Certifications And Service Guarantees: Worth The Money Or More Marketing Spin? (Empty Labels Suck)

Here are a few questions to consider as you read this article:

  • Do you treat your brand as a moniker or image, or does it truly embody your values and focus in work-life?
  • What makes you trust a brand: the promises, the image, or the experience?
  • Does quality stop at design and engineering?
  • What are we REALLY buying and selling, and what’s the value in it?

On The Mundane Chatter Podcast we discussed a slew of consumer-focused and other geeky topics on Episode 9. I was particularly intrigued by the whole “Fair Trade” market and the implications for small businesses, competition, and the consumer. Is it worth buying something labelled or certified a certain way? Allow me to rant a bit.

When I think about labels like THX, Organic, and Fair Trade, I think “marketing spin” (HINT: Spin Sucks) and “propaganda”. Value and proper execution/delivery, not so much. You’re paying more under a marketing pretense, a promise that is likely never delivered. I look at guarantees and certifications like any other line on advertised specifications and features: it’s more perceived value than anything else.. Mere labels (false attempts at dress to impress). Continue reading

Persistence: Keeping The Creative Momentum Going When Blogging or Writing

A few weeks ago my colleague and close friend, Julio From NY, tweeted and used a peculiar hash tag (something to the effect of #oneaweek2011).  At first, I thought it was some sort of diet program or strange New Year’s resolution.  It turns out it was referring to a challenge at The Daily Post on WordPress.com.

While I could very well do “one post a day” I think the challenge takes the focus away from quality and leans more towards quantity.  No bueno.  One A Week makes sense.  As an SEO and SMO-minded web designer, copywriter, and editor on various fronts, the perfectionist in me dictates that I do not post anything that is at least somewhat interesting and has something for curious web searches to stumble upon.

Here I am trying to stick to this challenge.  I already mentioned I am involved on various fronts so this will be tough for me.  While I know I preach that you have to stay persistent as a blogger or you will lose your audience, it’s tough to do so when you also do freelance writing and try to sell, syndicate, or share other content via different distribution channels.  One post a week means you have more people returning more often.  When people see your commitment, they will be more likely to share your content with others!

I have several things in the pipeline for my blog here on WordPress.  I hope to syndicate some content and get some quality backlinks going too.  Some of the topics I wish to discuss include latest video game releases (Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 and Dead Space 2, for example), the state of the video game industry, the economy of gaming, current projects I am working on, and, of course, random rants and raves thereof.  I invite you all to brainstorm your ideas now and stay persistent.  Don’t lose momentum!

If you’re doing the One A Week 2011, post on my comments and/or guestbook – I’ll be sure to add you to my blogroll and promote your featured articles whatever way I can!  If you run out of ideas, maybe we can brainstorm together too.  I’m never without ideas..  Just need to carve out more time.  Good thing I have this handy-dandy WordPress app for my Blackberry Bold – now I can blog on-the-go!

I’m really passionate about writing.  Specifically, blogging is a great way to learn more about topics you are truly interested in, while writing in a manner that is fun and fresh.  In fact, I find out so many interesting things in my SEO research, Wiki lookups, and random reading that I find myself overwhelmed by the many topics to write about.  My hopes are to focus more and more on writing and game design, my biggest passions in life.  Part of that will be moving my WordPress blog to a self-hosted setup.  I’m excited!  Let’s do this OneAWeek2011 FTW!

One A Week / One A Day BLOG CHALLENGE 2011

Think you have what it takes to stay persistent with your blogging efforts? Leave a comment on this article and get a badge for yourself!

Business Analysis: AT&T Offers 1000 Free Rollover Minutes To Loyal Customers

I know the main question many of you fellow AT&T customers have is probably this: is the Free 1000 Rollover Minutes legit or a scam?  The simple answer is: yes, AT&T *IS* giving away 1000 free rollover minutes..  To select loyal customers, that is.  Initially, the belief was that this offer was only being extended to AT&T iPhone customers yet I’ve found reports that Blackberry, Inspire, and other smartphone users have gotten it as well.  I decided to see what a AT&T Customer Service Representative (his name was Solomon, in case you were curious) had to say about it.  Here’s what he told me (or at least what the script told him to say):

Currently, we are only offering the free rollover minutes to loyal AT&T customers.  If you did not receive a text message with the offer, requests will be processed on a case by case basis.

