Feb 06

A Rush to Purpose

I first became aware of corporate America’s willingness to cut corners in order to create a higher purpose at an industry event. 

The guest speaker was former United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz who, when asked how he planned to avoid the beleaguered airline’s spate of constant high-profile missteps, said he had it all figured out.

“This past weekend I created our corporate purpose. It will assure we won’t repeat past mistakes,” he said.

One could hear the moans and groans from the CCOs, academics and agency leaders in the audience, all of whom knew one does NOT create a higher purpose over a 48-hour time frame.

I share this anecdote because I believe it’s a key reason why a new survey shows only 27 percent of consumers can name a purpose-driven brand!

The shockingly low awareness level is, in my opinion, a direct result of the veritable stampede by organizations everywhere to tick off the box that reads, “Create corporate purpose.”

As a result, many such statements look the same, sound the same and include the same watered down, warm, fuzzy and, frankly, altogether forgettable phrases.

Mix in countless examples of purpose-washing in which a company boldly proclaims a purpose that fails to reflect how it operates in reality and is outed by a key stakeholder for doing so, and you have the answer as to why 78 percent of consumers don’t know your organization is purpose driven.

When it comes to purpose-washing in particular, we’ve helped many a client walk back a purpose until it’s been stress tested.

Case in point: One company was determined to lead with diversity and inclusiveness for their higher purpose.  After all, the company was about to introduce their services to several urban markets. But a quick look at the leadership team and board of directors on the corporate website revealed not one person of color in the entire group.

There was no doubt in our minds the client would sustain a serious backlash for not delivering on their higher purpose. As a result, we advised them to delay their launch until the C-suite and board better reflected the communities they intended to serve. FYI, Peppercomm’s Jackie Kolek provided tips for how companies can avoid making unintended missteps in a recent LinkedIn post.

Segueing back to creating a higher purpose, I interviewed 15 CCO’s for a co-branded research report with the Institute for Public Relations (www.instituteforpr.org). As a result, I know the very best examples of crafting a meaningful corporate purpose take months, if not years, to come to fruition.

In each case, the CCO’s with whom I spoke included the views of internal and external stakeholders before answering the fundamental question every corporate purpose should address: Why does the organization exist?

My personal favorite was Lowe’s which, after a lengthy process, declared their higher purpose to be, “Helping people love the homes in which they live.” Lowe’s delivers on that promise every day in multiple ways. And it’s the reason why employees are proud to work at Lowe’s. It’s a purposeful purpose. And I’d be willing to bet a year’s supply of lumber that most Lowe’s customers know the retailer is purpose driven.

So if you’re about to create a higher purpose, do yourself a favor: Slow down, include input from all relevant constituents and be sure you can live up to that purpose every day in every way.

If you already have a corporate purpose but haven’t yet stress tested it to ensure it rings true across all audiences, do so ASAP.

A rush to purpose can be a one-way ticket to anonymity, antipathy and, very possibly, anger.

###

Jan 23

When comedy goes one step too far

Sometimes comedy can be used in the wrong way. In fact, I’m often asked by fast track executives during our comedy workshop how to determine whether comedy is or isn’t appropriate in a business setting. I always answer by saying, “Take time to get to know your audience ahead of time. Determine their tastes and personalities as well as whether the organization has a track record of embracing comedy in its culture.”

That’s why I’m questioning what I see as a textbook example of how NOT to use humor to change a buyer’s consideration set and engender a warm and fuzzy feeling at point-of-purchase.

I call your attention to the new Planters Peanuts Super Bowl campaign. As you’ll see, Planters has decided to either kill their iconic, 104-year-old Mr. Peanut in an automobile accident or as the very creepy Tweet suggests, have him commit suicide.

Since beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I’ve reached out to Maggie O’Neill, our resident pop icon expert who has promoted the likes of Webkinz, the Maytag Repairman and, Cowabunga Dude, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I’ve also asked Clayton Fletcher, a professional comedian and Peppercomm’s Chief Comedy Officer to provide his POV.

  • Why do you find this campaign funny or offensive?

