Categorized | seriously dumb

How not to do an iPhone app

Amp iPhone app screen shot
Doug Liman does app marketing. Click a girl, like Rebound Girl, and Pepsi’s “Amp Up Before You Score” app gives you advice on how to score with that “type” of girl. If you succeed in bedding the girl (for real), you can add “Rebound Girl” to your “Brag List.”

Pepsi, for some reason, decides that a sexist, stereotyping iPhone app that “gives” users pick-up lines for a couple dozen “types” of women, such as “cougars” and “nerds” is a good idea. Users select a “type” of girl, like “Sorority Girl,” and they’re given guidelines on how to “score” with that type and add it to a “brag” list. Now, I grant you, the hyper-caffeinated crud they’re marketing, Amp, is not targetted at folks who have found a use for their central nervous system, but when is it ever a good idea to insult 50% of the U.S. population and a sizable portion of the other half? In an era of social networking, texting, and Twitter?

And just in case you thought these guys at Pepsi belong to that portion of the population that has found a use for their central nervous system, these geniuses named the app, “Amp Up Before You Score.” I’d love to have been a fly on the wall at that marketing meeting with the Harvard MBA VPs.

I have a notebook filled with marketing mishaps and what always amazes me is that this stuff has to go through several layers of decision-makers, from the ad agency to the global corporation — including lawyers. Pepsi is currently hauling ass apologizing for this meat market mistake right now, but where was their good sense when the app was making the rounds among executive decision-makers? Did the decision-making end at the VPs of Dumb?

Think about it. Not only did the idea have to make its rounds, someone had to do the work to program the thing. For instance, in its advice on picking up “Rebound Girl,” the app will display all the ice cream stores in a 10 mile radius from where you are. I mean, that takes work to put together! Didn’t somebody say, “Uh, hey guys, umm, are you sure?”

A good rule of thumb in branding is that it’s never a good idea to build a brand by offending or annoying people. You can do it, don’t get me wrong. There are no absolute rules in branding, as I proved in my multi-post review of Al Ries’ The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding. But building a brand by annoying and offending people is like swimming upstream — you just make it more difficult to build the brand. Real creativity, in the words of catalog uber-expert Carol Worthington-Levy, is not swimming against the current, it’s building a motorboat and racing with the current ahead of all your competitors.

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