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Rob Walker’s brilliant insight

In today’s Times, he hits the nail on the head. April 11, 2004

Free Prize Inside

Linda writes…

I wanted to let you know that I’m so wired up. In addition to drinking a great double short non-fat espresso, I just got my BzzAgent package with FREE PRIZE INSIDE! The whole packaging thing is so great. I think I’ll have to order another copy now so that I don’t have to open this one – and I can keep it on my desk with all of the other inspirational stuff that I hoard.

With kind regards,
Linda Marshall
Brand Parent

Free Prize Inside

Current high

We hit #69 on the Amazon bestseller list last week. I find this stunning.

Worthwhile is the name

My friend Halley sent a link to a new blogozine (magalog?) she’s just helped launch: Worthwhile. The most interesting for me is the lineup of writers. I’m spending a lot of time thinking about what happens to information distribution and publishing in light of the 2,000,000 plus blogs that are out there… and this blog makes it clear that there’s a big push to make online content slicker and more magazine-like. No business model yet, but hey, that never stopped anyone. [actually it did, but it’s still worth a try].

Anything Halley does is probably worth watching.

How hard is it…

for your customers to help you design better products? Especially when your product is a tool?

My Entourage for Mac OSX just crashed. I read a ton of email and usually leave the notes that need answering open until I get to them. Alas, when Entourage crashes, it forgets which mails you left open. So now I need to read a whole day’s worth of mail again.

I’ve got a dozen other things that really and truly need to be fixed about the program (I won’t bore you with the list here) and am amazed to discover that:
1. there’s no tool within the program to send suggestions back to the programmers (okay, not amazed, because it’s microsoft, but annoyed, how’s that)
2. there’s no easily findable website where the public can chime in… not to complain, but to help the company find the free prizes and amazing insights that will make the program more successful in its next version.

I wonder if that’s true for your company?

Hard Manufacturing makes hospital cribs. They’re so open to hearing ideas (fashionable and utilitarian) from the outside world that they’re about to announce cribs for dogs! It turns out that veterinarians think they’re great. That came not from the salesforce, but from the outside world.

It’s going to get ugly

As the portal wars get newly hot, and as Wall Street gets increasingly impatient, look for more activities like this:

I got an email from Yahoo today. It was about their PayDirect service, which allows you to send money, PayPal style. As far as I know, I never signed up for it. I certainly can’t remember using it.

Here’s the key part of the email:


Well, I couldn’t tell if this was phishing (a nefarious type of spam designed to get people to surrender personal information) but as a public service, decided to clickthrough and see if it was the real deal.

I got to the page (which is a legit Yahoo page) and saw this:


So, maybe I’m mistaken, but this sure feels like one of those credit card come ons where they’re not being completely… truthful.

There’s an enormous amount of trust between millions of people and Yahoo and Google and the others. (Some online brands have more trust than others, but just about all the major ones score very well). Very few of us feel as warm and fuzzy about, say, Chase or Fleet as we do about Google, that’s for sure. And now, in the spirit of boosting sign ups and such, I’m afraid that eager marketers are about to engage in another round of messing with that. The problem is that once you lose it, it’s really hard to get it back.

Google’s big opportunity

First, the thing to remember about Gmail is what a huge threat it posts to Yahoo and other sites. A huge percentage of the portals’ traffic comes from email.


Second, what’s with that logo? I know, this isn’t a design post, but still.

Third, Google’s big chance:
What if Google decided to make a Google account cost $1 a year, and you had to use a valid credit card to pay for it?

And further, what if your Google email address had to include your real name?

And third, what if a violation of Google’s anti-spam rules (I’m assuming they’ll have some) would cost $20 per incident?

Suddenly, Google mail would become a gold standard. People would happily let it through the spam filters. You could trust it. People would become suspicious of anyone who used any other non-google online email service… “what, you’re afraid of validating your account?”

That’s what I would do.

The problems with April 1

1. Sometimes you post a joke (see Nike riff, below) and people don’t get it. They either think you were fooled (which I take as a compliment–at least three of you thought I picked it up off the wires) or they get annoyed.

2. The world is so foolish, we confuse the real (gmail.com, for example) with a joke. Tons of folks thought there was enough flakiness in Google’s mail announcement yesterday that it was a joke. As I told Amit, though, Google is now too close to their IPO to fool around any more. Sigh.

3. It reminds us that just about everything we do and buy and talk about is fluffy fashion.

What does radio have to do with anything?

Radio sometimes seems so… 1940s. It’s easy to get distracted by the dozen different media formats invented since then, and only notice radio when you’re in the car.

How then to explain this beautifully written, relevant and cutting edge blog? Radio Marketing Nexus Nice work, Mark.

The end of mass marketing

For years, I’ve been writing about the increasing ineffectiveness of interruption media and the death of the TV Industrial complex.

Today’s news, however is the final nail in that coffin.

Faced with consumer ennui and apathy, Nike has decided to engage in a desperate effort to regain mindshare. By making a 7 figure “donation” to the JPL, they’ve bought the rights to the new planet Sedna.

Sedna, as you may remember, is the new planet past Pluto (which used to be a planet but isn’t a planet anymore.) Anyway, researchers chose the name because Sedna was an Inuit goddess who lived under the ocean (get it… cold and far away?). Nike, pointing out that while Sedna sounds like a brand name, Nike is actually the name of a Greek Goddess.

Hence the swap. I didn’t realize that the JPL was in a position to sell off the names of the planets, so expect some controversy over the proceeds. Either way, it’s sure to keep Nike in the news for months.

I think this is astonishingly stupid and arrogant. The backlash is just beginning.

What will they do next, project PowerPoint presentations on the moon?

Have a nice April.