I am disheartened by GM’s new adverting campaign. And the fact that they even have one.

Oh, you say you didn’t know that GM was advertising again with your money? Exactly.

But putting aside the “taxpayer money” piece… what could the company possibly know yet that’s different from what it’s been saying (not doing, necessarily, but saying) for years? “We’re starting over, we hear you, we’re building ’em small, we’re going green, we’re gonna be competitive on a global scale.”

The company’s been bankrupt for 20 minutes. No one’s ever run or worked for or invested in a bankrupt GM. Why not take a breath and think about the very first words you want the American public to hear from you?

But instead the company moved forward with ads that were obviously made prior to the bankruptcy announcement. They already knew what they were supposed to say (see above rebirth, small, green, etc.), so they put some ads out there and paid Donny Deustch a bunch of money to go on Morning Joe and say great things… just as they might have done for any big new happening.

And there’s the rub. This advertising – who knows, maybe any advertising right now – IMHO says “business as usual” for this car company. With a tinge of humility (see hockey player land on his face), it’s all good feelings and autos and rah-rah.

In World War II, auto plants retooled to make planes, tanks and munitions. Michael Moore has said that “the only way to save GM is to kill GM” and that the U.S. must seize this moment in history to re-envision the corporation on nearly the same scale.

Whatever one thinks of Michael Moore, I believe we can all agree that radical change is in order. And maybe GM will shine once again in some new incarnation. I hope so. But by instantly and reflexively pushing out the standard flag-waving, sun-rising, children-playing advertising, GM has sent that first all-important signal to the marketplace: and it looks eerily like the old one.

As some of you know, I’ve really started to wonder how we can possibly ingest the fire hose of information that comes at us every day. The obvious answer is that we can’t. Brits know it, tweens know it, experts know it.  And yet… on it comes, leading one to either eliminate it – unsubscribe to an email newsletter, sign off Facebook, stop watching Real Housewives of New Jersey (oops, sorry – that’s mine) – or somehow filter out what we don’t want.  Some call this phenomenon the “attention economy.” 

In the attention economy, a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that finite amount of attention over a rising level of noise.  In other words, it becomes increasingly important to make choices, to become more discriminating, to understand the value of our thoughts and our time.  So while I may watch reality TV because I like it, it would never dawn on me to voluntarily invite a continuous information stream into my skull that I neither want nor need. I recently wrote a post on this topic as it pertains to Twitter, arguably the Web’s newest, most popular time suck.

Well here’s another upside-down concept from the Twuniverse:  Twitter Karma.  If you’re not on Twitter, you don’t have a clue what this would be. But if you are, you may know what’s coming…


On Twitter, you follow people whose thoughts interest you, and others may follow you for the same reason.  Twitter Karma refers to those whom you follow who do not follow you back. This means that you’ve elected to see every tweet of theirs and they have not reciprocated. Some people find this to be rude: so rude, in fact that they unfollow individuals who – after a respectable amount of time – didn’t follow them back.

stephanie-fierman-twitter-cartoon1.jpg

Wait – what? This is a problem? Did I go to sleep and wake up back in the 3rd grade?

We’re grown-ups. Each of us has her own unique interests, profession and curiosities. Each of us has goals of expanding his knowledge in different directions. So if I follow you on Twitter because you have a point of view I find valuable, why would I expect you to reciprocate (and consider it a compliment) if you don’t need what I have to say? Maybe someday you’ll be interested… but not now.

I do not take offense, but make no mistake: I’m supposed to.  By implication, those who do not reciprocate are ingrates and creeps.


Twitter karma feels precisely like one of those mean little games children play. Move on.


Look, here’s my point of view: if you’re on Twitter, chances are you’re a reasonably confident person who has something to say. I doubt you need or want an insincere slap on the back from someone who felt pressured to offer it.


This is the only life we get, people. You only have so many brain cells: use them wisely. Be choosy. Mandatory school books or work stuff aside… take in the information you need and want. Leave the rest. By doing so, we not only grow… but maybe we do increase the likelihood that we’ll have something to say that others will want to “follow.”


