Pinterest Success in 2012

I have been seeing bloggers refer to “pinning” images on Pinterest for a year or more and just recently I finally got an account started. Pinterest required linking to my FB profile which was a dealbreaker, but I deleted the app and unlinked it afterwards. I was curious as to why Pinterest was different than other mood board sites (polyvore) I had seen that didn’t really impress me. At the same time I have been reading more about how Pinterest drives more traffic to retailer sites than Google Images, how women are the primary audience and why Pinterest traffic has taken off like a space rocket.

My take on the site as a web analyst, a woman and a user of the site may be different than the media’s perceptions. I concentrate on the behaviors and uses of the site and have listed my opinons on their growth/success here:

Some reasons I think Pinterest has been a growing site:

1. Images do say more than a 1000 words – They can make you feel hopeful, creative, inspired and motivated. Great images move people. That is why good photography is both art and marketing at the same time. (think Flickr/Instagram) What happens when you want to see that powerful/inspiring image again? Do you bookmark it? With your other 1,000 bookmarks? Blogging it has been better, but not everyone wants to blog and some people frown on hotlinking in your posts although that is what Pinterest uses. Flickr has been great with it’s searchable favorites image list, but not everyone likes Flickr like I do. Some people just want to link other people’s photos and not upload their own. Facebook is ok if you want to blast your friends with all the images you save/share about your home remodel project and make everything archived by the borg, but I really think image saving/sharing is out of context on your personal branding page. Capturing and sharing this image information has had a tricky history and Pinterest solved a problem we didn’t know we had.

2. People are busy and ideas are fleeting – Maybe this is the ADHD generation? I am a GenXer. I have way too much to do, a reasonable income and a very short attention span. I have a hard time keeping track of things that aren’t completely essential and ideas are on that list. In a personal example: With my process of moving around a lot in the last few years, my confidence in the house decorating department was a bit threatened from being a bit out of practice. I have made up for it with a huge file of images saved on my computer from design blogs. It was an old school solution to needing a place to look for ideas from images I already filtered and liked. Did it create solutions for my house? Yep, several rooms in the new house have been redone based on color pallettes from those photos. But in a day I may only see 1-3 photos I like from 50+ interior design blogs. In a year that is a lot to comb through and it isn’t share-able offline nor is it accessible from anywhere. So, Pinterest has recently proved more accessible and more shareable for keeping these images. Plus it is free for now. I could see them evolving into suggesting ad based photos by retailers based on your tags/likes/pins in the future.

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3. Trends/Decisions are easier to analyze when you have all the information from multiple sources in one place. I find it difficult to make buying decisions in this day and age because in most every category there are too many brands, products, colors, choices, prices and options to keep straight. (information overload) Making a pinning board for new shoes you are considering buying takes a lot less time than going to the 5 stores in your area and trying to decide that way or ordering online from Zappos and having to return them all. Plus you can save that pic of that shoe you love but don’t need right now for later. Side by side lists and comparisons make shopping a little easier, but in most cases these wishlists really work on selling to you and others. Someone recommends something, you loooove it, click-click-bought. That isn’t really a bad consumer strategy. I have found that if I ever pass on an item and want to look it up to buy later, it is impossible/gone  with how short the merch time is in stores (online and off) and how styles change so vastly that it may never be seen again. (yet the things you’re never very thrilled with seem to pop up again and again in many different stores). Items/Pictures that are popular on Pinterest may have more staying/selling power due to the large audience or they may be more trendy when people move on to the next micro trend. I am not sure yet because there is a lot of churn in products these days, some people consuming constantly, others stopping completely.

4. Like TED some ideas are worth sharing. I enjoy seeing what my friends have discovered and pinned. It tells me what they are into, what is new, what really good ideas/recipes they want to share and hopefully some of those ideas are good for me too. I have found some interesting clever solutions for household annoyances this way. True, this may just mirror the offline world where women would share tips on household stuff while chatting in the yard, but it makes sense for other subject matter/industries too as long as there aren’t proprietary info in the photos and there is a collective community sharing information. This could be a marketing strategy if you have real solutions your product offers and the story can be told in an image that looks real.

