Jan 23

Next, we’ll find out the pope really isn’t Catholic

How depressing to learn that fortune cookies originated in Japan, not China. One wonders if this meansFortunecookie
the Benihana-type Japanese restaurants will start serving fortune cookies with that cup of tea and vanilla or chocolate ice cream? And, will the Chinese restaurant delivery guys no longer include fortune cookies along with those amazing chips and duck sauce? God, I hope not.

Talk about the world turning upside down!

With Chinese fortune cookies the latest ‘institution’ to fall by the wayside, what’s left to cling to? How long will it be before we learn that:

– The pope really isn’t Catholic?
– A bear really doesn’t relieve him/herself in the woods?
– Pigs fly the friendly skies?
– Snowball fights are routine in Hell? 

It’s enough to make me pour another glass of chard and wonder what my next Japanese fortune cookie will predict.

Dec 06

Curious? I think most guys would be repelled

Have you seen the TV commercial featuring Britney Spears and her new line of perfume called ‘Curious’? InCurious_2
the spot, Britney makes eye contact with some hunk and then, seconds later, is embracing him in her peculiarly passionate, but sleazy, way.

My first thought: what woman would wear Britney’s perfume? My second thought: what guy would ever find this a turn-on?

I can imagine the scene: a guy and girl are connecting. Things are progressing nicely. The guy is totally intoxicated with the woman and whispers in her ear, ‘I love how you smell.’ She sighs, and says, ‘It’s Curious by Britney Spears.’

Ouch. Talk about a buzz kill. Game. Set. Match.

What sane guy is going to want to hook-up with a woman who wears the perfume of America’s sleaziest and most unstable celebrity? If I hear that response, I bolt for the fastest exit, post haste.

What marketing genius thought ‘Curious’ was a smart line extension? Who’s the target market: emotionally unstable, drug and alcohol-addled girls, aged 18-25?

There are great new product ideas, good new product ideas and just plain bad ones. Curious perfume by Britney Spears belongs in a category of its own I’d label: ‘ugly.’

Nov 30

The Most Expensive Garment You Will Ever Not Own

Guest blog written by Gene Colter.

That multimillion-dollar bra Heidi Klum sported a couple of years ago has got nothing on this tiny tog of extravagance for the toddler set.Vest

The item in question is a patchwork vest for kids, available from J. Crew’s “Crewcuts” line for $325. Spotted on a flier ad on a countertop at a train station. Said flier was soon doused in coffee as the result of the classic “spit shot” produced by the person writing this entry.

This is an article of clothing whose economic excesses deserve further examination and perturbation. The two feet or so of material on display in this imported luxury speaks volumes about the reputations of both the retailer who sells it and the parents and relatives who will buy it.

First, the obvious: By definition, junior will get one season’s wear out of this item. One. (If your child can still wear the vest 12 months hence then there are medical problems in your family, and I wish you nothing but the path to good health, and please stop reading now.)

But, foolish blogger, you’re thinking, can’t you understand that this item can be passed down to little brother?

Indeed. Which amortizes its cost slightly – but of course also means that you have taken on the financial responsibility of another kid. So, at the risk of using fuzzy math, you’ve got the price down to about $162. That’ll make a dent in the $200,000 or so the extra kid will cost you through age 18 provided you don’t send him to private school.

Continue reading

Nov 20

Stupid, desperate people

Ever watch those horrific infomercials on TV? Tony_little

Fed up with the pabulum being pitched on local TV news channels this morning, I instead decided to check out the ‘paid programming’.

What I saw was patronizing, if not pathetic. One spot, for example, featured a real estate guru who guaranteed he’d make millionaires out of any viewer willing to follow his ‘simple, six-step, zero money down’ investment philosophy.  Yeah, sure.

Another showed scores of beaming, middle-aged housewives holding up their tent-like jeans and dresses. They’d each lost inches from their waistlines by following some bogus, seven-minute isometric exercise. The erstwhile ‘big gals,’ waxed poetic about their newfound energy, love lives and wardrobes. And they positively gushed about the isometric gadget, since it required only seven minutes daily out of their busy schedules. Scores of pounds lost? Inches melted away? All from isometrics? Me thinks not.

Continue reading

Sep 13

Customer alienation 101

Professor Richtoven: Good morning, class. I’m Professor Richtoven and this is Customer Alienation 101. Gillette

Let’s start with a simple question that relates to our first case study of the semester: How many here have cut a finger or worse trying to open a packet of Gillette Mach 3 razors? Anyone? Anyone? My goodness. Everyone!

Ok, wow. Well, who would like to share a war story with the rest of the class? Yes, Smedley.

Smedley: I’ve cut myself three different times on those impossible to open packages. One time I sliced off the tip of my pinky. See the stump? Anyway, my mom insisted on taking me to the ER. So embarrassing.

Professor: Ouch. And, how does that make you feel about Gillette?

Smedley: I hate their guts.

Professor: But, you still buy their razor?

Smedley: They’re the best, professor. The best.

Professor: Interesting. Anyone else? Yes, Dimwitz.

Continue reading

Aug 30

There’s chocolate on your Facebook

More evidence of the power of social networking as it relates to PR. In case you missed it, CadburyEdis04_2

  Schweppes is bringing back a defunct brand (the Wispa candy bar) because social networkers demanded it. Cadbury, better known in the U.S. as the maker of Snapple and Nantucket Nectar, discontinued Wispa in 2003—and almost immediately fans sprung up asking for it back. In June, two chocoholics stormed the stage during Iggy Pop’s set at a UK music festival and held up a “Bring Back Wispa” banner. But what really tipped the scales for Cadbury were the nearly 14,000 Facebook members who have joined the online campaign to revive the product. You can read more about it here.

