the frequency a kenny chung blog

Here’s a recap of my thoughts on the commercials that aired during Super Bowl 48. Overall, I thought it was a pretty lackluster year. I went out of my way to not watch any of them beforehand (except some for work). Thoughts below:

  • Most of the car commercials were weird for the sake of being weird, or just complete misses.
  • Microsoft had a pretty damn heartwarming commercial (I actually recognized the cochlear implant clip from reddit a few years ago).
  • I don’t know who Cure is, but I hate them.
  • Budweiser went for half quality, half quantity. The Arnold ping pong and the homecoming one were the better ones.
  • Fox did a pretty good job at building interest in the new season of 24.

November 21st, 2013
according to

Boy meets girl. It’s a classic (and boring) story, but like most things, the Internet has drastically changed and arguably streamlined the process. According to a recent Pew Internet study, one in ten Americans have used online dating or a mobile dating app. 7% of smartphone owners have used a dating app.

“Frictionless” is not typically a term we commonly associate positively with dating. But in the world of online dating apps, the recent trend seems to be towards removing steps between discovering that someone exists and meeting them. Sometimes, this process even skips using words altogether. It’s a strange new world for digital savvy singles.

In this blog post, I’ll be detailing several dating services and apps that I’ve used in the past. I think you’ll notice a trend as you move down the list. And please note that I will be using the term “dating” liberally.

High Effort: OkCupid (website)

OkCupid was founded in 2004 and firmly staked its claim in the market based on its statistical prowess (after all, it was formed by the same guys who created The Spark, a personality quiz site) . With the advantage of having talented engineers and mathematicians on board, OkCupid also ran a (now defunct) blog called OkTrends. This blog helped reinforce OkCupid’s unique selling proposition of using a superior matching system compared to everything else on the market because they had multitudes of user data and algorithms that adjusted to (and were influenced by) their research. It also helped that their main target demographic skewed younger; these users would appreciate these nuances and efforts more.

OkCupid was my first real foray into online dating, and it was a lot of work. Using the website consisted of the following steps: browsing/finding matches (sorted by various dimensions, such as distance, employment, race, availability, etc.), looking at photos/reading profiles to see if you’re interested (this step is totally optional), and then messaging them directly. Typical millennium-era dating website stuff.

OkCupid took a lot of time, since I was under the false assumption that longer messages would garner the best response rates. Live and learn. Then stop trying so hard.

Medium Effort: HowAboutWe (site and app)

HowAboutWe launched in April 2010 with a simple premise at heart: instead of singles sending messages back and forth before setting up a date, why not just let them agree on a date first? Basically, users complete the question “How about we _______?” If a date idea piques a user’s interest, he or she can reply that they’re intrigued.

Screenshots of the HowAboutWe App

Putting the cart before the horse? Perhaps, but at least the date ideas that you formulate tell people something about you. The website and app work basically the same way. The main drawback for both is that in order to send someone a message (or to read the contents of your inbox), you need to pay for a monthly subscription.

Lowest Effort: Tinder (app)

Tinder is perhaps the lowest effort dating service out there. It took the dating scene by storm when it gained popularity in 2013 (its spiritual predecessor was Grindr, the popular gay/bisexual location-based app). Unlike OkCupid and HowAboutWe, Tinder is currently only available on iOS and Android smartphones; there’s no desktop functionality at all.

Screenshots of the Tinder App

Remember how your parents told you not to judge a book by its cover? Well, that all goes out the window with Tinder. With Tinder, you’re shown pictures of users in your area (it accesses your phone’s GPS), and you’re given two options – pass or like. If you “like” someone, they won’t find out unless they mutually “like” you and then you can message each other. If you “pass”, it’ll be like the person never existed at all. And if this process didn’t seem simple enough, you can also use touch gestures in order to swipe people into your list of people you like or people you dislike. It’s like a cross between the technology featured in minority report and the lazy perversion of Jabba the Hutt.

Somewhat Low Effort: The OkCupid App

Not to be outshone, OkCupid also has similar “low effort” dating functionalities within their app. The first is Quickmatch, which is basically like Tinder. You swipe left or right depending on if you like someone. The second function is Locals, which tells you who’s near you, but you still have to rate or message them yourself. In terms of flexibility of use, the OkCupid App definitely takes the cake.

Screenshot of the OkCupid App

Everything else

From conversations with friends and coworkers, I’ve learned that other services have evolved over the years. Plenty Of Fish now has an app and is no longer just a poorly designed website (circa 2009). Younger people are now on Match.com and eHarmony, and it seems the stigma of online dating has slowly been lifted. Actually, a close family friend of mine met her current husband on eHarmony, so it can work (they were an older couple though).

