Rescinding A 2010 Marketing Tea Party Award

In the history of major awards being given to the wrong recipient, we have a new entry that has cracked the top three. Secure in their places as #1 and #2 are the awarding of the Nobel Peace prize to Barack Obama and Reggie Bush getting the Heisman Trophy over Vince Young.

The new #3? The awarding of a Marketing Tea Party award to Groupon for turning down a $6 billion offer.

New information has come in that suggests that Groupon did not necessarily want to turn the offer down, but felt that regulatory issues would hold up the sale of the company. Wisely, Groupon directors tried to negotiate for a break-up fee, which Google, apparently, wasn’t willing to pay.

Sheepishly, we here at the Marketing Tea Party must admit that we wrongly issued the Bonehead Decision of the Year award to Groupon, and are hereby rescinding the offer with our apologies to the firm.

In its place, however, we have decided to create the Debauchery Award for the vilest display of immoral self-indulgence, depravity, profligacy, and licentiousness.

The winner of the 2010 award for Debauchery goes to….Google, for making Groupon a $6 billion offer in the first place.

Why is this a display of self-indulgence and depravity, you ask? Because first of all, there is no way in G*d’s creation that Groupon is worth $6 billion. But what makes this a depraved and profligate offer is that it’s a painful reminder to the rest of us that $6 billion to Google is like $6 to you or me. Pocket change.

Mind you, Google’s offer doesn’t qualify for the Bonehead Decision award. As a matter of fact, it’s the exact opposite. It’s a brilliant move. In an attempt to recreate the Dot Com bubble of 10 years ago, Google is leveraging its war chest to make an absolutely ridiculous offer to a firm hardly worthy of it. Can you say sock puppet?

By bidding up the prices of fledgling companies with questionable business models, Google hopes to start a bidding war that will tax the coffers of its less-well-endowed competitors. A truly brilliant strategy, if we say so ourselves.


Credit Unionistas

Over at the CU Soapbox, Ron Daly suggested that credit union employees be called “credit unionists.” According to Ron:

“What is a credit unionist? Having just made it up, I’m not sure, but because so many of you hate being called bankers, we’ve got to come up with something else. If you’ve got better ideas, I’m all ears.”

I like where Ron is going with this, and I’d like to suggest a minor edit in his term.

After all, a “unionist”, at least to me, evokes the image of someone who belongs to a union like the United Auto Workers. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I have nothing against unions (as long as they don’t strike and disrupt my life, or negotiate for things that cause the price I have to pay for stuff to go up). But it’s probably not what credit union folks are trying to portray themselves as.

I’d like to propose the term Credit Unionista (cred-it youn-ya-neesta).

I think that conjures up the notion of a cross between a Central American bandit and a Starbucks barista. Part revolutionary, part hip dude (or dudette).

After all, if — as Tim McAlpine is discussing on his blog — it’s going to be the credit union movement, and not just system, then the participants in the movement need a cool name.

@itsjustbrent and @jimmymarks can get started on developing recruiting brochures for the credit unionista army.

And since every worthwhile movement needs its own anthem, I was thinking that maybe The Disclosures could put some music to the following lyrics:

Hey, listen up Mista,
Don’t you want to be a credit unionista?
Tell your mama and your sista,
You’re gonna be a credit unionista.
Get your nephews and your niece-stas
To join the credit unionistas,
Cuz we’re gonna round up all the bankeristas,
And kick their fat old ugly keisters.

That might need a little work.

The 2010 Marketing Tea Party Awards

Nothing says “we’re a pompous bunch of self-centered egomaniacs in desperate need of attention” than handing out eponymous awards. So, here at The Marketing Tea Party, we’re proud to announce our first (and probably last) annual Marketing Tea Party awards.

Here are the categories and award winners:

Most  Annoying Word In The Marketing Lexicon

This was a tough choice, lots of good candidates for this award. The third runner-up is”mocial”, the combination of social and mobile. Not popular enough to crack the top three, but annoying enough to get nominated.

