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A post-mortem of the Yacht sex tape. What they did right, what they did wrong, and what marketers should learn

A post-mortem of the Yacht sex tape. What they did right, what they did wrong, and what marketers should learn

I promise, I’m not the type that downloads leaked sex tapes.

To date I’ve still never seen Kim K’s infamous Ray J video that sky rocketed her to infamy, nor was I temped by the The Fappening that caught everyone from Jennifer Lawrence to Kate Upton. I don’t want to be part of victimizing those whose photos are stolen, nor do I care to feed the hype of those who fake a leak for the publicity.

On Monday evening, however, I found myself with credit card in hand agonizing over whether I should download the leaked tape of one of my favorite bands. It helps with temptation that Kim K and JLaw are such tremendous public figures they scarcely seem real, but the band Yacht feel like old friends. From LA to Austin, I’ve seen the Portland duo more than almost any other band. Only one night before I found myself hemming and hawing over the download, I had actually been corresponding with them on Instagram.

In a nutshell, the band had announced on its Facebook page that a private sex tape had been leaked by a third party and they were asking fans to respect their privacy and avoid downloading it. Media from Pitchfork to Gawker quickly picked up the story, and fans filled the comments with messages of sympathy and support. Flames were fanned even further when a few hours later the band announced that they were taking ownership and control of the leak by publishing the video for themselves for a $5 fee. They still didn’t want you to watch it, the video contained things that some people might find shocking, but if you must, they requested you download it from them.

So there I sat fighting an internal battle between my feminist sense of justice and my curiosity over a tantalizing video of one of the cutest couples in indie rock. Luckily, before I had to compromise any morals news started trickling in that anyone purchasing was being redirected to a 404 page and wasn’t being charged. That’s when it started to come into focus that we were all the butt of, at best, a very bad joke, and, at worst, a totally tasteless PR stunt.

YACHT Tomboys.0.0

There are a few things out there that you still can’t joke about and sexual assault is one of those. Revenge porn is a horrific problem that can drive victims to suicide, and that US states are finally starting to take action on. Having to recently watch  sports reporter Erin Andrews in her fight against secretly filmed nude videos was agonizing. In the back of the mind of any person who has ever take a nude pic, is the fear that someone will use it as a weapon against them, and tons of people have experienced this very situation.

I can imagine the horror spreading across the couple’s faces as responses trickled in. On Tuesday, a day I’m sure Yacht had anticipated dropping a new music video, raking in press, and having pundits marvel at their wit, they instead released an apology. Unfortunately it wasn’t much of one.

The coals on all of this are still pretty hot, but we’re going to sift through the ashes and look at what the media-savvy Yacht did right, and where they went horribly horribly wrong. Let’s start with the positive.

They got their friends to play along
Yacht are no slouch when it comes to PR and hacking the news cycle. They had a song that streamed only during Uber surging periods, and their whole shtick frames the band as a cult-like organization. Enlisting famous friends like Miranda July in the stunt gave credence to the theory that the video may be legit.


They made a really quality video and used native channels
I’m not going to ruin the surprise but the video is actually pretty great. It’s very on brand for the band, well done, and low budget. They also loaded it on Pornhub and PirateBay rather than Youtube or Vimeo. Without giving too much away, it would probably pass the censors for those sites, but instead they went for a more native content location on the hubs for web smut.

Somewhere in this terrible stunt really was a good idea
As I sat there with that credit card in hand, I really did have to reflect on the fact that I hadn’t laid down cash for Yacht’s latest album but I’d been quick to shell out to see their dirty laundry. A sex tape has been a PR strategy for everyone from Kim Kardashian to Farrah Abrams, and they do it because it works. It’s actually fairly clever to hack the press for your band, while at the same time making a statement about media, privacy, and supporting musicians.

Unfortunately it didn’t turn out that way. Here’s where Yacht messed up.

They played victim
If Yacht had seeded the video to the press, to their friends, on to these porn sites, and with fan influencers and then just shut up, I think they would have gotten what they wanted. The video is actually quality enough that I think people would be willing to play along to see the “blue waffles” style shock on others’ faces. However, Yacht made multiple statements about how they were victimized and how the video was stolen and an invasion of their privacy. Even a short statement of “We understand a private video of us has started circulating. We’re still trying to make sense of the situation now that our unconventional sex life is public. We’ll be issuing a response soon.” They pulled at our heart strings and turned themselves into the new balloon boy.

