So you’ve bought a deal (or more) on Groupon before. You’ve saved yourself money, put some money back in your local economy and feel pretty good about yourself. Now you’re not only part of the Groupon customer community, but you’re part of the crowd of more than 100 million people (including non Groupon customers) watching the largest television event – of all time.

Here comes a moment you’ve been waiting for, the Groupon Super Bowl spot, and as a loyal customer and brand advocate you hush the room and commit your full attention. Or as a non Groupon customer, you’re just excited to witness the next 30 seconds of advertising brilliance or failure. Either way, here it comes…

Andrew Mason, Groupon CEO, appears on screen.

“Hi. I’m Andrew Mason, Founder and CEO of Groupon, the provider of unbeatable daily deals straight to your inbox.”

“Groupon’s roots are in social activism and we would like to highlight four worthwhile organizations that you can support just by doing what you already do – buying Groupons.”

“Sign up on groupon.com and donate to Greenpeace, buildOn, The Tibet Fund or the Rainforest Action Network, and Groupon will either match your donation or give you the equivalent amount in Groupon credit.”

“These mission-driven organizations enjoy saving money as much as you do.”

“So please, save more than money. Save more with Groupon.”

Groupon’s logo and website show on screen before fading out.

Previous Groupon customers: Thought you felt good about yourself before?

New Groupon customers: How easy was that sign up process?

What could have been…

Would my version have won an Emmy? Absolutely not. Would my version have won the #brandbowl? Absolutely not. Would my version have lost any customers? Absolutely not. Would my version have the CEO focusing on non apologetic blog posts rather than advancing (what could have been) a great PR/customer acquisition campaign? Absolutely not.

My disgust in the Groupon commercials stems not only from the insensitivity to such important issues but also for the ignorance of the Tibet spot while trying to break into the Chinese market (a separate and even more obnoxious issue). I’ll let common sense play out the rest of these two arguments.

Instead, “Fuck it! We know you’d rather buy a deal you selfish bastard! So c’mon and save the money with me!” is the message I got from all three of the current campaign (I use that term loosely) videos on Groupon’s site.

I hate to say the company’s youth has finally shown itself, but that’s way nicer than what I’m actually thinking and this truly was an adolescent attempt at a stunt.

In summary: Groupon had a great idea (charities) and overcomplicated it by *attempting* to be cute and cheeky. If they had kept it simple and to the point, I believe it could have stole the show. In hindsight, it’s obvious this was their first time (that’s what she said). See what I did there? I pulled a Groupon.

“Save more than money. Save more with Groupon.” << Why don’t I get paid for stuff like this?!

Food for more thought (did they learn from Kenneth Cole?):

“It’s been exceedingly effective,” Miles Nadal, chairman and CEO of one of the largest ad agencies in the world, MDC Partners which owns Crispin Porter, the firm that made the Groupon commercial, told CNBC on Monday.

My response to Auburn fans’ “If bama could have got the job done at the iron bowl then all would be solved for you guys right?” and “Josh give it up, there is a power shift in The state and it isn’t Bammer! WDE!” on Academy Sports + Outdoors’ Facebook Page:

No, we lost to more than just Auburn (although nothing hurts worse than an Iron Bowl loss) and having the Heisman and BCS Championship in Alabama for two years in a row would be incredible! The reason I’m bitter is the fallout from a vacated BCS Championship. Do you want to listen to TCU, Oregon, etc. cry for years (as they should)?

If Auburn won without controversy and the SEC got more money, recruits, etc., that’s great for everyone – even Bama! If (when) NCAA finds Auburn in violation and revokes the 2010 season and the SEC is shamed and loses money and recruits, that’s good for no one – specifically other NCAA teams who played a then meaningless 2010 season.

I know it’s been a while since the last AU National Championship, but does the constant stench surrounding this season effect any “true” Auburn fans?

The fact Auburn won doesn’t upset as many Bama fans as you think; the fact Auburn won amidst a season of controversy is upsetting every football fan in the country, including in Alabama. The fact that all of the controversy continues to grow doesn’t concern you, as a football fan, at all?

