Getting to Maybe: complexity, relationships and social innovation


If you’re in Toronto and interested in social change, an upcoming book launch at the MaRS Discovery Centre may interest you.

“… Many of us have a deep desire to make the world around us a better place. But we tend to think that great social change is the province of heroes — an intimidating view of reality that keeps ordinary people on the couch. The trick in any great social project — from the global fight against AIDS to working to eradicate poverty in a single Canadian city — is to stop looking at the discrete elements and start trying to understand the complex relationships between them.

GETTING TO MAYBE applies the insights of complexity theory and harvests the experiences of a wide range of people and organizations — including the ministers behind the Boston Miracle; the Grameen Bank; the efforts of a Canadian clothing designer to help transform the lives of aboriginal women and children; and many more. In short, it is a practical, inspirational, revolutionary guide to making positive change in the world.”

That’s Tuesday, October 17th, 2006, between 11am and 12 noon.

Johnnie Moore and Rob Paterson have mentioned the book recently – and Rob provides a good discussion of the concepts behind complexity.

For more information on complexity, there’s a discussion and a treasure trove of links on the Tamarack Institute’s site, including this definition:

Complexity science is not a single theory. It is the study of complex adaptive systems – the patterns of relationships within them, how they are sustained, how they self-organize and how outcomes emerge. Within the science there are many theories and concepts. The science encompasses more than one theoretical framework. Complexity science is highly interdisciplinary including biologists, anthropologists, economists, sociologists, management theorists and many others in a quest to answer some fundamental questions about living, adaptable, changeable systems.” – A Complexity Science Primer

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Tobacco PR and Lawyers: Deceitful Birds of a Feather?


Hey folks! If the Federal Court of Appeals feels this strongly about members of the bar acting unethically in pursuit of billable hours from the tobacco companies, what in the world must they think of the behaviour of advertising, marketing and public relations firms?

” … Finally, a word must be said about the role of lawyers in this fifty-year history of deceiving smokers, potential smokers, and the American public about the hazards of smoking and second hand smoke, and the addictiveness of nicotine. At every stage, lawyers played an absolutely central role in the creation and perpetuation of the Enterprise and the implementation of its fraudulent schemes.

They devised and coordinated both national and international strategy; they directed scientists as to what research they should and should not undertake; they vetted scientific research papers and reports as well as public relations materials to ensure that the interests of the Enterprise would be protected; they identified “friendly” scientific witnesses, subsidized them with grants from the Center for Tobacco Research and the Center for Indoor Air Research, paid them enormous fees, and often hid the relationship between those witnesses and the industry; and they devised and carried out document destruction policies and took shelter behind baseless assertions of the attorney client privilege.

What a sad and disquieting chapter in the history of an honorable and often courageous profession. …” (Judgement, Page 4 (pg 34 of .pdf))

The judgement discusses initial efforts in 1953 and 1954 to launch a public relations campaign in support of tobacco (around pg. 51 of the .pdf) and just builds speed and volume as it approaches the closing pages.

There is a danger in quoting historical documents out of context: still, they serve to shed light on the environment, the culture and the perceptions of the time:

” … According to a Hill & Knowlton memo dated December 22, 1953, the public relations firm was asked to:

develop suggestions for dealing with the public relations problem confronting the industry as a result of widely publicized assertions by a few medical research men regarding the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.

11. In an internal planning memoranda, Hill & Knowlton assessed their tobacco clients’ problems in the following manner:

There is only one problem — confidence, and how to establish it; public assurance, and how to create it — in a perhaps long interim when scientific doubts must remain. And, most important, how to free millions of Americans from the guilty fear that is going to arise deep in their biological depths — regardless of any pooh-poohing logic — every time they light a cigarette. No resort to mere logic ever cured panic yet, whether on Madison Avenue, Main Street, or in a psychologist’s office. And no mere recitation of arguments pro, or ignoring of arguments con, or careful balancing of the two together, is going to deal with such fear now. That, gentlemen, is the nature of the unexampled challenge to this office.”

