Jul 12

Alice Through the Looking Glass: A Client’s View of Peppercomm

Today’s guest post is by Rachel Francis, pictured, an intern at Peppercomm client TGI Friday’s. Rachel spent this week working at our Manhattan office, and here is her tale…

Franciddds.I’m Alice, and New York City is Wonderland. Unfortunately, I have yet to be greeted by my Mad Hatter, AKA Johnny Depp. Arriving in New York has always been exciting, but this time I came alone. This time I was entering into a whole new world. A fast paced world of dresses and suits. A world of a true adulthood. I was taking on New York from a whole new angle.

You may ask, “What is a Texas girl doing in the Big Apple?” Well, I’m currently an intern at TGI Fridays in Dallas, and they want me to get a feel for the PR world, which up until now has been a world of mystery. I had to pinch myself when I received the news just to make sure I was in the real world and not in lala land.  Sure enough, it was real life.

Isn’t it odd that a client is spending a week in agency land? Nah, it’s pretty awesome. I have even enjoyed being referred to as “The Friday’s Spy.”  However, I can assure you, I am not on an espionage mission.

Monday morning, I puddled around for my car keys, only to realize that a metro card had replaced them, a metro card that really likes to play hide and seek in my purse. Once I found the card, it was time to face the underground machine, AKA the subway… Let’s just say my hand sanitizer will never be the same. On the plus side, I now know how to successfully push people out of my way. Stepping out onto Park Avenue was like a breath of fresh air…literally. Now, it was game time!

Walking into 470 Park Ave South has been a bit intimidating, as there is a fairly large security guy awaiting my arrival. This just shouts, “Real Deal.” Due to the fact that he’s caught me trying to slip in without my pass, I’d say he’s pretty good at his job.

The first thing I’m told when I enter Peppercomm is that I’m going to be working on assignments for other clients. My smile stretched from ear to ear, because I was getting a chance to step outside of the Friday’s safety zone. I’ve heard that one of the best parts of agency life is the fact that one doesn’t get bored. There is always a challenge, always something new going on, and I was going to see it first hand. Then I was told that the snacks are free… I really was walking into Wonderland.

The first valuable lesson I’ve learned here at Peppercomm, is to reign in my southern manners. I apologize for my southern ways, but down in Texas “yes sir” and “no mam” is a way of life, so holding back has been difficult. I find that I abruptly cover my mouth on a daily basis.

Moving on, to one of my first tasks. I was asked to help the interns on one of their group projects. It allowed me to see how hectic agency life really is, and I loved every second of it. The past two days have been go, go, go!  I had the honor of running around the city with Chris, searching here and there for useful information. However, the streets definitely took a toll on my feet, as I now have blisters to show for it. I pretty much feel like a limping gazelle amongst racing cheetahs, guess that’s life in the big city!

When I’m not busy with tasks, I’ve been writing this blog, and meeting with some of the people of Peppercomm. Meeting with the people who make PR happen has expanded my narrow knowledge about this field. I’ve always thought of it as just press releases, and planning events. Furthermore, I’m surprised to see all of the multiple components and how they tie together. What’s even more interesting is realizing the evolution of advertising and PR and how they are becoming integrated. The world is changing, innovating, spinning, and Peppercomm is right smack in the middle of it.

Unlike Alice, I’m not ready to awaken from this Wonderland. I enjoy growing up and venturing out into the unknown. Who knows, maybe Johnny Depp is on the corner of 5th and 58th waiting for me with a cup of tea?

Jul 11

What every PR pro can learn from Johnny Carson

Johnny_carson.Our entire industry should thank cable network TCM for airing classic segments from the legendary Johnny Carson Show.

Entitled ‘Carson on TCM’, and hosted by Conan O’Brian, the classic segments display all of Johnny’s brilliance. In fact, Conan himself said of Carson, “Johnny was the greatest late night talk show host ever. Period.” And, I agree.

That’s because Carson possessed attributes that few rivals could emulate and which every PR practitioner (from the newly-named PR Week’s uber elite Power 50 Club to the lowliest intern at the smallest shop) should study and adopt.

As Conan mentioned (and as you can clearly see in the link), Johnny was:

1.) A great listener. When Chevy Chase was asked what it had been like to sit in Carson’s shoes and serve as a guest host, he called the gig “impossible. No one listens as well as Johnny,” said Chase.

The same could be said of many PR people, who confuse listening with social media monitoring. They’re two very different things. That’s why we’ve retained a listening coach to help Peppercommers do a better job of listening in face-to-face meetings.