Second runner up is “game-changer.” No other word flows off the tongues of social media gurus faster than this one, as they proclaim every friggin’ announcement associated with the mobile and social media spaces to be a game-changer. Despite the fact that the past 20 years have only seen two or three real game-changers, the gurus fall over themselves to use this term.

First runner-up is “tweetup.” How the hell it’s come to pass that any offline get-together is now considered to be a tweetup is beyond our comprehension. A truly annoying buzzword, but not quite as annoying as our 2010 winner of the most annoying word in the marketing lexicon: Like.

There’s not a website on this planet that hasn’t slapped an annoying Like button on every page of its site. Little did Sally Field know back then when she said at the Oscars “you like me, you really like me”, that she would spark such universal interest in the word like. For the record, we at the Marketing Tea Party don’t give a damn what you like, nor do we care whether or not you like us.

Most Overhyped Yet Ineffective Marketing Tool

While the rest of the marketing world moves towards greater accountability and measurability, Twitter bucks the trends. With no ability to: 1) measure whether or not marketing messages are read; 2) customize or personalize messages; or 3) know the demographics, behaviors, or attitudes of  the intended recipients of tweets, Twitter is still fawned over as the next great marketing platform.

Twitter won’t ever succeed as an advertising channel. First of all, we don’t want to read. It’s too much effort. TV and radio ads — and increasingly online ads — are verbal. Print ads are predominantly visual. Sure, there are many good text-intensive print ads, but those are typically for certain types of products.

There is another reason, perhaps not as important as the previous one, that helps to convinces us why Twitter won’t succeed as a marketing platform: People on Twitter aren’t there to listen to what anybody else has to say.  If you’re not a bored, attention-starved egotist with nothing better to do than broadcast every thought that passes through your head (like your latest workout or a minute by minute update on your delayed flight at the airport), then you’re in the minority.

Bonehead Decision of the Year

There are certain moments in history that we all wish we could have been part of or have seen. Jesus’ last supper, the Wright Brothers flying, Neil Armstrong walking on the moon all come to mind. Add a new historical moment to the list: Groupon declining a $6 billion offer from Google.

Don’t you wish you were a fly on the wall sitting in on the meeting when that was decided?

We here at the Marketing Tea Party are Groupon subscribers and like the service. But there are a number of factors why $6 billion is an outrageous price for anybody to pay.

First off,  Groupon’s business model has no barriers to entry. We’re not saying it’s easy to do what Groupon has done, but it’s not impossible to replicate. In fact, we believe that banks in particular will have a strong interest in doing what Groupon has done, and with the help of merchant network assemblers (firms that enable merchant-funded rewards programs), will use their online banking customer base to match retailers and merchants with group-related offers.

Second, similar to the Twitter problem described above, Groupon has limited ability to customize or personalize offers and has limited insights into its customer base. Sure, we subscribe to Groupon, but what does Groupon know about the Marketing Tea Party other than which offers we accept? Nothing. There are firms with access to far better data about its customers and consumers in general (like Google).

Bottom line is that Groupon was crazy for declining a $6 billion offer. Time will tell, of course, if we’re right or wrong on that assessment. But the lessons from the Dot Com era must be fading fast.

Congratulations to our award winners. The Marketing Tea Party awards are very prestigious. If you feel we overlooked you for one of our awards, please let us know.

An Open Letter To The Kardashian Sisters

Dear Kim, Khloe, and Klueless:

I’m one of your biggest fans and was wondering if you would autograph a picture of the three of you for me.

No, just kidding, I’m not one of your biggest fans. Truth be told, until recently if I heard the name Kardashian, I would think of that guy who was somehow affiliated with the OJ Simpson case. Is he a relative?

Thanks to a teenage daughter I have, I found out that the three of you have your own TV show. Congrats. That must be so exciting. I walked in on her one day while she was watching the show, and thought I saw a guy who looked like that Bruce Jenner fellow who won some gold medals in the 1976 Olympics. But it couldn’t have been him, since that was nearly 35 years ago, and the guy I saw didn’t look like he was 60ish.

