Deliciously clever dessert marketing

dessert

I went to a restau­rant recent­ly, one that could be placed com­fort­ably in the same genre as Cheese­cake Fac­to­ry. Nice atmos­phere, food’s great. But what stood out most to me was the way they mar­ket­ed desserts.

What would you think the top rea­son is that peo­ple don’t order dessert? I’d guess that the first or sec­ond (the oth­er being health/weight con­cerns) is that their entrée leaves them too full to eat more. How do you sell a dessert to some­one who’s too stuffed to eat one? Get them to order it before they’re stuffed.

Our serv­er ini­tial­ly men­tioned, then remind­ed us on almost every appear­ance she made at our table, that all of their desserts are deli­cious, made-to-order and take up to 30 min­utes to pre­pare, so my din­ing com­pan­ion and I should get our dessert order in ear­ly if we don’t want to wait.

This might not give a non-critical thinker pause, but — you know — I tend to notice when someone’s reach­ing for my wal­let. I also under­stand that restau­rants tend to run at pret­ty slim prof­it mar­gins, and how impor­tant attach rates of desserts, drinks and appe­tiz­ers are to their busi­ness.

They real­ly want you to have that slice of cheese­cake, even if they’re prob­a­bly going to be box­ing it up to-go. Clever, huh?

Steve Jobs on unintended uses of tools

A choice quote from an all-around inter­est­ing inter­view:

The point is that tools are always going to be used for cer­tain things we don’t find per­son­al­ly pleas­ing. And it’s ulti­mate­ly the wis­dom of peo­ple, not the tools them­selves, that is going to deter­mine whether or not these things are used in pos­i­tive, pro­duc­tive ways.

–Steve Jobs, 1985

Google+, the best Multiply.com clone ever

First, a word of dis­clo­sure: I worked for Mul­ti­ply for near­ly four years. This means I know what I’m talk­ing about. I also no longer have any finan­cial inter­est in their suc­cess. This means I’m prob­a­bly not that biased. Oh, and I only wrote this because I felt like it. This means nobody asked me to.

I had the good for­tune of receiv­ing an ear­ly invite to join Google’s vaunt­ed, Facebook-killing, world-saving, next-generation-social-network Google+. There’s a lot of shiny new­ness to be excit­ed about; Google seems to have brought a few new inter­est­ing ideas to the table vis-à-vis shar­ing and com­mu­ni­cat­ing. They also seem poised to intro­duce the mass­es to a few good ideas for pri­va­cy.

In terms of pri­va­cy options, Google+ lets you:

  1. …sep­a­rate your con­tacts into dis­tinct “friends,” “fam­i­ly,” etc. buck­ets
  2. …share con­tent pri­vate­ly with each of these groups
  3. …fil­ter your view when con­sum­ing con­tent post­ed by each of these groups
  4. …use this ‘extend­ed net­work’ con­cept to share beyond your direct con­tacts, but still less than the entire world

They’re also rather old ideas.

I joined Mul­ti­ply in late 2005 as a mar­ket­ing copywriter/company blog writer/customer ser­vice person/wearer-of-other-hats, and by that point, Mul­ti­ply had already fig­ured out a solu­tion to the prob­lem of shar­ing con­tent pri­vate­ly among all the groups of peo­ple you know. In fact, by then they had been at it for about two years. See the fea­tures list­ed above? They were all at the core of the prod­uct.

Not impressed? It’s impor­tant to remem­ber what the social net­work­ing land­scape looked like back then:

  • Peo­ple had already fig­ured out that Friend­ster was kind of garbage.
  • Peo­ple hadn’t yet fig­ured out that MySpace was com­plete garbage. It was huge­ly pop­u­lar by mid-2000s stan­dards, but many times small­er than the Face­book of today.
  • Face­book (okay, “thefacebook.com”) was open to users at a bunch of col­leges, but out­side of that, wasn’t real­ly a big deal.
  • Twit­ter (“twt­tr”) didn’t exist.

