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Blogs make everyone louder

And it’s effecting (at least around the edges) everything from business to churches to politics. Link: BBC NEWS | Technology | Global blogger action day called.

My question, which I have no answer for, is what happens when the volume goes up to 11? When there is just too much noise? Does it all get filtered? Who filters?

A new blog every six seconds, they say. Is there a new blog reader every six seconds as well? It continues to get interesting.

All Marketers...

To serve you better?

No promotion lasts forever. Got that. But when you end a promotion and start a new one, why lie about it? The reason that the unredeemed points become  worthless is  not  because they’re taking up valuable room and need to be moved out the way for an even better program. Consumers are too smart for this. They usually ignore it, or, if they do notice it, they just get more cynical.

All Marketers...

6 million stickers.

Today’s entry in the marketing stupidity hall of fame is for Simon Malls | More Choices – Simon.com. (note the ironic web site name). Simon runs shopping malls.

Last year, Simon sold 6 million “Giftcards”. That’s a gift certificate that looks like a credit card. This is great news for them. Why? Because 4 to 20% of all gift certificates are never redeemed–which means that if you figure the average one is for $20, they’re making as much as $12,000,000 in profit with no effort.

Is that enough for Simon? No way. The Simon card is boobytrapped. After six months, Simon starts deducting $2.50 each month. Which means that if you don’t use your card right away, it becomes worthless. The astonishing thing on top of all the other astonishing things is that Simon should want you to not use your card right away… they get the interest on the money!

Simon added all sorts of other stupid features, like an expiration date (cash doesn’t expire!) and other fine print charges.

So anyway, Simon got caught. Eliot Spitzer, NY Attorney General, is suing them. Instead of saying, “Hey, this is a dumb policy, let’s just overhaul the thing,” Simon is fighting back, arguing jurisdiction, putting little stickers on the back of the cards, claiming that now it’s okay.

No, it’s not okay. It’s dumb and it’s deceitful. It’s dumb because it involves tricking customers (and their friends, the gift recipients). It creates nothing but negative conversations.

Joe Taylor gets it right about little steps

Great essay about doing little things better than everyone else: spinme.com: Slow-Cooked Success.

Sooner or later, it’s about better

Google maps (Google Maps ) is just plain better than mapquest or yahoo maps. So much better it’s remarkable. So much better that it doesn’t make sense to use anything else.

This is worth remembering. Your first choice is always to be so much better that all the marketing hype is secondary.

Phil Lempert on RFID

This little thing is the next big thing: Xtreme Retail 23 Home.

In search of the big win

It’s no accident that so many Americans are turning to life-threatening surgery to solve life-long weight problems.

This is precisely the same mindset that leads marketers to buy more SuperBowl ads instead of investing to fix customer service or to intelligently do online marketing.

Big fixes are sudden, certain and precise. They represent instant solutions to long-term problems.

The thing is, they are usually less reliable, more expensive and more painful than a more organic, slower solution.

As long as we need to show the boss (or our shareholders) that we’re taking dynamic action, then the big gesture will remain supreme. Amazingly, the winners seem to be those that test and measure, live for the long haul and embrace small solutions that are easy to adjust.

Today’s whiteboard session

It was a terrific day in Irvington. Folks from the UK and Florida and New York and even Brooklyn came to spend the day.

Hope to see you at the next one, to be posted in a few weeks.


More on bad ideas

I’ve gotten a ton of mails about my bad ideas post.

The bad news is that almost every letter writer misses my point. They want to have an argument about whether pull downs for states is a good idea.

Let’s say that there were no pull downs for states. And then let’s say someone invented it. Would everyone immediately adopt it because it’s so much better? Of course not. The reason it’s being defended is because of the status quo.

To save myself some typing, here are the reasons, if you insist, on why pull downs for states are silly:

1. No, you can’t just type the first letter of the state, at least not in Firefox on the Mac. And hey, a state is just two letters, so who exactly is being helped here?

2. If you really want to use computer power to help me, have me type in my zip code. Then the computer should look up the city AND the state and save me 10 or fifteen letters!

3. the pull down, even if it’s better, which it’s not, causes me to switch from one mode (type and tab) to another mode (arrows and mouse.) All for two letters.

4. there is no #4.

5. The biggest reason of all: half or more of all shoppping carts online are abandoned. If this happened at the supermarket, they’d be bankrupt in less than a week. This is a crisis for anyone who sells online (except for Amazon, which doesn’t have this problem–because people don’t have to see any of this nonsense.) instead of Dilbertly defending the engineering status quo, teams should be working around the clock to test every single thing they can to fix the problem.


The persistence of really bad ideas

There are fifty states (proof: Clickable Map of US States.) This is a problem. If there were 5 states or 500 states, programmers would never have been tempted into forcing consumers to scroll through a pull down menu to enter their state when shopping online.

This means everyone from Texas or New York or heaven forfend, West Virginia, has to scroll all the way down in order to buy something.

This scrolling led to a similar breakthrough to enter your country. Afghanis get a big break (so do people from Andorra) but those in the biggest online consuming country on earth have to scroll all the way down to the ‘U’s.

No wonder so many people abandon shopping carts online.

This is not a post about how stupid this is.

This is not even a post about how easy it would be to fix (it’s actually easier to put a text field in than the pull down menu).

Nor is it a post about how useless the precision here is. Knowing the state is not nearly as important as knowing the zip code, and the scroll down is unlikely to get you the right state every time anyway.

No, this is a post about how bad ideas stick around forever.

The reason is simple: in most organizations, you don’t get in trouble for embracing the status quo.

More than a hundred years ago, Kaiser Wilhelm wanted to get rid of his enemies in the German government. He noticed that they were all over 65. So he decreed that this was the official retirement age, and it still is.

If you want to see what happens when you challenge the status quo, just say this at a party, "I know how to fix Social Security. Let’s just raise the official retirement age for everyone who is currently under fifty. We’ll take it from 65 to 70."

Stand back and beware the flamethrowers.