Nova Scotia Pomegranate Phone: Great Viral, but is it effective?

A phone that translates what you say into any language? It comes with a built-in mini projector for presentations and movies? It also doubles as a harmonica?

That’s where the features of the Pomegranate Phone start to draw skepticism from people. But the features that follow leave no doubt that this is a gag-ad. The ad showcases the phone as a personal shaver and mobile personal coffee brewer.

Thus begins Nova Scotia’s latest, slickest, and most expensive endeavour into using new media and social networking to pass the message of the ‘Come To Life‘ campaign to their unsuspecting target market. The viral campaign peddles this ‘it does everything’ phone with all the might that a $300K advertising budget can provide. Yet it seems that the jury is still out on the effectiveness of this campaign.

Visit the website by clicking the image below. Or see the videos below.

The campaign was produced by Bristol Group, Egg Films/Hatch, and Breathe Media.

  • Art Director: Dan Couto
  • Copy writer/creative director: Albert Ianni
  • Production Manager: Collette Snow
  • Designers: Andrew Grantham, Michael Gatto
  • Internal Programmer: Melissa Castle
  • External programmers/designers: Breathe Media
  • Production/Post: Egg Films/Hatch Post
  • Actors/Models: Christopher Killam, Lita Lewellen, John Beale, Laura Bleasdale, Andrea Wilson, Pasha, ?Others?

Synopsis:

The impossible-made-possible features of this phone are not so far fetched. In early 2007, I reviewed a new product by an Israel-based technology company that produced a pocket projector device not unlike the built-in fantasy projector showcased for the Pom. The Explay Nano Projector is effectively the world’s smallest consumer projector and was planned to launch to market in 2008. The company was working on providing the technology as OEM for cell phone and camera manufacturers to incorporate into future devices. Click picture below to visit their website.

Similarly, the voice translation function currently exists, though the technology is not fit for seamless speech recognition yet (only phrase by phrase). Devices combining voice recognition and translation software are a dime a dozen. A simple speech-to-speech voice recognition translator can be bought from Ectaco for a little under $400 CDN. The software itself is available for installation on smart phones.

Last but not least, a hybrid musical instrument phone was recently launched by Japan’s Kddi in collaboration with Yamaha. See my review of this technology here. It can be played as a harmonica, trumpet, flute, and various other instruments.

The campaign can be said to have three components:

  • The medium
  • The message
  • The actual product it peddles.

The Medium:

A great viral campaign by Bristol, Hatch, and Breathe. World class, really. It achieves the desired effect of getting people to pass around the url to give their friends and colleagues a quick chuckle. The campaign was implemented in Boston, Toronto, Calgary, and Ottawa. On Tuesday of last week, 200 pomegranates (the fruit, not the phone) containing the url (pomegranatephone.com) were passed around to people by street teams in Boston, Ottawa, and Toronto during their morning commute.

Yet, there appears to be a disconnect from the Pom site and the site containing the client’s message. It’s as if two different companies were hired, one for the flashy viral campaign, and another for the Come To Life mini-site.

The Message:

Here is where it gets tricky. Critics of this campaign point to how the message is hard to locate in this viral. Even when you do get to the mini-site containing the video clips that are meant to pitch Nova Scotia to the target market, there appears to be a disconnect between the demographic target of the videos and the demographic target of the Pom’s viral.

The Pom’s viral appeals to a tech-savvy younger demographic that spends a lot of time on the internet and enjoys passing around virals. Other demographics that spend a lot of time on the internet and pass around junk mail and viral videos are employees, stay at home parents, and teenagers without much to do.

Yet, Bristol notes that the key demographic they are after is “influencers and business leaders in key markets”, a group that usually stays on top of trends and the latest in technology.

Bristol is correct in that influencers and business leaders stay on top of technology and trends. However, perhaps a fatal flaw here is that the Pom phone is neither a new technology nor a trend, so it would be of little interest to business leaders to visit the site or forward to their contacts. It is just a gag site, and we have already established who is attracted to gag sites. Leaders and influencers are too busy leading and influencing to spend time checking out gag sites.

