Monthly Archives: December 2006

Stupid Bush, beligerant Chavez

Venezuela could soon be the largest producer of oil in the world and will almost certainly be sitting on the largest known reserves. The Chavez experiment is to translate epic natural wealth (already producing $120B of income per year) into broad-based national prosperity. No democracy has ever managed this (Norway?). No country has ever turned wealth in natural resources into universal wellbeing (theocratic dictatorships don’t count).

What’s frustrating about the mutual US-Venezuela hate-fest is that both nations are missing a huge opportunity to improve the outcome of the experiment. Friendly (or at least non-hostile) relations could turn Chavez’ plan to extend the most basic benefits of oil prosperity to millions of Venezuelans into reality. But Bush won’t tolerate a commie in his back yard and Chavez can’t seem to set aside his rabble rousing and tub thumping. As a result, inward investment is choked off, regional solidarity is reduced to a self-limiting club of left-wing governments and an opportunity to extend prosperity and peace across the whole of Central and South America is thrown away

I wonder if Democratic control of congress will result in a more accepting stance towards America’s upstart neighbours? Looks like Chavez’s big third term victory won’t bring about any moderation to his rhetoric either. That’s a pity. Result: another stupid international deadlock where agreement and progress would be quite possible (I also find myself wondering if things might have been different if these countries had been led by women).

Stupid Threshers

It turns out the Thresher promotion I wrote about yesterday was a fake viral campaign and, of course, it also turns out that everyone already knew so my enthusiastic Poirot-style revelation wasn’t quite so clever.

Anyway, the whole thing is so wrong on so many levels I hardly know where to begin. I think I’ll just say that it’s not OK to deceive your customers into spending money in your shop and pretending that a quite deliberate promotional campaign was an accident is not going to do more than win you a short term sales boost (a pretty big one, I’ll acknowledge). Sounds like a scam to me. Stupid Threshers.

Is the Thresher discount coupon a fake viral campaign?

The phony Thresher 40% discount coupon
Let’s get this straight. The Threshers coupon is a con. Or at least a clever pre-Christmas promotion. Let me sketch the background for you foreigners (although I suppose the thing has probably been downloaded on every continent by now – as we speak, no doubt, there are people wandering the streets of Lusaka and Aukland and Santiago looking for a branch of Threshers).

Here in Britain there’s a chain of off-licenses (liquor stores) called Thresher. A couple of years ago they ran a one-month 3-for-2 promotion (buy two bottles of anything, get a third free). It was a huge hit so the management extended it indefinitely. This, obviously, required a pretty chunky upward adjustment to the store’s per-bottle prices and Thresher is now a very expensive place to buy a single bottle of wine but the effect on the business has been substantial. Thresher is the number 1 UK non-supermarket booze chain, sales are booming and the brand stands out from the mass of crappy High Street wine shops.

So, this week, Thresher accidentally released a ‘staff only’ (or ‘supplier only’ or ‘friends only’, depending who you believe) print-out-and-present 40% discount coupon onto the Internet. The chain estimates 800,000 downloads already and claims to be ‘worried’ about the effect of such a biblical flood of coupons on profits before Christmas. Of course, this is all classic retail bullshit. Even with a per-bottle discount of 40% the store will certainly still make a net profit on all those new sales and, of course, the boost to raw volume will do the chain’s December numbers no harm at all. Note also, that the 40% discount cancels the 3-for2 promotion (you can’t have both) so there’s a good chance that this rogue coupon will actually boost profit for its ten day duration.

I’m genuinely impressed: a 40% discount coupon would have been quite a good idea for the first ten days of boozy December but a highly viral, slightly naughty (“hey, did you hear about that Threshers coupon?”) ‘accidental’ campaign is cleverer still.

In my local branch of Thresher this evening, the buzz was tangible. Empty shelves and lots of excited punters snatching the otherwise-overpriced booze from the shelves. We all, clearly, felt rather pleased with ourselves. We were participating in something cool and contemporary and we felt really canny to be slapping down our ‘dodgy’ coupons. I suppose it’s win-win (I did get a nice discount) but, ultimately those empty shelves mean only one thing: big profits for Thresher. Clever Thresher.

What am I on about?

That last entry was a bit obscure wasn’t it? What I mean is that out there, in the world, there’s an actually existing cyberspace which was invented (or at least imagined) quite a long time ago now by people like William Gibson and Bruce Sterling and that now those same people are out there actually contributing to the actually existing thing itself (by doing things like uploading photographs of burning rubbish bins in Belgrade). Which is mind blowing really. If you ask me.