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« Tribute to the Winter of Vomit | Main | Perfect Summary of Consumer Sentiment »
Tuesday
Feb102009

My Take on the Cash4Gold Smackdown

I tweeted this yesterday:

I just knew that Cash4Gold outfit seemed suspicious. This is hysterical: http://tinyurl.com/dze2od 5:53 PM Feb 9th from web

Cash4Gold posted an @reply almost immediately:

Cash4GoldInc @robmackay Here's some more info on that story: http://tinyurl.com/cdwae3 6:22 PM Feb 9th from web in reply to robmackay

The link in Cash4Gold’s reply leads to a post on their blog. In the post, Cash4Gold explains that the guy offering to pay Cockeyed.com to remove the negative review was a marketing consultant hired by Cash4Gold.

The consultant, Joe Laratro, was apparently performing reputation management services for Cash4Gold and decided on his own to reach out to Cockeyed.com. Cash4Gold quotes Mr. Laratro’s confirmation that he chose his tactics independently. Mr. Laratro backs this up with a post on his own blog further explaining his relationship with his former client.

After reading all of this, especially Mr. Laratro’s explanation, I am convinced that his activity was an example of a questionable, but relatively innocuous incident that exploded once it hit the blogosphere. But why did this happen? What sucked me into the fray and led me to conclude that Cash4Gold was slimy? Here are my takeaways from this whole thing:

First, bravo to Cash4Gold for monitoring their reputation and especially listening on Twitter. Whether from a company employee or another consultant, their @reply was quick and got my attention. (Ultimately, it led me to post this on my blog, which doesn’t happen too often.) They certainly get an "A" for damage control, and it immediately elevated their reputation in my mind.

Second, my only exposure to Cash4Gold, prior to yesterday when I read the Consumerist and BoingBoing posts (via SmartBrief), was their television advertising. I began seeing their ads a few weeks ago, and then, like half the country, I saw their S___r Bowl ad. Quite frankly, I was not impressed.

I certainly understood what they were selling -- the ads do a good job telling their story. But the 1979ish presentation left me wondering if this was a company using retro humor to generate buzz or just a questionable operator that thinks people will fall for this. I went with the reading on my sleaze meter and decided that Cash4Gold was a suspect outfit that would soon be in the advertising hall of shame with Miss Cleo.

Sorry, guys, that's just my honest impression of your ads. Maybe I'm not your target market, so it would not normally matter. Unfortunately, the online flare up simply reinforced the first impression I had from the TV campaign and led me to tweet about it. Bottom line: first impressions count, and humor is a risky way to generate a first impression. Not everyone will get the joke. Usually, I do. This time I didn't.

Third, this reminds me to be very careful what I let consultants do for my company online. We moderate our own reviews because we don't trust anyone else to speak for us on this. We also want our reviews to be a direct conduit to the people who design, manufacture and sell our products, and an outsider wouldn't be able to do this as well. We're in the process of stepping into the world of professional reputartion monitoring, and I need to be careful before we decide to let someone else manage our reputation. It might be best to keep the latter in house.

It's funny how things like this happen. As scores of experts have pointed out, the Internet has created an entirely new world where the consumer controls the message. This creates new opportunities and new risks. While I'll probably never do business with Cash4Gold, their reputation won't be the reason. I'm just not in the market to sell any gold. And I still don't like their ads.

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