Thought of the Day – 12/15/2014 – Pick up the Pieces

A marketing tip to help you from wasting your money this holiday season:

Almost without fail, if a product’s packaging touts the number of pieces you’re getting (“24 piece set!”  “72 pieces!”  “101 pieces!”), at least a quarter of those pieces are complete garbage or things that you will never, ever, ever use.

Even the world’s greatest mechanic or craftsman is probably not going to use all of the sockets and screwdrivers and whatnot in that big tool set.

Do you even know what all of those tiny spoons and forks are for in your set of formal tableware?

Unless you want your preteen niece to look like a rodeo clown, do not get her a big kit with 83 different colors of eye shadow.

Seriously, go for quality over quantity.


Spam Comment of the Day

For whatever reason, this blog has been receiving a lot of spam comments of late.  WordPress has a pretty decent filter that deflects a lot of junk into a Spam folder, but more have been sneaking through lately.

For the most part, the spam comments I get are generic, poorly worded statements telling me that they love my blog (duh, who doesn’t?) and complementing the layout of the site (which is a stock WordPress template).  Oddly, very few seem to be trying to sell me anything*, which is probably why they make it past the filter.  I skim them to make sure they’re not legitimate, then I punt them to the trash.

*Seriously, has anybody ever purchased something advertised in a spam email, blog comment, or pop-up ad?  How many people see emails for ED meds, website comments offering designer purses, or a pop-up offering discount insurance if you “know this one little trick” and think “I really need these things.  Instead of finding a reputable vendor, I’m going to click on this random link”?  

Do companies have media buyers who are telling their bosses “TV is too expensive, print is dead, and it is impossible to have a good radio ad.  Therefore, I propose that we spend our entire Q4 advertising budget on spam emails and flashing webpage ads.  The click rate is going to be ridiculous!”  

Spamming people seems like a ton of work (and a lot of legal risk) for very little return.

Yet, today’s comment is worth sharing.  It is such a garbled mess of broken English, bizarrely off-topic messages, and weirdness that I absolutely love it.



I’m not sure who “Charlie” is, but he sounds like a dude I’d like to have a beer with – so he can enlighten me about contractors, Democratic lawmakers and UV rays ending at my kids.

Thought of the Day – 6/30/2014 – Helmets

A random thought from somebody who thinks about football 365 days a year and is encountering a lot of motorcycles in my daily travels:

Why do you rarely (if ever) see motorcycle helmets designed to resemble college or professional football helmets?  I’m not talking about a guy on a motorcycle wearing a football helmet, but rather a motorcycle helmet that has the paint and decals of the rider’s favorite college or NFL team.

Google tells me that such helmet designs exist (see here, here, and here) but I cannot remember ever seeing one on the streets.  That strikes me as odd, especially considering the national popularity of the NFL as well as the borderline obsession my fellow Nebraskans have for our Cornhuskers.  I can’t believe that I don’t encounter motorcyclists wearing a helmet done up to look like the Huskers, Chiefs, Packers, Bears, Broncos, Wildcats, or other local favorite teams every single day.

The closest thing to a Nebraska helmet I could find.

The closest thing to a Nebraska helmet I could find.

Riders, let me know.  Are sports branded helmets not widely available?  Are they too expensive?  Or would you rather ride in a standard black lid than one that looks like your favorite team’s helmet?

The Second Stupidest Product Ever Made (or How to Ruin Your Smartphone)

I receive a handful of Groupon-type emails every day.  I delete most of these sight unseen (I have zero need for laser hair removal, facial peels, and/or Microsoft Excel training).  But one of them did catch my eye.  Not in a good way, but for its sheer stupidity.

It is a protective case for your smartphone.  No big deal, those are pretty common – both on the Groupon sites and elsewhere.  A protective case is actually a pretty smart investment for those who have kids, use their phone a lot, or are a known “dropper“.  So far, so good.

No, what sets this product apart (and makes it the second stupidest product ever made) is the addition of another tool into the smartphone case:  a bottle opener.

We’ve all been there:  you’re out with your buddies, enjoying some delicious beverages, but…oh no!  This fancy pants craft beer has a pry-off cap*.  Never fear, instead of having a $2 bottle opener on my key ring or finding one in a kitchen drawer, I’ll use one attached to my $500 cell phone.  Sure, why not use my phone as a lever, exposing it to undo force, liquids under pressure, and my drunken friends?  That sounds like a great idea.  Maybe when we’re done we can use my iPhone to pound in this loose nail on your basement steps or play a round of disc golf with my Galaxy S III.

