Aug 30

I’ll drink to that

Image result for wine vs. beer

A newly-released survey from the Wine Market Council says there are now more Millennials than Boomers drinking wine (36 percent vs 34 percent). Holy vino, Batman!

This fact came as a bit of a shocker to me since my Boomer buds pride themselves on their ability to down three or more bottles of wine at a dinner outing and still drive home safely afterwards. Turns out my peer group are slackers compared to their kids. Millennials are absolute animals!

Beth Bloom, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel (and, how cool is that job title?), says 49 percent of Millennials report the wine they drink says a lot about them (vs only 36 percent of the general population). That certainly holds true with me. I’ll down anything that’s cold.

Millennials also embrace wines that appeal specifically to their lifestyles (or define them as they see themselves).

For example, there’s an absolutely gross-looking vino called ManCan which, you guessed it, comes in a beer can and appeals to soccer dads. No way you’d catch this Boomer tossing back some fine Pinot Grigio in a can that could easily be mistaken for Bud Light.

Intent on taking a longer sip (and dip) into the Millennial wine craze, I turned to my agency’s 20-somethings. I wanted to know if they drank as much wine as the survey would suggest, and also whether they preferred wine over beer.

Kristin Davie confirmed both the results, and the trend among Millennials to choose a wine that defined them:

“Influencers are key to driving Millennials’s decision-making. There’s a popular social media influencer called The Fat Jew, who created his own wine, White Girl Rose. Hoboken liquor stores could barely keep the shelves stocked when it made its debut (Note to readers living outside the tri-state area: Hoboken is to Millennials as Boca Raton is to the geriatric set).

Davie went on to add that a leading star of the TV series, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”, released his own pinot noir (that just happened to have a recurring role in the series. Clever these marketers). It, too, became enormously successful.

OK, got it. You guys (as you guys like to say) like to drink what your heroes suggest you drink. But, what about wine vs. beer? Which do Millennials prefer? Well, if Peppercommers are any indicator, the answer is, “Depends.”

Two chose wine hands down (or bottoms up). But, two others say they opted for beer since “….it’s delicious and I know a whole lot more about it.”

The vast majority, however, went in the opposite direction, saying their alcoholic drink of choice was dictated by the social circumstances of the moment (i.e. They’ll demurely sip a glass of wine when partying with the ladies or quaff a brew if watching a football game with the crew).

Another cohort went strictly with the hard stuff. “I like vodka. It has less calories. But, when I do drink wine, I choose red since that’s what the ill-fated British Queen, Ann Boleyn, drank to create a natural flush in her cheeks.” Makes sense to me.

One Peppercomm Millennial opts for whiskey first and wine second, saying of the latter: “There’s so much more variety (than beer). It matches well with so many different foods, it can be served cold or at room temperature and it can be spicy or sweet.” Hard to argue those points.

I must say drinking in the wine info from the brim to the dregs got me thinking about the good, old Wine Market Council.

While I’m sure they’re thrilled to see a younger generation embrace their beverage, they shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss Boomers. I know I’d be the first on my block to buy a case of Joe Willie Namath sauvignon blanc. (Select Reserve. Vintage: January 12, 1969).

Aug 25

Sighted: A rich athlete who actually cares for others

Today’s guest post is by Greg Schmalz, president, Schmalz Communications

Life is about change. How many decisions have we made along the way from being a child to growing up, going to school, making new friends and pondering what our futures will be.

promise09cut-10For some, life is been rougher than others. They live day to day not knowing what tomorrow will bring. LeBron James was one of them. Yes, the same LeBron James who helped the Cleveland Cavaliers rally from a 3-1 series deficit to defeat the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors in June to give the city of Cleveland its first professional championship in 52 years.

His mother was only 16-years-old when he was born. The family moved from apartment to apartment while his mother tried to find steady employment. In an effort to provide a more stable environment, she allowed LeBron to move in with the family of a local youth football coach in Akron, Ohio.

