Seems like any company with a strong brand and customer base can be a hardware vendor. Hot on the heels of Amazon apparently launching its own tablet, clothing retailer Next is quietly offering a cut-price iPad wannabe.

Amazon has form with the brilliant Kindle eBook but Next has come a little out of left field. It’s all thanks to Android of course, the iPad-baiting open source OS that’s garnering millions of fans and users around the world.

Android’s modus operandi is the opposite to Apple. Android thrives on anyone and everyone playing with it whereas Apple thrives on being a closed shop,  locking users into its hardware, software, content and payment platforms.

Personally I think it’s a stroke of genius. The price point (£180) is massively undercutting the iPad as well as the sprinkling of Android tablets already announced by the bigger technology companies. Next customers get access to a global community of content as well as a (hopefully) decent device for enjoying media. Next gets the kudos of playing in the tablet market and, if it’s smart, a channel through which to pump content and hopefully generate sales. On this point, Next launched its own iPhone app back in February, and you can bet that feedback from that experience led to the development of its own tablet.

It makes you think who else could enter the tablet market. Banks, motoring organisations, football clubs, in fact any brand, company or organisation that has a decent brand, customer loyalty and a sales channel to get the product to market.

So, outside of the big tech hardware vendors, any guesses as to who will be next?

@paulwooding1973

Festival season is about to kick off and while wellies and wet wipes are flying off the shelves, brands are adding the finishing touches to corporate sponsorship, sales promotions and experiential marketing activities.

Festivals have become synonymous with brands over the past five years or so. Set on captivating the more technologically savvy, informed and trendy Generation Y, festivals present a unique opportunity to engage with this audience. But with many brands playing a similar game and sharing a strong desire to be present, many miss the point of engagement and turn their presence into nothing more than a badging exercise which doesn’t bode well for festival-goers. On a commercial level it also begs the question as to whether the investment is really worth it?

Festival commercialism has always been a touchy subject for music lovers. Set on the view that festivals should be all about the music, cynicism has often arisen around disconnected brand alignments and perceived fake sentiment which can leave a sour taste in consumers’ mouths. Finding a balance is important as brand overkill without a clear purpose, value or audience benefit just isn’t going to fit the bill. This is where I think technology brands have a unique advantage due to their potential to connect on a more emotional level with an audience compared to the average drinks brand, for instance, and provide greater value through a more integrated experience.

Orange, for example, has constantly built on its Chill ‘n’ Charge tent idea at Glastonbury ever since its launch in 2002. Each year it has given its constantly connected audience the power to stay in touch with friends by providing free mobile phone charging facilities, downloadable apps to locate your friends and tent and free broadband services to enable users to upload and share photos online. imageThis year it has boosted its green credentials, another issue close to the hearts of Generation Y, through the launch its eco-friendly mobile phone charging prototype – Orange Power Wellies. The brand has also continued to build on its music credentials outside festival season through its Orange Rock Corps initiative.

To avoid homogenisation and potential negative sentiment, brands need to think more creatively about audience engagement and steer away from strategies of brash visibility and quick wins. To make the most of the investment they should consider the potential of creating more long-term relationships with audiences and find new ways of connecting on another level which strikes an emotional cord too.

N.B. Although Orange is a client of Edelman, we do not work on the Chill ‘n’ Charge project mentioned above.

@LucyDesaDavies