Cam Newton was by far THE best player in the country this year. Once you legitimately recruit a player to play for your school, what you do with him on campus within NCAA guidelines (however loose they are) is you prerogative. That said, paying for a player to commit to your school must be THE most embarrassing situation for a school, period. At what point are you when you have to offer cash to convince a player that your program is worth representing? The lowest, in my opinion.

As football fans, Auburn and Alabama alike, the best outcome we can hope for out of this investigation of a garbage pile that stinks to high heaven is a more validated justification for a playoff system. Fat chance, right? Well, I bet back in September you didn’t think you’d be here today, either in an investigation or with a National Championship. One can hope.

Roll Tide.

I welcome your take on the state of the BCS, the Auburn and Cam Newton controversy, as well as your thoughts on a playoff system. Or, hell, can I just get a Roll Tide?

The Apple Investor, a daily report from Silicon Alley Insider (SAI), attributed analyst Hendi Susanto as predicting Apple Will Have Nearly $100 Billion In Cash By 2012. That would put Steve Jobs’ Apple between Kazakhstan and Bangladesh at number 55 on CIA World Factbook’s 2009 list of countries by GDP. But what stood out to me most was the reason why the analyst gave this figure. The prediction is:

“focused more on content and the Apple ecosystem than on devices”

The iPad, iPhone and Apple’s other “money making” devices aren’t the reason behind its financial success. It’s the company culture, its beliefs and its marketing of culture and beliefs that has cultivated a following of brand loyalists and advocates capable of sustaining such a rise to the top.

Marketing of company beliefs versus the products they make reminded me of a TEDx talk by Simon Sinek, author of the book “Start With Why”. In this short presentation, Sinek gives a convincing argument of conversion through selling why a product is made, not what the product is made to do. Watch it here.

I hope you found it as stimulating and thought provoking as I did. If even just the first 5 minutes don’t have you rethinking your current marketing tactics, I hope it helps you strengthen arguments supporting them.

(Yes, I cited Wikipedia, and no, I don’t pay $60/year to embed videos. Sorry!)

This excerpt is from a WSJ article The New Gold Mine: Your Personal Information & Tracking Data Online that details an investigation into the nation’s 50 top websites and what information tracking technology each installs on a visitor’s computer:

David Moore, chairman of 24/7 RealMedia Inc., an ad network owned by WPP PLC, says tracking gives Internet users better advertising.

“When an ad is targeted properly, it ceases to be an ad, it becomes important information,” he says.

So this is it, huh? We Internet users – for the sake of my argument I’m throwing in the categorization as Americans – visit our favorite websites to be well informed by ads on the perimeter of the screen? Since when did getting online mean I wanted a personalized retail tour?

This brings up a thought I had yesterday, having overheard a couple’s conversation/argument in Union Square.

Female: You never get your shopping done on time and you always forget at least one person.

Male: I just don’t know what to get some people and would rather do all of my shopping at once.

The phrase “my shopping” is what stuck out to me. Do we – again, as Americans – feel obligated to shop? Is it engrained in our brains spending money is a necessity? That it’s the right thing to do?

Rarely am I irritated and offended to the point of calling out a company privately, let alone consider posting the communication publicly. Well, this just happens to be one of those once-in-a-blue-moon occasions. fromyouflowers.com has delivered nothing more than poor service for my money today. Here’s the email I sent to, get this, WeCare@fromyouflowers.com:

Hello,

Today I ordered a pot of flowers, valued at $25, to be delivered to a friend I wouldn’t be able to meet for lunch. After choosing “guaranteed delivery” within 4 hours, my order totaled nearly double the value of the product being delivered: $47.96. While I understand I was also paying for promised services, I hesitated to accept the hefty charges and confirm my order. After waiting the 4 hours for my delivery to be confirmed, I reached out to you, fromyouflowers.com, and was promised an honest effort to reply within an hour. After 2.5 hours of waiting for delivery confirmation or a response, I sent another inquiry as to the status of my order – or a simple response. Still I heard nothing.

