Jul 13

The brand of you…part two

There are many ways in which to build what I call ‘the brand of you.’

As noted in yesterday’s blog, I recently spoke to about 75 PR agency interns at a Council of PR Firms event. The students in attendance were, understandably, most focused on how to ‘win’ their upcoming job interviews. But, until they’re able to point to real and relevant workplace accomplishments, intangibles like personal contacts and personality will determine their success. As will their ability to uncover the pain keeping the interviewer up at night and suggesting ways in which the intern might help ease that pain (it’s also a great way to get the interviewer talking, which is a key to winning an interview)..

Creating an individual brand isn’t easy. But, I’ve seen countless individuals at my firm do just that, inluding:

– one person who created an interactive cocktail reception to train staff at all levels in the art of networking

– an account executive who pitched, wrote and placed a co-bylined article on a subject of interest to her: multicultural marketing

– a staffer who took it upon himself to not only be our resident digital expert, but actually created our practice offering

– an account person who devised a job swap concept that’s involved my partner and me as well as two junior AEs (and resulted in our making significant changes to the way we do business).

Each one of these people have taken important strides in building their own brands. And, while I’d hate to contemplate any of them leaving us one day, the fact is that their accomplishments will clearly set them apart as they continue along their chosen career paths.

So, the next time you find yourself submerged in day-to-day account or administrative work, take a second to stop and think of smart and strategic ways to build or nurture the brand of you. You’ll thank yourself in the long run.

Jul 10

Meet the new Delta. Same as the old Delta

Delta Airlines recently emerged from bankruptcy with a promise to be much more customer-centric in Delta_2   everything they do.

And, at times in my back-and-forth travel to Rome this past week, they did a pretty fair job. But, any efforts at ‘winning’ me back went badly off course last weekend. First, we sat and sat at DaVinci Airport in Rome just so one ‘connecting’ passenger could make the flight. It was great for him, but caused a 90 minute delay for us.

After landing at JFK and clearing customs, we were directed to baggage carousel six. We waited there for 25 minutes. Then, we were re-directed to carousel one. We waited there for another 25 minutes before, yes, they directed us back to the original carousel.

Needless to say, all this turbulence had my mind (and stomach) spinning…Delta’s back all right. And, if my experiences are any indication, they’ll be making a final approach towards oblivion in the not-too-distant future.

Jun 22

JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge reflects poorly on company’s image and reputation

Why sponsor an event if you aren’t committed to making it a first-class experience?

Having just run the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Runners_2
Challenge in Central Park, I can state that it is the most poorly organized and, potentially, most dangerous race I’ve ever run. And, the JP Morgan Chase people either don’t know or don’t care.

To begin with, organizers permit way too many runners to compete in way too confined a space. They also do a horrendous job of separating the walkers from the runners so, at almost every half-mile or so, I was running right up the back of an unsuspecting walker. There’s absolutely no crowd control either, so we runners had to dodge everything from pedestrians trying to scoot across the course to, believe it or not, a woman walking her dog against the flow of thousands of runners. Someone should whisper in that dog whisperer’s ears. Talk about animal cruelty!

To add insult to injury, the official race clocks seemed to have had issues as well, so no one was quite sure what their time was.

Added up, these snafu’s make me wonder if JP Morgan Chase can’t manage a 3.5 mile race, how could they possibly do a good job with my assets?

It’s time for the company to either find something else they can manage well or get their act together on the race. Here’s one runner who has grave doubts about ever competing in a JP Morgan Chase event again.

Jun 20

Cadillac is more like caddy shack

When I was beginning my PR career in the late 18th century, my bosses would often refer to a Cadillac client’s/prospect’s product or service as aspiring to be the ‘Cadillac’ of its space.

In those days, Cadillac was synonymous with luxury and status.

As we now know, that was then and this is now. Aside from a few drug dealers and pro athletes who like to tool around in tricked-out Escalades, no one goes near the Cadillac brand. In fact, there’s new proof that, when it comes to luxury, the tables have really turned on the once mighty brand.

According to a Scarborough Research/Radio Advertising Bureau study, Volkswagen owners have a media household income of $77,914 vs. $59,565 for Caddy drivers. Volkswagen? Ouch! I can remember when the VW bug was seen as a low-end, counter-culture means of transportation to and from the Woodstocks and Monterrey Pop Festivals of the era. Now, though, VW is clearly leaving Cadillac in the dust.

