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Phones, fuel a full year later

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A year ago in this space, I lavished praise on Apple's “masterful” marketing of the iPhone but ended the column by announcing I didn't plan on buying one. Fast-forward a year. I'll own an iPhone 3G by the time you read this. I'm keen to drink the Apple Kool-Aid—joining what's expected to be 10 million or more people buying an iPhone this year. As a Windows (and Windows Mobile) guy my entire life, this is a pretty big deal. Devices of this ilk—which connect to fast networks and sport big, but-not-as-big-as-laptop screens—are changing how we consume content (advertisers and publishers, take note). Add a GPS chip (the iPhone 3G has one; its predecessor did not) and you enable a slew of location-aware mobile applications and services. At a minimum, marketers and publishers need to review their Web sites again, making sure they render properly on these mobile screens. A purchasing officer with a few minutes to do online research while waiting in an airport lounge will be looking at your Web site. Don't disappoint her. Then again, she may not be flying all that much in the coming months, dissuaded by high ticket prices, slashed routes and baggage fees charged by struggling airlines, which are confronting record fuel prices due to the cost of oil. But the carriers' problems go deeper, as contributing editor Mary E. Morrison reports in her page 1 story. Industry experts believe years of poor customer experiences predating the current oil crisis have weakened most airlines' brands over the years. An exception is plucky Southwest Airlines, which has been taking advantage of the industry's problems in its recent marketing. One Southwest ad plays off the carrier's tagline, saying: “You're now free to move about the country. And your bags are free, too.” Naturally, travel costs are an important factor in event marketing decisions. How marketers are adjusting their event strategies is the focus of our special report in this issue (beginning on page 31). Some show organizers note as much as a 10% decrease in attendance and higher than normal no-show or cancellation rates from attendees. On the other hand, local events are growing in popularity. “We are increasing smaller, targeted events, such as the local seminars where we gather 40 to 60 people from a metropolitan area,” Heidi Lorenzen, VP-corporate and international marketing at content management company Interwoven told BtoB contributor Erin Biba. Are air fares changing your business travel habits? Vote in the latest poll posted at BtoBonline.com. —————— Next month's column is my annual list of major marketing books published in the last 12 months. Taking a page, so to speak, from the Web 2.0 world, I want to open the column to input from BtoB readers. Send me an e-mail with your reading list. Or find me on Facebook, where I've started a discussion thread in the Visual Bookshelf application titled “Contribute to my August column: Books for marketers.” Ellis Booker is editor of BtoB and BtoB's Media Business. He can be reached at ebooker@crain.com.
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