It wasn’t until I called fromyouflowers.com 8 hours after my initial purchase I received a response to my question, “Has my order been delivered?” The customer service representative informed me the florist was delivering the pot of flowers as we spoke, and encouraged me to “Sit tight and see what happens before we make any decisions.” After waiting twice as long as the delivery period I paid for, I was told to sit tight and see how it plays out. See how it plays out? For all of the praise on your website, Facebook page and Twitter account, I find it hard to believe these are the customer service practices you instill in your employees to ensure such consistent and enthusiastic praise. In fact, I find the praise hard to believe at all. The employee added, “You have to understand that this is a busy time of year.” You have to understand you can’t make–and charge for–guarantees you can’t deliver on no matter the circumstances.

The employee I spoke too, a young man whose name I didn’t get, did assure me my $4.99 expedited delivery fee would be refunded. That’s the slightest glimpse of acceptance of responsibility I see from this entire situation. At this point, I highly doubt “you care” that my attempted raincheck for a lunch gift wasn’t delivered even on the same day it was promised.

This morning, I was excited to use your company and receive superior service. I was excited to brag about my thoughtful gift and how it was somewhat worth the exorbitant fees just to pull it off in time. Imagine how much effort I could be committing to telling my coworkers and friends about how satisfied I was with your service and refer them to you. Instead, I’m offended, embarrassed and steering everyone I can clear of your business.

My company, GetSatisfaction.com, has a motto: Love your customers. Whether or not you love your customers, I would recommend you at least acknowledge them. After all, it is solely because of people like me, your customers, you receive a paycheck.

Please feel free to contact me at any time. I sincerely regret offering you one dime of today’s order.

Completely dissatisfied,

Josh

I’ve attached a screenshot of my order for reference.

I’m in no financial position to afford $50 rain checks – even as a nice gesture. This was a unique situation deserving of whatever it took to make happen. But I’m definitely not in the position to afford $50 rain checks that never arrive. What’s bigger here is today no company is in the position to slack on customer service or ignore a customer. I’m realistic in that not all companies can reach every customer, but I know customers who don’t receive services paid for deserve attention and some form of compensation. Hell, just acknowledge you know there’s a problem! Did the customer service representative I spoke with today get paid–cause he definitely didn’t earn–more than $50 today? Most likely. Is $50 worth losing future business over? Most definitely not.

When I woke up December 1…

I had no clue it was December 1. Where in the HELL did 2010 go?

An even better surprise than December was payday, but seriously: at this rate it feels like New Years will come before Christmas!

As the year begins to close, my life is only starting to fully open up. No matter how many life changing moments 2010 has already had, I have the utmost confidence the best life has to offer is still ahead of me. But looking back, I remembered there was this Big Boy Ideas for 2010 post from January 1 and curiosity got the best of me, so revisiting it was a must. Here’s how 2010 did – and did not – stack up to my goals (either way, absolutely zero regrets from THE most eventful year of my young life):

1. GRADUATE (SOME DEGREE OF) CUM LAUDE – Check!

On May 8, 2010, I walked across the stage at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and heard my name followed by the most sophisticated pronunciation of the word “Coom Lao–duh!” Although the ceremony itself was very anticlimactic (there was no commencement speaker and I was 1 of 2 to throw my cap…), the most gratifying feeling came over me as I shook Dr. Witt’s hand and received my temporary degree: a certificate of participation and print of Denny Chimes. Roll Tide!

2. LAND A JOB I TRULY ENJOY – Check!

It took two tries and 10 VERY long months, but a chance I took more than 7 years ago came full-circle. The chance is an entirely different novel to write (if possible at all), but an old friend thought to recommend me for an open position in a young startup on the opposite side of the country. Get Satisfaction is THE place for me! It just happens to be in San Francisco, where in March I verbally declared my intentions of ending up at in a HAPPO post, and I’ve already embraced this enchanting city as home (check off goal 10 as well). Marketing Analyst is my title, and product marketing, marketing and sales are my areas of progress on a daily basis. Yesterday was my one month anniversary, and I have learned more new information in that one month than the last year of college (nothing beats hands on learning)! I eagerly walk to work every day and anticipate only the most exciting unexpected events on a daily basis.

3. VOLUNTEER/DONATE MORE THAN $ OFTEN – 2011

This is a goal I am ashamed to not have accomplished, given my weeks turned to months of down time in Tuscaloosa. Towards the end of my “time off,” I did apply to volunteer at T-town Paws and tutor local middle and high school students, but was fortunately presented with the Get Satisfaction opportunity before my services were needed. San Francisco has many volunteer and time donation opportunities available, and as I settle in I plan to make a continuing impact on my community as best I can.

