Cheeky Marketing

apples

apples (Photo credit: msr)

My parents will tell you that when I was little, as in younger not shorter, I watched the adverts on TV more than the programmes.  back then there were many amusing and memorable ads, these days though too many try to be clever or ironic but fail to be funny – notable exceptions being the current Fosters “Good Call” campaign and Three’s Dancing Pony.  Some of the pseudo-science can be hilarious if you’re of a scientific persuasion but that’s for another post on another day.

One recent advert immediately caught my eye and made me laugh, then had me wondering whether they’d get away with it.  No, I thought, their lawyers must have checked it.  It’ll be fine.  The ad in question is, of course, the Somersby Cider parody of the excitement that surrounds the product launches of a certain fruitily named purveyor of shiny gadgetry.  I was impressed with the creativity and just how many gadget puns they managed “single core, dual core” and the “less apps, more apples” tagline.  The fact that it’s cider just added to the enjoyment of it.

But it’s not just Carlsberg who have been a tad cheeky recently, in the days preceding Samsung’s Galaxy S4 launch LG placed an ad for their Nexus 4 on their Times Square billboard above Samsung’s “be ready 4 the next Galaxy”  which read “ready 4 you now”.  Cunning.

Then on the launch day while journalists were waiting to enter the venue and feeling rather chilly in the midst of the New York winter HTC thoughtfully laid on complimentary hot chocolate.  So yet more tasty marketing.

It’s good to see that in our times of vicious patent lawsuits and arguments over who invented rectangles with rounded corners companies can indulge in some light-hearted competition.

It’s The Thought That Counts

Easter eggs // Ostereier

Easter eggs // Ostereier (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was younger Valentines Day involved giving an anonymous card to someone you kinda liked.  Easter involved a gift of chocolate eggs.  At the end of the school term your teachers said “right that’s it, piss off, see you all in September” and everyone gave a sigh of relief and went for a smoke – often both the teachers and pupils.

Now though before Christmas is fully over we get adverts flogging “that perfect Valentines gift for someone special” and it’s not just expensive jewelery but DVDs, Tablet computers and phones.  Now I’m not unromantic but I don’t confine my displays of affection to blingy jewelry in February.

Next there’s Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day which has also moved beyond flowers or chocolate, handmade gifts and cards to similar flogging of expensive electronics, and the card aisle also now includes cards for husbands to send to their wives and vice-versa on these days and even Mother’s Day cards for Aunties.  The inevitable next step is the largely informal Grandparents’ Day, not that I have a clue when that is as I haven’t seen the adverts for it yet.

Today I’ve seen an advert for a remote control BMW toy headed with “struggling to find that perfect Easter gift”.  What, we now have to buy actual toys and expensive electronics for Easter too?

Finally, just when you think the gifting season is over the kids are breaking up from school and are encouraged by marketers to take a parting gift for their teacher(s), to remind them of all the little darlings they’ll be missing dearly over the six weeks holiday.  This year has even seen an advert of choice items teachers can buy for the pupils.

Now I love giving gifts to people, I’m able to, but these additional gift-giving times apply increasing pressure on people to give increasingly expensive presents or risk appearing to not care, or being left out.  With all these days seen as just another marketing opportunity its easy to believe that today the thought no longer counts.  I like to think though that that’s not true.

By the way, remember there’s still five shopping days ’til Easter.

Sign of The Times

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We have two sites, a glassworks with trade counter and a plastic window factory.  Outside the plastic window factory is a sign with our logo on it which contains the word “glass”.  Nowhere does it say “glass sales” or “get your quality cut glass here, guvner.”

It does have a phone number on it.

A few weeks ago our chap at the factory rang me to warn me about an irate individual who was upset that he couldn’t get glass from our plastic window factory.  “It says glass on the sign and you’re telling me I’ve got to go to the other side of town, it’s disgusting, your managing director needs to take that sign down immediately, it’s misleading!”  He’d said, unnecessarily angrily.

When the man arrived at my counter I was in the middle of taking an order.  I said “I’ll be with you in a moment” but it seems he didn’t hear me because when I turned my attention to him he began to shout “Don’t bother, I’m not being treat with such ignorance by you, all the staff of this company are rude and arrogant, obviously you don’t have any customer care training.”  I told him I had and he demanded to see my certificate, which is at home, I don’t tend to carry it around in my wallet.  This exchange continued for a while, he’d clearly arrived looking for a confrontation as he felt he’d been wronged by our sign.  He wrote a letter to complain about the sign.  He didn’t get his glass.

About half an hour later a woman rang asking for an appointment for a quote, she lived quite a way out-of-town but had been to the main post office and seen the sign for our company on the building next door, and as she hadn’t been aware of our existence up until that point she thought she’d get a price from us for her windows as well as the other firms she’d asked.

Can you guess where she’d seen the sign?

