Stupid ads solving non-existent problems and other bad sales pitches

I’ve been cogitating recently on some of the marketing campaigns out there that seem almost designed to not sell the product or otherwise turn off customers. What the **** were they thinking?

The creepy plastic faced Burger King ad campaign has won awards in the ad industry, but resulted in a declining market share for the client. I refuse to take my kids there. The food is nasty anyway.

Microsoft’s TV ads for their new “decision engine” Bing show people experiencing “search overload syndrome“. Apparently, people using those other plain old search engines get too many random results and become confused. It’s never happened to me, or anyone I know, but let’s do a little test.

Google “china assembly and inspection“. PassageMaker is #1 and #2 on the natural results.

Yahoochina assembly and inspection“. PassageMaker is #1 and #2 on the natural results.

Askchina assembly and inspection“. PassageMaker is #1, #2 and #3 on the natural results.

Now Bingchina assembly and inspection“. PassageMaker is #1 and #2 on the natural results.

Wow. Do you think they can ask the advertising agency for their money back?

Although Bing is prettier and it is nice to see our friends at China Quality Focus at #4 in their natural results, their ad campaign turns me off. If you have to tear down your competition to sell your product, you don’t have much of a product. To the folks in Redmond, how about making amends for the twin travesties of Vista and Office 2007 by givingaway the upgrade to Windows 7 instead of charging $200, before everyone calls it quits and switches to Mac?

What’s next? Ads warning everyone away from that horrible Firefox 3.5, now that it has taken 25% market share? Not bad for a free browser developed by an not-for-profit foundation. Oh, and it’s the best product on the market. That’s got to hurt.

I switched to Firefox after buying a new HP laptop earlier this year with Vista (yes, I know). I had no choice as the old XP machine was nearly dead and wasn’t ready to make the running transition to Mac (though after 6 months of Vista, I am now). The default security settings made Internet Explorer 7 completely unusable – after 3 or 4 days of trying to figure out how to configure the security settings to allow normal browsing without constant warnings, blocked pages, etc., I installed Firefox and I will never go back to IE. They lost me for good.

US Cellular is aggressively promoting their new “battery swap” program with radio ads in my area. The idea is you forget to charge your battery, so you drive to the store to swap your perfectly good but temporarily depleted battery for a fully charged one. I guess they figure if you are in the store anyway for such a reason, you might just be dumb enough to renew your contract ahead of schedule, buy a new phone when the old one still works, etc. The first thought I had when I heard this campaign was “boy, business must really stink”. Are uncharged batteries a problem requiring a multi-million dollar as campaign? I have a charger in my car, in my office and a spare in my brief case. Methinks poor phone sales are the problem, so how about reducing the prices on the plans or offering better phones?

Yesterday my wife told me about a phone book salesman (I still can’t stop laughing at that one) who came into the boutique where she works and tried to renew the ad for this year’s yellow pages. This was the second salesman from the same company that day to visit with the shop owner trying to get this ad. The owner says no, she’s launching her website this month, she’s well established, premium location, and she doesn’t need the print ad anymore. The salesman responds with “everyone who cancelled their ads last year went out of business”. What?! That is the worst line I’ve ever heard, even if true! How about encouraging her to buy the ad to promote the new website? Keeping the ad for her older clientele or new students at the local colleges? There apparently is a rung lower than used car salesman.

Now Apple is trying to charge $1000 in China for an iPhone that is Made in China when in the USA it costs $600? My first impression was maybe I need to reconsider that Mac purchase. How is charging nearly twice the price not trying to alienate the PRC market? There are many other options for smartphones in PRC than the USA. I mean, why not just post the “ no dogs or Chinese” signs (supposedly an urban myth, but you get my point)! Dan Welygan, one of our sales reps and formerly a project manager in our Shenzhen office tells me this is common practice, to charge outlandish prices to capture the cream of the market. I am sure he is correct, but considering it lacks wi-fi, and the Hong Kong versions have been available on the gray market for 2 years, this is not exactly a new device. I’ll be watching to see what happens with Droid or some other iPhone killer when it hits the China market. My gut tells me this is a mis-step for Apple.

The primary reason why I joined PassageMaker was because it was a positive environment and a positive message. We sell Trust & Transparency – the services themselves are almost incidental. Sourcing Feasibility Studies, Vendor Coordination, Assembly-Inspection-Packaging, Logistics, VAT Planning, Factory Formation , etc., all provide solid value to the client, and are so flexible and fungible that we can do pretty much whatever the client needs.

I tell all our sales reps that they don’t need to talk down our competition. There are other good companies doing business in China. It is foolish to pretend otherwise. We don’t need gimmicks or mascots or incentives. We are selling exceptional service, fair pricing and peace of mind. What more do we need?

The truth shall set you free.

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