There are a further 192 mentions of the term “public relations” in the 1742 page judgement, and none of them are favourable. Our colleagues in marketing and advertising have their weaknesses and failures cited in greater detail.

Our colleagues at H&K, it is plainly documented, pushed their new clients about the legitimacy of their claims and encouraged independent research to support any health or benefit claims. Still, they took on the work. It was a different time, businessmen embodied different values and accepted different social behaviours.
The question for every public relations counsellor and practitioner today, it seems, falls to a fundamental and introspective examination of personal values. How will your work be interpreted through the lens of history?

No matter if you hide behind a fig leaf of a code of ethics or point to a package of professional standards, does your work feel uncomfortable?

(BTW – my apologies to the blogger who originally pointed to the judgement’s remarks about lawyers. I’ve lost my notes, and can’t link back)

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Underground blogosphere – do you really mean the proles?


Underground blogosphere, eh? Drawing on my background in economic history, I present you with a medieval analogy:

Once upon a time, four young scribes frequented the same market square. They each had their own specialty – calligraphy, ornamentation, court documents and market hoarding – and each had built up a profitable clientele among the local carts and vendors.

Chance meetings at the nearby butcher, baker and candlestick makers brought the four together. As they found spare moments free from their demanding work, they eventually spoke about their craft.

As their skills improved, their markets grew. They discussed customers, competitors and business opportunities.

They expanded into other market squares across town, building on information they had gleaned from neighbours, family, suppliers and customers. Business was growing for all four – but one had greater ambitions.

Always a resourceful fellow, he had. been speaking to one of his customers, a fisherman. Hired to refresh his market stall hoarding, the scribe learned of a new lettering technique that helped cram more information onto each poster and sign he created.

This technique meant more effective work for his clients: their customers saw more information more quickly and more clearly. This meant more sales.

And since this new technique was unknown in their town, his work was lauded as imaginative, creative, innovative and a challenge to traditional conventions.

Naturally, any client who risked their business on this new technique had to be similarly gifted. That was plainly evident.

And no businessman was going to be outstripped by his peers – especially on something as simple, but obvious, as hoardings.

Town burghers flocked to the market square, looking for him. Business boomed. The other scribes benefited from the increased traffic, as well as the spill-off work he handed around.

Eventually, though, the burghers tired of standing among headless chickens, sacks of flour and rotting potatoes, waiting for his attention. Their business was normally conducted in hallways, not alleyways, and lunch was served on a tray, not on oilcloth.

The town burghers cleared a space for the still-young scribe in the town hall. There, he had acess to the guild offices, to the court registry, to the trappings of power and influence.

The new techniques could be applied to many facets of business: after all, there were many more ways to present information than just posters, signs and hoardings. The scribe began preaching the benefits of his technique to his new-found clients and colleagues.

His influence slowly spread beyond town hall: as the forward-thinking burghers showed off their new protoge and their pretty new signs, their friends and competitors returned to the market square, looking to their regular scribes for similar work.

Meanwhile, the other scribes in the market square, the ones who had previously specialized in calligraphy, ornamentation and court documents, had realized there was more business to be had.

It was obvious their old colleague had found great success. They had seen it with their own eyes. They heard it from their customers. Change was obviously necessary.

Talking amongst themselves, the three decided that simple duplication would not be enough. They would have to improve upon their old colleague’s work.

In practice, this meant collaboration. The fishermen had brought more examples of innovative work from ports abroad. Word of new techniques had been passed along by travellers from other towns. When clerics arrived, they brought along texts from distant centres of learning.

Innovation was progressing. Original techniques had become commonplace. Every scribe had to adapt to a more complex, but rewarding, profession.

For their old colleague, now comfortably ensconced in a community of notables and nobles, these developments presented a challenge.

How would he maintain his position of authority and influence if his innovative work was outstripped?