2.) Improvisation. Johnny could handle any comment, however bizarre, from any guest. And, he could use his rapier-like wit to defuse a tense or awkward situation like no one else.

I’ve seen many PR executives wither and die on the vine when an unexpected client or prospect observation derailed an otherwise smooth presentation. Studying improvisation, and being ‘in the room’ as comedians like to say, is a critical skill for fast-track PR pros to practice and master.

3.) Vulnerability. Carson wasn’t afraid to shed a tear after hearing a guest’s sad tale or reminisce about what once was.

It’s been said before, but the best leaders are those who aren’t afraid to show vulnerability. Sadly, our field is still chock-a-block with lots of tough and gruff executives who believe it’s a sign of weakness to admit fault or display empathy. Study Carson’s tapes. Audiences loved the man because he DID show his vulnerability. And, BTW, the V-word will only become more important in years to come.

4.) Self-deprecating humor. Johnny loved to poke fun at himself for his many failed, high profile marriages. He also made fun of his monologue jokes that had bombed.

How many times do you see a comedian, an executive or a PR pro, for that matter, make fun of her shortcomings? Self-deprecating humor is a rare commodity, but one that is well worth embracing if you can.

5.) Authenticity. Carson wasn’t afraid to tackle tough subjects and, as you’ll see in the clips, share his personal P.O.V. on everything from sex and politics to society’s double standards and his never-ending salary battles with NBC management.

Although we’d like to believe otherwise, most PR executives are afraid to posit their views on the leading issues of the day, as well as the very real ones challenging our industry’s future. That’s why I was so delighted to read Marian Salzman’s take on what she called the ‘feminization and political correctness in PR’.

So, do yourself a favor this coming Monday night at 8pm. Tune in Carson on TCM and study the late talk show host’s techniques. I guarantee you’ll pick up some subtle nuances that will make you a better PR professional. And, that’s no joke.

Jul 10

5 Automotive PR Stunts That Got Worldwide Coverage

While I worry that most consumers and business executives alike seem to think PR is little more than stunts, some stunts ARE worth taking note of.

Today’s guest post comes from Bradley Taylor* who knows a thing, or two, about both the automotive world and world-class stunts.

Here’s his list of five recent auto PR stunts that generated worldwide publicity AND held true to the individual car’s core brand values.

So, what’s your take on stunts in general and these five in particular? Oh, and please: no multi-tasking while you read this blog. Repman is all about safety first, last and always:

There is something captivating about waiting impatiently for the next, newest, and greatest model of your favourite car to be released for the public to view and purchase.  It seems like some car brands are willing to go well above and beyond what is the norm to get noticed in the industry today. We have all heard the really catchy jingles, and seen the funny commercials; however, what about the publicity stunts that some of the most popular brands are willing to do to get noticed in this very competitive market? Some of the most popular car brands have done some crazy things in order to get noticed or press coverage. Here are five of the most wild automotive PR stunts that got worldwide coverage.

Super Sonic

6a00d8341c39e853ef01901e33f75f970b-320wiIn 2012, action sports legend Rob Dyrdek modified a Chevrolet Sonic to make it a stunt car for the PR benefit of Chevrolet. The Chevrolet Sonic was decorated to a similar design of a race car and was taken out to a racetrack. In the middle of the racetrack was a huge kick flip ramp that was designed to make the car flip in mid air over a seriously oversized skateboard. The flip was successful and the crowd went wild, gaining Chevrolet the attention of the public.

Escape the Map

6a00d8341c39e853ef0191042a218d970c-320wiIn 2011, Mercedes-Benz launched an interactive game that was intended to gain the public eye of a majority of the population. This was an interactive contest where people would play the game in an effort to potentially win a new car. What better way to get the public’s attention than to offer them the chance to play a game in order to win a free car? This definitely helped with the launch of their new version of the Escape and gained Mercedes-Benz a lot of publicity.

Lending Lamborghinis to the Italian Police

6a00d8341c39e853ef0192abf32d16970d-320wiA couple of years ago, Lamborghini lent their Gallardo model to the police in Italy. This is one of the fastest cars in the world, and police forces around the country have been investing in this idea. The police in Italy were trained on how to drive the 560 bhp vehicles in the event of a high-speed chase. A really high-speed chase, that is. The police in Dubai have a number of supercars in their arsenal, and the Lamborghini is just one of them. Could this be a trend for other countries in the coming years?