But, hey. If you’re squeamish about unfollowing a “mean girl” (or guy) on Twitter, sort folks on TweetDeck.  It’ll change your Twexistence.

Today, we seem awash in media – the social kind and otherwise.  I jumped into the Twitter pool, for example, because my friends and colleagues were beginning to behave as though I might devolve into a fish if I didn’t start tweeting.  I’m tweeting, OK?!  Stop bugging me!

724 tweets later… I actually think I get a lot out of Twitter.  I follow 180 people (all their tweets pop up together on my “home page” for easy reading) and I’m mind-boggled that over 400 people follow me, theoretically raising my profile in the universe.  I wander the site, use search and stumble onto things I didn’t know. I’d say that the value I’m getting from the site falls into 5 active categories:

1. New Twitter friends.  If you tweet enough, eventually you find people that you’d be friends with in real life.  They think like you, or don’t and are mature enough to joust with you on a topic.  They’re funny or profane or smart or all three.  Here are 4 twitterers I feel lucky to have “met”: Note_To_CMO, Brian Kenny, Ron Shevlin and Jason Siegel

2. Current friends with whom I don’t spend nearly enough time: TheCMOClub, JarvisCromwell, Marc HandelmanSteve Sieck and Jarvis Cromwell

3. Marketers of some status whose thoughts I find interesting: Bryan Eisenberg, Douglas Karr, Pete Blackshaw and Ann HandleyJeffry Pilcher and Jeremy Pepper,

4. Business figures/celebs/media personalities such as Seth Godin, Steve Case, Maureen Dowd and Downing Street

5. I learn things about the world from HardlyNormal, FT, The Nation, Be The Change and others.


In the beginning, I was just trying to keep up, stick to Twitter’s unspoken rules and get the hang of the site’s ebb and flow.  I’m sending’ some tweets and wandering about.  I try to make each tweet reflect a thought that someone might care about or find amusing.  I try.  I always ask myself, brutally, why I think anyone might be remotely interested in or amused by what I’m about to say.  If I can think of a reason, I tweet.  If not, I come back later.


HOWEVER


It seems to me that not everyone thinks of others.  There are many on Twitter who think – as Dane Cook said on Larry King last week – that “Just ate a ham sandwich” is a good tweet.  Could a twitterer possibly think that one’s banal eating, drinking, sleeping and transportation status are, on average, remotely interesting or worthy of someone’s time?  What sort of blind arrogance or obliviousness could prompt someone to believe that “Hmmm, coffee” adds something to another person’s life experience? That “Got to be at Tampa airport at 6am” is noteworthy? 
I actually posted this video in another post – on my other blog – but it just captures this aspect of Twitter so well…


As an aside, there’s another category of weirdly self-absorbed twitterers.  I’ll call these folks “twegomaniacs” (I wanted to be clever with “bozo,” but couldn’t make it work).  I’ve followed – then un-followed – two of these twinsufferables: the first, a famous business celeb and author who was cluttering my life with random tweets 24 hours a day (because she has people tweet for her at 3am), and a business journalist who just thinks he’s da bomb.  Drove me nuts.  Clogged my home page and took far more of my time than their respective contributions deserved.  They’re history.

Which got me thinking:  what responsibility does each of us have to everyone else on Twitter, particularly those in our respective follower/followee universes?  Do we have the right to blurt “Forgot to pick up my shirts” and other tweets of that ilk?  Are we so vain as to think that every random thought should be expressed? Would you walk up to someone at a cocktail party and yell, “New sneakers!”

I didn’t think so.

So what’s the purpose of my meandering?  Just this: I think we should expect more.  More from each other, more from the media we consume, more from our choices. 

Curate the words and factoids fighting for your brain space each day.  Think about the value of your time. 

The airwaves/webwaves/our brainwaves are only going to get weirder and more clogged as time goes on.  Horse has left the barn.  Can’t unring a bell.  That dog won’t hunt.  Etc.  There will be more and more detritus trying to get in.  Edit out what doesn’t make you better.  When was the last time you started receiving a new email newsletter, or unsubscribed to an old one?

