Friday, December 6, 2013

Why I deleted all my Black Friday/Cyber Monday emails

Okay, I admit:  It’s hard enough to write great subject lines any time of year.  It’s even harder to make good ones last.  Unlike the direct mail headlines of the past, subject lines wear out faster due to overexposure and overuse.  But, when it comes to the 4th quarter, and the biggest promotional period of the year, you might think that a little more thought would go into the poor,  workhorse of copy—the subject line.

When I opened my personal email, what I saw were line after line of promotional emails all with some variation on Black Friday Sales Start Now or Hurry! Don’t miss out on our Cyber Monday Spectacular!  Line after line.  At least, with a pile of catalogs, you can sift through them, putting some in the in-stack and assign others to the out-pile.  But, in the meantime, you would have seen in that brief 30 seconds or so—pictures, multiple headlines, insets, calls to actions, multiple products—something that would be bound to capture your interest, especially if you were a customer.

But with subject lines—all bearing the same message or words, there’s hardly a nudge made to encourage you to open them up. Even the 30% off promises were routine.  Here’s a sampling from Land’s End.  Nov.26:  Doorbusters start tomorrow. Nov. 27:  30% off gifts for everyone.  Nov. 27:  Thanksgiving doorbusters are. . . . Nov. 28:  Hurry!  Doorbusters end tonight.  Nov. 29: It’s called Cyber Tuesday.  November 29: Last Chance for Cyber Tuesday.  (Cute, huh?  They thought they’d be different).

If you get emails from more than one retailer, your email inbox from Wednesday night through Tuesday was jammed up with boring, repetitive one liners.  No one stood out.  Even the beloved store of my youth growing up in the Northwest—Nordstrom—felt compelled to join in the fracas.  Theirs said:  Cyber Monday Savings are here.  Ugh.

So, I deleted them all.  And I didn’t go to the mall to be mauled either.  And I’m not the only one.  Did you notice?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Digital Life on Today: Finally, Good Integration

At the end of the first hour of the Today Show, on February 16, 2012, just before 8 am, the hosts introduced a subject--the father who shot his daughter's laptop after an 8 minute rant with a .45--and asked viewers to go to the web, see the complete posting the dad made, and vote whether or not the dad's actions were abusive, appropriate, or somewhere in-between.  The follow-up, which will be aired tomorrow, will examine the topic in light of the viewers' comments.  A subsequent segment conducted by Matt Lauer with its panel of self-important "experts" also reviewed the incident.  Typical head-talking opinion.

By 10 am on the site, nearly 4500 people had weighed in, with 73% of viewers indicating that this response was "Appropriate Punishment."

I do not want to comment on the daughter's or the dad's behavior.  I would just point out that this interaction between mainstream television and the internet is one of the first instances I've seen where both mediums are put to good use.  First of all, the posting was too long to run on television, so viewers were asked to look at it in its entirety on the Digital Life on Today, part of the Today Show's website, thus driving traffic to the site.  With the viewers' comments integrated into the show, the programming is also improved, elevating the commentary beyond the opinion of mere pundits to a reflection of part of the television public's viewing opinions.  When added to the huge reaction on Facebook--over 1 million comments last night, this topic will receive an immediate and thorough hearing.  With NBC joining the discussion, its interactive contract between viewer and content is sealed.  We have integrated media working at its best.

This type of interaction and integration needs to be applauded.  I for one am sick of people directing me to the web or asking me to follow them Facebook or do anything else online without a real reason to do so.  Here we finally have somewhat stepping up to the plate--or should I say--taking the mouse by its ears.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Ready, fire, aim: Get a good customer database first

All I did was to sign up for Paperless Billing, and I received four letters--on the same day--from Verizon Wireless reminding me that it is:
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Convenient and efficient
  • Safe and secure
  • Save money.
And then, it put in the caveat:  "If you did not enroll in paperless billing, please contact us immediately." 

The damage is done.  You don't have to be customer experience consultant, which I am, to know that such redundancy makes you look stupid in the eyes of the consumer.  Before you start showing off, please get the basics down first.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Shifting interests, new priorities

The focus of this blog is shifting away from multichannel retailing.  For more on that topic, please check out my other blog at

Increasingly, my interest in the e-environment has led me to learning more about learning itself and how our interactions online are shaping our experiences in both the real and virtual worlds.

Look for more on this subject in upcoming entries.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

In the Eyes of the Beholder: Technological Change

My grandmother, who emigrated from a suburb of Berlin to the United States in the 1880’s, used to call the television set a radio. Of course, we children found this hysterically funny and used to fool her by hiding behind our monstrous television with the sound off and pretend that we were the actors on TV.

When she died in the 1950’s, she had probably witnessed more rapid and more radical change in technology than I may ever witness. During her life, she saw transportation move from horse to car, the birth of film and the acceptance of photography as everyday phenomena, the eradication of many diseases, and the mechanization of mundane household drudgeries, among so many other technological changes that I can barely list them. She also saw destruction on a massive scale and holocaust—all realities I grew up with that she had never known, but now bore witness too.