*I hate to stereotype, but I’m guessing the primary demographic for this case is not drinking a lot of craft beers or other beverages with pry-off bottle caps.  I’d wager the purchasers of this product are quite fond of beers with twist-off caps, such as Bud Light, Miller Lite, and Coors Light.

How a redneck opens a longneck (image from

And if the prospect of turning your expensive smartphone into a cheap bar tool is not enough to get you to whip out your credit card, just wait!  There’s more:

The bottle opener case comes with a custom app that will count the number of bottles you’ve opened.  (“Ossifer, as you can clearly see, this app says I’ve only had three beers.  At least that what it showed right before I opened the fourth one and my screen cracked.”)

The app will also play a song when you open a bottle.  The LivingSocial deal did not specify what song is played, but I’m guessing it is something by Nickelback or AC/DC.

You can also get your bottle opener case printed with different sports teams logos (because what team doesn’t want to be associated with the brilliant minds who would buy something like this), or you can upload your own image such as the rebel flag, Calvin peeing on something, or a picture of Nickelback.

You’ll notice that I refer to this as the “second stupidest product ever made”.  Yes, potentially breaking a $500 smartphone by using it as a bottle opener is pretty dadgum stupid.  Yet, this phone case still has a legitimate purpose, as opposed to the Stupidest Product Ever Made, which does not.  Sadly, I fear a new contender for the title will come along soon.

Thought of the Day – 7/31/2012

Recently, I’ve been seeing a number of commercials for Domino’s new “oven baked sandwiches”.  As far as commercials go, they are pretty bland and forgettable (as witnessed by the fact that these may be the only commercial produced in the last ten years that I cannot find on YouTube).

But during my 31st viewing of the ad, something stuck out.  An actress (playing the role of “Cutest Girl To Ever Work In Fast Food”) tried to sell me on their fancy, schmancy sammiches by telling me they are:

“Made with only our finest ingredients!”

Well, sure.  Call me naive, but when I order food from a mediocre pizza chain, five-star restaurant, or anything in-between I really like to believe that whatever I’m ordering is “made with only their finest ingredients.”

But this raises questions…

  • What does Domino’s do with the ingredients that are not their finest?  (Readers, insert your own joke about Domino’s pizza here)
  • Does Domino’s have somebody at each store who sifts through all of the ingredients, setting aside the fine ones for the sandwiches?
  • What is the definition of “finest ingredients” for a Domino’s?  I’m guessing their bar is a little lower than the chef at that five-star restaurant (or even your local Applebee’s).
  • Does Domino’s knowingly purchase inferior ingredients for use in other products?
  • If you’re considering buying a sandwich from Domino’s is the quality of ingredients really your chief concern?

Rejected Slogans for Lincoln’s Rebranding

The City of Lincoln (Nebraska) kicked off a new branding campaign today.  The goal is to show that Lincoln is a place where “you can be successful, comfortable and have fun.”

The campaign will include traditional methods (signs, concerts, corporate involvement) as well as things that are a little more outside the box (social media, unique contests, and “guerilla gardening”*).

*No, Lincoln will not be raising primates or militant rebel forces.  Guerilla gardening refers to citizens planting flowers in places the city does not take care of – like most city parks, side streets, and the Pershing Center.

The slogan they came up with is “Life is Right”, which was described as “meaning things are good,  authentic, balanced and fun here.”  Personally, I think that slogan is a) rather generic, and b) hints a little too closely at the highly conservative nature of Nebraskans (and their political leanings).

But mainly, I’m bummed that my suggestions were vetoed….

  1. One of the Top 10 Cities in the U.S.*    (*named after the 16th President)
  2. Life is Right – Just ask Mikey!
  3. Lincoln – No four lane north/south roads between 10th and 84th Street!
  4. Home of the 2nd (and 3rd) largest cities in Nebraska!
  5. The same gas found in Omaha, but 12 cents more per gallon!
  6. Unabashedly against abortion, gay rights, taxes, and immigrants!
  7. Where a three-week street project takes six months to complete!
  8. We wanted “Price is Right” to showcase the relatively low-cost of living, but that idea was spayed and neutered.
  9. Omaha’s Awkward Baby Brother!
  10. Come for the football, stay because of the unsynchronized stop lights!
  11. Smothering humidity, freezing cold, tornadoes, rain, and snow – sometimes on the same day!
  12. It’s like a small town, but with three Wal-Marts!
  13. Did we mention that we’re getting a Whole Foods?
  14. We guarantee you’ll know somebody who works at Bryan, UNL, Fiserv, Ameritas, or LPS.
  15. Lincoln – Stove pipe hat and beard optional   (but strongly recommended)
  16. More orange construction barrels per capita than any other city!
  17. Come see where the State Fair used to be!
  18. Where 30 minutes is considered a long commute
  19. Lincoln the automobile is a fancy Ford.  Lincoln the city is a fancy Fargo.
  20. Lincoln – Much more than Logs and Assassinated Presidents!

