Wednesday, January 31, 2018
This is one way to make a statement about the environment. Amazon.com has spent millions building three spheres in which hundreds of plants are growing. Spread throughout the jungle are meeting venues for employees and work pods. The company is demonstrating through its investment both its concern for employees and nature. A cynic might say Amazon would show better judgment by finding ways to reduce the size and use of its shipping boxes. Amazon has an answer for that too. It has instituted analytics to gauge better the size of box or envelope used to package items. The company isn't perfect, but then it sends tens of millions of boxes and envelopes annually. The spheres might be expensive PR, but they are effective in making the case for Amazon's concern for nature.
Tuesday, January 30, 2018
Republicans are facing a difficult 2018 election given President Trump's low poll numbers. Their task is even tougher given the number of Congressmen leaving office. Thus far, nine chairs of House committees have said they are not going to run again. It is expected that Republicans will lose the Senate where their margin is one vote. Now they have to contend with losing the House as well. It's a difficult PR challenge for the Elephant Party to turn the tide of opinion in just eight months. It is impossible to show a unified face. Division within the ranks is too deep. Democrats can scarcely contain their glee over troubles facing their opponent. They are hustling candidates to take on swing districts, and they are counting potential votes. Republicans, meanwhile, as the party in power are struggling to produce legislation they can point to in their districts. There has been little except the tax law. What will Congressmen say to constituents to convince them to vote Republican again. It will be interesting to watch.
Monday, January 29, 2018
A French grocery chain learned the hard way about marketing to a mob. It started a mad rush for Nutella, the chocolate and hazelnut spread. The riots were caused by a deep discount for the product. Frenchmen lined up at the doors of the grocer then rushed for the bottles. There was fighting. There was damage. There were futile efforts for crowd control. The promotion can be deemed a success, but not one the grocer would try again anytime soon. It clearly had no intimation of demand for the product when it slashed prices. It does now.
Friday, January 26, 2018
Burger King has come up with an imaginative way to explain net neutrality. People ordering a Whopper get served based on how much they have paid for the sandwich. Those served right away pay $26 for their meal. Those made to wait pay the regular price. It's funny but descriptive of what might happen when net neutrality is rescinded. The scenario is not exactly accurate. In order to reach higher speeds on the Internet, ISP's have to install new equipment and in some cases, new wires to the home. There is an expense that is left out of Burger King's argument. Still, it is amusing to see the growing annoyance on the part of burger customers as they are told to wait while others go before them. It's a powerful, but flawed, argument, for net neutrality.
Thursday, January 25, 2018
Reporters are usually sensitive to anything that smacks of hype -- overselling and exaggeration. Yet they do it themselves and a prime example is the Super Bowl. Every conceivable angle is analyzed and beaten to death in the two weeks before the game. One would think we were about to experience an earth-shaking event rather than football. It is odd to see journalists lose their sense of proportion like this. One would expect a more restrained and dispassionate approach. The National Football League aids and abets the mania leading up to the event, and players and coaches go along with it. At some point, one wants to say it is just a game -- nothing more, nothing less. There will be a winner and loser, and morning will come and life will continue.
Wednesday, January 24, 2018
The governor of Puerto Rico says he is going to sell the power authority to private interests. Given its reputation, who would buy it? The electrical grid on the island was a disaster before the hurricanes. The generation plants are old and inefficient. Power delivery was chaotic and episodic. It will need a deep-pocket investor to take on the problems and make money. The governor will find someone eventually, but he shouldn't expect to get top dollar for selling it. It is more likely a giveaway. The result of a poor reputation is a lower price. One positive point for the power authority. It is getting new poles and wires from the reconstruction after the storm. That won't help the power plant which needs to be modernized or replaced.
Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Procter & Gamble has an odd PR crisis. Adolescents are eating the brightly colored packets of its Tide laundry soap. They are poisoning themselves in the process. The company has no way of stopping them but for sanitizing social media where teens boast of their exploits. There are no good ways to seal the tubs holding the packets such that teenagers can't get into them. The company stopped babies from playing with the soap by doing just that. Teenagers are too smart to be foiled, but they aren't intelligent enough yet to understand the dangers. Designers didn't think about this when they developed the packet, and why would they? Who would have guessed that youths would ingest cleaning products as a way of showing off? Nonetheless, it is now a crisis for the company. It is as odd as a previous crisis the company suffered when Born Again preachers claimed that its "Man in the Moon" logo was the sign of the devil.
