Feb 12

What must the world think?

The media feeding feast that is the Anna Nicole Smith death is a disgrace in so many ways. While many others have weighed in on the various image and reputation aspects of the tabloid sleazefest, the more troubling trend is mainstream’s media absolute love affair with the central story and its juicy paternity sidebar. Whether it’s the Today Show, CNN, USA Today or the Associated Press, our leading media sources are going 24 x 7 in an all-out sprint to out-scoop one another and uncover the latest rumor or innuendo.

So, what must the rest of the world think of this nonsense? Does this sad and sordid saga not129300534_1   reinforce what most already think: namely, that we’re self-absorbed, decadent as hell and interested only in the superficial, the sensational and the salacious? Does it not reinforce radical Islam’s views of America as being the "great whore" as I’ve heard us described on more than one occasion?

While I’m not positive what the rest of the world actually thinks, I do believe the Anna Nicole Smith story is just the latest pit stop on our country’s long moral and ethical road trip to image and reputation hell.

Feb 09

How I’d advise the country’s fattest city

Men’s Fitness magazine has just named Las Vegas the nation’s "fattest" city. The findings should Bh8892 come as no surprise since, with the exceptions of those brutal trade shows, most visitors to America’s Sodom & Gomorrah do litte, if any, walking while gorging on high calorie, high fat $1.99 breakfasts.

So, I ask: should the powers that be who run this money mecca care about their new brand positioning? I would think so: a fitter clientele would mean longer lives, less healthcare costs and more energy to feed the one-arm bandits 24×7.

In fact, if I were advising the City fathers, I’d suggest the following:

1) put clocks back in the casinos and suggest that gamblers get up, stretch and walk to a different ‘pit’ every 20 minutes

2) put heart-healthy snacks within arms’ reach of the gamblers.

3) stage a cocktail waitress 10k race on the Strip

4) offer to match the winnings of any gambler who also can prove he/she worked out at least once while vacationing in Sin City

5) encourage Steve Wynn to call his next hotel K-2, and put the casino at the very top of the building thereby forcing gamblers to climb staircases to lose pounds before also losing their hard-earned money.

I have to believe being labeled America’s fattest city is a real bummer for Vegas. It certainly doesn’t reinforce the glamorous, exotic branding they’ve been propagating for years. In fact, if they don’t stem the tide soon, gamblers may start dying of heart attacks right on the casino floors. The cause, however, won’t be the shock of winning or the grief of losing, but simply their morbidly obese bodies crapping out.

Until they start making some changes, I suggest Las Vagas be renamed Lost Waistlines.

Feb 08

OK, the next item up for bid is a college tuition. And, we’ll start the bidding at one penny

OwuIt must have been a particularly long, hard winter in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, for the marketing whizzes at the local university to have come up with this idea: an eBay auction in which bidders compete for one year of college tuition, room and board at Oklahoma Wesleyan University (which bills itself as the 12th ranked Christian university in the country).

So far, 12 bidders have gone back-and-forth on this gem of a gift for that special someone in their lives. The current bid is $18,669.99.

So I ask: Is the school so desperate for students that it needs to auction off one full year at OWU? Or, is it a sly, guerilla  marketing ploy aimed at breaking OWU into the top 10 Christian college rankings? Regardless of the motive, I wonder why they’ve limited themselves to just one year’s tuition, room and board? Why not auction off a guaranteed 3.0 GPA as well? How about a weekend’s worth of wining and dining with the school president and his/her significant other? Since it’s a Christian school, maybe OWU can up the ante and even auction off guaranteed access to the Pearly Gates. Wonder what the opening bid on that would be?

OWU administrators should have weighed the image and reputation impact on the school before embarking on such a hare-brained scheme. How credible is an institution that gives away a spot to the highest bidder? What does it say about the rigor of the curriculum? How demeaning is such a ploy to the other students and their families who have actually earned their way into OWU? And didn’t Christ have an issue with moneychangers towards the end of his career?