They didn’t check their tech
The strategy Yacht took was bad, but their tech execution was arguably worse. You see, they didn’t code that site to throw up a 404 when people purchased the video, it was actually an error and they likely missed out on collecting thousands of dollars. The developer, Daniel Bogan, included his Twitter handle at the footer of the site, and Tuesday morning announced he clearly had not carefully read the terms of service for the Stripe payment service. Stripe doesn’t allow adult content. A few hours later he would make his account private. This was an amateur hour. They took went to all the effort to strategize this, film a video, reach out to friends, but didn’t close the loop by QAing their tech.

They didn’t genuinely apologize
When you screw up, you need to own up. By far the biggest sin of all was responding with a half assed apology that pointed the finger at the media for its “irresponsible leap from ‘celebrity sex tape’…to ‘revenge porn.’” But that was exactly the situation Yacht implied with its statements. Yacht hijacked the tendency of the media to post about leaked sex tapes then blamed them for calling the tape leaked.

If this scandal was your first introduction to Yacht, let me apologize on their behalf and assure you this lapse is unlike them. Try to quell your anger while you listen to Shangri LA or Psychic City.

And if perchance this post should make its way to Jona and Claire themselves…

As a digital marketer myself I see the value of playing with emerging trends and technology and taking big swings to break through all the noise. But when we take big swings, we sometimes have big misses and this was one. You have always said that Yacht is a holy trinity: The Business, The Band, and the Belief System, and I’ve admired your frankness that working in the music industry is as much about business as it is beats. The Band is still good, but you need to take a moment to think about the Business and the Belief System.




Why One-Click Buy Buttons Failed And How They Can Be Fixed

Why One-Click Buy Buttons Failed And How They Can Be Fixed

When a man takes a woman out, he can’t simply go straight for the goods. She needs time. She needs to be romanced, she wants to learn more about him, she wants some proof points that he’s a good guy. There’s not really a shortcut. He has to seduce her to seal the deal.

So knowing this about women, why in the world so many social networks thought one-click buy buttons would be the next big ecommerce revolution, I’ll never know. Making checkout easy is one thing, but you can’t simply jump over so many steps in the consideration process and expect to make a sale.

There’s whole businesses built around ratings and reviews, user generated content reviews, and sizing information – all of these incrementally pushing customers toward a sale. Yet sites including Twitter, Wanelo, Instagram, and Pinterest all poured resources into the technology hoping that easing the path to purchase would result in big sales. Unfortunately for them, easy checkout is only part of the shopping equation.

First of all, understand that scaling one-click buy buttons isn’t easy. There’s the challenge of integrating with retailers’ ecommerce platforms, which can range from major providers like Demandware to hacked together legacy systems or custom built solutions. Then, retailers have to be on top of creating robust, up-to-date product feeds in order for their listings to be any good, and some still struggle with the technology. It’s a resources intensive mission for a social network to take on, and it opens a lot of new opportunities for security risks and customer service issues.

imgres-4Make no mistake, there are certainly products for which one-click purchase can work, but for the most part people don’t just fall in love with products at first sight. Customers want to read reviews, see more photos, zoom in for details, find out about shipping, and comparison shop. Today’s consumer isn’t an idiot, and has realized that one-click impulse buys can result in some pretty crap purchases. In a study, only 35 percent of millennials said they were likely to use buy buttons on Facebook, and only 24 percent would use buy buttons on Twitter.

Finally, retailers shouldn’t cheat themselves with a channel that’s going to give them no opportunity to up-sell, will lower their cart size, and drag down their average order value. Because the customer is only buying one item, they’re likely paying full shipping and not even being pushed to hit a free ship threshold. Some of these one-click systems even cut out the exchange of the customer’s email or the ability to opt them into marketing. So not only have you lowered the amount of your sale, you’ve missed the opportunity to ever sell to them again.

