Tag Archives: marketing

Bob Garfield takes Jane Seymour and Kay Jewelers to the woodshed

I rarely post recommendations encouraging you to go check out a business writer. And by rarely I mean never. Today I’m making an exception, though, because it turns out that one of my favorites, MediaPost’s Bob Garfield, hates those motherfucking Jane Seymour Kay Jewelers ads as bad as I do.

Awww. Every kitsch begins with Kay.

But wait. Open your heart? No, unless by “heart” they mean “wallet.” Ladies and gentlemen, I give you open-heart sorcery: the black art of combining celebrity, cheap sentimentality, self-delusion, greed and borderline consumer fraud.

The practice exploits consumers’ emotions and invites them to delude themselves into thinking a product purchase is an act of charity. But it is not charity. Continue reading Bob Garfield takes Jane Seymour and Kay Jewelers to the woodshed

Infographic best practices: learn how math works

What would happen if you put Yogi Berra in charge of making infographics?

We’ve written about the problems with infographics before, but this one takes the cake.

There’s a fun one from Ethos3 up at SlideShare.net addressing the importance of nonverbal communication when making presentations. It’s generally pretty helpful, but it also provides us with a lesson in the value of not overreaching.

See if you can spot the problem.

Infographic

Continue reading Infographic best practices: learn how math works

PowerPoint is making us dumber and damaging our businesses

Yes, PowerPoint sucks. Here’s why, plus some suggestions about how to fix the problem.

Imagine a widely used and expensive prescription drug that promised to make us beautiful but didn’t. Instead the drug had frequent, serious side effects: It induced stupidity, turned everyone into bores, wasted time, and degraded the quality and credibility of communication. These side effects would rightly lead to a worldwide product recall. – Edward Tufte Continue reading PowerPoint is making us dumber and damaging our businesses

Maker’s Mark illustrates the importance of thinking BEFORE you act

CATEGORY: FoodDrinkIn case you haven’t been tracking along, the folks at Maker’s Mark (which is owned by Beam, Inc.), faced with more demand than they could meet, recently announced that they’d be lowering their alcohol by volume (ABV) from 90 proof to 84 proof. You won’t even notice, they assured us.

The backlash was swift and loud. Makers Mark customers pitched a hissy fit, and at least one marketing analysta (Roger Dooley, writing at Forbeswondered if the company had committed “brand suicide.”

Do you really want to go on the record as saying the palates of your customers are so unrefined that they can’t tell the difference when the whiskey is diluted? In reality, in blind taste tests most people probably can’t tell the difference between similar colas, beers, whiskeys, etc. Nevertheless, brands still strive to maximize their taste differentiation. Can you imagine Coke saying, “We could change our formula a little, or even put Pepsi in our cans, and not many of our customers would notice.”?

To their credit, MM leadership today changed course, announcing in a public letter that:

…effective immediately, we are reversing our decision to lower the ABV of Maker’s Mark, and resuming production at 45% alcohol by volume (90 proof). Just like we’ve made it since the very beginning.

Good for them. The thing is, we shouldn’t over-congratulate them because this was a butt-stupid mistake to start with. Dooley had commented on their missed opportunity last Thursday:

Maker’s Mark could have used their looming shortage as an opportunity to make their brand stronger. If they encountered sporadic shortages for a period of years, they could raise prices and leverage the scarcity to take the brand up a notch in prestige.

And all he was doing was stating what every smart marketer in America knew instantly: you never give people less. If the choice is between raising prices or cutting portions, for instance, raise the prices. Customers may not like it, but they react worse when they find themselves getting less for their money. Psychologically, when you do so you are taking something away from them.

Same thing with the MM trainwreck. The shortage was arguably even good news from a brand perspective because the unanticipated shortage (whatever that may say about your forecasting operation) emphasized the demand for your product. You could have responded with something like this:

Wow, folks, you like our product so much that you bought more than we expected. It’s going to take us about five or six years to get caught back up because we will not sacrifice the quality of our fine whiskey, no matter how much it costs us. In the meantime, we’re grateful to our customers and salute their discernment.