Mags: I find it funny – but understand the concerns.  Why funny?  Well first it was unexpected.  I haven’t seen Mr. Peanut in a while, and I had no idea he was hanging with Wesley Snipes and Matt Walsh.  The tone of the ad is not very serious, so you know and understand going in what to expect.  Some naysayers are concerned that Mr. Peanut killed himself or the ad turns its back on mental illness.  I don’t see either.  I see a brand that took a chance in “killing off” its beloved (debate there) character, has started a conversation around something we have not thought about in a long time and changed the conversation about peanuts from banned food to stay-tuned for what’s next.  It works, and the execution is funny. Afterall, it’s the death of a peanut in a fire.  Can anyone say Roasted Peanut?

Clayton: I think it’s a simple case of misguided creativity. The company didn’t want to announce the retirement of their iconic spokesman with a simple press release or in some other boring way, and I respect that. However, making death funny is not easy to do, and this ad doesn’t do it.

  • This appears to be a classic one-off campaign aimed solely to shock people and make the brand (Planters) stand out in our world of information overload. What’s the line between smart and strategic shock and awe vs. simply being offensive?

Mags: This is just the beginning. A funeral in the third quarter of the Super Bowl?  Planters has more up their sleeve if they are investing this kind of money, time and taking this chance.  The character is over 100 years old.  I don’t think its going away so easily.  That said, if Super Bowl LIV (54) is the last we hear of Mr. Peanut, well the campaign accomplished a few things Planters has not done for me in the past.  (1) It got my attention (and everyone else’s), (2) it opened the door to something new for the brand after 104 years, and (3) once I saw the ad (the Tweet was a bit odd if you saw it first), it made me laugh.

Clayton: In the sense that taking this risk gets attention, the ad’s a success; for example, Repman is blogging about it! I don’t think there’s any shock value here, but an irresponsible flippancy toward a subject that causes people grief and sadness, even depression. Not shocking, but not what we want from a wholesome company like Planters either.

  • Assuming they didn’t do so, should Planters (and their ad agency) have first screened the campaign with mental health experts, families of automobile accident victims (40,000 Americans die on our roads every year according to the National Safety Council), loved ones of those who have committed suicide (over 47,000 Americans end their lives every year according to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention) or is nothing sacred in TrumpLand?

Mags: I assume this went through many considerations.  Maybe not a screening, but I don’t know. There is a small disclaimer on safe driving at the onset, so they did give it some thought.  That said, there is nothing in here about mental health once you watch the ad.  When I first saw the Tweet I was more concerned over the mental health issue.  But Mr. Peanut ultimately dies as a heroic sacrifice hanging on a branch with two celebrities after his Nutmobile goes over a cliff.  Yes, it’s funny.  But I was also less concerned.  They could consider a donation to a mental health charity or a distracted driving foundation as part of his funeral – in lieu of flowers.

Clayton: I’m sure a test was done, but I doubt the specific groups you mention were included. This is a tough area for me, because as a comedian I know taking risks is often the only way to find real comedy gold. Creativity itself must not be hindered, but part of the comedian’s job is to present the creative idea in a way the audience can enjoy. I feel this ad agency (who clearly isn’t comprised of professional comics) stumbled into “don’t try this at home” territory, and it rings morbid and insensitive. Not the tone I’d expect from a legume retailer, and I wish they’d take this one off the shelf. The late Mr. Peanut would have wanted it that way.

So, what’s your take? Funny or offensive? This part-time communicator, part-time comedian would like to know.

###

Jan 13

Memories of a Founding Father

Our country had Washington, Adams and Jefferson. My profession had Arthur Page, Ivy Lee and, most certainly, the recently deceased Harold Burson

I’m not a “Burson Person,” but I have two special memories of him nonetheless. The first concerns the amazing firm he built. The other recounts my memories of a remarkable two-hour lunch with the beloved Burson.

I first became aware of Burson-Marsteller’s existence a lifetime ago as a freshly minted account executive at Hill and Knowlton. From day one, I and the rest of the H&K juniors were continually reminded that we were the biggest and best PR firm in the world.  As my boss described it: H&K is Tiffany’s. Everything else is Filene’s Basement.

But that all changed one spring afternoon in 1980 when the entire New York staff was ordered to gather in a cavernous conference room.

After we’d settled in, our distraught CEO announced, “O’Dwyer’s has just released the rankings and we are no longer number one. Burson Marsteller is. That is unacceptable and it will change. We are implementing two immediate strategies: a brand refresh (yawn) and a decision to actively begin pursuing new business.”

The latter statement really hit home.

H&K had always prided itself on never soliciting clients, instead haughtily deciding if a prospect was “H&K worthy.” 