From there, LeBron excelled in athletics. We all know about his basketball prowess, but he was also an exceptional football player earning all-state honors in his sophomore and junior seasons as a wide receiver. He was recruited by a passel of Division I universities including Notre Dame.

But LeBron was the first pick of the Cavaliers in the 2003 NBA draft and he quickly reached stardom. When his contract expired, he signed with the Miami Heat and won back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013.

His NBA record is a laundry list of achievements. At the age of 31, the 6-foot-8 forward has already won three NBA titles, four Most Valuable Player awards, three NBA Finals MVP awards and two Olympic Gold Medals (2008 and 2012,) despite not playing at this year’s Olympic Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

James won the NBA scoring title in 2008 and was the Rookie of the Year in 2004. He played on a dozen NBA Eastern Conference all-star teams and twice was named the game’s MVP.

But one of his greatest achievements is happening off the court. While many of us fail to remember the people who helped us along the way, LeBron has scored a big assist by donating $41 million to put 1,100 Ohio kids through college. Through his partnership with the University of Akron, kids enrolled in his “I Promise” program will have the opportunity to receive a fully guaranteed four-year college scholarship. The scholarship will cover tuition and general service fees totaling approximately $9,500 per year.

Students enrolled in the program need to graduate high school within Akron’s public school system and fulfill a community service obligation.

“It means so much because as a kid growing up in the inner city a lot of African-American kids don’t think past high school,” James said. “You really don’t know your future. You never think past high school because either it’s not possible or your family’s not financially stable even to be able to support a kid going to college.”

But with James commitment, these kids will be able to get a better education. And for LeBron, whose net worth is $223 million according to, it’s a slam dunk!









Aug 23

Maybe, just maybe…



Let’s kick-off this this week’s blog with three multiple choice questions. Note: please be sure to use finely sharpened Number 2 pencils when filling in your answers. And do not flip over the blog until you’ve fully answered all three questions. Thank you.

OK, here goes:

1.) What year did United and Continental Airlines merge?
– 2015
– 2013
– 2012

2.) When did United and Continental conclude labor disagreements with their tens of thousands of flight attendants and baggage handlers?
– 2014
– 2016
– 2013

3.) Which airline has consistently finished last, or next to last, in the past four J.D. Powers annual customer satisfaction surveys?
– Delta
– American
– United

The correct answers are:
– 2012
– 2016
– United

Yes, friends, United’s oh-so-friendly skies are anything but.

While the answers to the second and third questions came as no surprise, I was appalled to read that it’s taken four full years for United’s management (United was the winner in the “merger of equals”, an oxymoron if I’ve heard one) to conclude contract talks with two vital components of the customer satisfaction circle: flight attendants and mechanics.

It’s no wonder United’s flight attendants routinely treat passengers the way Donald Trump would deal with illegal immigrants if given the chance to move into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

And, it’s no wonder the airline’s planes routinely suffered unexpected and unexplained delays and mechanical problems. The fix-it guys didn’t feel like fixing anything.

I recall sitting alongside a deadheading pilot during one of United’s countless, unexpected delays. As the hours slowly ticked by and my blood pressure rose proportionately, the pilot tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Hey, buddy, if it’s any consolation, I’m an ex-Continental pilot and you should know this sort of crap never happened on our planes.”  His comments did little to lighten my mood.

But, last week’s announcement finally explains why United is THE poster child of our country’s overall infrastructure decline. They just don’t care.

Maybe, just maybe, the contract agreements will FINALLY put smiles on the flight attendants’ faces and a can-do attitude on the part of mechanics.




Aug 17

When Being an A**hole is Good

Today’s guest post is by Peppercommer Lia LoBello.

Martin-Agency-Donate-Life-worlds-biggest-asshole-muralRegular readers of RepMan know that the use of comedy to make a strong point is a strategy we fully embrace at Peppercomm. In today’s outrage culture, however, where the Internet is so very quick to taketh away, attempts at humor can pose a huge at a risk. However, when it works – it works. And this recent spot by The Martin Agency for Donate Life is the perfect example.