And in the case of Twitter – for goodness sake, don’t voluntarily invite folks into your head who need to tell you that they just got back from the grocery store or plan to enjoy the sunshine.  As an aside, a lot of other folks have perhaps had the same reaction to Twitter’s potential avalanche of inanities:  more than 60% of new Twitter users stop using the service altogether within a month of joining.  In my world a 40% retention rate is yikes time.

I simply think you deserve more.  And if you don’t start sweeping out the crud, I’m afraid you might just start telling me that you’re gonna watch some TV now… and that won’t be good.

‘Back soon with further thoughts on this topic (with examples from your favorite marketing magazine…)

Sprint launched two new ad campaigns this past week, and brought its old ads – featuring CEO Dan Hesse – to an end.

Thank goodness. Those look-how-thoughtful-I-am-in-black-and-white ads – with the single camera shots bobbing in front of Hesse as he walked along – were making me seasick.

Wireless Week thinks Sprint pulled Hesse because the company was worried folks might react badly to the CEO making $14.2 million in 2008.  Perhaps it is a bit of a curiosity, given that Sprint continues to receive dismal customer service ratings and its revenues are falling… but I digress.

So – the new work. The new work is beautiful to watch. The production values are excellent. The problem is that it doesn’t sell Sprint all that well.

The first ad in the “The Now Network” campaign, “What’s Happening Now,” successfully illustrates how much data traffic is running right now. Right this second! This minute! So much is happening! A voice-over drills through statistics, read over crisp animations: “1 million e-mails are en route. 7% of them contain the words ‘miracle banana diet.” “2 million people are sending a text message during a business meeting. Most popular subject? Diapers.” 6 million people are researching restaurants in taxis and 29 of them just left their phone in that same cab.”

A lot of digerati are getting a particular kick out of the references to Twitter: “233,000 people just Twittered on Twitter. 26% of you viewing this have no idea what that means.” Tee-hee (or is that Twee-hee?)!

The ad rolls along at a crazy pace, and you’re working your brain just to keep up with all the fun facts. Whooo, I am truly amazed!

So amazed, in fact, that the brand behind the ad is almost beside the point. Even when the commercial gets down to business at the end, it waits far too long to show the Sprint name and logo. And 3G or 4G, Tier 1 huh? It’s all almost an afterthought.  Take a look for yourself HERE:

This beautiful ad will generate buzz on the Web because of all the fun cocktail party (ad:tech?) stats. That will help, but I wish Sprint’s agency, Goodby Silverstein, would adjust the ad itself to make sure that the brand message gets through. The second ad in the campaign, “Anthem,” displays the same beauty and cleverness… and suffers from the same ailment, as does the enticing website that accompanies the campaign.

The second effort, “Why Throw Your Money Away?” addresses the brand benefits in a creative manner that feels fresh, but the value message is well-worn. One of the spots, “Leafblower,” shows a father blowing lots of money away with a leaf blower while his family tries to grab it all back; viewers are informed that they can save $360 a year over comparable AT&T and Verizon plans.

At least the brand is front and center.

A few minor adjustments could potentially move both the television ads and the website(s) a whole lot closer to what every client (and consumer) hopes for:  work that makes an impression on its own creative merits while it forges a meaningful connection to the brand.

Readers know that I’m partial to a couple cartoonists and I like to share their work now and then.  On Stephanie Fierman – Marketing Observations Grown Daily, it’s David Jones‘ Adland.  Here, it’s Tom Fishburne’s Brand Camp.

On his blog, Tom points out that last year’s “green briefs” have been replaced with “value briefs.”  Or how about… bailout briefs? Obama briefs?  Enjoy!

recession-washing.jpg

A recession landmine is like a real landmine. It’s going to kill or maim whomever steps on it. The guilty, the innocent, the oblivious… it doesn’t matter. A landmine does not discriminate. You just explode.

And so it was with a recent Pepsi ad for G2 (low-calorie Gatorade).

When you watch the ad, you can see what Pepsi was trying to do almost immediately, then BLAM: it hits some wrong notes that have got people accusing the company of insensitivity and worse.  This means Pepsi now have something in common with AIG, but more on later.