Caddy is in a freefall and I, for one, see no way for them to avoid the abyss. When their aging owners finally die so, too, will the brand.

Jun 13

With a name like Smucker’s…..

My mom is in the intensive care unit of a New Jersey heart hospital called Deborah (da-BOR-uh).

To say that Deborah is inaccessible would be akin to equating a climb of Mt. Everest to a walk in the park. Located somewhere deep in the bowels of the Garden State’s Pine Barrens, Deborah is almost impossible to find. Major arteries such as the Turnpike and Parkway are at least 25 miles away, leaving the driver to maneuver back roads through a dense, thickly forested area known as the Pine Barrens. At several points on the ride, I half expected cast members from the movie ‘Deliverance’ to emerge from the underbrush.

Two major military installations, Fort Dix and McGuire Air Force Base, are in the vicinity, and add to the surreal feeling. So while one winds his way around yet another hidden curve, a group of Humvees carrying battle-ready G.I’s can come barreling out of the foliage at any time. And, then there are the F-15 fighter jets who, like their ground-based allies, simply appear out of nowhere, skimming the treetops at a deafening Mach 2.0.

By the time one finally arrives at Deborah Hospital, a stiff drink is the first order of business.

So, here’s hoping that the absurdly remote locale is more than justified and the heart specialists on staff are as good as advertised. Borrowing from the time-worn slogan, ‘With a name like Smucker’s, it has to be good,’ I’d suggest the marketing folks at Deborah adopt something like, ‘With a location as alien and inaccessible as Deborah’s, the heart care has to be the best.’ Or, at least, I’m certainly hoping it is.

Jun 04

Mickey and Donald better apply an extra layer of SPF 35 before heading out

Men’s Health Magazine just conducted a first-of-its-kind survey to determine where men were most likely to contract melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

To do so, MH first checked the list of America’s sunniest cities. It then checked the melanoma rates among men from the National Cancer Institute. Finally, they looked at melanoma’s toll from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Anaheim, home of Mickey, Donald, Pluto and those other horrific Disney characters, topped the list Mickey_2
followed, as might be expected, by other southwestern hot spots such as San Diego, Tucson and Las Vegas. But, check this out: Bangor, Maine, was listed as America’s seventh most deadly city. Bangor, Maine? Could there be a more godforsaken place? The weather is perpetually cold, windy and rainy. So, what gives? I could see Bangor topping a list of cities with the highest suicide rate. But Bangoe doubling as MelanomaCentral? Maybe the rare rays of sunshine that actually do break through the murkiness are so pissed off that they wreak havoc on unsuspecting Bangorians (Bangorites?).

Regardless of Bangor’s plight, New Yorkers can rest easy. We finished way down the list. As did Chicago, Buffalo and our nation’s capitol. The safest city for dodging melanoma? Anchorage, Alaska.

Getting back to Anaheim for a moment, their problem could be a marketer’s dream. If I’m calling the shots at, say, Coppertone, I’d offer to ‘adopt’ Anaheim, provide the entire population (including Pinochio) with a year’s supply of my gook and challenge Men’s Health to undertake the very same test 365 days from now. It’s a no lose situation for the city or the marketer. Even if it doesn’t work, how cool would it be to see Disney issue a new, updated ‘Sleeping Beauty’ with Prince Charming slowly dying from the ravages of Melanoma? Will Sleeping Beauty wake up in time to see her prince, or will the deadly disease beat the evil Millificent to the punch and finish him off first? I know I’d be sitting on the edge of my seat.

May 21

Product design pros would have loved the Spanish Inquisition

Do you have as much trouble as I do opening some of the space age product packages being made by the P&G’s, Unilevers and others?

Just this morning, I barely missed slicing opening an artery as I vainly tried to gain access to a new Mach packet of Mach III razor blades. These packages are fool-proof, knife-proof and bullet-proof. The packet containing five little containers of dental floss is positively maniacal in its stubborn refusal to be opened and could confound the cagiest bank robber.