Donate Life is an organization that aims to raise awareness for organ donation. Not exactly a topic ripe for a good laugh. But the agency felt that the main target – millennial men – needed to be reached in a way that would resonate with them. So the idea for an ad centered around crude humor was born.

The result is a spot that follows Coleman F. Sweeney, aka “The World’s Biggest Asshole” through his day. From throwing a bottle of urine out his car window while speeding to shooting at small animals, Coleman is as bad as they come. The ad does a brilliant job setting this up in a way that’s both cringe-inducing and hilarious. But when Coleman drops dead, the ad takes a twist – and that’s when you might want to reach for a tissue. While he might be a jerk, Coleman’s liver, heart, tendons, corneas – they give life. Coleman may be an asshole, but he’s also an organ donor.

The spot is brilliant in its simplicity, use of dark humor, and execution. That balance is hard to achieve. See this list, sadly one of many since the Internet never forgets, which is a painful compilation of fails from brands with a lot more name recognition, and which should have known better.

This spot works for a few reasons. One – the humor is not pointed at a real class of people (race, gender, body type, etc.) It’s making fun of assholes, which is a type of person, yes, but not a class that deserves protection. No offense, assholes. Second, it quickly turns from the negative toward the positive, lingering just enough time on both sides. Third, the overall message is for something that can provide real social good. It isn’t just a push for an unhealthy food product or overpriced electronic, which always makes a poor joke seem especially unnecessary.

Over the years, Peppercomm has received a lot of questions on the effectiveness of using humor to tell your story. To this we always say, you tell us. When has a good joke, that elicits a real laugh, made you like someone less? If the choice came down to doing business with two people, one whom can inject a little humor into the day-to-day and one who can’t – which one do you go with? Now we also have this ad in our back pocket. If at the end, your eyes are still dry, you haven’t cracked a smile, or you don’t want to donate a kidney…well maybe you’re…

Aug 15

Making lemonade out of lemons

6_8_2016_b1fieldslgelection8201_c0-194-1600-1126_s885x516Aside from their core constituencies, the one thing most Americans can agree upon is our intense distaste for the leading president candidates.

One isn’t trusted and has the likability factor of a pit bull that’s just ripped off your calf muscle.

The other is a misogynist demagogue who has offended virtually every minority thinkable, joked about assassinating Hillary and is allegedly covering up murky, financial ties with Russia.
Unlike Hill, Trump blames all of his perceived transgressions on the “…criminal, liberal media.” Indeed, just yesterday, he threatened to take away The New York Times reporters’ press credentials. That reminds me of a certain mustachioed Austrian paper hanger who also began his rise to power by stripping away freedom of the press.

Regardless, we’re dealing with the two most disliked candidates ever.

And, yet, we’re collectively salivating at the mere prospect of these two stepping into the ring and squaring off in their three upcoming debates.

I’m betting theses bloodbaths will rival the three Ali-Frazier classics for histrionics, trash-talking and, as Ali liked to say, “some real whompings”.

So, why not redirect all of this anger towards good?

I’d make each debate a Pay-Per-View special. Charge Americans $100 per person to watch. Despite our economic woes, I’ll bet the first debate attracts at least half the country. That’s $160 trillion!

Have both candidates agree on how best that newfound money can be spent to improve America: I’d suggest improving our rotting infrastructure, but that would require Congressional approval, and we all know what happens when the Beltway gets involved. Absolutely nothing.

So, instead, why not apply the PPV proceeds directly to lessening our national debt?

As many of you know, we had NO national debt when George W. Bush entered office. His catastrophic invasion of Iraq, which historians are already calling the worst U.S. foreign blunder in American history, jump-started two endless wars, created the vacuum that Al Qaeda and ISIS have filled and destroyed our global image and reputation. Aside from that, it worked out pretty well.

“The One” did little better, merely sinking trillions and trillions of more money into the Middle East while stewarding a national debt that ballooned faster than Chris Christie did after his gastric bypass surgery.