Cadbury’s response is a perfect example of why tracking customer sentiment– using search engines and services like Cymfony and Nielsen Buzzmetrics– and responding to consumer sentiment has become a top priority for brands and PR pros.

This was certainly a good piece of news for Cadbury to counteract the negative press it’s been getting lately over being forced to delay or even cancel the sale of its beverage division due to the global credit crunch.

Above is a great B2C lesson, but also watch out for this on the B2B front. The WSJ recently picked up on the emergence of professional-level social networks that enable executives to interact with peers. Just as Facebook and Bebo are driving change in the consumer sector, social networking is quickly seeping up into the B2B world. As one obvious example, pharmaceuticals companies are going to need to monitor these sites for what doctors are saying about new drugs.

Guest blog written by Matt Purdue, Senior Analyst for Peppercom.

Aug 15

McDonald’s has become the Disney of fast food

A new study in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine (which sounds like a fun read, btw)C482ba8af0f895
shows that kids aged three to five overwhelmingly prefer McDonald’s-branded food items to generic ones. In the test, the tikes consistently reached for MickeyD french fries over those in plain white bags. They also opted for hamburgers, chicken nuggets and even carrots enclosed in wrapping paper with the golden arches.

This is scary stuff and shows how insidious and infectious TV advertising can be to little kids who stare at their sets hour after hour. There’s no doubt they are clearly connecting to the McDonald’s TV spots. It wouldn’t be so outrageous if childhood obesity wasn’t at all-time record highs.

So, what’s McDonald’s response to the study? A spokesman said "….. (It) was important and McDonald’s has been addressing it for quite some time." Yeah, sure.

McDonald’s, like big tobacco, has hooked millions and millions of Americans on their horrific food items and they’re not about to abandon future generations. Sure, they’ll add a salad or two to the menu, but TV commercials highlighting artery-clogging fries and burgers are just as important to Mickey D’s ongoing success as Pinocchio, The Lion King and The Little Mermaid are to Disney.

In my opinion, McDonald’s is paying lip service to the problem (pun intended). It’s up to parents to police kids’ TV viewing if they want today’s tiny tikes to avoid becoming tomorrow’s two-ton teen time bombs.

Aug 03

…And, please, do NOT get me any Chinese bookmarks this Christmas

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Just when you thought you’d heard it all about weird, sub-standard or

downright dangerous products
coming
from that manufacturing colossus of the East, China, comes an offering  that’s totally off-the-wall (and, I’m not referring to the Great Wall, either).

I guess the Chengdu Breeding Base deserves an ‘A’ for creativity but, personally, I’d just flush these product ideas and start over.

Thanks to Greg Schmalz for the idea.

Jul 06

Mentos: Everybody’s Intern or Nobody’s Fool?

Mentos recently launched a microsite that caught my attention. MentosIntern.com is a live video feed of Trevor, a 19-year-old intern working out of the Mentos HQ for the summer. In typical intern fashion, Trevor is bombarded with a multitude of tasks throughout the day. The catch is that all of his tasks are submitted by visitors to the site.

At the moment, Trevor is getting hit with random assignments from strangers via phone, IM, and email. The site says "he’ll order you lunch, customize your music playlists, sing on command, and even prank call your colleagues."

Clever stunt for sure and it’s a good example of how brands are continuing to push the envelope in terms of participatory marketing. Mentos certainly knows the benefits of consumer engagement with last year’s surge of diet coke geyser experiments. Will it help sell more Mentos though? Who knows. Interesting and well-executed concept at least. It will be fun to watch as the summer progresses. I’m expecting a Trevor meltdown any day now.

Nov 16

Is red, white, and blonde as Betty Beauty?

There’s no such thing as ‘going too far’ in today’s society. Once taboo topics are now regular fodderBetty111206_1   for primetime sitcoms, dramas and the assorted CSI shows.

And, when it comes to the marketing of consumer products, sex is becoming more and more mainstream as Levitra, Cialis and various other pills, lotions and god knows what else compete for the almighty dollar.

As a jaded, cynical and world weary consumer (at times), I thought I’d seen it all. But, then along came Betty. "Betty Beauty" to be exact, which bills itself as ‘color for the hair down there.’ Yes, that hair down there.

The branchild of Nancy Jarecki, Betty Beauty is generating quite the buzz, attracting some 2 million web visitors on an annual basis, well ahead of other "hair coloring" products such as Clairol.

Betty Beauty comes in a wide range of colors: auburn, black, blonde, brown and, of course, ‘fun,’ which is hot pink. Ms. Jarecki says she came up with the ‘down under’ hair color concept when she visited a Rome hair salon and saw a colorist discreetly slip a hair color packet in a departing customer’s purse (after asking the colorist "what up?," Jarecki was told the packet contained coloring "to match down there"). And that, my friends, is when this particular entrepreneur’s eureka moment occurred. She asked herself the age-old, rhetorical question: "…Who wouldn’t want to be a true blond?" and, voila, we have the birth of Betty Beauty.

With Betty’s arrival, another product and marketing barrier has been broken. And the world, I’m sure, is the better for it. But I, for one, shudder to think what sort of line extensions Betty Beauty might have in the wings. If nothing else, they have to be thinking of strategic partnerships with, say, The Playboy Channel, Cosmopolitan, Victoria’s Secret and god knows who else.

In stepping back and thinking about the image and reputation implications of Betty Beauty, I wondered what the Founding Fathers (or their wives for that matter) would think of the free-market society they created that has spawned a product as bizarre as Betty Beauty. Ya gotta believe the old boys would see it as nothing less than revolutionary. And, talk about the spirit of ’76! Betty Beauty has my vote for the spirit of ’06. And ’07. And 08.