target on the up and up

9 August 2009

Well I figured this was worth at least a quick post. You’ve probably noticed some changes in packaging at your local Target. Target re-launched semi-recently (months ago) it’s private-label for household goods. “Up and Up,” will now replace the company’s traditional “Target brand” brand. The re-brand comes in the midst of the shitstorm economy that has drawn business away from other profitible commodities and has moved the focus square on essentials. The new look, however, gave me pause. Re-branding can be risky in a down economy. People start to wonder if the quality of products were a driver for the changeup. But, with more people buying only essentials and choosing store brands over national brands to save more money, the gamble is probably worth it. More than 800 of Target’s new arrow-laden products will usurp the bullseye on the shelf by September (2009). And what are those arrows pointing to? Perhaps a subconscious upturn of the economy? I’m not sure, but they may be pointing to the door so Spot (the white Target dog that was spattered by PETA) can hit the road like his bullseye.

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The most annoying modern advertising media (in my life) and my predictions for the future

14 June 2009
An movie finding application on the iPhone. A significant part of the screen is dedicated to advertising.

A movie-finding application on the iPhone. A significant part of the screen is dedicated to advertising.

Technology advances are fantastic, but they have their drawbacks. As advertisers try to market products to an increasingly ad-averse consumers, they must get more cretive to reach their target audiences. I’ve chosen a few “modern” annoying advertising strategies that were/are reallllly annoying and/or are leading the way to the end of the world. Don’t get me wrong; I love advertising. The difference is I think consumers need to think about their decisions to be so ad-averse. Think about when you want to watch commercials. If we all fast forward through them, advertisers will find other ways, like at the bottom of the screen during the show we want to watch. Just some food for thought: you can’t get away from advertising without consequences.

5. Pop-up Internet Ads. Okay, so these are still considered modern in my book. There was a time when you couldn’t click on anything without a dozen ads popping up. Who ever thought that was a good idea? Someone did apparently. Web 2.0 sharpened it up a bit, and just WAIT for 3.0…it’s supposed to be as innovative as the steps we’ve made since 1.0.

4. Social Networking Ads. This is actually why I deleted my MySpace account. I’m not talking about the banner ads here. I’m talking about the sex ads and naked picture posts that rocked the site for a while. I’m not sure if they still do, but there have been issues with other social networking tools like AOL Instant Messenger’s fake buddies.

3. Interjecting Web-page  Ads. Excuse me, do you have time for this survey? Or worse yet, ads that break up the middle of what you’re reading, so you often think the article is finished before it actually is. I would call these an acceptable pop-up ad because they’re less invasive. And, because I find surveys irresistible, I often do them. Still, I think anything but standard Web page ads are annoying and superfluous.

2. Phone Advertising. Ever get a text message for a special service from your phone provider? It’s test marketing for negative reaction to mobile marketing. Americans are fiercely territorial of cell-phone marketing, and aren’t likely to be open to mass marketing soon. Other countries are completely the opposite, so it’s just a matter of time. Enter the iPhone. I cringe when I think about it because the iPhone’s user-created applications opened to door to unlimited phone advertising. Now all the free applications are creating updates that include “ad support.” Most people think, “Oh, no big deal,” but it’s actually a HUGE deal for advertisers. For Americans to even accept any advertising on a phone they pay for is a foreign concept. The iPhone kind of allowed back-door advertising that is going to increase dramatically over the next year and lead to even more mobile advertising across the board.

1. TV pop-up advertising. One of the newest (kind of) and most favorite forms of advertising. The little faint words telling you what’s on and what’s next or “STAY TUNED FOR…” have been around for a long time. About a year ago, certain channels began using pop-up ads to market new shows. I swear if I saw another Bill Engval ad I was going to kill myself. Family Guy recently spoofed them saying “friends shoving each other” will be followed by an all-new “slowly rotating black guy.” It’s funny, but that’s how it is. If consumers will not watch regular commercials because they fast forward with their DVRs, advertisers will start advertising during the show. Right now it’s all other TV shows. Soon it will be “this program is sponsored by Cadillac” popping up. Then you’ll see tampons and other stupid stuff. TV may well evolve into an endless ad. THAT’S what you get for not watching commercials! So think about it the next time you fast forward.