But after Burson blew by us, every new business prospect suddenly became H&K worthy. And within a year or two, H&K had begun its long downward spiral, while Harold & Co. rose to ever loftier highs. The decision by one firm to target and pursue companies it wanted to do business with versus another that pitched virtually anything that came in the door was a lesson that would stick with me in the years that followed.

My second anecdote involves the only time I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Burson and after I’d established my own agency.

One of our newer employees, who had recently left B-M to join Peppercomm, arranged a lunch for us with the legend.

When we entered the restaurant, Mr. Burson rose from the table, extended his hand and said, “I’ve really been looking forward to meeting Steve Cody for quite some time.” I was shocked that he even knew I existed. 

He continued: “I’ve been following Peppercomm’s success for quite some time now.” Not knowing what to say, I mumbled, “Gee, thanks Mr. Burson.” Naturally he asked me to call him Harold, but I felt like I was in the presence of a giant and couldn’t imagine calling him anything else.

Mr. Burson sensed my nervousness, leaned in and whispered, “I’m proud of everyone who succeeds at my firm and in our profession, but there’s a special place in my heart reserved for entrepreneurs. Only we know the exquisite highs and devastating lows of starting from scratch and lying awake nights worrying if we’ll be able to meet the next payroll or not.” I cannot tell you how much his words meant to me. 

Mr. Burson proceeded to answer every question I fired at him (including why he represented tobacco companies). “I believe every legitimate business deserves representation,” he said.

Then, typical of the gentleman he was, he wanted to hear more about Peppercomm and what we were doing differently. I mentioned that one of things we insisted upon was sitting in on a client sales executive’s “pitch.” I told him I felt it enabled us to hear the unfiltered voice of the customer rather than having it interpreted by marketing communications executives. 

He smiled, leaned back and said, “I always insisted on the very same thing. And we did it. But we don’t do it anymore and I’m not sure why.” I never expected that sort of candor

After two hours, we shook hands and promised to stay in touch (which, sadly, we didn’t). But as I left the restaurant that day, I remember saying to my Peppercomm colleague, “I feel as if I’ve just been schooled in the art of war by George Washington himself.”

There will never be another Harold Burson. But I’m privileged to have spent those 120 minutes at the foot of the master and will honor his passing with these memories and a reminder to apply their lessons in my own life.

###

Jan 06

Tom vs time

– “My life sucks. Everything hurts,” said Jim Plunkett, one-time Heisman trophy winner and Super Bowl winning quarterback for the Oakland Raiders. 

– “I look in the mirror and I say, ‘Who are you?’” Tony Dorsett, NFL Hall of Fame running back.

– Earl Campbell, another NFL HOFer and, arguably the most punishing running back ever, has had both knees replaced, endured five back surgeries, severe arthritis, foot drop caused by nerve damage, spinal stenosis and is in and out of rehab for a recurring addiction to Oxycontin. Yet, Campbell says he’d do it all over again if given a chance.

I submit these horrific examples of what a career in the NFL can, and will, do to players because the ageless Tom Brady finds himself at yet another crossroad.

Tom Terrific isn’t concerned about ending up like Plunkett, Dorsett, Campbell or thousands of other hapless former NFL greats because, according to Mark Leibovich’s seminal 2018 expose on the NFL, “Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times,” Brady relies on TB12 to ward off CTE and every other body-destroying injury a career in pro football will most assuredly produce.

If you’re not familiar with TB12, it’s Brady‘s home grown fountain of youth formula that assures sustained peak performance through a combination of pliability work, hydration and no coffee, and a bunch of other New Age remedies. (Note: Check out “Tom vs Time” on YouTube. You’ll not only learn all about TB12, but also hear Brady’s wife, Giselle, voice her concerns about long-term brain damage).

Brady attributes TB12 to his consistently high performance but, this blogger asks the obvious question: When will Father Time finally catch-up with the greatest quarterback in NFL history?

Who knows but, based upon his Saturday night press conference in which he addressed the Pats being upset at home by the visiting Tennessee Titans (an unthinkable occurrence in years past), Brady’s already hinting at playing yet another season.

I guarantee he will return for another season.

Here’s why:

1.) There is NO substitute for the ego rush and sensation of being the idol of millions of Pats fans. No matter what Brady does when he finally hangs up the spikes, he’ll never again be able to revel in the Messiah-like adulation he now enjoys (which, btw, is what led to the sad demise of Muhammad Ali. Fan worship was Ali’s heroin and, not content to be the ONLY three-time heavyweight champion, he repeatedly subjected himself to terrible abuse in his final years in the ring).