Honda’s Professional Live Sky-drive

6a00d8341c39e853ef0192abf32e21970d-320wiOn live TV, Honda hired a bunch of professional skydivers to help them get some publicity. The professional skydivers were tasked with the goal of spelling out the Honda logo as they fell in the sky. This was a huge feat that was aired on live television and had the Honda name on the tip of everyone’s tongue for a long time. Honda sure does know how to get the world talking about their brand in a positive light. Watch the video.

Water Car Stunt

6a00d8341c39e853ef01901e33f9c8970b-320wiVirgin Mobile’s owner, Richard Branson, has become well known for his part in PR stunts to get the attention of the world. In order to promote his company he drove an amphibious car across the English Channel. Not only did he do this crazy PR stunt; however, he accomplished this in record-breaking time. He is well known for being the person to take PR stunts to the next level, and he certainly did not disappoint with this one.

When it comes to pulling stunts in order to gain the public eye, it is important to have a stunt that is planned out and thematically executed in a way that will bring positive light to the brand and the organisation as a whole. There is a saying that goes something like this, “Any press is good press”. That is not always the case, and when it comes to getting good press, companies could greatly benefit from following the lead of companies like these.

They constructed a positive PR stunt that gained the public’s attention and held it for a good amount of time without sacrificing the reputation of the brand. It is a win-win for the audience and the brand if a positive publicity stunt can be pulled off without putting anyone in a negative light.

* Bradley Taylor is sometimes found writing about cars, mobile computing, iPad applications and updates from industry leaders like Mercedes and Jardine Motors. Outside of writing he loves Formula One and he also maintains a passion for photography. Catch him on Google Plus.

Jul 09

A Message from the “eBabies”

Today’s guest post is by Peppercommer Chris Piedmont.

Pick up a newspaper, tune into NPR (or Rush Limbaugh if you’re feeling adventurous), or turn on CNN. Chances are, at some point during the broadcast, there will probably be some mention of the Millennial generation. As we continue to come of age and are recognized as the future of the country, the focus of many has turned from Baby Boomers to us.  Most articles or mentions of Millennials are negative and if you believe these thoughts, then you’d think the future of our workforce and country is a bleak one. Full disclosure, I contributed to this when I implored my fellow Millennials to “wake up” and get involved in the political process.  Are we really any different than past generations?

Born in 1992, I am a true Millennial. In fact, I’m what RepMan would refer to as an “eBaby”- those who don’t know what life is like without technology at their fingertips. Looking back, I realized that my age group is one of, if not the first, to truly grow up immersed in this changed, technological world. At school, we had computers in every classroom and practiced our coursework using educational games. We watched tape players become CD players and then iPods. VHS tapes became DVDs and then Blue-Rays. TVs got thinner. Some of us got cell phones in elementary school (my parents held out until high school). Middle school was ruled by MySpace; high school by Facebook; and college by Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and reddit. We know nothing but this world. But, is that really a fault as some would have you think?

Last week, I was doing research for a client when I saw a trending article come across the bottom of my screen and the Forbes article “Millennials: Entitled or Enlightened?” immediately drew me in. In this thoughtful article, Brian Havig tackles the idea that Millenials are entitled and whether, if we are, it’s truly a bad thing.

He begins by describing an encounter at a restaurant where he left after receiving terrible service. On the way out, he voiced his concerns to the manager and was told that he was “acting entitled” by expecting decent service. What shocked me, was that Havig then embraces this label of entitlement and points out the reasons it can be a good thing. For example, “entitled people expect things, and when they don’t get them, they take action…and that action leads to getting better service at restaurants, but also changing cultural customs, the laws of a country, and the companies we buy from.”

Millennials are NOT a bunch of spoiled children. We’ve grown up in a world, much as Havig points out, that our every opinion (whether insightful or not) has been heard and we are now making those opinions known to the brands we are loyal to. That instant feedback we so willingly give presents an immense opportunity to every brand and organization out there, because we provide a real-time look at what your ACTUAL customer experience is, not what you hope it is.

At Peppercomm, we are audience focused and strive to listen, above all else. Listen, and you’ll know what’s going on with your brand’s perception. Listen, and you’ll be able to handle client concerns instantly before they become bigger problems. Listen to the eBabies, the Millennials, Generation X, the Baby Boomers, and every other section of your audience. Listen, and you will learn.