How could he keep his reputation as a thought leader if his profession advanced beyond him?

At the same time, how could he keep tabs on his competitors?

Especially if their work was largely conducted between individuals, among friends, and in market squares?

After all, it had become obvious business was much more easy to conduct after a warm meal, a good mug of beer and a convivial guild meeting.

It really was a sympathetic system of government: markets were influenced, to a large part, by the self-appointed regulation of the burghers, with the complicity of the guilds.

The trick, of course, was to drag, convince or connive your way into the ranks of the privileged – and then hang on with all your might.

It was all gravy from that point on.


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Hey client! Two minutes for looking so good, you handsome devil!



Is a public relations counsellor’s primary motivation to “make their client look good?” That was the point offered during a favoured podcast this week, and I found myself disagreeing quite animatedly with my car dashboard.

“Looking good” is certainly the goal for marketers, bzz agents, publicity agents, cosmetologists and Maurice Richard.

On a superficial level, PR counsellors are responsible for making sure their clients look good. A sustained and positive corporate, brand or personal image is always the desired result.

Nonetheless, an effective agency or in-house communicator should prepare their clients for any circumstance. That can include glowing puff pieces in the trades, a smooth quarterly call, and a glamorous product launch. It can also cover vital logistics delays, product recalls and labour unrest – not to mention marital discord.

The real test of the relationship formed between client and counsellor comes in those moments of pressure. Will a kowtowing desire for approbation (or a simplistic sense of politesse) prompt a communicator to minimize the challenges that will have to be faced before digging out of a negative public image? Or has the client been prepared, conditioned, warned that effective public relations sometimes means taking a couple of punches and living to see another day?

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Why does your client’s argument fall on deaf ears?


What logical structures guide public relations staff in building and deploying an argument in favour of their clients? When confronted with a demand for an explanation “why?”, there is always a “reason” underlying the logic in your media lines and storyline. In his book Why?, the sociologist Charles Tilly identifies four different types of reasons – or answers – that we all attempt to use at one time or another. Malcolm Gladwell wrote about Tilly this week:

” … In Tilly’s view, we rely on four general categories of reasons. The first is what he calls conventions — conventionally accepted explanations. … The second is stories, and what distinguishes a story … is a very specific account of cause and effect. Tilly cites the sociologist Francesca Polletta’s interviews with people who were active in the civil-rights sit-ins of the nineteen-sixties. Polletta repeatedly heard stories that stressed the spontaneity of the protests, leaving out the role of civil-rights organizations, teachers, and churches. That’s what stories do. As Tilly writes, they circumscribe time and space, limit the number of actors and actions, situate all causes “in the consciousness of the actors,” and elevate the personal over the institutional.

Then there are codes, which are high-level conventions, formulas that invoke sometimes recondite procedural rules and categories. … Finally, there are technical accounts: stories informed by specialized knowledge and authority. An academic history of civil-rights sit-ins wouldn’t leave out the role of institutions, and it probably wouldn’t focus on a few actors and actions; it would aim at giving patient and expert attention to every sort of nuance and detail.
Tilly argues that we make two common errors when it comes to understanding reasons. The first is to assume that some kinds of reasons are always better than others—that there is a hierarchy of reasons, with conventions (the least sophisticated) at the bottom and technical accounts at the top. That’s wrong, Tilly says: each type of reason has its own role.

Tilly’s second point flows from the first, and it’s that the reasons people give aren’t a function of their character—that is, there aren’t people who always favor technical accounts and people who always favor stories. Rather, reasons arise out of situations and roles. (New Yorker)

More detail can be found in a lecture by Tilly. I’ve included a sizeable excerpt after the jump, an excerpt that deals with how social scientists struggle to communicate their research and theory effectively to the general public.

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Branding and Wal-mart: we’re going to market like its 1995


Wal-mart’s marketing efforts have been so price-driven that everyone seems quite stunned when Bentonville execs bring up words like “brand” and “influence.” A little late to the party, but good to see none the less.

