Won’t be Fooled Again! Ha!

Please see this article from today’s Newser:

(Newser)  That whole “subprime crisis” hasn’t scared banks away from the lucrative world of subprime lending. The nation’s top subprime lenders—like Capital One, GM Financial, HSBC, and JPMorgan Chase—are all trying to woo back less-creditworthy borrowers, who tend to rack up late fees while paying rates as high as 29%, the New York Timesreports. “It’s clear that we are returning to business as usual,” said a former Federal Reserve regulator. But that’s not entirely true; the focus hasn’t yet shifted to mortgages, it’s on auto loans.

Auto loans were left largely unaffected by new post-crisis regulations, and the market for bundled auto loan securities is expanding—so much so that Moody’s last year issued a report that it was growing “too much too fast.” In the fourth quarter of 2011, 23% of new auto loans were subprime. But lenders are also eager to roll out credit cards: In December, 1.1 million new cards were issued to people with damaged credit, the Times notes.


Now see the post I wrote in 2008:

Where Were You in ’32?

December 5, 2008 — Stephen Brooks


Are you a big-3 American automobile manufacturer?  Are you suddenly faced with a huge inventory of gas-guzzling SUVs that no-one wants to buy anymore?   Are you asking your federal government for a $24 billion to save your skins?  Here’s the answer to your woes!


I wonder if they’re doing credit checks on the people who take advantage of this offer, or if it’s another sub-prime crisis in the making.  “Sorry about losing the house, honey, but look at this great new truck I got!”  Three months later: “Sorry about losing the truck, honey, but look at this massive federal deficit our children got!”

It took about 40 years for people to forget the lessons of the Great Depression and start using credit cards and other, progressively more inventive, ways to spend more money than they had.  That’s what fueled the roaring ’80s until the crash in ’87.  Then people did the same thing, except with tech stocks in the ’90s, until the bubble burst.  And now the present sub-prime fiasco.  It has always been a case of too many people buying something which is going to decline in value — with someone else’s money.  Which is exactly what Ford is offering you now.



Well, That Was Easy

I know that, as consumers, we are always supposed to try and get the best deal.  That’s one of the lynchpins of a free market.  I have been partially successful at this in the past.  For instance, we low-balled the offer on the house we currently occupy, and they accepted.  However, when I bought our old BMW in Vancouver, I actually walked out of the office when the salesperson would not accept our price, only to walk back in an hour later (with my tail between my legs) to pay his price.  But today, I got something just by asking.

It started when my cell phone, which is from the Pleistocene epoch, was getting no signal.  I called Rogers (Canadians will know that company), and the friendly tech support lady fixed me right up.  I figured, while I was on the phone with them, I would ask about something Bell Aliant (the OTHER Canadian telco giant) is doing in my neighbourhood.  For the last few weeks they have been stringing FibreOp cables on all the hydro poles.  Also, there is a billboard campaign throughout the city, advertising much lower rates than I currently pay Rogers for my broadband and cable TV.

So, the friendly tech support lady transferred me to a friendly “customer retention specialist,” who, on the spot, knocked 20% off my cable, land line, cell, and internet.  90 seconds of my time just saved me ~$40 per month.

Just by asking.

Time in a Cell

 I was reading the New York Times review of the new Star Trek movie, and saw this comment in the readers’ area:

“this movie was awesome. not a huge old school ST fan but knew of it…this one blew the others away, i found myself looking at my phone hoping there would be more time left than there was and it would keep going…”

Did you get that?  He looked at his PHONE to see the time.  Not his watch.  This reminds me of back in 1996 when I bought my first cell phone, for my wife.  We were out for a walk and she asked me if I knew what time it was.  Now, I haven’t worn a watch for years – there’s something toxic about my perspiration that corrodes most metal (and leather) at an alarming rate.  The only element I can wear next to my skin is Au.  Anyway, I said, “No, but have you got your phone on you?”  She replied, “You want to CALL someone and ask them the time?”

So back then, many people still hadn’t cottoned on to the idea that cell phones are much more than simply telecommunication devices.  Of course, these 13 years on, that’s more true than ever.  Now “phones” are Web browsers, GPSs, music players, video cameras, and, of course, clocks.  Scott Adams muses in his blog about what they will probably become in the future.

