Apr 19

The Final Frontier

Guest Post by Melissa Vigue, Peppercommotions

April 19 Last week I received an email from WSJON – the Wall Street Journal’s Office Network. The offer stated that I, on behalf of my clients, could reach thousands of young, affluent professionals in the one place we spend the most time – the office. 

The premise is this: Brands can engage potential consumers via “experiential marketing” (think samples and live demos) in hundreds of office complexes nationwide. Sounds great, right?  As someone who executes brand experiences and a real believer in forging a connection with consumers, my gut says, “Yes, another opportunity for our clients.” 

As a consumer and a commuter who is hawked everything from haircuts to handbags on her way to the office, I‘m not so sure. Hitting that lobby, waving to the doorman and racing to the elevator are a delicately choreographed dance and, frankly, one of the last places where I want to be solicited.

Do I have time, or more importantly the desire, to stop and try a sample or hear more about this great new {insert product here}? Keep in mind; this is coming from a New Yorker. For those who commute here, you know what I mean. Is this different outside of major cities? Would suburban corporate parks be more receptive? Maybe.

In my opinion, marketers can’t go wrong with food, beverages or technology and services (think dry cleaning delivery) that can make my life easier. The risk is putting a brand’s reputation on the line to engage consumers in a new way. If I am approached in such a way that leaves a bad taste in my mouth (pun intended), I am much more likely to talk, blog, or Facebook about that experience. 

Whatever your take on this new – or final – experiential frontier, it will be interesting to see how it plays out, both for marketers and consumers.

Oct 08

Hooking the wrong fish

Kellogg's had me, hook, line and sinker. But, they couldn't reel me in because I'm the wrong fish.

Let me explain.

As I was section reading Monday's New York Times, I was stopped dead in my tracks by the back page of the front section.

It contained an exact replica of the Times' front page from 100 years ago: October 5, 1909. Being a history junkie, I was mesmerized as I scanned articles about a Wilbur Wright flight up the Hudson River, a celebration of Anglo-American relations at the Waldorf-Astoria and a curious feature about New York's death rate, entitled, 'Town too busy for suicide.'

As I read, I wondered why the Times was reprinting the century-old front page. Then, finally, I scanned down to the bottom and saw a vintage ad from Kellogg's, entitled: 'For more than 100 years Kellogg's Corn Flakes has been a great way to start the day.'

Wow, thought I, how totally smart on Kellogg's part. They totally broke through to connect with me. But, then, I thought: hold on. I don't buy cereal for my family. My wife does. So, does this ad 'work' if it creates an emotional connection with the wrong target audience?

I'm not sure. But, I do know the Kellogg's ad underscores why traditional advertising is struggling so mightily. It's not cost effective and has way too much waste built into the model. I'd guess a full-page ad in the Times costs about $100,000. And, I'm sure the paper's circulation is still well over 1 million readers. But, how many readers are responsible for buying cereal for their families? How many buy generic cereal to save costs? How many are loyal to another brand? And, how many 'brand agnostic' buyers might the ad convince to try Kellogg's? My guess is very few.

Bottom-line: great concept. Wrong strategy. Kellogg's should redistribute its traditional advertising budget and find ways to reach the right consumer at the right time and in the right way. And, I'm not talking about Wilbur Wright.

Feb 13

Can PR move the markets?

Bill Lane, erstwhile speechwriter for Jack Welch and author of ‘Jacked up,’ thinks speeches and articlesWelch
can move the markets.

In his kiss-and-tell book, Lane points to at least two occasions where his words moved GE’s stock price. The first came about as a result of a Welch speech to analysts. The second followed a USA Today article that lifted key words and phrases from a Welch annual report letter. The speech and letter were written by Lane.

Claiming that PR moves markets is a slippery slope. PR certainly had a huge impact on day traders during those Wild West dotcom days. But, that was pure hype and, as we all know, pretty much a joke.

I do think public relations can have a profound impact on financial analysts’ thoughts and feelings about a publicly-traded company. And, those feelings could, in fact, result in a ‘buy’ recommendation that moves the stock. But, as Peppercom Editorial Director and former Wall Street Journal Editor Gene Colter is quick to point out, “It’s a company’s operational excellence (or lack thereof) that moves a market. Period.”

I’ll stick with Colter and distance myself from Lane when it comes to PR moving markets. Plus, I doubt any words I’ve written or will write will ever appear on an analysts’ radar screen.

Sep 10

Not wanting to let go isn’t limited to Baby Boomer CEOs

The Wall Street Journal article on Baby Boomer CEOs and their reluctance to step down struck a chord. Old_man

In the article, the Journal cites a 60-something chief executive who had hired his successor and then, quite simply, refused to leave. The exact same thing happened to me 12 years ago.

I was hired by a 65-year-old CEO to be his heir apparent. Foolishly, I took his word that he’d be gone within a year. Instead, I was the one who ended up leaving.

After settling in, I discovered that I was only the latest in a long line of successors this ‘lion in winter’ had hand-picked for the assignment. Truth be told, though, he had no desire to ever relinquish the reins. So, he made life unbearable for we CEOs in waiting and forced us out, one by one.

Every cloud does indeed have its silver lining, though, and so did this one. Immediately after leaving that hellish environment, I holed up with Sir Edward Moed in his squalid, one bedroom apartment and launched Peppercom.

Oh, and the CEO in question? He finally disappeared into the sunset about five years ago. It just goes to show that Baby Boomer CEOs aren’t unique in their desire to hang on as long as possible. In fact, history’s pages are replete with ‘chief executives’ like Napoleon, Caligula and Saddam Hussein who had no desire to ever let go.

Thanks to Laura Zanzal for the idea.