Oct 28

Does god influence your vote?

Does a politician’s religious views impact your vote? New statistics show that one-third of all Millennials say they’re unaffiliated with any religion and America’s percentage of Christians is at an all-time low.

So how do Republican candidates in particular connect with a massive voter bloc that’s turned its back on religion?

Watch as Debbie Salerno (an atheist) and Samantha Bruno (an Evangelical Christian) debate the issue…

Oct 27

21st Century Sunshine Patriots

faaaairweatherI’m a long-suffering New York Mets fan who, like Mets fans everywhere, has had to endure the slings and arrows of Yankees fans throughout the ages.

Year after year, my colleagues, almost ALL of whom are diehard Yankees’ fans, have taken great joy in dissing the Mets as the Bronx Bombers enjoyed one World Series win after another (while the lowly Metropolitans plodded their way through yet another last-place finish).

Now, though, these long-time Yankees lovers and Mets antagonists are not only eagerly reporting their attendance at memorable Mets play-off games, but crowing enthusiastically on the rare occasions when they have a first-hand sighting of a Mets player.

One die-hard Yankees fan is actually waxing poetic about “his” Mets.

I find the whole thing both disturbing and, sadly, unsurprising. We live in a world where winning is everything and loyalty is about as common as a horse-and-buggy.

Regardless of the Mets fate in the upcoming Series, I guarantee these 21st Century Sunshine Patriots will drop the Mets as soon as they turn in a poor season and “their” Yankees return to some semblance of their former glory.

One final note of transparency: As a dedicated devotee of the Mets I have, on many occasions, dissed the squad’s abysmal performance over the past decade. But, I never, ever switched allegiance to the hated Bombers or began referring to them as “My Yankees.”

I must say I find the whole thing a bit distasteful, and wonder what Thomas Paine would say were he alive today (actually, that’s a no-brainier since the odds are great he’d either be a Phillies or Bosox fan since New York was little more than a tiny seaport village in his day).


Oct 26

Railroaded by the Rodeway Inn

bad_hotelI’m a rock climber. As such, I try to squeeze in as many opportunities as possible to climb the Northeast’s two top destinations: Rumney, N.H., and a three-mile long ridge in New Paltz, NY, known as the Gunks.

Unlike Rumney, the greater New Paltz area is lodging-challenged. The available motels range from run-down to downright scary.

This past weekend, I booked two rooms at the Rodeway Inn hoping that, since it’s a national chain, it just might be palatable. Wrong.

On its website, Rodeway claims it provides: “Good night. Great savings.”  They do not.

Allow me to quickly list my customer experience at the New Paltz Rodeway Inn:

– When my climbing partner and I checked in, we were told the motel’s computer system was down AND that Rodeway only had one room with one king-sized bed available. I went ballistic for two reasons:

1.) I had the confirmation number to prove we’d reserved two rooms

2.) While I like my climbing partner, I was not about to cuddle up with him in a king-sized bed (sorry, Mark).

– After raising a stink, the receptionist (for whom English was probably her seventh language), sighed and said, “Oh wait, Cody, I do have one other room available.” Nice touch calling me by my last name.

– I grabbed the last available room and moved in, only to find the TV was broken, the toilet was stopped up and there was no toilet paper. I ran back to the front desk and waited for 45 minutes for someone to come armed with a plunger and t-paper. The guy had no clue how to fix the TV, so I let that one go.

– The next morning, I took my usual pre-climb bio break and, sure enough, the toilet overflowed. I sprinted to the front desk and ran into the very same woman who had been manning (wommaning?) the front desk the previous night. I told her the toilet had overflowed again. She looked puzzled. “Did you report problem last night, Cody?” Yes, I reported it to you, I said. “Oh, well, lots of computer problems. We fix soon.”

– I opted to use a nearby diner to complete my pre-climb ministrations and took off for an awesome day of climbing.

– Some 11 hours later, we returned to the Rodeway Inn, completely exhausted and dying to take hot showers. I slid my key into room 133’s slot and nothing happened. The door wouldn’t open. We next tried my climbing partner’s room. Same result. So, we dragged our sorry asses all the way to the reception desk to determine the reason for this latest fresh hell. The very same woman was at the front desk (I began thinking I was trapped inside a Twilight Zone episode). “Hi Cody. Good climbing?” she asked with a sweet smile on her face. “Outstanding,” I replied, “but we can’t get into our rooms.”