Of course, I can’t fight progress, but I hope that when Scott’s predictions come true, they (the ubiquitous “they”) will have figured out how to make the user interface simple enough for the average idiot like me.  I’m not quite so bad that my DVD still flashes “12:00,” but that’s only because it reads the time from the cable signal and adjusts ITSELF.

Aggregators – Aggre-great or Aggre-vating?

jacobIn response to my recent post on Apple stickers, I received the following comment:

Congratulations on your Blog
I really like your writing style. Would you like to be a guest author on the Jacob Report? We have been voted one of the Top 100 Blogs in America, and we are assembling some of the best Blog Authors from around the web to contribute. We would like to include you as a guest author.
The Jacob Report is everything Sales and Marketing, and it looks like you would be a great contributor!
Let me know as quickly as you can please.

Andy Jacob

He has an interesting model here.  He gets a bunch of other people to generate (most) of the content for his site, which drives up its Google ranking and links, which drives up traffic to what is essentially an advertisement for him.  I don’t begrudge his cleverness — its win-win-win.  The contributing authors presumably get a little more exposure that they otherwise would; site visitors get some (occasionally) good insights into sales & marketing; and he gets more traffic.

He is not alone in exploiting this strategy – the top 10 blogs according to Technorati are ALL aggregators.  They all feature multiple authors grabbing content from all over the Web that meets the theme of their site.  They throw in a personal comment or two, and post many entries a day.  People who are interested in that content visit every day to see the latest stuff.

And it’s not just blogs – the highest-ranked non-search engine site (YouTube, #3) is the mother of all aggregators, with millions of contributors and thousands of new “articles” every day.

So should I be honoured that Mr. Jacob thinks enough of my work to add me to his stable of (mostly unfamiliar) authors, or affronted that he wants me to help him make his blog more popular? 

And amazingly, I can tie this back to bar marketing.  Let’s say your place has a particular theme: Irish, Sports, Country (as in music), Country (as in bucolic), Literary, Granola, Biker, Goth, whatever.  You should encourage your customers (blog analog = readers) to become contributors.  This could be by having them make art for your walls, bring in books that they want to share, help with the garden or houseplants, donate antique licence plates or mounted deer antlers, whatever.  By helping to shape the environment they essentially become part-owners, and therefore much more loyal.

Where No Man Has Gone Before…

Trailer for the new Star Trek movie. 

An excellent viral promotion piece for a design shop SputnikAnimation.  Oddly, they use the TLD of “.nu” which belongs to the tiny Polynesian nation of Niue.  Do you think they do that because the work they do is “new”?


Walks, Ministry of Silly

I saw on BoingBoing this morning that Monty Python has placed all their material up on YouTube for free, in their own channel.  Here is the famous “Parrot Sketch.”

They explain their reasoning like this:

For 3 years you YouTubers have been ripping us off, taking tens of thousands of our videos and putting them on YouTube. Now the tables are turned. It’s time for us to take matters into our own hands.

We know who you are, we know where you live and we could come after you in ways too horrible to tell. But being the extraordinarily nice chaps we are, we’ve figured a better way to get our own back: We’ve launched our own Monty Python channel on YouTube.

No more of those crap quality videos you’ve been posting. We’re giving you the real thing – HQ videos delivered straight from our vault.

What’s more, we’re taking our most viewed clips and uploading brand new HQ versions. And what’s even more, we’re letting you see absolutely everything for free. So there!

But we want something in return.

None of your driveling, mindless comments. Instead, we want you to click on the links, buy our movies & TV shows and soften our pain and disgust at being ripped off all these years.

According to the Mashable blog, this approach has resulted in a 23,000% increase in sales of their stuff at Amazon.  I hate to say I told you so, but I did.


Weird Advertainment

arma1I was over at one of my favourite sites, YesButNoButYes, just now, and spotted the box you see at the left in the advertising column of their site.  Normally I am blind to banner ads and the like – I’m not sure what drew me to this one.  Anyway, when you click on it, you get sent here.  You should go look at the site yourself, so you’ll understand what I’m going to write about.

I have already blogged about “advertainment,” the practise of making something interesting and entertaining, then inserting a product plug into it somewhere.  This appears to be “advercryptology.”  You have to look long and hard to figure out what the heck is being advertised.  If I was more into video games, I would probably have cottoned on to this sooner, but it took me 10 minutes to figure out what was being promoted here.  It turns out that F.E.A.R. is a first-person shooter game, and version 2 is set to drop in February.  The (obviously) fictional company “Armacham Technology Corporation” is a major element of the game – they supply armaments and created the super-human characters featured in the story.

