O’Flaherty Episode #21 – Show me the money!

Show me the money!

Recorded on my cell phone, I talk about how Technorati has become irrelevant, how much money the average blogger makes their blog, opening unsolicited emails and finally naming and shaming companies which use human spammers.

Links

Download Podcast MP3: O’Flaherty #21 – Show me the money! 3.3 Mb 0:14:09

Everybody’s talking – right?

An IM conversation with Sara from Suburban Oblivion about the new Microsoft ad campaign with Seinfeld and Bill Gates.

The conversation says it all really!

[15:50:12] Paul O’Flaherty says: 🙂
[15:53:21] Paul O’Flaherty says: Did you see this yet?
[15:53:21] Paul O’Flaherty says: http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/windows/default.aspx
[15:54:31] Sara says: the ads? no
[15:54:43] Paul O’Flaherty says: Don’t know what to make of it
[15:54:49] Sara says: let me see
[15:54:53] Sara says: hang on
[15:55:00] Paul O’Flaherty says: Take your time
[15:55:03] Paul O’Flaherty says: I’m not going anywhere
[16:00:28] Sara says: just watched
[16:00:34] Sara says: drugs..very heavy drugs
[16:01:08] Paul O’Flaherty says: LOL – am still undecided as to wether or not this is drugs as you say, or the beginning of a series (which it will be part of) that may broder on the edge of genius
[16:01:13] Paul O’Flaherty says: er.. border
[16:01:19] Paul O’Flaherty says: will need to think about it for a bit more
[16:01:26] Paul O’Flaherty says: btw.. my mouse mat burst
[16:01:30] Sara says: well, it’s off-beat, but smart
[16:01:41] Paul O’Flaherty says: sure is
[16:01:46] Sara says: shows Gates in a different light than you usually see him
[16:01:54] Sara says: a bit humanizing
[16:02:02] Sara says: able to laugh at himself
[16:02:08] Sara says: which is not how most people view him
[16:02:13] Paul O’Flaherty says: And how did they make BillyG seam more normal and cool and “fluid” than Seinfeld
[16:02:21] Sara says: Seinfeld, everyone knows and relates to
[16:02:50] Sara says: so I don’t know if there’s going to be a point to it, or its just a PR thing
[16:02:55] Sara says: but I’d go with genius
[16:03:02] Paul O’Flaherty says: Yeah me too
[16:03:08] Sara says: its going to get everyone talking
[16:03:14] Sara says: “wtf is it about”
[16:03:15] Paul O’Flaherty says: Already has
[16:03:20] Sara says: just like us now
[16:03:29] Sara says: so it’s working either way 🙂
[16:03:38] Paul O’Flaherty says: yep
[16:03:51] Sara says: I love it

Judge for yourself.

Does Victoria’s Secret Need To Change It’s (Business) Model?

I always get a guilty little pleasure out of seeing a company loosing money because they’ve lost track of what their customer base is and how to reach out of them.

A recent example of this is Victoria’s Secret (yes the lingerie company, who’s catalogue is a guilty little pleasure for many a man ) who have seen a 12% drop in profits for the fourth quarter of 2007 and their first quarter earnings for 2008 are expected to perform well below Wall Street expectations.

The reasons for this could be many, but Sharen Turney, the CEO of Victoria’s Secret seams to believe it is because the brand has become to sexy and needs to be more “ultra feminine”.

“We’ve so much gotten off our heritage … too sexy, and we use the word sexy a lot and really have forgotten the ultra feminine,”

This is where I sit up and take notice because I honestly believe that Victoria’s Secret is not loosing money because their brand in too sexy or not feminine enough but because they’ve forgotten who their market is and who really wields the purchasing power in the majority of households and of course, because of that every present bean, customer satisfaction!

Who buys lingerie?

Who are the market for Victoria’s Secret?

