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"Hi, I'm Keith. Trying to live out the rest of my life waiting for a pacemaker."
March 29, 2010 4:42 PM   Subscribe

Always Split Test (Even if you’re a bum): A marketing experiment to benefit the homeless, or a homeless experiment to benefit a marketer? Online marketing blogger "Brian" puts his talent to work by making a better sign for a homeless man.
posted by circular (89 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I kind of wish I could reach through the internet to cock-punch this "Brian."
posted by felix betachat at 4:47 PM on March 29, 2010 [14 favorites]




Meh. Any random UI change is going to drive up click-through rates in the short term. A one-day test isn't really significant.
posted by GuyZero at 4:52 PM on March 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


So, wait, the old lady with the battered yellow rain coat and the ankle splint that's been bumming for spare change at the same intersection beneath the Space Needle in Seattle for at least the past two years just needs a better freakin' sign?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:53 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


ugh
posted by dunkadunc at 4:58 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


There are so many things wrong with this for me as a compassionate human being and a web marketer that I think my head might explode and I should probably go lie down now.

*sigh* Nope, can't help myself. Calling homeless people "bums", and using them for hardy-hars/page views is kind of a shitty thing to do. Also, if you're going to split test, you can't show both the new offer and the control offer at the same time like he does in the last photo.
posted by rollbiz at 5:03 PM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Christ, what an asshole.
posted by fixedgear at 5:06 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Holy hell is this exploitative and condescending.

Before you get all "ugh, you are mocking a homeless man" on me, realize this...This experiment improved this bums ROI by over 100% over several days thanks to me

Oh. Well then....Let's help the homeless like "Brian," everyone! What a change maker! Zing!

asshole
posted by missmary6 at 5:07 PM on March 29, 2010


Maybe I'm overly sympathetic to people like Brian, but I thought it was a nice thing. Not worldchanging but interesting.

Brian had an idea, Brian tried it out. The guy he tried it out on got money out of it, and seemed to enjoy the thought of being in the write-up. Then he showed perhaps not an interesting study (I mean, it's hardly thorough) but still an interesting little story. He's not a hero or anything, but he's not exactly a weiner.
posted by Rory Marinich at 5:08 PM on March 29, 2010 [12 favorites]


This guy calls himself a marketer, and yet he wrote "Free Squirt" on a homeless guy's sign.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:10 PM on March 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


I would be more OK with this if he didn't repeatedly use the woe bum. I mean what kind of person thinks that is OK? I would especially think that someone in the marketing world would realize that is not a great word to use
posted by nestor_makhno at 5:15 PM on March 29, 2010


Marketers are the scum of the earth and deserve their own special ring in hell.
posted by dunkadunc at 5:15 PM on March 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


I can't wait for his next article, PHOTOSHOP YOUR BLOG LOGO ONTO A HOBO'S COAT FOR ROI 100000%
posted by oulipian at 5:18 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Marketers are the scum of the earth and deserve their own special ring in hell.

Sweeping generalizations of entire professions or other large groups of human beings are awesome and we should totally make them all the time because it's constructive.
posted by rollbiz at 5:20 PM on March 29, 2010 [20 favorites]


> I would be more OK with this if he didn't repeatedly use the woe bum. I mean what kind of person thinks that is OK? I would especially think that someone in the marketing world would realize that is not a great word to use

"Bum Marketing" refers to a specific set of (somewhat grubby) techniques used by internet marketers; he's using the phrase as both an SEO thing, and a way of marketing to marketers.

Yeah, there's an offensive ha ha if this homeless guy was just smart like me undertone to this, but it's still sort of interesting.
posted by darth_tedious at 5:22 PM on March 29, 2010


Yeah, there's an offensive ha ha if this homeless guy was just smart like me undertone to this, but it's still sort of interesting.

It doesn't even redeem itself as a decent marketing piece. I mean, A/B testing is Marketing 101. So is collecting specific data, though. What was the conversion increase? What was the revenue increase? What was the ROI? Was it an effort strictly for direct revenue or is part of the focus to get his name and story out there in hopes of landing an "angel investor"? If he went from bringing in $5 to $15 but spent $40 on hand sanitizer, that's not really going to sustain itself as a revenue-focused campaign, is it?
posted by rollbiz at 5:29 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Something of marginal relationship to FPP:

One Homeless Guy Left In Times Square, NYC
posted by Splunge at 5:30 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Clearly, the solution to homelessness is brand management. How could I have ever thought it was about access to fairly priced housing and living wages. Please, Brian, show me more of your new, brighter future.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 5:32 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, there's an offensive ha ha if this homeless guy was just smart like me undertone to this, but it's still sort of interesting.

