Why Should the Fire Die?

Six years ago at the Ryman, I shot this grainy video of Nickel Creek‘s last song of their last stop of their farewell (“for now”) concert tour. (Here’s my blog post from 2007.) Their first stop of their current “reunion” tour (fulfilling the “for now” foreshadow) will also be at the Ryman.

Tonight.

I’ll be there.

Here’s a preview of my review: “They were great.”

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Hey, General Mills Lawyers: Better Eat Your Wheaties

products_banner_2012While I typically support efforts to add sanity to our overly-litigious culture that seems to encourage anyone to sue anybody for anything, I don’t think the lawyers at General Mills thought through the type of social media firestorm they would ignite by adding language to the company’s website alerting customers they can’t take legal action against the company if they’ve done things like download a coupon, enter a contest or, if read literally, liked on Facebook one of the company’s products, say, Cheerios or Wheaties or Macaroni Grill or Fruit Loops.

There obviously had to be a major battle between the marketers and the lawyers at General Mills before this decision was made. I say that, because the company is packed full of extremely savvy marketing people who have successfully guided some powerful brands astutely into the social media era.

I’m also thinking of what I believe to be a stellar display of content marketing, TableSpoon.com, and the incredible job the talented team who started it and has turned that site into a showpiece of customer media. Yet today, right there on the top of its homepage, it too is displaying a link to some legal language that undermines the kind of community-building finesse TableSpoon has displayed while so many others have tried and failed.

According to the New York Times, General Mills is following in the footsteps of other large companies that are trying to prevent class-action lawsuit by adding website terms of usage language that requires customers to use informal negotiation via email or go through arbitration to seek relief over any dispute it has with the company.

Last year, the company paid $8.5 million to settle lawsuits over positive health claims made on the packaging of its Yoplait Yoplus yogurt. At the time, it said did not agree with the accusations, but wanted to end the litigation. In 2012, it settled another suit by removing the strawberry from the packaging of Strawberry Fruit Roll-ups, which did not contain strawberries, said the Times.

Hey, I’m a fan of arbitration and probably would support General Mills’ objectives in what they are trying to accomplish. Unfortunately, by overreaching the boundaries of common sense by describing the types of rights an individual gives up by “liking” a product like Cheerios on Facebook, they have opened their company to ridicule and have set back legitimate tort reform efforts.

And they’ve made lots of people not like them unnecessarily.

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Sunday Afternoon Bike Ride in Nashville (photos, video)

With my bicycling friend, John Darwin, who also enjoys riding his bike in-town, I often head out on a Sunday afternoon looking for things I’ve never seen in Nashville. These days, that likely means a new real estate development or some area of town I’ve heard about, but have never seen.

As the NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four is in Nashville now (the championship game is Tuesday night, April 8), we decided to include a ride by the area of downtown where events are being staged. While that was out of the usual, the other things I ran across made me feel like I was experiencing an episode of Portlandia with a southern accent.

If the gallery that’s embedded below does not show up on your screen, you can see it on Flickr.

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Amazon Dash: Reinventing the Cuecat, 2014

CueCat2Starting over ten years ago, a long-running joke on this blog has been my fascination with (and mockery of) the recurring need inventors (including those who work for huge technology companies) have to re-invent the Cuecat. For those who don’t recognize the term Cuecat as the punchline of a joke, I suggest a rapid glance at its Wikipedia entry and the wonderful one-liner by the late Debbie Barham, the comic and humor writer who said the Cuecat “fails to solve a problem which never existed.”

A couple of years ago, I referred to the repetitive reinvention of the Cuecat as the
Cuecat Conjecture, based on what must be a shared hypothesis among a small group of inventors that human beings have a primeval desire to own a personal barcode scanner they can hold up to anything in order to buy it from Amazon.com.

cuecat-flowThe most recent Re-Cuecats have been from Amazon.com, itself. My November, 2011 post described the Amazon iPhone app released in 2011 called Flow (that’s still around) as an attempted Re-Cuecat. The app was met with a yawn, however, three years later, in November, 2013, Amazon ported Flow’s Cuecat feature over to an app people actually download, The Amazon App.”

With Amazon’s introduction of Cuecat-like features into apps during the past few years, the term “showrooming” has been used to describe what Amazon is actually encouraging shoppers to do with such technology: Research while shopping in a physical store, and then order from Amazon. (See, also: webrooming as a buzzword to describe the opposite of showrooming.) While showrooming sounds like something that could be done with a simple barcode or QR code scanner, the technology that started with “Flow” can also recognize photos, logos or other patterns that make up the graphics of a book cover or product packaging. Amazon is seeking to circumvent QR/bar codes as big box retailers have demanded their largest suppliers to provide unique QR/bar codes or sizes that do not match precisely Amazon SKUs. By using packaging labeling rather than standard codes, Amazon can update its databases to recognize any packaging unique to chains like Target or Walmart.

Amazon Dash

Cursor_and_Amazon_DashLast Friday, Amazon introduced the Amazon Dash, the most recent update (refresh?) of the Cuecat. At first, I was convinced that it was a belated April 1 joke, but no, the new Amazon Dash is for-real. Presently, it is an extremely niche device and is not available for purchase, it’s free (which was also the Cuecat business model). It is a device currently tied to Amazon Fresh, a grocery delivery service available now in Seattle, San Francisco and Southern California. (I’ll skip the history lesson on Web Van.)

slide2-image._V340762974_The Amazon Dash is a hand-held wand you can use to scan all of the items you need to add to a shopping list (because using an app to do that would be so, well, 2013).

The Amazon Dash clearly fits within the context of Amazon technologists’ belief in the existence of the Cuecat Conjecture (human beings have a primeval desire to own a personal barcode scanner they can hold up to anything in order to buy it from Amazon.com).

It will also be next in line of Re-Cuecats that fail to solve a problem which never existed.

Confession: I’m beginning to cheer for the inventors.

(Thanks to my friend, Jay Graves, who convinced me the Amazon Dash wasn’t related to April Fool’s Day.)

 

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Social Objects, GE & Bonnie Raitt

4_3_2014The 12 readers of this blog will recognize some themes in the essay about social objects appearing in the current Hammock Idea-Email.  Also, thanks to my friend Hugh MacLeod for giving us permission to use his illustration to accompany it. More importantly, thanks to Hugh for introducing me to the idea of social objects several years ago.

Quote:

Social objects come in a wide variety of forms, from cartoons to blog posts to 4-photo tweets. They are the hard currency of the internet, the beginning of a social exchange that creates and fosters conversations that lead to long-term, people-to-people relationships among those who go by such labels as buyers and sellers, shoppers and merchants, creators and collectors.

(Sidenote: Each issue of the Idea-Email contains one 300-400 word essay on an idea we believe will be helpful to a senior marketing executive. You can see an archive of past issues and subscribe to it here.)

Posted in Content Marketing, conversational media, Custom Media, Customer Media, Hammock Inc., marketing | Leave a comment