2.) Brady is a winner. No other NFL QB comes remotely close to matching his stats. And winners like to go out on top. He’ll be back for the 2020 season in an attempt to win one final Super Bowl.

After word: Brady’s desire to hang on when he should hang it up is in no way limited to the NFL or the sports world in general.

I’ve witnessed aging executives in the wild and wacky world of PR either fall asleep in critical meetings or, having lost track of the conversation, ask a question that was answered 10 minutes earlier.

Whether QB’ing an NFL team or a PR firm, ya gotta know when to say when.

###

Dec 10

Beware of third person people

I first became aware of third person people while watching the egomanical Reggie Jackson brag about his exploits throughout the late 1960’s, ‘70s and early ‘80’s. 

Whenever he was interviewed after hitting a walk off home run, the superstar would always begin by saying, “Reggie was expecting a fastball outside in that situation so Reggie simply hit the ball where it was pitched. Period.”

“Seinfeld” beautifully captured the absurdity of the third person self-brag in the classic “Jimmy” episode in which Jimmy inspires George Costanza to begin referring to himself in the third person.

I mention Reggie, Jimmy and George because it was one year ago today that our Peppercomm new business team pitched Clyde Tolson (not his real name, but FBI aficionados should make an immediate connection). Clyde was a third person person.

Clyde was the CEO of a fast-growing, deeply funded software company that was in search of a strategic public relations partner. Clyde’s CMO invited us to travel to Austin to pitch Clyde and the business.

When I asked if the prospect would be willing to share the travel and hotel costs I was told, “Clyde doesn’t believe in that. If you want Clyde’s business, you’ll demonstrate it.”

That should have told me all I needed to know but, frankly, last December was a lean month and we were hungry for new business.

Fast forward to pitch day. We were told by the CMO that we’d have one hour with Clyde and to be sure to leave time for Clyde to ask questions. Duly noted.

We arrived a half hour early and were ushered into the conference room. We sat for 25 minutes before the CMO and a consultant who was managing the agency search entered the room.

The CMO said Clyde would be a few minutes late.

Fast forward another 25 minutes. Enter Clyde, stage right.

Clyde introduces himself, tells us to begin our presentation but added, “Clyde needs his lunch first.” So we watched as Clyde’s personal assistant entered the conference room carrying a silver tray containing Clyde’s bowl of soup and a glass of sparkling water.

Clyde ate as we rushed through our truncated pitch deck.

At the end, Clyde said, “Clyde needs you to understand that ANY PR effort is about Clyde first and the company second. Got it?” Apparently Clyde had his sights set on running for political office in 2020.

We nodded and rose to shake Clyde’s hand as he left the room.

The CMO and search consultant said we’d done a great job and thought we’d answered Clyde’s questions thoroughly.

When I asked how soon they’d make a decision, the CMO replied, “Yesterday. Clyde wants to get going right after the first of the year.”

Well, guess what? We never heard from the CMO, the search consultant or the legend-in-his-own-mind Clyde. We called. We e-mailed. We prayed. Nada. Radio silence.

We’re still waiting for someone at Clyde’s business to extend the common courtesy of telling us WTF happened.

Repman thinks Clyde was on a fishing expedition and wanted ideas from unsuspecting agencies like mine. Repman thinks Clyde never intended to hire a firm.

Repman sees this as a cautionary tale that extends far beyond the business world. Caveat reader: Beware of anyone who refers to herself/himself in the third person. Life is far too short to feed the oversized egos of others.

Do you have any third person tales you’d care to share? Repman would love to hear them.

                                        ###

Dec 02

The decline and fall of the English Language

I wanted to share a list of recent assaults on the English language published by BuzzFeed and headlined, “23 Spelling Mistakes That Are So, So Dumb But So, So Funny”.

While I agree they are indeed so, so funny, I also find them so, so sad. 

It’s a sadness I’ve witnessed firsthand over the years as I’ve read blatant assault & battery crimes on spelling and word usage from past employees, recruits, vendors and, yes, even clients.

