Part Five of a five-part series, "Top 5 ways for Android to close the gap." See also:
1. Get Another Killer Phone to Market
2. Serve Up Some FroYo
3. Get Nexus One Into Stores
4. Make Android Entertaining!
5. Define A Killer App
BlackBerrys kill Email. iPhones kill Apps. Nokia N-Series devices killed Multimedia in their heyday. Windows Mobile killed MS Exchange access back when nobody else really did.
So what do Android phones kill?
Android does a lot, but I've yet to see a single ad or other piece of marketing that really defines what makes Android phones killer. Marketing is huge when it comes to selling consumer tech, and while "Droid Does" is nice and all, I really don't think the average consumer has any idea why he wants an Android phone. Until that happens, Google is not going to close the gap on BlackBerry, Apple and Microsoft in the battle for American smartphone market share.
Think about it - Everyone knows BlackBerry means Email. That's a no brainer. RIM's day in the sun may or may not have passed now that other smartphones do enterprise reasonably well, but everybody knows what BlackBerrys are all about, even if they've never used one (RIM's install base is so huge that even if they're on the decline, it'll be at least a few years before that base really erodes).
And everyone knows iPhone means entertainment. Even if you hate all things Apple and cringe every time you hear indie folk-pop, thanks to those iPhone ads on TV, the phrase "There's an app for that," is likely emblazoned on the surface of your brain for years to come.
So what about Android? Why doesn't the general phone buying public associate Android with a Killer App (or, Killer Feature)?
It's an important question to consider. When Google launched Google Maps with Navigation, the standalone GPS makers suffered at the hands of Wall Street. I figured we'd start seeing TV and Web ads touting this killer feature along the lines of, "Buy a smartphone, get a Turn-by-Turn GPS unit free." Did I miss the ad campaign? Seriously, maybe I did. If not, I have no idea why not: Free turn-by-turn voice navigation is a huge selling point, and was more or less Android's domain in the US (save for a few Nokias only available unlocked/off-contract in America).
Similarly, Speech-to-Text rocks on Android phones that support it. So why don't I see TV ads showing how cool, easy, efficient, and safe (please don't talk while you're driving, though) it is to command your Droid with your voice. I'd love to see an ad showing some totally together woman strutting down the street dictating text messages and tweets to her HTC Incredible via voice while a sea of bumbling iPhone/BlackBerry/Whatever users around her keep bumping into everything - lampposts, parked cars, one another - because they're walking head down while tapping away at their devices.
Or widgets and customizable home screens? HTC's kind of headed down that path with their current "You" campaign, but that's more about HTC as a brand than Android devices in particular. Why not get people to think "Information I WANT, not just a bunch of icons, right there on the home screen," when they think "Android"?
Maybe it's just me, but "A bare knuckled bucket of does," doesn't do much for me. It's negative, not positive - tell me what Android does that other devices don't, not just that it "does it all." Give me something very specific, and very cool, to associate with Android. Navigation, speech-to-text, widgets ... something! I really think that when people are able to word-associate on a product without even thinking about it, that product has a much better chance of selling.
Android? Um ... a bucket of knuckles?
I know it's not quite as easy to market Android as it is, say, iPhone because Android is an operating system deployed across multiple devices, and not an actual product that's for sale. Android's an open source OS that's skinned and tweaked and versioned umpteen different ways by manufacturers and carriers, as well, which makes it even harder to boil it down to a slick marketing slogan. But, hey, that's why big companies pay big ad agencies big bucks: To hammer brands and products into our collective consciousness.
Android does a ton of things really well. But outside of the hardcore enthusiasts, I really don't think folks quite know what to associate with Android - other than "Google," perhaps. And so long as you can Google from an iPhone, BlackBerry, or most any other phone, "Android means Google" ain't gonna be enough.
There's no lack of killer apps and features for Android devices. So pick a few, Google, and market the heck out of them. Actually, wait. Stick to engineering and hire an ad agency to do the marketing for you. Considering how quickly the whole, "We'll sell Nexus Ones ourselves!" experiment is going, maybe you should stay away from the whole retail marketing thing for awhile.