Consumer terrorism

I was rather surprised just a few minutes ago while reading a blog post from fellow Belgian blogger Ine. The post is in Dutch so I’ll translate a bit for you. Ine talks about an email she received from the BDMA – association from Belgian Direct Marketers – about their new congress: “Revenge of the I”. The email has some of the almost standard mumbo-jumbo in there like ‘in ages of consumer empowerment, social networks…’ catch my drift? And that’s all fair to be frank, but then there’s this rather odd sentence saying (and it’s a translation, I’ll do the best to keep the original sentiment):

“During the congress we’ll deepdive into the current era of ‘consumer terrorism’ that is coming up with the rise of digital and social technologies such as blogs, social networks and email.”

Consumer terrorism?! No speakers have been announced yet but I expect to see people from the Computer Crime Unit and others to learn direct marketers how to deal with dangerous bloggers and Facebookers.

Although on a slightly different note, it reminded me of another marketing event/congress organized in Belgium: Customer First… or should I say Digital Marketing First, since that’s what they’ve changed the name to for this year’s event. What’s the idea behind that? Who decides these things? It’s like saying: forget about the customer, this event is about us against traditional advertising and stuff so we have to change the name here!”

In the meantime the Belgian marketing publications ‘MM’ and ‘Pub’ are still as they were 5 years ago, so are their websites (and yes it’s still forbidden to link to MM.be) so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised of all this Belgian Digital Marketers against Consumer Terrorism stuff anyway I guess…

True innovation

There are probably not a lot of words that get misinterpreted so many times as the word innovation. Anybody today who builds a friends list on their site, who releases an API, who created a ‘viral’ ….(you catch my drift) is innovating. Bullshit. Innovation refers to something that wasn’t done before and most of what happens on the web today is a copy of a copy… so hardly true innovation.

Why this statement? A few weeks ago I met for lunch with the founder of an independent financial services company. He and his marketing manager (who’s an ex-colleague) wanted to know more about whole this social media stuff and they knew I was kind of ‘active’ in that area so therefor the lunch. A quick initial check during lunch on what they knew and didn’t know didn’t take long. Flickr? Never heard of. Okay – get it.

To get the right idea of what needed to be done they then started to explain what their business was and how they saw their company move into the future. And to be honest, they explained me the most innovative business approach that I had heard for a while. Unfortunately I can’t tell you what it is but just take it from me that it was. Everything was there. It’s totally different from the typical business approach in that sector, it gave incredible power to their communities, they really let go of control, … Very cool. So what was missing? The right tools, techniques, services, etc to do so.

And then it hit me again. It’s not because people are on Twitter, Friendfeed, Facebook and blogs that they’re necessarily innovative. On the contrary. If ever that is what an agency or a social media consultant comes to tell you then run away (fast). Don’t turn away though because someone hasn’t heard about Twitter. They still might be more innovative thinkers than the rest of us and you know what the coolest job of all is? Making sure you work with the right people and use the right toolset to translate that really innovative idea into reality. That’s what me thinks.

Oh and for the record, my friends at the independent financial services company is looking for someone to do exactly that.

Business as usual

It seems ages since I last opened up Live Writer last time. This is not because I stopped loving it, but because the blogging rhythm on this blog (and on I Blog Mustang) have been very slow lately. It seems like the only times I get to do some writing lately is when traveling. The last posts were all (or almost all) written on trains and planes.

While I see people writing about how Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, … or whatever other service has taken over from their blogging, that is actually not the case with me. I am indeed more active on Twitter than on this blog, but that is because of the short and instant nature of the service vs the time you need to spend writing blogposts. I do still dedicate the time I need to reading my RSS, luckily enough as I’m addicted to news – couldn’t do without.

In the meantime we’re working hard on releasing some new campaigns for Windows Live and MSN in Europe (more on these at Live In Europe) and we’re also gearing up in the planning for next year as our fiscal year starts at July 1st and not January 1st like with most companies.