5. The biggest reason? Discovery is a process that a lot of us get a big burst of happy from. It doesn’t matter if it is online discovering photos, reading a magzine, watching a TV show, taking a vacation or creating something like artwork or crafts. Many of us have jobs that are pretty specialized and we do a short list of things for the company and don’t have a lot of variety or creativity in our daily lives. I have found that I need some form of creativity (writing, photography, art, dance, design) in order to be happy and I have a feeling that this may be the case for others too. Even the simulation of creativity by discovering and learning from photos of how to keep wrapping paper on the roll with a sliced toilet paper core haves us that Aha moment and makes us feel happier, smarter & more connected. All this in an easy to use format and without requiring much reading for the ADHD generations.

6. Another reason it may be growing is that Pinterest is very accessible on iPads which can go anywhere in the home when you have time to look at it. (the app is just fair, I prefer the full site in the browser on an iPad) It is a guilty pleasure just like celeb blogs on some level. I think mobile/tablet use is making the site more addictive although probably not the main reason for it’s success. Now that retailers (Etsy) has added pin it button to their listings pages I hope more retailers do this to help promote their products. One thing is clear though, it will take 500+ views and likes before you find someone ready to buy, and you will probably have to have some familiarity/trust built with them first. Most people do a lot of window shopping/dreaming on the site, a lot more than buying. But that is part of marketing, getting the word out in the first place, or as some say, creating the need. A large enough audience may just be able to significantly impact sales too.

7. The more I think about it there are more reasons that this site works well and attracts people so quickly. An element of new sites that often works well is keeping the interface simple and the navigation self explanitory. (especially with people who don’t have a lot of time or patience) In this case the content/images take center stage and the navigation/functionality is uber simple and almost in the background. If/when they would like to expand on it they can build more complexity over time and teach the audience along the path to more features just as/or before they get bored with the current ones. Facebook has done this pretty well and has been able to innovate its way ahead of many other sites.

Any other reasons you think Pinterest is growing so quickly?

Why is Black Friday such a big deal?

I’ve been thinking about the holiday shopping season and why Black Friday and the entire Thankgsiving weekend is so crazy for shoppers. Why do all these people go crazy trying to get the best deals? Why do they spend so much time out in the malls that weekend buying things? Why is it specifically just this weekend that is crazy?

Some things have occurred to me this year since it is the first one I have had living with my husband in a house vs a condo/townhome setup. One thing has struck me for sure this year. People are scheduled. Everyone has events to attend, multiple family members to see, possibly neighbors or coworkers also and way more work around the house and at their day job than anyone can really handle.

What does this really mean?

People don’t have a lot of time to prepare for Christmas even though they feel the weight of the expectations from kids, family members and themselves after seeing the onslaught of advertising and promotional decorating that happens around town every year.

With way too much going on you usually end up with all your time too busy and scheduled to start shopping until the Thanksgiving event is checked off the list. Then you luckily have a three day weekend with the family that people tend to sacrifice on doing all this work in prep for the bigger deal holiday down the road.

This may be the one weekend  that moms can get out of the house to shop without the kids in tow, since their husbands/relatives are likely off from work also and can watch the kids at home. suprising the kids is impossible if they’re in the store with you so this weekend is important for the element of surprise.

Stores have long made a big deal out of this being the “busiest shopping day of the year” because it is the “first official day of the Christmas Season” even though Holiday decorations usually pop up the day after Halloween. The inside lingo of calling the day “Black Friday” became public about 6-7 years ago as companies admitted that stores may be in the red financially (operating at a loss) for the year until this day because so much of their business is done in the Christmas Holiday Season.

Since then people and marketers have been even more obsessed with having the biggest sales to attract the most buyers and people want the best deals. Entire websites have sprung up (and mobile apps) to track all the prices from competing stores and give you the inside scoop on getting the lowest prices for those items your kids and relatives want.

Some people shop online but how many of us hate it when something is pictured on a site and looks different/color/size/texture than you thought and has to be mailed back and it is twice the hassle of getting it at the store? It is also equally frustrating to see something online and then go to the store to find it isn’t even stocked and you wasted a trip.

So are these special sale prices on Black Friday really all that great? From what I have seen most of the really low prices on high demand items are very limited (4-6 per store, hence the waiting in line to get in first) and most people don’t get them. The other aspect of the deals that you hear less about is that these items are never the high end good quality items on sale. We have been looking at LED TVs this year and none of the ones I’ve seen on sale have been the 240 hz models. Only the 60hz and 120 hz models are on sale. It seems like a way to make a big fuss about people going to your store to get a good deal and limiting the sales to lower quality items and in limited quantity.