Still Free After All These Years

36236699I’ve written a few books, I have only ever half-heartedly attempted to get one of them published – thinking that I’m not really a writer, more of the outsider thinking I talked about recently.  Writing these books though was enabled by free software.  I’d had an Amstrad PCW which was a word-processor but I only used it for programming at the time.  I didn’t write stories, despite being told at school by my last English teacher that I was a good fiction writer, because again I feared being laughed at.  By the time I decided to write again I’d moved onto a PC and suddenly I was confronted by word-processing software like Microsoft Word, WordPerfect and so on costing hundreds of pounds.

Thankfully, I got a free copy of Protext 4 for MS-DOS with a computer magazine.  This was a big deal in those days, free software was often written by hobbyists and tended to be utilities, text editors and drawing programs were mostly shareware which you could “try before you buy” and then there was the commercial packages with their eye-watering price tags.  Today my laptop cost less than them.  I used Protext for years, those who don’t remember early nineties computers may be amazed that you had to control the whole thing with the keyboard.  No mouse.  At all.  It was surprisingly quick to use though, no distractions of formatting and pictures, no internet, no emails, just you and your words.

I moved onto Windows word-processing when I worked for a PC shop and got a cheap copy of Lotus WordPro which we used to bundle with the computers we built.  I’m only now moving onto the next big thing – which is something we kind of hoped for but didn’t expect back in the days of ordering a 1.44Mb floppy disk of freeware programs from a paper catalogue.

Big complicated software like Office packages take big teams of programmers or a lot of time, or both, to write and in the old days collaboration was more difficult but now there are organisations like Mozilla, Apache and others who organise teams of coders who volunteer their time and skills to create fantastic free software like the Firefox browser (which I’m using at this moment) and the Microsoft Office-compatible OpenOffice (and it’s offshoot LibreOffice).  These charitable foundations and teams who code for the enjoyment and achievement of it are creating ever more sophisticated software and giving it away for free, only perhaps politely asking for a donation towards their efforts which flies in the face of the idea that people will only create something if they are financially rewarded.  A large number of the coders on these projects are professionals volunteering in their spare time too.

There will always be a market for commercial software as many people and businesses either want or need to use software that has become industry standard no matter how closely compatible the free software is, and often the commercial software just has features that free competitors either haven’t got or can’t have due to patents.  There is also the issue of future updates and technical support though with the use of online forums you can usually get an answer to any problem you have with free software pretty quickly and even updates and bug fixes are generally quick in appearing.

With the advent of smartphones and apps there has been an explosion of free software yet again.  The centralised nature of the App Store and Play Store has encouraged people to learn to code and get something they’ve made out there, just like the old days of PCs, as it’s now even easier to get your app seen and used.  Of course much that appears to be free often isn’t quite free and many apps are also supported by advertising or the dreaded in-app purchase which I’ll write about in a future post.

Sometimes though some people expect free software when it isn’t at all though as other companies have shown giving away old software can be a canny move, introducing people to the brand, giving them skills which can lead to employment using the current version etc.  Serif in the UK have always been good at this, every version of their software I’ve used has been either a free version or more recently a two-version-older copy at a bargain price, and Google’s products like Chrome, Google Earth, even the Android O/S are free because they encourage you to use Google’s search products.  Even Microsoft now gives away many very good pieces of software like Live Essentials and Security Essentials.

So long live free software, what would some of us do without you.

But It’s a Bargain

The volume rocker of the Amazon Kindle 2

The volume rocker of the Amazon Kindle 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve just noticed on Amazon.co.uk that the top five kindle books at the moment are all priced between £0.20 and £0.99.  Is this a coincidence or is it the same reason I also bought the number one book (besides it being a QI book) – only 20p, I’m having that!

I’m sure they’re all good books but it also shows that almost giving content away can give a book, or music, momentum in the sales charts.  It’s only really been possible thanks to digital media’s lower distribution costs and the benefit is that once people have tried it they’ll tell others about it and maybe they’ll still buy it even if it’s at a higher price later.

The music industry needs to pay attention.  It isn’t devaluing, it’s marketing.

Who’s Watching?

"Pay attention to me!"

As well as my online home here at WordPress I also regularly add pithy, witty, insightful comments on Gizmodo UK.  Well, when I have time and can think of something witty and insightful before someone else beats me to it.  I remember well the day when I got the email that told me I’d earned enough love and respect of my fellow commenters to get a gold star and the awesome responsibility to reward others and uphold the standards of good commenting that comes with it.

The comments sections of many blogs like Giz UK have a warm community feel to them, many are more, ahem, hostile but generally people are open and honest with their opinions.  The thing is though that you never know who else is reading the comments.

Imagine you’re in the pub with your friends discussing last nights match/Eastenders/curry/pint/copy of GQ when a man in a suit with a clipboard sits next to you and starts making notes, then politely corrects you on a couple of issues he has with your opinions.

Well, this is what some companies are already doing – dedicated staff trawl the internet for any mention of their products in comments and articles, ready to possibly intervene if a discussion starts to become negative.

It’s all part of the market research of course but it can, sometimes, make you wonder who’s looking over your virtual shoulder.

[Gizmodo UK]