Tiny Bakery Loses Thousands in Bad Groupon Deal

This BBC article reports that a Berkshire bakery has nearly been run out of business by a overly “successful” Groupon deal. The owner, Rachel Brown, described these coupon sites well:

Without doubt, it was my worst ever business decision.

Groupon had this to say to the BBC:

We are actively engaged with all our partners at every stage.

Uh-huh. From now on this bakery will be known as that one bakery that almost went out of business, but stayed alive by cutting corners and bringing in unqualified labour. Though caveat emptor applies here, I reckon. Advertisers are buying an advertising service from the coupon sites, though it may not feel like it.

Gravity Defyer Logo no Joke

Business Insider is reporting that the logo for Gravity Defyer shoes isn’t a mistake, it’s really intended to look like sperm. A running joke in the design community — the logo was typically shown with a comment that someone must have gotten fired, or been angry with their boss — the logo is apparently quite earnest. From the article:

Our logo is deliberate. Our customers feel like they are getting the beginning of a new life when they try our shoes. We are not embarrassed by it.”
— Alexander Elnekaveh, CEO of Gravity Defyer

I’m not sure where this direction came from, but it’s remarkably bad. In the end, it could be quite a good idea, as the old saying goes, “any press is good press.”

Have a look at the Gravity Defyer website for more highly questionable sperm-influenced design.

Assorted Cleverness

Floods in Bartlesville, Oklahoma complete this billboard.

I really appreciate the kind of thought that goes into creating an experience like this. A great use of surprise and delight.

This is K-Mart’s error page for gamers. If you don’t “get” this instruction, don’t worry. You just have to know that it fits perfectly with their audience. Inside jokes like this work really well to create a sense of community.

Click to view full-size.

The ad on the left was placed in Cosmo, and the ad on the right was placed in assorted men’s magazines (eg: Maxim). The men’s explains that the women’s ad is creating a subliminally positive image of men that drink Molson Canadian. If they only ran the men’s ad, would it have made any difference?

Paul Rand on Options, the NeXT Logo

I asked him if he would come up with a few options, and he said, ‘No, I will solve your problem for you and you will pay me. You don’t have to use the solution. If you want options go talk to other people.’
— Steve Jobs, talking about Paul Rand

I’ve heard this before, and while I like the sentiment, I can’t help but think it’s either incredibly pompous or ignorant. I think I’d balance it off of some of the things that Michael Beirut says in this Creative mornings talk, where he points out that his clients aren’t any different from anyone else’s, and that while some people think that Pentagram clients self-select, they’re the same random mix of people that anyone else gets. Those clients aren’t going to swallow such an egotistical line, even if you’re the top designer in the world.

Still, the idea that Paul Rand has, that he’s going to understand your problem and solve it for you (and so there is only one correct answer), is a pretty nice one for those of us that design corporate brand identities. And why not, it seems pretty logical.

When Paul Rand presented his NeXT logo, he did it with a custom-made book (scroll to the bottom of the page, look under “presentations”) that walked Steve Jobs through the problem, and the thought process that went into designing the logo (more scans of the book are available at Imprint). Which is absolutely how you’d have to do it, if you’re only presenting the one concept: you’re telling the story about how the identity is fated to look like this, and not like anything else. If you can get that story right, presenting one option will work. But it might help if you’re not quite as brusque with the client as Mr. Rand is quoted as being.

As an aside, I happen to think that the NeXT logo is poorly done.

Tim Hortons Jumps the Shark

When Tim Horton’s recently announced that they’d be adding espresso to their lineup in a bid to take on Starbucks, I had to check the date to make sure it wasn’t April Fool’s Day.

This move is so stunningly ignorant of the brand, I question who is in charge at Tim Horton’s, and how disconnected are they from their customers. Tim Horton’s is defined as much by what it is, as what it isn’t. Tim Horton’s isn’t Starbucks. The two tribes couldn’t be further apart, or more clearly defined. So this move to capture some of the Starbucks audience is particularly puzzling. Nevermind that espresso doesn’t fit into the Tim Horton’s brand of simple, Canadian comfort food.

This is where Tim Horton’s jumps the shark. I eagerly await their next brand extension, but I’m not sure how they can get further from their audience and brand than this. Maybe sushi?

Saskatoon Restaurant Speaks to their Audience

I really liked this billboard, mostly because of how well it speaks to the audience: it’s a polarizing message that delivers their brand promise. Perhaps what’s so novel about this ad is how rare something like this is. The restaurant has one location, so the ad budget can’t be immense. But often similar restaurants flounder in their attempts at advertising, missing their audience completely. While I often point to a meagre budget to explain their failures, this ad shows that a bit of strong copy can do wonders.