Here are just a few that made me laugh and cry at the same moment:

  • “Let’s stop going back-and-forth with the lawyers and end this rigor morale.” Happily, I caught this horrendous mistake before it reached the client. Our self-proclaimed “writer as a hobby” account supervisor (who left long ago) had butchered the word rigmarole and turned it into two words that, due to spell check, were readily accepted. I quickly called this would-be Hemingway aside, explained her mistake and stressed the need to first research words and phrases that were foreign to her. God knows if she listened or is causing even more rigor morale wherever she is today.
  • “I broke my teeth on media training!” A bold, if painful, response blurted out by a top executive to a prospect who had asked about our media training credentials. While the executive in question may have taken an inadvertent fall during a prior training session and dislodged some front teeth, methinks she was actually looking for the phrase, “I cut my teeth on media training.”
  • “Our proprietary system takes the grey matter out of measurement.” One can only think the synapses in this man’s grey matter weren’t firing correctly the day he uttered this abomination. Otherwise, minus grey matter, how could one even create a proprietary measurement system in the first place?

Sadly, I’ve read many other truly painful misspellings and abuses of the English language. And, it just seems to get worse with each passing year.

Many blame Twitter and texting as the root cause. I blame the toxic combination of individual laziness and a primary and secondary school system that no longer stresses the importance of mastering spelling or writing skills.

None of this would matter if one were, say, applying for a minimum wage job at Wal-Mart. But committing such atrocities in the PR/marketing world is a sure-fire way to limit one’s career path.

Or is my blog just another example of rigor morale?

Btw, PLEASE post any examples you can add to the list. I’m planning to write a book with the working title, “The Decline and Fall of The English Language” and need all the help I can get. Truth be told, I’d rather not break my teeth looking for content.

                                       ###

Nov 12

Yes, but…

Anyone who has studied improvisational comedy is familiar with the “Yes, And…” exercise. Quick plug: Every Peppercommer is familiar with Yes, And… as well as stand-up and all types of improv since we’ve been offering it as part of our training for the past decade

But, I digress.

The Yes, And… exercise forces participants to listen and improvise on the fly by hearing what’s just been said by a team partner, selecting one word and then continuing the conversation/skit by starting with, “Yes, and….”

I mention the exercise since the brand new Thanksgiving Day campaign from PETA elicited the exact opposite from me. I thought, “Yes, but…”

You can read the details for yourself in the link but, in short, PETA is asking everyone to “Be just like Trump for one day and pardon your Thanksgiving turkey.”

Obviously, the PETA marketers thought the Trump name would break through the clutter and get everyone’s attention. Yes, and….. it sure got mine (but, in the wrong way).

Which is why I’m responding by interjecting, “Yes, but why associate your brand with another brand that is the polar opposite of everything you stand for, beginning with Purpose?

Branding and engaging target audiences in authentic conversations is becoming increasingly more difficult and complex, but I think PETA is doing itself, its purpose and its many advocates a MAJOR disservice by leveraging an antithetical brand to promote their own cause.

I’m really interested in hearing what turkey and Trump lovers alike think of this ploy. So, please, put down your carving knives for one nanosecond and post a comment.

# # #

Nov 06

Do the ends always justify the means? Better ask Pam and Ed

A brand launch that could only occur in the era of Trump –

There’s fake news, misinformation and disinformation. And then there’s the completely fabricated story of Crowdsourcers Pam and Ed’s upcoming wedding on December 1st. I’ll let you read the entire chain of events in the Buzzfeed story below, but here’s the gist:

  • A few weeks ago, an apparently real couple named Pam and Ed posted a crowdsourcing request on Facebook pleading poverty and asking anyone and everyone to help make their wedding dreams come true. Well, guess what? They raised some $30,000 from unsuspecting, good natured fools.
  • Then Pam suddenly announced that, after much soul searching, the couple had decided to call off the wedding. BUT Pam said the happy couple would spend their newfound $30,000 to fund a spectacular, one-of-a-kind honeymoon. Boy, doesn’t Pam sound special? Oh, and btw, Pam indicated the couple would let everyone know when the wedding would be rescheduled so they could again help crowdfund it. Talk about hubris.
  • Needless to say, the entire online world went postal and Pam’s sob story/scam became the 14th most upvoted post of all time on r/ChoosingBeggars (Gee, what an honor). The top 13 must be very special.

Anyway, turns out the entire thing was a hoax perpetrated by a new website called Capturedit.com which describes itself as a “social media drama” site that is now searching for “Groomzilla” stories to dramatize.

