Winner For Most-Creepy Online Ad Ever

On the left is what you see when the ad loads, on the right is what you see when the ad loads. Dermitage, you’ve officially made the most creepy ad I’ve ever seen. What kind of marketing executive would approve something so…bizarre?

(and yeah, it bothers me that the ad on the right is one pixel shorter than the one on the left)

Charities Alienating Supporters: I’m Mad at MADD

Yesterday my office phone rang, and when I picked it up, I instantly felt a small surge of anger. Why? Because it was MADD (Mother’s Against Drunk Driving). So, yeah, I was mad at MADD. How could I possibly be upset at a charity that does such worthwhile work? I’ve supported them in the past with donations, and I support their goals. But somehow they got my work number, and it drives me nuts to be interrupted by a telemarketer when I’m in my office working.

The first time they called, I very politely asked that they remove my work number from their database, and gave them my home number so they could use that instead. The woman I spoke to was very nice and said it would be updated within the next 24 hours. A week later, I got the same phone call – once again, being very polite, I explained the situation and asked them to remove my work number from their database. Two weeks later, they again called me on my work number. Feeling a bit of frustration by this point, I explained that I’d already asked for my number to be removed twice prior, and the woman apologized and said she’d take it right to her supervisor. Guess what happened a week after that? Another phone call to my business line. Again, I explained it all. Again, they insisted they’d remove my work number from their database. A week later it happened again. I requested the same thing again.

A few weeks passed, and I thought the problem was solved, but yesterday they called me again. This time I calmly explained to the woman that I had no choice but to block their number from getting through to me again because they were not honouring my five-time request to be contacted at a different phone number. I don’t know how MADD raises their money – if they use in-house employees or a contracted service (I bet the latter have somewhat, ah, “looser” ethics), but this experience has certainly left a bad impression of their organization with me…

UFC Finally Landing Some Big Name Brands?

ufc-rhapsody-sponsorship.jpg

No, that’s not just two sweaty men rolling around on a mat: it’s a screen capture (thanks SnagIt!) of the most recent episode of The Ultimate Fighter. Yup, I’m a fan. What’s notable is the fact that Rhapsody is a sponsor on the mat, and off-camera to the right is an Old Spice sponsorship spot. Rhapsody and Old Spice? Brands I actually recognize! The UFC is growing up. The era of Toyo Tires and Mickey’s Malt Liquor is coming to an end: the UFC has come into the next stage of its evolution, and as those multi-year sponsorship contracts expire, I expect to see the big brands start to capitalize on the audience that the UFC has so ably captured. I’ve read that among the highly-coveted 18 to 25 male demographic, the UFC is pulling in higher numbers than the NBA (I couldn’t find the source on that though). Where there are big numbers, the big sponsors aren’t far behind. Zune needs to get on board and ride that train…

Don’t Take My Order for a Product You Don’t Have

There’s nothing worse for the perception of your company than when a customer of yours feels cheated or tricked – it’s hard for your brand to recover from that. Case in point: on October 1st I was (as always) keenly following Dell’s Days of Deals and they happened to have a Sony Digital Voice Recorder on sale for $69, a full $40 off the normal price of $99. Sometimes I have do to interviews for my Web sites and I thought it would be a decent solution for the price. I placed the order on October 1st at the special price. On November 1st, a full month later, I still didn’t have the product. I had been checking my order online every week or so, expecting it to say it had shipped, but no such luck.

Today I phoned Dell, and 35 minutes, one customer service agent, and one pause-prone (is that a cultural thing or a Dell sales thing?) Indian salesperson later I was told that the product was going to be back in stock in seven to ten business days. So if I’m lucky, it will be somewhere around the six to seven week mark after ordering that my product will show up. Seven to ten business days sounds suspiciously like a generic “I don’t actually know” answer, but I suppose it’s better than what the customer service agent suggested I do: cancel my order and re-place it, trying to get the same discount from online says.

