Spreading Ad Hoc News

vertical-responseI was just trying to use our marketing software to send a message to our beta users and found that the website was down. No idea what is going on. Because the website is down I can’t even look at the company’s blog to see what is happening. So I went to search.twitter.com and immediately saw that other people experienced the same problem. But nobody from the company was there to let us know what was happening…

Lesson learned: when your server goes down, your team should post a brief explanation in various places to let people know what is happening. Twitter is a good place for spreading your ad hoc news, particularly when you website is down. Very fast. Very easy. Potentially big impact. Good stuff.


The company I was referring to is Vertical Response. As soon as they woke up in California, they started keeping people up to date on Twitter. See a screen shot of their messages below. Well done guys!



And when you are doing it really well, then you replace your homepage with something like this and simply redirect people to Twitter for more updates. Loving it:


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Yesterday I got a call from my bank, HSBC. A young guy from my local branch called in to briefly talk to me. The conversation went a little like this:

HSBC: “Hi, I am just calling to follow up on the discussion you have had with one of my colleagues about the mortgage.”

Me: “Excuse me?”

HSBC: “The mortgage…?”

Me: “No”

HSBC: “So, you did not have a discussion about a mortgage?”

Me: “No”

HSBC: “Well,…are you interested in a mortgage?”

Me: “No”

HSBC: “Because, we have some very interesting offers…”

Me: “Listen, I don’t have a mortgage, I don’t want a mortgage and I will not be wanting one for some time. Do you think it is a good idea take up a mortgage right now?”

HSBC: “Aeh…”

Me: “Good bye, have a nice day.”

Excuse me? WTF? HSBC, the bank that lost over $10bn in the mortgage crisis in the US thinks it is a great idea for me to take up a mortgage in the UK, just as the market here is about to crash?

Yup, that is true, as I found out when I searched for this on Google News. They have a major push to sell people UK mortgages right now. See this Financial Times article here. Just to be clear, these guys know that I don’t have a mortgage and they tried to sell me one. They are not trying to help me get out of a tight spot.

Fantastic. These guys will never learn. I guess it doesn’t matter what is right or wrong, let’s just make a quick buck and to hell with everyone else.

Maybe my adaptation of the VCwear.com T-shirt says it all:

VC Wear

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Free Products are Online Marketing

freeJohn Battelle has got a series of very good articles on online marketing on his blog. Check them out here and here. A third post is yet to be published.

Both articles are on building brands online. Basically what John is saying is that online advertising works well where you have very strong brands that attract a particular type of user that can then be marketed to. These brands can command higher CPMs that generic publishers, for example. The yet to be solved problem (solution probably to be revelead in his third article) is about the fact that online formats for marketing don’t really work that well, or not as well as online formats (he uses TV ads and magazine ads as examples). An example might be that car ads on TV or in a magazine leave a much bigger impact with the viewer than banner ads do.

Two things came to my mind when I read this.

The first one was that it is logical (and actually obvious) that when you attract a certain type of viewer to a site you can command high CPMs. After all, it simply means that one can target ads better to a more relevent audience. The key problem is that one actually doesn’t know who is looking at what on generic sites, making targeting difficult.

My second thought was that at least one format that works extremly well for advertising online has already been invented. It is called free products. Why do you tink does Google have some 50-100 free products out there? Just for fun? Or because the revenue avalanche is going to hit them via these products? No, the reason is much simpler. It attracts users. Google embeds their brand in their brains every day. They then go out and use Google search. This is a great way to build a brand online.

I believe there are many ways in which publishers, manufacturing, and service companies can build their brand online. One way to do it is via free services. I am sure people will come up with other ways. I think John is right to say that the classic online banner ads won’t do the trick. But look at the bright side: if it was that easy, what would you need great marketers for?

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