Archive for July, 2005

Social Anxiety Support Group

Wednesday, July 27th, 2005

Our weekly paper lists what to do around town including workshops and support groups. Yesterday, I cracked myself up reading that we have a Social Anxiety Support Group. If you’re laughing already, then congrats for getting it. If you’re not laughing, here’s the explanation.

"Social Anxiety" is, according to drug commercials, a disorder. Evidently, it’s no longer just shyness. If you get anxious about social situations, you might need medication. Funny enough, that medication sounds like it would give you half the things that would make you afraid to go out in public (loss of bowel control, "certain sexual side effects"). The point is that people with this "disorder" are evidently uncomfy with social situations and being around groups of people, or so the commercials have taught me.

So if you have a Social Anxiety Support Group, does anybody show up?


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And You May Not Know It

Tuesday, July 26th, 2005

"You could have chronic dry eye and you may not know it," says a commercial for a prescription drug. This reminds me of the Saturday Night Live fake commercial where you can take a test to see if you have a headache or not.

Would you really not know if you had dry eyes? Do you really have to ask your doctor if you have dry eyes? What, if any, are the dangers of living your life with dry eyes and not doing anything about it?

Big thumbs down to all of these commercials that make us think we have diseases that don’t exist.


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It’s a Poodle, Not a Rottweiler!

Monday, July 25th, 2005

Someone sent me a link to http://www.attackchi.org.au/kits.htm, which is an Australian website making commentary on some local laws evidently being passed over there. Because of potential danger, they are outlawing entire breeds of dogs, just in case.

The website offers "disguise kits" (linked above) where you can take your assumed-to-be-bad breed of dog and disguise it as something else. The kits page shows the rather funny transformation of a dog that looks like it’s part Doberman, part Rottweiler to a big, fluffy, black poodle.

This is an image from the website. Someone sent in a picture of their dog disguised as a poodle. That’s a hefty poodle. This website is great marketing. It’s fun and memorable, and you want to share it with friends.

Is your website like that?


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I’m Asking You Twice to Do My Job!

Thursday, July 21st, 2005

A new company exhibited at the eBay convention last month. We felt their product was not very exciting as it seemed to be mostly a macro program for automating some text and tasks. Hey, I’ve had one of those for years (MacroExpress). Nobody’s been able to explain why this one is special, so we’re assuming it’s not.

After the convention, this company decided the best way to market themselves was to find other people to sell for them. On whose credibility could they ride? They decided to spam evidently the entire database of Education Specialists Trained by eBay (EduSpecs for short), who are people around the USA and in a few other countries who eBay certifies to teach official eBay University classes. They spammed them, telling them how great the product is, and that the EduSpecs should sell to the people they teach.

The EduSpecs got very angry at being treated like that, especially given how eBay and its community feels about spam. You just don’t do that around eBay, and if you do, it’s not going to go over well… especially with a group who has taken on the responsibility of training other people to NOT do things like that! Many EduSpecs posted to our private discussion board about how NOT happy they were with this company.

We received a voice mail from this company’s marketing guy. He was VERY excited about a one-way relationship where we could sell his product. He didn’t care what we did or sending anybody to our company. He wanted us to do his job and sell this thing. Typically, potential partners want to know how we can strengthen each other, so this call really stood out in how one-sided the offered "relationship" (and nearly giddy) this guy was.

I emailed him back that after reviewing his product and based on his spamming the EduSpecs, we would not enter into a relationship with them. He called back a few days later asking who he should talk to about a partnership. Dave took that call, and is in charge of biz dev, so he spoke to him a little. When he got off the phone, Dave asked me for the background on this guy since he remembered me mentioning something about him. I filled Dave in on everything.

Dave sent him QUITE the email. Blasted his product and his tactics. Talk about not taking no for an answer. I don’t think I could have been clearer when I emailed him that we would not do business with him (and my emails are signed "Debbie Levitt, President"). I guess he thought he could go above the President perhaps!