Oh yeah, and here’s what pri­va­cy looked like:

  • Friend­ster: Who the fuck remem­bers?
  • MySpace: Gave you the option of mak­ing your pro­file entire­ly pub­lic to the world or entire­ly pri­vate to your con­tacts… all of your con­tacts.
  • Face­book: Your pro­file was avail­able to all of your con­tacts, and every­one else in your “net­work” (which at the time meant every­one who went to your col­lege). You couldn’t make any­thing pub­lic.
  • Seri­ous­ly, you guys… Twit­ter didn’t exist.

Okay, so we’ve estab­lished that pri­va­cy wasn’t much of a con­sid­er­a­tion in ser­vices of the day. But maybe it is today…?

All the Google+ pri­va­cy fea­tures you love — here’s how Mul­ti­ply did ‘em:

1. …sep­a­rate your con­tacts into dis­tinct “friends,” “fam­i­ly,” etc. buck­ets

Google+ today gives you the option of putting your friends and fam­i­ly into neat lit­tle buck­ets (they call them “cir­cles”). Mul­ti­ply made you do it. When adding a new con­tact or invit­ing some­one to join you on Mul­ti­ply, you’d have to pick a “real world” rela­tion­ship type. There were dozens to choose from (friend, cousin, neigh­bor, boyfriend, work super­vi­sor, etc.). There was also “online bud­dy,” which was for con­nec­tions to peo­ple you didn’t know very well. Online bud­dies would be kept slight­ly at a dis­tance, kind of like “acquain­tances” on Google+.

2. …allows you to share con­tent pri­vate­ly with each of these groups

Hav­ing these rela­tion­ship types on record let you share every­thing in friend/family/professional buck­ets like Google+ does now with cir­cles (oh, but minus the pro­fes­sion­als). You could share pri­vate­ly with one or more of these groups, giv­ing you essen­tial­ly dif­fer­ent net­works under a sin­gle account. It bog­gles my mind that even today, some peo­ple have mul­ti­ple Face­book accounts just for the sake of keep­ing their worlds sep­a­rate.

3. …fil­ters your view of con­tent post­ed by these dif­fer­ent groups

You’d most­ly be con­sum­ing con­tent on Mul­ti­ply through a tool that went through a few names (“Mes­sage Board,” “Explore Page”) but ulti­mate­ly became known — some­what unfor­tu­nate­ly — as the “Inbox.” What was this like? Think of the Face­book “News Feed,” only a few times bet­ter… and a few years ear­li­er. On Mul­ti­ply you could use the Inbox to view the lat­est posts and con­tent from your con­tacts. On MySpace and Face­book, you’d be bounc­ing from pro­file to pro­file to see what was new with your friends — great for page view met­rics, crap­py for user expe­ri­ence. :-) The Inbox also let you eas­i­ly fil­ter your view to include con­tent and updates from many of your con­tacts’ con­tacts, and option­al­ly (and to a less­er degree), your con­tacts’ con­tacts’ con­tacts. How far ‘out’ into your net­work you could see depend­ed on the rela­tion­ship types you and your con­tacts had cho­sen.

4. …use this ‘extend­ed net­work’ con­cept to share beyond your direct con­tacts, but still less than the entire world

With this infor­ma­tion, Mul­ti­ply would pro­vide con­text when explor­ing your net­work. Enforced rela­tion­ship types made it clear to your con­tacts just who the oth­er peo­ple you knew were, which pro­vid­ed extra con­text for social inter­ac­tions on Mul­ti­ply. Wouldn’t it be nice if when you’re about to meet a new per­son in real life, some­one would tap you on the shoul­der and whis­per in your ear “that’s Alice, your friend Bob’s sis­ter.” You’re damned right it would. You’d see this infor­ma­tion all over Mul­ti­ply, whether con­sum­ing extend­ed net­work posts in your Inbox or read­ing the com­ments on a friend’s post. Google+ can’t do this, because it doesn’t know who these peo­ple are, and Friend/Family/Acquaintances/Following is some­thing Google+ con­sid­ers a pri­vate dis­tinc­tion… which on the oth­er hand makes some sense, due to some com­plex­i­ties of inter­per­son­al rela­tion­ships.

My point is…

But when you hear some­one ask why it took until 2011 to devel­op a sys­tem that allows you to share in a some­what sane sense, kind­ly enlight­en them. I was there, I heard the world cry out for a bet­ter mouse­trap, and I watched the world not beat a path to Multiply’s door. If there were a prize for being first, it’d be a plastic-gold turd tro­phy inscribed “LOL.”

