Tappening Continues To Draw Attention With Its Message
Readers of this blog enjoyed an exclusive interview with the creators of the tap water movement, Tappening. 
Eric Yaverbaum and Mark Dimassimo continue to pick up steam, selling 39,000 bottles in the first 36 hours of the campaign.  Good thing they’ve restocked, because Tappening was featured for the second time this year on Good Morning America just yesterday. The first GMA segment in January featured the Tappening reusable bottle in a segment on hot trends.

Tappening is a great lesson in the power of hipness.  The power of cool – of latching onto something positive and giving consumers a device – a bracelet, a ribbon, a red iPod, a bottle – that lets the owner show everyone that she’s “with it” without her saying anything at all.   Consider how much more attention your cause or brand could get if you could think of a way to make it cool.  Which only prompts this blogger to ask:  How can we get Americans to believe that saving money is uber-chic??


Even Presidential Candidates Have Trouble On The Web
How could Presidential candidates still not get the power of the #1 tool on the Web – search? With the new shiny objects being YouTube and Facebook and blah blah, those wishing to be the leader of the free world are missing out on the #1 way to reach voters. Don’t make the same mistake with your business, your brand or yourself.  The building blocks of any sound digital marketing plan is search.


A Blog At Just The Right Time (On Wall Street)
This week, I stumbled on Hedonic Adjustment (www.hedonicadjustment.com), a blog about personal finance.  I like it:  it’s smart, but doesn’t take itself too seriously.  Check it out.


Social Networks Are Gaining, But The News Is Messy
There are several surveys out right now in which a high percentage of CMOs say their companies are going to spend money on social networks in 2008.  A much smaller percentage of those same respondents say they actually understand the subject.  Little wonder.  There are big social networks and small ones.  Ski social networks and Greg Brady social networks.  They are also “slowing down” and “gaining big.”  Simultaneously.  What is phenomenally different is that (a) these sites aggregate masses of people who may share certain interests, and (b) you should wade in only if you’re willing to have customers actually talk back to or at you.  Don’t try this alone.  But beyond these specific insights, the principles of authentic communication, a better mousetrap and compelling creative still apply.


Everything You Wanted To Know About Online Video
This is a wonderful white paper from our friends at the IAB:  the first in a series about the online video space.  14 pages sounds like a lot, but it’s a painless read and will make you sound like you know what you’re talking about.  Quick:  what’s the difference between in-banner, in-stream and in-text online video?  Like I said…


Whom Do You Trust?
Jarvis Cromwell is a great friend to Marketing Mojo  and his own blog, Reputation Garage, is a must read for those interested in the critical topic of building institutional reputation.   Readers get a real bonus by reading a post from guest blogger Paul Dunay on this very topic.   For the first time, Edelman’s annual survey on trust included 25- to 34-year-old “opinion elites” in 12 countries who appear to put more trust in business than do their older colleagues.


The Tipping Point is Fine, Even If We Can’t Prove It
This is a very interesting article about a scientist named Duncan Watts who believes that influentials – the individuals or small groups in society that market puersrsue for their power to spread ideas and trends quickly – is bunk. I’m posting this article because it smells fishy to me. The experiments ring false, and it feels very much like an academic trying to prove the unprovable and almost poking fun (why?) at all of us who believe in the “tipping point” concept. What’s his (or Fast Company’s) angle?  Human behavior – and the spark that ignites or extinguishes a new idea or product – is sometimes unpredictable magic. Marketers know this. Academics, not so much.


“Oh, Yeah?? Well Go Elf Yourself!”
And finally – just in case you were living under a Christmas tree and missed it – no marketing blog would be complete without a shout-out to the Office Max “Go Elf Yourself” viral campaign that allowed users to paste images of their own faces onto the bodies of dancing elves. 26.4 million – NEARLY ONE IN EVERY 10 AMERICANS – visited the company’s holiday site in 4 weeks. Blog mentions were ginormous. So it’s a major bummer that the company’s head of marketing and advertising said that the initiative wasn’t intended to drive sales. “We are third-place players in our industry, so we are trying to differentiate ourselves through humor and humanization.” Geez, that’s embarrassing: an attitude like that just may contribute to the company being satisfied coming in 3rd in a field of 3. And it’s a shame, really, because he’s wrong: if the Mojo was in charge, the value Office Max would derive from that email list of “friendlies” would be bigger and more long-lasting than the campaign itself. 

