Nov 16

Killing for a Living

How do you like global tobacco companies such as Philip Morris and British American Tobacco suing Third World governments and spending oodles of cash to lobby for smaller warning signs on their packaging? That's right, Big Tobacco is once again on the offensive to make sure it continues to maim and kill as many people as possible in the name of free enterprise. 

Cigarette I'm not surprised tobacco is targeting the Third World. That's where the growth and profits are (that said, though, an amazing 21 percent of Americans still smoke). But, to think that Philip Morris, for example, is actually suing the government of Uruguay for excessive tobacco regulations is beyond the pale. 

Could you imagine being head of marketing for one of these death merchants? Talk about making a pact with the devil. 

Peter Nixon of Philip Morris is one such merchant of death. He's quoted in the Times as saying his company '…agreed that smoking was harmful and supported reasonable regulations where none exist.' Gee, what a swell guy. 

Yes. Nixon agrees cigarette packaging should have some sort of warning (the smaller the better, I'm sure). But, he takes exception with the new, larger warnings being placed on cigarette boxes around the world. 'We thought 50 percent was reasonable,' he told the Times. 'Once you take it up to 80 percent, there's no space for trademarks to be shown. We thought that was going too far.' So, covering 80 percent of a cigarette box is going too far, but killing half a million people each and every year isn't? Methinks Mr. Nixon is smoking something other than cigarettes. 

More to the image and reputation point of this blog, though, how can someone, anyone, work for an organization that knowingly manufactures and sells a product that kills? How can PR and advertising agencies represent them? And, how can all of the above look at themselves in the mirror each and every morning?

Maybe the answer lies in another, smaller NY Times article from the November 2nd Health section. It reported that 'middle-aged smokers are far more likely than non-smokers to develop dementia later in life, and heavy smokers — those who go through more than two packs a day — are at more than double the risk.' I'll bet Mr. Nixon and his heavy smoking, middle- aged peers at Philip Morris, BAT and the other Big Tobacco players are just suffering from early onset dementia. They'd have to be certifiable to do killing for a living.


May 04

But Today Is Supposed to be MY Day

Guest post by Beth Starkin, Peppercom 

May 4
Today is my birthday (for the record, I like vanilla cupcakes). Call me selfish, but I’ve always thought of my birthday as my very own special day. The one day out of the year where I make the all the decisions, do whatever I want, and no one bothers me. It’s a day all about me.

Alas, we’ve entered the digital age, where it seems everyone wants to co-op my birthday for their own profit. Starting weeks ago, the emails began rolling in. May 4th is coming up (like I’d ever forget – cake and gifts – it’s a big deal to me). We’ve noticed you have bought books by this author before and thought you’d like to know she has a new book coming out on your birthday! Or, Happy Birthday!  Purchase a flight before the end of the month and we’ll give you bonus miles as our gift to you. Or, this year, for your birthday, change your Facebook status to ask your friends to donate to your cause.  

Um, no. It’s not “Stop skinning baby seals for their coats day” (though I will say right now that this is a disgusting practice that needs to end, and it is one of my Facebook causes). It’s MY BIRTHDAY!

This practice of trying to glom on to my celebration, using stored data from past purchases and near and dear causes to get money from me, my friends and my family is intrusive, and, yes, I’ll say it, a bit tacky. If I’m interested in your cause or what you’re trying to sell, I’ll probably be more interested on some other day, at some other time, when I’m not so inwardly focused. Try selling to me then. For today, let me celebrate in peace.

Dec 08

Closing the gap between marketing and sales

Guest Post by Deborah Brown, Peppercom

December 8 - gap Years ago, I remember the marking manager of a client desperately ask, “Can Peppercom please help us? I don’t know how to get marketing and sales aligned. There’s virtually no communication and sales is off saying what they want to customers, while marketing is trying to instill consistency with our messages.  What do we do?” Several weeks later, with a sales consultant, Peppercom developed “Pain –Based Selling,” a program that aligns marketing and sales and closes the gap between what salespeople believe is keeping their customers up at night and what actually is. And, about a year later, co-founder Steve Cody co-authored a book on the topic entitled “What’s Keeping Your Customers Up At Night?”