Advances in technology—with the exception of computerization, digitalization, and the internet—for me have often been a two-edge sword. Technological advances in food production and the growth of commercial farming have brought forth bountiful harvests, but at great cost to the environment and to food itself. Car transportation, once a symbol of freedom, now chokes us in pollution and ties into an outdated fossil fuel economy. The list goes on.

So, it was with great enthusiasm that I read 13-year old Scott Campbell’s article in the BBC news magazine comparing the original Sony Walkman to the iPod, “Giving up My iPod for a Walkman.”

His amusement is terrific:
“It took me three days to figure out that there was another side to the tape. That was not the only naive mistake that I made; I mistook the metal/normal switch on the Walkman for a genre-specific equaliser, but later I discovered that it was in fact used to switch between two different types of cassette.”

Most of his comments—and I believe this is true for much of the technological changes we are seeing now—are about how clunky and mechanical the Walkman was. The size is huge, the buttons too large, the tapes unwieldy and subject to jamming. Miniaturization and digitization are the two most relevant changes. He had little trouble once he figured out the “ancient” technology and managed to adapt a shuffle function onto it (his father warned him that overusing rewind could eventually damage the tape leaving him music-less the rest of the day). Miniaturization is really a matter of degree, not the radical change that exchanging a horse for a car represents.

His mind-blowing conclusion:
Personally, I'm relieved I live in the digital age, with bigger choice, more functions and smaller devices. I'm relieved that the majority of technological advancement happened before I was born, as I can't imagine having to use such basic equipment every day.

I wonder what he would think of the boom box.
(Photo from the BBC News Magazine)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Consumers as Co-Creators, Creatives as Curators

The Obama/Biden Presidential Campaign was awarded the prestigious Titanium and Grand Prix awards at the International Advertising Festival held in Cannes this June. David Droga of Droga5, who chaired the jury, cited the campaign’s sophisticated use of digital media, its ability to build community, and its willingness to allow the brand to be built from the bottom up by consumers rather than dictated by an agency as prime factors in its selection.

He went on to say: "[The campaign's leaders] were curators as much as creators. They created the framework and allowed others to contribute." By others outside the campaign, the jury mentioned and the artist Shepard Fairey (for Shepard Fairey’s approach to art and advertising, see him on YouTube).

For quite some time (over 10 years at least), we have been hearing about how customers through customer-generated reviews, customer-powered search, and a host of wiki applications have assumed a dominant role in marketing communications (for those who have been willing to listen, that is). We have heard how new applications of technology—everything from Twitter to Flickr—are changing consumer and citizen behavior in ways we have yet to fully understand. Whether it’s the election in Iran, the sudden and enormous popularity of Susan Boyle, or the Dell Hell created by Jeff Jarvis (author of What Would Google Do?), the shift toward customer-controlled marketing and communications has occurred. And it’s our role as marketers, particularly in the retail arena, to make sure that we acknowledge it.

One of the comments posted by Kevin from Chicago on Advertising Age Online, where this story appeared, is particularly relevant: “Here’s to the new triple bottom line of branding: do great work, build community, listen to it, and let your customer tribe show you how to lead.”

(Illustration by Shepard Fairey)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

More on Back to Basics: Curbing Excess

The embarrassment of excess continues. Bloomberg reports that Saks is cutting orders from vendors 20% this year and is forecasting improved gross margins:

“The cuts may rein in what Saks Chief Executive Officer Stephen Sadove calls the ‘enormous excess’ that existed last year in stores that cater to the wealthy.

Across the board you are going to find less of the sizes, less of the availability in almost all of the categories,” Sadove, 57, said yesterday in a telephone interview. “You are probably going to see less aggressive markdowns than you saw last year.”

Is anyone out there besides me saying, “duh?”

Put together the 20% reduction in pricing offered by D&G and other high end designers and manufacturers (previous blogs) with the, at least, 20% overstock issue and you might have a good indication how retailers and designers—not just the economy—have contributed to their own problems.

Now CEOs—from Nordstrom’s to Bloomingdale’s, Neiman-Marcus to Saks—are trying to point out that scarcity is a part of luxury, that their inventories have been bloated lately, and that “we’ll not see these levels of excess again.” Even Gucci CEO Patrizio di Marco chimed in:

“We don’t need 75 variations on the same handbag. Two or three are enough.”

The “greed-is-good” mantra—so eloquently stated by Gordon Gekko in the 1987 movie Wall Street—lies at the root of most of the issues we’re facing from housing to health care, retailing to manufacturing. No one wanted to listen to the voice of caution when the party was raging. It’s only now we’re hearing the plea for “enough,” as the luxury liner, the SS USRetail slowly sinks beneath the cold waters of excess.

BTW, the tagline for the movie Wall Street is “Every dream has a price.”