The Short Life of the Chief Marketing Officer
This blog would be remiss if it did not provide a link to the most recently quoted article focused on the plight of the CMO.  This piece does not cover a lot of new ground, but I do give it credit for circling around what I’ve always said is the heart of the matter:  that is, fuzzy, mismatched expectations between the CEO, the organization, its stakeholders and the CMO him/herself.

 If I had to explain what I mean in one (two?) sentences, I would say that some equate marketing and, by extension, the role of the CMO, to “branding” and advertising.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, many understand the CMO to be a senior business person first, with a core expertise in the entire marketing mix:  one that should be at the CEO’s senior management table when matters concerning the customer are discussed.

If I sound like I have a bias, I do:  I am in the latter camp, not the former.  I do not mean to say, however, that either one is “right.”  Any point along this spectrum can be perfectly fine if it is mutually-agreed and adhered to by the CEO, the board, the organization and the CMO in question.  In good times, and bad.  And there lies the rub.


The New Corporate Intranet, Web 2.0 Style

Serena Software, a vendor of enterprise change management software, is replacing its existing intranet with Facebook on the front-end, attached to a CMS on the back-end.  The implications of this are pretty interesting.  I just hope that Serena eliminates Facebook’s “Change status” function, lest the company get a lot of “In meeting”  “On phone” “In meeting” “On phone” “On phone in bathroom…”



Tiffany Goes Into Business With Swatch
Swatch is setting up a company that will use Tiffany branding and designs to sell watches that will be made and distributed through its global distribution network.  Hopefully, this is a genius move that reflects the melding of mass affluent and luxury purchasing trends around the world.



Newspapers Still Wield Some Influencing Power – Online
Newspapers are still powerful, or are at least still read by those who are:  Mediamark Research reports that readers of newspaper sites are 52% more likely to be categorized as “influencers” than non-newspaper Web site readers.  Good info, for those planning media budgets for ’08 who may think that newspapers are on their way out.



Nielsen Releases 10 Most Popular Lists of 2007
GoViral Ranks Top 5 Viral Advertisements of 2007

I guess I’d vote for the RayBan spot (3.2M YouTube views since May) but ONLY because the Blendtec ad (2.7M views since July) to me is, well, royalty and should be on a list all its own…



I Really Hope My Brain Does NOT Always Work Like Google
As has been previously reported in this blog, Google tends to report popularity.  NB: If what’s popular is also truthful, I’m all for it.


Companies Should Keep and Forward Old Phone Numbers
This is a great tip that seems so simple, but we all know that companies do not always follow this advice.  If a customer pulls out a dusty old catalog and is ready to order a Christmas gift, be sure she can find you.

 

  

Without Snow Globe Innovations, Christmas Décor Will Be Flat

Adweek Not A Weekly Anymore

A New Ad Agency – Eager For Press – Blunders Fundamentally
There is a new agency in New York called Womankind that is promoting itself as a new idea: advertising created by women, for women. It’s not new, of course (paging Mary Lou Quinlan), but it’s getting its 15 minutes. And what does it do, to show that it is serious about “harness[ing] the power of female ad and marketing executives” to make difference? It chooses a man to be interviewed by the Wall Street Journal.

This made me want to slap my own forehead. Hard. There is nothing in the universe that would have kept me from putting a woman up for that interview. If all the female ad executives in the world were wiped out by some advertising plague, I’d have media-trained a homeless woman. Or used a female sock puppet. Or put a dress on a rock.

I would have to think twice about giving business to a shop who, in my opinion, just displayed such colossally poor (and easy to correct) judgment right out of the box! Not kidding.