Monday, January 22, 2018
This year for the first time, CEOs have to report the pay ratio of their salaries by comparison to that of the median worker's income in their companies. It is shaping up to be a PR nightmare. For one, the media will widely report the numbers. Secondly, although the ratio is squishy and hardly factual, it will provoke protests from unions and some investors. There is little doubt that executive compensation is out of control although it has moderated somewhat in recent years. The ratio will do little to compress the distance between CEOs and their employees, but it will be a source of embarrassment. Maybe that, if nothing else, will help to narrow the gap. PR practitioners should expect to defend the ratios in the coming proxy season. It might be difficult to do.
Friday, January 19, 2018
The Pope has not ducked controversy, and in his current visit to South America, he was a target again. This time it was for appointment of a bishop whom lay Catholics claim shielded a clerical child abuser. Rather than back down, Pope Francis called for proof that the bishop was negligent. That was daring in that the practice now is to act first then look for evidence later. The hierarchy has been thinned as a result of child abuse, and well it should be. There is no excuse for putting pedophiles back to work even if there is a shortage of priests. The crime is too great and recidivism too frequent. The Pope stands with the victims, but he also has a sense of fairness, which isn't appreciated. Victims want vengeance, and they criticize him if they don't get it. The Pope is in a tough position, but it doesn't seem to bother him. He takes the blows to reputation and keeps moving forward.
Thursday, January 18, 2018
It is not too early to discuss how the Internet of Things will change messaging. Practitioners should be thinking and researching about how to use the connected house and person in persuasive ways. Linked appliances, operations and people will become singular with their own set of data that will define a demography of one. It will require sharp focus on individuals and a deeper understanding of what motivates them. Connection will include invasion of privacy, which needs to be minimized as much as possible. Companies will be required to protect the information of their users in ways they never have before. There will be fertile ground for use of artificial intelligence to determine the best ways and times to communicate to individual householders. Message-sending will become the province of technicians. Are we ready?
Wednesday, January 17, 2018
This and this have led to this. President Trump's unfeeling deportation of long-time Americans and his flagrant ignoring of the meaning of special days have among too-numerous-to-tell other outrages led to a slumping reputation. One would think he would be worried about it, but he doesn't seem to be. He basks in the love of a minority of supporters. He feeds on applause and attacks instantly when there is criticism. He has proclaimed himself a genius when those around him call him a moron and an idiot. He is lost in love of himself, a narcissist of the worst kind. Other presidents have been clueless but not for want of trying. Trump glories in his ignorance and makes no effort to understand issues and the responsibilities of his office. If the first year is any indication, he will continue this way until he is voted out at the end of his first term. The next president will have the task of restoring America's reputation with the rest of the world.
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
General Electric is taking a $6.2 billion charge against earnings to cover shortfalls in its long-term care insurance portfolio. It is not the only company that has done that. One insurer after another has had to increase premiums to cover unanticipated costs. As a result, long-term care insurance has a bad reputation for being expensive and unreliable. One wonders why anyone would buy it except that aging can impoverish one with charges for home, medical and other care. It isn't much consolation for GE to know that it has joined the club, especially since the company is doing poorly in its other businesses as well. Maybe at some point, insurers will get their actuarial assumptions right, but that day hasn't arrived yet.
Friday, January 12, 2018
Walmart has delivered some good PR for the new tax law by raising salaries and giving bonuses to its million-plus workers. It almost offsets the announcement that it is closing up to 65 Sam's Club stores that no longer fit its strategic direction. Walmart's decision to reward its employees puts pressure on other US companies that have yet to act under the new law. As of last night, Walmart was the only one of the top 10 employers in the US to boost employee wages. That is good PR for the company. Added to that are more liberal benefits for paternal and maternal leave. The company realizes that getting workers is more difficult in a time of low unemployment, and it is acting in its best interests by being more generous. Kudos to the company.
Thursday, January 11, 2018
On rare occasions, a company has a chance to take a high risk with the prospect of a high reward. This is one. No one yet has found traces of the Malaysian airliner that vanished in March 2014. Theories abound. Ships crisscrossed thousands of square miles of open ocean looking for wreckage. So far, they have come up with nothing. Ocean Infinity, a Houston company, is betting that its eight unmanned submarines can find the elusive pieces of the plane. It can gain up to $70 million if it discovers it and nothing if it doesn't. While the potential payout is enormous, the PR for its technologies would be greater. The story would be, "This is the company that can do the impossible in ocean search." Even if it doesn't uncover the plane, there is little risk of a downside. After all, no one else has done it after lengthy searches. Trying is respectable enough and positive PR for the company and its submersibles. .