Jul 08

Sleaze City, USA

Sleaze.With Eliot Spitzer’s surprise announcement that he’s running for New York City Comptroller, the Big Apple now has two disgraced former politicians running for office this Fall. What’s next? Bill Clinton deciding he’d like a shot at Manhattan Borough President?

If nothing else, having two disgraced politicians affords New York with a new branding campaign. I’d suggest a riff on the Beach Boys’ classic, and opt for: ‘Sleaze City, USA.’ Featured lyric? “Two sleaze balls for every voter.”

Speaking of branding, image and reputation, what do the Weiner/Spitzer reincarnations say about the men, the city and society in general?

Americans have always loved second acts in life (someone who enjoys a meteoric rise, self-destructs and then, somehow, some way, rises again like the mythical Phoenix).

And, politics is chock full of examples.

Richard M. Nixon’s career was considered dead and buried after he lost the California gubernatorial election in 1962. But, he reinvented himself, and went on to win the presidency in 1968 and, again, in 1972 (before signing off on the wire-tapping of Democratic Campaign Headquarters in Washington, D.C.’s Watergate Hotel).

And, Ronald Reagan who ran unsuccessfully for president in 1968 and 1976, was considered too old to be considered for the 1980 nomination. We all know what happened in that instance.

Of course, Nixon hadn’t sexted topless photographs of himself to young women (and, ugh, who would want to see Dick Nixon’s flabby upper torso in the first place?). And, the erstwhile screen star, Ronnie, was a devoted hubby to wife, Nancy, who was more familiar with script girls than call girls.

So, politics has a long-standing tradition of second acts. Whether we’ve just witnessed a broadening of the definition to now include documented sexual hijinks remains to be seen. But, if I were a betting man, I wouldn’t bet against either Weiner or Spitzer.

Despite their oh-so-public flaws, they’re both brilliant orators with razor-sharp minds. And, New Yorkers like their politicians to be larger than life (Think: Ed Koch, Rudy Giuliani, John Lindsay and even Mike Bloomberg).

It may not be right, but the Big Apple is THE single best venue for a disgraced politician to open a second act in politics. After all, City Hall is just a few miles from Broadway.


Jul 02

Trust No One: 5 Lessons from the Edward Snowden Crisis for PR Pros

Today's guest post is by Peppercommer Matt Purdue.

Camel_630.jpgxThe Edward "Snowjob" Snowden affair is the most intriguing corporate espionage case since Alexander Graham Bell borrowed Antonio Meucci's plans for the telephone. As a review, Snowjob is the former government contractor who leaked details of the U.S. government's massive citizen surveillance program to the press. (For a chuckle, watch two cable news talking heads “debate” whether Snowden is a hero or villain.)

If you're thinking this is yet another blog about how the National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, et. al., should have handled this crisis…think again. This blog implores you to ask yourself one simple question: Could we have an Edward Snowden working at our agency? Obviously, your staff has access to various and sundry proprietary data from clients of all types. Whether you admit it or not, one leak — even an inadvertent one — can sink your agency's reputation. Here are five tips for reducing your risk.

1. What happens at work…: Remind every employee, freelancer and business partner that they are under strict non-disclosure agreements, and remind them of the serious criminal and civil ramifications of breaching them. Tell them you don't suspect anyone, but you're also stepping up your internal monitoring procedures. Trust in God, but tie up your camel.

2. Who done it? Set up a confidential whistleblower program. Such a program should have two components: first, it should protect the identity of an employee who reports a colleague for leaking info; second, it should reward the whistleblower with a bonus if the leaker is successfully caught.

3. Monitor thyself: Continually scan the digital sphere and social media for both news about your agency and to discover what your employees are up to. Your summer intern just tweeted about a great meeting she had with your new client — your new defense contractor client. Shut her down.

4. Know your employees: The latest word on Edward Snowjob is that he took his position expressly to gain access to the sensitive info he leaked. How well do you really know your employees and new hires? Many companies conduct background checks. If yours doesn't, it's time to start. Same goes for your contractors and business partners.

5. Have a plan: While you've been busy creating crisis plans for clients, what about your own? What would you do if you discovered a leak on your own? Worse yet, what would you do if someone outside your agency found out first? Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

Jul 01

I dig Marian Salzman

2226584823_836a6cfd9cI'm pretty sure I've never met Marian Salzman, the CEO of Havas North America. But, I dig her.
That's because, as far as I know, Marian's the first holding company CEO with the guts to go on record to state what's wrong with the public relations industry.
In a recent Holmes Report, Salzman said what I've been saying for years: “America's PR industry is too feminized and too politically correct.”
Of course, Salzman's remarks were specifically aimed at the non-event that is the Cannes Lions Awards competition. But, even so, she's won my heart.

