Should stores match their own Web site prices? How Target failed.
I'm a movie buff. Just about everyone who reads this probably knows that, but if you don't, check out my film blog to see what I mean. Back? Good.
When Zack Snyder's Watchmen came out on July 21st, I was psyched. I have all the gear I need to really enjoy the film in all its 1080p Blu-Ray fidelity and a day or two before even went to a couple of Web sites to compare prices.
I noted that target.com had the best price: $21.49, so that morning I popped into the local Target and was a bit dismayed to find that it was priced on the shelf at $25.99.
I asked the customer service people if they'd match the online price, and they said "no, we can't do that."
"But," I said, "Let me show you: on the Web site it says that the $21.49 is the in store price." I showed her this:
On the site, as you can see, they're promoting that it's available in the store. Click on the ad graphic and you get to the price:
"Ah," the manager explained, "you'd have to pay for shipping if you bought it from the Web site, so it'd end up the same price anyway."
I wasn't impressed. Seems to me that even if they want to price things differently online versus on the shelf, the store should at least have a policy of matching prices with its own Web site. That's a customer-centric perspective, and apparently Target is more focused on preserving the integrity of its business silos.
So I walked out and went over to Best Buy, where, to their credit, the assistant manager pulled up the Target.com site, found that they were indeed offering Watchmen Blu-Ray for $21.49 and matched the price. The price tag on the Best Buy box? $29.99. Their online price for the movie on the bestbuy.com site? $22.99.
Big difference? Target said "no" and didn't match prices with its Web site. Best Buy said "sure" and not only matched its own online price, but came down another $1.50 and matched the Target.com price.
Target, you might need to rethink this policy. Otherwise it seems like you're ripping off your in-store customers without any recourse when one of them is savvy enough to catch on to what's happening.
Eric Ries brings "Lean Startup" to Colorado
I haven't actually been sucked into the maelstrom of a startup for a while now, which is probably good since I find myself incredibly busy with what is already on my proverbial plate anyway. When I have been involved, however, I've always wrestled with the question of funding versus organic growth.
It's a key question for startups: do you need to raise money to grow? Few people have put more thought into this question than Eric Ries, whose Lean Startup concepts are apparently quite the hot topic in Silicon Valley, where there isn't much angel capital floating around anyway, from what I hear.
What's great for us in Colorado is that one of our local startup gurus, David Cohen (founder of TechStars), has arranged for Eric to come into Boulder and offer up both a half-day workshop and a separate dinner lecture. I'm attending the latter and am looking forward to hearing what Eric has to share with our entrepreneurial community.
It's not too late, but the seats are selling quickly, from what I hear, so don't delay if you're interested:
Hope to see you there!
Interview with Luc Tremblay of Cirque du Soleil's KOOZA
The residents of St. Paul, Minnesota already know about KOOZA, one of the traveling Cirque du Soleil shows as it's playing there currently. In a few weeks, however, they'll be packing up their gear and tent, and packing it all into a staggering 50 semi-trailers and driving to Denver. It'll be set up again on the grounds of the Pepsi Center for six weeks of performances for Coloradoans. When they're done here, the next stop is Santa Monica, California.
Cirque du Soleil Artistic Director
As part of the advance publicity for the show, I was given an opportunity to have a chat with Luc Tremblay, the Artistic Director of KOOZA. Though not a performer, Luc is one of the creative geniuses behind the KOOZA show, previously having been involved with La Nouba (based in Orlando, Florida) and Delirium, another of the Cirque traveling shows.
I should disclose that I am a big fan of the Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil troop and find their shows both trippy and thrilling. I've written about the group and its shows before and even had a behind-the-scenes tour of the Vegas production "O". Here's some of what I've published about the troop:
If you're thinking they're just a group of casual street performers, you've never been to a Cirque show. Their shows are amazing and quite technologically sophisticated. KOOZA will have 53 performers under its blue and yellow Grand Chapiteau tent, with 15 technicians running everything. In total, KOOZA has a traveling crew of 125 people and the 175 costumes and total of over 1000 props.