For now, I’ll just try and write some more posts about things that I’ve been meaning to write now that I am on my way to Stockholm. Share your travel via Dopplr if you want ;)

Flanders

A bit more than 3 weeks to go to Blogger Social in NYC, a unique gathering of mainly (but not only) marketing & advertising bloggers from across the globe. With just over 80 attendees and a fun agenda of events this is really something a lot of us are looking forward to for many months.

There’s one downside to it though, and that is that it takes place the exact same weekend as the Tour of Flanders, the classic of all classics in road cycle racing if you ask me. The race, first organized in 1913, is an experience of its own and (trust me) appeals to everyone who is up for a heroic day of sports. With many steep hills, often paved with cobblestones over a distance of approx. 260 kilometers… it sure isn’t just a race like any other.

I’ve watched the race on television for as long as I can remember, most of the time with a bunch of friends, and for the last few years we’ve been going to the ‘Muur van Geraardsbergen’ (or ‘wall’ of Geraardsbergen) to watch it live, courtesy of Lotto. With several thousands of people at the key positions of the race and close to a million people over the whole length, the ambiance is incredible.

Ronde 13  IMAGE_030

So not this year, and the Social will rock for sure, but a part in my heart will miss this raceday a lot. I’m sure Tim ‘Masiguy’ Jackson understands ;)

Here’s a great ad from Het Nieuwsblad (newspaper) for their upcoming coverage of the Tour of Flanders.

Don’t fight Monday

Lovely day here in London today, big difference with last week when I planned on flying here but didn’t make it because of the fog at LCY. I can tell you, spending like 5 hours at the Antwerp Airport for nothing is really no fun at all. Meeting up with the zerofinfluencer this evening, so it’s going to be a good day today.

Video found via The Kaiser (who doesn’t seem to have such a good day today).

I need to go!

Luckily for me, if I go online, it’s free. You have no idea what I’m talking about? Then take a look at this brilliant campaign from Emakinafor ING online banking. It’s really at it’s best in Dutch I think, but there’s an English subtitled version as well for most of my readers. You just miss a bit of the juicy dialect in case you’re viewing with the English subtitles. Still, very neat idea and good execution. Kudos to Emakina and ING.

ineedtogo.jpg

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That’s a wrap

Soo little time, soo much work to do… and so much more stuff to write about. Therefore I’m writing this post to wrap up the week.

It was a busy week with many events. On Wednesday I was Bea’s guest at the first Brussels Girl Geek Dinner, kudos to Clo for organizing this. Some familiar faces and some new ones and a little goodie bag for everyone. And yes Sarah, I’m bringing one of those for you on Wednesday ;)

On Thursday & Friday I was present at the second Customer First event in Brussels, and of course to the MIXX awards on Thursday night. Again these events are mainly interesting to network and to hook up with some people you haven’t seen for a while. The Belgian internet advertising industry is rather small, so it’s fair to say that everybody was pretty much there :) Great results at the MIXX awards by the way since Geert and Openhere won the Gold Award in the category Brand Awareness for Bring The Love Back. I recently started a group on Facebook for Bring The Love Back by the way, 163 members in the first week, join us here.

I also did a presentation on Microsoft and Social Media at Customer First, which I’ll post here in a separate post. Feedback was quite ok so that’s always nice.

Customer First at Belisol?!

I received an email from Belisol today and I couldn’t believe what I was reading. A few months ago (in April or so) I was looking for solutions like sunscreens for my children’s bedrooms. These rooms have windows directed to the south and there’s only a curtain to block the sun which obviously is not the best solutions during hot summer days. Belisol is a company in Belgium that sells sunscreens so I wanted to find out what that would cost. Just like on many other customer unfriendly websites, there’s only one way to get in touch for this and that is to fill in a form. No telephone numbers or anything, just the form. So I filled in this form. By doing so you have to provide all kinds of data that is only of use for the company like ‘how did you get to know Belisol?’ but by then again, if they help me out I don’t have too much of a problem with that.