The chain was started in San Francisco in 1977 by Roy Raymond, who said he was embarrassed trying to buy lingerie for his wife and hoped to provide a comfortable place for men to shop.

That little nugget above would appear to indicate that the main market for Victoria’s Secret is men who lack the confidence to to walk into a lingerie store and pick something nice out for their significant other.

I would suspect that the truth is very far removed from that.

The truth is that in most households the women hold control of the purse strings and it is they who decide what lingerie they purchase.

I also suspect that it is due solely to the discretion of those women, that the vast majority of those men, who lack the confidence to purchase lingerie ever get to see a woman in it. But I digress.

These women not only want to look and feel sexy, they also want to feel comfortable and according to one of the best of the mommy blogger’s out there, the lingerie from Victoria’s Secret is quite simply not designed with real women in mind.

Explain to me why your panties are only sold up to size Large, which according to your website is about a size 14. Have you read the statistics lately? Do you realize the average woman in the US is a size 14? So what about the other half, the ‘above average’ sized contingency? Are they just SOL in your book?

In the the technology world this kind of a mistake would be the equivalent of designing an iPod that could only be used by people who were born with an extra finger.

It may look sexy as heck but you’ve seriously narrowed your market.

I buy lingerie for the comfort… Really!

Okay, so lets say that with respect to women, Victoria’s Secret have missed the boat, but what about the remaining section of their market?

  • What about that tiny percentage of unconfident guys who do actually order the stuff (and their wives probably never get to see it because they’re to shy to give it to them)?
  • What about those egotistical gits who think that because they fancy it their spouse will? (Here’s a free tip: the present is to make HER feel sexy and confident / comfortable!)
  • What about the guy who’s buying it for himself (you know what I mean)?

The more I think about these guys the more I am certain that they must feel robbed after every purchase they make.

Imagine you went out and bought and ordered a shiny new MacBook Air today, but when it arrived, you received a machine of identical technical specs, but the case was made out of cheap unfinished plastic?

The Victoria’s Secret catalogue creates exactly that same feeling of disappointment.

I mean, can you image how devastated you’d feel if your MacBook air turned up with plastic cover but with the same innards.

It would be like seeing a thong in the catalogue, on a super models backside, and then when you receive it and get to see it with it’s “real” covering, it ends up looking like a tiny bit of string wedged between two badly parked Volkswagens covered in orange peel.

Disappointment is not the word 😉

Would you buy a product from a company again after the end result was so vastly different from what you’ve seen advertised? I think not?

What do your customers actually want?

So, now we’ve established that VS have lost track of who is spending the money and who they’re real customer base is, so lets attempt to figure out what they can do to pull themselves (no pun intended) out of this rut.

First thing would be to rethink their choice of model. Again Sara said it best with:

You may think you are being progressive and open minded by using super models who are in their 30’s in some of your ads, but we aren’t fooled. We don’t look like those women,

Maybe Victoria’s Secret should take a leaf out of Doves book and their “Campaign for real beauty” commercials. (I can’t find a link to these videos anywhere – but if anybody can find an advert for “Dove Summer Glow” and you’ll know what I mean. I did find one copy on YouTube which has since been removed – go figure!).

Victoria’s Secret needs to get down to the art of making their lingerie appeal to real women. To making them believe that they can feel sexy, confident and comfortable in the their lingerie.

They also need to be promoting the idea that real women are sexy.

Before I go any further. Let me say one thing: Fat is not sexy.

Being fat does not make you are a “real” woman, or a “real” man for that matter.  It just means you’re unhealthy.

Neither is skinny sexy, not when it’s unnaturally so. All you after dinner puckers be warned.

Sexy is natural and healthy (emphasis on healthy).

Getting back to roots? Nah!

Victoria’s Secret does not need to get back to any roots of why the company was started.

“I feel so strongly about us getting back to our heritage and really thinking in terms of ultra feminine and not just the word sexy and becoming much more relevant to our customer,” Turney said Thursday.