In addition to that, the Christmas holiday seems to have little or no religious meaning for most Americans at this point. It is a family oriented economic event. I agree with the ideas of getting together with family and spending time with those who really mean a lot to you in your life. I also believe that everyone has a few things they can’t afford or won’t quite go buy even though they need them and it is family and friends that should help them out this time of year and that is where the gifts come in. But this Santa brings everyone everything they ever wanted thing has to stop. As does the over-buying that the TV/Radio ads tend to promote.

I don’t know if it is worth going through all the craziness of shopping on Black Friday or Thanksgiving Weekend unless you are like us, both employed and scheduled for something on every day of all the weekends from Thanksgiving until the end of the year. Then it is your only chance to get things bought and decorated before family starts arriving expecting your house to look perfect. I am just trying to figure out when I will have time to clean it.

If you’re into Black Friday Sales you probably have: Kids, Inlaws, Someone staying with you over the holidays or a million christmas lights on your house and lawn. You probably live near a large metro area or in a city that has big box stores.

If you’re not you may be a: College Student, Single Guy or Girl or just not have kids. You probably don’t get into the decorating thing either. Someone else in the family probably hosts all the events and you get more sleep per night than they do per week.

A side note: It has also been reported that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving has become the second most crowded night in bars in the year. This used to be a big binge night for College students becasue they didn’t have class the next day and would be back home with all their old friends to meet up and hang out. It is interesting that it has flowed into the single people at older ages category and possibly others also. Maybe they drink because they know what is coming?

The Apple iPhone wasn’t a miracle just a repurposed design from arrogant salespeople

 

It really needs a glove with the case built in for the left hand.

It really needs a glove with the case built in for the left hand.

I just got an iPhone.

 Since all the hype has died down about these iPhones 2 years later, and people have accepted this device as the most amazing thing ever I thought I would post my reactions to this nice but not miraculous device.

The first thing that I realized when I got this iPhone was that its a video iPod. (of which I also own) It is a repurposed design of a former product. That isn’t revolutionary at all.

It’s like someone at Apple said, wow I like my iPod so much I’d like to make calls from it and ditch my phone. And they did it. All the technology was already developed for a former device. Some new things did have to be added and re-engineered. But there is so much re-purposed from 5-7 years ago, the development costs were probably not that high because they knew pretty close how to use the materials to do this from past experience.

Now I see this Apple tablet image in the news and think they are re-purposing it again on a larger scale. I get the if it’s not broke don’t fix it idea, but their marketing and PR hype is a bit off.

I think these functions work really well:

  • The touch screen is better than the old Palm Treo one and more intuitive. I am impressed at how they solved the QUERTY problem with a touch screen.
  • I think the apps are also very good and its nice that they share the love with the app companies that develop them. I don’t think $5 an app is a bad price for what they deliver and plus you should think before you download a ton of apps and a cost helps you do that. The alternative is that your HD gets full and crashes quickly.
  • It syncs with Yahoo email very well, which is what I use for one of my accounts. It turns out that email is very doable on a small screen.
  • I like the pull the corners effect to read web pages and increase the size of the fonts so you can click a link. This is very intuitive.
  • The GPS is pretty good. I watched my phone show a blip of my location on a map that was about 2 seconds behind where we really were as we drove home. That is pretty good bouncing off a sattelite that fast. I think the directions from where we are to an address will be very helpful in the future.
  • Doing the convergence thing and having the phone, music player, GPS, camera and email all together works great.