So, ultimately, the main visitors that ended up on the site were teenagers from around the world, and expat young professionals who out-migrated from Nova Scotia seeking opportunities in other Canadian or international cities. They clicked, they chuckled, some sent it to their friends.

Some followed the viral into the Nova Scotia Come To Life message, and were disappointed. The video testimonials mainly showcase entrepreneurs, doctors, and enterprises. No representative age group was showcased doing the things these expats fled the province to do elsewhere. This brings us to the third and final component of this campaign.

The product:

Regardless of how flashy the packaging is, the sale ultimately relies on the product itself. Does the product deliver as advertised? Is it reliable? Ultimately, the expat demographic left Nova Scotia for a reason. They are aware of the challenges, and are in touch with the motherland enough to know if these challenges have been overcome by the province/city or not.

So, you want people to ‘Come To Life’ in Nova Scotia? Many believe all Nova Scotia has to do is actually provide the product they are peddling, not just market a false image with pretty packaging and slick marketing. What if HRM City Council actually spent time implementing this fantastic 5-year Economic Strategy they came up with in 2005?

I will leave you with this MSN conversation between me and one such expat that might shed light on what I mean (look! He is using technology too!)

Jeff Lohnes graduated from Saint Mary’s University with an excellent record in student leadership and community involvement. Shortly after, he left for Toronto, where he currently works for the National Speakers Bureau as a Youth Market specialist.

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Issmat A.

(33) Readers Comments

  1. how much does the pomegranate cost and what phone company does it use like at&t? verizon? sprint?

  2. You’re kidding, right?

  3. Thank you for your insightful post. It is great to read about the Pomegranate phone campaign from the perspective of a Nova Scotian. You made several interesting points about the target market, and your discussion on the not-too-far-fetched technologies introduced by the fictional phone is very interesting.

    Adding to what you said about the message being hard to locate in this viral (which ultimately landed me at your blog), I was slightly confused with what the website was trying to do when I first saw it. My friend sent me a link to the Pom site, and I was duped into believing it was a website showcasing and promoting a new phone (at this point I had only glanced at the website and saw the projector feature without looking at the rest of the features). However, as I continued browsing and saw the coffee maker and shaver, I knew that the product wasn’t real, and at that point I didn’t know how to continue. I felt kind of cheated and I just closed the tab and decided to see what others were saying about this website (I wanted to find out what kind of joke this was). I completely missed the mini-site that you talked about here. So in effect, the message they were trying to get across to the young and tech-savvy was completely missed by me.

    You said earlier that “there appears to be a disconnect from the Pom site and the site containing the client’s message” and focused on the visual design of the 2 different sections of the site. However, I believe that in terms of flow (where navigating the site is concerned), there is a disconnect as well. As in my experience just described earlier, there is no guarantee that the viewer will get from the design-savvy fake phone promotion to the actual Nova Scotia promotion.

    With that said, I am interested in any insight you may have of how Nova Scotia could have approached this campaign. Clearly, they failed in many ways to sell themselves to influencers and business leaders (and even NS expatriates) by 1) marketing a non-existent product, and 2) failing to attract prospective young professionals through the Come to Life message. You argued that NS would do better “actually provid[ing] the product they are peddling” — any further ideas of what that product could be?

  4. Hi Syl,

    Thanks for visiting the blog and for your comment. Now that I read my statements again, I can see how I wasn’t clear by what I meant by ‘product’.

    The product I suggested Nova Scotia should offer is not the Pom phone. The product that Nova Scotia is selling with this ad/campaign is an ‘image’ or a ‘feeling’ of the province of Nova Scotia that is meant to convince the targets of the campaign to consider returning/moving to Nova Scotia to work, live, invest, etc.

    So, as with any physical product, the success in imparting this ‘image’ relies on the real competitive advantage and the value the product offers to potential ‘customers’ that will convince them to buy this product instead of the competition’s product (in this case, the competition being other cities/countries).

    In other words, if I had a 40-year-old house with a mold problem, I can slap the best coat of paint money can buy on the outside of the house, but it still won’t convince anyone to buy it. I can advertise the house and include big colorful pictures of the spacious garage and the waterside view from the bedroom, and still no one will buy it.