So what happens? Nothing at all. A week, a month, 2 months pass and until today I didn’t receive the quote I asked for. That obviously upsets me and at a certain point in time I was even wondering that the reason for that maybe is the fact that it’s not a really big job. In the form you have to fill in the number of windows etc you want a solution for so maybe there wasn’t enough business for them in my request. Anyway, they aren’t the only solution out there and we just looked further for other solutions. Luckily also the summer in Belgium was crap so we didn’t really need it this year. The search is still on by the way :)

And then today in my inbox: “jobs at Belisol”! Are they kidding me? I’m so totally fed up with companies that deal with personal data this way. Basically they figured out how to store my information, how to do some research on their most efficient promotion channels, … but actually providing me with the information I need is too much too ask. And then they start spamming me?! As I said, I couldn’t believe what I saw. Sigh. It shows again that we have to stop blaming the technology as the technolgy works most of the time, it’s our attitude that needs a fix.

Update: Some might have noticed that I’ve deleted a few comments on this post. Initially someone working at Belisol shop contacted me saying that it would never have happened at their outlet. Today this person requested these comments to be taken away. After some thought, I decided to follow the request and canceled the comments made here. There are 2 reasons why I decided to do so:

  1. The person that made the comments did track the Belisol brand (unlike their HQ) and did come back to me on the issue I talked about for which she might get into trouble, which is the last thing I want
  2. Although I agree that this person could have been smarter in the comment itself (saying they each operate separately), being asked to delete it sort of proves my point about that it still is one brand umbrella so that I don’t really care as a consumer if they did operate as separate businesses or not

Anyway, in the end, we’re 2 months after I wrote this and many more months after trying to get in touch with Belisol and I didn’t get what I asked (no need to bother anymore by the way), so still pretty ‘customer last’ if you ask me.

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Day of the Customer

Last Saturday it was ‘Dag van de klant‘ again in Belgium, literally translated that means ‘Day of the customer’. This day is an initiative from Unizo (Organization for the Self-Employed and SMEs) and is a yearly recurring event and this year was the 20th edition. On this day, the small business thank their customers for their loyalty. Most of the time, that means you’ll get some chocolates, a rose, … when you buy stuff at the shop that day.

So what happened? On Saturday I went to the car-wash and received some car refresher (like a sample) when I paid. And on Monday I got some free chocolates thrown at me while visiting my bank to pick up my new Visa card. And that’s indeed the experience. Did I feel like being thanked for my loyalty Not really, I even had to ask why I got it in the first place. It was just that day where shops offer you a little gift, when you visit them… because it’s that day of the year again.

I think Unizo needs the rethink their concept as I get the feeling it’s a ‘little’ worn out. I can see how this idea made sense many years ago, but today it looks like many businesses are just part of this because that’s what everyone else does…. I remember how Lou Carbone said during his presentation at MIX07: “You cannot NOT have an experience”, and it’s clear that just organizing something called ‘Day of the Customer’ doesn’t make that customer experience a good one just like that.

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Subject vs. message

Although it seems to be something mainly email marketers are focusing on, but it’s important for all marketing efforts. You need to have a link between the subject line and the message, between how you attract people to your message and the message itself. Especially in the times of viral marketing, you often see examples where the link is totally lost.

Here’s such a random example I got in my mailbox last week – that is traditional mail ;)

Scan1

This is a postcard I received and it did draw my attention. I couldn’t remember one of my friends had gone to Rio on holiday or anything so I was curious to find out who this came from.

scan2

Big was my disappointment when I turned the postcard and saw it was an advertising for the Nearly New Car centers. I’ll translate the beginning, that’ll explain enough:

“We have arrived well in Rio. The weather is great but that is definitely not good enough to forget that the the July conditions at Nearly New Car still count this month. ….”

I gave up after reading that first line and threw it away (ok I made the scan first). This really doesn’t make sense to me, who ever came up with this?