Monthly Archives: April 2009

This USB Drive will Self-Destruct in …

USB Lock

Imagine this scenario, you are a top-of-the-line USB manufacturer. A client comes to you to order some USB drives for an event they are having. It’s an invite-only, red-carpet gala (slash) product launch. A Manhattan hotel, celebrities, a keynote. Each flash drive is a completely custom piece made out of virgin Finnish birch with a heat stamped logo and a rope lanyard made out of genuine bull hide leather.

Three months later … the product is a complete failure, the company is out of money, and this order was bought with a PO with net 30 terms.

This, of course, is a fictional scenario, but these types of situations do happen, lately more then ever before. What do you do? The client has the product and you’re out of money. Well, I have a solution. Each flash drive sold, contains a tiny wireless microchip that can be accessed via satellite. It allows you to “shut off” the drive, literally. A 64GB flash drive can be easily turned into a useless dog’s chew toy, just with a click of a button (or two). Customer doesn’t pay you – you turn off the drives. Client does a charge back and doesn’t want to return your stock – you turn off the drives. Then, there is the other function. Instead of turning the drives off, you can pop-up an advertisement. When the drive is plugged in, user gets a message – “Thank you for using a CustomUSB Flash Drive. Click HERE to get some of your own.”

Ok, I’m way ahead of the game. This product does not exist yet. But if I was to build software for USB drives, I’d look into this.

Image Credit: dialog5

Novembers Doom USB Music Press Kit

Novembers Doom Spin USB Drives

Novembers Doom is a local (Chicago) metal band that is signed to The End Records. They are quickly gaining popularity throughout US and Europe (especially Belgium). To get endorsement deals from music equipment companies, they are sending out some pre-loaded Spin Drives that contain samples from their albums.

Their logo and signage are etched into the black metal casing to form a permanent impression. The body of the drive is black as well – a perfect look for a hit metal band.

Beta Records and Custom USB at MUSEXPO 2009

Beta Records and CustomUSB at MUSEXPO 2009

BETA Records is well known in the music community as the place to go to find unsigned artists and indie labels. The first time we worked with Chris Honetschlaeger (president of BETA) was in 2004. Back then, he contacted us in search of help to promote his still new website. That order was for 1000 DE drives with a printed logo and a pre-loaded flash video.

Earlier this year, I ran into Chris at the Urban Network Music Summit. We were on the same panel – Social Media (Penetrating Social Networks). There, I also met Jycorri from Warner Bros. and Roslynn from MySpace and Charles from Ning.

Chris got back to me after the summit and said that he wanted to partner up for the next event – MUSEXPO 2009. We agreed.

The result was an order for 1000 custom colored Spin drives, printed with a BETA Records logo on one side and CustomUSB logo on the other. Each drive was also pre-loaded with a flash video linking to Chris’s new venture – BETA Records TV.

For more information about MUSEXPO 2009 go HERE.

Kane Consulting Social Media Bootcamp

Kane Consulting Custom USB Co-Branded USB Drives

Jennifer from Kane Consulting is a long-time customer of mine. For the past two years she had ordered our DE style USB drives for MIMA (Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association). This time, things were a little different.

On April 24th, 2009, Kane Consulting is hosting a conference – Social Media 101: A Beginner Bootcamp. The event is being held at Aloft Minneapolis (part of Starwood Hotels & Resorts – also our good customer).

Each attendee with receive a custom colored Spin drive, pre-loaded with social media essentials – Facebook, Blogging, and Twitter resources. Our logo was printed on the other side (we help our customers cover some of the costs if we co-brand).

Contact Kane Consulting for more information about the event.

Flash Prices are Going Up – Thanks Apple

NAND Flash Price Increase

Prices have been steadily rising since late January and now we (everyone in the flash market) are facing another increase. Apple recently announced that it’s starting development on a 32GB iPhone. It also made a bulk purchase of 100 million 8GB flash chips, which pretty much drained the market, causing a significant shortage. It is still too early to tell how long prices will stay up, or how high they will go. I’ll keep posting updates.

See additional links below.

Chipsbank, USBest, Downgraded Flash and the Truth About USB Controller Chip Quality

Chipsbank USB Controller Chips

Earlier this week, I received an email from a Chinese USB drive manufacturer asking us if we wanted to use him as a vendor. While the answer was “no, thank you,” his email still got my attention. It contained an attachment – a PDF document titled “Truth for Crazy Low Price in Market.” I was curious enough to open it and read through the broken English. Here are the contents of the document (with proper English).

Present Situation

  • Samsung, Toshiba, and most other NAND Flash manufacturers lost a lot of money in flash production in 2008, due to an oversupply of chips into the open market.
  • This resulted in lowest prices of all times for USB drives sold in November, December, and January. During this time, a fully assembled USB Drive (PCBA, USB connector, controller chip, flash chip, and casing) cost less than a pre-sliced wafer used to create flash ships. This is unheard of. Think of it as buying a car for less than what an engine costs you.
  • The oversupply of chips (or wafers used for making chips) resulted in what is called “downgraded” flash.

What is Downgraded Flash?

