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What the ‘ell kind of brand does Ello think it’s building?

selloI awoke recently to an email with the news from the latest social media darling Ello, the startup that’s being called the Facebook killer, had converted to a Public Benefits Corporation . A Public Benefits Corporation (PBC) is new kind of for-profit entity that exists to produce a benefit for society as a whole. Regardless of whether or not you feel a social media site could actually be considered a public benefit, the move garnered a lot of media attention.  With Facebook’s recent privacy mis-steps, many welcome Ello’s arrival on the scene as the anti-Facebook. However, there are repercussions for building your brand, as Ello is doing, based heavily on ethical superiority.

To begin with, Ello’s email communication is anything but humble. The email, laced with a tone of smug hubris stated, “With virtually everybody else relying on ads to make money, some members of the tech elite are finding it hard to imagine there is a better way.” The email went of further to explain that “the Ello PBC charter states in the strongest legal terms possible” that: Ello shall never make money from selling ads, user data, or if sold the new owners would have to comply by these terms as well. The email concludes with, “There is a better way.”

Ello is implying that advertisement based business models are, by nature, morally inferior to their yet to be implemented add-on freemium model. However, this is a very simplistic and limited perspective on competing business models. There is nothing inherently deviant about an ad-based model. You could just as easily abuse selling add-on services to end users – for example by making them pay at every turn, as you could with ad-based based models. To say that one is superior over another is ignorant. To claim that yours is better could prove fatal.

While, in principle, its sounds good that Ello is taking a moral stance against the “evils” of ad based revenue models, they are doing so by claiming a non-existent moral high ground that their model somehow rises above it all. This is a position that no business can live up to over time.  The demographic that will have emotional loyalty to the Ello brand now based on that kind of sentiment will bring that same sort of criticality when evaluating Ello later.  One slip up in the eyes of their demographic, however slight, and those same users who love Ello today will judge them with the exact moral harshness that they are currently riding high on.  They will be crucified and loyalty in their service will quickly erode.

Ello isn’t the first company to endorse their brand from some sort of ethically superior position. A quick stroll down corporate memory lane shows the moral shrapnel of companies whose brand had a better than others sentiment attached to it. Google’s “don’t be evil” motto has been derided by many, including Eric Schmidt himself.  Whole Foods has also come under attack  for their glossing over the troubles of producing organic products.

While these brands and customers initially feel justified in their positions, they can quickly become mocked due to the untenable mix of perfect ethics and economic realities. The issue isn’t that they are attempting to operate ehically. Many companies do this and do it well. The issue is that they are developing their brand as somehow rising about others morally. They are betting too heavily upon their moral correctness.

The notion of a for profit business that is also a public benefit is a farce. For profit businesses are in business for just that, profit. Mistakes will be made, profits will drive decisions, and eventually your consumers will be disillusioned by your actions. Better to be humble than to shout to the world that you are better. Sure people will be drawn to you at first, but they will be the first to abandon you when you falter. No one is perfect and the backlash can be brutal.

Business and public benefit are at odds. From a short term perspective it may work. But as news departments of the major television networks, which were once considered a public beneft, found out over the last few decades that as the business climate changed, you need to turn a profit to survive. Business that succeed live by Darwinian rules of engagement. They Adapt or die. Business necessitates kill or be killed.  This is the reason that the non-profit designation exists. It is near impossible to create a for profit organization and serve the public at the same time.

Before you get wound around the axle and suggest I am advocating for a laissez faire approach to business ethics, I’m not. There is plenty of room for business ethics, just not as part of building your brand. You should stake your brand on what you do rather than how your business ethics are beyond reproach.  As it’s been said, pride goes before the fall; don’t let your brand take the road to ‘ell(o).


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Keynoting at Mastering SAP for Mobility in Melbourne Australia

I am excited to announce that I will be delivering the opening keynote, Monetizing Mobile – Mobile Strategy and Beyond, at the Mastering SAP for Mobility conference in Melbourne,  Australia September 19th 2013. Mastering SAP for Mobility features an international lineup of exciting speakers and mobile influencers discussing some of the most requested and challenging mobile topics of today. In addition to the opening keynote I will be leading one of the track sessions on the mobile app development cycle.

Check out the full agenda and register today to not miss out on this opportunity to hear from leaders in enterprise mobility as well as learn how to fully leverage mobility in your organization.

