Posts Tagged ‘dumb marketing’

Furious freetards blitz the wrong SOPA

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Angry copyfighters barraged a small Scottish food certification agency with abuse last week – in the belief they were protesting against hated US anti-piracy legislation.

The Scottish Organic Producers Association – whose website is at sopa.org.uk – was perplexed when it found itself on the receiving of dozens of nasty and illiterate emails.

Remarkably, nothing about the site’s design – including pictures of sheep, vegetables, Angus cattle and fruit – did anything to suggest to the furious freetards that they’d got the wrong SOPA – or that something might be not quite right.

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“Disruptive Technology” blather is not clever or useful

Friday, August 26th, 2011

I have a list of some words that really should be banned in polite conversation. The only reason not to ban them is that they’re useful indicators, an unambiguous warning that the speakers are going to be a serious waste of our time. The use of any of these words is like wearing a giant invisible that that says: “I have no insight or experience to offer and talking to me represents a huge opportunity cost.”

Many of the most enthusiastic users work in consultancy or academia or punditry or new media – the parasitic professions. So what might be on my little list?

One is “meme”, obviously.

Another is “business model”. Nobody in business ever used the word “business model”; it’s the sign of an outsider who has never run a business. But people in consultancy or academia use it profusely. It’s like virgins talking about complicated sexual practices.

The word I’ll look at today, the first day of the reign of Apple’s new full-time CEO Tim Cook, is “disruption”.
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TalkTalk, ORG see cash from Mandybill chaos

Friday, April 9th, 2010


Never let the facts, or taste, get in the way of a marketing campaign, we say.

TalkTalk boldly promised today to fight disconnection requests in court, at least until after the election. Carphone Warehouse strategy director Andrew Heaney made the pledge on his blog.

The fact that ISPs don’t get any disconnection requests, and if they did, they would (rightly) throw them in the bin along with other junk mail, isn’t mentioned. Such a request would currently have the legal validity of a request to paint your house pink, scribbled on a fag packet and thrown from a passing car.

Heaney’s pledge is only good until “after the Election”. If account suspensions are eventually approved, it won’t be for a long time.

Maybe Heaney thinks we’re all extremely stupid. Or maybe he’s just found his audience.

“I’m impressed. Well done,” comments Stef Lewandowski, a marketing guru who has advised quango Nesta and the Department of Culture Media and Sport, and is a Cultural Leadership Fellow at the Arts Council-sponsored Clore programme, studying “Accelerated Serendipity“.

“Seven Years of Donations Fighting, Brothers…”

Meanwhile Open Rights Group’s Maximum Leader, Comrade Jim Killock, was crowing about the success of the appeals drive, launched to capitalise on the ORG’s spectacular success (are you sure? – Ed) with the Digital Economy Bill.

The ORG’s entire front page was replaced with a “Fuck You” graphic, soliciting donations. This prompted dismay from supporters, according to emails that fell into our inbox.

“Someone – please – say that the ORG server has been hacked by some script kiddies,” wrote one supporter. “Oh, for heavens sake are we in the school playground? Who are we trying to attract?” asked another. “Yes, we lost a round – there’s no reason to become petulant and offensive.”

Killock eventually obliged, but then noticed something:

“Hum guys, since we took the graphic down, nobody’s joined up (from 16.50 till now) – that’s cost us about £2000* assuming they’re not joining because we’re not pushing them as strongly”

So he put it back up again.

Comrade Jim explained that five people an hour were joining while the front page had displayed the middle finger – which indicates what an impressive mass movement the music industry is up against. That’s almost enough for an ORG Flash Mob. The average pledge was £60, which Jim multiplied over seven years.

(Obviously he expects the ‘copyfight’ to go on… and on… and on.)

“I’m very understanding of the issues people have raised, but a strong reaction – one that will offend some people while making other people agree violently – is required to make people part with their cash.”

That’s the spirit, Jim.

Ad industry: You write the cheques, we’ll drown the puppies

Monday, March 15th, 2010

The UK advertising industry has bravely decided it can continue to accept millions of pounds from the state to create alarming climate advertisements, despite inaccuracies and a storm of complaints from parents. The principled decision, from the admen’s self-regulatory body the ASA, follows 939 complaints about the UK energy ministry DECC’s “Drowning Dog” prime time TV and cinema ad (aka “Bedtime Story”) , which cost £6m, and four related posters.