See, that's the part that ruins it for me. It's patronizing.
posted by dunkadunc at 5:33 PM on March 29, 2010


the old lady with the battered yellow rain coat and the ankle splint that's been bumming for spare change at the same intersection beneath the Space Needle in Seattle for at least the past two years just needs a better freakin' sign?

If she has been there for two years, the marketing strategy must be working out OK for her. She wouldn't stay if she wasn't making money.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:38 PM on March 29, 2010


So, let's go through an example of an experiment that I did with a homeless man.

Because homeless people are not really human and can be used as test subjects by any jerk that walks by.
posted by Splunge at 5:40 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


See, that's the part that ruins it for me. It's patronizing.

Yeah, and he doesn't even pretend that it isn't. The only mention he makes of the guy as a human being is basically "hey, don't think I'm mocking this guy. I totally increased his ROI and threw him a few bucks to let me take his picture. Plus, he's really excited to be on a website, that's a pretty big deal for a dirty bum!"

The whole thing reminds me of "Mustard" and the Opie and Anthony Homeless Shopping Spree situation, and it makes me kind of ill.
posted by rollbiz at 5:40 PM on March 29, 2010


I guess I never thought of homelessness as a legitmate business model where we can use terms like ROI, or IRR, or how about NPV of the cashflow from the improved signage? Thanks Brian! Next time I see a "Bum" - I'll just think to myself - that guy just needs better messaging and branding to move his franchising opportunities forward. Yay!
posted by helmutdog at 5:41 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


My buddy Mole used to stand at an interstate offramp with a sign saying "I'LL DO YOUR WIFE FOR FOOD".

He ate well.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 5:42 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Brian", elite internet marketer deluxe, does not know how to scale images for the internet. This leads to reduced clickthroughs due to excessive load time and furthers the users' impression that "Brian" is not such a nice or clever person.
posted by ardgedee at 5:43 PM on March 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


We want this to look like a new age homeless man...

Jesus Fucking Christ, what an asshole!
posted by ericb at 5:46 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


He also fills his images with watermarks, just in case someone steals them. god forbid.

Can this get deleted? It's kind of gross and it doesn't even make up for it by being especially interesting.
posted by dunkadunc at 5:47 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


homelessness as a legitmate business model

Yeah, the whole thing does smell of Robocop-style corporate dystopia.
posted by Paragon at 5:47 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bill Hicks on marketing
posted by bhnyc at 5:51 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe I'm overly sympathetic to people like Brian [..] Brian had an idea, Brian tried it out...

The problem isn't Brian's idea, or it's execution: It's his trite, condescending yuk-yuks afterwards. This reads like something written by the lovechild of Dave Barry and your MBA Republican cousin with the undiagnosed brain tumor. Or the unfunny, AOL version of P.J. O'Rourke.
posted by applemeat at 5:55 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


The problem isn't Brian's idea, or it's execution: It's his trite, condescending yuk-yuks afterwards.

Nah, it's really all three.
posted by rollbiz at 5:59 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Anecdata:

When I was in Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn for a knife wound in my arm (story for another time) they brought in a patient who was a homeless man. We were two people in a room for four people. He was unresponsive and from what I heard he had serious wounds that needed debriding. I remember this because it was around the time that the first space shuttle was going to be launched.

After a day or two of whatever they had in his IV he came around and was talking to the doctors. They trimmed his long beard and got him bathed. The day that the shuttle launched they put the TV on for me to watch.

He asked me what was happening so I described it to him. He had a TV but no money to turn it on. It cost a dollar a day back then.

He was very clearheaded and interested in it. He thought it was a great thing.

When it was over he said something like, I been here before but they don't remember me. I'll be out soon and back to my ways. But it's nice to hear TV sometimes.

Thanks for talking to me.

I'd like to say something positive now but I was transferred to a single room that night.

Who knows what happened to him. But he wasn't some kind of crazy guy. I guess he lived on the street until his health got bad and he got picked up and brought to a hospital.

He wasn't a test animal. Just a human being that was broken in some way that you or I can't possibly understand.

That was a long time ago. I hope he died with a modicum of dignity. I don't think he's still around today.
posted by Splunge at 6:04 PM on March 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


Hey, you know what annoys me much more than people like Brian? People patronizing enough to assume that all interactions with homeless people are exploitative.