I think these things need work:

  • The rss feeds don’t always work on the iPhone. Not that it doesn’t literally work, but these are items I’d like to read in more depth, and on a tiny screen its hard. Also all the links go out to the web and I am finding that I can’t get that data very easily in Chicago.
  • The web issue is still an issue with web enabled phones. I hated that things took so long to download on my old Treo 650 and 4.5 years later its still an issue with the iPhone. (heck its an issue on my computer sometimes with Google reader)
  • I think people who have iPhones use them on the go a lot and the backup for the wireless network are free wireless networks. Which means you’re in trouble if you want to download an rss feed in google reader online. (meaning the bandwidth exceeds the ATT mobile network and that is sometimes spotty with its coverage)
  •  The Metra commuter train and Chicago CTA don’t have free WiFi on their trains and busses and you can’t always find one when you are on the street either. (neither do our cars) So, there are a lot of times/places I look down at my phone and can’t connect to anything (phone or internet network). fail.
  • I feel like we’ve developed content and a device for reading things in real time that wants to be downloading info/updates 24/7/365 and the networks still look like swiss cheese or a spider web, with gaping holes in them. We need more ubiquitous universal access before these devices can really be life changing.
  • The touch screen is great but then switching to a physical button for on/off seems counter intuitive. Why not make all the functions be a part of the touch screen? I keep looking for an off button in the screen itself. 
  • The battery life is horrendus. If I read email and rss feeds on the train and bus between home and work I use 50% of my battery life. Holy Monkeys, this needs a better battery or a plug that pops out the side that you can stick in any outlet you find.
  • I also like that Steve Jobs has the kind of what I say goes power and involvement in the details to make his products good on many levels and keep the design level very high. It’s impressive he has been able to hang on to that power in a large company, it is rare to see and keeping one person in charge makes decision making faster, easier and true to the original purpose. Its how things get done if that person is well rounded in knowledge and willing to enforce what they preach.
  • There is also the annoying problem that on any field you need to enter text you can’t click to put the cursor anywhere on the field to start typing except the end. If you want to change one letter you have to backspace the entire field until its blank and start over. We need to have a click to cursor ability/function, do apples just not do that?
  • The me.com thing they sell as an add-on is cool but way way overpriced. I cited that 1 yr of Flickr unlimited access is $25 and 1 yr of full LiveJournal access is $25. Why is syncing my phone to the web $100 for the year? Assholes. I did get a small discount and got it for $65.
  • The Apple sales guy was over the top. I really hope I never have to go back to that Naperville Apple Store again. He was about 18 and very arrogant. He made me (age 34) feel stupid for not knowing everything about the iPhone or web phones and his Apple Brand Arrogance and demeaning tone was disgusting. Why ask us about our computers at home? Why rip on them in front of us? When you don’t even own one? Admit most people have windows machines and then say why you might consider the Apple, don’t just say everything else sucks. OMG, and don’t explain everything for 2 hours when I just want to buy the damn phone. Dragging things out forever and then asking 7 times if we want to buy the apple care program that I didn’t want. And when someone says they will look it up online and then decide later, don’t say look it up now on this Apple, that is a high pressure sales technique and if I didn’t need a phone that day I would have walked out of the store at that moment. Totally unethical and wrong to do to a customer while you are looking over their shoulder. So, at all costs avoid Apple sales assholes that admit they don’t even own any of the Apple products they sell.  Just buy stuff online if needed. 

The basic thing is that the phone was worth the $288 that I paid (for the 16 gig). I paid like $300 for the Treo 650 in 2005. I think if this works for a few years it will be ok, and worth the purchase. But it really doesn’t need the hype or the arrogance.

Hidden fat & Cholesterol in Foods

I am still hot on this topic of finding hidden fat and cholesterol in my diet because I am still faced with how to get my Cholesterol down from 243 to under 200 in the next 6 months. I am not wild about the challenge but I don’t really have a choice either. Its my health right?

I have been to Jewel (our local grocery chain store, they’re pretty nice actually) and reading a lot of labels. I am finding a lot of fat in places I didn’t think I would. Here are some of the suprising foods I have decided to avoid to stay under 40 grams of fat per day.

Anything Organic.Organic food doesn’t have to be lowfat, so to make it taste better they leave the fat in despite all the health claims. Some of those organic granola energy bars had up to 12 grams of fat in them. A lot of it is from coconut and nuts in general. Yes, nuts make things taste better sometimes but you can’t have nuts in everything, despite it being good fat in them. Beyond about 6 almonds worth per day its still too much fat for the average person.

Any pre-made bakery, cookies or granola bars. Granola bars may have 8 grams of fat per bar and cookies can have 6-8 grams of fat per cookie. How many of us eat just one? Not likely. The only ones I found that were bearable was a low fat sunshine brand granola bar with 2 grams of fat and a honey graham cracker cookie and generic nilla wafers with 3 grams for a serving. I still like my sweet but I am not going anywhere near the enteman’s aisle or the key lime pie freezer.

