Monthly Archives: October 2011
The All-Time Worst Promotion in History Ever
I heard a radio ad the other day that actually caught my attention. Imagine that, a radio ad that caught my attention…score one for old skool media. On the other hand it caught my attention for all the wrong reasons because it was promoting what has to be the worst promotion in the history of mankind. It was so stupid I actually have done some homework on it just to make sure I’m not over-reacting.
The promotion is Quaker State’s “Cash Back Bonus”. So why is it so horrible? Well actually, the promotion is actually called “Cash Back Bonus when you hit 300,000 miles”. No, that’s not a typo, 300,000 miles. First of all, who the Hell drives a car until it has 300,000 miles on it? Forget that, who makes a car that lasts 300,000 miles? I mean I have a car that has 197,861 miles on it and pray to God every morning that it doesn’t break apart on the Interstate. It makes noises that have never been heard by human ears before. If there’s a car out there made of some kryptonitic substance that gives it a half-life of 1,000 years please let me know. But for the purposes of this blog I’ll play along and deconstruct the merits of this program for you.
So, for my analysis I’ll use the Toyota Camry as the example. It’s been one of the best-selling (and reliable) cars since the 1800’s and seems a logical choice. Using industry averages I will assume that I am driving 15,000 miles per year and getting oil changes every 5,000 miles. Using those parameters I would reach 300,000 miles in 13.3 years. Now if you read the fine print, you are required to use one of Quaker States “Specialty” motor oils (i.e. expensive). Of course there are other requirements like keeping ALL your oil change receipts and some other things that on their own make cash back unattainable, but again I am throwing all reason out the window.
So, let’s continue…
I did backwards math to determine that if that car were eligible today it would be a 1998 model year. Using a generous description of its condition on Kelly Blue Book that car had an estimated trade-in value of $1,867 in very good condition. Now, I could argue that most 13 year old cars with 300,000 miles are a piece of shit that even the most desperate teenager wouldn’t be caught dead in and is more likely a target of demolition derby enthusiasts but again lets suspend disbelief for the moment.
Now, let’s remember that you’re required to use “specialty” motor oil. Estimating the cost of that over using standard oil I figured that you’ll pay an additional $12 for each of the 40 oil changes you’ll have to perform costing you an additional $480.
So the net-net is that you’ll arrive at the eligibility for this promotion with Quaker State providing you a check for $1,867. Subtract the additional cost of Specialty oil and you’re left with $1,387….and a piece of shit car that will challenge the dignity of even the most frugal driver. Congratulations, Quaker State just rewarded you with a bonus of about $100 a year for using its specialty oil. Of course this comes with the assumptions of:
• You even making it to 300,000. If the duct tape holding it together falls apart at 299,000 you’re SOL.
• Anyone at Quaker State even acknowledging that the program ever existed 13 years from now and can stop laughing that you even bit on it.
• You have the humility to keep all the receipts, meet all the requirements, fill out all the paperwork, and have the willingness to acknowledge that you actually drove that rust bucket that long.
But let’s face it. This thing is some demented piece of science fiction that was probably borne out of a marketing department that was tasked with coming up with a promotion that sounded unbelievable and masked the fact that it was also unachievable. I’m pretty sure that when the marketing folks at Quaker State were batting ideas around, it came down between the “Cash Back Bonus” and the “If You Hit a Sasquatch that is Riding a Unicorn with your Car & Bring it into the Quaker States Offices Alive, We’ll Give You $1,867 Sweepstakes” because the odds are roughly equivalent of either being fulfilled.
If I have offended someone who right now is driving that 1998 Toyota Camry with 300,000 miles on it only through the miracle of Quaker State Specialty oil, I offer my sincere apologies…actually I offer my insane curiosity of ‘what the hell????”
For Quaker State I offer my sincere amazement that this promotion actually made its way into existence without someone in the meeting dying of laughter. Your belief that this would actually encourage someone to take the 300,000 challenge is admirable if it weren’t so obviously disingenuous.