Seriously, consider two situations:

1) Nobody offers to help with Keith's sign.
2) Someone offers to help with Keith's sign, and he can either reject that offer or accept it.

Does anyone really think he's better off in situation #1 with fewer options? Infantilizing the homeless and assuming that they're incapable of making good decisions on trifling issues like this is infuriating.
posted by ripley_ at 6:05 PM on March 29, 2010 [14 favorites]


I'm sure there's some sort of fancy marketing thinking behind not making him a slicker sign, but Jesus, put a bit of damn effort into it.
posted by graventy at 6:07 PM on March 29, 2010


I agree that the kid who did this is really coming off like an asshole.

But how many assholes are actually this helpful to someone?

If some slick kid who thinks he's hot stuff shows me a way to make twice as much as i did before, with only a slight bit more of effort, I could care less what his personality is.
posted by chambers at 6:11 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Infantilizing the homeless and assuming that they're incapable of making good decisions on trifling issues like this is infuriating.

Using them as test subjects in a "Split testing works, even for bums!" in order to promote yourself and your marketing secrets that are "SO EXCLUSIVE WE DON'T EVEN PUBLISH THEM ON THE BLOG!", and only acknowledging them as a real, actual person to defend yourself against anticipated criticism because even you realized that what your doing is probably pretty shitty is not infuriating, though.

Is that actually what you're saying?
posted by rollbiz at 6:14 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


".. the old lady with the battered yellow rain coat and the ankle splint that's been bumming for spare change at the same intersection beneath the Space Needle in Seattle..."

Hey, I gave that lady a twenty so she could have enough gas to get back home!
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 6:16 PM on March 29, 2010


Sweeping generalizations of entire professions or other large groups of human beings are awesome and we should totally make them all the time because it's constructive.

Sounds like SOMEONE is in marketing and maybe got their feelings hurt.
posted by chimaera at 6:16 PM on March 29, 2010


ripley_: "Hey, you know what annoys me much more than people like Brian? People patronizing enough to assume that all interactions with homeless people are exploitative.

Seriously, consider two situations:

1) Nobody offers to help with Keith's sign.
2) Someone offers to help with Keith's sign, and he can either reject that offer or accept it.

Does anyone really think he's better off in situation #1 with fewer options? Infantilizing the homeless and assuming that they're incapable of making good decisions on trifling issues like this is infuriating.
"

Oh. I understand now. Giving a homeless person a better sign is a way of empowering them. But it's not pandering or anything like that, right?

My feeling? Not enough options = straw man.
posted by Splunge at 6:18 PM on March 29, 2010


Sounds like SOMEONE is in marketing and maybe got their feelings hurt.

Congratulations on being clever enough to open my profile and read the occupation I list there! If you think that any of the points I've made here are invalid, please feel free to dispute them. Otherwise, take this to MeMail, because it's irrelevant to the discussion at hand and it's also not really cool to post profile information in threads as a general practice.
posted by rollbiz at 6:23 PM on March 29, 2010


Marketing is the art of learning what it is people want to hear, and then learning to say it. It's evil when the guys behind it will say anything regardless of the truth, but learning to communicate is seriously a magical thing. I love having the meager ability to convey what I'm trying to convey without effort, and I regret it when people I know have trouble putting things to words.

I get why people don't like marketing, and there are good points to be made, but I dislike when their reactions lead them to inherently distrusting the ideas behind marketing, or the art behind it. Because we don't all know how to convey a message. If I want something, but I don't know how to express that I want it, then I'm going to have issues. And I see nothing wrong with people who make money off helping people express themselves, though it's true that shady sorts migrate to those fields.

One of my favorite ad firms is Crispin Porter Bogusky, which has a reputation for really off-the-wall ads. I remember a moment in a class where I suddenly realized the ads were all doing something really clever: They were bizarre, but tangentially sparked conversations that would help the company being advertised. The Volkswagen ad with a car crash started water-cooler conversations about car safety, and Volkswagen benefitted. The Burger King "I'm A Man" ads didn't try to convince people Burger King was good — which I think was very moral of them — but it did raise awareness of certain menu items that stuck in your head, so that if you were in the fast food mood Burger King would have an edge over its competitors. This all made me realize that just as there is a genius to certain forms of humor which vary from one another, so too is there a genius to good marketing, which uses a variety of clever tactics to get people thinking.

