On BlogHer: multiple impressions, part deux

Commercialism

Well, okay. We are a commercial force, we women bloggers.

CarTalk I found the Saturn/GM car folks nice. Note to self. I thought Saturn ≠ GM. (no. did not drive. Got the nice bag with their lotion-ey swag, tho). Low key, good.

Hallmark (we’ve been doing cards and expression forever. eCards: a long time. Want to hear from you about ways to integrate our stuff with your blogs). Mildly Positive. I’m not a big sender of e-cards. But I liked the “we want your input” and “we’re here to support what you want to do” feel to the whole thing.

BeJane. Gag me. Despite the fact that I’m part of their target demographic: single woman homeowner. But their unintentional comedy duo schtick wasn’t good. Someone at my table said, “If they say the word ’empower’ one more time, I’ll hurl” — hell, we shoulda yelled Bingo! (for context, see here or here)

Later, I went to visit their site. Oh dear. The marketing people behind BeJane are so in love with themselves. Behold the site’s “What is Be Jane” (i.e., About) Statement, on the bottom half of their home page:

Be Jane, Inc. is the first branded media company dedicated to serving the fastest growing segment of the home improvement marketplace – women do-it-yourselfers.

I’d love to have been in the cry room of the usability lab (the sweaty cubbyhole behind the one-way mirror where site development staff observe the tests) when they were testing peoples’ reactions to the home page.

Usability Test Engineer: “Please look at the home page and say aloud any thoughts you have about what you see on the page. Remember, there is no wrong way to do this, and any- and everything you have to say will be very helpful to us.”

Test User: “Okay. [pause] Be Jane. About. Oh good, now I can figure out what this site is about. What’s all this? There’s all this crap in the sentence. I don’t find out what the site is until the end. It’s not about do-it-yourselfers, it’s about media companies and branding. It’s about market segments. This isn’t a site for people who want to do home improvment, it’s a site about marketing and media.”

Usability Test Engineer: Uh, huh.

Test User leans a little closer to the Usability Test Engineer and whispers, “It’s bullshit. If I want to get info about my house, this ‘branded media company’ stuff gets in the way. In fact, it’s a red herring. ‘Media company.’ Is this, like, Hollywood? Is this a cable channel? I’m not into branding irons. Maybe if I want to use a soldering iron….Do these guys compete with Queer Eye only instead of the Fab Four it’s the Fab One?”

Site Developer A, in Cry Room [thinks] “Good, now I’ll be able to use this to bolster my case to the marketing higher ups who insisted on putting that on the home page.”

Later, after the results of the Usability Test have been compiled, the report written up and delivered, and the Usability Test Company paid, the Site Developers sit at a conference table to discuss the results with executive staff, including the Marketing Veep who, unfortunately could not attend any of the actual usability tests due to a schedule conflict.

Site Developer A: “We need to change the About Statement on the home page. Users had a hard time figuring out what the site is about. Look—” rifling through pages of the report “Even the Usability Analysis agrees and recommends that we simplify the statement. If we just cut out all the marketese and put do-it-yourselfer earlier in the sentence.”

Be Jane, Inc. is the first branded media company dedicated to serving the fastest growing segment of the home improvement marketplace – women do-it-yourselfers.

Be Jane, Inc. is a company dedicated to serving women do-it-yourselfers.

Marketing Veep: “I think it’s important for our investors and business development to let others know of our prime positioning in the marketplace. That way we can leverage our core competencies. This site is all about empowerment, and this statement both tells the user we are empowering them while we empower ourselves with our co-branding business opportunities.” unspoken: And besides, I wrote that statement

Site Developer A: (unspoken) grrrr. Our train wreck, already in progress.

Johnson & Johnson is launching something new, portal-like at baby.com. Okay. I have no babies, so it’s not my thing. My only other thought: Is this a mystery solved? I remember earlier this year there was a big mystery focus group of bloggers who happened to be mothers who all flew to the West Coast to hang out and chat about something.