Arabic Fedex Logo

At one point on stage at the 2010 Brand New Conference, organizer and blogger Armin Vit joked, “Did you know there’s an arrow hidden in the Fedex logo?” It’s something that brand identity professionals take for granted, but is surprisingly little-known out of the industry. But once you’ve seen it, it doesn’t leave you.

I was really impressed to see the company’s commitment to this famous detail in their logo. Have a look at the arabic translation of the logo, it still contains the detail of the arrow created out of the negative space. Even better, it maintains consistency with the “regular” logo insofar as the arrow points in the direction that you read. Attention to detail always pays off.

Coupon Sites Offer a Bad Deal for Brands, Part Two

Cornell University recently published a paper about daily deal sites, and the negative effects they have on your brand. The key takeaways:

  • There’s lots of word-of-mouth generated about your brand and it’s offer;
  • You get a big boost in the number online reviews of your business after the offer runs;
  • Your average online review score falls 10% as a result of your offer.

Lots of people talk about your brand, but on average they think less of you than before you ran the offer. And for the privilege, you give up 75% of your revenue!

The whole thing is available at Cornell. But here’s a good summary:

Daily deal sites have become the latest Internet sensation, providing discounted offers to customers for restaurants, ticketed events, services, and other items. We begin by undertaking a study of the economics of daily deals on the web, based on a dataset we compiled by monitoring Groupon and LivingSocial sales in 20 large cities over several months. We use this dataset to characterize deal purchases; glean insights about operational strategies of these firms; and evaluate customers’ sensitivity to factors such as price, deal scheduling, and limited inventory. We then marry our daily deals dataset with additional datasets we compiled from Facebook and Yelp users to study the interplay between social networks and daily deal sites. First, by studying user activity on Facebook while a deal is running, we provide evidence that daily deal sites benefit from significant word-of-mouth effects during sales events, consistent with results predicted by cascade models. Second, we consider the effects of daily deals on the longer-term reputation of merchants, based on their Yelp reviews before and after they run a daily deal. Our analysis shows that while the number of reviews increases significantly due to daily deals, average rating scores from reviewers who mention daily deals are 10% lower than scores of their peers on average.

Coupon Sites Offer a Bad Deal for Brands, Part One

I am pretty biased against coupon sites. My wife subscribes to all of them, which is cool. But I don’t like them from an advertiser’s point of view.

My wife bought a deal from a site a few weeks ago. She was pretty excited when she told me about it, and we shook our heads in wonder, “How can that business afford to do this?” Then she got this email:

——– Original Message ——–
From: [email protected]
Subject: [Auto-Reply] Cupcakes
Date: 14 Oct 2011 12:01:29 -0700

Thank you for your interest in Little Miss CupCake

Unfortunately because of the issue we experienced with dealfind.com we are not accepting ANY orders for the time being, and we will not be accepting any of the Dealfind vouchers purchased.
We apologize for the inconvenience.

Dealfind oversold passed what I had asked them to,
and then would not turn off the deal when asked to do so.
To top that off, they refused to answer my calls and emails as the deal was going on.

They added free delivery to the deal, which was not the case.
I had told them there was no free delivery allowed.
I gave them rates and delivery restrictions, which they refused to put in my ad.
They also stated that the vouchers could be redeemed all at once,
which is not something I agreed to.

I do sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused you,
and I encourage you to ask for a refund (Dealfind.com will issue full refunds within 30 days of purchase, I personally cannot issue refunds, as Dealfind has all of the funds)

This is just an awkward mess. How much of this is true, I don’t know. But it looks like a ridiculous offer went out and sold like crazy. The advertiser claims that Dealfind basically just invented the whole offer against his wishes, then disappeared on the day it went out. Now customers are left to sort out the mess with Dealfind, as the bakery has enough to worry about, trying to repair it’s brand from this mess.

I don’t like these sites primarily because the math doesn’t work out very well. Advertisers have to offer steep discounts (roughly 50% off), and then they only get 50% of the proceeds from the deal. So you’re only getting about 25% of the regular price for your product/brand.

Then think about the type of clients this brings the brand: either existing customers already familiar with your brand and just picking up a good deal; or new customers that are often unfaithful to your brand as they seek out new deals from your competition. Now you realize you’ve just paid 75% for a pretty unattractive customer. Can your margins bear 1000 of these customers?

Tomorrow I’ll get into some research done about these sites, and the actual effects these offers have on your brand.