Now, Brian didn't do an impressive job here. He added costs and added a whole new marketing strategy, which is more than simple "A/B" testing, and so he isn't proving anything to us we didn't already know. But I don't take that and translate it to mean "Trying to help homeless people market is a bad thing". This guy is making twice the money he was last week. So this has helped him. It might make his life better. If not, oh well, Brian paid him money for those few days.

We all market. Most of us don't market in the sense that we rely on our words to convince people to pay us money, but we all market. When you're debating you're choosing words that'll help your cause. Conversations are to some degree about people selling what they want to talk about to everybody else. It's not a cold, calculated thing; it's just that any dialogue requires certain artistry.

And for the love of fuck can people stop linking that fucking Bill Hicks video? I can't stand that the guy is such a sanctimonious prick while railing against other people being judgmental. That clip soured the rest of Bill Hicks for me.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:23 PM on March 29, 2010 [10 favorites]


Sounds like SOMEONE is in marketing and maybe got their feelings hurt.

rollbiz has actually made some pretty good points in this thread.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:27 PM on March 29, 2010


(I realized after my last comment that I outed myself as a marketer in my first comment. I apologized via MeMail to chimaera for accusing him/her of posting profile info in thread)
posted by rollbiz at 6:29 PM on March 29, 2010


dunkadunc: "Sounds like SOMEONE is in marketing and maybe got their feelings hurt.

rollbiz has actually made some pretty good points in this thread.
"

Agreed. I don't see the problem here. I re-read his comments and don't see an issue.
posted by Splunge at 6:30 PM on March 29, 2010


Splunge,

I think I understand your irritation with the situation, but it's sounding like you'd rather have Keith make less money, just because the guy who could assist him, is being kind of an asshole about the whole thing.

Would you rather have Keith not benefit, just because Brian is doing it for the 'wrong' reasons?

Like it or not, begging for money is a market. People have their specific areas, and have to compete for change against other people who are begging nearby. Conflicts do arise over who's spot or corner is 'theirs,' they also have regular 'donors' who know them from seeing and interacting with them every day, and if someone down the street has some sort of 'edge,' like a lost limb or wheelchair, for example, that would draw donors before they got to 'their' space, their approach or location will change.

It sucks that it happens that way. The existing social support structures are not sufficient, otherwise begging would not have to be an option. But as cold as it is, the basic laws of any market apply to begging as much as it does to selling computer chips or tampons.

So yes, the signs empower Keith to make more at what he does. And yes, Brian is pandering to the web to show off how he's a market whiz that helps the homeless. Like I said earlier, I'd rather be helped by an asshole than not helped at all.
posted by chambers at 6:40 PM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Only one person in this thread has given any thought to Keith's point of view on all of this. I would like to talk to Keith to get his take on it before I condemn.
posted by Falconetti at 6:43 PM on March 29, 2010


Like I said earlier, I'd rather be helped by an asshole than not helped at all.

Taking everything else aside for a moment, we have no actual verification that any help was done whatsoever. 100% ROI is a very suspiciously round number, and without knowing the starting point we have no frame of reference.

The big, overarching problem that I have with this, though, is that it's a bit of help given only with the expectation of much larger personal gain. I'll give you that it still has the potential to be a net gain for Keith, but I can't help but see it being like "Bum Fights" without the fighting and I don't think I should have to acknowledge that as a positive contribution to the world.
posted by rollbiz at 6:50 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


My guess is that Keith doesn't care what people are saying about him on the internet, because he probably doesn't spend much time online. He may log in to a public machine now and then, but he really doesn't give a damn. This world of bits and bytes is not his world! He is in the world of mostly-smoked cigarettes which still have some tobacco (known as shorts); the world of knowing which businesses will let you run an errand for a couple of bucks; the world of learning which soup kitchen will give you a meal without judgment or preaching. This world has its own rock stars and ditch-diggers, its own winners and losers.

He most likely doesn't care about the minimal online publicity resulting from this stunt, but he does care about taking in a little more cash.
posted by Mister_A at 6:53 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


keith has a nice jacket.
posted by Hammond Rye at 7:07 PM on March 29, 2010


Taking everything else aside for a moment, we have no actual verification that any help was done whatsoever. 100% ROI is a very suspiciously round number, and without knowing the starting point we have no frame of reference.


You're right. I am taking for granted the results that are being touted by the same guy who's promoting himself. I do think he got more with this kid's method than his previous one, though. I've seen many different tactics that people in Keith's situation use, and it's ones like these that get past the 'avoid eye contact/ignore' reaction they deal with hundreds of times a day, which at least gives him a small, but significant advantage.