Anyway, the real reason I’m writing to you is to insult you. (I don’t normally do this to people, but I’m counting on one of two things: 1) You will never see this, and/or 2) You won’t understand a word I’m saying if you do read it).

The three of you were recently involved in what should have been an absolutely brilliant business venture: Your own prepaid debit card.

I don’t know if you realized this or not, but prepaid cards are going to be really big business. To date, they’ve been associated with underbanked consumers. But the company that I work for, Aite Group (pronounced…oh, forget it), estimates that the gross dollar volume of prepaid debit cards will exceed US$100 billion by 2014, up from a little more than US$20 billion in 2010.

You could have ridden that wave with your product. The business potential —  and marketing synergies — was there. As I was quoted in an article on

“None of these celebrities are going to get rich off of these cards — they’re already rich to begin with,” said Ron Shevlin, a senior analyst at Aite Group. “For the most part, this is an absolutely incredible publicity play.”

Shevlin said that by putting a prepaid card in the hands of their target audience, the Kardashians are attracting advertisers to their show who will come up with special deals and discounts that Kardashian fans can then hop online and use their Kardashian Kard to buy.

“I’m very convinced this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to celebrity prepaid cards,” said Shevlin. “It’s an integrated marketing play that is appealing to a lot more than just the Kardashians.”

But the very next day, bowing to pressure from a number of sources, you made the decision to kill the kard.

I’m sorry to be so insulting here, but I can only conclude that you were either greedy or stupid. Maybe both.

It’s mindboggling to me that a guy like CT attorney general Richard Blumenthal could make a comment that would influence your decision to discontinue the card. Ladies, this is a man who flat-out lied about serving in Vietnam. Hell, for all we know, the closest he’s even been to Vietnam is a Vietnamese restaurant in Greenwich, CT.

Did any of you bother to look at the fee structure of the card before lending your name to it? Did it not occur to any of you — or better yet, any of the people you must have who advises you on business matters — that these fees might possibly be seen as predatory?

If you (and/or your advisors) knew this, then you were greedy. If you didn’t know it, you were stupid.

In theory, the idea for your own prepaid debit card was brilliant. In practice, the implementation was a disaster.

I hope you haven’t ruined this for other celebrities who might be able to do something constructive with prepaid debit cards, which hold the potential to be a more cost effective alternative to checking accounts for about 14% of US households (these are people I call the Overbanked, but please don’t worry your pretty little heads trying to remember big words like that).

I hope Oprah is reading this. A well designed prepaid card from her could be an incredibly successful product.

Well, best of luck with your TV show and your future business endeavors. I look forward to your comments to my blog post.

The Marketing Tea Party

The Top 10 Blog Posts I'd Most Like To See

10. The Five “E”s of Customer Experience: CustomEr ExpEriEncE

9. I Had A Bad Customer Experience And There Isn’t Anything Any Other Firm Could Learn From It

8. Stop Trying To Be a Game Changer and Start Making Money From The F***ing Game You’re Already Playing

7. How Zappos Screwed Up My Order and Why I’ll Never Order From Them Again For The Rest of My Life

6. The ROI of Not Doing Social Media

5. The Horrible, Horrible, Nasty Things That Happen To People That Tweet Their Foursquare Check-ins

4. New Studies Show Excessive Tweeting Can Cause Blindness

3. Treat Your Customers Like Sh*t And Still Make A Fortune: Management Secrets from the Airline Industry

2. New Studies Challenge Gen Yers’ Self-Perceptions and Find That Gen Yers ARE JUST LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE

And the #1 blog post I’d most like to see:

1. Why Everyone Should Read

What’s on your list?

Don't Ignore My Tweets

Sysomos has done some interesting “research” (for lack of a better term), and found, from analyzing 1.2 billion tweets over the past couple of months, that 71% of tweets produce no reaction, 6% are retweeted, and 23% get an @reply.