” … Stephen Quinn, Wal-Mart’s senior vice-president of marketing, told investors at a Bear Stearns conference that while the retail giant had firmly established its reputation for low prices, “we’re becoming very aware that the brand experience is what people buy into when they shop at Wal-Mart”. …

More broadly, he adds, the retailer is undergoing a “full brand identity programme” that ties into the retailer’s broader effort to change its reputation through new initiatives on environmental and social issues, and its drive to counter its US critics.

That is aimed in part at the third broad target of Wal-Mart’s marketing: to reach beyond the loyalist and the selective shopper, to the Wal-Mart “sceptic”, who visits the store only occasionally, but does not see themselves as Wal-Mart shoppers.

“Our goal with her is really to just influence her,” says Mr Quinn. “Just to get into her consideration in the next year or two.”

(Financial Times)

branding Wal-mart

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The easiest buzz bump in the world: porn.


Comedy Central knows how to speed adoption of new technology – especially viewership of their new animated series aimed at mobile phone users. Porn. Not just any porn. Jenna Jameson, the Elizabeth Taylor of Porn.

She’ll be voicing a new series of animated shorts called Samurai Love God, which also stars The Daily Show’s Ed Helms.

A note to public relations practitioners: news of this series targeted at mobile phone users was first disclosed in October, but pickup revolved around the new technology.

The introduction of the new cast obviously prompted an additional bounce for Comedy Central and its corporate parent, Viacom.

When can we expect the next PR bounce for the show? When Samurai Love God is nominated in the new Emmy category for mobile devices.

Jenna Jameson, COME ON DOWN! “I’d like to thank my throat coach …”

Technorati: marketing mobile public relations buzz

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Billy Idol and Flash Animation


Is there a connection between Billy Idol, Generation X web designers and the acceptance of crap Flash graphics online?

I think so – and it’s Billy Idol’s “Cradle of Love” video. Yeah. You remember the video. 1990? Ford Fairlane soundtrack? Reclusive yet trendy thirtysomething lets young lady into his overly secured apartment, only to find her gyrating on his bed?

Lose that thought for a minute. Remember the faux-Warhol silkscreens on the wall? They morphed from static silkscreen to staggered movie clips and back.

That, I argue, HAS to be one of the subconcious precusors to Flash animations. The combination of rock music, attractive women and televison entertainment helped convince a generation of thirtysomething web designers that Flash animations were acceptable. It was a cultural marker, no matter how faint, on the road to poorly designed websites that continue to haunt users.

A little known fact: Betsy Lynn George, the young lady in the video, apparently was a Scientologist.

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Politics is retail – and you may just take a puck in the mouth


Given a choice between a politician and a hockey player, most Canadians will make a move for the guy with less teeth. Politicians who try to weeze da juice of the national sport usually end up looking out of place and decidedly unathletic (unless they’re Ken Dryden).

One candidate in the current national election found a way to marry the two at last night’s Ottawa 67s game. Out in front of the arena, a young volunteer was handing out brief flyers explaining the Conservative Party’s proposal for a tax credit based upon the registration fees paid for youth sports activities like hockey, swimming, soccer and skating.

A message that should resonate, aimed at a potentially receptive audience. Sitting directly in front of us was a complete PeeWee hockey team and their parents. Families could be seen throughout the arena. The 67s are a minor hockey team that emphasizes entertainment and links to the community.

There aren’t any $2 million contracts for naming rights for the arena. The place is full of ads for sub shops, accountants and construction companies. Sure, minor hockey still comes up with the occasional embarassing promotion. On the whole, however, these teams survive by selling space for targeted messages by local companies.

This was a political message, but it was squarely aimed at the people who normally attend minor hockey games, and promised real benefits.

Oh yeah – of course the flyer included a picture of the smiling Conservative candidate as well.