Instead, you miss the obvious opportunity, you violate the customer’s trust, and you dilute your brand by far more than the three percent you’re cutting the ABV in your now somewhat less prestigious liquid refreshments.

Given that Makers Mark had committed the gaffe, today’s announcement was precisely the right move. But there was no excuse for the mistake in the first place. Now, thanks to a moment of unfathomable stupidity, they’re faced with the challenge of restoring their tarnished reputation.

Maybe Makers Mark will be just fine. Maybe this won’t even register a blip on their sales numbers – time will tell. In the meantime, though, the company’s need to understand what they have done. Leaving the product as is, running a new ad campaign, dumping money into PR aimed at assuring us that everything is hunky-dory, none of that can undo one simple fact: a few days ago, they announced to the world that they can water down their whiskey with no noticeable impact on quality.

That’s a hell of a brand promise, and it’s a bell that you can never unring.

Think. Act. In that order.

Komen/Planned Parenthood controversy: why haven’t we heard from Komen’s corporate sponsors?

Corporate sponsorship is important for a great many of America’s non-profits, and that’s certainly true of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Of course, any time you strike an alliance with another entity, you can’t help assuming some of their risk. Your partner jumps the tracks, all of a sudden people are looking at you even though you didn’t do anything wrong.

I tend to believe that Komen’s sponsors had nothing but the best intentions in donating their time and money to supporting a worthy cause. However, I also can’t help noticing that I haven’t heard a peep out of any of them regarding the foundation’s appalling decision to de-fund Planned Parenthood, an entity that doesn’t harness its public health mission to partisan prerequisites. Continue reading Komen/Planned Parenthood controversy: why haven’t we heard from Komen’s corporate sponsors?

Sociopathic PR Firms and the Clients They Serve

Part one of two…

I work in the world of marketing and corporate communications, and my track record of business-related posts (here and at my biz site, Black Dog Strategic) probably demonstrates how seriously I take ethical concerns. For instance, not long ago I made clear that I think understanding the truth of a bad news story aimed at a client comes before worrying about how to respond. Back in November, I took a hard look at the eroding credibility of public relations as a profession and suggested that maybe the behavior of PR practitioners had a lot to do with our slide into lawyer, hooker and used car salesman territory. At various points along the way I’ve ventured opinions on everything and everybody from Toyota to Tiger Woods (to Augusta National), BP to LBJ, Target to Dillard’s, and Rupert Murdoch to the Denver Post, which used to be a newspaper.

Sometimes I comment on what strike me as merely bad strategies. Continue reading Sociopathic PR Firms and the Clients They Serve

EXCLUSIVE: S&R obtains copy of Rupert Murdoch’s original, unedited apology

News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch has issued a public apology for the News of the World scandal, which appears in several British national newspapers this weekend. The final text is available here.

For those unfamiliar with the exciting world of public relations, these kinds of official statements often go through a rigorous process of draft, revision, review, more revision, show it to legal, start over, and finally approval by the person whose name appears at the bottom. S&R has obtained a copy of Murdoch’s original draft and the redline revision produced by Edelman, the PR agency handling the crisis. Edelman, whose client list doesn’t include Charles Manson, Hitler, Simon Cowell or NAMBLA, but would if they showed up with a suitcase full of cash, is very highly regarded when it comes to the task of lipsticking rabid pigs. Continue reading EXCLUSIVE: S&R obtains copy of Rupert Murdoch’s original, unedited apology

Reverse graffiti? Emerging art medium raises all kinds of interesting questions…

Okay, this is brilliant. I never heard of it until this morning and now I learn that there’s apparently a whole movement afoot, with a project and everything.

Continue reading Reverse graffiti? Emerging art medium raises all kinds of interesting questions…