A little Klout Perk love, from Audi.

I dig Klout Perks. A lot. Why? Because I get free stuff. And I have to hand it to Klout: They’re figured out a clever little revenue model for their influence engine. Everybody wins in this game:

1. So-called “influencers” get free stuff.

2. Klout gets paid to help identify them for clients, reach out to them, and serve as a middle-man of sorts.

3. Brands get a deeper degree of exposure for their investment than through traditional advertising (even on social media channels). At least in theory.

This is the second Klout Perk I have received thus far. The first was a Nike golf jacket from TNT’s cop drama Southland. I don’t play golf, but it makes for a nice outer layer after a good cold weather run. It came with a nifty little card from TNT too, with flashing police lights and a police siren, and an invitation to catch the season premiere of their show. Nice touch. Somebody at TNT put a little effort into that promotion, and I have to give them props for that.

Today, what the FedEx man brought to my door was a box from Klout Perks containing some Audi swag: A ceramic coffee mug, and an aluminum LED flashlight/emergency glass-breaker. I dig them at least as much as my Nike jacket from TNT. The flashlight and the mug are both going to live in my car. The jacket is a semi-permanent addition to my gym bag. These items have already embedded themselves into my everyday life. In that, there’s a win for TNT and Audi already. And Klout Perks. And me.

Maybe if I ever become cool enough, I will be invited to participate in more Klout Perks promotions. Last month, some of my peers received free PSPs from Sony. Others are scoring free airline tickets and who knows what else. That sounds pretty swell to me.  Seeing that I fly a lot AND am an ardent gamer (I don’t like to admit it, but it’s true,) I should probably fit in some airline or electronics advertiser target demo somewhere, right?

Wrong. I don’t.

Don’t get me wrong: This isn’t a complaint. I am lucky to get anything for free and treat every package from Klout with the giddiness of a six-year-old on Christmas morning. But as much as I like to cast a nod of approval in the general direction of KP’s model, I can’t shake the feeling that something is amiss with the targeting.

Case in point: I don’t play golf. I’m a triathlete. The closest I ever get to a green is when I run or pedal past it. I don’t even watch it on TV. (Tiger who?) I’m also not a fan of cop shows. I haven’t watched an episode of Law & Order in 10 years. I don’t even watch CSI. Yet TNT decided to target me for their Southland promotion? Me? 1. The guy who never blogs or tweets about what he watches on TV? Am I really an “influencer” when it comes to TV shows and police dramas? 2. Someone who doesn’t play golf and doesn’t even like the sport? Thanks for the free golf jacket, but… maybe the Klout computer targeted the wrong guy for that one?

As for the Audi swag, what’s the idea? That I will blog about it? Okay, I just did. I just showed off the mug and the flashlight and mentioned the Audi brand several times. I’ll even tweet a link to this blog post in a few minutes and get Audi a few extra impressions. And it is worth mentioning that I love Audi. I drive a VW Passat now, and nothing would make me happier than to upgrade to an A8 or even an R8. (See photos below.) Every time I see those unmistakable LED headlights on the road, I wish it were me behind the wheel. But… does Audi expect that a free mug and flashlight swag combo will either accelerate or strengthen my resolve to buy an Audi in the next 4-12 months?

The thing about the Audi promotion too is that, unlike the TNT campaign – which had a little flair and what felt like a personal touch (a Klout box, a card and a little drama to the packaging) – it feels like an afterthought. The box didn’t have any Klout or Audi markings on it. There was no card or note waiting for me inside. No Audi brochure. No DVD catalog. Not even a fake personal note. No call for action. No hello. No “thanks for being a fan.” Nothing. Just bubble-wrap, a mug, and a box from a warehouse in California marked in Sharpie with a scribbled #830 on the side. I wonder if #1 through #829 feel like maybe something might be missing too?