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Help rename Colorado's tech industry
When Colorado Governor Ritter visited Silicon Valley a few months ago, the best he could come up with for a name that represented the collective entrepreneurial zeal and accomplishments of the state was to refer to us all as the "Colorado information and communications technology (ICT) sector".
Ugh, that's pretty ghastly and certainly not memorable.
On the other hand, when I said "Silicon Valley" in that first paragraph, you knew exactly where I was talking about, and as someone who lived and worked in Silicon Valley for years (Palo Alto, Los Altos, Sunnyvale, San Jose, Cupertino, Los Gatos, etc) I know exactly where that region is and how having a snappy name has helped its identity.
So a group of us are seeking to tap into crowdsourcing and come up with a better name for the Boulder/Denver tech corridor. Is it tied to Highway 36? Is it "Flatirons" related? Is it a cowboy theme to reflect the exciting history of the region?
This is your chance to help decide! Nominations are open for the Help Rename Colorado's Tech Industry challenge, and entering is super easy: either post it on Twitter with the hashtag #nameCO or email it to Chris Vincent at RockyRadar: nameCO@rockyradar.com
And my vote? I really like Dot Colorado as a collective name.
Startup Seed Capital workshop, Monday 7/13
Just a quick one: My friend and colleague Karl Dakin is offering a workshop on how to prepare your company presentation to raise seed capital, the small amounts of money that let you grow your business to the point where you can raise larger rounds from venture capitalists, through the Greenwood Village Chamber of Commerce at the Denver Tech Center in Denver, Colorado.
If that's where you are in the growth of your company, be it a new startup or a biz that could just use a cash injection to take it to the next level, this could be a terrific way to spend Monday morning: it's $79 for Chamber members and $119 for the general public.
But you're smart. Use the discount code DK3C and you'll save a cool 10% on the price of admission!
Here's how Karl describes the event:
Seed Capital - Seed capital is the money needed in the early part of the business life cycle to get started and reach critical momentum. It is a high risk to the investor and expensive money to the business. However, seed capital may be the key ingredient in the recipe for success - the difference between an idea and a business.Sound good?
(and remember to use code DK3C to save a few bucks on your admission)
Introducing the Google Chrome Operating System
Really not much of a surprise given the direction that Google's development team has been going over the last year or two, especially with the release of Google Chrome, their slick Web browser, but check it out, Google just announced Google Chrome OS.
The company describes it thusly:
"Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks. Later this year we will open-source its code, and netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010. Because we're already talking to partners about the project, and we'll soon be working with the open source community, we wanted to share our vision now so everyone understands what we are trying to achieve."Can you run it on your laptop? Possibly. They say "Google Chrome OS will run on both x86 as well as ARM chips and we are working with multiple OEMs to bring a number of netbooks to market next year."
If you've been paying attention, Google now has Google Docs (including a Word, PowerPoint and Excel competitor), Gmail (an Outlook competitor), Google Talk (competing with MSN Instant Messaging), Google Calendar, Picasa, Google Maps, and, soon enough, Google Drive (which hasn't yet been released, but now we know why, I surmise). Oh, and today, Google also announced that most of these have come out of beta. Coincidence? I don't think so. (and there's more too. Check out the full list of Google apps and Web-based services)
And don't forget the significance of Google Gears, which lets you run many of the core Web-based applications while you're offline. Want to work on a document, fine tune a presentation and respond to a half-dozen email messages while on a flight to NYC? Not a problem.
Now the question is... when will it be available for download? I have an Asus Netbook that's just begging for a new operating system.
By the way, if I were at Microsoft, I'd be getting very, very anxious.
Do the numbers: there are thirty million active Google Chrome web browser users. If that's 85% Windows users and 20% are willing to take the jump and try Chrome OS, that's 5.1 million users, computer users who aren't therefore using and buying new versions of Microsoft Windows...
Mike Arrington doesn't understand PR at all...