Now, fast forward about seven years. And, guess what? Sadly, very little has changed. To be fair, there is some alignment in certain companies, but from my experience, it’s still very limited or – in other companies – doesn’t even exist. It seems absurd when the two disciplines can greatly benefit from one another. At Peppercom, we try to go on sales calls with clients so that we can understand how messages are resonating with key audiences and get feedback from customers and prospects. Even this is often challenging to schedule. Yet, when we do go on sales calls, we can immediately uncover important information that can further strengthen existing marketing and communications programs or give us ideas for future ones.

I’d like to pose this question to you:  Can your company survive if sales and marketing are on different teams? 

That’s the focus of a FREE webinar from Peppercom this Wednesday, December 9th , from 1pm-2pm EST.  “Coach Nick” Papadopoulos, Sky’s The Limit Corporation Founder and author of the sales book “Championship Selling,” Steve Cody, Co-Founder of strategic communications firm Peppercom, and Matt Schwartzberg, President of A-1 First Class Viking Moving & Storage will discuss this question and the formula for success in 2010. The panel will be moderated by Sam Ford, Peppercom’s Direct of Customer Insights and research affiliate with the Convergence Culture Consortium. The panel will discuss proven strategies for breaking down the walls, how to take advantage of the first signs of economic recovery, the difference alignment has made for A-1 First Class Viking Moving & Storage, and much more.

Please click here for more details.

It’s critical for marketing and sales to understand each others' role and value. Bridge the gap….before it’s so wide that your company falls through it into oblivion.

Sep 18

The dangers of inside-out marketing

September 18 - Jesus Freak 2 Those of us who suffer the daily indignities of the 7:27am New Jersey Transit ride to Manhattan are periodically subjected to old-time Bible thumping by a dyed-in-the-wool, certifiable Jesus Freak. The guy sets up shop directly across the tracks from us, cites a Bible passage or two and then warns us to abandon our wicked and wanton ways before heading into the latter-day version of Sodom & Gomorrah.

I ordinarily tune him out as quickly as I'm tuning in Pink Floyd, Ziggy Marley or Luigi Bocarini on my iPod. Today, though, the Jesus Freak got my attention with a particularly nasty assault on the evils of Islam. How insensitive, I thought. Hasn't he factored in the Muslim commuters on the platform? Or, doesn't he care? It also occurred to me that I was sharing the platform with any number of commuters who were looking forward to the Jewish high holidays. Hmmm. Another target audience down the tubes.

And, then it dawned on me. The bible thumper was making a classic inside-out marketing mistake. He wasn't thinking about his audience. He wasn't taking the time to figure out who they were, what sort of information they'd like to hear and where they'd be most open to engaging him in conversation. Instead, the sermon on the platform was all about him and his views.

I see inside-out marketing coming from some of the allegedly best and brightest brands in Corporate America. Alongside the amazingly dysfunctional internal operations at many of these companies, inside-out marketing is one of business and industry's better-kept, dirty little secrets.

Despite all the hoopla and posturing about social media and best practices for reaching the newly-empowered consumer, inside-out marketing still ricochets through the hallways of America's best companies like some sort of rampant, mutant H1N1 virus.

NJT's resident Jesus Freak is obviously oblivious to inside-out marketing (he's most likely oblivious to most things in life). But, there's no excuse for highly-paid, uber powerful marketers who keep making the same mistake 'He' does.

Wise up, Corporate America. It's later than you think. And, speaking of thinking, it's no longer about you or what you think. It's all about what we the consumers (and commuters) think.

All aboard!

Jul 07

Aston Martin’s move is (Money) penny wise and pound foolish

Aston Martin’s decision to offer a new mini-Aston based on Toyota’s iQ baby hatchback must be making secret agent 007, as well as M, Q, Moneypenny, and the whole gang on Her Majesty’s Secret Service hopping mad.

July 7 - bond

Long associated as the Bond car (before BMW and product placement took control of the Bond series, that is), the Aston Martin perfectly accentuated the Sean Connery coolness of the lead character. The silver sports car became synonymous with uber sophistication, along with ordering a vodka martini, shaken not stirred and introducing oneself as, ‘Bond. James Bond.’

Specially equipped with ejector seats, machine guns, smoke screen exhaust pipes and god knows what else, the Aston Martin would whisk Bond to and from assignments and enable him to barely escape a seemingly impossible tight squeeze. Now, though, the only tight squeeze will be the one caused by the new, smaller and cheaper Aston, called the Cygnet (Ugh. What a horrible name. What secret service agent worth his 9mm Glock would want to ride around in a baby swan?).