There are a few things about these “findings” (for lack of a better term), that make me wonder:

1. How others have interpreted the findings. Wired magazine ran an article on the Sysomos “study” (for lack of a better term), running the headline It’s Not Just You: 71 Percent of Tweets Are Ignored. Huffington Post ran a similar article. Only problem here, folks, is that in the Sysomos post on its site, the word “ignored” is never used. Sysomos isn’t saying that 71% of tweets are ignored — simply that they produce no reaction.

2. How Sysomos determines what a reaction is. Apparently, if a tweet isn’t retweeted or replied to, then it gets no “reaction.” If this was a valid measure, then pretty much all of television advertising would be wasted (which it might very well be) unless someone saw a commercial and immediately jumped up to make a phone call to order something or ran out to the store to buy something. Advertisers believe, however, that the ads they run create brand awareness and shape brand perceptions. Is it not possible that tweets can be similar to ads in that regard? If so, then many tweets may very produce a “reaction”, even if we can’t measure it.

3. What the distribution of “no reaction” tweets is by tweeter. What I really would have liked to see from Sysomos is what percentage of tweeters get no reaction to all there tweets, or get no reaction to a majority of their tweets. And on top of that, some segmentation of tweeters by number of tweets or number of followers. Look: If you have one follower, who doesn’t spend a lot of time tweeting, and you tweet 100 times this month, then you shouldn’t be surprised if 100% of your tweets get no reaction.

4. What any of it means. The Sysomos post is chock-full-o-stats. After looking through them, I can’t help but wonder: Yeah, so what?


Financial Diseases

You probably don’t remember the days when pharma ads didn’t dominate TV advertising. The biggest impact these ads have had on me is not making me aware of the drugs, but making me aware of the condition the drugs are supposed to treat.

I have suspected for a long time that pharma companies were inventing these diseases. Now I’m sure of it. I mean, c’mon, who ever heard of “Low T” before this year? Personally, I’m sick of these ads (pun intended), and hearing my wife (jokingly?) say to me every time they come on, “maybe that’s your problem.”

But you know what they say: If it didn’t work, they wouldn’t keep doing it.

So it got me thinking: Maybe financial firms need to do this to help sell their products. Here are few of the “conditions,” or financial diseases, that financial firms could invent to help sell their products:

1. Low-C. Do you find your self without enough money to go out drinking in the days leading up to your next paycheck? You probably suffer from Low-C (low cash). Instead of trying to sell something as distasteful as a “payday loan” to people, banks should offer Low-C Infusions.

2. Equitile Dysfunction. If you don’t have the financial power to get that new home improvement up, but have a decent amount of equity in your home, you might have equitile dysfunction. Trying to push “home equity loans” is so 1995. Pharma companies offers Staxyn for ED, so why don’t banks offer Stoxyn for financial ED? Tag line could be: Take Stock In Your Home.

3. Restless ARM Syndrome. You know that adjustable rate mortgage that’s got you worried, because you just know that interest rates are going to rise? A “fixed mortgage” is no way to cure that disease. If pharma companies can offer Requip for restless leg syndrome, then banks can offer Refin for restless ARM syndrome.

Anyway, it’s not my job to come up with this stuff. Financial services marketers need to get a little creative here and take a look outside the industry for what’s working in the world of marketing.


I read a lot of marketing-related stuff, and see a lot of references to marketing terms that make me wonder if we all have a common definition of what’s being discussed. To help achieve some small degree of consistency, I’ve prepared this guide to marketing terms, in an effort to translate brandspeak into something an average consumer might comprehend.

            What it means to                What it means to
Brand term  marketers...                    consumers....
Brand       An exalted demigod, possessing  A product.
            human-like characteristics
            and personalities that can be
            shaped, developed, and nurtured
            by marketers and now by the
            consumer that are engaged with 
            the brand.

Ambassador  A consumer that advocates for   A shill, a loser.
            the brand, and influences
            other consumers to purchase--
            and engage with--the brand.

Advocacy    The act -- on the part of the   Boring one's
            ambassador -- of extolling the  friends and
            virtues of the brand to         family to tears.
            friends and family.

Engagement  Turning on a prospect to a      Spending a boat-
            brand idea enhanced by the      load of $ for a
            surrounding context.            piece of jewelry.