Cereals. Yes, cereal. You don’t even get to enjoy the fat in cereals. Why is it there? I am not sure but some is from nuts other fat may come from the yummy clusters. I am not sure, but shredded wheat with frosting has 0 grams of fat and LIFE cereal has 1 gram, so those are the best of the bunch in my pantry and they’re plenty sweet.

Light Salad Dressing.Most of the big agrifoodmanufacturing companies have gone with a light is better than full fat strategy to sell more food because its tastier that way than at fat free. So finding fat free dressing is more of a challenge these days, yet the light dressing can have up to 6 grams of fat in one serving. How many of us only use one serving though? Back to fat free only for me, even though some of the fancy brands are a bit more expensive.

Pro-Biotics Again the health food claim but not low fat. A pro-biotic bar that was next to the Yogurt was 12 grams of fat. It was made of mostly nuts. Even the pro-biotic yogurt has 2 grams of fat in those tiny one ounce containers. Sneaky!

So generally I am looking for foods that have 1-3 grams of fat and anything 4+ gets tossed back on the shelf. One bright spot: The sunmaid english muffins with raisins (by the eggs in the fridge case, not the bread like you would think logically) only have 1 gram of fat. But no butter is allowed on them for me, I use jam instead.

The absolute worst food I found was a frozen Quiche about 4 inches across that had a whopping 26 grams of fat! Avoid quiche at all cost!

TopGear Weddings and Marketing

Those are three things I seem to be talking about this morning.

1. I am slightly jealous that the TopGear crew already incorporated themselves into someone’s wedding and therefore probably won’t be able to find a way into mine at Cantigny in the suburbs of Chicago. Bummer. Maybe we should rent the corvettes then? As an homage to TopGear and our love of cars? Read the full story here at the Daily Mail from the UK. And the Sun UK. Maybe we can do some kind of challenge in getting from the wedding ceremony to the reception? If any of the TG crew reads this blog thanks for including my ideas if and when that ever has possibly happened.

2. Wedding Planning is arduous and totally consuming of every second of free time you have when you are this close to the final date. I haven’t been updating this blog because there are so many things to manage. Oh and did I mention the I have to move out of my condo in 3 weeks also? It finally sold after 6 months of marketing and price lowering. Maybe moving would be a good TopGear challenge? Just don’t let them plan a wedding, that would be disasterous. No amount of compensation for mucking up would help fix that after the fact.

Between figuring out who will be attending, seating charts, making things like name cards and menu cards, making tiny bows on wedding favors, picking the set lists for the music, meeting with the church minster, and the soloist, seeing a test run of the flowers, getting the gown hemmed, insisting that the groomsmen and fathers to finally go rent their damn tuxes already, and matching the table runners and who knows what the f else, I have no time. It is a bit frustrating already. Now that I think about it, I am about ready to offer to turn it over to the TG folks out of frustration and a lack of sleep. I almost don’t care how it turns out, I just want my life back.

3. It hasn’t helped that I have been swamped with work either during this time, so I haven’t been able to blog about new online marketing trends either which is what I do for a living and should be easy and quick to write about. But I am working 12 hour days for difficult clients right now, so this isn’t happening either.  Anyway, it will be a while until this blog is updated regularly again, but I do plan to be back starting July 12th.

Update; the only TG tie in at my wedding was that we had a TopGear Table and a Nurbergring Nordschlefe Table. We also had a Star Wars table a Les Chats Table and a bunch of others named after our hobbies and interests.

Engagement Marketing Metrics, ROI & Open ID

I have been reading a lot about how conversion tracking isn’t enough data to make the best decisions and engagement is the new black. It is frustrating because no one defines engagement in the same way and no one can really tell you what it is.

I do agree though that engagement is the next evolutionary step in tracking onlinemedia for ROI purposes. I think the trouble people will have will be in customizing it rather than standardizing it. I think the meaningful parts of the process will be totally different depending on the company, the media, the process and the product.

What I consider the next thing for my own tracking purposes is prior ad exposures. This is an engagement metric for the ads leading up to conversion rather than site visitors for our own site. I don’t work with analytics usually or determine how to get someone to engage with a process over and over again. I do try and figure out ways to advertise affordably and get people to complete the conversion process. This prior exposures report should provide more insight into how many, where, when and how people come to the conversion site. I am thinking it should provide us information we won’t anticipate as well as show some information we knew would be there.