The shots move back and forth between NBA player Kevin Garnett and a normal, suburban-looking guy – also named Kevin – who loves to swim. The voiceover also switches back and forth between the two men, and herein lies the problem. In trying to write a Nike-reminiscent “athletic striving” ad, statements that are meant to be inspiring appear instead to mock and insult people who have lost their jobs or are otherwise suffering due to the economic crisis. See for yourself (if you cannot already see the ad on your screen, click HERE).

When I first heard about this controversy, I’ll admit it: I really, really wanted to support Pepsi.  Pepsi’s a great brand.  But this spot was not well-considered in light of current circumstances.

Its lines are being called “arrogant and insensitive” and a “cruel” “slap in the face“:

Garnett: “I’ve never been handed a pink slip…” “I’ve never had to tell me wife ‘We can’t pay the mortgage.’” (Kevin “The Big Ticket” Garnett has a $24.75 million contract with the NBA)

Normal Kevin: “I’ve never had to fill the holes in my sneakers with cardboard.”

Garnett: “I’ve never used the backstroke as a ‘coping mechanism.’

And with these statements, my professional armor fell away and I became a father who can’t pay for food, a mother who cannot afford health insurance, a student who has to drop out of school. The sneaker comment IMHO hit a particularly dissonant note.  Suburban Kevin pushes us swiftly down the road, past unemployment, with homelessness straight ahead.

How did this happen? The financial services companies got into trouble for how they handled their (financial services) business. They made endemic mistakes, in their own backyards. This energy drink runs right into a buzz saw for no reason at all.

And so let us come back to how Pepsi now shares something with AIG. Both companies failed to grasp how people are feeling today… how “business as usual” no longer applies. 1.3 million children in the United States are homeless at some time every year – and that was before the recession started. One could assume that some of these children must use cardboard to fill the holes in their shoes.

If you think I’m being overly dramatic, please don’t.  A seemingly-benign or joking comment, on the job or at a cocktail party, can drop you on your own personal landmine, damaging your own personal brand.  Do not underestimate millions of people in pain.

Personally, I am counseling clients today to look hard at their messaging right now. If you are running ads, for example, make sure they are seen and tested with a much broader swath of consumers and experts – people who may not be in your target audience – because it’s not just about saleability anymore. Put campaigns through the mill. Have linguists and child advocates and food bank directors mull every word, every off- and online image.

Is all this fair? Fairness is not at play; raw nerve endings are. We are all in the business of selling, of course, but at what risk at this very moment? The news and current events are swinging wildly from one day to the next: are you comfortable deciding what positioning won’t spark an undesirable (albeit inadvertent) reaction? Think long-term. If you’re not 100% secure in next week’s flight, cancel it.  Because getting this wrong could negatively affect your brand’s reputation for years, if not a lifetime.


A version of this post is available at www.ReputationGarage.com.

Have you ever had anything in your life that you really liked – loved, even – and so when it went bad you raged, you beat your fists, you cried out in angst?!?

Then at some point, finally, you had to accept that whatever was to be, would be. As with the 7 stages of mourning, you had no choice but to find acceptance?

Well that it what I am trying to do, as a coffee-drinker and long-time sales and marketing executive, with respect to:

stephanie-fierman-schultz-starbucks1.jpgSTARBUCKS.

Yes, Starbucks. I give up. I do. Seriously. I started writing about Starbuck’s travails on a whole other blog, for cryin’ out loud, and things have only deteriorated.

Yes yes, I can hear you counter with a reminder that I like the Pike Place and the oatmeal, or that maybe the $4 breakfast combo isn’t too bad. Neither could balance a series of seemingly endless missteps that I did not think could get any worse. Then Howard Schultz rode back into town on his “You ‘executives’ need help; I’m back to bring this place back to its roots” horse and the place went entirely over the edge.

Seriously – I am like this because I love Starbucks coffee.

