Privacy vs. Fame

Greta GarboThere has been a lot of hoopla about online privacy in recent years, most notably the news that Facebook had been sharing its users’ profile data with advertisers.  Lately I’ve been more concerned about the other direction: how do I get the Internet to know more about me?

If you google “Stephen Brooks” you will find the previous champ at that search has been dethroned.  Until recently, the most Web-famous of my namesakes was a b-list actor who was most known for being a Star Trek redshirt that actually survived to the end of an episode.  Today, though, the number one search result slot belongs to Dr. Stephen Brooks of Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Computer Science.  I won’t go into the reasons why his academic page (not even a real site) has passed the IMDB (Internet Movie Database) listing of the actor – the field of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is way more than a single blog post can handle. 

My concern is more around why don’t I rank higher?  I don’t show up in the search results until the mid-50s, and that’s not even my blog. I do much better with “bars & marketing” – #1 with the quotation marks (explained below) and #20 without.  But I’m far far far from where people will know the title of my blog more than my name.  My friend’s blog is also at #1 when you search for its name, “Netdud,” but then it’s easy to get made-up words to the top.  What’s impressive is to get his own name, which is composed of two English words, “Bill” and “Arab,” to register, and he’s soaring at the number 3 rank on a search for his moniker.

If I was really serious about it, of course, I could buy my name in Google Adwords.  But I’d rather that the big bad identity-thieving internet found me by itself.

Explanation for search neophytes:  When you place quotes around search terms in Google, it only returns links to that exact set of words in that exact order.  So a search for bars and marketing,  without the quotes, provides a bunch of sites where those three words appear anywhere on the page (and I end up 20th); but “bars & marketing” with the quotes  selects my blog as the most appropriate match, because I have that exact phrase.

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Who is this “Al Fresco” guy, anyway?

Crescent StThursdaysI’m a big fan of bar terraces.  They’re very much the norm in Montréal, like this example at Winston Churchill’s Pub on Crescent Street.  On a nice summer day, it’s a real pleasure to sit in the shade and watch the beautiful people walk by on the sidewalk.  When I open my bar, it will definitely have an outdoor, street-facing component.

What I don’t get, though, is people who like to EAT outside.  For me, the enjoyment of most kinds of food is sharply reduced by taking it into open air.  The reasons are manifold:

1. The food cools too quickly.  Even on warm days, the movement of air takes away the heat of a dish. 

2. There is strong chance that the ambient temperature will be just slightly too hot or too cold for optimum comfort, so clothes will have to be added or shedded or the discomfort endured.  It’s no problem for me to drink a hot toddy wearing a parka, but I don’t want to eat a steak in one.

3. There is a risk of insects bothering you.  This can be easily dealt with when you have both hands free, as you usually do with a beer sitting in front of you; but when eating you are usually holding utensils in one or both hands.

4. The noise and fumes of traffic.  I don’t mind having to speak in a raised voice in a bar/drinking environment, but I like to dine in relative peace.  Likewise with pungent odors – drinking in a smoky bar never bothered me, but sitting next to a smoker in a restaurant did, and I was a smoker myself.  (Yes, I am old enough to remember smoking in restaurants.)

The circumstances when I prefer  eating outside is when the food is eaten with one’s hands, and it’s messy.  The perfect example is lobster.  In my opinion, lobster should ONLY be eaten outdoors, near a large body of water that you can jump into after your meal to wash off all the lobster juice and drawn butter.

Bonus Question

We have an extra post today, because I want your opinion: is this a deliberate attempt to create a viral blockbuster, or is the spokesperson really that blunt?  Wait until just after the 1 minute mark for the “meat” of this clip.  Your answer may be influenced by the fact that the airline fully owns up to it – read their punny release.

WWBD (What Would Broox Do?)

In yesterday’s post, I criticized Stride for continuing to use a dying medium (TV) to promote their chewing gum when they had already utilized a modern marketing technique (viral video).  “Well, Monsieur Smartypants,” you might say, “what would you  do?”

