Yes, We Have No Bananas.

Written by Chris Ivey on December 18th, 2011. Posted in Lessons Learned

Chiquita becomes a cautionary example when it gets just about everything about social media communications wrong.

I used to work for an ad agency, and I often had animated discussions with my colleagues about the danger of confusing cause marketing with product marketing. I have always maintained that they are separate disciplines that don’t mix, while many of my colleagues disagreed.

As a society, we have become distressingly pious and self-righteous – and as a natural consequence advertisers wish to capitalize on this instinct. Like my erstwhile colleagues, they see this as an easy path to identifying their product with a strong public sentiment. This is such a bad idea that it merits a blog entry of its own, but what lead me to write today was a satisfyingly spectacular self-immolation by a large American brand that managed to make the wrong choice in just about every decision their communications and marketing teams have made over the past few days.

Back in the Saddle

Written by Chris Ivey on October 4th, 2011. Posted in Lessons Learned

I have to apologize. I made the mistake of promising a follow-up column on a difficult topic, and then for the next several months I discovered one excuse after another for not sitting down to write. I damn near killed my blog by virtue of being too “busy”. Business is hard; writing is hard. Tough. I’ll try to be disciplined enough to produce a column a day, but I’ll never again make the mistake of promising to write on a topic I’m not ready to write about.

Don’t be a Solution in Search of a Problem

Written by Chris Ivey on May 17th, 2011. Posted in Lessons Learned

I had spent years working on my solution to email spam. It was a good idea, and I had patents. I had had my technology proposals reviewed by network engineers, and they all agreed that it would probably work very well. Sure, it was complex, and would cost a lot to develop, but it would work.

The problem was that no one wanted it. At least, no one wanted it enough to be willing to risk investing the money required to build it. When I spoke with ISPs and IT managers, I encountered wall of inertia.

They pointed to the effort and money they had already invested in their current solutions. They didn’t work perfectly, or even very well, but they worked – sort of. Complaints were down, and their support people were used to the technology; and they’d spent a lot of money putting it in place. Sure, they might change their solution – perhaps in a few years – if other people adopted it first.

There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to sell people on something they don’t really feel they need. You can have the best mouse trap in the world, but no one is going to buy it if they already have a trap that catches mice.

Pimpin’ (a Product) Ain’t Easy

Written by Chris Ivey on May 17th, 2011. Posted in Lessons Learned

It turns out that launching a product is much harder than launching a service company. If you’re hanging out a shingle as a service company, you can count on generating revenue almost as soon as you start to win contracts. That’s not the case when you build a product. You have to have enough money available to continuously inject revenue into research and development for months or even years before you can generate any revenues.

I had just lost my job, and had very little money of my own. This meant that I would have to convince other people to invest their money in my venture. I decided to ask my former employers for advice. They were kind enough to introduce me to a friend of theirs, a former CEO who was willing to hear out my proposal and give me some practical ideas as to how to proceed.

Where I Started

Written by Chris Ivey on May 17th, 2011. Posted in Lessons Learned

I hate spam. I mean, everybody hates spam as an intrusion and a minor inconvenience, but I hate it with a passion that can only come from knowing way more about it than anyone rightfully should. This is because I had worked in network support jobs that put me on the front lines in dealing with spam, and I later had to address it in my own small business as an IT consultant.

The economics of spam are interesting. Spammers tend at their best to be completely indifferent to the consequences of the damage they inflict, and at their worst to share in the qualities of narcissistic sociopathy common to professional cons and fraudsters. They are obsessed with outsmarting their opposition, and will be invest tremendous effort in pursuing a relatively tiny profit. They don’t care how marginal their business is provided they “win” by breaking the safeguards set up to stop them. The more damage they do, the happier they are.