He then went on to add that, if I got the confirmation stating that I would receive my free 1000 rollover minutes in 4-6 weeks, then I qualified.  There seems to be a few discrepancies here, especially since he said it may take 6-8 weeks.  I imagine the demand is rising rapidly, especially since this offer only popped up on the interwebz around Saturday, February 12th 2011.

AT&T Security Guard

Hey, every business needs a gatekeeper.. Why NOT a big, bald guy?

I suppose that is the sort of beat-around-the-bush response you can expect from any CSR (Customer Service Rep in vanilla speak).  You can see the value in having AT&T limit how many people go on to tell their friends.  Quite frankly, I was surprised there was no mention of the free rollover minutes loyalty offer on their web site, prerecorded messages, or even the official AT&T Facebook page.  That said, I have a feeling that they’re going to approve everyone automatically but they’re going to position the offer as a perk for “loyal customers”.  At this point, they’re probably trying to control call volume while not creating any more buzz about this whole thing than there needs to be.

Why is AT&T offering this now?  Why do the loyal customers matter at this point?  For jaded AT&T customers, the Verizon iPhone news, as announced on the magical date of 1/11/11, presents a way out but there’s more to it…

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Microsoft Reminds Us Why They Suck: XBox LIVE Outages and Poor Customer Service

Well, I couldn’t fight the urge anymore. With as much work as I have on the table, I owe it to you, my loyal readers, to bring back the passion and frequency of my blog and what better way than to take potshots at one of the biggest and crappiest pseudo-monopolies out there? That’s right, it’s time to attack Microsoft once again!

XBox LIVE Dies - ZOMG!!!

No, XBox LIVE is not dead but, the way it has been running the past couple of weeks, it might as well be. If you have lived under a rock or are not really a gamer, you may have missed all the scandals regarding XBox LIVE customer horror stories and continued outages. I’m going to give you all a little grocery list of some of these horror stories:

  • XBox LIVE customer support analysts actually laugh and hang up on customers.
  • The ultimate solution for most problems plaguing XBox 360 seems to come down to buying a new system, creating a new account, or hearing “we can’t help you”.
  • XBox 360 units are still experiencing random crashes (surprise), red rings, and other hardware failure.
  • The magical XBox 360 warranty (which comes at an additional cost) does not include much at all; in fact, shipping and even boxes come at additional premiums in many cases!
  • Prepaid XBox LIVE subscription cards are more trouble than they’re worth – some don’t even code with a code behind the silver coating, due to misprints (good luck getting anyone to give you credit or a full refund for that)!
  • The most over-used line of any XBox LIVE customer support representative is “sorry, but that’s our policy”.
  • No one on the XBox LIVE support team seem to speak English natively, nor do they understand the root cause of your issues and what the customer TRULY needs.
  • It is not unlikely for random people to harass you, just for fun, and file false complaints against you which, ultimately, get you terminated. Since the XBox LIVE team doesn’t really understand English, they just go by “what’s in their system” and follow their scripted courses of action. A few strikes and you’re out. Good luck appealing.

If you’re like me, you may be looking at this list with great disgust. Anyone that knows me knows that poor customer service, unwarranted rudeness, and poor product “follow-through”/overall quality are things that I absolutely abhore. As a gamer and someone that happens to be an XBox 360 owner, I feel that Microsoft’s business tactics are completely unethical, to say the least. We shouldn’t be surprised since the XBox franchise is a microcosm of Microsoft’s track record in all other facets of their huge corporate monster.

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Gaming Shop Talk: Microsoft’s Majestic Marketing – Halo 3 Zero Hour

Today is the day that many geeks and overly-competitive gosu gamers have been waiting for: the Halo 3 launch. For me, it is business as usual. I played the beta and wasn’t particularly impressed and I am not a huge fan of Halo to begin with (you’ll have to forgive me for that) but, whatever way you chop it up, this is a historic day. This is the story of a somewhat obscure developer that hit it big by allying with one of the biggest brands out there – Microsoft! It is also the story of how online multiplayer games really got put on the map. Halo brought a gleam of hope to those that wanted something different…

Halo 3 - a ray of light for a different type of gamer!