The OWU/eBay auction is wrong in every conceivable way. One positive outcome, though, might be an opportunity to change the school’s name to something that more accurately reflects its Las Vegas-type approach to higher education. Here are my thoughts:

– OWU is renamed Online Wagers University

– Alternatively, to reflect its new, digital initiative, Oklahoma Wesleyan becomes eOWU

– The school’s nickname is changed to God’s Gamblers. Heaven’s Heathens? How about The Auctioning Angels?

OWU may have started an interesting trend that could result in future online partnerships between religious organizations and eBay. Why not have the Catholic Church auction off one year’s tuition, room and board for wanna-be priests and nuns? How about the Episcopalians holding an online bid to pay for a particularly deserving deacon’s honeymoon expenses? Synogogues could weigh in and auction a trip to the Holy Land to the highest bid from rabbinical students.

The sky’s the limit (literally). So, let the bidding begin…..

Feb 07

Where nobody knows your name

Remember the bar on the TV show ‘Cheers‘ where everyone knew your name? It was a warm, inviting place where the regulars shuffled in, plopped down on bar stools and regaled one another with the day’s events. Woody, Coach, Sam and the others knew the customers’ names and life stories, and seemingly picked up on conversations from weeks earlier in mid-sentence. It was a good and funny show and, in its own way, indicative of how great customer service can enhance a brand’s name and reputation.

Now, fast forward to the present and the Lincroft Inn, which is literally right down the street from me and where my wife and I have been dining at the bar/restaurant for years. When we walk in, we always say, ‘Hey Virgil, Hi Micki, Hi Rhonda, etc.’ We even have our own nickname for the manager, a somber looking matron we call ‘the stern taskmaster.’

Anyway, in nine years of frequenting the Inn, do you think any of the employees have even once said, ‘Hey Steve, Hey Angie: How are Chris and Catharine doing?’ or ‘Sorry to hear about Pepper. What a bummer. Drinks are on us tonight,’ or even ‘Hey Steve: a Grgich Hills chard?’ But, nada. Nothing.

We once mentioned this phenomenon to a new bartender who, upon hearing our cheerless ‘Cheers’ tale, swore he would remember our names each and every time we returned. He didn’t.

If the place wasn’t so conveniently located, we’d have stopped going long ago because well, nobody knows our names. It’s a small detail to be sure. But, the best organizations, the best executives and, certainly the best politicians (Clinton was an absolute whiz at this) remember people’s names.

Maybe the next time I drop in on the Inn, I’ll give the lead bartender a boxed dvd set of ‘Cheers.’ Wonder if he’ll get the message?

Feb 06

We’ve got one tough Soldier of Christ at the Middletown train station

Braving wind chills of minus 11 and indifference from my fellow commuters, our resident over-the-top evangelizer was once again on the job this morning.

His refrain, as always, asks us to ask ourselves who we are really working for: ourselves, our families, etc., and asks us to ask ourselves who we really should be working for: the Big Guy up above.

Despite his one-trick pony of a message, I must admit to a certain admiration of this guy and hisBbilw  delivery technique. As corporate spokespeople go, he’s not bad. In fact, compared to many, he’s damn (sorry) good. He’s always well-dressed, engaging, has the passion of his convictions and, as I’ve noted, stays on message.

Regardless of whether he has all his marbles, our train station prophet actually outperforms a lot of corporate spokespeople with whom we’ve worked. In many cases, corporate spokespeople either confuse themselves (and their audiences with too many messages), use "inside baseball" speak that only they and their co-workers understand or see media interviews as nothing more than sales calls and try to use the same hard-sell techniques one sees on those God-awful (sorry) Saturday-morning infomercials.

So, despite the weather, I must admit to a grudging respect for my proselytizing platform preacher. He may say some strange things, but the guy stays on message and delivers what we call the "problem-solution" argument (problem: we’re all going to hell if we don’t accept Christ into our lives. Solution: accept Christ). Talk about mastering the K.I.S.S. principle. I wonder if he’s available for media training?