I would engage the 2 million+ folks who watched the video with further compelling interactions.  At the end of Matt’s video, I would show my URL, which they already have, but with a call to action that encourages people to actually go there.  I would promise them free stuff and potential fame if they came to my site and fooled around a bit.  I would ask them for their email addresses and permission to establish a regular communication with them.  I would give away my gum for free to first-time visitors because (I presume) it truly is great tasting.  I would make Matt even more of a celebrity, like that Subway guy, Jared.  I would take all the money and energy and creativity that went into the crappy TV ads and the hip (not), entertaining (not), engaging (not), and super-animated (ugh) Web site, and make something simpler and more genuine.  I would replace the contrived games with ones that people actually enjoy and play, like those listed here.  I would have a blog that allows unfiltered comments. 

In short, I would not insult the intelligence of the young people I am trying to engage by cloaking my marketing; I would make my marketing true enough that is doesn’t need cloaking.

The Suits Don’t Get Viral Marketing

If you have missed the Where the Hell is Matt Dancing  series, you’re in for a treat.  Watch this one, and then go to and watch the previous two.  They have all received extensive play at YouTube, with this latest one getting 2.25 MILLION views in the first few days (it was posted Friday).

Matt made his first video just for kicks.  It became so popular that he garnered sponsorship from the folks at Stride gum.  (You can go see their flash-tastic site here if you would like your aggravation maximized today.)  You know Stride gum – they’re the ones with the hilarious  TV commercials where their gum’s flavour lasts so long that people never have to buy any more so Stride has to shut down their factory.  Those commercials, like most interruption marketing, are annoying.  Matt’s video, like most popular viral content, is delightful.

Why would Stride spend hundreds of thousands of dollars making their inane TV spots, and millions of dollars buying airtime for them?  They sent Matt around the world for $50k and got WAY more exposure, and it was straight into their target demographic.  It’s frustrating to see a marketer do something so right at the same time as continuing the stale old ways.  I guess corporate marketing is still too timid to put all their eggs in a non-traditional basket.

My Little Toots


I got this photo in a nice frame for my office for Father’s Day.  I am such a proud Daddy.  And my beautiful wife was the talented photographer, so I’m a proud husband, too.

Should a Marketer Market Himself?

Stephen Brooks ResumeI joined Facebook several months ago just to see something someone had sent me – I had to be a member to view their Facebook profile.  I haven’t paid much attention to it since.  Then, on Friday, it occurred to me that many of the people who use and appreciate Facebook are the same ones who were reacting to news that I was blogging now with, “Cool – send me the URL.”  So in a blatant display of self-promotion, I visited the Facebook pages of all 8  (ooooh) of my Facebook “friends” and trolled their  friends lists for people I know, and sent friend requests to those who I thought wouldn’t mind.

My theory was that the more people who visited my Facebook page, the more chance that they would see my blog URL and the more likely they might be to visit.  If they like what I write about, they may become regular visitors and maybe even recommend me to other people whom I don’t know (yet).  The whole exercise felt slightly self-aggrandizing and spammy at the time, but two things now convince me it was a good idea:

1.  It worked.  My blog traffic hit a new record on Friday, and the weekend numbers were significantly better than normal.  And I now have fifty Facebook friends!  (Still far fewer than the hundreds my friend Kim has…)

2.  And, as someone who writes about, and pretends to know something about, Web 2.0 marketing, isn’t it my duty to self-promote?  I got to thinking about the last time I was involved in hiring someone for a marketing-related role.  The résumés of most of the applicants were dull dull dull.  Now mine (pictured) is no Rembrandt, but it shows that I took a little time on the most important document I will probably ever write.  And guess what?  I got two people to proof-read  it, too.

I’m not going to get off on the tangent of how many people submitted CV’s with spelling and grammar errors – that’s a whole other galaxy of dumb.  But if you want to impress me with with your potential as a marketing professional, do NOT submit a document that is virtually indistinguishable from everyone else’s.  Use some colour pixels, for heaven’s sake – they don’t cost any more.

Similarly, consider whether you can be impressing me with your online presence.  I believe the day is fast approaching when the idea of a marketing person who isn’t blogging (or Facebooking or MySpacing or Second Lifeing or existing online in some other way) will be as incongruous as a physician who smokes.