By now, you’ve probably noticed the aforementioned trend of dating services increasingly migrating to our handheld devices. There are many possible rationales behind this – personal GPS availability makes finding dates easier; people’s fond attachments to their phones translate to dating apps; people are using desktop computers as their primary internet access device less frequently than they were last decade; the social media generation is impatient and are all about instant gratification. No matter the theory, online dating was originally created to connect people in a way that’s much easier than actually going out and meeting strangers. And now, dating apps and online services have taken out even more barriers to entry (sometimes to ridiculous extremes). Is this a good or bad thing? Can it ever be too easy to meet people? I guess we’ll find out in 10 years when Pew Internet conducts an online marriage divorce rate study.

I usually keep my public shaming of corporations confined to my Twitter, but sometimes I encounter an experience so egregiously bad that I have to blog about it. For your consideration today, I present what’s probably the worst UX I’ve ever witnessed on an online payment form. This embarrassment belongs to Con Edison.

Typically, when you’re asking customers for money, you want the payment process to be as seamless and frictionless as possible. But Con Ed decided to go in the extreme opposite direction and provide the most disjointed and unintuitive system imaginable. It’s like they don’t actually want their customers’ money.

Below are screenshots detailing each major step of the process. An important note is that in order to pay your bill by credit card, you need to complete the following steps every single time. So you can see how this might get annoying. Click the images below for additional commentary.

Step 1 of the online payment system of ConEd
Step 1: From the start, ConEd tries to limit what you can do. Here, the links are coded in Javascript, so you can’t open them in new windows/tabs via conventional methods. This becomes increasingly annoying later on when you realize that you needed some information from your main account homepage.

Step 1a of the online payment system of ConEd
Step 1a: Even after you click on the link to pay by credit card, you’re asked two more times if this is what you want to do. Why the process needs three clicks to confirm your payment method is beyond me. But what you’ll see later on is that this doesn’t actually matter.

Step 2 of the online payment system of ConEd
Step 2: You’re taken to a secondary domain for payment, and this site has absolutely none of your account information pre-populated.

Step 3 of the online payment system of ConEd
Step 3: In one of the more puzzling steps (and that’s saying a lot), you have to input your home address where you’re receiving Con Edison’s services. Mind you, this is after you’ve already provided them with your account number.

Step 4 of the online payment system of ConEd
Step 4: Once again, you need to specify that you’re paying with a card. This form isn’t even specific to credit cards, despite the fact that you’ve confirmed on three separate occasions that that was your payment preference. They could’ve asked you how you wanted to pay in this step.

Step 4a of the online payment system of ConEd
Step 4a: Now you have to input all of your credit card information in some weird self-refreshing form. Text boxes appear only when you’ve input previous data, which makes no sense. Then you have to input your billing address. There’s no way to save any of this information, so you have to do it every single time you want to pay by credit card.

Step 5 of the online payment system of ConEd
Step 5: As a final low blow, Con Ed charges you a “convenience fee” of $4.75 even though you had to go through 5 excruciating steps to give them your money. Talk about a con.

I hate you, Con Ed.

September 24th, 2013
according to

Communication scholars are sure to be familiar with Marshall McLuhan’s famous phrase “The medium is the message”. In lay terms, McLuhan proposed that how you convey a message to your audience is just as important as the message itself. For instance, McLuhan believed that television viewers were less objective and less literate than readers of print publications. He states this at around the 4 minute mark of this video:

In the same decade that McLuhan first published this phrase, America experienced its first televised Presidential debate between Kennedy and Nixon. At this point, not everyone had a television set, so many families were still listening to the debate via radio broadcast. It was widely reported that radio listeners believed Nixon to have won the first debate, whereas TV viewers believed Kennedy won. The difference? Nixon was recovering from an illness and as a result, was pale and sweaty.

Also take for instance the introduction of movie theater advertising from around the same era. At this point, most people have heard tales of Coke’s supposedly subliminal movie advertising (the results of which were later found to be dubious). These days, pre-movie commercials are also accompanied by the sneaky-as-ever phenomenon known as product placement, a practice which has also received considerable backlash. Contrast these two types of movie advertising – one is expected (the time before movies start has always been reserved for advertising snacks and other movies), while the other can appear naturally if done right (consider all movie scenes that take place in Times Square). People receive these types of advertising much differently according to expectations. Studies have shown that product placement plays an effective role in cuing brand recognition.

Utilizing Digital Marketing Mediums to your Advantage

It’s been over half a century since McLuhan shared his pervasive line of wisdom with the world, but it’s as true as ever. With the ever-changing landscape of technology and ways to reach consumers, brands must be careful with how they advertise and take advantage of the channels available to them.