Salzman believes PR did so poorly in this “creativity for the sake of creativity” awards program because the best campaigns (and she cites her own holding company's Australian appendage as an example), “exude a great masculine energy, something we're sadly missing over here.” (meaning the good, old U.S. of A.).
And, get this, Salzman said she believes, "…The American PR industry has become so feminized and so politically correct that I worry where the edge has gone. We've institutionalized all the hot shops, softened their edges and finishing- schooled the brashness right out of them."
To which I say, “You go girl!”
I've long been worried about the near-complete domination of PR by women. The last time I checked, 78 percent of PR practitioners are female (and predominantly white).

That spells trouble for any field trying to produce relevant campaigns for an increasingly diverse population.
I'm especially pleased to see Salzman take on the PR PC police.
I blame the industry trade publications for sanitizing PR. One need only read the cover stories of our leading trade journal to see what Salzman means. One would think the featured executives were latter-day versions of Albert Einstein, Mother Theresa and Mahatma Gandhi rolled into one.
And, unlike advertising journals, our trades lead readers to believe everything is sunshine and roses in PR. There's no controversy, no scandal and, to be blunt, no investigative reportage whatsoever.
As a result, we celebrate the bland and banal, and ignore the very real problem that homogenization will cause PR.
Were I a chief marketing officer looking for an edgy, irreverent campaign to reach an increasingly influential demographic, I wouldn't choose a PR firm. That's because the odds are good the most likely all-white, all-female team will produce a feel-good, all's well program that Salzman would agree won't move the sales needle or impress the Cannes Lion judges.
I'm hoping Salzman's holding company power position will finally wake up the PR powers that be and that they (we) finally begin having adult conversations about the dangers feminization and political correctness pose to our industry.

Jun 27

Youth (isn’t always) wasted on the young


I'll bet George Bernard Shaw had just gotten home after partying with a bunch of 50-something friends complaining of neck, knee and back issues when he penned his now classic quote, "Youth is wasted on the young."

I’ll bet he was also suffering from a host of aches and pains himself when he lamented his lost youth with so memorable a phrase. But, while I understand the essence of Shaw’s words, I sure don't subscribe to them.

That's because, as I turn 59 this Sunday, I'm enjoying a much fuller and more rewarding life now than I did ever did as a youth (Note the side-by-side photographs of Repman today, and his 24-year-old younger self).   

When I was 24, I had no real idea about the world at large, emerging trends or what was, or wasn't, important in my newly-chosen profession. Sure, I knew how to write a press release, generate placements and manage a client relationship. But, beyond that, I was clueless. I had no real opinions about politics, business or technology. My focus was work and women. Period.

I considered myself physically fit, but did little more than run a few miles every day. And my diet rivaled that of the pre-stomach band Chris Christie’s. Believe it or not, I feasted on a steady diet of McDonald’s and Devil Dogs.

The 24-year-old me would have never contemplated mountain climbing as a pursuit. It simply never entered my consciousness. Today, though, I can say I’ve successfully summited mountains in the Alps, the Andes, the Rockies and Tanzania. The 24-year-old me wouldn’t have been up to the physical, mental or emotional demands needed to climb the Empire State Building much less Mt. Kilimanjaro.

As a young man, I envied the likes of Johnny Carson, George Carlin and Richard Pryor. But, I never would have thought of performing stand-up comedy or improvisation in front of a live audience. I simply didn’t possess the self-awareness, self-confidence and self-deprecating sense of humor necessary to succeed on stage.  Now, I perform all the time and all over the country.

And, back in 1978, I positively adored Muhammad Ali. But, I never would have contemplated putting on a pair of gloves and learning to box. Now, I do it twice a week.

The young Repman could never have churned out a fresh blog on a daily basis either. I wouldn’t have known where to begin. Ditto for my column on Inc.com. I simply lacked the intellectual depth and rigor.

So, Mr. Shaw, I must say that I vehemently disagree with your observation. Youth isn’t wasted on the young. At least not all the time. And, certainly not in my case.

I’m hoping there are others who agree with my disagreement.

Either way, I'd love to hear from readers of a certain age. Do you agree with me? Or, like G. B. Shaw, do you feel youth is indeed wasted on the young?

Jun 26

Gone climbing. Permanently.

Gone climbingI'm interested to know if a recent phenomenon that's swept the Peppercomm workplace is occurring simultaneously in other office cultures, near and far.

