The Learning Curve

New tricks for an old dog.

Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

Groupon is doomed

It’s not often that I so strongly disagree with Seth Godin as I do this morning, and I wish to find a way to communicate my disagreement in a way that does not impinge upon my respect for Seth’s thinking.  Seth is one of the rare people who seems to have reversed Sturgeon’s Law. Ninety percent of what he writes is pure gold.

But, today I choose to focus upon the ten percent that is non-gold. Godin writes:

“Groupon is a very different thing. Here, it’s not a hassle, it’s the fun factor. Buying this way is exciting, you never know what’s next, you do it with friends, the copy is funny, it’s an adventure. As a result, many Groupon customers in fact do convert to becoming long time patrons of the place they tried, because they’re not inherently cheap shoppers. When they’re on Groupon they’re hunting for fun. “

I’m thinking maybe this statement was constructed out of imaginary data for the purpose of providing an illustration, just to make a point about price differentiation. And it was a good point too.

But, as a statement about Groupon, I think it is false. Groupon is not fun or exciting, it is juvenile and stupid in my opinion. The people I know personally who use Groupon regularly are cheapskate to the core, every last one of them.  One of them drove thirty-five miles round trip to save fifty percent on a bakery cake, of which Groupon took half. The bakery lost money on that sale and did not get a long term customer.

Groupon’s success is a product of the recession, retailer desperation, and near total ignorance of what actually works in the use of the internet for geo-local marketing. It’s all brand new.

Somebody ought to pay me to do a face-to-face field survey of local businesses who have used Groupon, to see for a fact how happy they are with the Groupon experience. It wouldn’t be cheap.


Written by Tom Fox

12/14/2010 at 10:27 am

Posted in Business, Marketing

One jump ahead of the guru

It is gratifying to me that I was accidentally tuned into the guru channel and receptive, before the guru spoke. I stumbled upon the book Branding Only Works on Cattle by Jonathan Baskin (“Baskin is a branding guru, but he states flat out that branding doesn’t work any more.”), which was published one year and four months after my Branding is what you do to cattle – Parts 1, 2 & 3 in May 2007.

Fat lot of good that did me.

Written by Tom Fox

10/08/2010 at 10:08 pm

Posted in Branding, Marketing

Grassroots SEO for a cause – example


Every time you post a hyperlink anywhere on the Internet–including on message boards and social networking sites–it impacts search engines like Google. Also, one of the most common actions undecided voters take online is to use search engines like Google to find information about candidates. As such, shouldn’t we learn how to post hyperlinks in a way that helps lead to our preferred political outcomes?

With a new campaign from Daily Kos, Grassroots Search Engine Optimization, you can do just that. By learning about the most effective ways to post hyperlinks, Grassroots SEO will help hundreds of thousands of undecided voters read damaging news articles on the Republican candidate for Congress in their district.

It sounds tricky, but it’s pretty easy. To make it work, we just need a few hundred grassroots activists like you to sign up and take part.

In 2006, we used this technique to reach over 700,000 voters in key congressional districts during the last two weeks of the midterms. With the rise of Twitter and Facebook, we can do even better in 2010.

To get started, sign up here. Once you sign up, you will be redirected to a Daily Kos diary that explains the next steps.

Keep fighting,
Chris Bowers
Campaign Director, Daily Kos

Written by Tom Fox

10/08/2010 at 1:41 pm

Posted in Marketing

Too strange even for me

Marketing headline today:

“Sierra Mist (R) Cranberry Splash (TM) is back for a limited time. Now with real sugar.”

Runner up:

Cheap But Quality Replica Watches For Sale.”

Written by Tom Fox

10/08/2010 at 10:44 am

Posted in Marketing

Stalked by advertisers

For reasons too complicate to explain, I was curious about the differences between Microsoft’s Windows XP Pro and Windows XP Media Center editions. I got Googled to NexTag in my first stab at an answer, to find out if there was any significant price difference between the two.

This morning in my Yahoo! email inbox up flashes a NexTag blinking display ad featuring, of all things, various MS WinXP versions for sale. Is this a strange coincidence? No it’s not.

It is one of the more recent games and tricks being played by advertisers. Visit a business web site and eat a tracking cookie. What you look at and that which interests you on this first site is recorded. At the next web site that’s participating in the same advertising  system, you are identified as one who has already nibbled at the merchandise.

You are recognized and followed by advertisers as you browse around the web. It’s similar to being stalked.

Many people feel violated by this process. From a marketing perspective, making potential customers feel threatened isn’t the best plan. But personally, I don’t mind it. I’d much rather ignore display ads that are interesting to me than not be distracted by annoying irrelevancies.

Still, in my case with NexTag, it was effective. Display ads are impossible to totally ignore, and this one grabbed my attention.

Except, I’m not going to buy another copy of WinXP, any edition.

Written by Tom Fox

10/02/2010 at 12:03 pm

Posted in Marketing

Marketing principles – The law of perception

The law of perception
A man sees what he wants to see and disregards the rest.” Paul Simon

Ries and Trout said it all very well two decades ago.

“It’s an illusion. There is no objective reality. . . All truth is relative. . . People cling firmly to the belief that reality is the world outside of the mind and that the individual is one small speck on a global spaceship. Actually it’s the opposite. The only reality you can be sure about is in your own perceptions. If the universe exists, it exists inside your own and the minds of others. That’s the reality that marketing programs must deal with. . . Marketing is a manipulation of those perceptions. . . Which is why the natural, logical way to market a product is invariably wrong.” The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

Written by Tom Fox

10/01/2010 at 7:47 am

Posted in Marketing

Marketing principles – The law of domains

The law of domains

1. A territory over which rule or control is exercised.
2. A sphere of activity, concern, or function; a field of interest.

This is not about internet domains. It is about the many virtual worlds individuals inhabit simultaneously at different levels. Each person has a private world and a public world happening at the same time. Sometimes the inner wold matches up with the person’s outer world, but not always. This says nothing more than appearances are often deceptive.

Beyond this, there are a multitude of overlapping virtual domains a person inhabits. For example, the domain of romantic relationships between two people and the domain of non-romantic social relationships.

Venn diagram of romantic and social relationships

The overlap between commercial relationships and social relationships is commonly encountered in life, and custom has evolved to guide appropriate behavior. If my neighbor calls across the backyard fence to ask if I wanted some home-grown tomatoes, I’d be very surprised if after handing me a few she then told me that I owed her two bucks. The reverse would be the case if a farmer at market asked me the same question. I’d never assume that the tomatoes were being offered for free.

On internet social media, the intersection is not so well-defined with people who are also total strangers.

Venn diagram of commercial and social relationships

And, it can get even more complicated than that.

Total strangers can meet and interact online on topics of common interest, as in discussion groups. The common interest can involve buying and selling, as with Pez collectors being the original semi-commercial group with eBay. People can work together through online connections for a common purpose or project, all while remaining total strangers. This would be nearly impossible in the face-to-face world.

Venn diagram of commercial, social, common interest, and common cause relationships

The areas of overlap legitimately can cause confusion due to boundary misunderstanding and vagueness. Presuming an overlap when none exists can cause even bigger problems.

Written by Tom Fox

09/27/2010 at 12:40 pm

Posted in Marketing