Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Archive for the tag “marketing”

How NOT to sell something to someone of my generation

About ten years ago a woman phoned me, and gabbled something so quickly that I couldn’t hear it. I asked her to repeat it, but still could barely hear what she was saying. Eventually I managed to gather that they were doing a health survey in our area, and wanted to know if I’d be willing to answer some questions. I said sure, as a public-spirited citizen, I’d be willing to help with a survey.

A little later the guy who was doing the “health survey” came, and turned out to be a snake oil salesman.

He started wittering on about us not getting enough oxygen because of pollution, and so we needed to replace it with ozone. I tried to recall chemistry lessons from high school, and was sure that ozone was O3 and oxygen was O2, so supplementing oxygen with ozone was a bit like supplementing diamonds with pencil lead. Also, I seemed to remember that ozone was poisonous.

I was getting bored and restless, and wished he’d get on with it, do his survey, and leave. I didn’t want a long and extremely boring lecture about dubious chemical processes.

He went on about ozone therapy, and I could hardly wait for him to leave so I could check Wikipedia for the properties of ozone. Eventually I asked him to get on with it, and tell me what he was selling and how much it was. So he showed a sort of vacuum cleaner contraption and a bathmat, which he said cost R10000. I said there was no way I had that kind of money, and then he said “Do you have a credit card?” and said if I bought it with that I could pay it off over three years at R360 a month, and what could I buy with R360. I said I could fill my car with petrol, and he said “How far will that get you?”

And then I said I was tired of his bullshit and had a lot to do, so I said there was no way I would buy it because I did not have that kind of money and anyway I wasn’t convinced of the benefits, and so he was wasting his time and mine. He packed up his gadgets with a bad grace and left.

He made no effort to hide his annoyance, but he had come to see me under false pretences, and tried to sell me something I didn’t need and couldn’t afford and tried very hard to persuade me to use a credit card to buy it when the price was more than double my monthly pension.

So I think The Oatmeal hits the nail exactly on the head with this.

I may be an old fogey, but I really detest buzzwords like “marketing” “brands”, and “entrepreneurship”, and I’m not really interested in “monetising” my blog.

If you want to sell me something, tell me upfront what it is and what it does and what it costs. Don’t come to my house under false pretences, bore me and waste my time with bullshit lectures, and only then tell me what you’re selling.

Brands and mavericks

I’ve read several articles claiming that the word most people hate most is “moist”. The word I hate most is “brands”. Well, one of the words, anyway.

Consider this, for example, 10 Journalism Brands Where You Find Real Facts Rather Than Alternative Facts:

Realizing that millions more people are scratching their heads, wondering what to read and where to spend their subscription dollars, here are my top 10 large journalistic brands where I believe you can most often find real, reported facts:

The use of “brand” in that article is the main reason that I don’t trust it. Yes, I agree with the criteria mentioned in the article, but I’m not looking for reliable brands, I’m looking for reliable news.

Do you go into a shop and say “I’m looking for a brand?” or “What brand should I buy?”

And the shopkeeper might say “Brand of what? Screwdrivers, sticky tape or light bulbs?”

The use of “brands” in that article inclines me not to trust it, because it betrays the mentality of the profit motive.

Take a newspaper.

What is the primary purpose of a newspaper?

  1. To make a profit?
  2. To publish and disseminate news?

“Brand” is a marker word for those who take the first attitude — the primary purpose of a newspaper is to make a profit. So when considering whether to publish a story and how much space to give it, the main criterion for the editor is not whether it is true, or whether it will inform, but “How many papers will it sell?”

So when people talk about “brands” instead of newspapers, journals, magazines or broadcast news programmes, I really don’t trust what they are saying, because they are using marketing speak rather than English. “Brands” suggests smoke and mirrors, a con job, all image and no substance. The important thing about brands is always to be polishing their brand image, rather than improving the product.

Which brand do you prefer? Sunlight, Volkswagen, Dulux or All Gold?

Branding cattle

Doesn’t that depend on whether you are buying soap, cars, paint or jam?

Which brand do you recommend?
Try this one sir, it has seven cupholders.
But how well does it spread when you take it out of the fridge?