Brand loyalty and customer service

10 May 2009

I’ve been meaning to write this blog for a while, but I’m a bit behind. What are your thoughts on a company’s customer service duties should you try a new product that you don’t like? Should they give you your money back? Or, should they make up for the disappointment in another way? Or, do you find the risk lies solely with the consumer? I’ve listed a few of my experiences below as examples or terrible and excellent customer service. Compare them to your own and share. Remember, feedback is good, but make sure you balance it out somehow.

In high school, I was at TGI Friday’s with some friends when a table busser accidentally dropped a side of barbecue sauce on the floor right next to me. Unfortunately for me, the loaded sauce cup bounced off the floor and covered me with bbq sauce from head to toe. My jeans, my shirt, my body, and even my light tan coat had a LOT of stickey, smelley bbq sauce all over them. The manager’s response was to offer me reimbursement for my dry cleaning. Really? No free meal, no coupons, nothing! Just me having to drive way back out there on my own time to get $9 for a dry cleaning that couldn’t even get the stain out of my coat. How is that acceptable? All of our meals should have been free and I should have been given a gift certificate for the trouble. It really was a horrible situation, and I never forgot it. If you know anything about me, you know I go out to eat often. Except by force maybe once or twice about 4 years ago, I haven’t been to TGI Friday’s since that day, and I will never eat there again because of it. I also tell everyone I know about the experience. If they had given me a $100 gift certificate, I would have been that happiest person ever and told everyone about it. Instead they have lost out on thousands of dollars of business from me and the dozens of people I eat with who want to eat there but can’t because I refuse. Shame on you TGI Friday’s. Almost ten years of boycotting and still going strong.

Another bad experience I had was when I went to the Olive Garden with my friends and the waitress literally did everything in her power to argue with and ignore us. She argued with me the soda pop she filled for me was diet when everyone at the table tried it and confirmed it was regular. But really, even if I was just being annoying, why argue? Just refill it. Then we tried some new menu items and hated them, so all we wanted was more salad and breadsticks. Apparently this was too much to ask and she would send another server over once in a while to give a refill. It was infuriating and we were literally starving–and told her so–when we got there. I complained with my receipt on the OG Web site. I was hoping I would get a $10-15 gift certificate to recover the cost of the meal. They were extremely apologetic and sent me a $50 to help rebuild my confidence in Olive Garden. Since then, I have happily been to the OG many times. Good job Olive Garden, but I would still beef up the service standards at the stores in the Cleveland area because the service has still been spotty a few times since.

inally, I recently wrote Scrubbing Bubbles to tell them I wasn’t happy with my new Automatic Shower Cleaner. It wasn’t working as well as the previous unit, which I loved by the way. These units aren’t cheap when you buy a couple refills, so I asked if I could have some coupons for the Mega Shower Foamer to help make up the cost. Scrubbing Bubbles Mega Shower Foamer is the best shower-cleaning product ever. You don’t have to do any work and it’s done cleaning in like 5 minutes. All you do is rinse it off, and you’re gross dirty shower is clean–I love it! Scrubbing Bubbles came through for me and sent me 5 Mega Foamer coupons ($20-25 worth) plus other valuable coupons. I was very satisfied, and I recommend that everyone buy Mega Shower Foamer immediately! YEY Scrubbing Bubbles!