I’ve seen Dell deals be sold out before, which is why I always check them first thing on the morning when the Day of Deals are on. If Dell didn’t have the product in stock, why take my order? It’s certainly not normal for Dell to take a month to ship products – the last product I ordered I received the very next day. I had been hoping to use this voice recorder when I went down to New York (I figured I had 20+ days for it to show up), but Dell betrayed my trust when it never arrived. Come on Dell: you’re supposed to be the master of the supply chain, can’t you show “out of stock” on a promotional deal when you don’t have any more to sell?

Companies That Want Feedback Rock

I spent nearly 90 minutes on the phone today with the folks at ACD Systems, the makers of the awesome ACDSee. I’ve been using ACDSee since 1998 or so, and always upgrade to every new version (though to be fair the upgrade process has been free lately because I’m a member of “the media”). Why would I spent 90 minutes on the phone with them? I’ve been giving them direct feedback here and there about their product via email for a little over a year now, and they suggested a phone call to talk about my ideas and suggestions for their product so I obliged.

There was a product planner, a developer, and a marketing person in the room, and they let me open up my brain and dump all the ideas, fixes, improvements, and concepts I had for how I thought ACDSee could be made even better. I feel very passionate about computer hardware and software that I use, and am always looking for opportunities to improve it. That’s partially out of a desire to have a better tool for my own needs, but it’s also because when I pick a product I tend to stick with it – I have a very strong sense of loyalty, like a sports fan to his home team, so I want to see the product I’ve picked “win” in the market.

The folks at ACDSee are great – they listened intently, engaged me on many levels to drill down into my ideas, and were genuinely enthused to listen to me talk about how I’d like to see the product improved. The next version won’t have everything I asked for of course, but I bet I’ll see quite a few of the little things addressed.

Any company that’s willing to engage deeply with their customers is a winner in my books – more companies should do it, but most are afraid of their customers and try to keep them at arm’s length.

Now I just need to find a way to make money doing this… 😉

Make Marketing Surveys Worth My Time

I received a phone call yesterday where the caller said he was from the Royal Bank of Canada (the bank I use) and they had a customer survey for me. I had a million things to do, but I asked how long it would take – I could spare a couple of minutes. He said the survey would take 10 to 13 minutes on average. I asked if there was some sort of incentive for doing the survey (maybe a month of no-fee banking?) and he sheepishly said no. I politely said that my time was worth something and declined to answer the survey. He seemed stunned that I wasn’t willing to give up 15 minutes of  my time (I tend to be rather…expressive when asked for my opinion) for nothing. I suspect that the majority of the people they get to answer these surveys are the kind of people who feel special when asked for their opinion – which would typically be the kind of person who’s not in any sort of leadership position at work or home life. I’d say even your average frazzled home-based mom with kids wouldn’t want to give up 15 minutes for no good reason. So who are the people who the Royal Bank is going to get their results from? Not a good cross-section of their customer base, that’s for sure.

If you’re doing a phone survey without any perks for the person answering the questions, it should be a short, under-two-minutes survey. If you want someone to give up 15 minutes of their time, give them something…ANYTHING…to make it worth their while.

How NOT to Warn Your Customers About Phishing

Sometimes I’m amazed at how poorly big companies can be at executing upon the simplest things. Future Shop, a big-box retail chain in Canada, sent out an email on the 13th warning customers about an email phishing attempt. That’s nice of them, but they violated one very important rule that all companies should follow when they warn customers about phishing attempts: they made their email look like a phishing email. The small thing was the lack of a FROM name – the email came in with no information about who it was from. The bigger thing was the URLs they were using for linking. Check out the screen shot below:

futureshop-phising-email.png

The easiest way to determine if something is a phishing attempt is to look at what URL the links are going to send you to – if it’s anything other than the companyname.com, you should be slightly concerned. When you mouse over an URL that’s typed out as www.futureshop.ca, you should see an URL that says www.futureshop.ca. When I looked at this, I thought to myself “What the heck is DCM5.com?” That’s sure not Futureshop.ca! The length of the URL was also raising a red flag – it was linking to an unknown domain, sure, but it also looked like it was linking to a script that would do something. I tried going to DCM5.com in my browser to take a peek, but it didn’t load, which is also suspicious.