    So, to sell the house, what I really have to do is fix the mold problem. Then I will have a truly competitive product for sale, and I will have good footing to make my case about the true value of my house with its nice big garage and ocean-facing master bedroom with the large windows and balcony.

    Nova Scotia is trying to combat an existing image of the province as an old fashioned, non-progressive, and jobless place to live. This is our ‘mold’ inside the house.

    That’s why I suggested that good economic initiatives are probably a good place to start where the province can actually create the real changes necessary to make this a vibrant, successful, and progressive place. A place that is desirable and attractive to the people they are trying to sell it to. A place with an ocean view master bedroom, and free of hazardous mold.

    People already know about Nova Scotia’s mold, and those who don’t know will ask around and find out. So, perhaps a better way to make the case for our house is to actually acknowledge the mold problem in the ad, and offer a pitch that addresses it.

    Here is one suggestion that probably has a better chance at selling the house: the ad for my beautiful (yet moldy) house can say “Great house, large garage, master bedroom looking out on ocean front.” then, when people call to inquire, tell them “There was a leak in the pipes under the kitchen floor boards that resulted in mold. We have put a call in to our contractor and a health inspector. The boards will be replaced and the kitchen redone and inspected before you move in. You’re really going to like the ocean view!”

    Of course, we’ll actually have to deliver on those promises and show the potential buyers proof that work is being done on the kitchen before they sign any papers. Otherwise, I’ll be back advertising the house until my money runs out. :)

    Is that over-analogizing or what?

    • Hi Ismat,

      Just wanna ask you that a technology which company wants to sell has created some kind of need to have it…
      It’s better to cater the need and get the right price out of it than giving same idea to other people and waiting them to come up with some thing similar in the market which will reduce the need for it and creates more competition for company. Is it right…..????

  5. Haha, by no means. Thank you for the complete break down — it served well in educating me. :) I previously had no knowledge of the reputation Nova Scotia carries, but now that you made mention of its old-fashioned and non-progressive image, it definitely makes more sense to me what they are going for and I can more clearly see what you are arguing for. Thank you for taking the time to explain it to me!

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  9. I just bought a pomegranate. It’s fantastic! The coffee brewer doesn’t work too well, it’s OKAY but what the heck. I hope the next version includes a tazer as well for security… and pepper spray. Yes, that’ll be nice. Are the pomegranate folks listening?

  10. Thanks for writing this up. I actually very much like the campaign, but then again, I’ve never been anywhere near Nova Scotia, so I don’t know what promises it can and can’t keep. Some of how people react to the viral may depend on how they get the link. If someone sends it to them claiming it’s a real product, they may be disappointed. But, if they know it’s a viral going in, they may just enjoy exploring a well-executed site with a humorous concept.

  11. Hi Issmat

    A former colleague who lives in Brazil sent me the link to pomegranate.com. Since I live in the States, I saw it in my inbox at 11 at night. I clicked on it and thought…this is mildly interesting, but not terribly original or innovative. So I went to bed thinking my friend had lost his mojo.

    After I rubbed the sleep from my eyes this morning, I clicked the link again. Oh, now I get it. They’re making fun of technology. But there must be something more to it than that, or why would a talented interactive CD pass it along to me?

    Hey, what’s this little Release Date link? Let me click it and see…oh, now I get it! It’s a viral marketing gateway to Nova Scotia! How cool is that?!

    Um, wait a minute…what does a remote island with one city and a beautiful but economically challenged landscape have to do with a pretend cellphone? And how was this viral marketing distributed, and who was its intended audience?

    Thanks for your cogent analysis of the how a great idea can be let down by a flawed strategy. And your analogy of the moldy house is brilliant. I live in a beautiful part of the smallest state in America, Rhode Island, which tries to present itself like Nova Scotia as a dynamic incubator of innovative companies that get the whole work/life balance thing. But the reality is I have to drive 170 miles a day, four days a week, to work at a company that can actually provide decent opportunities for a creaky marketing professional like myself.