A better marketing ploy, in whatever bad people see in marketing, is nowhere near as bad as the contemptible, learned behavior of ignoring homeless people outright.
posted by chambers at 7:09 PM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


He most likely doesn't care about the minimal online publicity resulting from this stunt, but he does care about taking in a little more cash.

I think some of us are arguing past each other here. It doesn't have to be Team Ultimate Good vs. Team Ultimate Bad. The concept of it being a positive that Keith might be making a few extra bucks and the concept that this guy comes off like an asshole are not mutually exclusive.
posted by rollbiz at 7:09 PM on March 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


However, I will say that it is deeply uncool and callous to call Keith a "bum" on the site. Again, this doesn't affect Keith, I would guess, but it affects the author–I would not hire him because of his use of this slur. The nicest thing I can say about it is that it's deeply unprofessional.
posted by Mister_A at 7:11 PM on March 29, 2010


Indeed, rollbiz.
posted by Mister_A at 7:12 PM on March 29, 2010


Like I said earlier, I'd rather be helped by an asshole than not helped at all.

Sure. But there's nothing on the books that says assholery had to come with the help. If Brian's big idea was "I can help out this Keith guy by revamping his sign and presentation", he could have done that and walked away. Using Keith as a prop for a post on his marketeering blog is an independent decision, and not a particularly likeable one.
posted by cortex at 7:13 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think I understand your irritation with the situation

No you do not.

it's sounding like you'd rather have Keith make less money, just because the guy who could assist him, is being kind of an asshole

No. I'd like there to be another option that does not include signs.

Would you rather have Keith not benefit, just because Brian is doing it for the 'wrong' reasons?

I have yet to see any real benefit other than in that single post that is obviously skewed in the favor of the writer. Show me that the subject has benefited in the long term.

Like it or not, begging for money is a market.

THIS is what pisses me off. The people that "beg" for money don't give a fuck why or how they get it. It's not a marketing issue. For them it's a living or dieing issue.

It's about getting cash, plain and simple. Equating this to marketing is wrong. Just wrong.

Take your fucking BA in marketing or whatever you or anyone else has and keep on fucking with the minds of people that have liquid cash. Leave the fucking homeless ALONE.

Is that clear enough?

Marketing isn't a good thing. It's about manipulating the minds of people who don't know better. I worked for Norman, Craig and Kummel back in the 70's. You aren't telling me anything that I don't already know.

Marketing is what it is, but don't tell me that fucking with a homeless guy is a good thing.

I know better.
posted by Splunge at 7:16 PM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Marketing isn't a good thing. It's about manipulating the minds of people who don't know better.

If this is how you classify every act of marketing, I'm going to have to disagree with your assertion that you know what marketing is.
posted by rollbiz at 7:23 PM on March 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


Splunge, just because you worked there doesn't mean you can understand it. I work with plenty of skilled, competent people who still don't really take the time to see shades of gray of anything. So experience helps, but it doesn't deliver you an ultimatum.

Thought experiment. What if, rather than Brian doing this for Keith, Keith had thought of it himself? Invest a little in hand-wash and raise money? It's still marketing. It's still manipulation. But how would it be evil?

Marketing is sometimes about changing how people look at things. A man asking for money is different from a man offering one thing and asking for another. It's less difficult in my mind to give money to a homeless man with a sign like that than it is to give to one without that sign. In part it's because the effort made gives him a certain character. (I could say "it's changing his brand on the street" if I wanted to really douche up marketing terminology.) It's not evil to want to change how people see you. There are bad ways to change, like lying outright about things, and like certain powerful truthbendings, but sometimes marketing just helps people see something they didn't see before.

I get what you mean about being practical rather than theoretical about begging for money, but dude, theory often leads to better practice. In this case a little theory meant more money.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:30 PM on March 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


Marketing is making people buy things, yes? And when I worked at NC&K we sold things. okay? Our job was to make people want things. And the hope of the people that came to us was that we'd get them to want a product.

A good example for today is the Swiffer. A device that is supposed to be better than a sponge mop. The commercials show a sponge mop full of evil bacteria. But the Swiffer is a mop with a rag that you throw away. And it has a spray thing. The spray liquid has to be bought on a regular basis when it runs out. The rag on the bottom of the device has to be thrown away as well.

Not so green is it? But a good company, a good advertising agency makes it look better than a "filthy disgusting" sponge mop.

