Marketing strategies that could only sell antiemetics

Having to get up at 5:25 am to go to a distant hospital is remarkably effective at crystallising negative conclusions. On the bright side, knowing what not to do is super important. Via negativa and all that.

The train ride emphasised the UI problems in Amazon.

Amazon Audible:

“We don’t care that you paid for the service. Get us more clients.”

Look at this screen: why in the name of G-d is the main part of the screen a sharing button?

Why am I paying 40 quid per book and being constantly “encouraged” to make Amazon even more money?

I don’t mind a little bit of it, but this is the unmissable, ever-present centre-piece of the their user interface.

What a fail.

feeling like someone is selling to you

Coming home after a day of travelling and exploring a new hospital, I was greeted by a letter from Tesco. “Every little helps”, I think, as I open it…


“The art of the one-directional equals sign”

So I asked for a new Clubcard cause the old one stopped working – and they sent it to me with this explanatory note on how to use a loyalty card (cause, you know, customers need one).

So if a=b, b=a… Am I right? Well, if €1=1 point, 1 point should equal €1.

But no, it actually equals one cent (you get a percent back as a coupon).

Marketing strategies that offend people’s intelligence are a bad idea.


(Also, it turns out that Irish Tesco is a considerably more upmarket establishment than its eponymous parent in the UK. The Irish branch exists as a separate subsidiary so as to not have to reveal the markups on their Irish lines, which I can only image are astronomical.)

Then Twitter came to just leave me no chance at a peaceful day of consuming products and services….

The latest set of people who sell things to you online on how to sell things online

via Twitter, of course

This reminds me of that time that my friends, having watched The Wolf of Wall Street, bought tickets to Jordan Belfort’s two-hour seminar in Dublin – where he promised to reveal all his woof-woof-woooolfy secrets.

If there was one thing that I learnt from watching The Wolf of Wall Street, it’s that one shouldn’t buy from people like him:

What did my friends say about the seminar? That they just paid 50 euro to attend a seminar that was basically a sales pitch asking them to attend a considerably more expensive two-day seminar in London. That’s where you really learn the secrets, you see.

The idea these people have is that “it’s a numbers game, so I will just follow everyone and see what I catch”. It makes people feel expendable.

marketing strategies that annoy people

Way too much offensive marketing for one day. I can’t be the only one pissed off by these marketing strategies, can I?

All publicity is good publicity and, naturally, if I had actually been very annoyed, I wouldn’t have written about the above. Twitter, Amazon and Tesco are still super-talented marketers. They have already won, and these are minor bloopers.

And then there is the utterly ridiculous, from Colgate:

marketing strategies that annoy customers

It’s an alright toothbrush though 😉

Can we live without evil?

Black or white?

What you label as evil essentially depends on which side of you are on.

Being directional, having a goal, being in pursuit involves labelling things and people as allies or obstacles. In pursuit of our goals, we do many things which we may think are perfectly okay, but somebody else will thinks are evil. I am typing this on a MacBook Air. If I were a Chinese person, I would probably have good reason to consider Apple evil. As I am on the consumer side here, I feel somewhat overcharged and not having a lot of options beside MacBook, nonetheless meaning that they are my ally. Good and evil, all at once.

My actions inadvertently lead to the death of the cutest and friendliest cat you can ever hope to meet. This made me see myself as someone who can do evil, even though it was never my intention to do evil. Whenever someone else did evil previously, I felt they were, well, evil. Bad. Shouldn’t exist. This experience has taught me to see things differently.

Another throwback to my 1990s Russian childhood: there were some Roma people around. They have vanished since; I’ve no idea where they’re gone. I guess that’s just part of the lifestyle of those people I witnessed. The unfortunate prejudice was that you need to hold on to your wallet when one is in sight. Indeed, on occasion, I would witness some cursing shopkeeper shouting as a Roma woman was running away. As a child, I recall wondering what stimulates these particular women to live this life. It is really quite clear and much more relatable when you are an adult.

Indeed, a lot of the the men and women whom we may regard as criminals are in pursuit of their goals: they have babies to feed, bills to pay, whatever. We may feel that it is unfair for them to rob what we’ve earned with our hard labour (as if robbing isn’t labour). They may feel it is unfair that we sit in a comfy office pushing paper (as if pushing paper is that easy). Our motivations are actually quite similar.

I really don’t like that variety of philosophy that ends up telling you that white is black and black is white. So I am not doing that. All I am saying is that good and evil are subjective and transient.

how do you tell good from evil
Grim but beautiful. Wicklow mountains

A Darwinian life

Any kind of goal-directed behaviour is likely to result in someone else’s suffering. Maybe, in fact, it isn’t even the goal-directedness of our behaviour, but the fact that nature makes us compete. Are win-win situations really that great when you consider the wider context? Tesco (a kind of British Walmart) not only allows residents of small towns to purchase goods cheaper, but it also creates jobs in the small town: someone has to pack the shelves, look after the purchasing decisions, etc. It is also well known that whenever the likes of Tesco move into a small town, for every job they create, they kill two jobs (who wants to buy from the butcher now that you can get the “same” stuff cheaper). Whether it is good or bad on balance, it is Darwinian and it causes suffering for the butcher.

Or consider my poor moths. I lived in a carpeted apartment for a while. Mid-plank I noticed that some bits of the carpet were bare and then found that there were moths living under it. I had to commit absolute genocide against them. Three rounds of poisonous chemicals. They must have “thought” I was evil. But did I really have a choice? Again, a Darwinian reality of them versus me.

In an insect’s mind, the most important life on this planet is an insect’s life. It’s all the insect has – nAot unlike us, though some of us think of life in a more abstract manner.

In a Darwinian world, is it possible to never do evil? How about a better question: is it that clear what good and evil is? Doesn’t it all depend of perspective?

why can't we live without evil
You can have perspective even when its cloudy. Kerry mountains.

Happiness and accomplishment

This is why being terribly obsessed with goals and accomplishment is so disturbing: it relies on a concrete framework of wanted and unwanted events. For those who are especially interested, the 1996 Mount Everest disaster is a great example of how being goal-directed can cloud one’s perception of good vs bad.

A lot of readers indicated that they wish to hear more on the subject of happiness. Read the fable “Blessings in disguise” in this context. Events that we see as undesirable could well be good. I sometimes look back at my failures. In what now seems like a former life, I was interviewed with McKinsey. After what seemed like 17 000 rounds of interviews, I received a phone call from the partner. As he greeted me, I assumed I had it in the bag. Why else would he call me? No, it was a kick in the stomach. I went digging and found out that some slightly younger guy with a reasonably unremarkable CV got it instead of me. I couldn’t figure out the conundrum for ages (I naively believed I could). I now feel that it was a lucky escape.

I even look back at some of the events I then labelled as successes and think: I wonder where I would be now if I hadn’t gone down that rabbit hole.

My working hypothesis is that to feel happiness one need to experience or perceive change and have perspective. Perspective is largely a set of cognitive judgements. I don’t want the reader to think that absolutely any event can be rationalised into being perceived as good when it was first thought of as bad or evil.

I want to simply highlight that some of our judgements about good and evil are completely off the wall.

I recall one scientist tell me that he won’t consider his career successful until he gets a paper published in Nature as a first author. Even if we ignore the needy narcissism, what a miserly contract to make with yourself! This is what I call off the wall.

Furthermore, everything is a chain of events.

If my aunt hadn’t suffered a medical negligence case, I wouldn’t have had the chance to go in on a rescue mission and reconnect with her, something that was way overdue. At the time of course, it all seemed like a bad dream.

can we live without evil
Grey’s a happy colour. Mizen Head