The idea of the one-click checkout is good in spirit. Yes, social networks should definitely try to get users credit cards and make it seamless for them to purchase – but they need to also start to fill in other gaps in the sales process. At Wanelo, they’re starting to allow users to review product so they can have a database of  reviews, but social networks could also potentially find a way to integrate in with systems like Bazaarvoice to track a retailer’s reviews directly into the social app.

Buy-Button-Social-Media-FINALThese social networks actually even have some added advantages when it comes to the sales process. If a shopper is under a free shipping threshold, they could show them other items they’ve pinned and saved that would help them hit it, or suggest other frequently purchased items from the retailer.

Buy buttons aren’t a total flop, but social networks need to realize there’s no way to fast track the sales process, and their next innovations need to happen in the middle of the funnel.



The Unexpected Return of The QR Code and What it Means For Marketers

The Unexpected Return of The QR Code and What it Means For Marketers

At Facebook’s F8 2016 conference one of the quieter announcements was the addition of scannable codes in the Messenger app that let you easily follow new friends. This isn’t a new thing, Snapchat’s been doing it for a while now - and so successfully I regularly see brands using the mark for their social avatars. For me personally, when I see these scannable codes, a deep down part of myself feels validated.

I was QR champion before it finally got relegated to crackpot status (the blog “people scanning QR codes” was peak humiliation.) The concept of real world hyperlinks that could be cheaply and easily reproduced and were for the most part free and open source got me juiced. I presented a NerdNite speech on the topic and incorporated the codes into a SXSW promo for my site, Austin Style Watch.

It was at Forever 21 that I got to really experience the sad state of QR when even promos in huge malls were only receiving a hand full of scans. I can’t say we always had then posted at the best size, in the best locations, but we tried.

So why now? Why suddenly has this dusty old technology found its way into the trendiest apps of the moment? Here’s why you’re going to see these codes coming back:

Wide distribution in apps
One of the biggest challenges facing QR in America was that none of the phones came pre-loaded with any sort of scanner – something that’s common practice in most other countries. There was also so much fragmentation with proprietary codes and the introduction of augmented reality, poor consumers were just confused. 900 million people are using Facebook messenger, 200 million are on Snapchat so you finally have scanners on the phones of tons of consumers (even if they’re under the guise of chat apps.) Shazaam, an app traditionally used for identifying music, is also getting in on this area working with TV commercials and doing visual billboard scanning. We finally have a lot of Westerners with “scanners” on their phones, and they could be easily opting into messaging at brick and mortar locations or scanning to get some stylist info on a product.

Snapchat for marketing

Snapchat for ecommerce marketing

Fear of location
SoLoMo has been a term for at least three SXSWs by now, but consumers are still creeped out with too easily being mapped by strangers. We love mapping and tracking, but we want it for our Ubers and our Yelps, not with our messaging or marketing apps. Facebook has tried using GPS location in the past and been burned, so it’s interesting to see them take a step back in technology to achieve this goal. Apple gave retailers big ideas with Bluetooth beacons, but even Apple itself has been slow to adopt the technology in its own stores.

If you’re a marketer who has completely written off codes, or an injured soul like me who walked out of meeting with egg on their face, it’s time to let codes back into your life. Keep an eye on this space and how these social platforms are extending abilities.

Give your user what they want, need, and love

Give your user what they want, need, and love

A year ago I noticed a sudden growth in referrals and starting poking around to figure out where these new users were coming from. It was a little startup with a funny name but it was sending big numbers of visitors, and they were converting once they got there. Today, Forever 21 is the most followed brand on Wanelo and it’s become an important new tool in our social arsenal.

Wanelo is one of the best examples out there today of pure social commerce, where users don’t just squirrel away pictures for inspiration, they make birthday wishlists and they solicit friends for advice before buying. I dove in head first to the community and tried to understand how users conversed, before eventually reaching out to Wanelo for their feedback. We went on to become a launch partner for the site’s November release of the Stories feature, and have found creative ways to use the sites collections and stories to curate our products into a narrative fans engage with.

This white paper covers some of the tips and tricks I’ve gleaned trying to figure out the science of what users “want, need, and love”, but that said Wanelo is constantly evolving and rules that applied even six months ago have changed to today. I encourage marketers to get their hands messy and start trying to find their way around a social site that shows no signs of stopping.