Bad marketing. These guys will definitely not get anywhere with these tactics around the eBay community. If they had an amazing product, we might care. But while it seems like a run-of-the-mill macro app, why all the fuss?


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Menopause is Relevant

Wednesday, July 20th, 2005

I got an email yesterday telling me that they were resending their important email because I didn’t respond to the first.

Both emails were from a website about menopause who was sure that we should be linking to each other. The email was extremely confident about this. Our aswas.com website is about our company, focusing on our services having to do with eBay and online sales consulting. Our target audience is basically anybody who is or may someday want to sell seriously on eBay, part-time or full-time.

The email I received requested this link (pasted exactly as it came to me except that I took out where the link really went):

    Looking for a trustworthy resource on Menopause and Black Cohosh? Be sure to stop by the Menopause and Black Cohosh Information Center. Youll be sure to find the latest information on topics like what products to take, what to avoid, and how to ease Menopauses symptoms.

This isn’t 1996. Websites aren’t going to link to anybody who writes to them because that’s very exciting and the web is so small that we might as well help each other out. Content has to be relevant. People looking for my site were NOT looking for menopause resources, and I will not distract visitors from my site by offering ways for them to leave.

It’s amazing that people still waste each other’s time with link requests like this.


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Because Everybody’s Searching For Sex

Tuesday, July 19th, 2005

In the early days of our website-building career (1995-1998), we had a number of clients ask us to put "sex" and a few related terms into their meta tags. It didn’t matter that they had NOTHING to do with sexual material… these were all corporate sites for real non-sexual products and services. I was told that because everybody’s searching for "sex" on the internet, they want to come up in those searches, so they should have those words in their meta tags.

When is the last time you searched for sex on the internet, but instead got very interested in a website offering limo rides to the airport? Or you searched for sex, but you ended up spending quality time on a website about a filter you could put in your swimming pool?

This may be just a hunch, but people searching for sexual content want to FIND sexual content. Those are the sites they want to see. You wouldn’t put a sign outside of your sock shop, "Delicious chocolate inside," when you have NO chocolate inside. That wouldn’t work very well as people who came in would quickly see that you have no choco.

Same for putting keywords in your website (or eBay listings) that have nothing to do with what you offer. That’s bad marketing.


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The Latest Web Design “F U”

Monday, July 18th, 2005

Once again, I’m a WebAward judge. You can stop applauding now. :) I like it mostly because once a year, I step out of my industry and hobbies, and see what other people think is fabulous web design. All of these entries submitted themselves (and paid to do so) because they want to win an award. They don’t want critique or marketing help. They want an award.

So I review around 30 sites each year that are everything from fashion to gaming to cancer care to civil liberties to content for teens and more. It’s all over the place. Yet, there is one thing many websites now have in common.

Microscopic type.

Many websites are putting content either in HTML or Flash at this size. Why? One of the great advantages of the web is that you’re not paying per inch or per word. Nothing stops you from making the decision to make it a readable size for the widest target audience. Back to a readable size. :)

One site I was shown this year was for a new type of tire from a well-known name brand. The site kept saying that this was the great all-weather tire for your luxury car, and showed middle-aged people in a luxury car. Once you got past the colorful pictures, the text was TINY. Do people think that your average fifty-something-year-old can easily and comfortably read the above-sized text without leaning in and kissing the computer screen?

When I see tiny type like that, I think of it as a f*** you. It tells me that some designer decided that it’s better to have the visual effect (blindness?) of the tiny type than to make the site comfy and accessible to more people. I’m age 33 with great vision, and I can’t comfortably read these things, so I guess if I were more hip, I’d be able to read it. I can only imagine how upset visually impaired people must be. Most of these fonts are set small in a way that going to my browser settings and going to largest font size doesn’t make them larger (they’re CSS or Flash).

So who’s the target audience for microscopic fonts? Who is that meant to reach? Who connects to that, and feels more comfortable reading that? If that’s so great, why don’t our newspapers publish at 7 points? Why show me a full 10 or 11 points? Do I now have to try to find "large-print" websites?

