Jan 26

At Ford, quality may be job one, but smart communication sure isn’t

So, on the one hand the Ford Motor Company is laying off 30,000 employees. On the other, though, it continues to run television commercials featuring employees who grew up working on Ford cars and "…have Ford cars in their blood."

I sure hope some of the featured employees aren’t the ones who were handed pink slips the other day.Ford

Ford’s marketing misstep reeks of poor internal communications. Did the folks in human resources not communicate with their peers in communications, or vice versa. Or, is it simply a case of someone on high not thinking through the image implications of continuing the campaign during the downsizing. Either way, it’s embarrassing. As a communications "mechanic," I’d suggest Ford bring its internal processes into the shop for an alignment.

Hat tip to Jackie Kolek for her opinions about this.

Jan 20

And the winner of the annual NFL/Chick-Fil-A End Zone Entertainment Competition is Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers

I think the NFL is missing a huge marketing and sponsorship opportunity by not capitalizing on end zone dancing. The increasingly more creative and bizarre jigs being performed by touchdown-scoring wide receivers like Steve Smith, Santana Moss and the notorious T.O. never cease to amaze and delight me.1_1

So, why not take a page out of the NBA play book? They make a big deal out of the slam dunk spectacle and build a whole separate event to highlight it at All-Star time (and raise God knows how many extra sponsorship dollars in the process). MLB does the same thing with its home-run derby.

The NFL can trump its fellow leagues by taking the end zone competition to a whole new level. Schedule it at half-time of the Super Bowl. Bring in the top performers from each team and let them have at it. Pull together a judging committee that hold up score cards after each dance, moon walk, marriage proposal, phone call to an agent, impersonation of a waiter, etc. Judges should come from the entertainment world a la American Idol, since the wide receivers’ dance routines are the equal of anything we see on Broadway or the silver screen. Just imagine a panel of Paula Abdul, Dave Chappelle and Lindsey Lohan debating the creativity, athleticism and virtuosity of each receiver’s routine. Talk about priceless.

So, here’s a plea to the NFL: wake up and capitalize on what your players are providing you. Take it to the next level, find the right sponsors and judges, and I guarantee the sponsorship and advertising dollars will pour in. And the fans will love it. Besides, you need to replace those lost revenues after cancelling the $18 million Levitra contract.

Hey Steve, Santana and T.O., "are you guys ready to get down?

Dec 20

To blog or not to blog? That is the question.

Peppercom just released its first survey on corporate blogging, which offers insights from the marketing community on the benefits and risks for companies that are experimenting with this medium.

Although the vast majority of respondents were positive about the potential for corporate blogs as a communications channel, there was a considerable amount of concern about how companies should go about entering the blogosphere.

With the growing hype around blogging, marketing executives are trying hard to figure out how to step into the blogosphere without getting burned. And I don’t blame them. For many companies, the idea of creating an open dialogue with its customers’ is a scary proposition. What if they bash our products? What if we disclose something that comes back to haunt us?

These are all valid concerns, but I urge companies to take a step back and think about why they even want to start blogging in the first place. Too often companies dive into the blogosphere with an agenda, which is a bad move. You wouldn’t go to your high school reunion with a bullhorn and flyers talking about your company. Companies cannot assume they can jump in and exploit the blogosphere in the same way.

To be successful in this space, you need to be much more down-to-earth and transparent. First and foremost, corporations must slow down and listen to the ongoing conversation enabled by blogs. By simply listening to the debates, concerns, and praises, companies will be able to fine-tune their products and messaging. Second, companies can join the conversation as long as they engage their customers. What’s the point of blogging if you insist on keeping the walls up? Third, and probably most important, do not attempt to control the conversation with bullhorn marketing communications methods of old. Don’t treat your customer as a "target." Talk to them honestly and openly, because chances are, they probably know more about your products than you do.

Oct 31

Viva La Inteligencia!

By its very nature, this blog tosses brickbats and bouquets in unequal measure. In recent months, I have been storing up a warehouse full of the former for the manufacturers and marketers of "Che" Guevara T-shirts. In case you have missed it, many young people think that the face of this man gracing their fronts is somehow cool looking.Che

Nothing could be farther from the truth. In today’s post-Cold War era, the idea of violent Marxist revolution as means of freeing humanity from its shackles of oppression holds as much validity as the belief that the earth is flat. Even in his day, Ernesto Guevara could barely be complimented as a footnote to history. The Argentine medical doctor’s claim to fame is that he helped Fidel Castro in his revolution that destroyed Cuba. Along the way, they and their comrades jailed, tortured and slaughtered thousands of innocents, all in the name of the "people."

My revulsion at seeing this bloodthirsty nobody’s visage elevated to that of an icon is matched only by my anger at the manufacturer’s and marketer’s playing on the ignorance of the youth to whom they so disgustingly pander with this piece of schlock. What’s next: T-shirts sporting the faces of Hitler, Stalin or Mao?

Oct 24

Hitting Below the Belt

The crack marketing minds at McDonald’s have fumbled with their sponsorship of a new, CBS/NFL pre-game show segment called the "Pounder Index."

Each week, McDonald’s and the CBS pre-game crew of erstwhile NFL jocks rate the most vicious tackles/hits of the preceding Sunday from a video and audio standpoint. Each tackle/hit is assigned a "Richter-scale" like number based upon its viciousness and loudness. The hapless New York Jets and their wide receiver, Laverneus Coles, took top honors this past Sunday for a shot Coles received courtesy of a Buffalo Bills safety that registered a "whopping" 9.1 on the Pounder Index scale.Pounder1023051_1

One wonders how McDonald’s Pounder Index would have rated the hit that Jack Tatum laid on Darryl Stingley back in 1978, leaving Stingley permanently paralyzed? Would that have topped the Coles tally of 9.1? Or how about the time another Jet, Dennis Byrd, ran full speed and head-first into a teammate and broke his neck? Byrd eventually recovered, but never played another down. Would Byrd’s horrific collision have carried enough visual and acoustical drama to have made McDonald’s top Pounder Indexes of that long-ago week?

It seems to me the burger marketers can find better, more humane ways to reach the NFL’s Joe Six-Pack audience than spotlighting the ever-more horrific "shots" that NFL players lay on one another.

C’mon McDonald’s. Stop with this hitting below the belt. Pull the "Pounder Index" segment. We deserve a break today (and every Sunday).