The word “brand” comes from cattle ranching in unfenced territory.

Cattle keepers would mark their cattle with distinctive brands to show which belonged to them and which to someone else.

An unbranded beast was called a “maverick“, because no one knew who it belonged to.

So which news outlet do I prefer?

The Daily Maverick, of course.

Eish MTN

When I first got a cell phone back in 2001, I got one from MTN, mainly because it was easier to understand their pricing. It was a pay-as-you-go one, and I got it because I was running around trying to organise for a student to travel to Kenya, and getting passports and visas and had to keep phoning.

Now they started sending me all kinds of offers. I’d get an SMS once a week or so, urging me to recharge and get double the air time and things like that. I usually ignored them because I don’t phone a lot, and prefer e-mail to talking on the phone. Then they started sending them twice or three times a day.

Y’ello! Recharge today and get 500% your recharge value from MTN. Offer  valid till 05-AUG-14. T&C’s Apply Opt Out: STOP to 30246 (FREE)

So after all that nagging, I thought I’d try it. I had about R78.00 worth of airtime on my phone, and topped it up with another R60.00. They sent me an SMS to say that the top up was worth R300, to be used within a week.

MTNAyobaI’m hard-put to find enough to talk about for that long, but I phoned some friends I hadn’t seen for a long time, who lived far away, and caught up with their news. By the end of the week I’d used upabout R50.00 or so of the R300.00 they’d given me. So I expected that by the end of the week my airtime would be back to what it was before. But it wasn’t. It was R60.00, the amount I had paid for the recharge, but without the R78.00 I’d had before.

So it’s a scam. They sday they are giving you more airtime, but they take away the same amount at the end of the period. In the end, they give you nothing. They pretend to give you air time to make more calls, but the cost of those calls comes off your original airtime, when the extra airtime expires.

It’s all smoke and mirrors, a ripoff.

EishMTNWell, I did like they said in that SMS, and SMSed STOP to the number they gave, and they said I’d been removed from their marketing list.

But it’s ironic to think that I first joined MTN because I thought their pricing was more transparent, that What You SEE IS What You Get (WYISYG). But it isn’t, not at all.

So it’s Boo! Hiss! to MTN.

Ayoba MTN? No, it’s Eish MTN.

Next time I want a cell phone, I know where not to go.

Carpenter’s Shoes: Fun with Technorati

I’ve just visited Technorati for the second time this month. and that’s probably also for the second time this year.

This time it was the result of reading Carpenter’s Shoes: Fun with Technorati

Technorati provide blog ranking stats (www.technorati.com) It’s a bit of a mission to find out the rankings of the South African religion blogs that I am interested in, but there are a few that I check once in a blue moon. Blog rankings are based on what Technorati calls authority.

My previous visit to Technorati this month was because I got an email asking me to take part in a survey on the state of the blogosphere. Though the survey wasn’t very satisfactory, if you are a blogger it might well be worth taking part in it, as the more who do so, the better the picture it will give of the state of the blogosphere, despite its flaws.

But Jenny Hillebrand’s post on Carpenter’s Shoes got me thinking about why I only visit Technorati once or twice a year, if that. A few years ago I used to visit the site three or four times a week.

What has changed?

Well the Technorati site has changed.

Back then it had stuff that interested me as a blogger. I could go there to find blogs and blog posts I was interested in. There used to be “Technorati tags”, and one could click on them to find who was blogging on what topics. If I was going to blog on a subject, I’d look up tags related to that subject, and if those blogs said anything interesting on the topic, I’d link to them.

Now, however, you can’t find stuff that you find interesting on Technorati. If you look at their tags page, for example, you can’t search for tags. They only show you the currently popular tags for the last month. Do not expect Technorati to give you what you like. You WILL like what Technorati gives you and tells you to like. There is a kind of arrogant authoritarian flavour to it.

What is going on here?

I suspect that Technorati was started by a bunch of bloggers who enjoyed blogging and tried to produce a tool that would be useful to bloggers and that bloggers would like. And it grew a bit beyond their capacity and they needed a bit of capital injection to keep it going and growing.

