200,000 Fake Amazon Reviewers

The squalor of online marketing never seems to end. This week a conspiracy of over 200,000 fake reviewers for third party products sold on Amazon was reported by PC magazine.

According to the report researchers found “over 13 million records and 7GB of data, including direct messages between Amazon vendors and customers who provided fake review scores.”

Here’s how the scheme works. Crooked vendors publish a list of products they want a five star review for. Customers sign up to provide the review. They buy the product using PayPal, send in a five star review and then provide proof to the vendor that the review ran. The vendor then refunds the money to the buyer and lets the buyer keep the product.

In response, Amazon issued typical PR horseshit… “Our objective is to ensure customers see authentic and relevant reviews so they can make better informed purchasing decisions,…To do this, we use powerful machine learning tools and skilled investigators to analyze over 10MM review submissions weekly, aiming to stop abusive reviews before they are ever published.” Except they don’t.

In fairness to Amazon, the money transaction goes on outside their system which makes it more difficult for them to moderate. Nevertheless, millions of people are being mislead about product quality by the ongoing fraud.

Clubhouse Downloads “Falling Off A Cliff”

Clubhouse, this winter’s social media flavor of the month, has hit a wall. The app, which Bloomberg valued at about $4 billion, saw its downloads fall by 90% from February to April.

Clubhouse is a “voice” app in which self-important loudmouths (shut-up) can get together and impress each other with their brilliance and wit in individual “club rooms.” You have to be invited to Clubhouse to get in, which makes it particularly attractive to the smug Silicon Valley set.

According to Insider, in February Clubhouse downloads peaked at almost 10 million. In April they fell to under a million.

As you might expect, after seeing Clubhouse’s early numbers, every social media platform in the universe jumped on the “social audio” bandwagon. I suspect they’re not quite as enthusiastic today.

Protecting Kids From Us

A bipartisan bill introduced into Congress this week is aimed at protecting kids under 16 from being tracked and targeted by online data vampires.

You may remember last week I suggested that a great first step to reducing the dangers of surveillance marketing would be to make all tracking opt-in. That’s what the proposed bill does for kids.

According to MediaPost, “The Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act, introduced by Sens. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) and Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana), would specifically prohibit websites and apps from collecting personal information — including IP addresses, device identifiers and other data that can be connected to specific devices — from teens between the ages of 13 and 15 without first obtaining their explicit consent.”

The bill also outlaws the use of any kind of behavioral targeting or collection of data from kids that the website should reasonably know or have reason to believe are under 13.

Apropos… as mentioned a few weeks ago, I’ve been asked to speak to members of Parliament in the UK this week who are considering legislation to protect kids from online surveillance vermin.

The Fame Game

This next piece is excerpted from “Advertising For Skeptics”

Fame is a tremendous advantage in business.

If your brand is famous, retailers are far more likely to put you on their shelves, distributors are far more likely to pay attention to your calls, consumers are far more likely to buy your product, people are far more likely to serve your product to their guests, people are far more likely to wear hats with your name on it, important people are far more likely to invite you to lunch, answer your emails, and meet you for a drink. And smart people are far more likely to want to work for you, be your lawyer, or sit on your board.

But fame has a problem. It is not an elegant concept. It’s too simple, crass, and obvious. It is not abstruse enough for most advertising and marketing executives.

They get published and become “experts” by creating arcane theories of consumer-brand relationships. They earn their stripes by taking the obvious and making it incomprehensible. They get their jobs by convincing CEOs and other erudite fakers that marketing is mysterious and that understanding consumer behavior is a very complex and cryptic business. They think they know the mind of the consumer and how to manage it. And in doing so, they jump right over the most obvious and likely route to success…

In all the incessant jabbering about marketing, and all the strategic gymnastics that marketers put themselves through, the simplest and most obvious objective of marketing should be to create fame. Brands that are famous have an enormous advantage over brands that are not famous.                             h/t Rory Sutherland

People Told Us…

Any time you hear some marketing windbag say “people told us,” you can be pretty sure you’re in for some massive horseshit. One year ago we heard it from Coca-Cola as they introduced Coca-Cola Energy. Get a load of this BS…

Coca-Cola Energy is “guaranteed to be a big hit among fans who love the indescribably great Coca-Cola taste, but want a bit more energy for their day, to do things they not only need to do, but want to do.  People told us they wanted an energy drink that tastes more like Coca-Cola than other traditional energy drinks, and we’re delivering.” Yeah, right.

After garnering less than 1% of energy drink sales, people told them to get lost and this week Coke announced they were discontinuing their indescribably lousy sales of Energy in the US.

Q: But wait a minute, Bob…you just told us fame is a monstrous advantage. Now you tell us Coke can’t launch a new product. WTF?
A: Fame is powerful. But it’s not as powerful as stupid.


Courtesy of Type A Group, LLC; https://typeagroup.cmail20.com/t/ViewEmail/d/1B620EDFA41F91632540EF23F30FEDED/3B9A7738678B1809B3138EAD4DECE712https://nypost.com/2021/03/04/booksellers-were-unprepared-for-dr-seuss-ban-as-sales-skyrocket/