Clinton Library To Get More Green

Sak’s Wealthy Clients Help It Buck The Trend
“The higher-end luxury price points have not seen a slowdown and we feel quite good about that consumer’s buying power at this point,” Saks Chief Executive Stephen Sadove said on Tuesday.

This is one of several interesting articles spawned by Saks’ prediction of increased sales in the 3Q and a prediction of better sales in 4Q06 vs. 4Q05. The key observation overall appears to be that the haves are getting more and the have-nots are slipping down, while the middle is getting squeezed.

High-end luxury retailers, targeting the truly affluent client (net worth of $1M-$10M) are still performing, as these are the customers immune to credit problems, housing woes and $3/gallon gas prices. But those in the middle who have been reaching up to “low end luxury” brands such as Coach for the last 5 years or so (consumers with annual incomes of $100,000 to $300,000) must now pull back and will shop at Wal-Mart instead – shopping closer to their needs than their wants.

TWO SPINS ON OUR CONVERSATION ABOUT ONLINE REPUTATION MANAGEMENT AND THE UNFETTERED NATURE OF THE WEB

Town Considers Criminalizing Online Harrassment After 13 Year Old Commits Suicide
A terrible, sad story about “Internet shaming” and the death of a 13 year old girl. Where are we going re. regulation on the Web? What responsibility, if any, do we believe that ISPs, social networks and other involved parties must take?

Bob Garfield’s Campaign Against Comcast Continues
“For people with anger issues, the internet is a cathartic godsend and/or lethal weapon.” “… all he needs to have, basically, is fingers and rage.”

Garfield’s ongoing campaign is funny to read, ha ha, and we all feel good about it when we agree with the attacker’s point of view. Then it happens to you personally, or your brand. What do we do?

>

Or perhaps we could call this post, “Stephanie Fierman Meets The Future” or “It’s Hard To Keep Up When You’re Over 40.”  Whatever. 

The upshot, I suspect, is to introduce my audience to Tara Hunt, otherwise known as Miss Rogue. Tara is pretty famous in the increasingly important Web 2.0 – I’d say even Web 3.0 – environment of building authentic customer relationships. Tara’s blog made her Canadian phone ring one day, which got her a job in San Francisco, which led her and her partner Chris Messina to start a company, Citizen Agency, which is now turning down clients.  Big clients.  Big Fortune 50 clients. 

Maybe they won’t turn down business forever, but Citizen Agency is currently focusing on smaller technology companies where Chris and Tara think they have the best chance of actually helping the client execute customer-centric strategies around product research, design, development and marketing.  If that’s not clear, Citizen Agency’s blog post of October 2 is from Chris, humorously relaying the explanation of Citizen Agency’s reason for being during a hot stone massage.   

Another post describes it thusly (see picture and text below.  For you marketers out there, I dare you to say that you haven’t been in the room when one of these conversations has taken place… See if you can guess which comment is the client’s and which might come from the agency):

                               stephanie-fierman-citizen-agnecy-circles.jpg 

“Your slow performance is the number one reason your customers are leaving.”
“But we can’t afford to buy new servers.”
“Your slow performance is the number one reason your customers are leaving.”

“The reason your developer network is dead is because you put too many limitations on your API usage.”
“But our investors want us to keep it secure and tight track of who is using it.”
“The reason your developer network is dead is because you put too many limitations on your API usage.”

“Your user experience is horrendous. Bloggers all over the web are talking about it.”
“Well, that is just not priority right now. We have to get the next release of features out.”
“Your user experience is horrendous. Bloggers all over the web are talking about it.”

Their point is, of course, that losing customers makes these other concerns superfluous.  But why don’t we listen? And if that’s too much homework for today, let’s just try to figure out how we can use social media and community to help.  I think part of the struggle is that a lot of folks are trying to understand social media and its impact on brands and marketers as a trend, or the new “thing.”  Like… I don’t know, say, six sigma:  for most of us, if we kept our mouths shut and waited it out, six sigma went the way of the time and motion study.   