But capital injection also means that the marketing people come in and have more say, and in their philosophy giving bloggers what they are looking for is no good at all. What is important is to steer bloggers towards the stuff that brings in the most advertising revenue for us.

So they modify it, and tell you:

Welcome to the
new Technorati.com

The blogosphere evolves and so do we.

And that means they make it harder to find what you are looking for, and easier to find the stuff that brings in the most advertising revenue for them. And finding what you are looking for, as Jenny says, is “a bit of a mission.”

And that is why I now visit Technorati only once or twice a year, instead of three or four times a week.

Telephone tapping and worse

One would think, with all the brouhaha about the closure of News of the World as a result of the telephone tapping scandal, that people might think twice about sending out spam e-mails like this

XCeptor – the ultimate spy software for mobile phones – you can install one REMOTELY to any phone around the world.

Now all you will need to do in order to get total control over a mobile (target) phone of a person of your interest is to send the special MMS to that target phone, which is generated by our unique Xsepter LOADER. This way you can get very valuable and otherwise un-accessible information about a person of your interest very easily.

All you will need to do is to install our unique Xseptic LOADER to your mobile phone and start its execution. You will get the dialog box on the display of your mobile phone and you will be requested to enter a phone number of a target mobile phone of a person of your interest. Afterwords you will choose SEND option in that dialog box. The Xseptoid LOADER will send the special MMS message to the target phone immediately and a person of your interest will have no idea that this special MMS message has been received by his phone. Our Xseptic software will be immediately installed to a target phone and it will be automatically configured for communication with your (source) phone. The special MMS message which has been used as the carrier of our Xsepter software from your (source) phone to a target phone will be automatically deleted then.

The example of use:

You will send the special MMS message containing our unique Xsepter software to a mobile phone of e.g. your girlfriend. In case your girlfriend will be using her (target) mobile phone, you will be provided by following unique functions:

In case your girlfriend will make an outgoing call or in case her (target) phone will receive an incoming call, you will get on your personal standard mobile phone an immediate SMS message about her call. This will give you a chance to listen to such call immediately on your standard mobile phone.

In case your girlfriend will send an outgoing SMS message from her (target) mobile phone or she will receive a SMS message then you will receive a copy of this message on your mobile phone immediately.

This target phone will give you a chance to listen to all sounds in its the surrounding area even in case the phone is switched off. Therefore you can hear very clearly every spoken word around the phone.

You will get a chance to find at any time the precise location of your girlfriend by GPS satellites.

All these functions may be activated / deactivated via simple SMS commands.

… wouldn’t one?

The name of the software has been changed to protect the guilty, but no doubt lots of unscrupulous journalists already know and use it.

Friendship as a marketable commodity

“Can’t buy me love”, the Beatles sang 45 years ago, but that doesn’t stop people from trying to sell it to you.

uSocial – Buy Facebook Fans & Friends!:

Friends: people say they can’t be bought, though in this day and age it’s simply not the case. Our newest service will enable you to get more Facebook friends with ease by buying them in packages up to 5,000.

How we get you friends is simply by finding out exactly what industry, niche, or target market you are wanting to find people to target and then we go about attaining relevent friends for you and adding them to your Faceboook account. Every single person we gain for you will be real users and exactly relevant to what you are looking for — this is our guarantee.

In a consumer society, why shouldn’t love and friendship be a consumer item like anything else?

Perhaps we need to think more seriously about an alternative society.

Turn offs

As i look around the blogosphere for new and interesting blogs, there are some things that turn me right off.

I do most of my blog surfing on MyBlogLog. I used to use BlogCatalog for that as well, but now they show blogs in an annoying frame, which you have to close to see the URL, which means reloading the page, with a consequent waste of bandwidth.

That’s a turn-off in itself. I like to visit blogs whose owners have visited my blog — if they find my blog interesting, there’s a stronger possibility that I’ll find theirs interesting. And if theirs is interesting, then people who visit their blog might have interesting blogs, and so on.

But it’s a bit like travelling through a maze or a labyrinth — doing that sometimes leads one down dead ends, and when that happens there is nothing for it but to go back and start over.

