Archive for October, 2011

Target Market?


Life Alert, why are you advertising on Sprout?

I’m sure you have a reason. Like, people with kids also are likely to have parents (or older relatives), and some of those parents (or older relatives) are your main audience.

But it still seems like a stretch. And for some of those viewers, potentially a confusing and even traumatic one.

As for you, LifeLock, I have no idea what you’re thinking here.

Redbox: How to Communicate With Customers


Previously, I’ve talked about Netflix‘s communication woes. They’ve repeatedly managed to do a stunningly poor job of explaining their business changes to their customers, and it’s been costing them.

So it’s nice to see that another company either learned from that, or just knew all along how to do it better. A colleague forwarded the following e-mail that he got regarding price changes at Redbox. Take a look at how they explain why this is necessary.

New Daily DVD Rental Price

Redbox is making an announcement about its prices today, and we want to make sure that you hear it from us first.

Starting on Monday, October 31, the daily rental charge for DVDs will change to $1.20 a day.* The price change is due to rising operating expenses, including new increases in debit card fees. Daily rental charges for Blu-ray™ Discs and video games won’t change.** Additional-day charges for DVDs rented before 10/31 won’t be affected, either.

In order to make the transition easier, Redbox will discount the first day of all online DVD rentals to $1.00 from 10/31 through 11/30. Additional rental days will be $1.20.***

If you have any questions, please visit There, we’ve provided additional information.

This marks our first price change in more than eight years as we work hard to keep prices low for our customers.

Thank you,


See, Reed Hastings? That isn’t so hard, is it?

Occupy History


If you haven’t heard about Occupy [insert name of city], then you really haven’t had access to any media at all.

Yesterday morning, Occupy Oakland protesters were ordered to disperse. Later in the day, they reconvened and were met by riot-gear-clad police with tear gas canisters.

The response on the mayor’s Facebook page makes me wonder: what would the history books say now if the Bonus Army had had access to social media?

(Note: I am a former history book editor, and therefore I feel that I have some credibility when I say that the answer is more complicated than it may look at first glance–which is also worth considering as we evaluate current events and the impact of technology on communication.)

Photo by Theodor Horydczak, via Library of Congress (gift of Norma and Francis Reeves, 1973)

The Minds of Spammers


I get a fair number of spam comments. It’s been interesting to see different tactics. While quite a few are the usual gibberish (literally; I’m pretty sure they’re written in no language at all), a surprising number appear, at first glance, to be compliments on a particular post. They’re clumsily written, and a second glance often reveals them to be unrelated to the topic at hand. But if you weren’t paying attention, you might let them through. They’re quite calculated.

I do wonder, however, what the goal was with this comment that showed up today, allegedly in regard to my recent post about business communication:

The following time I learn a weblog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as a lot as this one. I imply, I know it was my choice to learn, however I actually thought youd have one thing fascinating to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you possibly can fix if you werent too busy in search of attention.

All I could think was, “Well, that’s new.”

Shut Up


Listen to your kids

Social media is not about “creating a narrative” and “delivering interesting stories to your audience.” And branding is not telling people what you stand for.

I take it back. Of course, both those are the case. But they’re far, far from the whole story. As marketers, we’ve always been able to create narratives, deliver interesting stories, and tell people what we stand for.

What social media does is let people tell us if we’re right. The best thing you can do with social media is not push, and not engage. It’s listen.

That doesn’t mean you don’t talk, that you don’t share content. Content is vital. Good content. But use that content as a starting point. How do people respond to it? How do they respond to you? And when do they initiate contact?

Your audience will tell you what your brand is. They’re the ones who see what you put out there, not what you think you put out there. They’ll tell you what that means. Listen to them.

Be their audience.

Photo by Bindaas Madhavi, via Flickr.

Basics of Business Communication



Guess why no one wants to read this book.

No matter what job we hold, all of us have occasion to share business information with others. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment, and forget what the overall purpose is: to make sure that someone gets the information they need. With that in mind, here are a few tips:

1) Know your audience. It’s the first rule of comedy, and it’s the first rule of pretty much everything else. Do not assume that the recipient is going to find your snarky comment funny. And don’t write to a company vice president as if he or she is your co-worker in the next cubicle.

2) Know why you’re writing. Do you want to provide a project summary? Commend a colleague? Point out issues that are arising? Focus on meeting your goals.

3) Keep it short. Everyone is busy, from that VP to that co-worker. Provide necessary context, but get to the point.

4) Check your spelling. Do not rely entirely on Word or Outlook. Get a dictionary, whether it’s in print or online. Use it.

And now, for a few related links:

Write a Complaint Letter Like a Pro: Good for more than complaint letters. (The Consumerist)

E-mail Etiquette 101: Things to keep in mind. (Michael Hyatt)

We’d All Be Better Off if the “Reply All” Button Just Went Away: Seriously, beware. It’s necessary, but it can get you into serious trouble if you don’t remember what “all” means. (Me)

Photo by romana klee, via Flickr.

Lifetime TV, You’re Really Starting to Annoy Me


First it was this.

More recently, that same bus stop featured a poster for “Five,” with a picture of Jennifer Aniston, who apparently directed it. And that’s all the information I could glean. What’s it about? No idea.

And unless I’ve suddenly lost the ability to count, this looks like it should be called “Six.”

Qwikster, We Hardly Knew Ye


Saturday Night Live now seems oddly prescient, if you ignore the details:

Dear Katharine,

It is clear that for many of our members two websites would make things more difficult, so we are going to keep Netflix as one place to go for streaming and DVDs.

This means no change: one website, one account, one password…in other words, no Qwikster.

While the July price change was necessary, we are now done with price changes.

We’re constantly improving our streaming selection. We’ve recently added hundreds of movies from Paramount, Sony, Universal, Fox, Warner Bros., Lionsgate, MGM and Miramax. Plus, in the last couple of weeks alone, we’ve added over 3,500 TV episodes from ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, USA, E!, Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, ABC Family, Discovery Channel, TLC, SyFy, A&E, History, and PBS.

We value you as a member, and we are committed to making Netflix the best place to get your movies & TV shows.


The Netflix Team

Sunday Television: The All-Loser Edition


Loser: National University

That guy in your ad who want to learn skills that will help him in his career? Hopefully he’s majoring in game design, because it appears that he can’t put down the controller long enough to go to class.

Loser: Lexus

Apparently studies show that the average person will own 12 cars in his or her lifetime. So, the ad asks, which one will you remember? They think this one, which you won’t own. Because they want you to lease it.

So maybe this should actually be the “Unaware of our self-generated irony” edition.

We’d All Be Better Off if the “Reply All” Button Just Went Away


Seriously, it’s still causing trouble. You’d think by now we’d all have learned to be more careful, but no. Check out this post from Jenny Lawson, AKA The Bloggess (also available at @thebloggess).

I’ve had my own corporate run-ins, although not involving pitches. In the past few years I’ve gone to war with AT&T and TiVo over service and billing issues. I’ve won, and the reason I’ve won is that I was right, and I put social media tools to use. I even told the TiVo supervisor that I was going to do it. Fair warning, I say. So why would anyone broadcast that response regarding a blogger with a huge, devoted audience?

Don’t try to one-up snark with insults. It doesn’t work, and it’ll get out somehow. That’s how it works these days. More of us need to learn that. Yes, we’re all human, and yes, we all make mistakes. But maybe it’s time to retire “Reply All.”

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