Here are the hot topics the conference will cover:

Creating the Mobility Strategy – the Business Case, the Project & Technology

Hear case studies of companies who have demonstrated cost comparison vs. cost benefitsUndertake a benefi t analysis – evaluating mobility as an investmentQuantifying the benefits and how it can be measured in dollarsTips and tricks to build a solid business case for investment into a Mobility strategyEnsure your mobility solutions fit into the Business & IT PlansConstantly align the business drivers with the solution – ensuring “Mobility drives business change”Implementing the best structures to drive the projectHear tried and tested approaches from successful companies already down the trackInvolving the projects, business roles and technology in the overall strategyEvaluate native, hybrid and HTML5 – what are their merits in meeting your business requirements?Hear from those who have chosen their vendors and consultants – how they evaluated their decision 

SAP Mobility & the Road Map

Understanding what SAP offers in the mobile space. How has the acquisition of Sybase and Syclo affected this and what is the roadmap for the future?What is SAP’s recommended deployment path and the costs and efforts involvedStandardised mobile asapps – what apps? What capability? What quality? Consumers used to a level of quality and interactivity, native vs. webThe development tools which are neededMaintenance across the SAP mobility landscape.

Effective Change Mgmt Strategies, Training & Support

Selling the system and gaining commitment and alignmentManagement buy-in generating top-down driveOvercoming fear of the system in the workforceBringing the business and IT closer together through an initiative that both are passionate aboutHow to handle changing a workforce that don’t (won’t) use smartphonesWho should support your mobility initiative, what skills are needed and how do you find them?Build a strategy to cope with the skills requirements and how to acquire themManaging the rapid training requirements of the changing technologySurviving the changing workforce issues of 24/7 availability and work/life balanceHow to support your mobility initiative, building the skills needed

Designing Your Native, Hybrid & HTML5 Mobile Apps

Understand which style of app makes sense for your organisation, the business case and your cheque bookEvaluating the various styles to build and develop a coherent mobile strategyEmbracing open source mobile technologiesHow SAP supports HTML5 frameworks like Sencha, Appcelerator and PhonegapBuilding into your team the skill sets necessary to produce and support these approaches 


Use SAP tools (SUP, Syclo, NetWeaver Gateway), 3rd party tools or custom developed tools for middleware between mobile application and back-end systemsOvercoming potential performance issues caused by having mobile apps talking to the back-end systemDealing with data synchronisation issues with modifications in the back-end system and by mobile applicationHow you integrate SAP mobile solutions with NFC/M2M/GIS technologiesHow to handle security of internal systems being accessed by external mobile applications

Security Management

Creating a robust security strategy, inclusive of safety, HR and privacy policies and connectivity issuesThe approaches for securing data and authenticating usersEnabling single sign on approvals across multiple appsReal examples from organisations who have overcome very sensitive information issuesConnecting back to your corporate network – the security layer you implement and still have ease of access

Communications Infrastructure & Device Management

An overview from case studies on the infrastructure hardware/software requiredUnderstanding what the investment in infrastructure could be – pricing and licensingManage the impact of the platform performance on device response/performanceExamining SAP offerings vs. partner offeringsThe impact of the Cloud 

Device Selection & Management

Device management – which tools are available – what you need to know about device compatibilityChoosing the right device(s) for corporate rolloutDevice Management software – hear what’s out there such as SAP Afaria (Sybase) and alternativesChange control for device software – change control applicationsManaging the issues around BYOD – what other companies have chosenSecurity issues arising from BYOD policies

Mobile Business Intelligence

Defining the value and purpose of mobile BI in the workplaceDeliver mobile experiences on SAP BW from simple no frill models to comprehensive mobile strategiesUnderstand the generic components of a mobile solutionSAP and 3rd party mobile BI technologiesExamining native, cross-platform native, hybrid and HTML5 application frameworks 


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You Need a Digital Detox (Trust Me)

How is your work/life balance? Do you feel like you are beholden to your mobile device? If you do, you might want to check out Bzur Haun ‘s latest piece, “You Need a Digital Detox” on You might be surprised to read my take on it.

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Mobile and Big Data – My Guess is Better Than Yours!

How is the enterprise of the future going to succeed? Businesses that take their queue from the creative use of mobile and Big Data demonstrated by retail organizations will not only crush their competition, but leave them wondering what magic is behind their success. Check out this week’s Mobile-Only post, Mobile and Big Data – The Enterprise Crystal Ball to learn why enterprises that adapt to deliver predictive results to employees via their mobile devices have a bright future ahead of them.

Benjamin Robbins is a Principal at Palador, a consulting firm that focuses on providing strategic guidance to enterprises in the areas of mobile strategy, policy, apps, and data. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

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Seek Peek – Galaxy Note II Just Arrived!

Here’s a teaser of the second gen phablet…more to come. Love it! Should be available in the states in a few weeks.



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Video Sneak Peek for the 9/19 Dell Webcast!

Be sure to register at:

September 19th at 1PM ET (10 AM PT)

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For Fun: Oh the Places You’ll Go with the Bzur Bow!

I figured since my buddy Bzur Haun (that’s Beee Zur like Geezer) is running around the country with his shiny new pink case that I’d finally watch that how-to-tie-a-bowtie video and take my parting prize for a spin. Bzur definitely wears it better!

In case you missed it -My convo with Bzur in the offices of Visage Mobile in San Francisco- Bzur and Benjamin talk fun and phablets

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