Wednesday, August 23, 2017
Panera restaurants are engaging in a practice of smart food PR. The chain is listing the calories for each soft drink it offers on the side of the cup. That way consumers can know just how much sugar they are ingesting. The practice might hurt the company's business in the short run. Margins on drinks are high, but the CEO is determined to offer healthy choices for Panera's customers. Some consumers will stop imbibing the highest calorie drinks and others might forgo soft drinks completely. The chain is saying that is OK. Transparency is the better choice for a company like Panera which offers sandwiches and salads. The company believes in the long run its openness will add to the bottom line. Here is a hope that it does.
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
The company that makes the ubiquitous Tiki Torch is embarrassed. Without its knowledge, neo-nazi demonstrators in Charlottesville, VA used the flambeaus in their parade that ended in violence. The company has publicly disavowed the alt-right groups but that doesn't solve the problem of thousands of photos and dozens of videos showing the protestors carrying Tiki Torches. There is not much to do in a case like this. The torches meant for outdoor parties and fun have taken on an insidious new meaning. Lamplight Farms, the owner of the Tiki Brand, has to hope that the alt-right will stop using its flambeaus in future parades, but there is no way to be certain of that. There is a good chance that if they do use them, the brand will be killed by popular revulsion. "I don't want that thing in my yard." It is a PR nightmare.
Monday, August 21, 2017
Jerry Lewis, who just died, was as famous for his telethons as his slapstick comedy. But, his telethons were controversial and some said revealed a man out of touch with the disabled. It mattered little to the ones afflicted with muscular dystrophy that he was soliciting money for them. They were unhappy with the way Lewis described them as damaged individuals deserving of pity. Lewis could be faulted for failing to communicate in a way that respected his audience. It is a matter of perception and of reality. The disabled didn't want to be type-cast, and they perceived Lewis' pleas as insulting. It mattered little to them that he raised $2.5 billion in his 44 years on the air. It is sad that one who started out to do good gained a reputation for talking down.
Friday, August 18, 2017
How can a politician make this mistake -- talking openly to a reporter without going on background or off the record? Steve Bannon did it and now will suffer the consequences. He directly contradicted his boss, President Trump. He openly acknowledged his internal fights with other White House staff. He talked as he were the President and able to change the White House team at will. Bannon has enemies, plenty of them, and they will use the interview against him. Of course, Bannon might well have known what he was doing and wanted the interview to be on record. There is always that possibility, but it doesn't look that way and perception counts. Will Bannon avoid the media from here on out or will he continue to lobby publicly for his views? That is a question for Trump and Bannon. Certainly, if the interview was in error, someone needs to explain off-the-record and on-background to him quickly.
Thursday, August 17, 2017
It is a tough PR and leadership position to be in when one is isolated from his constituencies. It is especially difficult when the isolation is self-induced. This is the position President Trump has thrust himself with the disbanding of two business councils advising him. Trump has progressively cut himself off from one citizen demographic after another. All that remains for him is his base -- small as it is. The fewer defenders he has the greater the danger to him and his position. No one has found anything illegal in his operations -- at least not yet -- but there is a grand jury probing the Russia meddling and his staff's complicity in in it. At this point, one can almost sense the Republican party begging for a good reason to impeach him and move on. One needs supporters to accomplish anything in the corporate and political world. Trump has yet to learn that as president.
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
One wonders how a sophisticated company like Costco can make a dumb mistake like this. Surely the company knew it was misappropriating Tiffany's name and brand for the diamond rings it was selling. Its defense in court was lame, and the judge imposed a fine of more than $19 million on the company. The fine hurts but not as much as the ding to Costco's reputation. One can ask what other products has Costco mislabeled. If it was "cavalier" with Tiffany, why not with others as well? Surely this wasn't the only instance of brand theft. Costco has a task now of auditing its products and making sure its marketing of them is honest. If not, look for more lawsuits against the company, which it will have trouble defending.
Tuesday, August 15, 2017
It has been 40 years since two gold-plated copper records were affixed to two spacecrafts and blasted into the universe. Voyagers I and II are now far away in interstellar vacuum. It will be hundreds of years before they reach another solar system and by then, who knows what the earth will be like and if it will even be here. The chances of another civilization retrieving one or both of the craft is exceedingly slim. Yet, NASA tried to communicate to the unknown. What was put on the disks was instructive. The scientists tried to summarize life in sound and pictures. There was hubris in the attempt, but idealism as well. We may never know if there is life on the exo-planets being discovered weekly now. We do know there are thousands of them, but learning whether they have a solid surface and water is a slow and sometimes impossible process. The challenges of communicating to the unknown are nearly insuperable. Even if another civilization were to intercept a Voyager, would it know what the disk is for and would it be able to decipher the instructions for playing it? Scientists took their best guess. NASA has not tried to communicate to the unknown again, but it should be honored for making the attempt at least once.