisis does not threaten customer’s lives like the problems at GM or Toyota, it is still just as bad because they are showing that they have no respect for laws or environmental health. It truly reflects negatively on the whole auto industry – showing that they all react to crisis the same way. All CEOs have pledged total transparency and ask an outsider to find out what happened within the company. We know from past experiences that these events do not just occur by accident – engineers to not install incorrect software or faulty equipment without the knowledge and recognition of higher powers. This behavior is a representation of a business culture that permeates a whole organization.

As the New York Times said, “Volkswagen is known for being a tightly controlled, autocratic organization, raising questions about how such a sophisticated system could have been installed in nearly half a million vehicles without knowledge of top management.”

While Volkswagen will try to do everything they can to mitigate future risk and quickly end this catastrophe, they will have to set aside $7.2 billion in this quarter alone – as well as the huge fall out of customers that they will experience. In the mean time, the VW CEO was replaced with the CEO of Porsche how will “clean house” and reset the organizational culture and will absolutely not tolerate any unethical behavior.

While VW gets through this difficult time, we have to remember that GM and Toyota had to do the same. This is really a black eye on not just the VW reputation, but also the entire auto industry.

Dismaland – Banksy’s New Exhibition


Last Thursday, Banksy debuted his newest art exhibition in Westonsuper-Mare seafront, UK – Dismaland. “A family theme park that is unsuitable for small children,” is how Banksy describes it.

Depressive and practically unresponsive staff in pink jackets “welcomes” visitors, but that is after they have to walk through airport security made out of cardboard – just the beginning of puns and jokes.

A distorted mermaid, a dilapidated castle, roving occupy protests and a pond filled with boats of migrants are just a few of the exhibits. There is a “pocket money loans” shop that offers money to children with an interest rate of 5,000%. In another exhibit, would-be anarchists discover how to unlock Adshel posters that are seen at bus stops. People can also pay for the tools to break into them and replace the posters with anything that they want.

“Bring the whole family to come and enjoy the latest addition to our chronic leisure surplus-a bemusement park. A theme park who’s big theme is: theme parks should have bigger themes…” reads the brochure.


Banksy promises that the show is not a jab at Disney and made sure that Mickey Mouse would not be included in any of the artist’s work. A total of 58 artsists were chosen to create something special for the exhibition. Jenny Holzer, Paco Pomet, Ronit Baranga, Damien Hirst, Julie Burchill and Jimmy Cauty, who used to be part of KLF are just a few of the artists that participated.

It has been said that Banksy paid for the entire exhibition himself, although we will have to wait and see if he can make a profit on it. The show will run for a total of 36 days, until September 27. Since there is a cap of 4,000 tickets to be sold each day and tickets cost just three pounds each, it is only possible for Banksy to cash out with 400,000 pounds. However, it is Banksy – is he really looking to make a profit on this at all

Banksy could make a killing if he removed the cap – on “locals only” ticket day, the website crashed after six million people tried to log on. Who would have thought that people would want to visit a dark theme park? Everybody seems to be jumping at this possible chance of a life time, so if you have the means, get to the UK quickly –