Wednesday, January 10, 2018
How does one fight a rumor when information is classified? This is the case that SpaceX is in. There is a belief that its rocket failed with a secret load called Zuma on board. SpaceX has said its rocket did everything it was supposed to do, but it can't answer whether the mission succeeded or whether something else went wrong. This is a predicament for the company, which wants to show a sterling record of good launches. So speculation swirls and SpaceX can say little to combat it. Meanwhile if the launch did fail in some fashion that did not involve the SpaceX rocket, the government needs to go back to the drawing board and build another satellite, an expensive proposition. In cases where there is a necessary lack of transparency, there is no good way to rebut rumors. One has to live with them.
Tuesday, January 09, 2018
How can a mistake like this slip though a marketer's control? It is hard to believe the error was intentional. What this says is that H&M needs a person with an understanding of diversity to review its images before they are made public. Apparently no one thought too much about it -- not the photographer, the stylist or the on-set company representative. It doesn't look as if the model thought much of it either. Yet, comparing African-Americans to monkeys has been a decades-long slur against them. Somebody in the marketing chain should have known that. It's the kind of goof that can give a company a bad name.
Monday, January 08, 2018
Blockchain has become a buzzword in the world of finance and mercantilism. One company even changed its name to include blockchain in a cynical move to boost its stock price. (It worked.) The problem with the technology is that no one really knows what it is. They are caught up in the mania of Bitcoin, which operates under a permission-less form of distributed ledger. Corporations entering the field use a different type of blockchain in which all parties agree to a protocol. The distinction is critical to understanding the theory and practice of the software. Now, there is mania, which doesn't understand algorithms, but is only too ready to invest. As usual, early entrants will get burned when the buzzword is no longer fashionable and the market settles into a few practical technologies. Communicators should be wary of using the buzzword until they understand its complexities. There is no need to add to the hype.
Friday, January 05, 2018
This is proof that President Trump doesn't understand the First Amendment and the publisher of a critical work about him does. Kudos to the publisher for advancing the publishing date. Trump has only guaranteed more sales of the volume with his blast at the author. Trump's threat to sue would be laughed out of court. He is going to live with the book's statements and descriptions whether he likes it or not. I have no way of knowing whether the work is accurate, but that scarcely matters. Trump himself has disdain for facts and in his first year alone, the media have counted more than a thousand misstatements coming from his mouth. There is an irony that he says the book is filled with lies. Whether or not the work is truthful, Trump has already made it a candidate for best seller lists.
Thursday, January 04, 2018
There is nothing so dangerous as crowd action when it comes to investing. If everyone says it is time to get into a financial instrument, be it a mortgage or Bitcoin, it is then one should examine the premise on which the mania is built. Do housing prices always rise? Is Bitcoin guaranteed to appreciate in value? Should one go all-in or diversify to moderate risk? Communications practitioners, especially, are subject to the buzz of new, hot trends. They live in a world of information. They, however, should be the foremost skeptics because they have seen it and fallen into a trap more than once. It is hard to resist the crowd but one should be ready. The masses aren't always right and more often than not, they are dead wrong. When it comes to wealth creation, one should ask questions and be independent.
Wednesday, January 03, 2018
This is the latest panacea gullible citizens have taken up. One wonders how credulous people can be, but then it has always been that way long before medicine men toured towns and villages selling quack remedies. The mystifying part of the craze is that well educated people are engaging in it. It seems their university degrees did not produce critical thinking. They live in a semi-state of paranoia, convinced that nothing society offers is pure enough for their bodies. Thus, they eschew vaccinations, genetically modified foods and other conveniences modern society has developed. As PR practitioners we must acknowledge them, but we shouldn't be held back by their beliefs. Companies like Monsanto, the producer of GM seeds, live with the protests of activists who say the corporations are poisoning the world. It makes no difference that their organisms have been tested thoroughly and found safe. There is a lack of trust that no amount of persuasion will cure.
Tuesday, January 02, 2018
While legal marijuana is earning some respect after decades of prosecution, it is also changing the way the plant is grown and harvested. Small producers are being squeezed out and large ones are consolidating the market. There is a wide variety of products offered for sale, more than a small farm can create. It wasn't supposed to be this way. Pot growing was the ultimate small business. One could with a few plants and grow lights make a living. That is no longer true and small producers are being forced to specialize to survive. While legal weed is gaining a positive reputation, fewer producers are successful. It is the iron law of economics.