Let’s leverage the three-debate nightmare that’s about to happen. Let’s make the debates PPV events and, allocate the proceeds to pay down our debt and put us on the road to financial solvency.

That’s how I think these two lemons can make lemonade. Thoughts? Reactions? Bueller?

Aug 12

How Spinning Helped Me Become a Better Professional

Today’s guest post is by Peppercommer Kristina Corso.

soulcycle-spin-class-bicycling (1)Have you ever experienced a time when you wanted someone to reinforce the great work you’re doing? I have.

But the addiction to the high we get from praise can negatively impact the way we conduct ourselves in both our personal and professional lives. When we don’t receive praise, it can mean spiraling into self-doubt.

As someone who has always been a perfectionist, I experienced this doubt quite often in my first year on the job. I often found myself questioning my value – until I found something that made me feel like an all-around stronger person: spinning.

When I started spinning, I realized I could motivate myself at work in the same way I did in my spin classes. If I felt like I didn’t have to stare at my computer for another second, or that I was out of my depth on an assignment, I could be my own spin instructor.

That’s only one of a few lessons I’ve learned in from spinning.

The most important one: Sometimes only you know how hard you’re working. I grew up in the generation of participation medals, where affirmation is expected but not always earned. Spin has taught me that I can give a class 100%. But it doesn’t mean the instructor is going to tell me I did great. It can be the same in an office setting. Just because a co-worker didn’t tell you how amazing you are doesn’t mean you didn’t work hard. If you can look in the mirror and answer the instructor’s (or manager’s) cry of “Did you give it your all??” With a resounding “Yes!” then you don’t need anybody else to tell you it’s true.

The second lesson: Comparing yourself to other people gets you nowhere. Looking at the girl sprinting next to you and wishing you had her speed doesn’t make you faster. Judging someone who’s moving slower than you doesn’t make you stronger. The only thing that improves you is putting in the time it takes to be better.

When I joined a gym that had spinning, I never thought I’d last a whole class. When I showed up and saw that every girl around me looked like members of the US women’s gymnastics team, I thought I was in over my head. But here’s the thing; I didn’t give up. That sense of accomplishment made me want to keep showing up. I’d listen to the instructor screaming words of encouragement and I found myself answering those calls internally. “I can do this.” “Mind over matter.” And my personal favorite, “if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.”

This isn’t meant to be an advertisement for SoulCycle. The point I’m trying to make is that you never know where you’ll find inspiration. Find something that makes you feel great, whether it’s writing, riding a bike, or drawing. Think about how good you feel when you’re doing it – and remember that confidence. You’ll be surprised at how good you are at being your own cheerleader.


Aug 11

The seven-week itch

steve crutchesWhen I ruptured my quadriceps tendon some seven, long weeks ago, I knew I had a mountain to climb before fully recovering.

There’d be the pain, of course. And, the daily, life-threatening challenge of hobbling along Manhattan streets doing my best to avoid potholes, multitasking Millennials and tourists pointing their cameras skyward. Talk about defensive hopping!

What I caught me by total surprise, though, was the sheer brutality of being encased in a hip-to-thigh leg brace that:

  1. A) Weighs 10 pounds
  2. B) Takes a good 10 minutes to properly fit each morning
  3. C) Spurred on by southern Florida swamp-like weather, has lit up my leg with a nifty case of contact dermatitis.

Were I still attending Saint Francis Grammar School, I’d gladly “offer up” my suffering to “the poor souls in Purgatory.”

I’m open to that idea, but have been faced by two insurmountable obstacles:

1.) I still can’t figure out exactly who these poor souls are. (Are they among the 30 million Americans living below the poverty line, lifelong Mets fans or regular NJ Transit commuters)?

2.) Why would He send them to Purgatory in the first place? Why not Breckenridge or Jackson Hole?

Alas, I see no solution, secular or spiritual. And, so, instead, I merely reach into my jar of Beelzebub-endorsed ointment and rub it all over the affected area.