The problem with Schultz’s naked arrogance is that the world around this company has changed forever. The “roots” from which this company originally drew sustenance are long gone. We can all see that the company over-extended itself with respect to both its geographic footprint and prices… but where is the leadership?? Schultz has been back in that seat for nearly 2 years.

Just as I can’t blame Obama for AIG’s 2008 bonuses, I’m not going to pin firings and store closings on Schultz. He had to clean up a mess that he found upon his return. But beyond that… he spent part of his comeback interview in last July’s Portfolio magazine lavishing praise on a “magical” blended drink from Italy that was “going to be the next Frappuccino.”

Meanwhile, I can’t get a cup of coffee in under 15 minutes in the morning and have to wait for the milk to be refilled.

Since the Portfolio interview last summer, the company’s made a number of “puzzling” moves, including:stephanie-fierman-costco-starbucks.jpg
– launching the new Vivanno (starting at $2.79)
– reversing its decision to kill the breakfast sandwiches that were difficult for staff and smelly for customers
– maintaining prices despite the worst recession in living memory
laying off staff with no accompanying attempts to address the stores’ painfully long lines
– creating a new rewards program that was minimally rewarding (Costco had a better deal)
– promising to eliminate the music program that remains in full swing in New York (where the music rack is often neater and more stocked than the condiments counter)
– announcing a new instant coffee

Earlier this week, I cut to the middle of a WSJ article about Starbucks in which I spotted a quote from Schultz: “The issue at hand… is the cost of losing your core customer. It’s very hard to get them back.” I saw a spark of hope – at last, maybe the chain was going back the basics. Was it possible??

Nope.  Instead, the article says that Frappuccinos will come off the menu boards altogether, only to be hand-sold by a salesperson in what will undoubtedly be a lengthier, more harried transaction.  And in a world headed toward greater transparency, where restaurants are being forced to post calorie counts on their menu boards, Starbucks is headed in the other direction with a plan to remove prices (prices!) from their menu boards.  If you want to know what your order actually costs, a staff member will have to stock and point you to a new paper menu somewhere on the jammed counter next to the CDs. 

Ironically, Schultz’s response to all this is to start running a new ad campaign that counters the “myth” (his word) that Starbucks coffee is too expensive.  Unfortunately, nothing reinforces an existing impression that your products are probably too expensive than you deciding to hide your prices from me.

But, hey: new, “more sophisticated” test stores will have wood decor and a big wood table.

Saving core customers, making a store feel “more like a coffeehouse” – these are worthy ideas rooted in the company’s past that should remain. The thing is, a brand must sometimes re-envision its execution of such fundamental values based on the contemporary circumstances surrounding it.  Let’s say Ford had “Get a customer safely from here to there” as one of its original tenets.  Back then, that might have involved horses and buggy whips.  Today? Same concept, updated execution.

Starbucks is unquestionably struggling to see its external circumstances in a clear and honest light.  If it did, it would understand that it has so weakened its own brand that it must re-earn its customers’ trust by truly going back to square one: a good cup of coffee, at a decent price, delivered in a timely fashion. Hold the wood table. Period. The company must remind us that it is first capable of delivering on this primal promise before it can have our psychic “permission” to explore any of these pet projects (e.g. fruit drinks made from powder).

Until then, all these Vivanno-like moves will not only deepen the company’s failure, they’ll also remind us every day that the company cares more about itself than it does about its customers.

As for the 7 stages of mourning, I am trying to get my head around the possibility of reaching the final stage – Acceptance – while standing in a Dunkin Donuts, holding a latte.

snuggie-stephanie-fierman.jpgI first noticed the Snuggie on television in December.  I first voiced my aversion to the Snuggie soon after.

Since then, several people who know I have blogs have asked me why I haven’t written a post about the marketing phenom that is the Snuggie.  The question is usually asked in a mocking tone, accompanied by a broad smile.  I believe these people are disturbed and that they do not care about me or anything that is good and right with the world.

But there is only one way to silence the masses.  Here now is the only public comment I shall ever utter regarding the dreaded Snuggie.  So you might want to lean in.