Driven by the desperation of a horrible economy, Aston is making the same branding mistake committed by General Motors and other luxury brands. They’re marginalizing their high-end brand equity in order to make a quick buck (or, Pound Sterling, in Aston’s case).

Trust me. As surely as 007 always gets the girl and vanquishes the bad guy in the end, Aston’s move will backfire. True sports car enthusiasts will abandon the brand when good times return and Aston will end up with a confused marketplace image. On the plus side, though, Aston’s demise will most assuredly put a smile on the faces of Blofeld and Odd Job.

Thanks to Carl Foster for the tip on this entry.

May 21

Because I said so, that’s why.

Guest Post by Maggie O’Neill

May 22 - mommy blogger Because I said so, that’s why. An iconic Mom-phrase that resonates with most of us but is taking on new meaning in the marketing world today.  The power of what Mom says – and even the word Mom itself – is quickly becoming the industry’s hottest new ticket, despite the fact that Moms have been around and influencing purchasing since the beginning of time. Eve…Apple?

From terms like Mamaste to Momosphere, the Power Moms, identified by Nielsen  as ages 25-54 with at least one child, have a voice that is $2 trillion dollars strong for US brands* and make up  20 percent of today’s  online population.  And the group itself is becoming more diverse year after year, demanding targeted marketing to their definition of “mom.”

With all this buzz and promise, a misstep or two by the marketing industry and we could be headed for a “mom-com” bust.  One mom told me that she complained about the benefits of a face care product online.  She got an email back and a Tweet apologizing that they fell short and that they were sending her a free sample of the exact same product.  Great opportunity, completely blown. 

Why?  The almost automated response and one way conversation from the company , plus the fact that they sent what the mom considered a bad product back to her, not only pushed her away, but you know she told a million people about it by now.  What should they have done?   The face care company had a perfect opportunity to engage this mom in a dialogue and find out what the issues were and if another product might make more sense for her.  Did her friends have similar issues?  Could they provide another recommendation, coupons to one of their other product lines for her family?  Simply asking what they could do rather than pushing back a bad solution would have helped them not only win back this mom, but remain a recommended brand to her network and influencers.

Continue reading

Apr 22

Talk about pain-based selling

April 22 - Soap in Eye How many
hundreds of millions of dollars a year do you think the large consumer products
companies spend in research and development? My guess is ‘many.’ How many years
have the mega consumer brands such as Unilever, Procter & Gamble and
Colgate-Palmolive been in business? My guess is ‘many.’ So, how come they still
produce soap and shampoo that burns the bejesus out of my eyes when I use them?

Today was
a textbook example. I was minding my own business, finishing up what had been a
most uneventful shower when I applied some Pantene shampoo to my scalp (my
daughter loves this stuff). Sure enough, I started to feel a slight sensation
in my right eye and then, bam! lights out as I double over in agony. I blindly
groped for a towel and scrubbed until the slimy, scalding substance was out and
the pain subsided. The same thing happens with Dove Soap. Make one little
mistake and, bam! seaming pain.

So, why,
I ask can’t the highly paid and highly respected researchers and developers at
these companies find a painless solution? I think they don’t want to. In fact,
I think it’s a well-kept industry secret that a small, but select, cabal of
white-coated lab technicians gather annually at the Annual White-Coated Lab
Technicians Trade Show and Convention and secretly plot to keep creating soap
and shampoo that makes us cry out in pain. I imagine a conversation like this:

: ‘Hey, before the magician and kegs of beer arrive, can we
just discuss the ‘soap issue’?

: ‘If you like, but we’re good to go on my end.’

: ‘Ditto. We have no intention of making either soap or shampoo that
won’t continue to fry retinas and sear corneas.’

 ‘Do I hear  a motion?’

‘I move that we once again refuse to research safer, gentler versions of soap
and shampoo.’

‘I second.’

‘All in favor?’




‘The motion is carried. Now, how about discussing eye drops? Let’s really hit
them where it hurts.’

Jun 03

If it was easy, we’d win all the time

New business pitches can be just like dating. Sometimes, it’s love at first sight and other times, its hellEasy_2
on earth.

But, as Marketing Consultant Robb High correctly points out, a romance is more likely to flower if you avoid some obvious mistakes.