She smiled again, and said, “Oh, that because we desensitize every room key every day at 11am. Give me your keys and I’ll re-activate them,” she said.

I was astonished and appalled. Have any of you EVER stayed at a hotel or motel where they automatically lock you out of your room every morning at 11 am?

As I’ve said many times in the past, the best marketing and the best content cannot lift sales if the product, service or organization is flawed.

Rodeway Inn’s brand promise (“Good night. Great Savings.)” should be changed to “Lodging’s answer to New Jersey Transit.”

It’s that bad.


Oct 22

Bye-Bye-Cubbies (and lots of other cool baseball stuff)

So, the poor Chicago Cubs once again went down in flames, and will once again have to wait yet another year to end the 107-year-old jinx that’s prevented them from winning a World Series.

RepTV co-hosts, Paul Merchan and Steve Cody, had the opportunity to talk about the Cubbies with Dr. Baseball himself, Wayne McDonald, the Academic Chair of Sports Management at NYU. Aside from the lackluster Cubs, we touched on subjects ranging from A-Rod’s image rehabilitation and the continued lack of black ballplayers in the Bigs to the white hot Mets and their plethora of young pitchers who can toss fastballs at 95 miles per hour (and up).

So, batter up. Hopefully, (unlike the Cubs) you’ll actually hit something.

Oct 19

My best friend’s client (used to be mine)

Presentation2With the sole exception of the former CEO of the now defunct Brouillard Communications and my one-time boss, I refuse to hold a grudge against anyone who’s hurt me in my business career (Note: The exact opposite holds true in my personal life but, as I like to say, that’s a different blog for a different day).

I don’t hold business grudges for a seemingly obvious reason: They do neither party any good whatsoever.

And, so, I’ve learned to let go after I’ve been fired by a client, deserted by a key employee or, worse yet, lost a co-worker I considered a good friend who not only joined a key client, but subsequently played a lead role in having us replaced as AOR.

Make, no mistake, though, before I get to the point of burying the hatchet, I first experience all five stages of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief and grieving.

– Denial
– Anger
– Bargaining
– Depression
– Acceptance
Once I’ve purged finally myself of the pain, I make a point of reaching out to, and repairing bridges with, such erstwhile Peppercommers as:

– The one who left us on very good terms but, after reviewing his e-mails, discovered that he actually detested many of us (including yours truly). We’re having drinks in the immediate future, and I’m really looking forward to re-establishing a strong friendship.
– Another one who left, and immediately began recruiting some of our key employees to her new agency. I hugged her the last time we met because, hey, if those employees were going to leave anyway, so be it. I’m glad they’re now working with someone I still like.
– An original Peppercomm partner (and very close friend at the time) who not only departed, but decided to take three clients along with him. “But, Steve,” he said. “They approached me, not vice versa.” Yeah, sure, and Donald Trump thinks before speaking. Today, the one-time turncoat and I meet regularly for drinks and an intense game of squash.

I could cite other examples but, the point is, I’ve patched up my relationships with each individual and, indeed, now enjoy hanging out with them, reviewing the good, old days and discussing the future.

I believe that, when looking back on one’s career and evaluating successes and failures, it’s important to assess how you’ve reacted to serious slights and subsequently handled the situation.

I’m not perfect, but I’ve gotten well past the open wound that was my best friend’s client (who used to be mine). Burying the hatchet is a smart way to approach business, and is especially important for those of you who are new to the profession (Final note: A few, former, disgruntled employees have felt compelled to absolutely slam Peppercomm on Glass Door. In each instance, we’ve ignored the slights since, if we responded, we’d only raise awareness of such nonsense).

In building one’s brand over the years, keep this aphorism in mind: “To err is human. To forgive is divine.”


Your friend, the demi-god of blogging: Steve “Repman” Cody.

Oct 15

You (don’t) like me! You really (don’t) like me!

Who can ever forget Sally Field’s joyful proclamation to the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences audience after winning the Best Actress Award for “Places in the Heart”?

“You like me!” she shouted, with a smile bright enough to light the darkest recesses of Donald Trump’s mind. “You really like me!”

I cite The Donald in my analogy because, love him or hate him, Trump possesses likability, that rare quality of being able to to put a smile on others’ faces.

Hillary Clinton would kill to be liked. It’s a “fault” that’s dogged Hillary throughout her long, and, yes, checkered, political career.