But social media is not going the way of the slide rule, because it’s not a trend but really the creation of an entirely new communication stream between customers and companies.   Sure, Bebo, Facebook and the like will be old news some day, but companies having to adapt to a constant 24/7 two-way conversation with their customers – where those customer comments may be on display for all the world to see – is here to stay. 

As marketers, it’s our responsibility to make this a good thing for our brands, no matter how foreign it may be.  It’s our job to help our CEOs understand that loosening the reins is, well, mandatory.  It’s our job to define what the new party phrase “the consumer is in control” actually means in our own spheres of influence.  After meeting Tara Hunt today, I was not only tremendously impressed but also very relieved to know that there’s such great help out there.

“Reputation management” is certainly nothing new in the worlds of marketing and business.  A company’s reputation is its #1 asset, and organizations spend countless hours and dollars with advisors and PR firms to make sure their messaging is just right.  Certainly individuals care about their reputations just as much, but it’s not been my experience that the regular person, on average, thinks about actively protecting his or her own reputation. 

But as they say, “the Internet has changed everything.” Where once a newspaper article or TV segment might appear and be gone the next day, the Internet now permits anyone to post anything about any topic, whether it be true or false, and such content is often posted anonymously.  And then this questionable content hangs out on the search engines… forever.  While we all applaud the seemingly limitless amount of global news and information the Web literally brings into our homes every day, how much of it is credible when there are no filters?  How do you decide what is true and not – and do most people even try?  I’ve certainly seen my share of urban legend, business rumor and celebrity talk online, but never stopped to really consider or question the quality of the content I was seeing or the judgments I was making about the individuals being written about based on that information. 

This can happen to anyone – and will, in greater and greater numbers.  Only in the last two days a post by Henry Blodgett on Silicon Alley Insider about possible AOL layoffs unleashed a stream of anonymous posts from employees and former employees (146 in a little over two days, so far) not only about the company, but about current AOL executives that these anonymous individuals believe should be fired.  Names are named.   And then other anonymous people jump on the bandwagon.  And like a car wreck you see on the other side of the guardrail, I knew that I couldn’t believe anything on the page and that I should look away, but I didn’t.  One post names 27 executives that deserve to be “whack[ed].”  We also learn that at least one of AOL’s senior executives has questionable and discriminatory motives.  How are these executives to respond?  How will you respond in the future when it’s your turn? 

I am responding by doing exactly what I’ve been doing for companies for the last twenty years – that is, advising brands on how to get their messaging out in an authentic and successful way.  But this time you and I are the brands, and we need to work just as hard to make sure that what’s out there in the world is a true representation of who we are.  Not only do we deserve that, but the people who look for information about us on the Internet deserve that, too. 

This is the first of several posts I’ll be writing on the topic of online reputation management – that is, your reputation.  Stay tuned.

I admit it.  I have a special relationship with the Saturday Wall Street Journal. Many of you will recall the brouhaha when Dow Jones launched the Saturday edition in 2006.  Do they have enough non-endemic advertising to make it profitable?  What will it look like?  Will anyone read it?  Don’t we have ENOUGH to read? 

Well I love the Saturday Wall Street Journal, and I’ll tell you why.  For most, Saturday is the only day of the week when one does not have to go to work the very next day.  Saturday mornings are full of promise.  The streets are (sort of) empty, and I believe that, this time, the weekend really will last forever.  Then I joyfully kick back to read what I consider Dow Jones’ own version of “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.” 

Yes folks, I love the Saturday WSJ because I think it’s the kookiest read around.  It takes the WSJ brand in a whole different direction… but I can’t quite figure out what that direction is!  I mean, if business can be funny, it is actually funny.  I don’t know if the newsroom actually holds back nutty stories (“Hey, it’s only Tuesday:  let’s hold that ‘puppy saves Fortune 100 company with magic drool’ story ‘til Saturday!”) but it might as well. 