So I ask you: In this era of incivility, quid pro quo’s and outright lies, where does a business/marketer draw the line? Ponder these questions:

  1. Is it fair to intentionally trick people to donate $30,000 for a fictitious wedding and then drive the crowd to a frenzy by suggesting the money wouldn’t be returned?
  2. Is that the way you would launch a business?
  3. Have things become so sleazy nowadays that this is considered brilliant marketing and not something that even P.T. Barnum would find nauseating?

I can’t say, but I sure would like to know where Pam and Ed are planning to go for their honeymoon. $30,000 can buy a whole lot of paradise. 😊

# # #

It Looks Like That Viral Story About A Bride Stealing $30,000 In Wedding Donations Was Just A Marketing Stunt

A single screengrab — and a lack of Facebook reactions — were the likely giveaways.

Last updated on November 6, 2019, at 9:48 a.m. ET

Posted on November 5, 2019, at 8:07 p.m. ET

Ljupco / Getty Images

A viral Facebook post allegedly written by a bride who canceled her $30,000 crowdfunded wedding and refused to return the money to her friends and family appears to have been fake and created as a marketing stunt to drive traffic to a new website focused on ~social media drama~.

On Monday, screenshots of the supposed Facebook post and the reactions from the bride’s family were uploaded to the subreddit r/ChoosingBeggars.

In the screenshots, a bride named “Pam” announced that she and her fiancé “Edward” were canceling their Dec. 1 wedding and not returning the $30,000 in donations they had received from their family and friends.

Reddit / joyeuxanniversaire1 / Via reddit.com

“Don’t worry, the money you’ve donated will not be spent in vain but rather used towards a honeymoon in the coming months,” Pam wrote. “After we regain financial stability and hold calm in our hearts after a honeymoon we will announce a new wedding date and re open our money fund for any further gifts. Weddings are expensive!”

Pam goes on to say that she’s updating the couple’s “gift fund registry on Amazon” for vacation gifts in case anyone wants to purchase anything for their upcoming trip, and reassures her Facebook friends that the new wedding — for which she is clearly expecting more financial contributions — is going to be “a HIT.”

In a follow-up comment, the original poster shared another screenshot that claimed to be reactions to the post from “Pam.” They’re about what you’d expect.

Reddit / joyeuxanniversaire1 / Via reddit.com

Although the names of the “commenters” are blurred out, they are identified by their relationship to the bride and groom for context — although not much context is needed, since everybody commenting is really angry.

The post blew up. It is currently the 14th most upvoted post of all time on r/ChoosingBeggars, where it was originally posted. The original poster’s comments have thousands of upvotes.

ADVERTISEMENT

r/ChoosingBeggars / Via reddit.com

The thread was written up by media outlets around the world.

Google News

People loved it.

r/ChoosingBeggars / Via reddit.com

Really loved it.

r/ChoosingBeggars / Via reddit.com

They demanded more content, more drama.

r/ChoosingBeggars / Via reddit.com

And the original poster promised to share an update with more comments from “Pam’s” family and friends.

r/ChoosingBeggars / Via reddit.com

Here’s where things start to get interesting.

Later on Monday, more screenshots of supposed comments from “Pam’s” post appeared — but not on Reddit.

The new images were uploaded to the website CapturedIt.club. The homepage banner promised that the site delivered “social media drama.” At the time the update went up, it was the only content on the website.

 Another interesting thing? The website was brand-new. It was created Monday, the same day that the Reddit post was made.

Domain Tools / screenshot

The update included eight new screenshots of the “thread” — these, however, were all stamped with a “capturedit.club” watermark. The originals didn’t have this.

It’s also written as if the author has no direct connection to “Pam” and her “family.”

“Immediately after the post’s popularity, the Redditor was bombarded with notifications, mostly from people dying to get an update, like this guy. We feel you, Mr. Soup-yCup!” the update read on the website, using this screenshot to show how people were hungry for more drama.

But this screenshot might’ve given away more than CapturedIt.club intended.

This is a screengrab of a private Reddit chat request that Soup-yCup sent to the redditor who posted the original screenshots about the alleged greedy bride. It’s something only the person who made the viral Reddit post would see.

In other words, someone behind this viral social media marketing website apparently has access to the Reddit account that posted the original thread.