What’s a snuggie?  It’s this weird, shapeless fleece thing that looks like a big bathrobe put on backwards.  Is it a blanket?  Is it fashion?  Perhaps a fanklet?  I think not.  It comes in royal blue, baby puke green and a red that, in the TV commercial, makes the senior citizen wearing it look like the Pope.  I mean, this thing is fugly.

The commercial shows people wearing it inside while reading, eating, talking on the phone… and that was bad enough.  Now a New York Times Styles (!) reporter has taken the thing out for a spin – ice skating, riding the subway and going to a bar in Brooklyn.  The reporter says that he received a positive reception from most people.  I believe that is because we have all been taught to smile and be nice to crazy people in public.  A number of readers commented on his story:  click here and find a comment dated 3-2-09 from  “Hotpants Malone” that’s my all-time favorite.

Worse yet, the thing is so goofy that it is now “invading American bars,” as it has become fashionable for people to wear their Snuggies on pub crawls!  This could actually make sense, given that a crawl is a group of people, all stone-cold drunk, who could use the fleece as a cushion when they fall off the curb.

What is semi-interesting is that nary a Snuggie story has mentioned the product’s manufacturer, Allstar Marketing Group, who is running $10 million worth of DRTV for the product.  But hey: maybe Allstar thought it needed a fast start out of the gate, given that the “slanket” was in the gross-reverse-bathrobe category first… and pulled in $4 million in 2008 alone. 

pet-rock-stephanie-fierman.jpgAnd I do believe the Snuggie may be the pet rock of this generation, and that little piece of genius made its creator the equivalent of $56 million in today’s dollars in less than one year.

So who’s fleecing whom?? Get it?  “Fleecing?” Whooeee!  I’m hilarious!

Now do not ever mention the product which shall remain (Snuggie!) nameless to me again, and I’m sure we’ll all get along just fine.

P.S. I now use a photo of Bill Maher wearing a Snuggie on his TV show as my cell phone wallpaper.  Does that mean I have fallen under the Snuggie spell?  Sue me.

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For more of my writing, please check out my second blog,
Stephanie Fierman – Marketing Observations Grown DailyThank you!

As I was scanning the paper and my online newsletters recently, a couple of unrelated news bits suddenly coalesced around 3 concepts that have served me well as I’ve sought to help companies grow lo these many years.

dunkin.jpgFirst, it was the Wall Street Journal with a story about Starbucks introducing new breakfast combo pricing.  Talk about being a follower:  this has been McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts turf for some time.  But while McDonald’s responded by saying the same old thing – that it’s confident consumers know where to go for value, blah blah – Dunkin Donuts quietly introduced a new consumer benefit that rose above the existing melee over pricing.  A Dunkin marketer said, “We believe we are the faster and more affordable alternative” to Starbucks.”

Faster?  Faster!  Where did come from??  Curses!  And what can Starbucks say, given that they’re firing baristas left and right and were painfully slow even before that?

Dunkin moved the game into open territory.  Let everyone else try to out-price each other:  we’ll just introduce an entirely new thought that matters to customers.  This reminded me of Life Concept #1:  Wayne Gretzky‘s famous line, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”  I honestly use this thought frequently, when I am thinking about how to build a winning strategy.  Don’t just whack each other with sticks and tear up the ice: take the game into new territory where one of your own assets can be truly superior.stephanie-fierman-success-sign.jpg

Define the field:  don’t let it define you.

Next was a recent blip in the ongoing rift between Barron’s and CNBC’s Jim Cramer.  Apparently, Barron’s doesn’t like Cramer all that much and says (repeatedly, to anyone who will listen) that Cramer’s stock picks don’t live up to the size of his personality. 

Whatever.  A big part of Cramer’s whole shtick is that he’s tough, he’s outspoken, he’s gonna do what he wants and say what he wants.  CNBC should have brushed this off.  Instead, the network took the bait and issued what I thought was quite a surprising “let’s take this outside!” response:

You wrote a premeditated hatchet job to curry favor with your new bosses at News Corp.,” said CNBC’s [spokesman Brian] Steel. “[Cramer] doesn’t consider you a journalist.”

