Why You Are A Spammer

SPAM is pervasive and nasty. What you might not know is that you’re part of the problem.

If you use the Internet you will get spam. And it will deal with some
bodily function, refinancing hoax, or non-existent company you’d rather
not think about.

But maybe, we should think about SPAM and learn something from it.
After all, it has the same knack for survival as roaches. It’s
irritating as hell, but every now and then you open one. Don’t you?

The main reasons people open email is:
1)    It comes from a trusted sender
2)    It’s expected
3)    There’s a provocative reason to open it.

Subject Line Product/Service
Kiwi hemisphere Art4Love
Hi Viagra/Cialis
Be an expert next Friday! Business Newspaper
bloodshed Villanueva China Mobility Solutions
washer rear end Trimax Corporation
It’s time to refill Kevin Erectile dysfunction

SPAM has none of these qualities except the “good stuff” has a way of picking at us. For example, the subject lines I collected during the past week grabbed me for one reason or another. “Kiwi hemisphere” is oddly poetic. “Be an expert next Friday,” well that’s pure vanity. “Bloodshed in Villanueva” sounds like a CNN alert; and “washer rear end” is just funny; and Kevin is the name of my stepson.

What we have is accidental targeting, which works for the Spammers due to sheer volume. It’s crude, but it works; it also alienates just about everyone who receives it.

I think we should extend the definition of SPAM to include poorly targeted media placements, messages that are out of synch with the medium or programming, and claims made about a product or service that aren’t fulfilled to the consumer’s expectations.

A great example is a snooty ad I saw in a recent copy of ESPN News for an upscale luxury automobile. While ESPN targets enough upscale readers to justify the buy, the ad is turnoff in fast-paced, locker room, crunch and punch attitude of the magazine. The result? Waste, and maybe even contempt toward the brand for being so out of step.

SPAM isn’t just in your mailbox. It’s something we all have to fight by narrowing our focus and increasing the relevance of our messages. Do otherwise, and your booty will be right in the trash.

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“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” are the words people whose ideas and
lifeblood have been ripped off by lazy, no-talent hacks. Carl, Dave, and LC, you
know who you are. We’re coming after you. We’re bringing on the heat, because the
most valuable commodity in the marketplace is intellectual capital and ideas. That’s
our business.

We know who you are,
and we’re coming to get

The copyright protections offered to creators of work under the law are an important
reason the U.S. has flourished as the mother of invention. Other nations, e.g. China
and Russia, don’t share our values about copyright. And they help themselves to our
technology, medicines, computer chips, black market videos, and even automobiles.
They’re hurting us.

Racketeering of that scale is beyond the control of most of us. But, you don’t have
to sit down and take it, either. Be vigilant. Monitor the Internet, blogs, airwaves
and publications. Act swiftly. Notify competitors’ ISPs of copyright violations.
When someone steals your advertising ideas, or an entire portfolio for that matter,
they’re stealing your brand and your daily bread.

Ask your attorney about how you can fight back. You might also visit Jonathan
Bailey’s blog, plagiarismtoday.com.

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The High Cost of Brand Deviance


Early in my career, I managed promotions for a classical music
station. One of our most popular promotions was a live jazz program
broadcast from the Hyatt Regency for 13 weeks in the winter. By all
accounts, “Jazz Live from the Hyatt,” was a huge success. Every week,
the atrium was packed with jazz fans clinking glasses of chardonnay, a
sprinkling of local celebrities, and a drooling drunk or two. Life was
good, or so I thought.

The net effect on our brand was decidedly negative. Because of the
event’s success, the station invested heavily in on- and off-air
promotion of the series. Too many people, we became the “Jazz Life from
the Hyatt Station.” The rationalization was that jazz, which has
roughly the same demographic as classical music, would entice new
people to try classical music.

All of the assumptions turned out to be wrong. The Denver Audience
Research Project was the first torpedo. It showed that while jazz and
classical music listeners were similar in demographics, education and
income, their preferences in music listening could not be more
different. In fact, of all the various radio formats, a jazz listener
was least likely to listen to classical music. We might as well been
pitching Cabbage Patch dolls in Muscle and Fitness magazine.

Arbitron data was just as bleak. Keep in mind, due to available
listeners, there isn’t much radio listening on Saturday evening anyway.
There was a significant blip in listenership during the broadcast that
disappeared immediately after the show. Remember, jazz fans aren’t so
keen on Boccherini. As for other parts of the day and days of the week,
there was no measurable increase in listening.

After a few seasons of “Jazz Live from the Hyatt” focus groups
showed that existing, loyal listeners to the station were confused
about the presence jazz program. Meanwhile, fringe or non-listeners had
high awareness of the Jazz programming but not much else.

While JLFH created community goodwill and heightened awareness of
the station, it was an abject failure from a marketing standpoint. Does
this mean that you should stay focused exclusively on the core of the
brand? Absolutely not. Risk taking is key to bringing new customers
into the fold, building loyalty among existing customers, and staving
off dry rot.

Photo of Khevan Onaje by Dizzy, San Francisco

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Better Brainstorming: An Alien Idea

Brainstorming is a great tool for generating large quantities of ideas quickly, whether it’s a bunch of guys at the bellied up to the bar speculating on the World Series, or mystical creative types clad in black thinking up an expensive name for a watch.

But it doesn’t work all the time. The majority can overrule the quirky minority. There’s the rush to judgment, self congratulations, and the urge to put the problem to rest. Depending on the importance of your idea, this can be dangerous, indeed.

Maybe there’s an antidote breaks down group think. We hypothesize that using SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) and parallel computing as a model may provide an alternative.

Every day, Seti taps a network of hundreds of thousands of personal computers linked by the internet. These computers crunch data, and send the results back to Seti’s Super Computer.

So what happens if thinking and creating are distributed?

  • More people from more walks of life and cultures can be tapped via the internet.
  • Experience within a creative culture, e.g. an advertising agency is downplayed.
  • We would expect more solutions faster.
  • Everyone doesn’t need to receive the same data input.
  • People can be assigned to explore risky directions.

In this scenario, quantity of solutions becomes the focus. Participants should be paid based on the number of their contributions versus their quality. Meanwhile, back at the home office,
the work becomes more editorial.

What works, what doesn’t, what’s practical? And, it’s very possible that the modality of thinking reverts back to conventional brainstorming. It’s the best of both worlds!

Your first task is to build the network. The people who are outside your field, may very well be, the most valuable. And don’t forget mom!

Great ideas can come from anyplace, even outer space. Let’s experiment with casting a wider net.

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Home Recycling

Second Chance,
based in Maryland, Baltimore and Washington, is a recycling operation
that rescues fixtures and materials from homes and buildings on the
verge of demolition. Second Chance focuses on older buildings with
their stained glass and finally wrought materials that can be resued or repurposed into other objects.. But why shouldn’t we
apply these same principals to automobiles, appliances and newer homes.

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