Archive for the ‘marketing’ Category

Thoughts on Social Media

January 31, 2011

These days companies are scrambling to understand what social media is and how they are supposed to use it.  The first question many business leaders may ask is, “How can we use social media?”

While logical, that’s not quite right in my opinion.  Instead, the first question should be, “What are my business objectives, and how can social media help me meet those objectives?”

Social media is a tool and can be used in many ways.  The analogy I like to use is a hammer.  A hammer can be used to install a window or break one.  Similarly, social media can be used to get you new clients or ding your reputation.

So the first thing you need to do is understand what you are trying to do:  do you want to recruit better candidates?  Improve your sales and marketing?  Bump up your website on Google search?  Enhance employee communication?  Something else?

Next you’ll need to get your messaging together, which I will discuss in a later post.  Meanwhile feel free to add your comments below about this new and exciting field.


Bad Communication = Bad Decisionmaking = I DON’T TRUST YOU

July 9, 2010

When someone approves a bad communication idea, this implicitly (or explicitly) demonstrates poor judgment in the communicator.  And poor judgment means that consumers cannot trust you or what you are selling.

For instance, take this video from a would-be Florida Congressman.  It is so bad I don’t even know where to begin.  You really have to watch it to appreciate its awfulness.  Fortunately, the commenters on Youtube put it better than I ever could:

Wike Meinstein is pro-good-things and anti-bad-things! Ike Waistline is hip and cool! You kids really dig Stein Wickmeen! He’s the diggy shiz-nit! You want to vote Sitcky Wickman! Mick Winestain of District 9! He’s a politician we can truhhhhhHAHAHAHAHAHAH I’m sorry, I can’t say that with a straight face.


How did this not feel wrong when they were doing it?

That last question really is an excellent one.  When it comes down to it, there is nothing like a good old-fashioned gut check to decide whether an idea is good or bad.

Mr. Weinstein, here’s some free advice:  releasing videos like this shows bad judgment which means I do not trust your ability to lead. Moving forward, please check your gut before communicating these, er, messages.  If you did check your gut before going with this video and your gut said, “Yup, this feels about right,”  then perhaps politics isn’t for you.

Spirit Air’s Offensive Ad Campaign Is My Fault!

June 28, 2010

At long last, Spirit Air suspended their offensive ad campaign which capitalized on the BP oil spill.  Granted the ad went down with a screaming hissy fit, but hey.

Evidently Spirit decided, without my approval, that I didn’t get it.  According to them, this ad campaign was nothing more than a well-intentioned attempt to explain how the beaches they service are not impacted by the oil spill, and my inability to comprehend this is my responsibility.

Don’t believe me?  Here’s what Spirit said in a statement:

“It is unfortunate that some have misunderstood our intention with today’s beach promotion. We are merely addressing the false perception that we have oil on our beaches, and we are encouraging customers to support Florida and our other beach destinations by continuing to travel to these hot vacation spots.”


Yo, Spirit Air, come a little closer.

No, a little closer.

Okay, now lean in.

I have a secret I need to whisper into your ear.

You ready?

Here it goes:


I’ve said previously that good communications cannot replace good decision-making.  How lucky we are to have examples of bad decision-making and bad communications – all in one company!  It’s like a learning laboratory for how to not run a business with Spirit Air, no?

Spirit Airlines — Doubling Down on The Stupid

June 23, 2010

Evidently Spirit Airlines has doubled-down on a really stupid idea.

For the uninitiated, Spirit Airlines is attempting to capitalize BP’s oil spill by running ads depicting the beaches they service as full of oil-soaked women, not crude oil gushing from deep beneath the earth’s surface.  Hardy har har.  One disgruntled person wrote to Spirit and got the following response:

Thanks for writing to Spirit Airlines, and for your feedback about our new marketing campaign.It is unfortunate that some have misunderstood our intention with this sale. We are merely addressing the false perception we have oil on the many beaches we service, and we are encouraging customers to support Florida and our other beach destinations by continuing to travel to these vacation hot spots.