Still, these new and watermarked “updates” from the Saga of Pam were shared to different platforms, including Twitter, where they have been retweeted thousands of times.

christ on a bike’s AUDACITY@wthDARIELLE

Anyway, I have a reminder set cuz the person who posted it is gonna update us with 5 pages worth of comments lmao

christ on a bike’s AUDACITY@wthDARIELLE

Updated comment section 1

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter
844 people are talking about this

Highlights from the “updated” comment thread include alleged family members vowing to sue for the return of their money.

christ on a bike’s AUDACITY@wthDARIELLE

Updated comments 2: #3 is the brides explanation. She needs to get beat tf up on god

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter
998 people are talking about this

“Pam” also has a nervous breakdown and claims to use money from the fund to pay for her emergency medical bills.

christ on a bike’s AUDACITY@wthDARIELLE

More to come

View image on Twitter
859 people are talking about this

These watermarked “updates” made their way back to Reddit, and people there began to get suspicious about whether the whole thing was true. One person noticed that there were no reactions, likes, or dislikes in any of the screenshots — which seemed a little weird, given the content.

Further, there are no GoFundMe pages featuring a “Pam” or “Edward” for the purposes of a wedding. And despite the fact that “Pam” referenced an Amazon wedding registry in her first post, no registry could be located for a Pam–Edward wedding on Dec. 1 or any other date.

Amazon

BuzzFeed News reached out for comment and clarification to the CapturedIt website’s submissions email Tuesday morning. Soon after the request was sent, the CapturedIt website was drastically updated with a sleeker look, revamped submissions page, and a new blog post soliciting “groomzilla” stories.

According to the submissions page, CapturedIt will only accept “verifiable and compelling drama from all social media websites,” and all screenshots sent in must be uncensored.

Also, apparently, there will be a podcast?

BuzzFeed News has identified the person behind this website and reached out via multiple channels.

UPDATE

Following the publication of this story, the Reddit account that made the original post was deleted and everything on the Captured It website was taken down — except the homepage, which now features a grinning emoji and the caption, “BEN HOBBS PRANKSTERS.”

Ben Hobbs is not the name of the individual BuzzFeed News identified as the person running capturedit.club.

Oct 30

When it comes to inane (and insane) line extensions, it sure seems like this company doesn’t know s*hit from Shinola

I’ve loved everything about Shinola (www.shinola.com) since they launched with a commitment to be of, by and for Detroit. The superb watchmaker has played a small, but highly visible, role in MoTown’s slow, but sure, revival. How’s that for a higher purpose? 

But, as is often the case with successful brands, Shinola is rapidly losing track of what prompted their early success and, veering badly off course to make long-time brand advocates such as me begin to scratch our wrists and heads.

Case in point, Shinola (whose quality of leather in products ranging from wallets and briefcases to wrist bands and all sorts of unique bling) is nonpareil, just introduced a real doozie of a new product.

Hold for it.

Now available just in time for the holiday shopping season? What else but a handsome, all-leather version of the popular board game Monopoly? I say again, a leather-bound version of Monopoly. Now who at Shinola was ingesting what type of edible when this was declared a great line extension?

It’s laugh out loud absurd. With a market correction looming large on the horizon who, but a few one-percenters and Oval Office occupants, would possibly plunk down hundreds and hundreds of dollars for something like this?

And trust me, the Monopoly board isn’t the first truly bizarre line extension from Shinola.

The entrepreneurial super nova is at the cusp of eroding their incredible brand loyalty with this sort of nonsense. Is it over confidence? Hubris? Are they channeling P.T. Barnum’s belief “…there’s a sucker born every minute?”

Regardless of their intent, misery loves company and lord knows Shinola wouldn’t be the first brand to lose its way.

Beginning with the ill/fated New Coke disaster of the early 1980’s, consider these ill-conceived brand extensions from the past:

1.) In an attempt to compete with Apple’s dominant iPod MP3 player, Microsoft released the Zune in 2006. As of November 15, 2015, Microsoft discontinued all streaming, downloading, and other music services for the Zune. In the fourth quarter of fiscal 2009, Microsoft recorded a 42% decline in revenue in its non-gaming devices segment — a decline largely attributable to the Zune’s poor performance. While the device might have been a reasonable choice for consumers, a number of reported bugs did not help sales. On December 31, 2008, most if not all 30GB Zunes stopped functioning simply because the underlying code had failed to account for the extra day in leap years.