For many years, the online gaming community has thrived in great numbers on the PC front but it was mostly underground, cult-like, not very organic or viral. Some home consoles tried to capture the magic of PC gaming but failed, mainly because they treated multiplayer modes as an after-thought. Along comes Halo to change everything. Halo is, without a doubt, the killer app of the XBox, comparable to Final Fantasy and Super Mario, easily. It is all a matter of brilliant marketing. The XBox cultivated a huge gaming space that was, for the most part, a vacuum waiting to be filled by a big idea. Bungie was a quiet developer that gave Mac users what they rarely got: fun games that weren’t family-oriented or overly-nerdy. Marathon arguably started it all yet few people even heard of the game. In this case, it is clear that the Bungie brand made little difference as crossing over to the “dark side” (Mac users tend to dislike anything Microsoft) would have lost the long-time followers. Surely, the amplifier of the Halo franchise was something outside of the developers and branding, surely the market was ready and waiting for something to come along. Halo certainly filled void by meeting the needs of those that wanted hardcore competition in a not-so-nerdy package. Finally, an FPS that was fast-paced, revolved around multiplayer (both coop and versus), and didn’t have a complex control scheme!

Had Halo been released on the PC like Microsoft originally intended to, it would not have been as popular; instead, they attacked the console market and used college dorms as marketing hives, the gaming bees buzzing about about their latest gaming addiction. Why do I say this? Well, the game is a rehash of what has been done before but, since it was new to those that only knew console gaming, it was easy to spread.

The brilliance of Halo was never it’s unique storyline or break-through architecture. The technical aspects are all commonplace in a marketplace where ideas are just repackaged and regurgitated. The marketing is where the real money was made and where the Halo franchise became rock-solid. The console market was in dire need of a fast-paced online multiplayer game. Something that was easy to find (accessible), easy to talk to others about (smooth), and simple to play (inviting). The major gripe for people that dabbled in other First Person Shooter (FPS) games is that keyboard-and-mouse control schemes were too complex. Halo opened up the FPS genre to the masses and targeted the most aggressive, competitive gamers as well as everyday, casual gamers that needed something simple to enjoy with friends. These two segments spawned many fans spreading the message: here’s something UNREAL! Continue reading

Finding the Perfect Toothbrush: A Lesson in Marketing

A few articles back, I talked about Oreo and how their message is simply this: we are America’s favorite cookie. These are the sorts of messages that can backfire but, executed properly, you really boost the perceived value tenfold. The brilliance in Oreo’s current strategy lies in their use of contests and celebrity lick races, promotions that people talk about with others. These are ideas that spread in a viral manner or, as Seth Godin puts it, ideaviruses. The key to this strategy is creating simple, consistent messages that anyone can spread onward; of course, you have to get people excited.

In this article, I’d like to discuss a marketing strategy that is a little less buzz and hype-driven yet still viral in nature. Let’s look at a simple thing that everyone uses (well, mostly everyone): a toothbrush. Traditional marketing and old money business people will tell you that the better toothbrush will sell more but what does “better” actually mean? It depends what your target customers are. For kids, both big and small (some of us are still kids at heart), cartoon-stickered and music-generating toothbrushes are the epitome of oral hygiene devices.

Does this cow do anything for you?

For the rest of the world, style still matters but effectiveness, practical use, becomes a greater distinction. Think about the last time you purchased a toothbrush and how often you make this decision. What affected your decision? Did you go for the toothbrushes in the front or did you look further back on the shelve? Was it an impulse buy, perhaps triggered by a clever end-cap display or cashier counter arrangement? Did you even notice how hard or soft the bristles are? Was the type of grip and general structure of the toothbrush a big focus for you? What was the final tie breaker (assuming you were initially indecisive)? The chances are that, if you were put in a group of 50 people, your decision-making process would be quite distinct. Once we recognize that not all consumers think the same way is a humbling experience for all business people…

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