For all you other marketers out there, the lesson is to not treat the public like a bunch of idiots. They are way smarter than you give them credit for.
As for me, while the world waits for Quaker State to prove the existence of the mythical “300,000 car”, I’m going hunting for Unicorn-riding Sasquatches in my 2000 Toyota Sienna (197,884 miles and hanging by a thread).
Are Conferences Obsolete?
When I first entered the work force one of the best perks around was being able to attend trade shows and conferences. What was not to love? You got away from the drudgery of the 9-5 grind, got to go to strange and exotic places (like Cleveland for example), and were generally given meals and accommodations well beyond what you were used to in real life. There were no sweeter words than “per diem”, which I think is Latin for “eat whatever you want, the company is paying for it” (SIDE NOTE: Have you ever noticed how fancy some people get when they are spending someone else’s money?).
I can’t say I’ve done a lot of work related travel, after all, I am waaaaaay too important to leave the office for any length of time, but I have been able to travel to some parts of this world that I wouldn’t have never seen otherwise. (Quick Disclaimer: For those that envy business travelers, while it seems like a paid vacation from the outside, I can tell you that traveling on the company dime isn’t nearly as fun or as glamorous as it often appears).
But that was then and this is now: Then, was pre-internet where communication was done primarily by phone, mail, and in person. Al Gore had not invented the Internets yet and conferences and trade shows were by default a location-based activity. Oh how the world has changed since then.
Today, I am barraged with emails inviting me to download whitepapers (98% appear to talk about how important it is to have a social media presence), sign up for webinars (98% appear to talk about how important it is to have a social media presence), or view live coverage of events (98% appear to talk about how important it is to have a social media presence). If I never felt like working, I could easily fill my brain with enough information to, well, fill my brain, all from the comfort of my desk. There is literally nothing you can’t learn with a few well-booleaned Google searches. Seriously, I did brain surgery on my dog this afternoon after Googling “How to do brain surgery on my dog”. (Mental Note: Google “where can I bury my dead dog” later).
This leads me to my point; Has digital media evolved to a point where business travel is becoming obsolete? Other than to enrich the industries that profit from business travelers (I’m looking at you mini-bar manufacturers), why do I really need to go to Orlando to learn about the latest social media techniques? What’s the value of venturing to Seattle to discover new advances in web analytics? Tell me the ROI of going to the junket, drunk-fest, douchebag convention, think tank that is South By Southwest. The truth is, you don’t need to go beyond your comfy little cube to be the smartest man on the planet on almost any subject you want. Yet these conferences continue to thrive, grow, and be well-attended.
Now, liars proponents will tell you, “Being face to face is the most effective way to learn and interact” (Translation: Dude, how am I gonna figure out who’s hiring so I can angle for a new and better job at a different company). They might tell you “rubbing shoulders with the customer is the best way to get deals done” (translated: Dude, sure I know the customer is going to renew, but I love free Ruth Chris Steaks, so a little business dinner on the road is a win-win). You will often hear “By removing yourself from the distraction of the office, you are able to focus on activities that will enhance your development and benefit the company” (Translation: Dude, when you’re on the road, it’s harder for the boss to see what a slack you are and if the strip joint restaurant is smart, they know how to
write a receipt that will not only pay for your filet mignon but also allow you to over-expense the company and profit from the trip). Another popular argument is “by going out into the field you are better able to understand the market and its needs and demands” (translated: Dude, Cirque de Soleil can only be truly appreciated in Vegas). Finally, an oldie but goodie is “I’ll be able to bring back knowledge that I can share with the team (translated: “fuck the team, they already loathe me because I got to go to London and they didn’t, and by the time the boss remembers that I didn’t do a knowledge transfer, whatever I learned will be outdated, and I’ll have to go to the next conference for a refresher”).