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Funniest Political Blog Posting Yet


Sure, it’s a faux blog – no comments, no real conversation with the reader – but Scott Feschuk’s “blackberry blog” has one of the funniest “official” posts of the campaign:

    January 15th – Day Forty-Eight: We Saw Nude-Type People Having “Relations” in a Car Last Night on a Main Street in Montreal. I’m Just Saying.

    10:12 AM – Before we head west to Vancouver, with stops along the way in North Bay, Ont., and Edmonton, the PM is going out here in Montreal this morning to announce more cash money for infrastructure as part of our municipal agenda. I haven’t read the policy in great detail, so I might not be your best source of information. But so far as I can tell the basic gist is that a Liberal government will build our cities, quite possibly on rock ‘n roll. This is terrific news for most Canadian communities, but a tragic revelation for residents of Funkytown, whose disco foundations disqualify it from both federal funding and classic rock airplay.”

Ads That Suck likes Feschuk as well.

BTW – Feschuk is the Prime Minister’s speech writer, and a former National Post scribe.

Technorati: campaigning

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Pharma Sales – she scrips, and she just may strip too


HEY! HO! HEY HO! LET’S GO! The new big thing in pharma sales? Hot cheerleaders.

I swear to god, I don’t make this stuff up.

    “As an ambitious college student, Cassie Napier had all the right moves – flips, tumbles, an ever-flashing America’s sweetheart smile – to prepare for her job after graduation. She became a drug saleswoman …

    … Known for their athleticism, postage-stamp skirts and persuasive enthusiasm, cheerleaders have many qualities the drug industry looks for in its sales force. Some keep their pompoms active, like Onya, a sculptured former college cheerleader. On Sundays she works the sidelines for the Washington Redskins. But weekdays find her urging gynecologists to prescribe a treatment for vaginal yeast infection.” (NYT)

Technorati: marketing pharma cheerleader promo

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Obviously, the Post doesn’t have many TGM4W ads


A Goldman Sachs analyst warns that Google Base could, in the future, pose a real challenge to newpaper’s classified listings – an important source of revenue for many papers.

E&P’s brief on Peter Appert’s latest report has some startling numbers about “newspaper companies’ exposure to classified revenues as a percent of total company revenues:

Journal Register Co.: 32.5%
Knight Ridder: 31.2%
McClatchy: 30.9%
Gannett: 29.3%
Media General: 23.6%
Lee Enterprises: 22.2%
Tribune: 21.0%
The New York Times Co.: 18.4%
Journal Communications: 10.3%
E.W. Scripps: 9.6%
Washington Post Co.: 2.4%”

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South Park and Tom Cruise: it can only go up from here


Tom Cruise may have brought on an old guard publicist to recover from his summer of madness, but the blowback goes on. Just look at what may be on tonight’s episode of South Park:

    “…According to a source who has read a draft of the script, it begins with Stan leaving a psychiatrists office only to be hailed as a savior by the leaders of a strange, Scientology-esque cult because of his off-the-chart results on an E-meter-like personality test. A group of Hollywood A-listers quickly gather outside Stans house, were told, with Tom Cruise somehow ending up stuck in a closetleading a news crew stationed at the scene to report that Cruises fans fervently want the actor to just come out.

    In the end, R&B star R. Kellywhose multi-song summer opus gave the episode its nameswoops in to save the day. (We suspect Chef will be sitting this one out. A rep for Isaac Hayes, who supplies the voice of South Parks horny cook and who happens to be a Scientologist, said her client hadnt heard about the plot and that she didnt think Chef was even in it.(Radar)

As for the image management style of Paul Bloch, the new consigliere? As he told the NYT: “We just began,” he said. “We don’t want to talk about what we’re going to do and not going to do … “

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So, I wouldn’t sweat the thundershowers, man …


What does it take to be a television weatherman? Other than good teeth, good hair, and the ability to use “overnight” as a noun? Daniel Engber at Slate can tell you. More importantly, he also points to a nerve-grating list of catchy phrases for meterologists:

– Protect the 3 P’s: pets, plants and pipes
– This cold front is packing a powerful punch; this is a Bob Barker “come on down” cold front.
– Wet conditions continue overnight.. Perfect for all ducks.
– Air you can wear… but hair you can’t wear
– In reference to Anomalous Precipitation on radar, call it “Doppler Garbage”

It just conjures up unsettling memories of Willard Scott, dressed up in a costume for Thanskgiving (or as Ronald McDonald, above)

They’re certainly a poor comparison toAl Sleet, your hippy dippy weatherman.

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When Popular Economics Theory and Personality Cults collide


Steven Levitt, the UofChicago economist and author of Freakonomics (the new hit pop economics sensation), blogged about an email he received from Malcolm Gladwell:

    thought you would enjoy this. a man in the security line at toronto airport today recognized me, pulled out a copy of freakonomics, and made me sign it. we are totally co-branded! cheers, m.”

Was that man:

    a) an economics geek
    b) a social sciences graduate
    c) a cultural anthropologist
    d) a crack dealing realtor and former Chicago public school teacher
    e) just reading something he found in the airport bathroom
    f) prone to picking up the aisle books in the Borders business section
    g) following the stampeding herd of consultants to the next big thing?

Speaking of Levitt: if you’re an economics geek, you’ll LOVE this archive of his NBER papers.

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Put some lipstick on this RFP and ship it!


Some have pined in past months for the former influence and glory of a catalyst publication like Fast Company. Ten years ago, their pimping of ideas like change agents and brand you helped inspire and invigorate a generation of entrepreneurs and professionals.

Today, FC’s ad pages are way, way down. But the ideas and the ethos live on – there’s evidence in our everyday business that we’ve absorbed the “learnings” of the 1990s.

An example: a friend of mine was recently pitching for new business. Not a local pitch. Not a fellow Rotary member. Not even an acquaintaince of an old college friend. A serious municipal RFP with detailed requirements. The sort of thing that can cripple a one-man shop if not handled properly.

Now, Greg’s the kind of guy to have his material backed up on the laptop, spare CD, usb keychain and his Treo. He was prepared for this pitch. He had the marketing material sewn shut, the cover letter ironed, and the proposal polished. But he needed three pretty copies produced and shipped to the officious and demanding registrar by 11 am the next day. Oh – and he was travelling across the country on business.

The deadline was strict (Why 11am? Was there an office lunch buffet at Charlie Chan’s scheduled? Had people made plans to get loaded and copy their fannies on the office Xerox – in duplex?).

The only option in this two-bit town was a local copy shop. The sort of place that prides itself on its “next day service.” With the 1993-era computer that can’t handle “big attachments.”

Ten years ago, he would have hung up the payphone, turned on his heels, dejected, and headed for the closest peeler bar. Instead, he looked for a Kinko’s – the nearest was a mere 100 miles away, in a different state.

And the manager in Exurb, Indiana said he could do it. E-mailed files would become colour documents, copied, cerloxed, and packed for shipping.

A few months ago, I questioned the value of Kinko’s acquisition by FedEx. Less blinkered than me (and just a little motivated), Greg saw an opportunity: he harangued the manager to have an off-duty FedEx driver deliver his package to Ohio for the next morning. He even offered to transfer $200 the easiest way possible – through PayPal – to make sure the job was done.

End of story, right? A wonderfully modern tale of connectivity and hypersensitive customer service, right? Nope. Even better.

When Greg spoke to the manager again later that night, he was offered an even better option: FedEx Custom Critical. Same deadline, same driver, same documents – but twenty bucks cheaper and with an official FedEx delivery receipt.

That’s right. The late night manager at a copy shop a hundred miles away not only arranged production but shipping, and figured out how to save Greg money as well.

