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Internet Story: 06 Feb 1999

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Victorias Secret mess

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Communication Important

Nothing new here

The effects of celery on loose elastic


How NOT to impress your customers   Or should that be, "how to destroy your brand image in a few hours".   This week has seen a catalogue of disastrous moves by big and small companies alike.  First, the big one: Victoria's Secret, that large mail order lingerie company mainly based in the US (see our the article from 05Dec1998) put on what has been billed as the biggest internet event so far.  By all accounts it really wasn't worth it.  1.5M people (mostly male, I would think) allegedly hit the site handling a live 21 minute video of their top models displaying lingerie.  Sounds great doesn't it.   Well, apart from the fact that you couldn't actually see any product!   The video was so small, scratty, and badly-lit that according to NY times (free registration required for access) it showed, "barely visible images of models in white teddies" for people, "squinting at a commemorative-stamp-size picture sent through cyberspace."  Not only that but, what a waste of money!  It must have cost millions to stage this event and the there was not a single hyperlink on the site to take the eager buyer away to buy the products!  (Though one could wade through their e-commerce site and find products afterwards.)  What the statistics don't reveal about this fiasco is just how many people logged off within minutes because of the bad display.  I don't think this will have done much for the brand image of Victoria's Secret; I hope the quality of their product is better than their execution of this webcast.  (Note, as of today Victoria's Secret has another secret - a dead link to the broadcast site on their front page!  Bad move.  This may have been fixed by the time you read this.)  See the CNN article also.

The second disaster occurred on US TV when comparatively small splashed out $2M to advertise during that great US tradition, the Superbowl.  Good idea you may think.  Not so if you don't have the technical infrastructure to cope with the sudden rush of millions of hits to your site!  People just gave up and went to competitor sites when they couldn't get on to HotJobs for days on end.  You'd have thought that these folks would have learned - there are enough examples in the last few years to demonstrate all of the above faults.  In June 1998 we saw the 1st (allegedly - it was probably the 2nd) live birth on the Net - I remember seeing a few odd snippets of this disappointing fiasco, in between server crashes and throttled bandwidth.  To cap it all, when the great moment came... a midwife had her rear end in front of the camera!  Other examples include the crumbling Toys R Us site this Xmas and the recent outages at E-Bay (the US online auction site).

I could go on... but for now check the E-Trade mess.


Communication is most important   Coming off the first big online holiday shopping season, it would seem that the industry couldn't help but want make as many e-sales as possible.  But a new KPMG survey reports that two-thirds of top executives say their firm's online retail strategy is focused on enhancing communications and exposure to customers rather than generating sales and profits. Check out a PowerPoint slideshow of the data.


Nothing New  You'd think that all this talk about emphasis on customers being the key to e-commerce success was the latest trendiest 1998/9 thing.  I found a study dating from 1996 saying all the same things!  Check out, "The Internet: Its Potential and use by European Retailers", a study carried out by Oxford Institute of Retail Management at Templeton College, Oxford University and KPMG.   "Retailers are facing increasingly demanding customers, tougher competition and the breakdown of traditional boundaries between products and services."


Made me laugh  Continuing our starting theme of lingerie...  Check out this site on "The Peculiar Art of Mr Frahm", billed as "An examination of the fascinating cheesecakery of Art Frahm, Poet of Loose Elastic," and,  "Art Frahm: A study of the effects of celery on loose elastic."  Art Frahm was an artist producing graphic artwork.  The subject of these pages are some of his works showing young women with shocked expressions as the wind blows their skirts - (nothing is revealed, so not to worry, though his work may leave some feminists feeling rather queasy).  Reminds me of the saucy postcard tradition from the same era in the UK.  The burning question is, "whether or not celery is involved." :-)  Interesting site by James Lileks, a US journalist writing for the Twin-Cities Star-Tribune and the Washington Post, amongst others.


Andrew Stringer, Pendle.Net Ltd, 1999


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