The event in question is, for lack of a better description, a lengthy farewell e-mail from a departing employee that is sent agency-wide on the individual's final day of work.

These departure e-mails aren't just, “Gee, it's been real…” notes. Rather, they rival War and Peace in scope, and cover every conceivable event or experience that occurred during the employee's tenure at our firm.

Some will recall good clients and bad. Others will regale us with tales of their very first business trip. Still others will wax poetic about a Summer party from 2009.

I'm not sure exactly when these missives began, but they've become part of our standard operating procedure.

I addressed the phenomenon at our management committee meeting this past week, and noted that a departure note or e-mail simply never occurred at the Hill & Knowlton of the 1980s, the Earle Palmer Brown of the early 1990s or the J. Walter Thompson of the mid-'90s (my previous employers). Nor did it occur at Peppercomm until recently.

Our creative director suggested it was a Millennial 'thing' since, he noted, they love to comment on every occurrence in their lives up to, and including, their most recent employment experience. Our licensing director saw the phenomenon as a positive trend. Which it may very well be.

Good or bad, right or wrong, I'm nonetheless beyond curious as to WHY this occurrence has suddenly materialized.

Why do departing employees feel the need to share very personal experiences with every other employee? I'm at a loss. 

I'm also at a loss as to why each departing staffer feels compelled to include new contact information (since they're all already connected).

I can tell you one thing, though: when I finally decide to call it a day, I won't compose a departure e-mail that makes 'The Guns of August' seem like Cliff Notes in comparison. I'll simply hang a sign outside my vacant office that reads: 'Gone Climbing. Permanently.'

So, before I do go climbing on a permanent basis, can someone please answer two questions:

1.) Why write an all-hands departure e-mail in the first place?

2.) Is this phenomenon unique to Peppercomm, or is it part of the ever-changing American workplace?

If you're nice enough to enlighten me, I'll be sure to list you as an asterisk at the bottom of my departure sign.

Jun 25

A world without Wal-Mart?

Walmart-Protest2While Wal-Mart stores in Miami, Boston and San Francisco endured a weeklong employee strike in May and Amazon's Leipzig, Germany, facility staged a similar walkout demanding higher pay, Costco Wholesale, America's second largest retailer, continued to sail serenely along with a remarkable turnover rate of only five percent among workers and less than one percent with executives.

In fact, Costco is positively thriving. Sales are up a whopping 39 percent over the past five years and the stock price has doubled since 2009. Why?

Unlike the House of Mr. Sam, Costco pays hourly workers as average of $20.89 per (as compared to Wal-Mart's hourly rate of $12.67 per).

Eighty-eight percent of Costco employees also receive company-sponsored health insurance (Wal-Mart claims “…more than half its employees do.”).

And, drum roll please, Costco has no problems with unions. 'They are philosophically much better than anyone else I've worked with,' says Rome Aloise, a Teamsters vice president. Compare that with Wal-Mart's positively hostile attitude towards unions and union organizers (which was documented in 'The high price of low cost.').

Costco makes its profits through annual membership fees,

So, why is Costco so employee-friendly when Wal-Mart, and the rest of the retail industry, treats them so like so much chattel?

“We believe a happier work environment will result in a more profitable company,” says Costco CEO Craig Jelinek. “I (just) think people need to make a living wage with health benefits. It also puts more money back into economy and creates a healthier country. It's that simple.”

Shocking, no? Well, it is unique, at least in retail. “Most retailers see their employees as a cost to be minimized and typically end up underinvesting in them,” says Zeynep Ton, an M.I.T. professor.

That ends up creating the scenario we've all experienced at just about every Wal-Mart store one can name: “…surly employees in stores engulfed in chaos, (and) an environment that makes ordering online look a lot better,” notes Ton.

And how, exactly, is Wal-Mart dealing with surly cashiers? Replacing them with 10,000 self-service checkout systems. As you might expect, Costco doesn't seen any benefit in replacing humans with machines: “(Our) employees do the work more efficiently,” states Jelinek.

Of course they do. Because Costco cares about their employees. Wal-Mart, and the rest of the retail industry sees workers as a necessary, and expendable, evil. And, that my friend, is today's tale of two retailers. You decide which model will win in the long run. Am I predicting a world without Wal-Mart? Stranger things have happened.

P.S.: Wal-Mart pays multiple public relations firms millions of dollars annually. Costco doesn't see the need for outside PR counsel.