I believe most people respect Hillary’s intellect and experience, if not her decision-making. But, as a recent HuffPo survey shows, Hill’s likability numbers are cratering faster than the Mets’ chances of reaching the NLCS.

huffpo hilllary polls

Desperate to turn things around, Clinton appeared in a skit on last week’s Saturday Night Live, playing of all things, a bartender. You decide if she’s funny, or not.

Clinton is making one HUGE mistake in her likability crusade. She’s trying to force the desired result.

One cannot force likability. You’re either likable or you’re not.

I’ve seen friends try to be likable in the middle of a conversation by laughing at exactly the wrong moment.

I’ve watched others attempt to force likability by citing their numerous academic credentials. One friend, in particular, never fails to remind me that he once earned an MBA. While impressive, the academic credential comment NEVER has anything to do with the conversation at hand.

We train our employees (and clients) in the art and science of stand-up comedy. We do so to enhance their listening, presentation and rapport-building skills. And, while we can’t teach them to be likable, we can show them how to express vulnerability and empathy.

That’s because vulnerability and empathy can play important, if subtle, roles in winning over a Greenwich Village Comedy Club audience or a group of Fortune 500 decision-makers.

Alas, Secretary Clinton (as some choose to call her) projects neither vulnerability nor empathy.

In the final analysis, it’s not Benghazi or her “damn” e-mails (as Bernie Sanders referred to them) that are blocking Hillary’s road to the Oval Office. It’s her lack of vulnerability and empathy. And those traits, my fellow Americans, cannot be forced.

Oct 12

Unflappable: Five leadership lessons from last night’s Obama-Kroft confrontation on 60 Minutes

If you didn’t watch last night’s intense interview of President Obama by Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes, you missed a real donnybrook (Note to ice hockey fans: Why are brawls called donnybrooks?)

Kroft hit Obama with questions on everything from the latter’s “failed” ISIS strategy and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s provocative moves in Syria. He also asked the chief executive to share his views on Donald Trump’s chances for the White House (nil) and Hillary’s infamous cell phone messages.

In responding, Obama demonstrated five leadership skills any CEO should follow in equally tough melees with the media:

1.) A command of the facts. Whether they were right or wrong, Obama was able to parry every one of Kroft’s points with his own.

2.) He never let his guard down. In the rare instances when the conversation turned civil, Obama was able to replace his game face with a grinning smile and hale thee well bonhomie. In doing so, however, he never left himself vulnerable to saying something he’d later regret.

3.) He admitted fault and displayed vulnerability. When Kroft had Obama clearly pinned against the wall discussing setbacks or stalemates, Obama agreed with the assessment and, indeed, displayed vulnerability in doing so. That’s a presidential trait we haven’t witnessed in 15 years.

4.) He was bold and confident. When asked if the Constitution allowed him to run for a third term and if so, would he win, Obama didn’t hesitate in his response: “I would.” Leaders need to have the courage of their convictions.

5.) Flexibility. With a little over a year to go in his presidency, Obama was asked if he would be sad to leave. “It’s been bittersweet,” he told Kroft, adding that, while there are many accomplishments he’s proud of, he’s also been disappointed by what he couldn’t do or undo.  No leader is perfect, and CEOs need to be fully transparent when they succeed or fail.

Love him, hate him or ignore him, Barack Obama is easily the most erudite president since JFK, and, last night, demonstrated a text book example of grace under pressure. I suggest every media trainer in the business visit their editing rooms today, and edit snippets for use in future CEO training sessions.


Oct 07

Legally bland

Advertising’s role is to create awareness and consideration while, hopefully, driving sales.

yoaaungBut, in order to accomplish any of the above-stated goals, a brand must first differentiate itself from the pack. As a result, if one marketer’s headline or tagline could easily be applied to any other business in their industry (or any other business in any industry for that matter), you can pretty much assume the advertisement failed miserably in its stated mission.

I thought I’d investigate three separate sectors to see if any brands actually did create a headline or tagline that not only explained what they (or their client) did but also differentiated them from every other competitor.

I selected samples from the financial, advertising and PR fields, respectively. Check it out….

Group One: Financial Services

  • “Founded on ideals. Built on ideas.”
  • “You have a passion for your business. We have a passion for protecting it.”
  • “Our bankers aren’t just on the ball. They’re often ahead of it.”

Group Two: Advertising

  • “Advertising that works smarter”
  • “You are what you recommend”
  • “Human-centered social”

Group Three: PR

  • “Committed to being more.”
  • “Let’s start the conversation.”
  • “Engaging. Always.”