Twenty years ago, search engine marketing was not really a viable industry. Nowadays, brands can bid on individual keywords or groups of them. Search is a pull medium rather than a push medium (in theory, brand messaging can be presented only to qualified users who express an interest in that brand’s product offerings via their search queries). So you craft the messaging of your paid search ads differently from your TV or display ads, which are both mostly forms of push advertising. Within search, you can customize your messaging even further. For example, if someone searches for your brand name, you can tell them about a specific sale you’re having (fall sale, 20% off clearance items, etc.). But if someone is searching for a general product that you sell, you could use your ad to tell them about the benefits of shopping your site instead of going to the competitors (free shipping, widest selection, lowest prices, etc.). The possibilities are as endless as the permutations of words consumers type into that all-important Google search box.

And ten years ago, we didn’t have Twitter or Facebook. The only real ways for consumers to communicate directly with brands were via telephone, email or in-store with other customer representatives. Now, I can post a Tweet to complain about Time Warner Cable service or to commend Chex Mix for being delicious (both things I’ve done in the past year).

Those who work in brand management know the importance of keeping messages on-brand. But on the flip side, the people you reach on Twitter on a Friday night are likely not the same people you would reach with a TV ad placement during a noon soap opera. Granted, that’s an extreme example, but it still hammers home the point that it makes sense to craft your messaging according to who will be receiving it. The barriers to entry for social media marketing are so low that it doesn’t make sense for most brands to be uninvolved (regulated industries excluded). Tweets can be sent out as soon as they’re thought up (and approved).

Super Bowl ad junkies will remember this amazing Tweet from Oreo last year following the in-stadium blackout that occurred. That image was created and the Tweet was approved to hit the web before the lights came back on in New Orleans. To date, it’s received over 15,000 Retweets. Utilizing your channels properly can be a powerful vehicle.

On the other hand, bad social media strategies like Kenneth Cole’s can lead to a backlash. To call it a strategy isn’t too much of a stretch, as Cole himself has mentioned that his Tweets are meant to “provoke a dialogue“. It’s just a strategy that associates negative feelings toward the brand.

Then there’s also this amazing parody Burlington Coat Factory Twitter account, with such gems as this:

Apparently, a lot of people were fooled into thinking this was their official account. That doesn’t bode well for their actual social media team and its official Twitter account.

5 Tips to Improve Your Social Media Messaging

So how do you customize your marketing for the social web? Research. Tons of it. Here are 5 quick tips to get you started:

1) Know your audience. Not all social media channels cater to the same audience. Pinterest skews heavily female. Reddit is more techy than Facebook. Keep facts like this in mind when deciding what to share and where to share it.
2) Tag your campaigns! Use your visitor analytics to see what types of content resonate with which audiences. Do Twitter followers tend to stay longer on articles with lots of images? Are email newsletter visitors more likely to read long-form content? Do Facebook users share your content more if they read it before they leave the office?
3) Maintain Brand Messaging. Connect all of your advertising in some way. For example, in support of a single campaign, it may make sense to include the same hashtag across TV, social, and print. For some brands, having a discordant messaging works for them (consider Geico’s multitude of mascots).
4) Don’t be afraid to experiment! Short of creating offensive Tweets for the heck of it, you can test out different formats for your social strategy. Again, the lifespan of most Tweets and Facebook posts are short, so you can accumulate a lot of data in a short amount of time. Test things like the background color of your images, the URL shortener you use, the pronouns you use, etc.
5) Interact with your (potential) consumers! The best way to avoid negative PR or to encourage brand loyalty is to show customers that you’re listening. Responding to valid online complaints, Retweeting compliments, and even Liking Facebook comments can be enough to show followers that people are listening. Airlines (which get truckloads of complaints) are actually some of the best at responding to criticisms. Whether they do anything worthwhile with that information is another issue altogether…

At the end of the day, happy consumers have the propensity to be as passionate about your brand as you are. So perform the due diligence, get your feet wet, and good luck!

August 31st, 2013
according to

Those of you with YouTube accounts will be familiar with this popup below:

Using your real name on YouTube

It’s destructive (stops any YouTube playback), annoying (it will come back in a week or two even if you hit the “I don’t want to use my full name” button), and it’s creating clutter.

What I mean by this last point is that even if you don’t want to connect your YouTube account to your Google+ account, you can choose to keep your old username. Except, that actually creates a new Google+ account for that username. So then you’d end up with two Google+ accounts, one dedicated to YouTube.

I understand that Google wants more of our data, and more activity on their social network. But this just rubs me the wrong way and seems to be an overly-insistent and heavy-handed vehicle for going about this.

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