Not only are these packets impervious to simple opening techniques, they’re made of some nasty, ragged plastic that, when punctured at long last, lie in wait for the unsuspecting consumer to reach inside and try to extract the desired consumer product.

I’m sure these Fort Knox-like packages were created in response to the Tylenol-type product tampering scares of the 1980s and 1990s. But, c’mon. There has to be a happy medium. What good to me is a new razor blade, box of dental floss or can of shaving cream when I’m howling in pain, and searching for some band-aids to stanch my bleeding? In fact, wouldn’t it be ironic if the Gestapo-like product packaging people decided to encase band-aids in these fool-proof, lethal packets? If they did, then we’d have arrived at the true end of the universe: a product that both caused pain (i.e. Slashing the bejesus out of yourself when opening the packet) and provided the solution (a band-aid to control the bleeding).

It’s madness. Sheer madness. And it does nothing to build product loyalty, either.

May 17

Ad industry should do its homework first before asking PR: why can’t we all just get along?

I’m reading more and more articles in the ad trades about PR’s growing importance and its seeming ‘encroachment’ into such ‘traditional’ advertising domains as word-of-mouth.

This week’s Ad Age contains an interesting piece by Noelle Weaver that asks, in effect, why we can’t all just get along. Alongside it, though, is a telling list of comments from various readers, that explain, in part, why the disconnect continues.

One observation from an integrated marketing agency executive inadvertently nails the ‘problem’ on the head. Intending to illustrate how each discipline contributes thinking to the other, he writes, ‘…..PR people often identify the Big Idea and write great headlines and taglines, and the ad creatives come up with great promotions, events and story placement ideas.’ And, therein lies the problem.

Ad people still think of PR as being limited solely to stunts, press releases and media relations. It isn’t. And, it hasn’t been for some time. The best PR is being leveraged to create new, and serious, dialogues with a rapidly-changing end user landscape, and ranges from viral and digital initiatives to thought leadership and strategic partnerships. As long as advertising types continue to see us as stuntmen and women, they’ll continue scratching their heads wondering why we can’t all just get along (and continue to lose more and more of the client’s overall marketing budget).

May 09

Ridiculous quote of the week

"Of course, we intended for Cocaine energy drink to be a legal alternative the same way that celibacy is Cocaine_2an alternative to premarital sex."

— Clegg Ivey, partner in Redux Beverages, makers of an energy drink called Cocaine, which is being withdrawn from stores because of concerns about its name. Ivey went on to justify the name by saying it fit the company’s "….tongue-in-cheek" approach. The company says it will rename and re-distribute the product in a few weeks.

Here’s my new name suggestion: Methadone. I’d love to hear your naming thoughts…

Apr 09

Corporate Social Irresponsibility

There are great marketing ideas, not-so-great-marketing ideas and bad marketing ideas. Occasionally, though, there comes along a marketing idea so bad that is also qualifies as just plain wrong.

Krispy Kreme, the makers of those heart-stopping, calorie-laden donuts, has lent their name to an event so unique that it strains credulity. Naturally, it incorporates their ubiquitous product. But, after that, the idea goes straight to hell in a hand basket.

Called ‘The Krispy Kreme Challenge,’ the ‘race’ encourages joggers to run one mile to and from a Krispy Kreme store. Fair enough. But, the ‘challenge’ involves stopping at the KK store and downing a dozen donuts before completing the race.

The race was started as a fund raising event by a NC State University fraternity and is now sponsored by a local running supply store, a handful of local college hang-outs and a law firm.  Now in its second year, the KK Challenge attracted a record 1,400 runners whose race fees contributed more than $10,000 to the North Carolina Children’s Hospital.

The donation is a good thing. But, everything else about the challenge is wrong.  Just plain wrong. What is Krispy Kreme thinking? I’m not a doctor, but consuming a dozen donuts and then running a mile has to put huge strains on the cardiovascular system. It can’t be good for the stomach or other vital organs now that I think about it. Just thinking about the race makes me ill.

Why would KK lend its name to a race that does more harm than good? Will it take a few runner heart attacks before someone with some semblance of sense and responsibility wakes up and pulls the plug on this god-awful idea?

The Krispy Kreme Challenge is so bad and so absurd that I believe it should be entered in its own PR industry awards category: corporate social irresponsibility.