What kind of relationship is Audi building with people like me through a promotion like this? What kind of message is it sending? That it can afford to mail off hundreds of boxes of swag on the off chance that someone will tweet about them? Okay… But then what? As much as I like the swag (thanks Audi and Klout,) Audi has missed an opportunity to say hello and pull me into its world. Even with the mug and flashlight in my sights every day, I doubt that they will influence a purchase anytime soon, or even a recommendation. (This is, after all, about word-of-mouth, isn’t it?)

And that’s too bad because done right, a promotion like this could have yielded some solid results as opposed to just a few neutral mentions of the brand on WordPress, Facebook and Twitter. There’s a lesson in this somewhere. Maybe even two:

1. Definitely use Klout Perks promotions to reach potential customers, but target your “influencers” better. Put a little effort into it. I don’t know… a little keyword analysis, maybe?

2. How you produce these promotions matters at least as much as what you send in the box. $50 worth of swag can be a complete waste of money if you forget to add the all-important $0.99 cents worth of personal touch. Like… you know, a hand-written post-it note with a Twitter account for a signature, or a postcard with a specia url, or a polaroid picture of the swag staff. It doesn’t matter. You can be as traditional or as innovative as you want, but give us something more than just bubble-wrap and wrinkled packaging paper. Delight us with a little attention. A little secret handshake. Something. Anything. Don’t just send us free stuff with your logo on it. It isn’t really the Koozie we care about. 😉

Oh, and Klout people: whatever list I need to get on to be upgraded from “swag” to “product,” (you know, like getting a free PSP or scoring a round trip to Austin) go ahead and add me to it. I still want the pens and keychains, but I’ll take the XBox games, the Kindle covers and the iPads as well. Cheers.

In fact, to help you target me better for future promotions, I’ve even put together this little list of things I like and don’t like, so you’ll have a better sense of what will yield the best results –

What I like:

Electronics – laptops, tablets, mobile devices, storage, e-readers, media players, flat screen TVs, game consoles

Automotive/Cars/motorcycles – any brand


Triathlon, cycling, running, swimming, fitness

Bike tires, especially from Michelin.


Travel – airlines, rental cars, hotels, restaurants

Watches and writing instruments – Bell & Ross, Panerai, Tag Huer, Mont Blanc

Fine spirits, wine, tea and coffee

Clothing – Smalto, Façonnable, H&M, Kenneth Cole, Weston, Diesel, etc.

Photography – Especially Canon, Leica and Kodak, but I won’t poop on Nikon or Minolta.

Outdoorsy stuff like skis, scuba gear, gore-tex apparel, backpacks, chainsaws… that whole thing.

Chihuahua accessories

What I don’t particularly like:

Baggy clothes


Excess sugar

Glenn Beck


Impersonal packages and promotions

Monosodium Glutamate

The bandwidth that encompasses Entertainment Tonight and American Idol


Bad grammar

Themed ties (you know, like… golf, Christmas, trains, etc.)

Paper cuts

Having said that, I’m pretty stoked to be getting anything for free (except paper cuts), so keep the perks coming, Klout. I look forward to the next promotion. (And remember: product, not just swag.)

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Bonus: In case you were wondering what the blurry bits are in the background of that photo (taken at my desk):

From left to right: My trusty Sony VAIO laptop, a Dynex flat screen monitor, my favorite Swag Club magnetic calendar (a company so badass and exclusive, they operate without a website), the Brandbuilder’s official Xbox 360, 3 pairs of KAI shears (the best scissors I’ve ever owned, bar-none), postcards I haven’t sent yet, mail from my publisher about this, a bonded black leather folio from PRCG, a red Moleskine notebook, an Ikea wall magnet “Spontan” thingamajig (301.594.56), a French desk calendar (thanks, mom), a red leather desk blotter, a stainless steel container, and a nifty little Post-It sticky tab dispenser. On the magnet thing: A well-written personal note from a relative, Post-It notes ready to serve, cab fares in Euros, Canadian and Australian dollars, and Dirhams from the UAE, and French boat/ship driver’s license in case I should ever come to need it.


Carry on. Nothing to see here.