There are, however, some warning signs that indicate that a dead end is coming up — key words that turn me off.

And some of these words are: entrepreneurship, marketing, self-help, self-improvement, personal development.

When I see those tags in a MyBlogLog blog listing, I don’t even bother to look at the blog. I know it’s going to be a boring dead end.

But there are a lot of blogs like that out there.

My son works in a book shop, and he tells me that the best-selling books are the self-improvement ones.

One of the most popular recent ones is called The Secret. More people seem to buy that than anything else, and from my son’s description of the contents I gather its main purpose is to promote the “culture of entitlement” which is already the bane of our society. Its main message appears to be that the universe owes you a living, and you just need to be sufficiently assertive to persuade it to cough up.

A few years ago we went to his graduation at the Pretoria Technikon (now called the Tshwane University of Technology). He studied fine arts, and was a bit unenthusiastic when we said we would like to attend his graduation. When we did, we saw why.

The main speaker pronounced his pride in the institution’s greatest achievement: it was the very first tertiary education institution in the world to include the word “entrepreneurship” in its mission statement.

And it went from bad to worse: the lights were dimmed, and the graduands all recited “The Entrepreneur’s Creed” together in unison, like 8-year-olds reciting the multiplication tables — the new secular religion for the masses.

Marketing, entrepreneurship, self-help and self-improvement are the biggest turn-offs I know.

But if you want to be a successful entrepreneur, just write and publish a self-improvement book. Marketing it is one of the easiest things in the world to do, because the demand is limitless.

Better still, write a book about how to write self-improvement books.

Bishop Alan’s Blog: Cows Come Home Shock Horror

Bishop Alan writes of a dairy farm in his diocese where the farmers have begun doing their own marketing, selling dairy products locally rather than to the big supermarket chains.
Bishop Alan’s Blog: Cows Come Home Shock Horror:

The grim fact is that UK supermarkets and banks have beggared thousands of English dairy farms into extinction over the past ten years. Like all world food prices ours are rising now, but fuel, energy and feed costs are soaring. There may be one or two corn barons in East Anglia, but, as with other media lost causes, beware stereotypes about farmers.

And of course the same thing has been happening in South Africa as well, for many years.

The ANC government, with its Thatcherist neoliberal policies, disolved most of the the agricultural control boards and did away with that particular bureaucratisation of agriculture, but I’m not sure that things are any better.

I remember 25 years or so ago visiting a farmer in the Babanango district. The EU bureaucratic regulations required that all all cattle slaughtered for sale in the UK must be done at a few central and controlled slaughter houses, which killed off the local butchers. The farmer could not eat meat from his own beef herd. Instead of taking a beast to the local butcher for slaughter, it had to be taken to the shambles at Cato Ridge, more than 250 km away, and the farmer would then have to drive to the nearest town (30 km away) to buy the meat from the supermarket.

Twittersheep – who’s stalking whom?

I tried Twittersheep, which gathers information from the bios of one’s followers and extracts a cloud of keywords. The biggest key words were Christian, Church, Orthodoxy and Love.

That’s OK.

The key words I dread seeing are Marketing and Entrepreneurship.

When I see them written large in tag clouds, my interest flags. When I see them as tags in blogs in MyBlogLog, I know I’m going to find it boring. But most of the entrepreneurs and marketing geeks have stopped blogging and gone Twittering. And they are the people who like following (or is it stalking) other people and collecting more followers than anyone else.

When my son graduated from Pretoria Technikon (now called the Tshwane University of Technology, or something like that) he was a bit reluctant that we should go to the graduation ceremony. Afterwards it was obvious why — he found it too cringeworthy and embarrassing.

The vice-chancellor (or his stand-in) made a speech in which he proudly announced that the Pretoria Technikon was the first tertiary educational institution in the world to include the word “entrepreneurship” in its mission statement, and at the end the lights dimmed, and there were spotlights on the new graduates as they all recited the Entrepreneurs Creed in unison. It was the essence of kitsch.

But as the global recession deepens, and the great god Entrepreneurship turns out to have feet of clay, I wonder if they will still be reciting it now.

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