Here are my favorite selections from the Saturday, Oct. 6 Wall Street Journal: 

·         OK, right out of the box, I’m going to cheat a little.  “The Hit List” is where the Saturday WSJ gives a well-known person the opportunity to share his or her favorite music.  Today, I have to admit, the column actually made sense, with Barry Manilow choosing his favorite music.  The time they thought I’d be interested to know what John Malcovich (best known for dangerous, slimy characters in films such as “Dangerous Liasons” and “In the Line of Fire”) listens to, however, I did wonder what they were thinking.  Next up:  “Salman Rushdie chooses songs to hide by…” 

·         This one is too perfect for a superhero lover to pass up.  Under the headline “Economan Pleads Guilty” is a story of a guy named Al Parish who took 500 investors for about $90 milion dollars, which he used to buy himself some major bling.  To top it off, Parish was apparently known for his flashy appearance and a website that showed him – wait for it – dressed as a superhero with a huge “E” on his chest.   

·         A great fox guarding the hen house story…  We should all be relieved to know that Whole Foods, John Mackey’s own company, has completed an internal investigation of John Mackey, and John Mackey had decided to “reaffirm” his support for John Mackey. 

Mackey is the CEO who, while attempting a hostile take-over of Whole Food’s chief competitor, Wild Oats, was simultaneously using an alias to post blog comments badmouthing Wild Oats and implying the target company was unstable and in poor financial health. In addition, “Harobed” (the unbreakable code equaling his wife’s name spelled backwards) liked to praise himself in creepy ways, saying in one post, “I like John Mackey’s haircut.  I think he looks cute!” 

This. Story. Is. Hilarious!  I mean… how are we supposed to take the businessworld seriously?  Senior execs knew that Mackey was the mystery blogger back in 2001 but said nothing, violating what many would perceive to be their duty to serve this public company’s shareholders.  They all still have their jobs.  And you have a CEO clearly trying to influence the purchase price of a target competitor… when not spending his time online saying that he thinks he’s cute!!!  Wow.  Hey SEC, anyone home?  

·         Peggy Noonan is best known as an assistant to Reagan and a speechwriter for G.H. Bush.  She is the person who gave us “one thousand points of light,” “Read my lips:  no new taxes” and the book, The Case Against Hilary Clinton.  Since then, she has attempted to appear more moderate, and write about both sides of the political aisle, but it just never… works.  She… leaks, here and there.

Thus I thought truly goofy Peggy Noonan’s piece today called “The Trance.”  It appears to be about the thoughtful look (?) Obama gets when he’s thinking, which is weird enough, but then she makes a crack about whether or not he actually can think.  That Peggy Noonan, I know.  Then she whipsaws toward complimenting other Democratic candidates such as Chris Dodd and I’m confused again.

 Thankfully, all is made well when it becomes clear that the entire purpose of her approximately 1,200 word article is to slam Hilary Clinton.  Well why didn’t you just say that upfront, silly? It would have saved me about 1,100 words…

 
  ·         And finally, a long riff from Steve Stechlow on his love for Bruce Springsteen.  Best part:  Stechlow bestows the greatest love of all on his teenage son when he invites the kid to Springsteen’s opening night in Hartford.  Long pause.   Kid’s response: “Who else is playing?”  Stechlow: “It is… a body blow.  How could I have failed so miserably as a father?”  Funny for the text, and hilarious because… THIS is a WSJ story?! 


So the next time you need a refreshing businessworld-relevant giggle, read the Saturday Wall Street Journal.  I can promise you as much humor as probably any newpaper, short of The Onion, can muster.
 

Mattel’s Missed Opportunity

September 24th, 2007

The most recent news on the Mattel toy recall story is the company’s apology to China.



Clearly Mattel and the entire toy industry have serious challenges right now, but this post is not about China, or manufacturing or lead paint: it’s about how puzzled I am that Mattel – the world’s biggest and perhaps most repected toy company – would permit others to control the story, particularly when the web makes it so easy to get a message out quickly, clearly, repeatedly and directly. Let’s look at just the last several days.