4. MAKE GOOD INDUSTRY CONNECTIONS (NETWORK) – HUGE check!

Even during my brief time in Atlanta, I made some great friends and enough PR connections to recommend a good friend for her potential dream position – and she continues to write the rest of that story today. Coworkers at Houston’s and the National Peanut Board wished me well on my journey back to Tuscaloosa and whatever my future had in store, and I still find time to connect with them weekly, if not daily for some – I’m sure to intentionally cross paths with some. In San Francisco, I’ve been blessed with some of the most connected people I’ve ever met, yet at the same time I’m learning just how small of a world San Francisco (and Silicon Valley for that matter) truly is. These new connections continue to grow week by week and undoubtedly will help create the path my young career will take, and I am truly grateful for each and every one. Just next week, at Dreamforce 2010, I’ll be part of a special event for analysts, investors, experts, thought leaders and more in the social CRM space, and I can’t wait to just be in the presence of such an intelligent crowd.

5. PAY OFF MY CREDIT CARD – Not even close haha – 2011

Let’s be real: I’m a recent college graduate with student loans who has worked a full-time job for one of the past four months. The good news is: I now have a full-time position and am managing my income wisely enough to begin accomplishing this grossly important goal. Mark this priority number one for Q1 (that’s seriously what I just typed at 10:30 pm on my personal blog…).

6. START SAVING FOR RETIREMENT – Just start saving! 2011

Again, let’s be real here: This month I began receiving paychecks as well as paying off my student loans, so the more realistic goal of saving a percentage of my monthly income will carry through 2011. As I get into a full month’s pay cycle and past relocation costs, I’ll be able to determine the amount of which my pay is “leftover” and available for savings. Here’s to frugality.

7. PUT A BIG CHUNK IN MY STUDENT LOANS – 2011

Again, I just started loan repayment and am adjusting to my recurring monthly income and financial obligations. As the year progresses, I’m sure I’ll determine a way to spend less and contribute more to the financial freedom of one day being debt free! Of course, when all of our hard work at 2nd & Harrison pays off…

8. BE A BETTER SM/BLOG RESOURCE – 2011

The combination of inconsistency and excitement (call it highs and lows or what you will) contributed to a less than stellar online presence over the last half of 2010. There were times I proactively took advantage of social media and established industry connections and job leads, and there have been times where I’ve been sophomoric and distant from all things technological. More recently, as some may have noticed, I restructured my Twitter account to be more of an information channel of all things SCRM, CRM, customer service, startups, tech and business development, etc. The more I immerse myself in the industry, the more I learn and the better I become at my job, and I’ve configured Twitter to aid in my progress. I apologize for any of you who might actually be reading this that I may have “un-followed” – it’s certainly nothing personal. As the founders and current CEO will tell you, there’s no true purpose for Twitter, but I’ve found a way for it to work for me.

9. WAIT ON BUYING A CAR – Sold it! Hooray! Check!

Atlanta: Impossible to survive without a vehicle.

San Francisco: Impossible to pay less for parking than you do for a vehicle.

My beautiful 2006 VW Passat served me well for those few months my name was on the title, but I can’t say I truly miss it now. I’m finally back to a city where there is EVERYTHING within a reasonable walking distance (Boston being my first place like this). Within single-digit miles from my studio apartment, there are some of the most famous landmarks in the USA, as well as countless places to eat, drink, socialize and culture yourself on any number of topics. This doesn’t mean I’m not interested in a motorcycle to tour the Pacific coast in the near future…

10. START CREATING A HOME BASE – Check! Check! DOUBLE CHECK!

I love the work I do and the people I invent with on a daily basis. I love hearing the homeless man sing Lean on Me until 3 am (sort of). I love the Chinese/Vietnamese and Indian/Pakistani restaurants on my block. I love the Golden Gate Bridge, Pacific Ocean sunsets, Embarcadero walks and the sights, sounds and smells of Chinatown. Maine will always be my heaven, but right now San Francisco is my home. I love San Francisco.

Cheers!

To a prosperous, adventurous and healthy 2011 for you, your friends and your family!