Victoria’s Secret needs to listen to what their current core customer demographic wants from them now and deliver on it. That’s the way forward. That’s they way to pull yourself up by the socks after a 12% drop.

Give the customers that actually spend the money and use the product what they want.

If you do that you’ll build return business, customer satisfaction and improve your brand reputation.

As tenuous as all this may be in connection to technology there is a valuable lesson to be learned here for ever
y company that produces any kind of product.

  • Don’t get caught up in your own hype.
  • Don’t start thinking that you know what your customers want better than they do.
  • Don’t get caught up in some dogmatic idea that the company was founded for one reason and can only exist to service that reason!

People, ideas, societies, cultures and markets change. If you want to stay on top you need to change with them and these changes can be drastic.

Yet, if you pay attention to what your customers want and you and are trying to predict what they might want, these changes can be easy to manage and allow your company to grow to meet their needs.

However, I must stress again, that attempting to predict what your customers want does not mean you’ll get it right and you need to shift gears rather quickly when you get it wrong.

Full Or Partial? Sara Feeds The Debate…

A little over a year ago I posted about how I felt that partial feeds are like foreplay without sex. Damn frustrating!

Sara from Suburban Oblivion has reopened that can of worms again and is getting some great feedback in her comments with the vast majority of folks preferring full feeds.

I’ve gone back and forth on this, and am finally going back to full feed. I almost hate to do it, because I know I’ll have to keep a sharp eye on where my feed is being fed(partial feeds protect from others running your RSS through their blog) and I suspect my comments will go down. BUT, I also know a lot of people get really annoyed by partial feeds, so back to full feed I go.

What makes the feedback Sara is getting really interesting to me is that it’s not coming from the tech bloggers. Sara is a “Mommy blogger” and most of the feedback she’s getting is from other bloggers like her.

Heck, I appear to be the only guy who’s commented on her post so that, in itself, should be enough to show that the feedback Sara is receiving is from a different demographic than we (male tech bloggers) usually encounter.

I publish full feeds on O’Flaherty and that will never change as it would be in conflict with my own feed reading habits.

What do you publish? Full or partial?

Blogging To Infamy

You may have noticed some of the negative blog posts which have been floating around the web today with regards to Blogging to Fame, a project run by Indian blogger Divya Uttam!

It all came to my attention when Antman from Cre8buzz messaged me this morning asking for my opinion on his post “A scam or not a scam…

I was going to launch into a devastating attack and lay waste to all in my path but stopping to open a nice bottle of wine gave me the time to finally pause today and think about all this.

The resultant thought may not please anybody.

Okay before I get to explaining that thought (probably the only one I’ll have for the week) I’d best give a little background.

Sara from Suburban Oblivion believes that Blogging to Fame is a scam of some sort.

Antman does a fairly decent job of surmising her argument:

Spelling mistakes
Poor grammar
Only contact info is in India
Chicago Seminar Link is dead
Copyright is Worldnet Labs, and she can’t find em on Google
See’s Blogging To Fame as an SEO and Linkbait site

Needless to say Divya, from BTF, had her own things to say about this. She posted comments in multiple paces but I’ll just post the email she sent in reply to me asking her about the posts:

Hi Paul,

I know about the negative attention Blogging to Fame is getting from a few in the blogosphere, I had put in comments clarifying the doubts Sara had but guess she was in no mood to publish it. We started Blogging to Fame at an early stage to get the things rolling. As for World Net Labs, we are coming up with the site which will be there in two days. We had also put in about our team, and specified our States Representative’s address. I have been constantly in conversation with many of our members and would be putting Jury section soon, which would include good names of internet. I think that will bring enough credibility to the contest.

I cannot put at stake the love I have got from my readers for a linkbating technique, and my team has worked day and night for this project. I do not know what they think when they compare junk emails shot to millions of accounts from an anonymous yahoo email address to a site we had put our hard work into. Anyways registration is free, we do not compel to put widgets to be in the competition, People who trust us can be in the contest and be a part of revolution.