It’s the water…. So I’ve read other thoughts on the water. Which didn’t taste as awful to me as it did to others. My first encounter with it was on Friday, when I was in full-scale-pre-presentation panic mode. I’d set up all! my! audio! stuff! and ran out to the hallway to grab a bite of chicken, and I saw the water. Cool!

WaterWoman: “Do you know the story about this water?”
Susan: “Yes, it’s a total Godsend to those who are speaking at One (pm).”

Somehow I don’t think that was the kind of sales pitch she was preparing herself to give.

I guess the upshot is this: If the sponsors addressed the room in a way that placed emphasis on you, the conference attendee, it was okay. Hallmark was okay. Johnson and Johnson was okay, tho I wasn’t their intended audience. BeJane was so not okay, because it was all about them and not about us. And they have a home page to match. You, the site visitor do not matter as much as it matters to us that we are a branded! media! company! wotevah. Nevah goin’ back there again.

Hey, Hey, LA!

In the Deeply Geeky session, Heather of Heathervescent mentioned some kind of geek gathering dinners or get togethers. I am so down with that. I also met a couple of videobloggers local to the area.. will post names and links here…

Overheard, in the food line: danah boyd is moving to LA. I followed up. Venice. It’s across town, but hey. She says that USC is hosting some kind of special focus on the future of the internet and is inviting a whole bunch of luminaries to LA… either permanently (such as herself), or for once-a-month doings: danah boyd, Cory Doctorow, Larry Lessig, Joi Ito. Oh damn, my memory of the rest of the names is marred by Yahootinis (which Erin, quoted by Jill, thinks the purple stuff on the rim of the glasses mighta been nerds), Woolfcamp, several days, and a speeding ticket. So I forgot some of the particulars, but Da-yum! It’s about frickin’ time! I see all these Ooh! some great meeting taking place in Berkeley! In San Francisco! In San Jose! I can’t flit up the state to join in, much as I’d like to. So I’m totally stoked by this USC Internet thang danah mentioned.

. . .
hm… I think there might have to be a BlogHer wrap up, part 3….

4 responses to “On BlogHer: multiple impressions, part deux”

  1. Denise

    I really loved this analysis of the sponsors, particularly the Be Jane. Everyone has said why they didn’t like it but your breakdown was excellent, right on target.

    The Johnson’s thing is different from what happened when the mommybloggers went “somewhere” to talk about “something” – that was Clubmom and those blogs have launched. This J&J thing sounds like it is going to be similar, and they again pulled in mommybloggers to talk about it with them. I personally have a lot of respect for companies who pull in women, who are doing what they want to do, and learn from them – particularly when they pay them. Mommies have rarely gotten any respect for their work and they never get paid, so this is excellent. Well it will be if J&J listens to their mommy consultants. So far, it looks like Clubmom has listened.

    I love Danah Boyd, just have to say that as often as possible. 🙂

  2. Bill Humphries

    It was good to meet you at BlogHer.

    That whole BeJane thing is going to go down in history as a textbook example of how-not-to-market. Hopefully, the MSN Spaces folk will learn from it, and the BeJane women won’t be tainted for life.

  3. Susan A. Kitchens

    Thanks, Denise. It’s *prolly* safe to say that J&J will do it okay. I mean, these companies don’t stay around forever if they ignore their main audience. yes, I realized in saying so that the Old Been Around A Long Time trend also makes for an entity that’s supremely out of touch. But it sounded as though they weren’t. Now, of Jane, well….

    And Bill, when I finally heard you say your name (think it was on the Great Sumptuous Chocolate L-Shaped Couch at Badger’s), I thought, “I know that name!” But it wasn’t until you posted here and I saw whump that I went, well, whu– uh, bingo!

  4. heathervescent

    The next geek dinner in LA is Tuesday the 15th at Buca in Santa Monica, all info and to RSVP go here! http://barcamp.org/BarCampLA-Geek4