So yeah, I know marketing. But I gave it up a while ago.
posted by Splunge at 7:35 PM on March 29, 2010


Brian may be a marketing genius and I may give more money to Keith because of the clever sign, but I am not squirting whatever he has in that bottle on my hands.
posted by digsrus at 7:43 PM on March 29, 2010


Splunge, you're taking manufactured demand and selling it as marketing. It's a form of marketing, but it's not the entirety of it and I think you know that.

I work for a small dot com. Here's the bulk of what I do every day:

-Improving website navigation to make it easier for people who choose to visit our site to find and compare products.

-Developing "white paper"/how-to/informational content to help consumers choose the best product and use it properly.

-Developing social media/email campaigns for promotions/sales which are sent only to customers who actively chose to receive them.

-Developing reminder systems, for people who actively chose to receive them, that their "thing" that needs periodic replacement is due for replacement.

Please tell me how you classify all of those things as bad and/or manipulating the minds of people who don't know better, or please stop saying that all marketing is evil.
posted by rollbiz at 7:47 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


rollbiz: "Splunge, you're taking manufactured demand and selling it as marketing. It's a form of marketing, but it's not the entirety of it and I think you know that.

I work for a small dot com. Here's the bulk of what I do every day:

-Improving website navigation to make it easier for people who choose to visit our site to find and compare products.

-Developing "white paper"/how-to/informational content to help consumers choose the best product and use it properly.

-Developing social media/email campaigns for promotions/sales which are sent only to customers who actively chose to receive them.

-Developing reminder systems, for people who actively chose to receive them, that their "thing" that needs periodic replacement is due for replacement.

Please tell me how you classify all of those things as bad and/or manipulating the minds of people who don't know better, or please stop saying that all marketing is evil.
"

I do not consider any of those marketing in the way that I'm describing. I think that we're discussing two different things. It might be that we haven't defined our terms correctly. Or at least I haven't.

This being so, I apologize if I have insulted you.
posted by Splunge at 7:53 PM on March 29, 2010


No apology necessary. Please understand that I didn't post that because I'm insulted. I posted it because we were speaking in generalities and I wanted to try and speak in specifics. It's easiest for me to speak in specifics about what I actually do for a living is all...
posted by rollbiz at 7:55 PM on March 29, 2010


Understood. ::hugs::
posted by Splunge at 7:58 PM on March 29, 2010


it's sounding like you'd rather have Keith make less money, just because the guy who could assist him, is being kind of an asshole

Is "making more money" the only spectrum of whether this is good or bad? How about the fact that Keith is having his sense of humanity and individuality cheapened; not only is he just a bum, a huge generalization, he's a classroom model, a thing whose response can be reliably measured and predicted. This is OK because he made a few bucks?
posted by Jon_Evil at 8:32 PM on March 29, 2010


I have an idea for a movie. A couple of senior marketing guys, partners in a firm make a bet, that if they fire their new marketing/SEO intern Bryan and ruin his life so that he's homeless and then replace him with a homeless man they've met who had a sign with hand sanitizer taped to it, will Bryan start making the bad choices that lead to homelessness? Will Keith step up to his new role?

I think I'll call it... Trading Spaces? What do you think?
posted by ennui.bz at 8:47 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think I'll call it... Trading Spaces? What do you think?

No no no, the movie will be called Split Test, with the tagline, "All she wanted... was increased conversions." It will star Morgan Freeman as Keith, and Anna Kendrick as Brian.
posted by oulipian at 10:08 PM on March 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


I've considered doing a similar sort of experiment myself...maybe when I'm unemployed in a few months. It certainly makes the point that experimentation is an important part of marketing, and we're all marketing ourselves.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 11:31 PM on March 29, 2010


Is "making more money" the only spectrum of whether this is good or bad? How about the fact that Keith is having his sense of humanity and individuality cheapened; not only is he just a bum, a huge generalization, he's a classroom model, a thing whose response can be reliably measured and predicted. This is OK because he made a few bucks?

I've participated in psychological experiments before. I didn't feel any of the symptoms you described.

And that thing about "between two consenting adults"? It doesn't only apply to sex. You seem awfully quick to bring morals into an arrangement that both parties agreed to.
posted by ripley_ at 11:56 PM on March 29, 2010


I'm assuming that he started off using the words "homeless man", but after split testing determined that the use of the word "bum" would be more profitable.
posted by seanyboy at 12:28 AM on March 30, 2010


No, but it was easier to type. With that unfortunate exception aside, i'm also on the side of those thinking that this experiment was basically harmless and a win-win for both parties. I find the "hands off the homeless" calls to be far more disturbing, dehumanizing, and insulting than anything presented in this article.