Bad marketing when you decide form over function or practicality or usability.


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Choking Over Cell Phone Service

Friday, July 15th, 2005

We have a commercial here for Alltel cell phone service. It’s a couple in a nice restaurant, and the wife seems to be choking on her food. The husband gives her the Heimlich, and she’s OK. Once she recovers, she says something about how shocked she was that you get a credit from Alltel if your call gets dropped. A guy at the next table who hears that starts choking.

So in this commercial, people are nearly dying over a new campaign by their mobile carrier. Another commercial came out with better fine print on this deal, and here’s what’s really going on. If your call gets dropped, your account is credited ONE MINUTE. So if you were talking for an hour and the call is dropped, you can expect a credit for one minute on your bill.

If I don’t go over my monthly allowance of minutes, I wouldn’t benefit from one minute being added back anyway. This is a gimmick that when you look at the facts really makes no sense and offers no advantage over any other mobile service. Bad marketing for a bad service AND a commercial showing people nearly dying over hearing about it.


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In Case of Emergency

Thursday, July 14th, 2005

One of my British friends posted this to her blog (having grabbed it from somewhere else):

    Following the disaster in London . . .

    East Anglian Ambulance Service have launched a national "In case of Emergency (ICE)" campaign with the support of Falklands war hero Simon Weston.

    The idea is that you store the word "ICE" in your mobile phone address book, and against it enter the number of the person you would want to be contacted "In Case of Emergency."

    In an emergency situation, ambulance and hospital staff will then be able to quickly find out who your next of kin are and be able to contact them. It’s so simple that everyone can do it. Please do.

    For more than one contact name ICE1, ICE2, ICE3 etc.

How smart is that? It would solve so many obvious problems when there are tragedies from natural disasters to terrorist bombings even to other crimes. You find someone unconscious with no wallet but a cell phone. You don’t know who to call from it if people are labelled things like "Pookie" or "Chris." Nobody would know if they’re calling your mother, ex-boyfriend, or child’s day care.

Put ICE in there, and make sure it’s a system our rescue workers know, and there would be no confusion. You find someone, you call ICE1, and if you don’t know who you have there, describing that person will probably fill you in quickly.

I think that mobile phones that have enough space could say something like ICE1-Husband and ICE2-Parents so rescue workers would know who they are reaching and in what order they should try.

I hope the US will pick up on ICE as this SHOULD be universal. If you’re visiting another country, everybody knows to look for ICE in your mobile phone.


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Low Fat Food Items

Wednesday, July 13th, 2005

What makes us fat? Most modern studies show that it’s not the fat you eat. It’s what your body converts to fat on you because of what you eat, how little you exercise, or both. Some say it’s carbs, some say it’s calories, some say both. Most people would NOT say you get fat because of the sodium content of the food. :)

My personal experience is that it’s the calories more than anything. If you are vegetarian, if you eat no carbs and all meat, if you eat no wheat, if you eat low sodium, you can still put on weight if you’re not watching calories (which some people call portion control). I tried Atkins and ate nearly zero carbs, but didn’t notice that many of my meals were a zillion calories. So I didn’t lose weight until I counted calories.

So what’s the reason for so many foods being labelled as "low fat," "lite," and "fat free"? Who is helped by these? If I eat a serving or two of something that’s fat free, I might still take in more calories than I mean to for my entire day. Bread is 110 calories a slice. Pasta is 200 calories for a traditional serving. Milk is 120 calories for a serving. Breakfast cereals can be 190 calories a serving. And most people don’t eat a serving because you probably won’t feel satisfied on half an ounce of Honey Nut Toasted Os cereal.

Filling labels with claims about fat is bad marketing. It’s making people feel these are healthier or will inspire weight loss. You can gain weight on these products. If you’re diabetic, you can be eating sugar even in "low carb" items.


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