We’ve committed some of these gaffes, and many others as well.

Recently, we did everything right and won a competitive pitch against large agencies. Then, we turned right around, violated every rule in the book, and handed a ‘sure’ thing to a competitor.

We were prepared for the first meeting. We’d rehearsed three times, relied on a few visual supports (but, no powerpoint) and made sure we could hit our proposal’s high points in 20 minutes or less. The end result was magic. We knew we’d nailed it as soon as the meeting concluded.

We were unprepared for the second opportunity. We didn’t rehearse, relied on an endless powerpoint presentation, brought the wrong ‘team’ to the pitch and allowed the conversation to meander.

Our crack Strategy Consultant Darryl Salerno listened to these two tales and advised us to be more judicious in the future. He suggested that when we do commit to pitching a piece of new business, we should go all out: that means rehearsing, assigning a team leader, staying away from dull powerpoints and choosing the appropriate account team.

Darryl’s advice, like High’s, may sound academic. But, the best and the brightest agencies often fumble when it comes to new business fundamentals.

Hey, if it was easy, we’d win all the time. But, what fun would that be?

Apr 21

Judging the success of a CEOs trip

Intent on shoring up a slow, but steady decline in one of his most important markets, a CEO recently paidPopebenedictjpg
it a whirlwind visit.

He met with prospective and existing customers as well as those who had chosen one of several competitive models. He also set aside time to hold a few job interviews and made it clear he was not only CEO, but director of human resources as well. The local media followed his every move in their best paparazzi imitation, prompting some to wonder what all the fuss was about.

The CEO followed textbook crisis communications by apologizing for past product flaws and suggested a new quality control process to lessen the likelihood of such issues in the future.

There was a lot of positive buzz swirling about as the CEO made his departure from the key market: his meetings had gone well, media coverage was universally positive and early indications hinted at possible market share improvements which, after all, was the trip’s purpose in the first place.

But, the Catholic Church’s two fundamental flaws, celibacy and pedophilia, remain in place, with the harsh restrictions of the first paving the way for the pernicious reality of the second.  Papal visits remind me of client retreats: everyone gets together for a short while, drinks the corporate Kool-Aid, get all charged up and then return to their jobs with absolutely nothing having changed.

It was nice to host the pope but, until he changes the basic dogma, this trip will be judged at best as a short-term marketing success. Your eminence, you need to work with the product engineers to fix the system. Then, and only then, can marketing really deliver on future visits to key markets.

Mar 25

Up Next on Fox Business: We Throw a Rock in a Glass House

Guest blog by Gene Colter.Fox_2

The marketing folks at Fox Business have violated one of the most important Commandments of
Advertising: Never talk about your competitor. Their sin, a print ad that pokes fun at CNBC shouter Jim Cramer’s bad call on Bear Stearns, can be seen here.

Some rules (if not commandments) are made to be broken. This is not one of them. Talking about your competitor – good or ill — at best muddles your message and at worst reminds the consumer who else is selling whatever it is you are making.

The Fox Business ad uses a trio of famously wrong prognostications as a lead-in to a quote from Cramer imploring folks not to pull their money from Bear, because Bear will be fine. (Bear wasn’t.) The ad’s bottom line? “Turbulent Times Call for a Credible Network.” That’s Fox Business.

This takes the worst-case scenario described two paragraphs ago and finds ways to make it worst-case-to-the-nth degree. Let’s document just a few, starting with the oh-so-obvious.

The day will come when Fox Business pundits make their own bad call. In fact, that day has already passed, with the upstart network’s anchors getting dinged in the earliest days for factual errors and mischaracterizations. News organizations, especially new ones, are allowed to make mistakes. But they shouldn’t gloat about it – in a paid ad – when their compatriots stumble.

And about that CNBC “mistake”: James Cramer’s catch-all bag of admonitions, predictions, protestations and discount Dadaism are his own, not CNBC’s. (Full disclosure: My wife previously was employed by Cramer-founded Web site The

Finally, hubris and Schadenfreude mixed together make for a particularly venomous cocktail coming from an established leader, much less a network that’s been on the air for all of 12 minutes.

Some readers will deem this commentary naïve, pointing out that I should expect as much from Fox. I don’t see the world that way: Fox is part of media leader News Corp. and worthy of analysis that doesn’t resort to simplistic stereotyping.