It's been a quiet July 4th weekend and I was relaxing and catching up on my RSS feeds (for me, at least, Twitter hasn't taken over the world) when I bumped into a new article by tech provocateur Mike Arrington entitled The Reality Of PR: Smile, Dial, Name Drop, Pray.
The premise of the article is that a company that's launched through us tech bloggers and, specifically his news service TechCrunch gains visibility faster than a company launched using traditional non-blog social media channels (as he says of the non-TechCrunch launched firm: "I'd say this experiment in a pure social media launch failed.").
The story is about a startup that I haven't heard of, Wordnik, but that's not what caught my attention. Frankly, the insanely low barrier to entry for new Web 2.0 companies means that oddly named firms crop up like weeds on a weekly basis -- and I'm only half-joking with that statement -- so not hearing about a new company isn't worthy of even a short blog entry or tweet. (for the record, I haven't heard of Topsy either)
No, what bugged me about Mike's self-congratulatory article was his dismissal of the entire field of public relations with this statement:
"PR firms today ... are paid to perform a service. They like to think of themselves as core to the strategic action of their clients. But more often, they're just there to spin whatever happened in the most favorable light possible. Then they smile and dial and pray for coverage. Occasionally they are called in to smother a story, which is mildly more exciting, I imagine. But when a CEO is wondering what she should do next to drive her business forward, she generally doesn't call her PR firm for advice. Or at least I hope she doesn't."Fair disclosure that's germane to this discussion: in addition to running my own consulting business and a busy tech blog, I also sporadically work with the talented team at Metzger Associates, a hip public relations firm here in Boulder, Colorado.
And what do I do for them? Mostly host strategic planning meetings with clients, where we talk about the shortcomings of their existing products and services and brainstorm about how to introduce cooler, more compelling, and more exciting offerings to their market segments.
Public relations is to the diss "there to spin whatever happened in the most favorable light possible" as tech blogging is to "regurgitating whatever press release happens to catch your attention". Both are inaccurate assessments yet both have a sliver of truth to them. Nonetheless, Arrington is falling into the common mistake of thinking that PR = press releases, that it's a matter of service providers throwing information sticks into the news river. PR is not about press releases but about something far more fundamental: how a company is perceived and interacts with its public.
As an influence leader in the tech space, I am constantly surprised and a bit saddened by Arrington's constant drumbeat against mainstream marketing and public relations. This is by no means the first time he's come out against an industry of professionals who are not easily categorized by the smug dismissal of it being "old school", and I think that a lot of worthy companies are being inappropriately ignored by his bias and the reflected bias of many others in the tech community.
Not all great invention comes from the rebel underground and not all great startups include people who know how to play the modern media game and gain visibility for themselves in the ceaseless tsunami of information that washes over us every time we power up.
But apparently Mike believes that if these same firms need to hire someone to help them gain visibility, they're already dead in the water. It's all about eschewing those evil public relations people, not adding them to your team and valuing their savvy counsel.
And that, ultimately, is a disservice to their communities, because I rely on news service like TechCrunch (and yes, Mike, TechCrunch is a news channel for me just as the BBC and Variety are too) to help me identify the best and the brightest, what's cool on the horizon, and the more I learn about his institutional bias, the more I discount what's written there.
How about you? Do you think that being hip more important than doing a good, comprehensive job?
Bad PR Pitch #7132: From Baskin Robbins?
I dunno if it's just me, but this marketing communications from Paramount PR, the public relations agency for popular ice cream company Baskin-Robbins, sure comes across as presumptuous:
Subject: Cool Down this 4th of July with Tasty Treats from Baskin RobbinsNow realize this is not someone with whom I have had a long-term relationship. In fact, as far as I can tell, this is the very first time I have ever seen a message from anyone at Paramount Public Relations.
Further, what is the news here? That they have ice cream cakes starting at $9.99? So what? I'm also based in Colorado, so the "Chicagoland Baskin-Robbins" bit is a bit odd. Am I in their blogger database as living in Chicago?
So what do you think? Sloppy, lazy PR without any effort put into motivating the blogger to take the desired action, or am I just too judgmental today?
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