    Sorry for rambling, but thank you for giving me the entire story behind this campaign. The timing is perfect…I gave a brief presentation this week of a site I saw that I linked to via a banner ad on the New York Times about a female polygamist. The eventual site was a very cool interactive guide to Europe and packages to get there. But everybody in the room had the same question: What in the world does a female polygamist have to do with European travel?

    http://www.coolcapitals.com/francine/#/video-report

    Thanks for this fascinating and useful thread. A great reminder that a brilliant idea is useless unless it’s combined with a rock-solid strategy and a flawless execution.

  12. You’re welcome and thanks for your comment and insights, Peter! Sorry I couldn’t respond any earlier. I have been on vacation for the last 3 weeks.

  13. Clever! It’s apparently effective since they now (01/2009) have online ads supporting the site.

    Check it out:

    Pomegranate “Where No Phone Has Gone Before” 300×250

    ps – Here’s the European campaign that Peter mentioned:

    CoolCapitals.com “5 Husbands” 300×250

  14. Thank you,

    very good and interesting review about the Nova Scotia viral. Posted a link about your review on my blog.

    Kind Regards,
    Sander Westerduin

  15. First off: I liked the gimmick, and I appreciated that Nova Scotia used it to put themselves on the international map. From a usability perspective the app was way too slow to load for a joke. I wonder, of those 560K hits, did any of them actually watch the site, or leave in frustration after the loading bar hung at 30%? Fortunately for me, I’m a forgiving cell phone enthusiast, and would really have loved one of these HD projection phones–now how do I hook up my 7.1 speakers? LOL!

    Kudos to your friend Jeff who gave direct comments as to how to make the site action-oriented. Job prospects, investment opportunities, tourist invitations, etc. all go a long way to creating conversion. His comment in your IM about “wanting to see some urban businesses” is on the money.

    At the same time I’m reminded of a story of two shoe salesmen who went to a tribal community, let’s say in Africa, back in the 1950s. They both landed in different parts of the island, and saw that everyone was barefoot.

    One sent a telegram to head office: “Hopeless cause. This community runs barefoot. Heading home. STOP.”

    The other radioed head office, excitedly: “Wonderful opportunity! Triple our shipment–these people don’t have any shoes!!!”

    Perhaps we young urban folk need to see the opportunity in NS and start something. But then what would “urbanizing” NS do to the existing community whose style we all know and love?

  16. Beautiful production. I’m in a REALLY bad mood, but it had me laughing out loud! But effective? I’m sorry, but no. When I finally clicked through to Nova Scotia, I just laughed some more. I’d been set up for a gag, and assumed Nova Scotia was there to be laughed at. So a wonderful concept was utterly wasted – perhaps if the product were Wii or iPod, even Zune, anyway something that would be a natural follow up to the Pom, it might have worked. Someone should be losing his job over this one.
    (BTW – I do not belong to the teen-slacker demographic)

  17. Agree with Andrew – great production, but totally lost. Did not hit the mark. Pity

  18. Issmat, Thank You for the great explaination of the campain. I live in Kansas and heard about the phone on the radio (NPR) a few times today. Unfortunatly, I didn’t catch the whole story as I was in and out. I heard enough to make me research the story during dinner which lead me to your blog. I haven’t seen the actual site yet. I am not sure if I woul be interested in Novia Scotia or a cell phone like the Pomegranate but, I do carry a Victorinox Swiss Army Knife. I love quirky advertising, especially if it works. Thanks again and all the best to you and yours !! Have Fun!! Sam

  19. Thanks for your comments, everyone.

    By the way, it looks like 3M invented a pocket projector engine that AIPTEK is now using commercially in the first consumer pocket projector on the market. See their ad below.

    http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=9hBFqBMR2mE

    The Pom Phone isn’t that far off after all!

  20. I’m still coming across this link in message boards and on blogs. I make sure to mention the NS connection where I find the link, as I’m sure do many of the Pom viewers who have made it to the yolk of the easter egg.

    I also re-play a few of the vids when I see the link pop up somewhere new… Electric shaver… too awesome. Given the amount of local work created by the ad (NSCC, local band Windom Earle, etc..) the price tag was not as steep a figure as it might have first seemed.