On Friday, September 21, Thomas Debrowski, Mattel’s head of operations, appeared on camera in China to personally apologize for its massive recall of Chinese-made toys.  Mattel made the decision to do this because most of the items were defective due to a (Mattel) design flaw and not because of a (Chinese) manufacturing problem. Several media outlets interpreted this move as Mattel’s attempt to protect its own fortunes, with ABC saying that the company was trying to patch up its relationship with a country that “makes most of its toys and fattens its profit” and the Washington Post pointing out that the toymaker “receives 65 percent of its toys from China and has made significant financial investments in the Asian country.” These reports prompted Mattel to react with a formal statement defending the apology and attempting to point out that it was very similar, if not the same, to the apologies that the company had offered in several other markets. Ugh.

So I went to mattel.com fully expecting the entire home page to be taken over by the company’s messaging and statements of caring and action about this situation. I assumed I would see perhaps one-click access to a moment-by-moment updated list of recalled toys, a video statement from the Chairman, further explanation of the company’s apology to the Chinese, an invitation to call a 24/7-manned 800# hotline for further information and messages to key stakeholders such as parents and stockholders. Maybe a corporate blog. I can’t overestimate how much I just assumed about what’d I’d find at their site. When I stopped for a moment to think about why, I realized, actually, that I had such positive feelings/memories about the company that I just figured they’d “do the right thing”:  Mattel itself is the entity that creating such high expectation on my part.

Here is a snapshot of Mattel’s home page as of Monday, September 24 at:

stephanie_fierman_mattel-home-page.jpg

The main section of the well is unchanged (“The World’s Premier Toy Brands Today and Tomorrow”). Two smaller call-outs link to a recall list last updated September 4, nearly three weeks ago, and the only statement from the Chairman accessible from the home page is Mr. Eckert’s Wall Street Journal editorial dated September 11, more than two weeks ago. In what I consider to be a particularly painful irony, the third of the three call-outs notes that Mattel has been named one of the 100 best corporate citizens of 2007 by Corporate Responsibility Officer magazine.

The first item in a “Mattel in the News” section (IS there any other news?) refers to a new Barbie full-length DVD musical and kick-off event. [NOTE: as an aside, it is possible that Mattel is inadvertently damaging the potential of this new product by having it on the home page at a time when visitors are least likely to want to be receptive to Mattel marketing messages.

There’s no landing page solely devoted to what’s happening and what people care about right now.  Even the information in the site isn’t completely updated.  Forget about the video blogs I’d have all over the web updated multiple times/day, the street teams I might consider fanning out all over the US to talk to real citizens, the use of Youtube to get your position out – in other words, the extensive list of PR options Mattel management deserves and should have in front of them at this moment…  They’re not even using the most valuable piece of real estate in the universe right now, mattel.com, to take charge.

Having made these decisions before, I do not underestimate their difficulty, or the pain this has caused Mattel.  And being an honorable company may just make it worse.  You assume that the public sees and understands much more than they do:  that they will rationally assess an incident in the context of your track record of excellence.
 
If this was ever true, the Internet has forever changed the picture.


It’s not about truth on the Web:  it’s about sensationalism.  The Google algorithm actually rewards popularity – the bigger the fire, the better.   So where companies may have believed that the high road meant staying silent, sticking to their knitting and just fixing the problem… that is no longer an option.

Whoever steps into the void is the party that will be heard, so a premier company like Mattel needs to re-program itself to understand that the “high road” now means delivering authentic 24-hour information online – in good times and bad. 

Manage the story, Mattel: don’t let the story manage you.

Have you heard of a fellow named Tommy Habeeb? Mr. Habeeb has created a new product called the BabySport Water Bottle Nipple Adaptor, a little plastic nipple gizmo that screws on to the top of a regular water bottle so that a baby can drink it. It’s summer, it’s hot, these things are selling like hotcakes and everyone’s happy.