Eventually I just clicked on one of the links, trusting in Firefox and Vista to protect me from anything seriously bad happening, and wouldn’t you know, it ended up taking me to a legitimate Futureshop.ca page about phishing. I suspect the DCM5.com URL is some sort of click-tracking service, but guess what: when you’re emailing your customers about an issue of security, tracking their clicks should be the last thing on your list.

Dell Kicked Out a Cool Commercial

We’ve all seen a lot of Dell commercials over the years, and let’s face, they’ve been as exciting as watching paint dry. The “Dell Dude” commercials were funny in the short term, but irritating in the long term. Dell has never tried to be hip or cool, and that’s for good reason: their products haven’t ever really been hip or cool. People have tended to buy Dell products because they provide good value for the money, not for how they look. Over the past couple of years they’ve started to change that with their XPS line of gaming and performance machines, and recently they’ve really kicked it up a notch with their launch of new Inspiron laptops and desktops. The laptops in particular have a nice “wow” factor with a choice of eight different colours, three different screen sizes, and all of the customizations Dell offers (CPU, RAM, etc.). But here’s what really caught my attention: I was watching a show on the SPIKE TV network and check out the commercial I saw:


Dell Inspiron Commercial
Uploaded by jasondunn

That’s completely unlike anything Dell has ever done in terms of marketing, and I think it works really well. Finally, a Windows PC maker trying something different! Catchy song, memorable video, and it shows just enough about the product to entice you to visit the site and check it out. The only thing I didn’t like about it was the Intel blurb at the end – it takes some of the shine off the commercial with that old and tired four-tone Intel branding. Dell mentioned Intel in the commercial, I don’t see why Intel had to also have their lame plug in there. Still, I think it works – what do you think?

Advertising 101: Make Sure It’s Your Domain

I was watching a UFC show called “All Access” the other day – it’s a behind the scenes show that covers how UFC fighters train – and I noticed that the show had “Blue Chip” branding all over it.  I didn’t know what Blue Chip was, but later in the show they showed an URL for Blue Chip, evidently a sports collectible company.

ufc-all-access-blue-chip.JPG

Now here’s the funny part: www.bluechip.com loads a empty Web page related to something called the “Telamon Project Tracking System”. There’s no mention of Blue Chip anywhere. A first I thought I had made a typo in the URL, but that wasn’t the case. Next I thought “Ok, maybe it’s .net or something else” but a Google search for Blue Chip Sports failed to turn up any likely candidate that would have sponsored this UFC TV show. Was this some sort of typo in the domain? Or did BlueChip.com at one point have a sports collectible store, but they went out of business before the UFC show aired? Did they also have zero Google juice? That’s a bit hard to believe unless they started up this company last month.

At any rate, the lesson here is clear: if you’re going to sponsor a TV show, make sure they get your domain right, and that your company will last long enough to see some benefits from it.

Jeremy Toeman’s 10 Tips for PR People

Jeremy has put together a list of 10 tips for PR people that are working with bloggers, and it’s a great read. Here’s one of his tips:

“Do your homework.  Most blogs have an ‘about’ page, in which you’ll discover the blogger’s full-time job (assuming it isn’t blogging), region of the country/world where they live, topics they prefer to cover, how they’d like to be contacted (bonus tip: IM or email is almost always the answer, not the phone), etc.  Read this and understand it.  Furthermore, doing a little background research will quickly tell you whether or not the blogger is good at keeping secrets/embargos (some do, some don’t – learn the difference).”

I’ve received probably 100+ press releases from PR firms in the past 30 days leading up to CTIA, and it’s stunning how completely random and un-targeted they are. I can tell that 99.9% of the people sending them to me have never visited any of my sites, and know absolutely nothing about me or what kinds of things I cover. It’s no surprise then that I delete 99.9% of them without wasting my time reading them.

Jeremy also has a great post covering 10 tips for bloggers working with PR people, and it’s also a good read. Having a background in PR myself, I tend to know what the PR people want and don’t want – but if I’m honest with myself I have to admit that #10 (Setting Expectations) is my biggest problem. I have a real struggle finding the discipline to write reviews in a timely, consistent manner – and more often than not I find myself apologizing to PR people for taking so damn long to write my reviews. It’s something I really wanted to improve upon in 2007, but I have to admit it’s proving to be harder than I thought. I’ll keep at it though!