Cringing from home

Business pundits say a crisis a great business opportunity. Maybe. But careful using it as marketing opportunity.

Today I saw my favorite silver lining so far from the coronavirus: dolphins returning to the Trieste, Italy waterfront after an apparently 40 year absence.

Dolphins over cruise ships.

There are more silver linings too – working from home is going mainstream and that’s going to change how we all do business in a way that’s to my liking. It will reward ingenuity and initiative for my people: tech entrepreuneurs who have created ways for people to benefit from their products and services using the Internet are going to win. I love this.

And that effect will be true even if many people return to their offices post-pandemic.

I’ve worked remotely since about 2002 ((apart from a stint at Blackbaud and its subsidiaries, where I was in an old-fashioned office for 3 and half years, I’ve worked from home, from my own private office, or from one of about 15 coworks for the last 18 years)), so I open-arm-welcome the chorus of “how to work from home” advice flooding the media – it’s wonderful to see this go from weird to nearly mainstream. 

It’ll make many people happier, especially in human ecosystems which require painful car commuting or public transport. If you need further details, just go on LinkedIn or Facebook – you’ll be inundated.

Is that why I’m cringing? Meh, not really. People are excited about something new, god bless them. That brings a smile.

But I am also cringing. And that’s because of the way that some companies are marketing during this epidemic. 

Some companies are cloaking their marketing as public health concern around COVID-19.

To add insult to injury, they’re doing so by cloaking marketing emails (which require permission) as critical transactional emails (which do not).

That’s not even marketing at all, according to the definition of marketing I adhere to.

It’s advertising.

And advertising itself is not necessarily wrong. Not at all. 

But this kind of advertising, also known as Spam, is not just wrong, it’s cringeworthy. 

Who’s the culprit? There are actually several in my inbox, but I am going to single out a massive brand name that will hopefully not send me a cease and desist letter: Moneygram.

Moneygram saw fit to interrupt my inbox today with a spam marketing email entitled, “Supporting You During the COVID-19 Pandemic”.

How did they support me?

In the email, Moneygram purported concern about the pandemic and noted that “walk-in locations may be unavailable in certain areas”.

Now, did they shut down walk-in locations worldwide, perchance? Because they are so concerned about public health over revenue? No – just in areas “where governments have imposed mandatory closures”. Thanks for telling us you’re not breaking the law Moneygram.

Wherever governments have imposed mandatory closures, did Moneygram announce a program whereby people who rely on walk-in locations are still able to use their service? No.

No, because the point of the email was to say, “instead of using the other 200 money transfer service in the world, go to our website or app and use ours.

Yes, they have – shocker – an app for sending money. Or you can use their website.

Right, just like every single other money transfer service in the world.

But PayPal didn’t spam me. Neither did the other 7 money transfer and payment services I’m signed up for.

It makes me reflect on us – I hope none of us will be tempted to use this global tragedy to gain a “marketing advantage” (ie create tasteless advertisements).

Now back to the quarantine life.

And if you’re also working from home, enjoy 🙂