We all know that negative impressions and lost customers can actually cost 10 times more than keeping existing customers happy. So, in my opinion, companies need to step up to the plate to make up for bad situations or negative experiences their customers have. On the other hand, it’s important to provide positive feedback as well. Most people only provide negative feedback, so companies only know when there is a problem. But how do they know when they’re doing something right? Well, tell them! I do try to mention to the manager or hostess when I have exceptional service or a great dining experience. Also, when I come across a Web site whose layout, useability, or their innovative approach to something is fantastic, I let them know. I also blog about a variety of products because I figure someone in these companies will have Google Alerts set up.


spring vacation and a catch up on my life

4 April 2009

But hark, it’s still winter, you say. Well, technically, and probably where you live, but not here! It’s gorgeous outside, and it has been for a whole month now. In fact, I was supposed to post this a long time ago, but I forgot and hand to update it. Everything is blooming and green and ready for mother nature to reach out and give it a big hug (update: as of today, Mother Nature has thoroughly touched the region). I really hope it doesn’t smell like it did in the fall (update: ugh, it does), though, because that was gross at all times…or the summer because that was constant firey, smokey death. Right now it’s great. My sister, Jenny, came out for vacation, and since I had so much overtime, I took off almost all of the week, too. I was barely functional the day before my vacation, but isn’t that how it goes? (Update: still often not functional)

For our vacation, Jenny got here Saturday night. We were really tired going to the airport to get her. I made Melanie listen to some  new Christian music I had just gotten. She was wearing her bathrobe.

Sunday was fun. We got up and worked out. I even worked out. YEY ME! Then we went for a bike ride to look for more fruit around the neighborhood. We got a few oranges and some lemons. Then we went wine tasting at a stupid place that smelled like rotten apples and had a dumb dog on the counter. I had just brushed my teeth so everything tasted horrible. We then went on a search for citrus trees because I wanted my own lemon tree. I GOT ONE! It’s super cute, and It’s going to be indoor/outdoor, potted of course. It’s a dwarf improved Meyer lemon tree. Hopefully it will grow lemons within a year or I’ll throw it in the street. Did I mention we decided to have Easter early while Jenny was in town? Well that’s what we decided. We didn’t have it on Sunday, but did go to Michael’s and Target to get the stuff. I love both of those stores. I made the cutest little Easter basket. I suppose now that Easter is actually a week away I could consider it again, but I SHALL NOT!

On Monday we had lunch downtown because Melanie had an interview and Vance had to work. I parked at work as I always do when I’m down there. It really is the perfect place to park. Then I got my hair cut at this place that was recommended to me here in Davis. It was pretty cheap and they did a good job, so I will return. Jenny got a pedicure at the same time and read all she could about Days of Our Lives in the magazines. I think I forget what else we did that day. I think I gathered pine cones to decorate the house with, but Melanie yells at me for disturbing nature. (Update: I since got another haircut and more pine cones.)

Tuesday was fun. We went to San Francisco to see Alcatraz for Jenny’s birthday. It was really cool and educational. Too bad they’re going to have to reopen it due to prison overcrowding. Honestly the cells are so small, except for in solitary. I was like, I would WANT solitary. Plus they let them have things that clearly could be used for weapons. There was an audio tour via headphones the whole way, but it was a little too drawn out for us. We made it like half way through and then took them off and started running down the hill to get back on the boat. But, because the audio tour told you how to get out and off the island, we kept running around the basement of this place like trapped mice. Finally we made it off and on to the boat, but we were really hungry then and very crabby. Then we started fighting until we ate. We watched the sealoins while we ate, and they are funny. I am surprised more of the great whites near by don’t come in and eat them. We were going to go to this cool museum, but we were tired and left. On the way we thought about getting a DQ ice cream cake, but it is literally impossible to get one in California. I hate that. We did, however, get to ride in the carpool lane and went super fast all the way home. At night we chilled and I worked a little bit.

