Monday, December 04, 2006

What? Do I look easy to you?

Have you ever been to the world of online marketing? It's a fantastical place; the rivers run with chocolate and flow besides vast orchards of money trees. But try not to blink because those same rivers can very quickly turn into watery avenues of bloated bodies coursing through fields of charred and blackened dreams. This world can blossom or bust in a blink and the only thing you're left with is your own barely audible "Why?".

Why? Sometimes it's the market, sometimes it's your own stupid mistakes. Financial scandals are a good one (mistake that is). So is shopping for Aerons before you're profitable. Now I don't mean to be all doom and gloom (there is no second bubble right?). There is, however, one thing that will always be a mistake and that's not respecting your consumers.

Consumers, like me, are fundamentally conservative. When we walk down the world of online marketing, we keep our purses clutched closely (yeah, I have a man-purse, what's it to you?) and we walk on the other side of the road when we see something fishy in front of us. Safety is one of our highest concerns and privacy is inextricably tied to it. Collectively, we don't like putting out with our personal information until we've been wooed a little, maybe taken out for a few dinners or at least a movie.

So it's with considerable pain, as an online marketer myself, that I see campaigns such as the one by Kettle Chips. I was reading boingboing when I saw their interesting ad in the corner. 5 new flavors of Kettle Chips and I get to vote (on something, I guess the best flavor?). So far so good. A campaign that invites me to participate; what a nice web-savvy concept. So I click.

I get to the landing page of the campaign and I hit this screen. "A world of flavor awaits" it says. Vote for the next flavor to hit the stores, it implies. That sounds cool, I want to vote, I want to see the flavors! "Enter your email and press GO".

[Insert sudden braking sound here]

I have to do what?! You want my email address before I can vote for your stupid chips brand extension? I don't think so. Bye!

I left the site. Frankly, I'm not that kind of consumer. I'm not easy.

I'm sure (or maybe I hope) that there's a ton of cool content behind that screen and that this brand isn't really that bad. Heck, maybe I could even take these chips home to meet my parents. Unfortunately, the rush to get my email address killed this relationship before it even started. This brand didn't respect me as a consumer. Sure, it got my attention but the moment that happened, it asked to get private. If I were the slapping type, I'd slap them for the audacity.

This isn't that complicated an idea so I hope this serves as a reminder to other online marketers. Respect your consumer. They are doing you a favor by visiting your site, heck by even giving you the time of day. Eventually, we'll fork out our private information but only after you've wined and dined us a little, maybe given us a reason to trust you. Such a shame too, I really wanted to vote for those Chocolate Chips if for no reason other than the pun.

I hope they read this. So for the Google crawlers, a little song:

Kettle Chips, Kettle Chips, I've loved your big crunch
Kettle Chips: Chocolate Flavored, you'd go well with lunch
(I can't think of a line but I want to rhyme munch)
You broke my heart, when you asked me to part
with my information, giving me such consternation.
Kettle Chips, Kettle Chips, I've loved your big crunch
Kettle Chips, Kettle Chips, I've loooooved your big crunch.


Anonymous said...

Hi Ken, I'm with Kettle Foods' PR firm and we wanted to tell you that the we appreciate your feedback on the e-mail entry for Passport to Flavor and we're sorry we lost you at Hello! Since you wrote us the rockin' search engine song we thought we'd at least chime in and join the conversation - the issue you raised is the same one we grapple with each year as part of our People's Choice planning.

As an online marketer yourself you know that one of the biggest challenges is figuring out how to connect with consumers in an authentic way that's also valuable to the fans. There are several reasons we ask for e-mail up front: 1) because we've learned that the vast majority of people who have voted in our past two flavor contests enjoy finding out which flavor won (we alert them through e-mail after voting ends), 2) they also like being entered into a sweepstakes (this year, it's a chance to win a high-value travel voucher) and 3) so fans come back later and change their votes. Of course, we're extremely protective of our fans' personal information and also respectful of their right to opt out of communication with us...but we've found over the years that most of our fans actually like hearing from us. We love our fans and have worked hard over the past two years to gain their trust by being responsible marketers.

Hopefully we can at least inspire enough trust for you to check out what's behind the Passport to Flavor homepage...we'd love to hear what you think of this year's People's Choice flavors!

Ken said...

Awesome! The song worked!

Hi Erica, thanks for stopping by. Also, a big sincere thanks for delineating the points to why you guys ask for email up front. However, I still don't believe your three points justify asking up front. All three could also be done after people vote.

From a marketer point of view, the only reason to ask for email upfront would be if the main campaign objective is building the house list. My guess, however, is that these emails are coming to you guys at a significant cost. What are you averaging, maybe upwards of $100 per acquisition? Is that worth it? That's a frick'n LOT of chips per person to break even on the lifetime value of that email.

Here's how I got to that number. If you hate numbers, skip this paragraph. Let's say you're averaging a decent $5 CPM (cost per thousand impressions or ads shown) on your media buy (could be lower if you're networking it but then results would be even worse, so let's stick with $5). Let's say you bought 1 million impressions so that's $5,000 for the media. At what I'm guessing is a 0.10% click thru rate (though my gut says this is probably lower too) that's 1,000 clicks. Out of the 1,000 clicks to the site, let's just say you get a VERY generous 5% conversion rate (that is, the rate of people putting down their email), though again, I'm thinking it's less. At 5% conversion, we're at $100 CPA.

Now of course, my numbers could be totally and utterly wrong since I don't work for you guys but my guess is I'm pretty close. You guys will never reveal your actual numbers so it's cool, we'll just assume I'm totally right. =)

The key thing here is that this campaign is probably bleeding money to get these emails but is that the best way to spend your money? I don't think so. Of the 95% of people you didn't get an email from, you could have engaged them with the brand and the pretty cool campaign. I'm willing to bet you could probably get the same conversion rate AFTER you let them vote.

Here's how I would have done it. Have consumers come to the site, let them check out the flavors with some cool web content (but not too much, something quick and fun). Then let them vote and look at the current standings. At the screen that they get after voting, give them a message about entering their email to win and be informed about the winning chips. In fact, tell them if they give you their email, you'd offer up a coupon for the winning chips. It'd be a hell of a lot cheaper than the $100 per email right now. This accomplished everything from your three points and you don't lose as many consumers on the way. (BTW, have you thought about doing the voting part within the banner?)

In fact, I'd say even if people don't put down their email, you've informed them about these new flavors via the voting exercise. This awareness is surely going to pay off at the store. As it stands, I didn't put my email and other than the chocolate chips, I really don't recall anything else. In fact, since I never got past the landing page, I probably wouldn't even remember your brand if I weren't blogging about it.

Seriously, you guys should at least test out a softer sell (maybe you already have and I'm very very wrong?). Anyways, Erica, hope you came back to read this. Feel free to email me if you want to discuss offline.

If not, for my other readers, this comment calls for the same thing as the original post but is definitely from my marketer point of view.