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Was Sky Bet’s offer of free money an act of genius or madness?

November 2, 2012 Leave a comment

As many sages have noted, there is a thin line between genius and insanity.

This is particularly true in marketing. And like so many things in our industry, which side of the line you fall on is often post-rationalised.

If your campaign was a success you are a hero and a creative pioneer. If it bombs you are a bumbling fool who simply doesn’t understand consumers.

Credibility is important when proposing ideas. So is rank. Many great ideas will not leave an agency simply because of who did or didn’t propose them.

One example of the guys at the top making a decision and putting their names to it is the New Coke episode of the 1980′s.

It is generally considered a case study in not really understanding the importance of the emotional attachment consumers can have to a brand and giving them something they didn’t ask for.

Nevertheless, to this day there are conspiracies that it was in fact a deliberate act of genius. Despite the main protagonists holding their hands up and admiting they got it wrong.

Given they remain dominant in the soft drinks market and are one of the biggest, most identifiable brands in the world, any damage was temporary.

Money For Nothing

On a smaller scale, late last night Zeitgeist was alerted to an opportunity to make free money.

Somehow, the fact that activating a couple of bonus codes on SkyVegas would allow a player to make a guaranteed £27 in five minutes, began doing the rounds on social media.

In the name of research, Zeitgeist gave it a go and sure enough my balance was £27 better off at the end of the exercise and the funds were withdrawn.

The question is, was this a huge error that is likely to see someone hauled over the coals or a great way to get new signups, as in the long run, the bookie always wins.

In all probability it was the former. The money has yet to appear in my bank account and if it doesn’t it will be proof that it was a mistake.

The ‘trick’ doesn’t work anymore, it was deactivated earlier this morning.

However, Skybet will know the value of a new customer. Perhaps they have identified that one who is online at close to midnight is particularly profitable in the long run.

And so, instead of spending their money on advertising, media and giving all players a standard £10 introductory bet, it is possible that Skybet decided to invest their budget in giving a more active type of customer a bigger incentive to sign up, just before the weekend, confident that they will get their money back with interest.

And if that is the case, then maybe it was an act of genius after all.

Will the Olympics be derailed by public transport?

As the clock in Trafalgar Square ticks down, so the fearful anticipation of the impact 250,000 extra people will have on London’s already struggling transport network has risen to a level not seen since the prophecies of doom surrounding the Millennium Bug.

Thirteen years ago we were warned that planes would drop out of the sky and nuclear power plants would meltdown due to antiquated software, written when the memory used up by a couple of digits was a precious resource, being unable to cope with the new millennium. As it turns out, it was either a real false alarm or people got their houses in order well in advance.

This time we might not be so lucky. How can a service for who a perfect day is an annual event be expected to cope with so many additional passengers, many of whom will be using it for the first time?

In preparation, over the last couple of weeks, commuters have had messages announcing delays punctuated by a recording of Mayor of London Boris Johnson asking us to make alternative travel arrangements and to get ready for The Big One.

So, while transport workers will get bonuses to help them cope with the stress of having to do their jobs over the Olympics, ordinary commuters many of whom have paid thousands for annual travelcards in advance will get no compensation – maybe it’s time for a Passengers Union – for not being able to get to their workplace.

A conspiracy theorist might conclude that all the warnings and scaremongering are an attempt to create a sort of tipping point for working from home whereby employers and employees who are able to use this option do so, realise how convenient it is and begin to do so more often, thus reducing the strain on the network in the long run.

When ‘on-time’ is ‘late’ and ‘good’ is ‘not good’

The recent revelation that fewer than 70% of UK trains run on time will not have surprised many who travel by rail despite train companies usually reporting much higher punctuality rates (they give themselves a larger margin of ‘lateness’).

Such fanciful redefinitions of what is ‘on-time’ do little to win the trust of travellers who must feel persecuted that when so few trains are officially late, why is it always theirs that is?

While we are setting expectations, perhaps it is also time to redefine what is meant by a ‘good service’ on the Underground.

At the moment it is exclusively based on time and staff have discretion as to when to declare delays. For example, this article from the BBC highlights that a nine minute delay could still be deemed a good service.

But ask people to describe their journeys underground and as well as tardiness, they will complain about overheated and overcrowded trains.

Given the choice between getting somewhere ten minutes later in relative comfort or arriving earlier but having nearly melted on the way, many commuters would choose the former. Maybe we could be informed that ‘The Bakerloo line is running with a good but severely overcrowded service’ to help us pick how we want to get from A to B and to reduce the burden on overcrowded lines.

For all the fretting, there is little that can be done at this stage. We can only hope the ‘Big One’ is such an enjoyable experience that the abiding memory of the London Olympics is of athletes reaping the rewards of years of effort and not visitors suffering the consequences of years of underinvestment.

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