  • Downgraded flash chips are scraps from NAND Flash wafers that did not pass quality standards. Think of it as McDonald’s chicken nuggets – leftovers of old chicken meat blended together and deep fried (mmm, tasty).
  • Downgraded flash chips have a very high failure rate. They may also corrupt your files and freeze your operating system.

Controller Chips

  • Controller chip is the smaller chip (compared to the larger chip – NAND Flash) on a USB PC board. It is responsible for formatting, partitioning, auto-run, and many other functions associated with USB Drive use. NAND Flash chip is simply storage memory.
  • There are 4 main brands of controllers – Chipsbank, USBest, SMI (Silicon Motion), and Alcor Micro.
  • SMI is the largest supplier of controller chips. They are nice quality chips, yet, in our experience, have not worked properly for specialized applications (medical devices, exercise machine data storage, audio streaming machines).
  • USBest has consistently been the best quality chipset. It has performed well across the board, with very low failure rate, as well as worked for specific applications I described above. If you need something quality – BUY USBEST.
  • Alcor Micro is very similar to SMI – quality made, low failure rate, may not work for specialized applications.
  • Chipsbank has proven to be the worst. They are the least expensive, have the highest failure rate and are constantly showing up as downgraded flash. If you are getting a price that seems too good to be true, you are probably being sold on Chipsbank.

To Review

  • Stay away from Chipsbank.
  • Buy from qualified, preferably US based suppliers.
  • Ask about warranty, RMA processes, QC processes, and get references.
  • Don’t search for the cheapest price, search for the best value.

USB Drives in Custom Pantone Colors

USB in Custom Colors

As an FYI, we can custom color match any (most, any if the quantity is right) of our USB drives. We use Pantone Matching System to paint the body of the drive in a specific color. Paint finish can be glossy or matte (rubber paint).

Now that I think about it, we can 2-tone paint any drive that is assembled from 2 pieces – like our DE drive. For instance, the bottom side can be red (PMS 186) and top side can be dark gray (PMS 426). Cap is one piece, so you would have to make a choice. Logo can be printed in white.

We haven’t done this yet, so you can be the first, the innovative, the remarkable [].

L’Oreal (real lipstick) USB Drives

Loreal Lipstick USB Drive

L’Oreal has been helping women embrace beautify for over 100 years, and for their 100 year celebration, they combined their core product with our core product. Behold, the  Custom USB L’Oreal Lipstick.

In early March, Custom USB received a package. Sent directly from the L’Oreal factory, the box contained 500 empty lipstick cases. We were to use the same cases they use for their signature lipsticks and insert our MicroKey USB drives into them. One by one, with strict precision, each Lipstick USB drive was hand-made, hand-tested, and hand-pre-loaded with a video recapping 100 years of exceptional products and services.

I just love success stories.

Using USB Drives to Release Music or the Power of Proper Context

Erykah Badu New Amerykah USB Drives

I spoke with the director of product development at Universal Music Group today. We had an hour long conversation about the state of the music industry, specifically when it comes down to using USB drives in live concert recordings and release of USB music albums. Here’s what can be deducted from our discussion.

What is attention worth? Every day I get people (both in the music biz and not) that try to compare the cost of USB drives to CD’s. The fact is, USB drives will never get close to the cost of CD’s – flash memory costs more as well as the cost of other electronic components plus the fact flash drives are reusable. There is just so much more built into a USB drive that you don’t get with a CD. The bottom line is, if all of these value-added attributes are of no value to you, stick with CD’s. If you have no budget, stick with CD’s. If you want to stay boring, stick with CD’s.

On the other had, and especially when it comes to the music industry, I think everyone has gotten tired of the guy on the corner passing out his CD demos. There are too many things in front of our eyes that beg for our attention as is , everything that’s not new and different is invisible. This is where USB drives come into play.

I have plenty of clients (like Chester Wilson and Thr3efourteen of Mega Beat International) who go to conferences and conventions and build a contact list of people they want to work with. The first time I met Chester (at a dental convention in Chicago – YES, he is also a dentist) he did not know what pre-loading was (if you don’t know, look it up – HERE). Now, he gets drives for every event he goes to (not to mention, gives my name to everyone he meets). Because he was able to grab attention of the right people he now works with Rick Ross, Trick Daddy, and is about to make a soundtrack for a motion picture. Don’t get me wrong, Chester and Thr3efourteen are good at what they do, but a lot of times that’s not enough, you still need to get noticed.

The second thing we discussed, was live concert recordings. While this sounds like a good idea at first, it’s a tough gig to get into. Think of who is involved in putting together a live performance – the artist, his manager, the label, the venue, not to mention the people that hold the rights to the music. Try getting all of them to agree on the same thing, let alonegive up commissionable rights to live performance sales.

Bottom line, the USB music idea works perfectly when done in the right context. I mentioned this before, but it’s worth repeating. The music is not the product, the artist is. USB drives (and other merch/specialty products) help reinforce the identity of a well-known artist. They are souvenirs of the experience the fans take part of. In this lies value. For some, this is a completely different way of thinking about what they do and how they do it. For others (like Radiohead, Mars Volta, and Lamb of God) it is a well aligned mechanism for building brand equity. Either way you look at it, it’s all about proper context.

Photo Credit: Kyle Baker

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