Is it the copywriting? The coupon? Or the beginnings of a neighborhood?

May 30, 2011

The headline and lead in the Sunday NYT business section naturally caught my eye. 

Funny or Die: Groupon’s Fate Hinges on Words

The e-mail marketer hopes that its staff of 400 writers and editors will keep it one step ahead of its discounting competitors on the Web.

I’d love it if catchy copywriting could carry the day for coupon web sites.  But I don’t believe it will work, and I don’t honestly believe it is the core of Groupon’s competitive differentiation strategy. 

With sales promotions, it’s all about the offer, and being clear about the offer.  Clever copywriting may have helped Groupon create the category, but it won’t be enough to keep them on top.

Compare Groupon’s headline today

71% off Seattle Drum School

With Social Living’s (the competitor from Amazon)

Chef Shop , 2.5 Hour Cooking Class, $33

Both headlines are basic, and Social Living’s offer is actually clearer.  Whether I even bother to click depends partly on my interest in drums vs. cooking, and partly how much time I have to screw around that today.

Groupon’s email teaser copy is a little more clever, but I don’t even know what the specific offer is until the second sentence.

Playing a musical instrument is a skill that will serve you throughout your entire life, like safe cracking, horse whispering, and puppy juggling. Add to your resume with today’s Groupon: for $40, you get four 30-minute private music lessons on…

Social Living’s attempt at clever is awkward but it gets the point across.

Hey, good lookin’. Whatcha got cookin’? How’s about cookin’ a little somethin’ up with us when you get this brand-new recipe for great savings out of the frying pan and into the oven? Heat things up with a 2.5-hour cooking class from ChefShop and you’ll be dazzling your dinner guests…

The NYT article hints that Groupon knows it needs a more robust idea going forward, and this idea is intriguing

The hope … is that its users will eventually perceive it as an impartial guide to a city or a neighborhood, somewhat in the manner of the local paper’s weekend section.


Friending a company on Facebook

November 7, 2007

Like a zillion other people this morning, I’m poking around on Facebook to check out the new Facebook Ads.  As one part of the strategy, Facebook is now allowing companies to build pages on Facebook to connect with their audiences.  i.e. just like I have a Dottie Hall page, now Microsoft, Apple, Coca-Cola or other companies can have their own pages.

The idea is very powerful.  Companies that find very fun ways to engage with their customers, in a Facebook-appropriate, not too commercial way, will find it a valuable tool for building communities.  But it definitely has a long way to go. 

The press release says that 100,000 Facebook pages launched on November 6.  I’d love to see a list of all of them.  Thus far, the only way I can find a “page” is to search on the company name, then know to go to the Pages tab (the other tabs are People, Groups and Events).  I checked out the pages for Coca-Cola, Verizon, Microsoft and Apple (which has 6 pages).  At this point, all of the efforts are extremely modest, as though these were thrown together very quickly. The press release says Coke will be featuring the Sprite brand, along with a Sprite Sips application, but I don’t see any sign of it yet.  I’ve added Coca-cola and Microsoft to “my products” – essentially “friending” them I guess.  We’ll see what happens next.

As a side note, “pages” is the odd name for the new category of Facebook page for these company or product pages.  The whole organizing concept of Facebook is the page (e.g. People create their own Facebook pages), so it is discordant to call these corporate profiles “Pages” – a non-parallel construction.  I’m sure someone thought “company” or “product ”or “business” was too limiting, but they were wrong. 


User name selection: Twitter offers an elegant solution

July 26, 2007

Twitter has a very nice touch in their signup process that I’ve not seen elsewhere.  As you type in your preferred user name, Twitter tells you stroke by stroke whether that name is available.  For example, D, DO, and DOT are not available, but DOTT is.  I kept typing till I got to DOTTIEH, which is (or was – now it’s mine) available. 

For once I didn’t have to submit myriad possible names one after the other until I could find a unique one through trial and error!  This is a very thoughtful product design detail that makes things better for the user.    I hope other web services adopt Twitter’s approach.


Facebook is really good

June 15, 2007

This revelation won’t come as a big surprise to the digerati who keep up with these things or to the zillions of students who’ve been using Facebook since it started.  I feel compelled to note it here though because few in my crowd are using Facebook and most are genuinely curious about why I’ve been raving about it.  Like me, most of them tried mySpace and gagged, then logically and reasonably assumed that Facebook would be more of the same. 

Here’s what’s great about Facebook for grownups:

  • The interface is clean and (surprisingly) professional looking.  It isn’t adolescent so it isn’t an embarrassing experience for the over-30 crowd.
  •  It is so darn easy.  Somehow they manage to present you with the right request at the right time and do it concisely.
  • One thing leads to another.  I started out poking around for the purposes of “research” but before I knew it I had a halfway decent Facebook page.  It helped that my friend Stewart Alsop nudged me to join by sending me an invitation, so I had one friend immediately (and not one of those goofy marketing “friends”).
  • I pretty quickly built a group of half a dozen friends, even though most people I know aren’t on Facebook yet.
  • The viral implementation of the third-party applications makes trying them easy.   If you don’t like one, it is equally easy to ditch it.

If I were LinkedIn, I’d be scared.  I use LinkedIn and like it, but with some work Facebook could serve the purpose just as well.  The Facebook development platform will likely accelerate that day.