Not So Fast

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by: Jonathan Salem Baskin

Denon has been trying to sell a $500 Ethernet cable for going on two years, and the social mediascape won’t let it get away with it.

It’s utter nonsense, of course, following in the hallowed and profitable clamshells of Monster Cable. Here’s part of the product description:

  • Made of high-purity copper wire, it’s designed to thoroughly eliminate adverse effects from vibration and helps stabilize the digital transmission from occurrences of jitter and ripple.
  • A tin-bearing copper alloy is used for the cable’s shield while the insulation is made of a fluoropolymer material with superior heat resistance, weather resistance, and anti-aging properties.
  • The connector features a rounded plug lever to prevent bending or breaking and direction marks to indicate correct direction for connecting cable.

I bet it also attaches to the flux-capacitor! Isn’t that just marvelous technobabble? 

The reality is that you can buy a similar cable for about $10, if that. 

But the marketing experts at Denon saw a branding opportunity, and believed that a high-end positioning could warrant a price multiple of 50 or so. I’m sure the sales reps could barely contain their excitement as they promised a giant percentage of the take to retailers conniving enough to buy into the deal. 

Only the social mediascape won’t let it get away with it.

Chat rooms have been buzzing since the product was first introduced, with the comments being just about 100% negative. The tags that consumers attach to products on Amazon identify the Denon AKDL 1 as:

  • snake oil
  • ripoff
  • waste of money
  • throwing your money away
  • unconscionable
  • stupid
  • immoral, and etc.

Better yet, a slew of Customer Reviews at Amazon just ooze with creative sarcasm, warning that misuse could result in music being played backwards, or printers getting turned into black holes. One post says that the cable enables the user to see God. It’s a running comedy routine, with one comment trying to out-wit the next, and it made for entertaining reading…until all of the comments were pulled (within days of this post). Too bad, because it read like a sitcom script.

Clearly, Denon didn’t think it did so much good for the Denon brand.

You can imagine the dials on Denon’s marketing dashboards, flipping somewhere from "uh oh" to "omg." Maybe it uses a social media monitoring tool to return reports on most-often used words. For all I know, it actively sought bloggers to write about the ultimate utility of a cable that cost a few cents to manufacture, and was retailed for $500.

But you don’t need special tools, analysis approaches, or hoity-toity strategies to realize that a dishonest, stupid product is insulting, not only to potential cable customers, but damaging to anyone who might consider buying any Denon product.

It has unwittingly become entertainment content, not just the wrapper around it, spurring a cottage-industry of smirky prose on sites like Amazon. 

Social media as comedy variety show? I wonder if that was part of Denon’s conscious intent? Naw.

So what does this say about branding in the Age of Social Media:

  • Don’t offer stupid products at insanely high prices
  • If you do, be prepared to get skewered by really smart and vocal people lurking on social and e-commerce sites
  • Better yet, anticipate that reaction and plan accordingly. Think of the fun Denon could have actively embracing the kooky attributions, even building it into their advertising.

"Some people say our new cable helps them see aliens, but we’ll settle for clearer episodes of BSG," one ad could read. Company commentors could actually place crazy, tongue-in-cheek references to the product’s qualities. A campaign could have been directed at populating and promoting the natural, comedic, insane qualities of the Internet vs. trying to control them or, more likely, just ignore it all.

Better yet, thought, Denon could have chosen not to offer the junk in the first place. This was a dim bulb idea from the get-go.

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