To recap: Brian has an idea to illustrate split marketing. Keith is in a situation that would benefit from Brian's idea. Brian proposes his idea to Keith -fully disclosing what he intends to do with the information. Keith agrees. Brian performs his experiment. Keith's situation improves (at least for the immediate short term). Additionally, Brian pays Keith for his time and trouble.

If Keith was a college student or a small business owner, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

The only fault i can come up with is the use of the word 'bum' a couple of times toward the end and the somewhat condescending 'wrote it in black as if a homeless person did it'. Otherwise he keeps the tone pretty standard market research how-to blog.

As for the comments regarding the word 'bum' in the title -that was the poster's addition -not the author's. The author's title is simply 'Always Split-test' -hardly a controversial attention grabber.
posted by jadayne at 1:01 AM on March 30, 2010


I don't like it much, and it's actually been done before. Lots. Both good and bad ways.

Copywriter helps panhandler change sign-tactic: includes words like “Obama’s Stimulus Plan”

GoGorilla invents new media - they call it bumvertising.

Sisterhood Augustinessen give a away free winter coats, with ad space on the back.

Then there's the opposite side of the spectrum,Project Hello, where they let the homeless star in ads si,ply stating their names. project Hello ran on Fuel TV. It sells nothing but the reminder that homeless people are people too.
posted by dabitch at 1:05 AM on March 30, 2010


A better marketing ploy, in whatever bad people see in marketing, is nowhere near as bad as the contemptible, learned behaviour of ignoring homeless people outright.

Do not call me bad, m'kay? I make a very deliberate choice not to give to homeless, and encourage all to follow my enlightened example.

Homeless beggars are an externality that we all have to live with because we do no have a proper social system. It is a problem that government passes on to us because they do not want to take proper responsibility for the wellbeing of their citizens. It is a very American-centric take on the problem that "volunteering" and "donating" are the good actions here. I will bet anyone $1000 that there are almost no homeless people in Sweden who are not there by choice - at least it is an order of magnitude lower than the shameful situation you have currently in the States.

Don't like that argument? OK, here's another. Begging is a service. If you give money to beggars you are a customer of the homeless begging industry. Every dollar you give is a vote for more homeless begging in your locale. Why do we boycott companies and industries we don't like?

Here's the last one. By giving succour to the homeless and ameliorating their poverty we strip them of revolutionary spirit. How will we move to a proletarian revolution without hungry and desperate masses? Giving money to beggars is, quite literally, papering over the cracks of the failing capitalist system, and is therefore counter-revolutionary. So don't do it, m'kay?
posted by Meatbomb at 1:45 AM on March 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's laughably naive to define marketing as "making people buy things." Evil marketers! Here's what I market every day to 15,000 employees, using all the traditional and non-traditional methods I can get my hands on: What healthcare reform means to you, how to rebuild your 401k, take advantage of free preventive care, stop smoking, lose weight, use free work+life programs (including drop-off day care and care for ailing senior parents), take control of your health or you will spend too much money on it, don't outlive your retirement savings.

Every wear-a-condom campaign, every Haitian relief event, every time you sign up to rebuild in the 9th ward, every song you love, you are responding to a marketing strategy, however well-meaning. cortex has it right -- it's the posting that's odious here.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:12 AM on March 30, 2010


As for the comments regarding the word 'bum' in the title -that was the poster's addition -not the author's. The author's title is simply 'Always Split-test' -hardly a controversial attention grabber.

It appears that Brian has edited his blog post to remove some of the "bum" references, as the original title of his blog post was indeed "Always Split Test (Even if you’re a bum)".
posted by oulipian at 5:22 AM on March 30, 2010


Yep, the post has been edited and this added:
"P.S.S. This is a visual example from real life that's meant to show you, hopefully you weren't offended by it. If you were then you got the wrong message out of this. The homeless man, Keith, was proud and happy to do it. I may bring him in for an interview and do a video on him. He really has an amazing life story. I'd like to feature him in something that can potentially help others avoid his unfortunate situation and put some more money in his pocket to get back on track with his life."
posted by ericb at 6:41 AM on March 30, 2010


aha. So i stand corrected. Still, i think the intent (in the title) was more as a clever double-meaning internet-marketing-speak pun (as referenced earlier) rather than as anything callous (unlike the later uses of the word in the text)
posted by jadayne at 6:45 AM on March 30, 2010


More and more often these days I'm finding it difficult to tell whether something is really really stupid, or a really really subtle parody of stupid.