Critics aren’t happy, and point out that the chair of the ASA, Lord Chris Smith of Finsbury, also chairs the Environment Agency, and is currently working closely with DECC.
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Rescuing Nokia's Ovi: a plan

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Ovi means door in Finnish

It must be frustrating to sketch out a long-term technology roadmap in great depth, and see it come to fruition… only to goof on your own execution. But to do so repeatedly – as Nokia has – points to something seriously wrong.

Nokia spent more than a decade preparing for Tuesday this week, when it finally launched its own worldwide, all-phones application store. It correctly anticipated a software market for smartphones back in the mid-1990s, when it was choosing the technology to fulfill this vision.

That was just one of the bets that came good. Leafing through old copies of WiReD magazine from the dot.com era, filled with gushing praise for Enron, Global Crossing, and er, Zippies, I was struck by the quality of the foresight in a cover feature about Nokia. (Have a look for yourself.) WAP didn’t work out, but I was struck by particularly Leningrad Cowboy Mato Valtonen’s assessment that “mobile is the Internet with billing built in”.

“The managers responsible for putting together the Ovi Store should be put on Nokia’s naughty step – and left there for the Finnish winter”

And so Nokia has been encouraging users to download applications for users. My ancient 6310i wants me to download applications. Every Nokia since has wanted me to, too. Seven years ago, the first Series 60 phone (the 7650) put the Apps client on the top level menu, next to Contacts and Messaging.

The problem is today, it’s Apple and BlackBerry who have the thriving third party smartphone software markets. For six months, punters have been bombarded with iPhone ads showing what you can do with third-party apps. And yes, it’s like Palm all over again, but they’re very effective. So if Apple’s store is the model, then what on earth is Ovi?
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The dumb, dumb world of Malcolm Gladwell

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

Have you ever had the nagging sense that there’s something not quite right with the adulation that follows Malcolm Gladwell – the author of Tipping Point? But you couldn’t quite put your finger on it? We’re here to help, dear reader.

Malcolm Gladwell: the awkward teenage years

Gladwell gave two vanity “performances” in the West End – prompting fevered adulation from the posh papers – the most amazing being this Guardian editorial, titled In Praise of Malcolm Gladwell.

It appears that we have a paradox here. A substantial subclass of white collar “knowledge workers” hails this successful nonfiction author as fantastically intelligent and full of insight – and yet he causes an outbreak of infantalisation. He’s better known for his Afro than any big idea, or bold conclusion – and his insights have all the depth and originality of Readers Digest or a Hallmark greeting card. That’s pretty odd.

So what’s really going on here? Who is Malcolm Gladwell? What’s he really saying? Who are these people who lap it all up? And what is it that he’s saying that hold so much appeal?

Let’s start with the first two first.

The Master at Work

Gladwell is a walking Readers Digest 2.0: a compendium of pop science anecdotes which boil down very simply to homespun homilies. Like the Digest, it promises more than it delivers, and like the Digest too, it’s reassuringly predictable.
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The Long Tail can seriously damage your business

Friday, November 7th, 2008

The most comprehensive empirical study of digital music sales ever conducted has some bad news for Californian technology utopians. Since 2004, WiReD magazine editor Chris Anderson has been hawking his “Long Tail” proposition around the world: blockbusters will matter less, and businesses will “sell less of more”. The graph has become iconic – a kind of ‘Hockey Stick’ for Web 2.0 – with the author applying his message to many different business sectors. Alas, following the WiReD Way of Business as a matter of faith could be catastrophic for your business and investment decisions.

Long Tail
Anderson bet that the orange portion – the “Tail” – has more value than the red portion – the “Head”. But it doesn’t.

Examining tens of millions of transactions from a large digital music provider, economist Will Page with Mblox founder Andrew Bud and Page’s colleague Gary Eggleton, looked to see how large and valuable the “Tail” of digital music may be. They produced a spreadsheet with 1.5 million rows – so large, in fact, that it required a special upgrade to their Excel software (and more RAM) – and the three revealed their work at the Telco 2.0 conference this week.