Brand       The positive differential       Nothing. No one
Equity      effect that knowing the         in their right
            brand name has on purchase      mind would ever
            intention.                      use this term.

Brand       Repeated purchases to a         The result of not
Loyalty     single brand.                   having any choices
                                            or not caring
                                            enough to choose
                                            among alternatives.

Brand       Undesirable consumer            Sleeping around.
Promiscuity behavior, characterized by
            the absence of brand loyalty.   

Brandspeak is the result of a common marketing affliction known as delusions of brandeur. This affliction reared its ugly head again this morning as I read about another study promising to reveal the “secret” to customer loyalty.

In this latest study, researchers found that the key to customer loyalty is brand “warmth”. According to the article:

Researchers confirmed that consumers assess brands in much the same way that they do people: By sizing up a brand’s intentions toward them.

This, of course, only supports the delusion that a brand has the ability, like humans, to have “intentions.” It is, of course, a delusion on the part of consumers to think that a brand has intentions towards them.

Another piece of the research that caught my eye was consumers’ ratings of a brand’s honesty and the extent to which it acts in the best interest of consumers. Consumers rated both McDonalds and Burger King at 7.6 for honesty, and gave McD a 7.1, and Burger King a 7.0, on the second factor. The researcher concluded that:

“In brand positioning terms, this points to important opportunities for both chains. Whereas it seems that it will be an uphill battle for Burger King to gain leverage against McDonald’s by competing on an operational level, Burger King might find differentiation by focusing on the two warmth factors, where McDonald’s doesn’t yet have a real advantage.”

You’v’e got to be kidding me. In other words, restaurant location, pricing, food quality, or other factors like the influence of children on the decision process, etc. can be safely ignored by marketers for BK, who simply need to be seen as more “honest” and more apt to “act in the best interest of consumers”.

It’s a hamburger, people. It isn’t a life or death decision about treating advanced cancer. It isn’t a critical decision like how to invest your retirement savings.

The biggest delusion that marketers have is that people care enough about the marketer’s product category to make a conscious decision about which brand to choose. People have better things to do. Granted, for some people, fast-food Hamburger A versus fast-food Hamburger B is an important decision, one that will be influenced by factors like perceived honesty and acting-in-best-interest.

But marketers seem to forget that for a lot of people, it isn’t an important, conscious decision. And, as a result, they don’t focus on what’s really important — getting more people to care about fast-food Hamburger A versus fast-food Hamburger B (or whatever the marketer’s product category is).

And for some reason (although it’s not surprising), market researchers conveniently forget that brand-related attributes don’t have the same importance across categories. Why would the same attributes driving the selection of BP versus Shell apply to Tylenol versus Advil or McDonalds versus Burger King? They wouldn’t.

Delusions of brandeur live on.

The Financial Battle Of The Sexes

In a previous post, I referred to a market research study commissioned by ING Direct as “the stupidest market research ever conducted.”

In retrospect, that was a bit harsh and inaccurate. I should have said it was the stupidest market research ever conducted by a financial services firm.

ING Direct surveyed 1,000 American adults about….well, I’m not sure what they were surveyed about, to tell you the truth. It certainly it wasn’t about their financial lives. The study, which the release refers to as the “financial battle of the sexes survey,” found that:

61% of men find a frugal blind date to be both “smart” and “sexy.” This is a little hard to believe, considering that 73% of men don’t know what the word “frugal” means. The other 27% subscribes to the Urban Dictionary’s definition of frugal, which is “sexy, yet surprisingly revealing.” So for these 27%, calling a frugal blind date “sexy” is redundant.

Women are twice as likely (as men) to be upset by a partner who spends too little on them. From this, ING Direct’s CEO concluded “being a saver is smart…transparency about your money habits and low credit card debt can prevent money disagreements and help build long term trust in a relationship.” Oh really? Sounds like the exact opposite to me.