 

2.) Zippo made a perfume in a bottle shaped like a giant lighter:

https://lipglossismylife.com/2012/04/11/zippo-the-original-fragrance-review/

And I would be less than transparent in not adding that  Peppercomm has made more than one ill-conceived brand extension in our 25-year history ranging from a dotcom that opened exactly when the tech bubble burst, a licensing firm intended to provide us with new points of entry into major brands that, well, never did. A sales offering that combined the best practices of media training to help sales forces “win” biz dev pitches (but didn’t). And then there were a few acquisitions that, well, let’s just say, those were our versions of the Shinola Monopoly board.

I’ve become very gun shy of line extensions and now make sure we carefully incubate a new service before bringing it to the market.

Our Peppercomm team’s outstanding Purpose Stress Test is a great example. I bet we “tested” our stress test with at least 10 Fortune 500 CCO’s before we were confident enough to believe we were adding a smart extension to our service offering.

Oh, and one other thing for those of you who have never heard the expression, “You don’t know sh*t from shinola.” It was a term popularized by G.I.’s in WW I and directed at, who else, but their commanding officers. 😎

So, caveat marketer and agency owner alike, the line extension you may be salivating to announce could very well be the first step in eroding customer loyalty in an era when loyalty rivals fresh water and honesty as our scarcest commodity.

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Sep 30

Does the PR profession care about improving its leadership?

I’m not asking that question.

Truth be told, I’m asking it on behalf of Dr. Bruce Berger, professor emeritus, advertising & public relations at The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations. And his question comes in the wake of Plank’s rather sad, and quite sobering, Report Card on PR Leaders.

Before I continue, please note that, of the more than 800 respondents surveyed, 35 percent were top leaders while the remaining 65 percent were personnel at one, two or three levels below the power brokers.

The report, co-sponsored by Heyman Associates, reveals a gap between leaders and their direct reports that makes The Grand Canyon seem like a pothole in comparison.

To wit:

– Leaders gave themselves a grade of A-minus in five fundamental areas of leadership: organizational culture, leadership performance, organizational trust, work engagement and job satisfaction.

– Direct reports, however, gave their leaders a highly mediocre grade of C-plus!

Holy chasm, Batman!

This is the third such study from Plank that reveals a disturbingly growing trend that has yet to be explored by our industry press or associations.  In fact, the gaps between how leadership and those that report to them have only expanded with each subsequent report.

Rather than hazard a guess as to the why, I went directly to the source, Dr. Berger. Here’s what he said:

“The size of the gap is striking and concerning. It suggests some real issues in organizations such as a continued lack of two-way communication, limited decision-making power, diversity concerns and, according to females in the survey, organizational cultures that are less supportive of them than men.”

Bill Heyman went on to say, “In some organizations, the culture itself may present barriers to significant change. Or perhaps some of those who have the power to effect change may be the problem. Other leaders may simply not want to let go of their decision-making power. Still other PR leaders might have egos that reduce the voices of others or resist a willingness to listen to them or effect personal changes.

“Or (and this is critical in this blogger’s mind) perhaps the profession itself doesn’t actually believe their leaders have such issues, or don’t want to believe it.”

Heyman’s comment stuck me as spot-on since we find ourselves in the midst of an absolute blizzard of self-aggrandizing awards nowadays.

Where does one start? “30 Under 30”? “40 under 40”?Purposeful Persons”? “50 Most Powerful”? “50 Most Influential”? “50 Most Omniscient”?

Or how about the sudden proliferation of halls of fame? It seems like there’s a new variation on the theme being announced by a media property nearly every week.

Mind the gap

So how can we laud our profession’s leaders on the one hand while The Plank Center Report continually reinforces that there’s something very rotten in Denmark?

Before I cease and desist, I must share one other troubling finding: nearly half of the respondents said they do not belong to a single professional association. Berger and Heyman believe the reasons why include “… a growing disenchantment with some of the big associations (more words and flash vs. substance) AND employers not paying for membership.”

That is a HUGE concern in my opinion.

How can tomorrow’s leaders expand their universe of knowledge in our profession if their interest in joining professional associations is either on the wane or prevented?

It would seem to me that, while the trade media continue to wax poetic about our amazing profession and hand out more awards than New Jersey State Troopers do speeding tickets, Rome is burning.

The big question is this: What will it take for our trade journalists and association presidents to take these findings seriously and start offering insights and education that will change the direction of a very dangerous course we are on?

Let’s put the self-congratulatory awards on temporary hold and figure out what’s broken before it’s too late.

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