they just get worse, I tell you.
60 Minutes ran a report on 10/26 about these urban buzz generators, hired by companies not to sell products but just to increase recognition and word-of-mouth. People on the street asking you to take their picture with a glitzy new cameraphone. Or people at starbucks playing a videogame with a new VR controller.
The company gets the word out, the buzzer gets paid, the public sees a cool demo and has a pleasant interaction. What's not to like?
Well, the public's pleasant interaction is a sham. It's like getting hit on by a hot babe, only to find she needs $50 to make you holler. Which is kind of what happened to Spector and me with the Lithuanian vodka buzzer.
The Tipping Point's Malcolm Gladwell thinks once people find out they've been duped, backlash will kill the customer-product relationship. I wonder, though, if people blame the gizmo or the agent?
I think if the buzzer is good enough, and works some honesty in at the end, it might work. Obviously a lot of people hate telemarketers, or mall-salesmen, etc. But if the caller/seller/buzzer is actually fun or entertaining, the sell can turn into a cocktail-party story. It's hard to find actors good enough.
It all comes back to the Lithuanian vodka lady at the bar -- very cute, very seductive, and she gave me a coupon. What's not to like? Yeah, I was out with my friends, but now we had a topic of conversation.
Like all new forms of ads, I guess when the novelty wears off, it's another story. One or two of these subtle sells is an experience -- a dozen a day is a nightmare of false pretenses that could drive civilization to schizophrenia.
I remember thinking spam was quite benign.