Women are 56% more likely to give up sex than men. I gather from the context of the press release that this was in reference to the genders’ willingness to give up sex in order to reduce debt. Some comments worth noting:

  1. Men aren’t willing to give up sex for anything, so any percentage greater than zero makes women “more likely” than men.
  2. If there are women willing to give up sex in order to reduce their level of debt, this implies that they’re paying for sex. Really? Women pay for sex? Really? The finding not only implies that there are women who pay for sex, but are paying enough for it that giving up sex would help reduce their level of debt. If you are one of these women — or know of one — please contact me immediately. I can help.

Women are likely to be more upset about an unfaithful spouse (44%) than losing a job (40%) or accumulating debt (27%). It’s actually comforting to know that for the majority of women — and men, for that matter — love is more important than money. But this finding completely misses the key point here: 56% of women would not be upset about an unfaithful spouse.  Of course, that’s not as bad as the 61% of men who would not be upset about an unfaithful spouse.

Men are also almost twice as confident as women (29% vs. 18%) when it comes to investing in the stock market. That’s a quote directly from the press release. It’s statements like this that make me question the mathematical competency of the parties involved here. Why? Because 29% is nowhere near “twice” as much as 18%. Twice as much is 100% more. That would be 36%. 50% more would be 27%. I’m no PhD in Statistics, but I’ve always thought that 29 was closer to 27 than it is to 36. If you must know, 29 is 61% greater than 18.


I initially hesitated to publish this post, because I was afraid that calling the research”stupid” might offend ING Direct. But then I realized that they’ll be anything but mad. I’ve played right into their plan.

This study wasn’t designed or intended to be real market research. It was simply a marketing tactic to generate publicity for ING Direct, and get people thinking about savings accounts and investment accounts. And by publishing my “critique” of the study, I’m actually helping the firm achieve its marketing objectives.

You’ll be getting a bill from me for my services, Mr. Kuhlmann.

Financial Branding Wars: The Battle For Orange

For the past year and a half, nearly everyone in the financial services industry has been focused on the battles over deposits, overdraft fees, interchange rates, and big banks versus the world. Many, however, have overlooked a battle that has been brewing for some time now: The battle for orange.

The battle pits two financial services giants: ING Direct and Discover.

ING Direct has been focused on orange right from its start in North America, even going as far as naming its accounts after the color: Orange Savings Account, Orange CD, Electric Orange Savings, Easy Orange Mortgage (all of which only fueled rumors that ING stands for Induces Nausea and Gas).

Discover may very well have been hanging its branding hat on the color orange for some time now, but it wasn’t until its escape from Morgan Stanley in 2007 that the firm really stepped up its struggle for orange supremacy. Discover has quietly been infusing its web site with orange over the past few years, and, quite frankly, its orange $75 cashback offer is a better deal than ING Direct’s $50 bonus offer — which is in blue, by the way.

With its orange-branded cafes, bouncing orange balls on its web site, and a huge section of its home page dedicated to nothing but the color orange, I would have to say that ING Direct has been winning the battle for orange.

Until now, that is.

Discover has fired a major shot in the war: It announced last week that it will be the title sponsor of the college football Orange Bowl for four years, starting in 2011. Take that ING Direct!

Who’s going to win this battle? My money is on Discover. Here’s why:

ING Direct is focused on cleavage. It recently released the results of what may be the stupidest market research ever conducted. According to the press release “when it comes to attracting men, a low credit card balance could do more than a low cut dress.” The study also found that “women are 56% more likely to give up sex than men.” Bathing suit-clad flash mob dancers in Canada only further my accusation. Sounds to me like the firm is more focused on blue than orange.

Discover is leaner and meaner. Have you ever driven the 28 miles from Chicago to Discover’s headquarters in Riverwoods, IL? I have.  It takes about 3 hours. The worst traffic I’ve seen this side of L.A. You’d be mean too if you had to drive to work there.

Credit cards are patriotic. Maybe you haven’t noticed, but the stimulus package isn’t working. The economy needs another injection of spending. Credit cards — which promote spending — are for patriots. Savings accounts are for socialists.

Anyway, Seth Godin says color is important, so you can be sure this battle will go on for quite some time.

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