I'm looking through this guy's other posts and I'm still unsure on which side of the line he belongs. I mean, nothing about it stands up and says outright "I'm a parody," but at the same time surely nobody is actually as stupid as he's pretending to be, right? Right?

Set aside the obviously offensive "bum" marketing for a moment. His "very powerful guerilla marketing technique" is to include a link to your site in your forum .sig? His Email Marketing Secret Trick is to resend your spam with a new subject line? His "offline guerilla marketing" system consists of "make irrational choices that seem stupid and random. Those are the ones that work well for me"??

No, I'm decided. This is definitely parody. Nobody is this dumb in real life. I insist.
posted by ook at 8:22 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Holy hell is this exploitative and condescending.

I'm not sure what people are so upset about. There are a lot of homeless people begging for change. This one got some help from a guy and now collects more money.

Are we upset that the marketer didn't solve social inequality instead?

-
posted by General Tonic at 8:27 AM on March 30, 2010


Just wanted to pop in to point out that this is sincerely the first time I have ever seen metafilter have a rational discussion about marketing. My mind is blown.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:04 AM on March 30, 2010


A better marketing ploy, in whatever bad people see in marketing, is nowhere near as bad as the contemptible, learned behaviour of ignoring homeless people outright.

Do not call me bad, m'kay? I make a very deliberate choice not to give to homeless, and encourage all to follow my enlightened example.


I don't know that by 'ignoring' chambers meant 'not giving money to' homeless people. The general reaction to homeless people -- whether they are panhandling, singing, or wishing someone a good day -- is to ignore them. It sucks.

Giving money to beggars is, quite literally, papering over the cracks of the failing capitalist system, and is therefore counter-revolutionary.

It's funny how not giving to the homeless squares so well with both conservative and radical ideology. Sometimes a dollar is just a dollar.
posted by stinker at 11:03 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Mine too, Baby_Balrog.
I wish ook was right about this guy too. Sadly no parody.
posted by dabitch at 11:03 AM on March 30, 2010


Do not call me bad, m'kay? I

Sorry, that was phrased horribly. It was not meant to mean "bad people" but "Whatever bad traits that people see in marketing." It sounded right in my head with a certain inflection of the word "bad," but entirely did not translate at all onto the page. I need to stop listening to the voices in my head and properly compose a sentence. (insert smiley face emoticon here, as I just can't bring myself to actually use one.)

Apologies.
posted by chambers at 11:03 AM on March 30, 2010


Do not call me bad, m'kay? I make a very deliberate choice not to give to homeless, and encourage all to follow my enlightened example.

Disingenuous = bad. Self-righteous = bad. Smug = bad.

M'kay?
posted by Jimmy Havok at 11:12 AM on March 30, 2010


How about the fact that Keith is having his sense of humanity and individuality cheapened

Yes, he would have felt so much more human and valuable if Brian had walked past him without looking at him.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 11:29 AM on March 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Or, again, if Brian had done what he thought he could to help Keith out and yet refrained from using that as an excuse to use Keith as a prop on his fucking marketing blog. If the only way Brian would help out Keith is for some bloggoriffic quid-pro-quo, that makes Brian an asshole, not a saint.
posted by cortex at 11:34 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


People who do nice things for selfish reasons are somewhere between "asshole" and "saint".
posted by 23skidoo at 11:47 AM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


if Brian had done what he thought he could to help Keith out and yet refrained from using that as an excuse to use Keith as a prop on his fucking marketing blog.

Brian did a service for Keith, Keith did a service for Brian. Oh, horrors!
posted by Jimmy Havok at 11:52 AM on March 30, 2010


(which he was very happy about being featured in a blog article online, especially after I explained exactly what I was doing)

It seems that Keith knew what Brian was up to. He gave his informed consent. I'm having a hard time seeing how he was exploited here? He could just have said no, and not benefited, surely?
posted by Solomon at 11:55 AM on March 30, 2010


Like it or not, begging for money is a market.

Yep. As much as the word "marketing" is preloaded with a lot of assumptions about manipulation and greediness, if you're in a position where a few dollars will mean food vs no food for the day, a person should consider using every tool at their disposal, even if the tool is a marketer (heh) and his experiment.
posted by davejay at 12:40 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


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