Feb 05

Advertisers were spending like it was 1999

As is usually the case, yesterday’s Super Bowl TV spots left me thoroughly underwhelmed and shaking my head at the money wasted by most marketers who advertise during the game. In my view, the quality and creativity of the ads matched the weather in Miami and the game on the field: sloppy and mediocre.

Even the halftime show was bogus: Prince and his two hot dancers strutted around in the pelting rain, belting out a medley of hits and misses. In fact, I thought the title of one song briefly performed by the artist formerly known as Prince (and now once again known as Prince) perfectly summed up Super Bowl XLI: "Party like it’s 1999."

With some 30-second Super Bowl spots going for $2.6mm, it’s safe to say the advertisers were spending their money like it was, in fact, 1999 (and the dotcom bubble had never burst and digital media had never completely and irrevocably changed the rules of the marketing game).

There are always exceptions to the rule, but mass advertising for advertisers like godaddy.com and other obscure brands makes no sense. In fact, the mega marketers are finally waking up to the incredible waste that is Super Bowl spending, and going one of two alternative routes: either adding all sorts of digital, one-to-one marketing components to the basic 30-second spots or, a la Procter & Gamble and Unilever, simply bypassing the game completely and finding better, smarter ways to spend their money.

As for me, I neither partied last night nor spent money like it was 1999. Instead, I opted for an earlier time frame and dialed in my favorite HBO series, ‘Rome,’ to see how Octavian, Mark Anthony, Attia, Brutus and the gang who really knew how to party cut the rug in 42 B.C.

Feb 02

A boy called Ann

Happily, our filters catch most of the unwanted and unsolicited e-mail spam that chokes our system. Every now and then, though, a few slip by. And when they do, I’ll automatically hit the delete button. On extremely rare occasions, though, one or two will actually get my attention because of an interesting angle or offer.

The other day, I received one unsolicited e-mail that caught my attention for all the wrong reasons. It came from Bill Penrod of NSON Opinion Research in Fall River, Massachusetts. Bill’s salutation stopped me in my tracks. It read, "Dear Ann…"

Bill’s spam went on to say that he travels to Boston quite frequently and would like to meet to explore a possible partnership with me the next time he’s in town. How nice of him to offer!

I wrote Bill back to tell him my name wasn’t Ann and that I didn’t work in Boston. Sadly, there was no response from Mr. Penrod.

Not that I have any immediate need to work with a market research company but, if I did, Bill and his NSON Opinion Research bosses should know I won’t be using their firm.

What good is a mass e-mail campaign when it not only generates little response but, in my case, actually damages the sender’s image and reputation?

So, Bill, do give me a call when you’re next in Beantown. Just dial our main number and ask for "Annie." I actually prefer that to just plain "Ann."

Feb 01

Get me the guys who shut down Boston

How many guerilla marketing firms can claim they literally brought a major city to a complete standstill? That’s what Interference, a NYC-based firm, did with yesterday’s guerilla stunt on behalf of Turner Broadcasting.

By placing flashing boxes at strategic points around Beantown to promote an adult cartoon seriesW013174a on the Cartoon Network, Interference inadvertently whipped up a Homeland Security nightmare in which security forces removed the flashing boxes and literally put the Hub in a lockdown mode.

Highways were jammed, buildings evacuated and lots of Bostonians were pissed.

So, getting past their poor judgment and the fines that Turner and Interference will undoubtedly be slapped with, what sort of image and reputation damage was done? For Turner, it’s a non-issue. They’ll have a black eye for a little while, fire Interference as their guerilla marketing agency and move on.


But, what about Interference? In my mind, they’re gold. Unlike the average guerilla marketing firm or ad agency, Interference’s bumbling and poor judgment has put them right in the middle of a major national story.

So, while many conservative marketers won’t go near Interference in the future, many more desperate, edgy companies will be demanding, "Get me those guys who shut down Boston!"

Assuming Interference executives can learn from their mistake and blend cutting-edge guerilla marketing with some common sense, they could become the "next big thing" in one-to-one marketing.

That is of course, if they can stay out of jail.