Wednesday I slept in. We died Easter eggs, and I worked a little bit more. Then we went for a walk to clean up garbage around the neighborhood as well as collect favorable recyclables to take to the materials recovery facility. Jenny and I then went shopping at the outlets and I finally got the book copy of Getting Things Done to complement my audio copy. We, of course, had Olive Garden. There was a waitress trying way too hard on this one table that for sure was not going to tip her well. For goodness sake they ordered steaks at the OG.

Thursday I think I can’t remember what we did because it’s been nearly a month. Friday we went gambling at the Cache Creek Casino. It was fun, but I didn’t understand how to do it. I think I know how know, but I’ll stick to certain slots next time. Vance had to work, so he didn’t go with us.

Now I have finished my Getting Things Done book and am implementing the steps into my life. I am working on some things this weekend. I recommend the book to everyone.

I have also continued my exercise and dieting. For two weeks I did Slim Fast shakes for breakfast and lunch and some celery for snacks, but nothing else until dinner. Well, it wasn’t easy, so I kind of ate whatever I wanted at night…including tons of Reese’s peanut butter eggs. YUMMY! They are my downfall. So, since I was able to stick with it, I decided to join Weight Watchers and kick it up a notch. This, of course, meant kicking all the night time snackeration to the way side. I think because I had the two-week intro diet, and because I am 1000,0000000 pounds and get a million points of food, that I was able to adjust to WW fairly easily. I’ve been on it for two weeks now, and I’m doing well. I lost a lot the first week. This week we’ll see what I lost. I am pretty good about staying in my points and counting absolutely everything. I exercise at least a few times a week. I’ve started running again, but only on dirt; my body can’t take the impact of pavement.

California is sooo pretty. Today was just one of those gorgeous days. I have been looking for jobs for my sister to move out here because she is stupid and won’t look herself.


HSBC’s “business decisions” not helping consumers

8 March 2009

I thought I’d post a blog since I’m on vacation and actually have time to do so. Perhaps I’ll post another about the week’s festivities if you’re lucky, but this one is about credit cards and the timely topic of creditors and their lending practices. I thought the whole point of the stimulus package and moving the economy forward was to get creditors to lend MORE credit, not cut it back further. Let’s examine a case study of HSBC, a creditor with which I have two credit cards. The situation: HSBC reduced my available credit from $2,000 to only $300 for no apparent reason other than they had made a widespread “business decision.”
Essential information: I have had this account for at least two years, if not longer, and have never been late on a payment.
The dirty details: I screwed up my credit in college, and that’s why I got some higher risk cards–to improve my credit. I have been paying down my debt since, and I in doing quite well considering where I was. I have to say I am disappointed with HSBC because I am so much better of a candidate for credit than I was when they gave me the card.
Why it matters: for those of you who don’t know, it is bad to use more than 50% of  any one card’s credit or more than 50% of you total available credit on all cards put together. This is called your debt-to-credit ratio. Your credit score is all a game, and many factors can screw it up.
Now, this credit card generally carries no balance, save for work purchases or a plane ticket now and then, but now I can hardly use it at all because anything I buy that I would use a credit card for could be more than the credit limit, much less 50% of it. What really steams my clams is that I have $1,700 less in credit to factor into my ratio. I am still paying off debt, so the more available credit I have that I don’t use, the better it is for me. This change is a serious negative factor, and I have nothing to do with it. So, after all of my loyal customer service and credit history, and after all of my logical explanations to them of why I needed it restored, I am left in this pickle sandwich. I have no choice but to publish negative press about then on here because I feel it is unjust. FYI: another card did this to me too, but they actually went out of business, so how can I fight that? The bottom line is, be cautious of your creditors, especially HSBC, in this economy. They may not be as reliable for emergencies as you think.


status blogum–carpe MBA

5 February 2009

I know I’ve been getting a bit slow with my posts here, but I’ve been busy with my grad school applications. Apparently applying to grad school takes the most work ever, but I guess that makes sense since it will be hard. I now have all the information I need and have created a schedule of events for the next two months. This schedule involves me studying at all times for the GMAT, which I just schedule for March 21. I’m getting a lot better at my practice problems, escpecially since when I started I was like, “you can’t add fractions!” However, based on that starting point, I still have a while to go to get up to my target score. I took a practice test and performed a tad bid better than average. With some studying, I hope to get my score up some so I can stand out with the super smarties who score an average of 670. These are of course the University of California, Davis (UCD) applicants, but my GPA was 2/10 higher than the average, which means I am awesome. And, my base score was higher than the lowest GMAT score they admitted last year, so I guess that’s something.