Weary of Poor Grammar

T&TPeople who know me, know that I love to pillory the local paper, The Times & Transcript.  I have a long-standing challenge with myself to find a spelling error in every issue, and I have never failed.  Often the mistakes are ones that spellcheck would catch (which makes be doubly curious as to how they get through), but not always.  Consider this scan.  The reporter is “weary of the possibility…”  In case you think I may have doctored the image, the story is online here, with the offending sentence about 3-quarters of the way down, in the paragraph beginning, “Of all the Kamikaze…”

Give me a freakin’ break.  This guy is a professional reporter, for God’s sake.  I can handle spelling errors – I figure they’re simply slips or typos by people who really know better.  But this guy actually believes that “weary” means “wary.”

I’m not immune.  For many years growing up I had my own misconceptions: I thought fiery was pronounced fear-ee; and I knew all about the “dawn kwicks-oat” that tilted at windmills.  And I’m sure I still have similar holes in my knowledge.  But I’m not getting paid  to write.  This guy is.  He should be held to a higher standard.  And, when I do produce something professionally, I get it proofed.  Often twice.  By smart people.  Who know how to spell wary.

Isn’t that what editors are supposed to do?

Couple of funny things related to this:  the photo of my friend Tom and a real sign in Hong Kong at the bottom of this page.  And Stuff White People Like.  The very fact that I care about grammar (white person thing #99) enough to blog about it is certainly proof that I qualify.  As my Péquiste friends in Montréal would say, “He’s so Wonder-bread-and-mayonnaise, he probably gets out of the shower to take a leak!”

My 50th Post!

MilestoneNot a super-significant milestone, but still.  I’ve been sticking to my promise of a daily post for 10 weeks now. 

So, what’s my feet-fully-wet opinion of blogging?  Well, it’s good for the ego.  At the level I’m at, almost everyone who reads my posts is a friend or colleague, so it’s highly improbable that anyone would say, “Man, your writing sucks!  And how can you be so dumb as to have that opinion?”  So there’s no downside.  But there’s a huge potential upside: the rush you get when someone compliments your style or says they find your thoughts interesting.

As a promotional avenue, I can’t really rate it yet, because I have nothing specific to promote.

As a pastime, it takes more effort than I thought.  But the effort isn’t in the typing the posts, it’s in coming up with stuff to post about.  Early on, I thought I should write down ideas for posts when they came to me, so I would have a list to draw on when inspiration was flagging.  The funny thing is, everything on the list seems too dull when I go back to it.

As a professional development activity, I’d have to give it a slightly positive rating.  The act of putting your ideas about what you do for a living “down on paper” doesn’t teach you anything net-new, but it does force you to turn them over in your head and maybe look at them from a new angle.

The guilty pleasure is in checking your traffic and having a completely irrational flush of pride when your visitor count goes up.  So if you’re reading right now, thanks for that.

If It’s Not Working, Don’t Keep Doing It

Parenthetically to yesterday’s post, there was another, less effective marketing technique used by the Anchor Inn’s bar manager.  He would give “Anchor Bucks” to the top finishers of the NTN trivia games.  Anchor Bucks were coupons that were worth a dollar each and could be spent in the Anchor Inn’s lounge, restaurant and sushi bar.  I think the prizes were 4 bucks for first place and 2 for second.

The trouble was, I am pretty good at trivia, and I was in the bar for its prime hours (8:00 – 10:00) every single weeknight.  The only other person who stood a chance of winning was actually the bartender.  So the only two people who ever won any Anchor Bucks were me and the bartender who couldn’t accept them.

There’s nothing wrong with a loyalty program; as a matter of fact I think it’s a pretty good idea.  Anchor Bucks in particular were not spendable on the date they were issued, so they required the patron to return at another time to redeem them.  That’s clever, because people don’t usually go to bars alone, so even if they have enough Anchor Bucks to buy all their own drinks (highly improbable), they will be bringing their friends’ money in too.  It was also clever to tie the awarding of the bucks to an activity that tends to keep people in the bar (the trivia game).

But the loyalty benefits don’t work if nobody gets to use them.  The promise  of an Anchor Buck if you win the trivia round is nearly worthless – the actual possession  of a Buck by a customer is what gives it value as a loyalty driver.  And to make things worse, I would have been there every night with or without the incentive.  I lived in the hotel.  Once they saw that all Anchor Bucks were going to me, they should have ended or altered the program.

(BTW, I saved my bucks until I had about 500 and treated my boss and myself to a fine meal and night at the bar.  That night, over half of the hotel’s total hospitality take was worthless paper…)