I think this is brilliant.  It’s reminiscent of Easter Eggs, which I’ve discussed before, and creates a feeling of inclusion in a special tribe  (as Seth would call it) of F.E.A.R. enthusiasts.  Only they know what “Armacham” is, so only they are likely to click on the link and only they will appreciate the content and only they will be excited about the fact the the new version is coming on February 10.  It’s almost one-to-one marketing, but in a broadcast medium.

The problem is, of course, that Monolith Productions, the maker of F.E.A.R., is paying for a lot of views and some clicks that will be useless to them.  YesButNoButYes is a fairly general site – I wouldn’t think they’d get a particulary high proportion of gamers visiting there.  And by making their ad generically tempting (to conspiracy theorists, tabloid reader types, believers in ESP, etc.), they will probably get a lot of clicks from people (like me) who will never buy their product.

But maybe that’s the cachet – do you think their fans  know  that Monolith is wasting money just to communicate straight to them?


Word coined: Advertainment

In yesterday’s post, I linked to an entertaining video that I thought you might enjoy.  I don’t feel bad about that, even though I was essentially telling you to watch an advertisement for Seagate, the maker of hard drives and other storage devices.

Granted, the blatantly promotional content is at the very end, and only lasts for a few seconds, and could even be interpreted as a thank you from Seagate employees who are grateful to their employer for letting them have fun on company time.

But it IS an ad, developed by the creative agency Sniper Twins.  If you check their site, you’ll see that they are already producing their next geek-rap video, and are looking for a cell-phone company to sponsor them.

I think this is smart.  First of all, by doing the creative before they have a client, they have pure control over the content, which probably makes for a better (and therefore more viral) product.  And I also think it’s smart for the sponsors – 99.9% of people who watch the Seagate video don’t give a rat’s patooty about hard drives, but the 0.1% that do just might buy something from them.  It’s the same model as TV ads: you watch something entertaining for a while, then they insert a pitch.  The trouble with TV is that: the ads are intrusive in that they interrupt your entertainment; the pitch:entertainment ratio is 4:15; and buying airtime is frickin’ expensive. In the Seagate video, the pitch is at the end; the pitch:entertainment ratio is about 1:50; and the broadcast cost is ZERO (unless they paid a site like this to get the ball rolling).

I was so proud of myself for coming up with a new word for this phenomenon: “advertainment.”  But of course, it’s already out there – 133,000 Google hits, and even a blog by that name.


What a Phone!

pomOver at Rich Gould’s blog, I found this really cool link to a site that describes the amazing about-to-be-released smart phone.  It’s called the Pomegranate and it will blow you away.  Go look at it now, then come back and read the rest of this post.

Really, go look now.


So you now realize that it’s all a joke, and a promotion for the province of Nova Scotia.  But it’s getting huge attention among Webish types, and is a fantastic example of someone trying  to create a viral phenomenon (as opposed to accidentally creating one).

If I didn’t already know about Nove Scotia, and I clicked on the link from my trusted friend Rich, I would think Nova Scotia must be a pretty cool place to make such a funny, high-quality, subversive marketing ploy.  I have a couple of issues with the site’s navigation, and it would take for frickin’ EVER to load on anything but broadband, but overall I say bravo.


What’s Your Blog-Gender?

gaThere’s a gimmicky Website called Genderanalyzer that claims to be able to predict the gender of a blogger by scanning their site.  They’re 64% certain that I’m male.  They also nailed Clayton (79%), and Fred (75%).  But they’re 74% sure that Bill is a woman, and also 75% confident Jessica Hagy (one of the most popular female bloggers in the world) is a man.

So my point is not that the thing is accurate, but that it’s even conceived.  This is one of the types of services the Web will be able to do well in 5 years or so – get human-quality impressions of a person or company by perusing their online presence.

The gender of a blogger is, of course, a trivial thing for this kind of automatic analysis to determine.  But what about the kid-friendliness of a restaurant, or the hip-hop friendliness of a night club?  Or the honesty of an online merchant, or the quality of a hotel?  Or, to get back to personalities, how about the compatibility of a potential friend, spouse, physician, lawyer, or golf buddy?