Ad Review – Ally Bank “Stop Accepting”

Company:  Ally Bank

Campaign: “Stop Accepting”

Campaign Theme in Haiku Format:

Accept repeating
Over and over again.
Too much?  Accept it.



Repetition is a good way to make a point.  You may not know this, but repetition is an excellent way to make a point.  Seriously, did you know that repetition is a great way to make your point?  With that in mind, this ad does an excellent job of making it’s point (and in a much less annoying way than I just did):  you can either accept being a whipping boy/revenue source for your bank, or you can revolt against The Man and switch to Ally Bank.

When I come across an ad that uses repetition to beat it’s point into my skull, I typically count the number of times they repeat the company name/key word/phrase/tagline.  In a 30 second spot, 5-6 repetitions is a lot.  With this 60 second ad?  By my rough count, I get 14 – and that is not including the nearly 10 seconds of having “accept it” looping continuously in the background, which probably pushes the count well over 30.  In addition, the ATM screen with “Accept” and “Don’t Accept” shows another 10 times.  Mission accomplished on driving your point home.

I really enjoy Ally Bank’s campaign, as they use great visual examples to make their key point:  we put up with a lot of crap, abuse, and ethically questionable behavior from our banks.  A couple of other favorites:  the little girl who must pay a fee to ride her bike outside of a tiny square and another new spot where they ask complete strangers to watch $100,000.  They do an excellent job of pointing out how you and I are likely being screwed by our banks.

That’s the good news.  The bad news is most people would rather get a root canal than switch banks – regardless of how abused and service charged they are.  In 2010, less than 8% of consumers reported that they switched banks.  While fees were the second most common motivating factor (17% of respondents) it was far behind the primary reason for changing banks:  life circumstances such as a move or a divorce.

In short, as long as you and I are staying in the same town, we’re likely staying with the same bank.  But I completely get Ally’s motives.  You probably aren’t going to switch, but these ads do a good job of putting awareness and a sliver of doubt in your mind about your banking relationship.

I do have one complaint about this ad:  ultimately, the guy “accepts it”, takes out the cash, and goes on with his life.  There are only three conclusions one can draw from this:

  1. As noted above, people will pay to not be inconvenienced, which is not the message Ally is hoping to send.
  2. People should give into peer pressure, especially if they are directed to do something 30+ times.  What a great message for the kids!
  3. A $3 ATM fee is a small price to pay to keep your wife happy.

Besides – assuming the guy has a debit card, there is almost zero need to ever pay an ATM fee – regardless of your bank.  Just go to your neighborhood grocery store, pharmacy, big box, etc. and buy a pack of gum/candy bar/soda.  Pay with your debit card and get $20 back in cash.  Instead of paying a $3 ATM fee, you have only paid $1, and you have a pack of gum to show for it.

Who is the Dump Truck Who Came Up With This?

Last week, my wife and I were out running some errands with our almost three year old daughter.  One of our stops was at Target.  While the missus was doing her thing, I did my best to occupy/wear out the little one by walking around the store with her. 

On our journey, we wandered through several aisles in the toy department.  Jamie would go up to certain toys, press the buttons and make them move, dance, or otherwise be loud and obnoxious.  One of the toys she played with was some sort of robot / dump truck* hybrid (and no, it wasn’t a Transformer.  I’m a child of the 80’s, I know what a Transformer is.) 

*As our daughter’s speech is improving, “p” sounds less like “b” and “tr” doesn’t come out as “f” any more.  (We’ll pause while you swap those letters into “dump truck” and see why that developmental milestone is good for her and sad for my juvenile mind).

Jamie is busy pushing the buttons on this toy, and every time he moves and says some random phrase that four year old boys would love – most of which I ignored.  But then she pushed the button once more, and the toy said something that made my jaw hit the floor:

“It’s lonely here in the store.  Take me home.”

That’s right, the toy was trying to guilt its way into my shopping cart, much like the poor scraggly puppy who shows up on your doorstep.  I was shocked.  With an almost 3 year old, I haven’t experienced a lot of the “Daddy, can I have this?” – yet – but I know it’s coming quick. 

It will be tough enough to turn down a beautiful girl with big eyes and a fast developing puppy dog look.  I don’t need any help from some battery hungry hunk of Chinese plastic that will be buried in the bottom of the toy chest within a month.

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