Yikes! So, wait: if CNBC actually cares enough about Barron’s commentary to issue this statement, maybe there is something to worry about here and I should pay a little more attention to Cramer’s recommendations… thinketh the consumer.  Apparently this spat has gone public before, with CNBC responding with lawyers, calls to Dow Jones execs and other temper tantrum-like behaviors.

Silicon Alley Reporter‘s Henry Blodget hit the nail on the head: CNBC played Barron’s game, instead of its own.  Jim Cramer’s entertainment value makes huge money for the network.  So why stoop to play Barron’s level? 

If I were in charge of CNBC’s brand and communications I would simply say (to my angry bosses, probably), “Who cares?  Who cares what Barron’s thinks?  Why are we giving Barron’s the time of day? Let’s issue a statement that says ‘We love Jim Cramer and his fans do, too,’ and that’s it.”  Over and out.   

Which brings me to Life Concepts #2 and #3…

lighthouse-stephanie-fierman.jpg#2 is an old Chiat|Day planning concept: you want to be a lighthouse brand.  You want to be the brand on the hill, whose certain features/benefits/emotional connections others can’t touch.  You want everyone looking up the hill at you.  Dunkin Donuts understood this with just one tiny statement and CNBC should have, as well.  Cramer is entertaining and fun.  Is Barron’s fun and exciting?  No?  Then use that.  Too much obsessing about the competition can cripple innovative thinking if it gets you all tangled in the other guy’s rules. 

What have you got that they don’t?

And finally, Concept #3 comes from the world of media training, and anyone who has trained (me) or been trained (by me) knows this critical rule:  regardless of what you might be asked, make sure you say what you came to say.  You are there to communicate certain points and you will do that regardless of whether it fits the other person’s/group’s agenda or not.  Have you noticed how well politicians do this?  Have you ever watched the Sunday morning news shows and thought that maybe you just missed something, because a commentator asked a question and the guest answered an entirely different question?  A new friend from Thomson Reuters just reminded me that Reagan was the master of this at press conferences.  You ask about the Middle East and – if he’s there to talk about the economy – that’s what you got.

Don’t let anyone else make you fuzzy, or pull you off course.

These concepts and their application are a big part of my passion for making brands, and businesses, and YOU a success.  They are timeless and true.  Whether you are a one-man shop or one of a zillion employees, change your thinking.  Be the lighthouse.  Set the agenda.  See what happens.  No one can respond to something you uniquely own.
So own it.

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If you’d like to see more of Stephanie Fierman (and, really, who wouldn’t?), please check out my second (and more frequently updated) blog, Stephanie Fierman Marketing Daily.  Thank you.

Leave it to the Mojo’s favorite cartoonist, Tom Fishburne, to put his finger on something that’s been giving me a headache:  the economic concept known as “the paradox of thrift.”

First posited by John Maynard Keynes, the paradox of thrift (or paradox of saving) states that if everyone saves more money during a recession, then overall demand will fall, which leads to further unemployment and downsizing, decreased consumption and even slower economic growth.

In other words…

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So what’s a consumer to do?  Is ING Direct the hero, with its We the Savers campaign, or is it “unpatriotic” not to go out and spend?  Eventually, the theory says that prices decline due to lower demand and the business community and society reset.  Note the “eventually” element, unfortunately.

One note:  Keynes advocated an active and interventionalist government, using fiscal and monetary levers to help mitigate the effect of economic cycles.  Obama is following this lead, trying to inject additional activity and employment into the system so that demand can stay at some manageable level while all of our other problems are addressed.

As for marketers, there can be no fancy footwork here.

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I’ve written several posts on value, the most recent of which is HERE. The only play is to deliver what your customers define as value at the highest acceptable price, which may or may not reflect the cost of continued R&D and long-term planning, and to manage expenses agressively.  I was reminded a few nights ago of my first day in Year 1 Corporate Finance at business school.  The professor wrote on the board, “Don’t run out of cash.”  That seems to be the whole of it. 

This is playing out in front of us all.  “One foot in front of the other” appears to be good albeit wholly unsatisfactory advice not only for individuals but many companies, as well.