Last week (December 6, 2009, page 26), The New York Times Magazine ran a story about a promotion run by Blu Dot, a furniture maker.
Here’s how the promotion worked: Recognizing the accepted New York tradition of picking up your neighbor’s discarded furniture from the sidewalk, Blu Dot placed its chairs next to bags of garbage throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn. Chair-drop locations were announced on Twitter, and photos of chair-snatchings were posted to a Flickr account.
Ok, so far this sounds like a creative marketing promotion, recognizing a local cultural habit while using contemporary marketing tools.
But there was one piece of the promotion that really bothered me. Half of the chairs had a hidden G.P.S. transmission device, so that the chair – and its new owner – could be tracked. The idea was to follow-up with the new owners to include them in a video about the promotion.
The article described how one woman noticed the G.P.S. device and ripped it from the chair, but claims nobody else complained about this hidden “bug.” Frankly, I’m surprised, and I highly recommend that anyone who wants to duplicate this promotion ditch the G.P.S. part.
When someone accepts a free product from you they are not giving you permission to follow them home. What Blu Dot did was nothing short of spam: They used electronic means to sneak into people’s homes. No matter how much people like your product, you risk scaring them away if you try to slip surreptitiously into their lives. It’s really bad marketing.
And, besides, it’s pretty creepy.