The dirty little secret is that most of these trips aren’t necessary. The company will probably do just fine if you miss that “Mobile Marketing: Your Roadway to Success” conference in Tempe. You can probably find 14 webcasts on ‘YouTube Channel best practices’ that will teach you more than that “Leveraging Video Content for Sales Success” event in New York. And I know for Goddamn sure that whatever the fuck they talk about at South By Southwest Interactive isn’t something that can’t be learned at some loud noisy bar on a Friday night at your local college campus (I mean that’s pretty much what happens at SXSW right?).
Don’t get me wrong, if you can convince the company that you need to attend every conference in the country like some weed-smokin’ Phish fan, more power to you. Just be on notice that the day will come when the gravy train ends and we’ll look back and say “remember the days when we traveled the country for free to learn stuff we already knew?” Until then enjoy your free travel perks while you can, rack up those frequent flyer miles and 5 Stars restaurants because someday soon that pinhead Lionel in finance (who never travels) is gonna take a hard look at the books and ask “Why do we send Phil to San Francisco every year for MacWorld? Aren’t we in the semi-conductor business?”
* Disclaimer: While Dean talks a big game about his disdain for business travel and its uselessness, he is generally full of shit and disingenuous on the subject. He is more than happy to help you spend your per diem at a fine restaurant that has fresh cut chops, a wide selection of Brandy, and well-stocked humidor. Give him a call as he is available most evenings
I Want To Be Totally Transparent With You
Ok, so I get hurt…..a lot. A few years ago the nurse at the local urgent care came in after taking an x-ray of my most recent boo-boo and asked me “Are you one of those X-Games people?” I could only respond, “No Ma’am, I guess I’m just one of those X-ray Games people”.
The benefit of getting hurt a lot is getting to take home a brand new x-ray to add to my collection. Yes, I collect x-rays. Aside from a nifty souvenir, its fascinating to look at what actually exists underneath all that skin. So in the spirit of being totally transparent with you people, here is what I look like with no skin on.
Of course all these x-rays come with stories, some more interesting than others, but none interesting enough to share, well except maybe the one where I sliced my finger off, or the pacemaker thing, or the…..
How about you? Got any good X-Rays? Scars? And what are stories behind them? C’mon, it’s your turn to be transparent with me.
UPDATE: A new one for the collection:
Rutgers, Mini-MBA, and the Death of the Real College Degree
I ran across this Certification Program…err….I mean “Mini-MBA” program offered by Rutgers and for some reason that escapes me it rubbed me the wrong way…oh wait I know why….because its bullshit. I don’t want to come off as some intellectual elitist or anything, but as someone who completed an MBA program (I guess Rutgers would call that a “Maxi-MBA”), I am just a tad put off at the “flavoring” they have added to the degree.
For anyone who has toiled through Grad School, they know the dedication, sacrifice, and grind that’s required to complete the program. Especially for those coming to an MBA program from a non-business background, the rigors of tackling subjects like Finance, Accounting, and Marketing are not for the unmotivated. My recollections bring back memories of grueling coursework, endless reading, arduous group work, all-night study sessions, nerve-racking presentations, and a course-ending thesis (Corporate Crisis Communication).
As someone who jumped off the 9-5 treadmill and re-entered College after 6 years of ‘real-life’ experience, the challenge was daunting but at the same time enormously gratifying and rewarding. It made me realize just how much I didn’t learn as an undergrad. In the end, I got my sheepskin and have ever since been proud of the blood, sweat, and tears that piece of paper represents. I am an MBA dammit and have accomplished something only a small fraction of my peers could claim. That ‘MBA’ means something.
So let’s get back to Rutgers. They are now peddling a variety of these “Mini-MBAs” in subjects like “Business Essentials”, “Going Digital – The New Rules of PR”, and “Pay Per Click (PPC)”. Are you fucking kidding me? Your going to subtly equate a session in “Conversion Optimization” with an MBA???
Note to Rutgers, what you have here are “Training Sessions” or “Certifications”, you know, the kind of things you do that get you a photocopied “Certificate of Achievement” that no one gives a shit about. Hell, its not really of any more value than any of the 400 free webinars you can ingest daily if you aren’t busy actually doing something. And its certainly nowhere near the education you get actually applying knowledge in real life as opposed to learning about how people apply things in real life.
