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.

Jul 03

Making a difference

Fresh from defeating his dad in two straight games of one-on-one basketball, Chris ‘Repman, Jr.’ Cody was tooling along Middletown-Lincroft Road yesterday when his car pulled up behind a town garbage truck, painted green and covered with various pro-environment slogans.

Stenciled across the truck’s rear were the words, ‘Making a difference.’ That’s when Chris, noticing the acrid smoke and pungent odors spewing forth from various parts of the vehicle, noted, ‘Yeah, they’re making a difference all right. A difference for the worse.’

I’m always amazed when an organization says one thing, but does another. The fast food chains are a great example of this sort of double talk: their slogans boast about fresh, fast, delicious food, but we all know their calorie and fat-laden lard is adding inches to America’s collective waistline every day.

The best way to keep these organization’s honest is to post complaints on their web sites or ‘out’ them in blogs like this. Hopefully, together, we’ll be making a difference.

Jun 27

Americans simply don’t get a kick out of professional soccer

Soccer_player_2
‘Fast’ Eddie Johnson was in town last night to get a feel for the New York scene and learn more about how we do things here. Eddie, you see, is our newest London employee and quite the amateur athlete: he plays cricket and soccer.

As we kicked around sports topics over a few drinks, Eddie inquired as to David Beckham’s impact on professional soccer in the States. I had to pause to recall that, indeed, the Euro soccer god with matinee idol looks was in fact toiling away for some American team.

That’s when I shook my head and told Eddie the sad truth about professional soccer here in the Colonies. Despite at least 25 years of all-out marketing, advertising and word-of-mouth, pro soccer has failed to take root in the States. Aside from a few avid fans (a la ice hockey), US pro soccer matches are primarily attended by ex-pats and foreign nationals. And why does this matter to soccer? Because America is the world’s largest market. Soccer could earn billions and billions in additional revenue if they could conquer the US market.

There are probably any number of sociological and psychological reasons why Americans have turned a cold shoulder to the sport. In my mind, though, it goes back to the product. For whatever reason we don’t find the product interesting. And when consumers don’t like a product or service, all the advertising and PR in the world can’t help.

So, Beckham can keep on bending it here in the States, but the only necks that will be bending to watch will be his fellow Brits and others from countries outside our borders.

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 14

You can fight City Hall

It’s heartwarming to see Kellogg’s pull its Saturday-morning advertising support of six food products, Fruitloops_2 including Apple Jack and Fruit Loops.

The products, which are chock full of sugar and other nasty stuff that can contribute to childhood obesity, may also be removed from the market entirely if Kellogg’s can’t re-constitute them and make the gook less, well, gooky.

I’d gladly stand-up and salute Kellogg’s for this seemingly strong statement of corporate social responsibility, but based on the New York Times article, their actions seem to be based more on self-preservation and less on altruism.

So, the actual ‘hats off’ salute goes to the two consumer activist groups who made sure their message and multimillion dollar lawsuit threats reached the corner office in Battle Creek, Michigan. It’s nice to know that average people still can make a difference.

Thanks to Rob Longert for the idea.

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 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…

May 09

Apparently people aren’t dying to get in after all

Funeral parlors aren’t the go-go growth industry they used to be. According to a recent BusinessWeek article, cremation is absolutely killing funeral parlors. Cremation, which costs about one-fifth of your average ‘Six Feet Under’ type funeral service, is now used in 30 percent of all deaths and will account for fully half by 2025.

But, we shouldn’t sound the death knell for funeral parlors just yet. They’re fighting back with smart entertainment-focused line extensions, including video memorials of a loved one’s life, prime rib dinners and champagne fountains.

It’s comforting to know that the seemingly dour death industry can rise to the occasion and add just as many bells and whistles as your average Las Vegas casino.

In fact, why should the funeral parlors stop with prime rib dinners and videos? Why not add gambling and entertainment to the equation? Just imagine how uplifting Black Jack tables and roulette wheels with high-heeled, well-proportioned waitresses dispensing drinks could be. Hey, there could even be a floor show. In fact, the funeral parlor circuit could breathe new life into aging Rock performers such as Blue Oyster Cult. I mean, is there any more appropriate song for ‘passing over’ than ‘Don’t fear the reaper"?

I don’t think we’ll have to wait too long for the funeral parlor industry to add a whole new dimension to their service offerings (and be able to charge ever more outrageous fees in the process). In response, crematoriums will be forced to light a fire under their acts as well. Low costs will always attract a certain type of clientele, but, hey guys, this is war. So here’s guessing that it won’t be too much longer before we learn that a crematorium has booked a Jim Morrison look-alike to sing, ‘Break on through" as some family bids a fond farewell to their dearly departed.

May 08

The fine folks from Bioprocess International just made my life a whole lot easier

Check out this spam I received in my inbox this morning. Not sure how I survived before this product:

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