I’ve also been coordinating the various requirements of the applications. If I didn’t have a spreadsheet I wouldn’t be able to keep track of it because there are super lots of requirements. Deciphering what needs to go to which school, to where at said school, in what form (electronic or paper), and by when is proving to be challenging. UCD’s info was straight forward, but I had to realllly dig to get requirements for Sac State for some reason. I just hope I am covering all of my basis on both applications, but I am sure I will be okay. So long as I adhere to a fairly strict schedule of doing at least some review and some application task every day, I will be fine. I had to revise my schedule a bit because I was bit too ambitious at first and forgot that I am tired after work and maybe don’t want another four hours worth of activity. In any event, I’ve taken care of the bare minimum requirements and now am working on the application pieces that I write myself.

There is, of course, the matter of financial aid and the economy. I decided to go ahead with the application for an MBA program after doing decently on the GMAT practice test. I figure I should be able to get at least some federal loans. My primary school is UCD, which is almost $20,000 per year for three years. Ouch. Hopefully work would pay for some of it too, but in this economy, you never know. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I am keeping at it. I figure if I do end up getting laid off, I would rather be in school than just unemployed. So my plan is to finance it through federal loans. That’s also another reason why I applied to Sacramento State. It’s quite affordable–especially with assistance–and it may end up being the route I would take when push comes to shove.  The thing that really drew me to UCD was the fact that I can customize my entire degree after the core courses. I think that’s amazing, and it just may be worth it…but I don’t know if I want the debt when I’m still paying off undergrad (forever).


a historical p(R)esident

27 January 2009

Alright folks, it’s time we talked about it: the branded candidate. Barack Obama single-handedly redefinded the entire communications process for a campaign: grass roots public relations, a unified branding strategy, and media roadblocking capabilities like we’ve never seen before (meaning no matter where you look and what you do, he was there in some form). It’s one thing for him to have thrown a lot of money at his campaign–which he indeed did do–but it’s another to become an actual product (so to speak). I don’t know how he is so up to date on everything, but he is. Blogs, video addresses, Web site materials, you name it he did it…what’s more is he will continue to do it. Perhaps having a younger candidate is paying off. I admit I admired his approach the entire time (marketing wise), but I love the fact that he is going to continue now that he is in office. During his inauguration (the first one), the new www.whitehouse.govlaunched. Have you ever gone there before? I am willing to bet it never got so many hits. And, it looks good. That’s the thing that really impresses me; he is not just trying new media and communication strategies to stay “in the loop,” he is communicating to the world successfully through a myriad of channels.

Now, for those of you marketers, you have to love his image. Never before has anyone been so organized and pretty. I have posted a logo series of his to the left. It’s super cute. Some may argue that it’s not “official looking” enough, but I think it’s perfect. Plus, you can pretty those up easily, and I just got them from a Web site, so they aren’t all of his logos either. Have you ever seen that for any other president. Aside from a giant “W,” is there any other logo associated with a president for branding purposes? And I’m not talking about random stars and political party colors on signs with slogans that change throughout the campaign…every election has those. Just Google the Obama brand and read up on it to see how it’s different. I think it’s fantastic. I’m looking for other comments on it as well. Let’s leave politics secondary and focus on the branding firstly. Thoughts/opinions? Like the logos and brand identity? Think it’s too much, too soon (or was at the unveiling)? Think it’s generic or not “official” enough?