I got a new cell phone (a RAZR no less) from Wirefly… and it really was free! It’s understandable that someone would approach a cell phone website with “too good to be true” offers with some skepticism, but I’m a skeptic who dares to test the hypothesis.
Some things did go wrong along the way:
(1) Text message that the phone was activated woke me up in the middle of the night – and T-Mobile charged me $0.22 to receive it.
(2) I “bought” two phones. The first rebate took the usual four weeks to receive. The second was rejected for missing papers but reissued after a follow up (I swear the two envelopes were the same).
(3) Most frustrating: I clicked a link in a garbled html-to-text email and found a screen thanking me for adding “device protection” for $100. Two phone calls, three emails (the final one threatening reports to the BBB and FTC), and two months later I finally received a refund.
Overall, I’m very pleased with Wirefly. Only the third problem was really their fault, and I undertook just as much effort as I would have in trying to sort this stuff out at a franchised cell phone store front. (I once witnessed a Sprint store employee telling a customer that she needed to call Sprint’s customer service line to get help. The customer called from within the store and was clearly upset that even the customer service line couldn’t help. Then the cops showed up… (okay, that was unrelated)).
After years of waiting, IKEA comes to the student metropolis of Stoughton, Massachusetts. It’s here, no doubt, to serve the greater Stoughton metropolitan area – namely the student meccas of Boston and Cambridge. I’ve actually earned a degree in the time I’ve been IKEA-less (exceptions for visits to Renton (WA), Woodbridge (VA), Elizabeth (NJ), and New Haven (CT), but the wait is no more.
Of course, if you decide to go opening weekend the wait continues in the form of traffic. I waited over an hour in the traffic between the freeway and the parking lot on Saturday afternoon, but I knew what I was getting into (and also what I was getting). Friends say I’m crazy for making the trip, but I ask you: Is it unreasonable to be excited about affordable well designed furniture? Of course it’s not – and they were handing out hundreds of windshield sun-screens that would corroborate this point.
Yale’s Luis Vuitton sidewalk chalk advertisement has survived three days of rain. That’s some durable chalk. The chalkers where apparently “raising awareness about this issue.” This isn’t the first corporate chalking I’ve heard about. IBM’s “Peace, Love & Linux” campaign in 2001 left long lasting chalk stains around the streets of San Francisco. They paid a fine to the city to clean it up. I’ve also seen innocent children adorning suburban sidewalks and driveways with chalk ads for the 123456789 corporation. Shameless.
I saw this at the bus stop last week and I found it rather amusing.
First of all, while there are some hospital shuttle buses around Boston, there’s a pretty low probability of a heart doctor standing around in the cold down by the railroad tracks awaiting the #70. Of course, we’re not just looking for heart doctors here, but open-minded heart doctors. Who else would entertain the notion that a product called “The Greatest Vitamins in the World” could revolutionize the practice of modern medicine?
As if the advertisement wasn’t suspicious enough, I think the absurdly long URL qualifies this ad as spam. “Doctor, perhaps this patient is suffering from harmful vitamin intake. I read about this condition on the highly reputable dontforgettotakeyourvitimins1024 dot com… slash… leaston17882 website.”
I’ve seen a couple of innovative consumer marketing tactics recently that have caught me by surprise. I don’t know if these are actually new ideas or if I just haven’t done enough Saturday shopping to notice, but these are certainly attention getting ideas:
- Last weekend I went to a popular outlet store mall. It was very crowded, and over half of the people walking around were all carrying the same giant bag. What store would be popular enough to have a 50%+ market reach? It was Citizen’s Bank, which doesn’t have a store at all.
Citizen’s Bank recognized that it was a busy pre-Christmas shopping weekend and that people would be buying lots of things. By giving away high-quality giant green shopping bags, Citizen’s was successful in covering almost every other mobile logo (ie bag) with their own. On top of the obvious value of spreading their logo around the mall, they were also able to saturate the shopping audience. It wasn’t just a bag here or there catching the consumer’s eye. It was a sea of green bags so large it was impossible not to notice.
- Yesterday there was something of a street performance in front of the Adidas store in Harvard Square. The performers consisted of an MC, a beatboxer, a trumpet player, and a didgeridoo player. They actually sounded pretty good. I’ve seen bands perform at record stores to promote their music, but this band was promoting the store itself, lending their hipster cred to the store by showing up in all-Adidas outfits.
Two weeks ago I saw a similar brand appearance in the entryway to an Abercrombie and Fitch store in the mall. Most mall stores have “greeters” during the busy shopping season, but these greeters offered a little more than a smile. In the spirit of Abercrombie’s infamous catalogs, their greeters gave passing shoppers something to gawk at. The female greeter was an attractive young woman in a short skirt, and the male greeter was showing off his sculpted torso by not wearing a shirt at all. Surely Abercrombie and Fitch sells shirts, but the Abercrombie brand is apparently less about the clothes and more about the half-naked people.
I think both of these examples illustrate the ever-increasing trend to build brand image where people shop. In many ways, stores and shopping malls are as important as marketing outposts as they are sales outlets, and in some cases (ie Times Square) the marketing value of a store is perceived to be higher than the sales potential and stores run at a loss.
I’ve been waiting all year for the new Year in Ideas issue of the New York Times Magazine. It’s out in today’s Sunday Times and available on their website as well.
The Microsoft advertisement (shown first) appears in this month’s issue of Wired Magazine. The Citi advertisement (shown second) appears in this month’s issue of “Fashion Rocks – A Supplement to Wired Magazine.”
Apparently women playing basses alone with laptops nearby is the hottest new image to promote intangible products and services.
The Microsoft advertisement tries to argue that it’s software will help young women to produce gold records. I think some recording software might be a better choice than Office XP. Even more ludicrous is the Citi advertisement’s implication that young women will be able to obtain basses and laptops by cashing in credit card points. Considering that you’d have to spend $50,000 to earn enough points for an iPod, basses and laptops are far from “achievable rewards”. Maybe they mean that if you buy a bass, a laptop, and a picture, you’ll earn enough points to get a funny looking lamp.
The life of any successful Disney movie usually ends at the home video re-release, but Nemo may have suffered a worse fate. Tickets are now available for Finding Nemo on Ice. Never mind that a song and dance on a darkened, echoing ice rink is not generally a recipe for entertainment. Do you think they considered the title? Isn’t “on ice” the worst place for a fish to end up?
No apartment is complete without some high-design, low-budget furniture from the world’s allen-wrench headquarters: Ikea. Despite Ikea’s popularity (and no-doubt profitability), they’ve been unable to open a store anywhere remotely near Boston. (Some theorize this is the result of the local furniture mafia.) This has driven countless Bostonians to either (1) buy unfinished pine bookcases or (2) make the Ikea pilgrimage.
The Ikea pilgrimage used to require a four hour drive to New Jersey or Long Island, but now budget minded modernists can pick up particle board in New Haven, Connecticut. I made my pilgrimage last weekend: three hours down, five hours there, and three hours back. It was a long day, but well worth it. Here’s a picture from the massive parking lot (packed of course):