And the smalltown guy who didn’t upgrade his system to handle graphics files? Out of luck, but comfortable in his 1993 business model. I wonder how his other business – likely a video store – is holding up.

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Footie and interactive journalism


Have I mentioned how much I enjoy the Guardian’s minute-by-minute accounts of European football? A regular group of Guardian staffers sitting in the news room, watching BBC or Sky coverage of the match on a 14 inch TV – then relaying their acerbic and/or witty comments to dozens of readers around the globe through a continually updated page on the Guardian website.

Key to the accounts, however, are the constant interruptions from readers with their own opinion of the match, the staffer, or the weather in Milan. It’s football coverage like you would find in a pub.

And many of the observations are knee-bucklingly funny, like these two from Georgina Turner’s coverage of last week’s Man U – Italy match:

    24 mins: “How does the crowd sound,” Eleanor Giles wants to know. Intoxicated, in a word: there’s a pretty good atmosphere. Things are just starting to settle down for United, but their forward play bears a vague resemblance to pigeons flying into glass buildings, at times.

    54 mins: Has there been some kind of mass release-into-the-community today? It seems the entire sex offenders register is logged onto this game tonight. Huge Bridget Jones pants, no picture, now bugger off.

Or how about these from Barry Glendenning’s report on the Barcelona – Chelsea game:

    6 mins: Jose Mourinho is looking very agitated on the bench and is scribbling away in his little blue notebook. Perhaps he’s writing a song, or has just thought of another superlative with which to describe himself in his post-match press conference.

    15 mins: … It’s worth bearing in mind that perma-tanned bottle-blond Anders Frisk is reffing, so he likes to flash the cards around in order to get himself on the television.

    18 mins: … I think the only thing Jose could do that would surprise anyone in England at this stage is to loudly declare that he’s not quite as competent a manager as Peter Reid or Gerard Houllier while walking around dressed in sackcloth and ashes and ringing a big bell.

And here’s Barry commenting on the quality of feedback flooding his in-box:

    Most of what I’ve seen of Liverpool this season has been as unsightly as what’s left of Hunter S Thompson’s head, but any time I suggest that they’re anything less than wonderful I get hordes of angry Scousers sending in emails accusing me of being a Manchester United fan or a “cockney loving football newbie prick” (thanks for that Stephen Horner).

Now – just imagine if you could entertain a conversation like that with your local paper? Immediate praise, logical reinforcement or criticism as they publish – that’s what frightens the old guard hacks.

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Packaging is the key to CPG: what about Pharma?


Pharmaceutical Executive recounts how a packaging decision by a marketing team had unexpected side-effects on a pill under development:

    Decisions made in one functional area, such as marketing, can significantly affect others. So open decision making is critical, particularly during late stage development. In one instance, the marketing team for one drug manufacturer’s COX-2 inhibitor decided to change the tablet’s size close to launch. The team made the decision from a branding perspective.

    The idea was to make the name printed on the tablet more visible for target customers. To modify the size, excipients were added. These additional components affected the medication’s absorption rate and altered its pharmacokinetic properties. Although the impact was realized before registration, the decision put timelines at risk.

    Open communication between the marketing and clinical teams could have prevented unnecessary delays in the drug’s registration or launch.

WHEW! Thank god the two teams finally got their act together and mitigated the impact. Lord knows we wouldn’t want to delay registration or launch! It’s not like there are other problems with COX-2 inhibitors to deal with.

Of course, marketing executives would have a far easier time if pharma companies slowed their merger mania: their unwieldy amalgamated names could score 688 points in Scrabble.

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Marmite: either love it or leave it


Marmite, the questionable yeast spread, is returning to a familiar but highly strategic theme with its new marketing campaign. Netimperative (via MarketingVox) reports that Unilever is launching dual websites for their Marmite brand – one for the lovers, one for the haters.

