So-Called “Hacks,” Lightboxes, & Leaving Work at Work [rants + raves]

These are few of my favorite and not-so-favorite things that I’ve come across over the past month related to marketing, business, productivity, and leadership. November’s rants and raves are:

RANT– The Food Network’s so-called “Peanut Butter Hack

My beef:

  • Yes, content is king for digital marketers… but it must be useful and/or entertaining content!
  • Mostly, I take issue with the general overuse of the word “hack”
  • Hack (/hak/): verb to use a computer to gain unauthorized access to data in a system

RAVE – The comments on the peanut butter hack video are actually hilarious.


  • “Or you could simply spread the peanut butter on the bread with a butter knife like our heathen ancestors of old.”
  • ” Love this…since having kids I had to quit my job due to the amount of time I needed to spread peanut butter each day…maybe now I can go back to work part-time!”
  • “If you have trouble slicing an apple, just put it in the freezer, until it’s completely frozen, then throw it against a wall. it’ll smash into a thousand pieces. Just simply sweep them up and hey presto, easy to eat apple pieces.”

RANT – “Lightbox Campaigns”

I recently received a laundry list of of advertising options from a company I have never advertised with. Already annoyed with the cold sales pitch, I had to pause when I saw an offer for “Lightbox campaigns” (not to be confused with what Google AdWords calls Lightbox Ads). Upon closer look this offer was exactly what I suspected it would be – pop-up ads.

Now, I actually don’t have an issue with pop-up ads, per se. Opt-in Monster and others have developed some really great alternatives to the age-old pop-up ad, which has often been the internet’s equivalent of smacking someone in the eyeballs the moment they walk through a door – before they’ve even figured out whether they’re in the right place. Instead, many new pop-up alternatives offer something more closely related to… gently waving just as users indicate an exit, and whispering, “Pardon me, good sir, may I have a moment of your time?” In these scenarios, my feeling is: the user is leaving anyway, who cares if we annoy them if it works! However, that’s not what this was and I was disappointed that an old trick was being dressed-up as a new trend.

To make matters worse – the “campaign” was described as: “users must engage with it!” Excuse me, but “engagement” is NOT blindly clicking “no, thanks” without even looking at the offer (which is the behavior that occurs in the vast majority of website users).

RAVE – Getting Things Done by David Allen

I already talked a little bit about this book in last week’s podcast of the week, but I cannot say enough good things about it. I won’t do a full book review since I haven’t actually finished it yet (I am in business school after all!), but I genuinely estimate that I have increased my productivity by 200% already. Make it the next book you read.

RANT – Vague Doom & Gloom Year-End Campaigns

It’s the most wonderful time of year – giving season! The fundraising appeals of all types are pouring in to my various inboxes. And I have already seen way too many appeals that begin with “During these uncertain times…” or “At a time as difficult as this…”

Yes, the world is pretty much coming to an end. However, what bothers me is the vagueness of these openers. They’re toeing the line. They’re not actually saying what they think the “uncertainty” or “difficulty” is. I assume this is to avoid offending anyone, but in so doing they also don’t appeal to anyone either!

If we can’t say what we mean, then we have no business saying it all. Organizations like Planned Parenthood or Everytown (pro-gun control) have no problem being completely frank about what is so uncertain and difficult about this time in our nation’s history (the end of times, that is) – they know their market and they know how the political landscape affects their causes. Making bold statements about the apparent apocalypse makes perfect sense for them – but not for many other orgs.

I’ve received appeals from organizations that begin with these same words, and then don’t actually explain what they mean by it, nor do they describe how their charity is addressing the “uncertainty” or “difficulty.” So, as a donor, I really don’t understand why they’re bringing it up at all.

It’s lazy copy and it isn’t speaking to the causes and stories donors really care about, which is what motivates them to make a contribution.

RANT – Ask Me or Thank Me… But Don’t Do Both!

While I’m on the topic of year-end, I’ve also received several “acknowledgement” pieces that either end or actually begin with a request for more money. If you’re thanking a donor – do that and only that. We can’t be tempted to turn what should be a moment of gratitude or stewardship into another opportunity to stick our hand out.

RAVE – Direct Mail Lives and Breathes (infographic)

Maybe I’m only raving about this because it reaffirms something I recently talked about, but I adore this infographic on direct mail marketing from Marketing Profs.

RAVE – Leaving work at work!

I’ve been trying to draw some clearer boundaries between work and… not work. While I’m not usually one to bring a ton of work home with me, aspects of my job can occupy a lot of my mental bandwidth when I should be focusing on other things. For that reason, I really enjoyed this article from Harvard Business Review entitled, “How to Let Go at the End of the Workday.”

What are you ranting and raving about right now?


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