I thought of this guy when I saw MSNBC’s report this week on Starbucks’ plans to develop products specifically intended for the kids who frequent the company’s stores. My only thought was, “Genius, as usual.” But MSNBC’s spin would have made a viewer think that the evil Starbucks intended to use Habeeb’s invention to nurse infants with 670-calorie coffee drinks* – and more than once a day. Actually, the kid in this picture does seem to be struggling with the adult lid a bit… I’m kidding, I’m kidding!

stephanie_fierman_kid-at-starbucks.jpg

MSNBC leveraged Starbucks’ announcement to write the company into the fast-food child obesity epidemic trend story that has garnered so much attention in the last couple years. I think that’s over the top. Granted, this is not an altruistic move by Starbucks, but then again no one’s ever claimed that Starbucks is a not-for-profit. While active in many social areas, the company sees a new opportunity and it’s going to pursue it. Likewise, these corporate baristas are savvy enough to assume that perhaps it was just a matter of time before the food police would turn their attention to after-school frappuccinos with whipped cream, so the company proactively moved to position itself in a more positive light. They make more money, we think of them as offering healthy (healthier?) choices, everybody wins.

*Yawn*

It’s far more compelling to package this non-event as Motley Fool has, sounding the alarm by warning that “heavy-handed marketing to kids can open up an ugly can of worms” with the example of what happened to Reynolds Tobacco when it got caught promoting Camel cigarettes to children. Comparing Starbucks (with hot chocolate, juices, waters, etc. already available) to cigarettes? For Starbucks’ marketers and product folks, talk about “no good deed goes unpunished…”

I’ll end with some of MSNBC’s own viewers’ representative comments on the network’s website. They are hilarious and spot-on (I’ve edited for length and grammar):
mel-wags22: My boys will often get up early on a Saturday morning and we’ll go, get drinks and spend an hour just sitting in the store talking about our week. It’s good family time. If some moron wants to feed their 4 year old, double shot lattes, that’s their problem! 3Under3: As an occasional part of the late-morning stay-at-home-mom rush, I don’t have a problem with the basic kids’ drink menu of steamed milk, hot chocolate or steamed cider, and the bottled drinks, like the organic milk are good… A child who is getting a good diet at home, should be able to handle a treat sometimes without risking obesity. sweetshoppelover: This has become another non-issue perpetrated by the food police. Who are these people? My age group remembers going to the neighborhood candy store, by ourselves, to get malted milks or ice cream sodas. As for over-caffeinated teens – as I remember, that was one of the safer dumb things to do as a teenager!GreginTexas: We all know that the next step, if we allow children to overrun Starbucks, is kids in strip clubs and kids at adult book stores and kids buying alcoholic beverages at 7-11 for their kindergarten class pre-nap breaks. WHEN does this insanity end?
Agree, disagree? How much responsibility does a marketer like Starbucks – who certainly began by selling an adult drink to adult customers – have for protecting kids, beyond what they are doing today? Let me know what you think.

* Note: A vente-sized, double chocolate chip blended crème frappuccino with whipped cream contains 670 calories, including 200 fat calories and 12g of saturated fat. I picked it for effect as the wackiest gut-buster on Starbucks’ website I could find.

“Are we in heaven?”

September 11th, 2007

“Are we in heaven?” asks one of the videos’ guests. 

No, Dorothy, we’re at Neiman Marcus.” Or so the high-end department store chain would have us respond on this, the store’s 100th anniversary.
Neiman Marcus has created a 4-part online video series called “The Mystique” and it’s getting its share of criticism online. For some reason, Neiman decided to run Part 1 on the home page of Youtube.com – and paid for it with some criticism. Comments range from “Neiman Marcus= needless markup” to “This is a seriously pointless video.” Other, more positive comments were logged, as well. Why did Neiman Marcus pay $250,000 to spend one day on the home page of Youtube in the first place? A little undercooked thinking is behind the plan, with the VP of corporate communications quoted as saying “Like with anything, you hear people in meetings say, ‘Did you see the thing on YouTube?'” Except Neiman Marcus isn’t “anything” – it’s not a video of someone killing an iPhone in a blender, or your crazy Aunt Agatha falling off the roof – it’s one of the greatest specialty retailers in the country.  Truly a story of American entrepreneurship, Neiman stands for luxury, fantasy and “retail theatre” in the grandest sort of way. It’s not for everyone – what luxury brand is? – but then again that’s why it doesn’t belong on YouTube.