So, what do you think? Do any of the headlines/taglines really differentiate the organization and explain what it is does?

Let’s pick a victim from Group One. “Founded on ideals. Built on ideas,” is a catchy tagline that, alas, would work equally well for a credit union, a garden supply shop or your local Midas Muffler franchise. In truth, it happens to be the headline and tagline of Glenmede, a privately-owned trust company. I think their ad agency needs to come up with a few more, new ideas (if not ideals).

Now, let’s skip ahead to the advertising folk. I was drawn to “You are what you recommend.” That headline works really well for an ad agency. But, it also does equal justice to a bartender or, dare I suggest it, even a brothel. In this case, the five words came from Outbrain, which says it recommends content more than six billion times a day! Man, that’s a lot of recommendations. And, yet, based on their creative work, I wouldn’t recommend them to be anyone’s ad agency. Sad.

Last, but certainly not least, are the PR representatives. I chose, “Let’s start the conversation.” It’s an engaging tagline to be sure but, alas, could work equally well for Wal-Mart, a telecommunications corporation or even a street person. In this case, it belongs to the MSL Group, a hallowed name among the Top 10 public relations hierarchy. For me, let’s start the conversation ended up being a me-too, buzz kill of a tagline.

One would hope that, in this highly competitive, one-size-fits-all world in which we live, creative advertisers would be a little more adept at creating what they’re hired to do: create ads that break through the clutter and clearly identify what an organization does to differentiate itself.

Oh well, pretty soon we’ll have computers who will be able to figure this thing out anyway. I even have a tagline for them when they do arrive: “It takes an artificial brain to create a real advertisement.”

Oct 05


ss peppercommLike you, I receive countless unsolicited spam solicitations. Unlike you, I not only like to engage with some of the more bizarre inquiries but revel in both escalating the conversation and invariably dragging the long-suffering Ann Barlow, our West Coast president, into the hapless salesman’s pitch. Ann, in turn, will sucker some other Peppercommer into the spamming merry-go-round and off we go. And, I’ll make sure my assistant, Dandy Stevenson, provides an administrative assist if the need should arise.

It’s great fun, no harm is done and, in fact, my frivolous exchanges produce a very positive side effect. Once the spammer finds out he’s been pranked and has wasted tons of time chasing a bogus lead, he permanently deletes me from his database. As George W. Bush would say, “Mission: Accomplished.”

Here’s just one recent example of how the process works:

From: Ronald Puar
To: Steve Cody

Dear, friend!
NB: we also sell

Tugboat ( 2004 )(1 unit)
Barge 300 ft ( 2004 )( 1 unit)
Price: Rp 27  Billion – Nego

Tugboat ( 2005 )(2 unit)
Barge 300 ft ( 2005 )( 2unit)
Price: Rp 24 Billion – Nego

* Ship Particular will send based on request
Best regards,
Mobile: + 62 87877401252

From: Steve Cody
To: ‘ronpuar@mycaputra.com’
Cc: Ann Barlow; Dandy Stevenson

Hi Ronald: The tugboat might be of interest. Where is it moored? I’m copying Ann Barlow, who heads our maritime division and has some two decades of experience as a ship’s mate on various SF/Bay area tugs. Can you two connect? Also, can you help with crew recommendations?


From: Ann Barlow
To: Steve Cody; ‘ronpuar@mycaputra.com’ <
Cc: Dandy Stevenson

Thanks, Steve, and hello, Ronald.
I don’t think an oil tug is in the cards for us just now.  We’re still helping pay for the clean up last month’s spill in the Bay, and their may be fines involved.  Of course, Steve, if you’d put a competent captain in charge we wouldn’t be in this position.


From: Steve Cody
To: Ann Barlow; ‘ronpuar@mycaputra.com’

Ronald: this sort of attitude is indicative of why we don’t seem ready to move forward with the tug. We’re having constant turnover because of “ol’ peg leg” (as the mates refer to Ms Barlow). Do you get involved in martime talent recruitment as well, Ronald?

PS: nice spelling of “there” Ms Barlow. Ronald, would you agree that ship’s captain literacy is at an all-time nadir?

From: Ann Barlow
To: Steve Cody; ‘ronpuar@mycaputra.com’

Mind you, I can spell ‘piss off’ just fine.


From: Steve Cody
To: Ann Barlow; ‘ronpuar@mycaputra.com’

Go for it. Ronald: what are the leasing terms?