I have put in a Comment at: http://www.cre8buzz.com/blog/2007/06/05/a-scam-or-not-a-scam/
You can have a look at it if you wish to. I am thankful to people who trust me and believe in the project. I promise that this Contest and Seminar would turn up in a big way, the way it is being projected by us.

 
Thanks Paul for your support,

If you have any further specific queries be sure to contact me, and best of luck for the contest.

Regards,
Divya

Now, I don’t know Divya personally.

My only exchanges with her have been via email after I had registration problems with BTF (she fixed the problem personally) and we’ve crossed sabers on some blog posts in the past.

My impression of Divya is that she is on the level and I believe that this is not a scam.

People do nut usually invest as much time and effort in a scam as she has in BTF. Divya’s blog used to be awesome. It’s suffered a terrible decline in quality since she’s diverted her attention to BTF.

So, who’s wrong here?

EVERYBODY IS!

Divya’s is pouring her heart and soul into BTF but has made a few mistakes a long the way.

Those mistakes could justifiable give rise to concerns expressed by Sara at Suburban Oblivion.

Sara got it wrong as well. Her post is a little xenophobic and shows a complete lack of research before announcing to her readers that BTF is a scam.

I’m not picking a fight here. I’m guilty of not doing as much research as I should from time to time.

I’m going to climb on to the back of a moral horse here. It’s a horse on which I do not deserve to sit myself, but there is a point to be made here about dealing with this.

Sara’s concerns are genuine, but her handling of it was off.

Contacting Divya is really easy to do and one or two exchanged emails, or a quick phone call, would have cleared all of this up without any of the drama.

Also, Sara didn’t approve the comments Divya posted to Sara’s blog in response.

This was wrong. Yes Sara did repost the comments in a post all of their own but she should have let them stand where they were as well.

Worse still is that Sara did not approve Antman’s comments and also re-posted them in a post along with Divya’s.

Antman’s comments were then somehow, misunderstood by a host of Sara’s readers and Sara herself, resulting in yours truly having to step in and clarify after a number of Ant bashing comments were made.

The reason for Antman’s post not being allowed to stand is, apparently, because he is “an online acquaintance of” Divya’s.

That’s just not right!

If you’re going to call somebody out you have to allow them make their statement and their comments, right or wrong, just like everybody else.

You shouldn’t treat people some peoples comments differently just because it disagrees (or you think it does in this case) with your theory.

We’re bloggers. As a group we’re always complaining about how we should be taken seriously and how we should be given more mainstream acceptance.

This incident is exactly why we, as bloggers, should NOT be allowed main stream acceptance.

It’s proves we are sitting at the back of the class only to be let out into a fantasy world where we can play journalist / reporter.

A little research, an email or a phone call would have gone a long way to resolving this issue.

It’s something that we, as bloggers, tend to neglect to do in our hunt for the next big Digg or Techmeme traffic rush! (I’m not suggesting that was Sara’s motive. She appears simply to have been concerned BTF may be a scam which people could get sucked into)

Divya made mistakes with BTF. Sarah made mistake with handling this.

That is the nature of things.

Divya has already admitted to her fault. I can only hope that Sara will, at least, tell her readers that another side exists to this story.

As for me? Well, I wish Divya the best with BTF. I believe it “does exactly what it says on the tin”.

I also wish Sara the best. I’m going to subscribe to her blog once I’ve finished writing this post.

I just hope that we, the blogging community, learn from this. I hope that we, don’t repeat the same mistakes.

We have a responsibility to our readers to check the facts as best we can before printing. We’ll never be taken seriously other wise.

Do we want to the blogosphere to be considered the equivalent of a  bunch of tabloid rags relying on titillation, innuendo and shock to maintain an audience or do we want to be consider on par with the Times?

I know which I’d prefer! How about you?