It strikes me that Big Pharma, with their trillions of dollars, might take pity on those of us forced to hop around in leg casts in late-Summer humidity that rivals New Orleans in August, and develop a balm to preclude such distress.

Then, I came to my senses:

Big Pharma isn’t interested in preventing   Big Pain, Big Disease or Big Illness. Big Pharma wants the Big Bucks that go leg-in-cast with developing remedies for illness, disease and pain AFTER the fact.

And, so, a quick note to Sister Julia Michael and her fellow misnamed Sisters of Charity: I’d gladly offer up my suffering to those poor souls in Purgatory IF one of them could recommend a sure-fire treatment for the dermatitis.

If he or she could pull off such a miracle, I’d use my limited influence with the Vatican to fast-track said lost soul to sainthood. Would that then make her or him a found soul?




Aug 10

Before accusing China of ripping us off, we need to first look in the mirror

Among the many claims being made by Donald Trump, Republican Presidential Nominee, is that China has ripped us off on trade deals and stolen our jobs. I have no first-hand experience to affirm or refute Mr. Trump’s allegations.

But, Chuck Dresner sure does. 

Read Dresner’s compelling story about how his company in particular, and American manufacturers in general, have enabled China to become the manufacturing colossus it is today.

Today’s guest RepMan is by Chuck Dresner.

download (3)Donald Trump recently told supporters, “What I did on June 16, we came out and we started talking about trade, how we’re being ripped off with China, ripped off with Japan, ripped off with Mexico at the border and then trade, ripped off by Vietnam, and by India, and by every country.”

I’m here to tell you that, when it comes to China in particular, The Donald is dead wrong.

For many years, my company manufactured functional and decorative hardware for the furniture industry. Many items were exclusive; all were made in the USA. Then in the 80s we were contacted by international trading companies promising lower costs if we imported our products from China. We started slowly with a few products but quickly learned how much money could be saved spending less on items, reducing operating costs and number of employees. Thus ensued years of travels in China, witnessing first hand, the dramatic growth of this industrial giant.

The Chinese government realized that their population had significant potential and stepped up construction of roads, power plants and factories. State owned companies were promised large subsidies based on number of employees and production output, and eventually were given privately owned status. Employees were recruited from thousands of miles away. The industrial world fed new factories with products. We sent engineers, equipment, personnel to teach the Chinese how to make products in keeping with specific quality standards. We set the Chinese wheels in motion.

Their culture demanded growth and success at any cost. Government subsidies and financial incentives encouraged growth but had significant consequences. Infringement of intellectual property rights and engagement in unethical business practices became a standard. Factory workers put in 14 -16 hours daily for $.30/hour, with no OSHA, no EPA, no unions, no benefits. America and other global industrial leaders quickly realized that we created a monster, but had no choice but to keep feeding it.

It was our own undoing that caused US factories to shut down, and the unemployment rate to rise.

Our US customers began to manufacture their furniture in China; because my company was already established there, we were able to continue business with them and even sold products to furniture manufacturers in China. This arrangement worked well for a number of years until these factories decided that they didn’t need us, and sought to seek out and utilize their own sources.

When our US customers closed domestic factories and moved all production to China, our Chinese customers were determined to buy from their own suppliers, and my company was forced to close. My experience was a perfect example of the evolution of trade with China over a 25-year period.

In conclusion, China did NOT steal our jobs. We gave them every opportunity to take them. As Pogo said: “We have met the enemy, and it is us!”

Aug 08

The gloss has gone off the floss

74eb79cbf130c877c216ec17127812e8About five years ago, our newly-created Peppercomm’s Comedy Experience Featuring Clayton Fletcher (a professional comedian and rabid anti-dentite) was receiving national business coverage from the likes of MSNBC and Fortune to The Huffington Post and National Public Radio.
At that time, we were positioning PCEFCF as THE ideal way in which to combine the art of comedy with the business of business to improve everything from presentation and listening skills to rapport development and an enhanced culture (Note: Today, we’ve morphed our offering to the increasing number of organizations who have incorporated comedy into their content creation and storytelling to connect with target audiences who possess an attention span of 8.2 seconds.)

