Archive for June, 2009


How to spam people and kill your brand on Twitter – the HabitatUK case study

This blog was named ‘Marketing is a dirty word’ because, as a marketing professional, I hate the connotations that have become attached to marketing. This rep was built because certain marketers are douchebags… let’s face the truth of it, some marketers will do anything for a buck. And the reputation that these marketers build for themselves and their companies sticks to all of us. The below is one such example of why I started writing this blog – to name and shame bad marketers (aswell as to highlight exciting / interesting marketing). And in the HabitatUK case below, we have one hell of a doozy… 

HabitatUK recently decided to start Twittering. Fair enough, everyone else is doing it, why shouldn’t they dip their toe into Twitter marketing. Further, they showed some insight, in that they tried to captialise on the ‘Trending Topics’ column on the right hand column of our Twitter feeds – HabitatUK tried to use these trending topics to build followers and get more eyeballs on their tweets by inserting trending hastags in their own tweets. So far, it’s still not a totally terrible idea – if they had been  planning on doing anything at all apart from spamming the hell out of twitter, I might even say it was inspired…

Let’s have a look at how it all unfolded. Check out the tweet below – for those of us outside the US, True Blood is the latest hit HBO TV show (it’s awesome!). So to leverage the popularity of the #trueblood hashtag, HabitatUK started uising it on it’s on tweets. The problem was that the Tweets were nothing to do with True Blood, hence spam of the most reprehensible kind (see below). That is pretty darn low.

Image taken from a really good article at

Image taken from a really good article at

But it gets worse. Either HabitatUK was using an auto-tweet app to generate tweets with whatever was Twitter’s latest trending topics, or whoever it was who was tweeting on their marketing staff was completely deprived of good sense, because you can see above the True Blood tweet there is a tweet with the #Mousavi hashtag – they were blatantly trying to cash in on the conflict, killings and political unrest in Iran. As I type this, the HabitatUK Twitter account has had all evidence of it’s spam removed.

Honestly, I thought we’d all evolved beyond this. I thought marketers had a handle on how to properly engage through social media. No quick tricks, no smash-n-grab. I thought we were smarter. Better. I thought wrong. HabitatUK, this is one for the hall of shame.


Online Advertising’s biggest barrier – cost

One of the biggest reservations I have about online marketing is cost – the entry point for the vast majority of online advertising is too low. Let me explain…

There is a reluctance to use online advertising among many advertisers/marketers, mainly because people look at click through rates as a measure of success, and thus think it is too fruitless an activity to return good ROI. The jury’s still out on how effective online ads are (the last-ad attribution model that most people cite as being proof online ads are dead is fundamentally flawed) but I think there’s a much more distinct reason why we should question what we are doing with online advertising…

When we visit a webpage, we (usually) see all sorts of ads for all sorts of companies, usually served from an ad server platform (in this case, uses Directory M and Emediate for their advertising). Some of the ads we see on sites are from companies we know are reputable businesses. Other ads want to sell us solutions to building a sixpack stomach in 3 weeks. Today, I saw the ad to the right served to me on a fairly reputable website (, advertising a service that preys on people’s fear and will potentially help me kill someone. I won’t include the link to the site it points to, but you can probably find the site if you’ve got your websmarts around you and are curious.

For most businesses, a major barrier to entry to TV (or other mainstream media) advertising is that the costs are too high – smaller businesses – aswell as dodgy, spamming con-men – do not have the sort of money to front up to pay for a TV campaign. However, this lends a certain credibility to TV (and other mainstream) advertising. If a company can cough up the money to advertise on TV, chances are they’re a legitimate business and have at least a half decent product to have gotten so far. For those companies who can’t afford TV, online advertising was meant to be a magic saviour… this creates a completely different kind of price barrier (almost the reverse of the problem which TV faces). Which legitimate business wants to be featured on a website next to the above ad that is advertising maiming and killing? Furthermore, which consumer is going to take your company’s ad seriously if the ad is featured alongside considerably more dodgy one above? In taking ads online, having an ‘ad’ has become much more accessible to a larger number of people, which creates a barrier to entry.

Before I sign off, I’ll include the ‘Enlightened Stupid Marketer’ video I referred to before. … keep in mind ‘Nalts’ is a marketer himself according to his Youtube bio, so take this video with a grain of salt ;D )



MobiQpons – the future of location based mobile computing (and a darn good idea)

1 in 3 smartphone owners currently use a Location Based Service at least once a month. An additional 20% of smartphone users said that they would be interested in using LBS if they knew more

… that came from a recent post on the compete blog about location-based services on mobile phones. LBS’s are big, and will only become bigger as an ever increasing proportion of the population use smart phones. What the heck is a location based service, you might ask? Despite it’s cumbersome name, an ‘LBS’ is a service that uses information about your current location to deliver highly customised, highly relevant services to your smart phone / mobile PC, and is distinctly where the mobile web seems to be heading.

For example, you might be interested hanging out in an area for dinner, and decide to go and see a movie – if, say, Hoyts Cinemas were to do a LBS, it would likely point you to the Hoyts cinema nearest to you, and tell you what movies are playing, how long the movie goes for and how much tickets are. LBS is a big part of the future of mobile computing. As you can see from the graph below, there are core areas of LBS that remain untapped – in particularly high demand but low supply are LBS’s that deliver coupons / specials / giveaways.

From the above research, we see that people want ‘Special Offers’ out of an LBS, yet very few are currently using such a service. This gives us all the ingredients of an untapped market, wouldn’t you say (high demand coupled with low supply)? Well, enter MobiQpons,  who have recognised this opportunity. They are a location-based service that will give consumers exactly what they’ve been waiting for… using your phone’s GPS, MobiQpons will work out where you are, and send you vouchers for businesses within a 10km radius of your location. That’s fantastic news for marketers, but I see the real advantage being for local businesses / retail business. Think about it this way – how does a cafe stand out amongst all the other cafes on Chapel Street? Why not get coupons delivered to people’s mobile phones for a free upsize of your coffee… I know that’d get me coming to you rather than someone else. Then train your staff on upselling chocolate caramel slice, and you’re on your way to making some serious cheddar 🙂 Or you might be, say, BigW. During Xmas shopping, you send coupons for $25 off Xbox 360’s – what better way to get people spending money with you rather than at KMart or one of your competitors’ stores.

Being a new service, of course, MobiQpons is facing a significant challenge before it can become a killer app – the test of it’s success will lie in it’s ability to get advertisers to provide coupons in the first place… no consumer wants to install an app that is designed to give them coupons if there’s no coupons to be had. The inherent difficulty of achieving that advertiser buy-in, of course, is that advertisers will want to use platforms that have high user numbers. Yet you cannot get users without the coupons, and you won’t get the coupons without users, and so on and so on. It’ll be interesting to see how mobiQpons go about addressing this. I’m guessing we’ll see businesses getting to use it as a free / cut price service for a limited time to build an advertiser base.

MobiQpons is so far only available on the iPhone. Blackberry and Android versions are coming soon, and hopefully they’ll see the light and develop a version for Windows Mobile too. If you have an iPhone, you can download mobiQpons via … it’ll be a handy little service if / when it gets up and running, so check it out so you can have the early adopter bragging rights 🙂

EDIT: 4/6/09 – I see from mobiqpons’ twitter feed that they have 1500 users so far, and are serving 20% off vouchers for Borders. Looks like a solid start.

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