And speaking of luxury, the videos are beautiful. All four are lovingly shot, produced and inspired in their thinking. I do have a beef with the editing, in that each of the four is a bit of a story hodge-podge, jumping between ideas such as design, store display, the history of the chain, the importance of designer relationships, etc.  Neiman would have been been better off reserving each of the four for one theme, and then naming each segment accordingly, so that each story had its own thread and viewers could tell what they were about to see (i.e., name the first installment “The Story” instead of Part 1, the second installment “What is Luxury” instead of Part 2, etc.). But they were fun to watch all the same. Lastly, I’m curious as to where NM is, in fact, running the series in order to reach its key constituencies, whom I see as shoppers and would-be well-to-do visitors, designers, vendors and partners (outside of employees, whom I hope can find them easily on the NM intranet). This intrepid blogger could not easily find them off the NM homepage, nor by Googling “Neiman Marcus, “Neiman Marcus video” or “Neiman Marcus 100 anniversary video.” I wandered luxury sites and blogs – no dice.

Let’s hope that Neiman is using its own customer list, at minimum, to make sure its most valuable friends and family see and enjoy this work. And how do you get a viewer to watch 4 separate vignettes? Give them something for doing what you ask. Neiman Marcus has long had one of the most successful frequent shopper rewards programs around, InCircle. If I were running the ship, I’d give each viewer at least 100 InCircle points (reward levels don’t even start until one has 5,000 points!) for giving me their email address and for watching each of the four videos. The viewer is inspired and rewarded, and I get them back into the store, feeling the magic.

Using new Internet capabilities – blogging, podcoasting, online videos –not to be part of the media pile-on (“yay, we’re on Youtube!”) but to draw your supporters even closer, make them even more loyal? Magic, indeed.

Most of my marketing friends have not had the experience of managing actual, living people as “brands.” What must that be like?

Do you remember when Tom Cruise fired longtime PR agent-to-the-stars Pat Kingsley, replaced her with his sister and proceeded to transform into a lunatic? Who can forget his assessment of psychiatry on Today or his couch-leaping action on Oprah? Of course, this means that Cruise had always been a nut and Kingsley had been earning her fee for a long, long time. And then there are the poor souls who manage Lindsey and Paris and Her and Him and…

Consider this. You are a marketer at P&G or Citibank. Things happen, sure, but you don’t have what must be a particular kind of fear that you will awake on any random morning to see your brand of paper towel or toothpaste humiliating itself at the Chateau Marmont, falling down in the street or driving drunk for the upteenth time without a license.  Since I began running sales and marketing for Time Warner’s DC Comics division, there hasn’t been a single night that I sat home, worrying that Superman was out with Catwoman, getting drunk and punching paparazzi.  (But that Green Lantern??  Don’t get me started!  I’m kidding) 

I thought of all this when right after my post on the wholesomeness of Disney’s High School Musical franchise the movies’ lead actress was forced to admit that a very nude photo of her on the Internet was indeed her in a “private” moment (I can’t bring myself to offer a link check out PerezHilton). Of course this is not Disney’s or her manager’s fault, and if Ms. Hudgens didn’t tell them they could not have known of the photo’s existence but what kind of antacid goes with this kind of moment? Oy.

So the next time you look at your lawn care product samples and long for excitement, imagine that you’ve changed careers and you’re happy. You and your product’s celebrity endorser, Clay Aiken, have worked so hard since his run on American Idol.  Sure, the constant questions about his personal life make it a little challenging to build him up as a teen girl heartthrob, but you just know that his huge talent will prevail. You lean over, give your Clay Aiken bobblehead doll one more tap on the head, and fall asleep.

Then you wake up and turn on the tv/open the newspaper/fire up the Internet. And at that very moment, Lawncare never. Looked. So. Good.