I’m not say­ing that every­one should go join Mul­ti­ply. Odds are, nobody you know uses it any­way.

So, con­grats on the splashy beta, Google, but remem­ber: peo­ple say they want pri­va­cy, but just want to be where their friends are. Good luck com­bin­ing the two.

goatse mobile

I had a strange moment of serendip­i­ty ear­li­er this evening.

I was read­ing some RSS feeds and I saw there was a new post to the Flickr tag “first­goatse.” (If the term goatse is new to you, I’m not sure what to say except: don’t blame me when you look it up… now. The above link is safe to view, by the way.)

I felt like I hadn’t seen a ‘first­goatse’ in a while, so I checked it out. The pho­to itself was unre­mark­able, but I was view­ing it on my Nexus S phone and hap­pened to glance away from the screen, at the phone itself. Some­thing clicked in my head, and I thought of a way to breathe new life into the age-old pas­time of show­ing your friends dis­gust­ing images and cap­tur­ing their hor­ri­fied reac­tion for shar­ing on the Inter­net.

HOLY SHIT YOU GUYS WE ALL HAVE SMARTPHONES WITH FRONT-FACING CAMERAS!! (It must be the future!) These tiny pock­et devices are cor­nu­copias of giv­ing: lulz for us, lulz for the Inter­net, and hor­rif­ic, can-ever-forget mem­o­ries for our friends!

Basi­cal­ly, what the best app ever would do is dis­play a hor­rif­ic image of your choice… self-supplied of course, in case your poi­son is more tub­girl, or what­ev­er kids these days show oth­er kids these days. It would also cap­ture the reac­tion of the per­son hold­ing the phone via the front-facing cam­era, at the very moment of expo­sure.

A series of pho­tos lead­ing up to the moment would work nice­ly too. Heck, what about cap­tur­ing a video of the entire reac­tion? For all I know, kids these days are show­ing each oth­er the video equiv­a­lent of that guy bend­ing over and… ugh. For bonus points, it might even com­bine the orig­i­nal and reac­tion videos into one, side-by-side, not that any­one would want to ever view that.

I’m ready to believe that a mobile app like this already exists. It clear­ly, how­ev­er, can’t exist for iPhone, because Apple doesn’t allow that brand of awe­some, and I can’t be both­ered to check the Android Mar­ket (aside from, okay, my quick search for “goatse,” which turned up noth­ing), but this is clear­ly the kind of app that the wold today could use.

Well, there’s a Mac app, but who can fit that in their pock­et?

Hey world — some­body make this!

IT work for no fun and no profit

Hey non-heartless geeks, how do you avoid becom­ing some ran­dom person’s com­put­er guy1?

I was just blind­sided by my friend’s aunt and before I knew it, I was show­ing her how to use her laptop’s right-click but­ton to delete unwant­ed desk­top short­cuts in Win­dows XP. Then, she want­ed to know how to delete a book­mark from her Inter­net Explor­er bar.

She scared me on the last one, though; through her bro­ken Eng­lish, she seemed to be describ­ing an unwant­ed brows­er tool­bar, and warn­ing sirens went off in my head as I start­ed think­ing I was going to be asked to remove one of those. Then, as she cursed Inter­net Explor­er while it took near­ly a full minute to load, I had to fight the urge to make a quick exit through the win­dow — closed and locked, of course — before I could be asked about remov­ing spy­ware or defrag­ment­ing. I almost sug­gest­ed she just buy a whole new com­put­er, before real­iz­ing that I could just as eas­i­ly be con­script­ed into help­ing with that.

Ugh. It turned out to be sim­ple stuff in the end… but this is how it always starts.

Before I know it, I’m going to be fix­ing her router, before trou­bleshoot­ing her DSL prob­lems, before being roped into advis­ing her on which of the pro­grams that she installed on her com­put­er she no longer needs and can be removed to free up space on her hard dri­ve.2

Proof that there is no god: I look the part.
This is bug #2. Let’s fix this.

  1. Did that term sound sex­ist? I meant only to refer to Nick Burns, my tech sup­port hero.
  2. This is actu­al­ly a true sto­ry.