As I said, I don’t know why this tweaked me so much… it’s just semantics right? After all, I am a huge proponent of life-long learning as a means of professional survival. But I guess where I start to seethe with rage is knowing how this will play out with some (I said ‘some’) of their students. All of a sudden there will be a population of people professing their “mumblemumbleminimumble MBA” degree. Trust me, I have seen enough fabricated resumes to know that the practice of outright fictional representation of one’s experience and achievements would make J.K. Rowling proud. Throwing a faux MBA to these professional career hucksters is almost begging them to “mistakenly” drop the “mini” part of their educational acumen.
At minimum, Rutgers is marginalizing what an MBA is and the work necessary to achieve it. It’s academic malpractice and they should be embarrased to having added MBAs to the list of products like “Vitamin Enriched” Pop Tarts, “Low-Fat” Ice Cream, and “Anti-Aging” Wrinkle Cream that have been misrepresented by overzealous marketing people .
I’m sure I am blowing this way out of proportion, but go get yourself a “real” degree and tell me if it doesn’t feel cheapened by Rutgers “Mini-MBAers” Class of October 2011.
Google Analytics Premium Should Expect a High Bounce Rate
So after much speculation and anticipation in the web analytic community, Google finally announced the release of Google Analytics Premium. After years of offering Google Analytics for free and gaining hundreds of thousands of users – who doesn’t like free? – it seems appropriate for Google to start generating revenue form what is a very robust tool.
So the big question is can Google Analytics pivot from being a free tool, and convince users (and non-users) that it’s new premium version is worth $150K/year. To figure that out, let’s look at what features Google Premium is bringing to the web analytics party along with my razor sharp perspective:
1. Extra-Processing Power: Increased data collection, more custom variables and downloadable, un-sampled reports.
Dean Says: The big feature here is the un-sampled reports. If you are a larger organization with lots of data then you are very familiar with seeing sample data in your Google Analytic reports. And when I say sample data I mean really, really, ugly bad inaccurate ‘laughed out the meeting’ sample data.
This might be the most important feature in Google Analytics Premium, especially for enterprises. Then again, if you’re an enterprise and you are relying on Google Analytics for advanced web analytics then you really haven’t been taking your web analytics too seriously have you? If you are serious then you are relying of Omniture or CoreMetrics for your advanced web analytics driven decision making and use Google Analytics to “check your math”… or to give Sally in Marketing something to play with that will make her feel smart.
Final Assessment: These features (especially un-sampled data) were a “must-haves” for Google Analytics Premium to play in the paid space, but for the organizations that need it most it’s something they already have with Omniture. They are going to have to continue to bring on more feature and functionality to make real inroads.
2. Advanced Analysis:
Attribution modeling tools that allow you to test different models for assigning credit to conversions.
Dean Says: This functionality is critical to understanding which tactics are contributing most effectively to your goals. Most often there are many touch points and assigning credit for a goal (sale) to the last interaction is short-sighted and ignores all the work that took place to complete that goal.
Once again, this is functionality that serious enterprise users already have. If they don’t have it, then they are probably not bought into the whole web analytics thing to begin with and are not going to be swayed by mere presence of Google Analytics Premium.
It should also be noted that the current Google Analytics offers Multi-Channel Funnels which also give visibility into attribution and thus somewhat neuters the value of Premium’s attribution model.
Final Assessment: Google Analytics Premium is bringing forth a feature that is necessary and not revolutionary. The target audience is either already doing attribution modeling or haven’t evolved to that level yet.