But, I digress.

Back in 2012, the biggest and best insurance companies, law firms and pharmaceutical companies were cold-calling us and asking us to help fix what was broken. They were fed up with Stephen Covey lectures, Kaisen and deadly dull trust-building exercises, and were desperately seeking solutions.

Let the record show that we succeeded in our assigned task in every instance save one. The misstep involved closing the communications, productivity and information sharing gaps that existed in a top five global consumer products manufacturer.

We were asked to work with the CPG’s oral hygiene division where, we were told, the floss people hated the toothpaste folks who, in turn, were spat at by the mouthwash scientists. The culture was a Fortune 500 version of George Washington’s decaying, wooden choppers.

Anxious to tackle the new assignment and break down the barriers, we purposely mixed and matched the floss guys with the mouthwash women and added in the toothpaste professionals to ensure these warring factions worked together to solve a common goal: peace in our time.

But, session after session, we ran into unforeseen problems. We pinpointed the gap to the floss guys who simply wouldn’t share information or play nice with their oral care comrades. The HR director confirmed what our examination had uncovered: floss types simply weren’t sharing their plaque-fighting, gum-saving research with others.After two aborted tries, the HR manager admitted failure and extracted us from the dysfunctional operation.

The gloss is off the floss

Now, fast forward five years to a current Associated Press article that showed there was little, if any, proof that flossing works! (Inset link).

The AP asked the Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture (do horses floss?) for any, and all, available research that proved flossing did, in fact, prevent gum disease and cavities.

The AP examined 25 separate studies and labeled the evidence as “weak, very unreliable,” “of very low quality,” and “carried a moderate to large potential for bias.” Holy drilling it to the consumer, Batman!

A 2015 review cites, “inconsistent, weak evidence” for flossing and “a lack of efficacy.”

Even Wayne Aldredge, president of the periodontists’ group, acknowledged the weak scientific evidence and the brief duration of many studies.

That’s an ethical and communications gap that makes The Grand Canyon seem like a tiny ditch!

Here’s an industry that’s bilked consumers for millions, if not billions, of dollars extolling the virtues of multi-flavored string that’s now been proven to do absolutely nothing!

No wonder those floss guys we encouraged to play nice with their peers in toothpaste and mouthwash refused to do so much as rinse and spit out their evidence. There was none!

Needless to say, the ADA and AMA are in full crisis mode.

But, where’s the national coverage? And, where are our beloved, and highly respected, PR trades? Why aren’t they investigating a reputational crisis that rivals an impacted wisdom tooth for pain?

At least I can rest a little easier (with a little help from the laughing gas the CPG HR executive gave us a parting gift).

Here I was scratching my head, flossing, brushing and washing my choppers all these years trying to figure out why a proven method ended up making me feel worse than root canal surgery.

It was the damn floss guys! They wouldn’t share what didn’t exist.

I’m a big believer in karma, oral or otherwise. And, I’d like to think there’s a special place in hell reserved for floss types who have glossed over the ineffectiveness of their product for decades.

I’m guessing Satan’s sharpening his drill as we speak and salivating at the thought of flossing body cavities these charlatans couldn’t imagine in their worst nightmares.



Aug 05

Part Two: ‘Roids, Trump and Nails: What more could a baseball fan ask?

As promised, here is the second installment of my conversation with Join Paul “Best Co-host Ever” Merchan and our special guest, Wayne McDonnell (AKA “Dr. Baseball”).

Part two, below, goes around-the-horn to discuss the game’s future overseas and south of the border. What’s Donald Trump’s potential impact on MLB’s plans to expand into Tijuana? Are we going to see an MLB team based in Cuba anytime soon? And will baseball ever make it back into the Olympics?

Extra innings: You cannot hit delete until you hear your co-hosts pin down Dr. Baseball for his post-season picks. Since the good doctor’s batting average is well below the Mendoza Line, he HAS to be ready to bust out with some accurate predictions. We shall see.