And if you’re ever in San Francisco, you know how to find me.

The Attensity Engage Conference was held at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California–the technology mecca I previously only dreamed of visiting–and I was lucky enough to attend today’s sessions. This was my first professional conference and it did not disappoint. Here are my top three takeaways and highlights, in brief:

1. Social Customer Relationship Management (SCRM) is not as much about technology as it is the people using the technology–on both ends. Customer management is going to constantly evolve and adopt [names and acronyms], but the social characteristics of humans are going to remain at its core.

2. Facebook knows more about your customers than you do, because your customers create, share and engage in conversation about your brand in their community already. Bringing a community back into your own life cycle is how you leverage SCRM–through innovation and collaboration.

3. Products are an excuse to sell services. Customers will leave a brand because of an experience. Customers don’t care who solves their problems (answers questions, etc.) in your company, they just want the best experience in the shortest amount of time possible.

1. Brian Solis shook my hand, congratulated me on my position and signed a copy of “Engage” with his name plus “Get Satisfaction!” It was great to listen to and meet an author I’m currently reading–can’t say it’s ever happened before!

2. I gained a greater understanding for my industry and even more respect for the intelligence of the individuals in it. Keeping up with the rapid advancements of technology and markets seems impossible, yet these thought leaders and luminaries find a way to provide solutions and see ahead of the curve.

3. I gained confidence and am more inspired than ever to not be afraid to fail. Another attendee asked me why I think the most progressive and innovative ideas usually come from the United States, and I sincerely attribute it to the passion and dedication of entrepreneurs and the American spirit. Nothing is impossible.

Today was an enriching and educational experience on so many levels. When future opportunities to engage within my industry come up, I plan to seize every feasible one and make the most of each. I’m already part of planning a similar event and can not wait to share even more highlights and takeaways with you again.

For young professionals out there, don’t ever pass on the chance to engage with your coworkers, competitors and partners–on a professional AND personal level. The more you discuss, listen and learn about your profession, you will not only be better at it, but you will enjoy it more, too.

Here are some tweets from the event hashtag, #attensity10:

The transition from my previous post to this is impossible to encapsulate in a brief conversation, though I’ll do my best.

What was

The National Peanut Board was a blessing in so many ways and I’m positive it will continue to teach me lessons as my career develops. During my short time with some wonderful people, my eyes were truly opened to the benefits/ rewards of pursuing your passions, working hard to achieve personal goals and being willing to take risks others aren’t. Representing, assisting and meeting American peanut farmers was an enlightening experience and one I learned countless professional and personal lessons from.

What happened

After much internal debate and reaching out to trusted friends, professionals and family, I came to the conclusion my employer and I were not the best fit. We had a viable relationship and were helping each other make desired progress towards our own goals but just because something works doesn’t always mean it’s working as well as it could/ should.

Although very fortunate for the opportunity, I informed my supervisors of my decision to leave the organization, allowing them to invest in a more suitable, more sustainable relationship for my vacated position. There were no selfish motives in my decision and the NPB  was understanding, considerate and thankful of my honesty (and for that, I’m thankful).

What’s next

I’m very interested, excited and eager to see what comes next. Some of my true passions (remember, this blog is titled Prisoner of Interest) include physical challenges, exploring environments, the act of travel, engaging with individuals, becoming involved in communities, and experiencing new and unusual cultures to name just a few. I’m currently researching and applying for jobs all over the world–and have even applied to completely opposite industries on the same day–while pursuing my dreams of a rewarding and fulfilling lifestyle of daily adventures.

Creating New Beginnings

Call it my quarter-life crisis, selfish, or stereotypical of “my generation”; whatever you choose to call it, I’m confident in my decision to leave a comfortable job in a tough market in pursuit of what is best for me.

After enrolling in, attending classes at and withdrawing from two different colleges in a two year period, I received a lot of criticism, flak and doubt from family and friends. In my eyes, graduating Cum Laude from the top-ranked program in my area of study, experiencing a BCS National Championship and joining a tradition as rich as The University of Alabama’s doesn’t prove my critics wrong; my accomplishments prove hard work, optimism, belief in yourself and never settling pays off very well–and sometimes in unpredictable ways.

