Monday, November 15, 2010

Internet VS Retailers: How LG's Evil Optimus One Promo Bit Them In The Ass, Hard

LG, the Korean company best known for their quirky home appliances (germ-fighting aircons, anyone), recently held a sale for their newest Android phone, the Optimus One. It was supposed to be a one-hour affair that slashed the phone to - get this - 50% off. Half price for a Froyo Android phone? Why yes, I'll take one of course!

And I, being a sucker for sales, lined up for this. Of course, I already expected the crowds and pushing and what not but what I didn't expect was that there would be no preparation at all from the end of LG when it came to crowd control. No one implemented a good lining scheme, nobody tried to put the crowd in order to prevent accidents.

To be fair, I would attest that it likely wasn't LG who was at fault in this, not entirely. The local distributor, Telecom Concepts, which also runs the cellphone retailer e-phone, had its own shortcomings. They after all were the ones who ran the store and sold the phones. In all likelihood, they were also the ones who concocted this sale and even put out ads of all sorts to promote the event - from radio, to newspaper ads to social media. All this just to sell less than a hundred such phones nationwide.

You have to admit, this promo was as brilliant as it was evil. It's like something you would see faceless corporations of yesteryear would do. Honestly though, this time around people are not going to standby and get duped in such a large scale without fighting back.

If in the past companies could get away with this by threatening media outlets by pulling out ad money, this can no longer be covered up in the internet. As recent as five years ago, people would probably just shrug and go home bruised and just not buy that product any more. Now, they will tell people, everyone they are connected to: neighbors, friends, family, Twitter followers, Facebook acquaintances, blog readers, forum fellows and more. And it will happen fast, blazingly fast.

This event happened on a Saturday and by Monday, people have put up at least two hate pages against LG on Facebook, posted hundreds of nasty comments on their wall and dozens upon dozens of blog posts, including this one.

You would think that a technology company would not stoop so low given that they know how this will play out for them. It seems there is still a disjoint here between the parent company and their local distributors. You can't just get away with swindling customers this day and age.

And get this: they had the gall to issue a press statement that sounded like it blamed the people who lined up and washed themselves from any guilt. It such a pre-internet thing to do, not to own up to what you did. On top of that, they had the cojones to offer another promo as a way to appease the people. Fool me twice, shame on me.

What most local brick and mortars don't realize is that the new internet is not just fun and games anymore. It's used for business and serious matters. Consumers own the internet so don't piss them off, especially don't do it in such an epic scale.

And the potential customers of this sale? They were not your run of the mill masa buyers. These are tech enthusiasts one and all, many well connected online and a lot of them young professionals (or younger students) who will be the ones spending for many years to come. These are the early adopters, the market makers who determine if a gadget indeed is worthy or not.

Take note that this was not merely your average phone. It's hardly a mass market phone at that price point and the usual mall crowd would probably not even know that it's better than your usual 5k phone. Only these guys, who are intimately connected with tech would know the true value of this; the same people who researched and wrestled their way ahead to get a good spot in line, and the same ones who were woefully turned down the chance to own the phone. I was one of those woeful souls, if you haven't figured it yet.

Is there an end to this rant? Yes. Retailers, especially those catering to crowds who use the internet like water - fashionistas, writers, geeks, new moms - should rethink their evil promos and strategies and turn them around before it bites them in the ass like a starving Rottweiler.

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