Please accept my apology if you find this campaign offensive. It is certainly not our intent to offend our valued customers. We’ve actually received positive feedback from many who appreciate our efforts to stimulate travel to the state.

I’ve forwarded your incident to our Marketing Department for further review.

Again, thank you for your feedback. We look forward to welcoming you aboard!

Shorter Spirit Airlines:  You’re not as funny or clever as we are, and that’s your fault!

If I may get on my soap box for a moment, I’d like you to highlight one point in this response:  “I’ve forwarded your incident to our Marketing Department for further review.”  Oy vey.

Too often, as in this case, communications is not considered to be an integral part of a company’s business strategy, leading to disastrous results like this.  Leaving comms out of the decision-making process is a huge mistake, and yet it is so common.  A company that communicates well has everyone on board, and on the same page, from the very beginning so there would be no need to forward “your incident to our Marketing Department for further review.”  Once more, Corporate America:  Communications decisions are ultimately business decisions and should be treated accordingly.

This ad campaign should have never been green-lighted.  Let’s hope cooler, saner heads prevail and this ad campaign gets squashed.  Sadly for Spirit Air, that doesn’t seem likely to happen.

As a side note, the most commonly used word in their response is “Feedback”.  In fact, they use the word three times in five short paragraphs.  Don’t you think they should emphasize things such as “Concerns” and “Service” instead of something as dry and emotionless as “Feedback”?  Yeesh.

Using the Oil Catastrophe to Promote Vacations – Not a Good Idea

June 22, 2010

This blog post isn’t about BP directly.  Rather, it’s Spirit Airlines‘ attempt to capitalize on the ongoing oil spill by running ads saying, “Check Out the Oil on Our Beaches.”  Their message:  the only oil you will find on the beaches we fly to are on scantily-clad, sunbathing women.  They are calling this their “Best Protection” plan (emphasis definitely theirs) with a green and yellow-colored bottle of “SPF $50 off” lotion to directly capitalize off of BP’s huge, enormous, catastrophic error.

Not too subtle.  And not too smart either.

Let’s forget for a moment how deeply offensive, cynical and sexist this campaign is.  And let’s forget for the moment the immense harm done to the residents of the oil-soaked Gulf Coast and the wildlife – a catastrophe that still hasn’t even been slowed down much less solved, by the way.  And let’s forget that the entire food chain in the Gulf of Mexico, and possibly the entire world, could have been irrevocably harmed.  And let’s forget, again just for a moment, the people who lost their lives on the oil rig during the initial explosion.

This advertisement is a colossally stupid idea for one simple reason:  what if this leak, or heaven forbid a different one, ends up harming one of Spirit Airlines’ destinations?  What will they do then?  >Knock Knock< Hello, Spirit Airlines!  Anybody home?

Okay, now let’s get back to this cynical campaign, the decimated livelihoods, damaged food chains and the terrible loss of life.  I personally believe their brand will, and should, suffer for this callous, insensitive and offensive ad campaign.  Not all publicity is good publicity folks.

Boy, talk about stupid decisions.

Oh my – Men’s Warehouse Meets World War I

June 16, 2010

I came across this very interesting blog post, which is a Brit’s take on a new marketing tactic deployed by Men’s Warehouse.  In a nutshell, Men’s Warehouse has taken their “I guarantee it” brand and threw it in the middle of a World War I trench where people were getting shot at, and at one point carried away dying, while giving some annoying preppie advice on buying clothing at Men’s Warehouse.

No, seriously.

The author of the blog thinks this will sink the Men’s Warehouse brand.  But this is America, where all kinds of stupid stuff works wonders, so I’ll reserve judgment for now.  In any case, the blog post is very insightful and covers a lot of ground.  I’d strongly recommend reading it.

The Power of Nostalgia

June 14, 2010

What do the A-Team, Cracker Barrel Restaurants and Google Pac-Man have in common?  They all invoke nostalgia to increase sales and enhance brand identity.