I am also a bit pissed off with this stupid marketing sherpa execuitive summary report. Pretty much everything written in it is complete bunk since there are a ton of caveats to each graph and I would bet more is according to how people track and assess results than how the media actually performs. If people would track media post impression they would see the value of banners rather than just for clicks. This is so frustrating until you see the data. Then it just makes sense.

People are influenced by banners (branding) and that whole banner blindness thing had to do with the crap companies that were allowed to buy ads with spammy business practices and scams.  They are still out there and as long as they are allowed because of corporate greed, people will keep ignoring some of the good ads for things they really do want and need. Targeting is part of the equation, but as far as targeting goes, we are still in the dark ages.

This brings me to another beef I have with the online ad industry right now. Everyone LOVES behavioral targeting, even if they don’t know what that means. (It has nothing to do with your behavior most of the time by the way.) It is a tracking of people who have been selected as a target by their profile info (Yahoo) or by visiting your site before and the ads follow you around on the web. The latter is the better way to do this (indicating actual interest rather than categorical inclusion) although we don’t know nearly enough about our target customers to really be able to target them online.

I am always asked why someone targeted for one category converts in an opposite one. Why? I have no F-ing clue dude! People are multi-faceted. They can belong to more than one interest or category even if marketers feel it shouldn’t be allowed. People have many aspects to their life and interests and they will always be that way. We won’t know all that data about them or how to process it for a long long long time.

That is what this stupid open ID thing will eventually lead to. A one stop shop for all your profiles and data so marketers can target you on hundreds of variables like what you do for fun, what you do for work and where you shop and live. (they have to sell out sometime) It would take literally hundreds of actual customer profiles to understand the marketability of each of these demographics, and then targeted messages to serve specifically to each profile type. It will take a few years to get there but I think it will get there sooner than I am personally ready for. I don’t know how to collect, assess or value those metrics about customers nor do I really want them targeting me like that.

Oy! Anyway, I am most interested in the overlapping cloud of ads that all influence someone to buy or sign up for something rather than I am in trying to figure out how to track a million personal profiles and target them with individual ads. Also, contrary to that stupid exec summary, pop-ups and unders still suck ass and you know it.

What did you spend your economic stimulus rebate check on?

I have not yet received my rebate check from the US government for economic stimulus purposes. I have read though that people are planning on saving it, paying down debts or using it for necessities like food and gas. All very good things. I think the people who will loose out will be the ones that think it is good for another fancy handbag or 100th pair of red shoes.  I think some Americans are coming to the conclusion that you are not what you own and that a simpler lifestyle has less financial risk in these uncertain times.

I have lived on both sides of the fence, a child of a uber-frugal dad and a spendy mom. I currently feel the urge to get a pair of dark jeans trouser pants even though I have plenty of pants. I feel the urge to pay extra principle on my mortgage every month even though I probably won’t be living there in 20 or 30 years. I feel the need to buy a car that gets 35 mpg or better AND has leather heated seats AND an automatic transmission AND costs less than $20K (used). Why do none exist? I guess I am a paradox that car makers don’t accommodate.

I am not suprised at the high cost of gasoline right now and fully expect it to get higher. (it’s not that they don’t want to increase oil production, it’s that they can’t because there isn’t more to be tapped) That said, it is scary that I spent $120.00 in May on Gas and I only drive on Weekends since I take the train and walk to work. If I was still driving every day to and from work that would be about double at $240.00. A full tank just cost me $65.oo and I have a 16 gallon tank.

What I didn’t see coming is the rising cost of food. Everything is not only going up in price at the grocery store, there is a difference in the regular prices of food depending on where you buy it in Chicagoland. I have started shopping at the super target in far west suburbia where Steve lives rather than pay about 10% more in Oak Park. And that doesn’t even include the difference in sales taxes by county.

I think people’s budgets will be pushed even further to the edge and breaking point in the rest of 2008 and that it will be a lean Christmas because the high cost of basic necessities will make it hard to afford non-necessity gifts. I would say that a good place for the rebate check would be an ING savings account and hopefully it will generate some interest before it becomes a Christmas gift fund.