3. Service and support:
Experts to guide customized installation, and dedicated account management on call – all backed by 24/7 support
Dean Says: Of course I am going to want account management and 24/7 support if I am going to shell out $150K a year. Then again having account management and support is a great thing but if you are already advanced in web analytics (and in particular Google Analytics) then you’re need for a lot of support is probably minimal. That’s the beauty of Google Analytics – its simplicity. Sure you run into challenges now and again but when you do, finding support is as easy as going to the Google Analytics Forum. And while it’s not necessarily as immediate, personable, or accurate, the vast majority of Google Analytics issues do not require a lot of support. Alternately, support packages from Google Analytic Partners are available at a very reasonable cost.
Final Assessment: Service and support is nice to have, but if it’s that important, then you probably have the wrong people doing your web analytics.
Service level agreements for data collection, processing and reporting.
Dean Says: Really? You’re gonna tout SLAs as one of your primary pitches? The current Google Analytics solution has proven to be highly reliable (aside from data sampling) so waving 99% uptime is impressive, I am probably already getting that level of service now.
Final Assessment: Reliability is a given, not a selling point. It’s like a dealer telling me my brand new car will start when I put the key in the ignition.
So the sticker price for Google Analytics Premium is $150K which puts at a little above Omniture SiteCatalyst. I anticipate that this price will be VERY, VERY flexible and that one little flinch would result in significant discounts. The pricing, as is, creates to significant barriers to adoption:
1. Enterprises with the wherewithal to invest six figures in a web analytics solution are probably already using Omniture SiteCatalyst or CoreMetrics. They are probably not likely to switch easily at any cost, let alone at a premium. In fact, they are also probably using Google Analytics alongside their paid solution and aren’t in any dire need of a new solution.
In any given sales scenario, the incumbent solution always has an enormous advantage when you consider the inconvenience of switching to a new solution. Someone would REALLY have to hate Omniture to willingly switch to Google Analytics Premium. I mean seriously, who wants that hassle?
2. For current Google Analytics users the price is probably science-fiction from an affordability standpoint. The vast majority of current Google Analytics users are not enterprises. I’ll guess that 90% or more are SMBs who are thankful to have such a simple, robust, and free tool in Google Analytics. The keyword being “free”. I can only imagine a sliver of those folks being able to justify the leap from $0 to $150K, especially given the relative marginal enhancement offered by the Premium solution that are really aimed at very large customers.
If they are ready to make the leap from free to paid analytics they would immediately have to weigh the pros and cons of Google Analytics vs. Omniture/CoreMetrics. It wouldn’t automatically be a slam dunk conversion for Google Analytics Premium although familiarity with Google Analytics would probably work in their favor.
So what will happen to Google Analytics (or Urchin)? – Moving forward Google will have to aggressively add features and functionality to overcome some of the hurdles mentioned above. They will also need to further differentiate the Premium product from the free version – perceptually, by at least $150K.
This will inevitably mean that features and functionality once destined for Google Analytics will likely become exclusive Google Analytic Premium features. This will be especially true for the more robust and powerful features. Google will simply not be able to develop the standard Google Analytics solution as it has in the past. Much like Urchin, Google Analytics will need to take a backseat to the Premium solution.
Regular Google Analytics users will grumble I’m sure, but in the end have to realize that bitching about a free product has no merit and they’ll need to either put up or shut up.
What about the Web Analytics Market? – Well, Google Analytics Premium is great news for everyone, unless your name is Omniture or CoreMetrics. Google’s entry into the enterprise space will have two impacts:
1. Better Products : As Google Analytics Premium continues to add features and functionality, existing players will need to respond and defend their turf. This will likely mean renewed focus on new and better solutions across the board. No one shakes the dust off a staid market like Google and web analytics will be no different.
2. Lower Prices: I smell a good market share battle brewing and the easiest tool to use is always price. Expect vendors to get soft on pricing to maintain market share.
So there you have it. Everything you wanted to know about Google Analytics but didn’t really care enough about to ask.
Wanna learn more? Of course you do. Here’s Google’s fluffy introduction:
Here’s a little more meat from CardinalPath: “Getting to Know Google Analytics Premium”
So what do you think? Have I got this wrong? Of course not. So just agree with me ok?