Nostalgia is one of the most powerful communication tools I know of.  The A-Team movie remake, Cracker Barrel’s sales of candy from the 1980s and Google’s decision to turn their logo into Pac-Man for a day all invoke that same powerful emotion.  So what if Google’s move cost $15 quadrillion dollars in lost corporate productivity worldwide; what can be better than bringing a little nostalgia to thirty- and forty-somethings as we reminisce about a more innocent, pre-Internet time? (Google’s cool logo redesign also enhanced their brand tremendously.)

Heck,  I have found myself searching YouTube for commercials I grew up watching in the Tri-State (NY/NJ/CT) area and letting the warm feeling of nostalgia wash over me.  In 20-30 years, people will be nostalgic for their first iPods, Pokemons and Lady GaGa.

How can you invoke nostalgia to enhance your brand?

BP Hires Dick Cheney’s Former PR Rep? Really?

June 1, 2010

BP has made many mistakes since the oil spill first started.  Besides, you know, causing the spill.  For instance, they hired a branding firm to change their name in the midst of this spill instead of, you know, fixing the damage they caused.  And they have repeatedly lied to the public and the government instead of, you know, telling us what is going on.

But these decisions seem downright wise and sagelike compared to this whopper.  In a truly mind-boggling move, they hired Anne Womack-Kolton, former Vice President Dick Cheney’s Public Relations person, to handle US media relations.

Forget about the Vice President’s politics for a moment, if you can.  A good media relations professional seeks to improve their clients’ public face.  Hiring someone so closely associated with that overwhelmingly negative brand — not to mention someone who was responsible for the deregulation which led to this catastrophe — cannot help BP’s reputation.  In fact, back in 2001-02 Anne Womack-Kolton defended Cheney’s secret energy task force which advocated for deregulation and is quite possibly responsible for the mess we’re in right now.

I can’t take the stupid.  I just don’t get it.  Someone, please help me.

When Good Communication Isn’t Enough

May 31, 2010

Good communications cannot replace good decisions.

Take Israel’s recent attack on innocent civilians for example.   By all accounts, this was an awful decision made by the Israeli government.  A friend of mine, whose husband is Lebanese, suggested that Israel needs to hire a good PR team to manage this crisis.  With all due respect to my friend, hiring a PR team to manage such crises devalues the profession and is ultimately counter-productive.

By hiring a crack PR team every time something goes wrong, it reinforces the impression that communications professionals are slimy spin-doctors who are paid to lie.  This only serves to undercut the credibility of the offending party as well as the communications profession.  When everyone knows it’s propaganda, who cares what is said?

Don’t get me wrong:  communications can, and indeed should, help enhance any organization’s core value.  And, improved communications can indeed solve many problems.  But good communications should not, indeed cannot, replace good decisions.  And they should not be used to whitewash bad ones.  Indeed, the term PR already has a negative connotation; many people already believe PR professionals spew half-truths at best and outright manipulations at worst.

Both Israel (and BP, whom I have harped on in previous posts) need to make better decisions, thus reducing crises in the first place.

Why in the hoot-nanny does a firm need a communication strategy?

May 21, 2010

Wow, another excellent question!

I’ve heard the following story over and over again.  Let me know if it sounds familiar:  Firm X sends one message to prospective and current employees, another to its customers and potential customers, and yet another to  investors, strategic partners and suppliers.  Heck, even senior executives don’t agree on what their company does or why they matter.   Nobody seems to be on the same page!  Aaaaahhh!!!

A communication strategy harmonizes and organizes your company’s communications, thus increasing the effectiveness of each communication tool.  So if a firm has a comms strategy and the PR department writes a press release, the presser’s message would be consistent with all of the company’s other messages.  Where inconsistent messages dilutes your brand, undermines your company’s core promise and makes people’s lives unnecessarily more difficult, a comm strategy reduces stress, increases buy-in and makes sure everyone gets consistent messages.  These are just some of the benefits of a strategic plan.  Can you think of other benefits?