Dell’s Twitter Feeds on Overload…


It’s amusing watching companies figure out how to use Twitter…the above screen is from my Twitter feed. I follow both Dell Canada’s consumer Twitter feed, and their Business user feed. They each have different offers and discounts…until they start copying each other and repeating everything twice, creating what amounts to Twitter spam in my feed. And then there’s their contest, which so far as resulted in 37 tweets in three days. Twitter is a great tool for businesses to reach out to their customers, but if you do it too often, you risk alienating those customers. After I post this I’m going to un-follow the Dell Canada Business feed, and possibly un-follow the Dell Consumer feed until this contest is over. If you’re a business, value the attention of your customers – don’t abuse it by being too “noisy”.

KFC Can’t Count


For those that don’t know, a “Toonie” is a Canadian two-dollar coin. Can you really run a promo called “Toonie Tuesday” and have the item cost $2.79 plus tax? That’s $2.93 in Alberta after our 5% GST tax. Kind of makes your business look stupid…

Public Relations Stuck in the ’90s

One of the things I hate seeing in my day job are companies who’s concept of public relations and product announcements are stuck in the mentality of a previous decade. Case in point: there’s a company, who shall remain un-named, that launched a couple of new products, but only in the European market. They decided not to tell me about the products, even though they’re right up my alley, because I’m based on North America. The concept of regional product announcements is a quaint idea from a bygone era. The Internet has obliterated the idea that information is relevant only to a certain group of people living in a geographic era. Public relations and marketing people need to grasp that the Internet is global, and it’s changed the way product launches work.

This also applies to all those companies I meet at CES who look at my press badge and see “Canada” then don’t want to talk to me. Do these people believe that the Internet is some sort of temporary fad?

Doesn’t Anyone Care About Video Quality?

I was watching a few videos on MSN Video, and it seems that Gillette Venus (women’s razor) was the only sponsor – they played the same ad every three videos of so. Beyond the obvious bad targeting of showing me a woman’s razor, and the redundancy of the same video over and over (which tends to breed brand dislike in my opinion), I was shocked at how completely crappy the video looked. Flash isn’t a great medium for high-quality video (though the new h.264 codec in Flash 9 rocks!) but this video reached new lows in terms of quality. Check out this screen shot (saved as a PNG file, so the poor quality is from the video):

If you were an advertising executive working for Gillette, how would you feel about your product being portrayed in such a low-quality manner? The video was truly atrocious in quality. Perhaps MSN Video has some ridiculous limits on the bit rates of submitted advertising videos, but if I were working for Gillette I’d say “This is the video quality we want, if you want our advertising dollars, you’ll run this.”

Sloppy PR People Tick Me Off

The bulk of my “day job” consists of me filtering information from public relations/marketing people: they flog their products at me, I decide if it’s worth writing about, and if it is I share it with my community on one (or more) of my Web sites. What’s extremely frustrating is when I decide I’m going to write about something, and the PR person/company in question makes that hard for me. They typically do one of these bone-headed things:

  • They send me a press release, but they haven’t gotten around to publishing the press release online anywhere, so there’s nothing for me to link to. Links – you know, the foundation of the whole Internet? Yeah, they matter. I’m not going to spend 30 minutes re-writing your whole damn press release – I’m not a journalist, and I don’t have time for it. I hear excuse after excuse from PR people: “Oh, yeah, we haven’t gotten around to putting the press release online.”
  • The don’t send me an image of the product. The Web is a visual medium, and people like pictures. I can either email the PR person back and wait several hours (or days) for them to get back to me with the photo, or I can hunt around the company Web site looking for an image – and more often than not, I can’t find anything more than a little 100 x 100 pixel image. Even companies that are smart enough to have dedicated online press rooms will often not have them updated with the latest products. Why the hell have an online press room unless it has absolutely everything that an online writer is looking for?
  • They send me their press release as a 2 MB Word file with large embedded graphics. Don’t waste my time. They often think that embedding graphics in a Word document is the same thing as providing a blogger/journalist with the images they need. It’s not.

So the shot list for all you PR People out there: email me the press release in the email message, have the press release online for me to link to, include me a reasonable size Web-ready image (1000 x 1000 pixels maximum, JPEG format), and if I ask you a question, please try to get back to me as quick as you can…though hopefully if you give me the things I need, I won’t have any questions for you – other than “So when can I review this?”.

Oh, and lest anyone think I’m bashing PR people, I’m not – my bachelor’s degree is in PR. I know the game and how it’s supposed to be played, so it ticks me off when my “peers” don’t do what they’re supposed to.

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?


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… 😉