I’m open to advice, recommendations and/ or suggestions, as well as open conversation on your thoughts and opinions of my current situation.

“So, where do you work?”

While sitting at a bar in the Highlands area of Atlanta, a coworker and I assured the bartender–also named Josh–what we were about to tell him was the truth; this certainly wasn’t the bartender’s first rodeo and he was attentive although certain he had heard more surprising responses than the one he was about to hear.

“We work for the National Peanut Board.”

Josh walked away scratching his head.

It is most definitely the truth; there is such a thing as the National Peanut Board (NPB) and I do, in fact, work for it.

National Peanut Board

Simply put, NPB is a farmer-funded commodity board for the research, education and promotion of USA-grown peanuts. You can learn more about who we are and what we do here. We operate like most businesses and even have a blog, Flickr account, YouTube channelTwitter handle and Facebook page.

Yes, peanuts and peanut butter have gone social and now mobile: click here to download the new, FREE Peanuts: Energy for the Good Life iPhone app.

What I do for the American peanut farmer and consumer is very interesting, entertaining and educational. My official title is Marketing and Communications Coordinator but my responsibilities are unlimited and every day is different than the one before.

Believe it or not, peanuts and peanut butter require just as much research, writing, planning, pitching, monitoring and travel (as well as all other typical areas of communications) as the next commodity, product or service. In fact, in our board room we have the PRSA Silver Anvil as well as two PRSA Awards of Excellence from just last year. But the real difference is the relationships we have with some of the world’s top chefs, award-winning agencies and the people whose product we market–the American peanut farmer.

Although we are a nonprofit, overseen by the USDA and focus solely on the peanut, this position is completely what you make of it and is a respectable and worthwhile entry-level job. Below are just a few samples of the work I have done in my quick first two months with NPB. The time since graduation has passed unbelievably fast and the grownup life is taking some time to get used to, but I could not be more thankful to have an income, roof over my head and my entire career to look forward to.

Be on the lookout for peanut advertisements and sightings over the next year and please share your thoughts and experiences with me as often as possible! No, really, we go nuts over feedback! And keep the puns and jokes coming haha ;-)

Blog Posts, Newsletters and Website Copy

Peanut Butter Biscotti

PB&J: The Quintessential American Experience

Martha Stewart’s Inventive Take on “Packing Peanuts” and a New Recipe

Media Coverage (Website)

News in a Nutshell 8/16/10  (Biweekly Newsletter)

News in a Nutshell 8/02/10

May 8, 2010 is one of the proudest and most rewarding days of my life. On May 8, I graduated from The University of Alabama.

As a student of a credible and reputable communications program, I understood my work was held to a different standard and expectations were ever-increasing. Now, as a graduate and job-seeker, I hold others to the standard that I was held to as a student, yet I am finding myself shortchanged and weary of great expectations–from others and myself.

No, I’m not giving up within the first full week of searching for my first entry-level position. What I am doing, is questioning the process by which organizations seek their labor and how work-hungry candidates are finding employment (or trying to).

Just today I have been 1) hung up on after being told not to follow up on an online application, 2) asked not to apply for a position in person and 3) signed myself out of signing up for a profile to complete an application to … I’m not totally sure where I went wrong, really.

My translation: 1) Please don’t show interest in our company. 2) We’d prefer to judge your book by its cover. 3) Please refrain from showing personality; we don’t appreciate unique applications.

Sure, I’m frustrated, annoyed and confused by a lot of today’s events. I worked hard for four years to be prepared, desirable and employable – I want a job! I understand I’m not the only one suffering from this predicament, but I’m not venting for me alone! I don’t feel any job-seekers–recent graduates or not–should have to go through a completely ridiculous and inconsiderate job application process that the “convenience” of the Internet has made the standard of today.

Can interpersonal skills and effort be required of a position but not allowed as part of the application?

I’m openminded about this, really, but man does it feel good to share these thoughts with you. I worked long and hard to earn my degree from UA (and had my issues there, too haha) and I know that working long and hard for the right entry-level position will eventually payoff too.

So, hiring managers, is there a justifiable reason for the “simplified,” “convenient” and all-too-common online application process?

And job-seekers, what are you doing to standout, overcome today’s obstacles and earn the right entry-level position for you?