They discovered that instead of following a Pareto or “power law” curve, as Anderson suggested, digital song sales follow a classic Log Normal distribution. 80 per cent of the digital inventory sold no copies at all – and the ‘head’ was far more concentrated than the economists expected.

“Is the ‘future of business’ really selling more of less?” asks Page. “Absolutely not. If you had Top of the Pops now, you’d feature the Top 14, not Top 40.”

As Andrew Bud explains:

“The Long Tail’s argument is that the pattern of consumption for media is bent out of shape by the limits of the shops selling them. Digital media lets the nature of people’s demand flow free. Well, we now know what the shape of that demand curve looks like.”

Bud told the conference that the basic shape of consumer demand for digital music clearly fits the Log Normal distribution, “with eye-watering accuracy”. That’s no surprise, he says, because so many sales curves he’s seen over the past ten years follow this distribution.

“Now we’ve seen what happens when tens of millions of choices are thrown in the air and people can go pick them up. What was astounding was the degree of inequality between the head and the tail – by a factor of three. It’s specifically the Log Normal shape that leads to a rather poverty stricken Tail.

“There are Tails where the Tail lives as a kind of welfare state. Not this one. You starve in this Tail.”

Digital sales follow a Log Normal distribution
Brown’s 1956 lognormal curve fits digital sales data much better than “The Long Tail”

This really isn’t the upbeat fairy tale message Anderson has spent four years selling on the conference circuit.

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Nokia: Our community is the best money can buy

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

Who says there’s no honesty in tech marketing? We beg to differ, and present Nokia product manager Janne Jalkanen as proof to the contrary.

Speaking at a marketing website called Nokia “Conversations” (“Stories from around the neighborhood” – it says), Jalkanen gives a very frank overview of the grassroots enthusiasm for Nokia’s S60 platform.

“Pretty much the only community around S60 is the community we pay to be there,” says Jalkanen, “a few lone, strong, awesome warriors notwithstanding”.

He’s speaking in a personal capacity, but is actually saying much the same as Symbian’s John Forsyth said here, only without the wishful thinking. But what a great metaphor for the Finns’ oh-so-earnest attempts to manufacture grassroots enthusiasm.

Nokia didn’t invent the idea of astroturfing, but more than any company in the Noughties, it’s taken it to heart.

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Why didn't Nokia become the next Sony?

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

When, a few years ago, I described Sony and Nokia as the only two companies who could call the shots in consumer electronics, a few eyebrows were raised. Sony, yes. But Nokia?

I anticipated that success in smartphones would be a beachhead into a bunch of other consumer electronics markets. Few noticed that Nokia already made TVs and set-top boxes. It had just launched a games console, too.

In fact, Nokia had began planning for “mobile multimedia convergence” in the mid-1990s, when it began sniffing out a next-generation operating system – it eventually opted for Psion’s Epoc, which became Symbian OS. For years Nokia put its best brains on the task – and sat back and waited. And waited.

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I'm a walking billboard… bitch

Friday, November 9th, 2007

On Wednesday, Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg boasted that the “next 100 years” of advertising began here.

On the face of it, it looked like Web 2.0 had found its “Long Boom” moment. Facebook has yet to turn a profit, so Zuckerberg hardly seems in a position to advise other people how to make money – let alone place himself in a pantheon of historic business greats. In Web 2.0-land, merely “being there” is a substitute for having “made it”.

But then Zuckerberg is no stranger to bluster. This, notoriously, was the 22 year-old who had “I’m CEO…bitch” on his business card.

Behind the calculated bluster were a collection of ideas perhaps equally designed to distract the attention (no pun intended).

Of the three ideas Zuckerberg outlined, one in particular provoked horror and ridicule. It was to turn Facebook users, accustomed to its clean and spare UI, into human billboards. Advertisers could build presences in Facebook – at the moment, you must be a person – giving users the opportunity to “affiliate” with them.

“Users can become a fan of a business and can share information about that business with their friends and act as a trusted referral,” is how the company described it.

“What do the users get in return?” asked the IT commentator Nick Carr. “An animated Sprite Sips character to interact with.”

But Nick is forgetting that this cuts both ways – it isn’t a static picture at all.
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