Putting the Teen Back in Marketing: Groupon, OkCupid Keepin' It Stupid

September 13, 2017


Proving that its record-breaking financing round hasn't made it too self-important – or that it's run by power-giddy, Zuckerbergesque children with no sense of when to get serious, not sure which – Groupon this week published a very cheeky press released titled "Groupon Raises, Like, A Billion Dollars."

Pretty spot on – it raised $950 million, which might as well be a billion. The press release also contained this line: "In the last year, Groupon has been called 'the fastest growing company ever' by Forbes Magazine and 'America's best website' by one of Groupon's television commercials." I'd be totally charmed if I didn't irrationally hate Groupon. You know how you just hate certain celebrities for little to no reason? That's how I feel about Groupon. It's the Anne Hathaway of web startups.

Groupon's founder and CEO, Andrew Mason, recently turned 30, and the company insists on hiring writers (likely fresh-out-of-college writers, given the relatively low payscale) who are hip to the firm's irreverent, "bizarre" style and way with "well-crafted absurdities." The target market certainly seems to be twenty-somethings. This whole adolescent thing – dudes in their 20s building multi-billion-dollar companies from nothing, conquering the youth of America/the world – this seems new, right? Sure, there's the '80s stereotype of the hot young buck out of business school tearing up Wall Street, but that guy wore a suit; he succumbed to all the adultish trappings of traditional power. These new CEOs have an "untucked sartorial style," to say the least. They're awkward, if not downright douchey. Is the rise of the twenty-something, self-made billionaire a hallmark of the 21st century?

Whether or not two makes a trend – and whether or not the would-be trend makes you nervous – let's embrace the spirit of youth for today, shall we? Because I have a few more links that will bring out the 14-year-old in you.

First up, I give you the latest "data porn" magic from the OkCupid blog. I confess I really only used the word "stupid" in the title for the rhyme, because this blog, OkTrends, is incredibly smart and entertaining; it's a linkbait dream. This week, they analyzed thousands of profile photos, ratings and response rates to determine why some members are beating off potential suitors with a stick, and other members are just beating … never mind. The surprising results? Simply being objectively attractive isn't enough to ensure the "pokes" will come pouring in. The team found that two women with the same average hotness rating might get wildly different response rates. For example, a woman who most men ranked as a 4 got fewer messages than a woman who had some 5's and some 1's. In other words, having a polarizing, love-it-or-hate-it face actually makes you more desirable!

The self-professed math nerds at OkTrends even came up with a formula to describe the effect that "If someone doesn't think you're hot, the next best thing for them to think is that you're ugly." Men thinking you're hot is good, but men thinking you're merely cute "actually subtracts from your message count." So the upshot is, if you want more messages, "Take whatever you think some guys don't like—and play it up." Don't try "to minimize some supposedly unattractive trait." (Outside the dating world, I think this advice makes sense for marketers, too – for example, not everyone is going to like Outspoken Media's, well, outspokenness. But those who do will really like it, so they make sure being outspoken is a huge part of their brand.)

This dating stuff segues nicely into NYT blogger Paul Krugman's recent insight that "Google Needs Sex." (Heh. He said sex.) He cites economist Brad DeLong, who notes that spammers are learning how to game Google's algorithm, so people are turning to other search engines, "precisely because they’re less pervasive and the scammers and spammers haven’t adapted to them." This, he says, "makes me think of sex." Before you retort "What doesn't?" check out his argument:

If you follow evolutionary theory, you know that one big question is why sexual reproduction evolved — and why it persists, given the substantial costs involved. Why doesn’t nature just engage in cloning?

And the most persuasive answer, as I understand it, is defense against parasites. If each generation of an organism looks exactly like the last, parasites can steadily evolve to bypass the organism’s defenses — which is why yes, we’ll have no bananas once the fungus spreads to cloned plantations around the world. But scrambling the genes each generation makes the parasites’ job harder.

So the trouble with Google is that it’s a huge target, to which human parasites — scammers and spammers — are adapting.

I’m not quite sure what search-engine sex would involve. But Google apparently needs some.

And finally, if you haven't giggled enough yet, please read this hilarious comic from The Oatmeal on how to make your shopping cart suck less, chock-full of dumb jokes, offensive language and genuine marketing insights.

Other Web Marketing Highlights

And now for some grownup links.

Brian Massey did an "extreme" email experiment to answer the question, how many blasts to a business-to-business list is too many? Massey conducted the experiment to test four hypotheses:

  1. Sending email would outperform social media marketing. (This was to test his frequent recommendation to "Get your email channel rocking before you invest in social media.”

  2. Sending frequent email would significantly increase my conversion rate.

  3. Sending frequently would cause an unacceptable number of my subscribers to unsubscribe.

  4. Sending frequent email would reduce my ability to deliver email due to spam reports.

Each email contained:

  • A non-promotional subject line

  • “Light” educational copy

  • A link to relevant online content

  • At least one offer

And the emails were sent daily, Tuesday through Friday for two weeks (eight emails over 12 days). Massey determined that as long as the messages were "informational and entertaining as well as promotional," sending more frequent messages had a positive pay-off. Go check out the data he collected on CTR, conversion rate, unsubscribes and other engagement metrics.

Adam Audette thinks we should quit obsessing about anchor text: "When people (who aren't thinking about SEO) link, they do it with the brand name, or with the URL, or with 'click here.' They don't regularly link with 'health insurance' or a perfect, money term, tidy and neat in their hrefs. Link builders have obsessed over anchor text (with good reason) for a long time. Unfortunately, it's become another manipulated signal."

On the BoostCTR Blog, friend of WordStream Tom Demers offers some basic PPC ad text guidelines and best practices for beginning AdWords/adCenter advertisers.

Watch out how much you compromise when dealing with as SEO audit and overhaul – Glenn Gabe says that when large-scale SEO is needed, compromise often means failure.

Bill Slawski writes about google bombing and how a search engine might go about mitigating these incidents.

The German government wants to fine businesses for using Google Analytics, claiming it violates people's privacy. Um, OK, Germany, whatever you say.

And to go out with a laugh, or at least a mild snicker: This is a funny story about Matt Cutts calling a sketchy SEO company on their BS.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Photo credit: Meral Crifasi

Elisa Gabbert

Elisa Gabbert

Elisa Gabbert is WordStream's Director of Content and SEO. Likes include wine, karaoke, poker, ping-pong, perfume, and poetry.

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