  21. i feel cheated, for a moment i thought we technologically skipped 100 years. Now i see NS as an abnoxious place i will never visit or feel comfortable in. Deceptions has its limits even if great creativity is put into it.

  22. how much is the pomegranate phone?

  23. To all those asking ‘how much is the pomegranate phone’:

    you either didn’t get past the first paragraph of this article, or you are on the campaign team trying to perpetuate a phantom conversation about a phone because you somehow decided that the measure of your campaign’s success is the number of hits the pom phone site gets instead of how many people are seriously considering to move/invest in Nova Scotia because of it.

    Either way, stop it.

  24. wow was my previous comment so anti NS that u had to delete it issmat??

  25. Oops! My apologies, Enmanuelle. Your comment must have been accidentally deleted when I migrated the blog from WordPress.com to this new site. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. Now I’ll have to go through the comment count on the old blog and check if other comments from other posts fell through the cracks.

    Fortunately, I still have your comment in my email, so I’ve been able to restore it manually.

  26. very well written article. I was shocked that Nova Scotia’s tax payer money went into designing this campaign. I have read that about $300,000 of tax payers money was spent on this campaing.

    Viral marketing is a good thing but its been used very worng and not conveying the real message at the end.

  27. I can assure you no one from the “campaign team” is posting any queries about the phone on your blog Issmat. As for “decided that the measure of your campaign’s success by the number of hits the pom phone site gets,” the Come to life initiative is about updating perceptions of the province, and so success is not measured by moves/investments in Nova Scotia.

  28. My apologies, Jeff, for unintentionally sounding too harsh in my response to the repeated “how much is..” or “where can I buy…” pom-phone questions. Glad to know it’s not people from the campaign.

    To give you an idea of how popular this question is, Google Analytics shows that (in the last month alone) about 15% of all pom-phone related visits to this blog are from people searching for how to buy it or how much it costs. This number was higher during the early days of the campaign.

    Yet, if those are legit questions from arguably oblivious people, then I’m sure you understand why it would be reasonable for some people to suggest that there is something amiss in this campaign and/or the clarity of the message.

    Once again, the viral is great, execution even better. I heard of at least one American college professor who showcased the site and videos in animation classes as an example of good flash design.

    I hope no one at Come To Life is taking offense to some of the remarks on this or other online forums and blogs. These are simply public opinions from readers inside and outside Nova Scotia.

  29. Sometimes you need to take a risk and try different approaches, and that’s how I see this viral campaign.

    The campaign is by no means perfectly executed and it’s not going to appeal to everyone. I also appreciate the view that the tactic doesn’t perfectly fit the target audience.

    Few campaigns are flawless… and a government led campaign is an easy target for criticism.

    I am one of the expats referred to in this piece. I do think it’s refreshing to see the province try to reach out in an innovative way to attract attention and influence perception. I had forwarded this on to some of my business colleagues, which actually stirred some conservations around Nova Scotia, what does it offer, what’s the economy like, etc. Inspiring these kind of conversations isn’t a bad thing.

    We tend to stay with the tried and true when devising marketing campaigns. That’s okay. I believe you should devote the bulk of your budget to what’s proven. But you should also be willing to experiment and take a risk with unproven approaches. Perhaps put 60% towards what’s proven… and 30% to unproven, with the remainder going to measurement/research.

    I don’t fault those behind this campaign in daring to try something different.

    Also, I’m hesitant to slam a campaign until I’ve seen the data for myself… how many visitors, who those visitors were, the nature of any inquiries or feedback, etc. I’m more interested in what the campaign is tracking and how they’re learning from this effort.

    As for suggestions that this campaign was “deceptive,” I think it’s an extreme position to take and a harsh judgment. We live in a world in which we should applaud creativity. This campaign isn’t about deception, intentional or unintentional; it’s about trying to share a simple message — that Nova Scotia has a lot to offer as a place to live, work and play.

    Was the message perfectly delivered? Clearly not. But I applaud the imagination and the risk. I hope we learn from the campaign and continue to try other innovative ways to reach key target audiences.

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  31. Don’t make me think. — Steve Krug, usability expert

  32. سلام ببخشید میشه قیمت این کوشی رو واسم بفرسین؟
    Thanks

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