Marmite has always prompted wildly differing reactions from consumers. For many Brits the spread continues to be a familiar cultural touchstone, eliciting memories of shared hardship, common food heritage and hearty breakfasts made by Mum. For others, it prompts memories of old trainers and abandoned shipping canals.

Marmite’s marketing efforts have long acknowledged this dual identity. In one TV ad from its 2001 “love-it-or-hate-it” marketing campaign,

    “… some young foxtrel drags an unsuspecting gentleman back to her pad. While the young fellow awaits her, the femme fatale guzzles a round of Marmite on toast. Needless to say, he is not overly impressed by her Marmite breath.” (Guardian)

Unilever is in the unique position of managing an internationally-recognized brand that faces established and continuing opposition from a significant segment of consumers – without the normally attendant boycott movements, litigation or vandalism.

There must be a Macdonalds strategist, hunkered down somewhere near HQ in Illinois, trying to figure out how to leverage the horrible McRib and McLean Deluxe to similar results.

Back to the marketing campaign. The new website indulges opponents of the fetid spread with alternative sandwich recipes like “musty offal stew with emmental cheese” or “jam, sand and cheese ciabatta.” The campaign is also supported by a TV ad showing a giant brown gooey ball terrorizing a small village – until some of the panicked villagers realize that it’s only Marmite, and dive right in. (Hint: the ad can only be viewed if you confirm you are in the UK. Hint, hint.)

Still puzzled about the difference between Marmite, Bovril, Vegemite and Promite? The Guardian’s centenary celebration of Marmite explains the differences quite well.

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W+K: Exploring new forms of advertising


Wieden + Kennedy, the hip Oregon ad shop famed for its Nike ads, is finding success exploring new forms of advertising in markets overseas:

The Japan office has founded its own music label. The enterprise’s name, W+KTokyoLab, highlights its experimental nature and sets the stage for production of art events, films and publications.

The Tokyo office brainstorms mission statements and guides companies developing new business concepts. It helped reposition Uniqlo, a cut-rate clothing retailer that went chic and built a $2 billion empire.

The story’s in The Oregonian, which requires a quick zip code registration. Try 55912-3680 – the code for Hormel.

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Marcomm vs. the Micromanager Engineer


Once apon a time, Elizabeth Perkins was considered an up-and-comer. She was in Big with Tom Hanks. She was in He Said, She, Said, with Kevin Bacon. She was in The Flintstones with…. uh-oh. So that’s what happened to her career.

Back to serious matters. The HBR case study this month, The Micromanager, portrays a real-life He Said, She Said. It examines the relationship between a CEO and his new marketing manager – both under pressure, both struggling to meet their performance targets, and both questioning the other’s decisions.

To bring her up to speed, George had had her sit in on some of the developers’ meetings. She’d accompanied the sales force on client calls to see and hear from customers directly. He’d even asked the CFO to explain the company’s cash flow situation to her.

But he still found many of her decisions a bit off target. She was a solid project manager who knew how to produce handsome marketing collateral and wade through the logistics of trade shows. But that direct mail campaign she’d launched? Or the format of the seminar Retronics hosted? Not how he would have done it.

So he kept editing her work, explaining what really mattered to customers, how they arrived at their purchasing decisions, and how Retronics’s value proposition could be made clearer.

And he nittered. And nattered. And badgered. And asked “don’t you think?” And suggested “maybe we should.” And dithered over whether “this is an interesting thought to be teased out.” And wondered what reporters would think “if we highlighted the product line’s features?” And then he sent it to the company lawyers for blue pencilling.

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Talk about full disclosure: David Akin


David Akin, a Canadian tech journalist who also blogs, has whipped up a remarkably honest disclosure statement. It doesn’t just identify his professional allegiances – it it also makes clear his relationships with his service provider, AdSense and TuCows.

But where’s the information on his domain registrar? Is there a tale waiting to be revealed?

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25 ways mobile text messages can help build brand loyalty


In its August issue, Promo magazine has run several articles on texting (SMS for you cognoscenti) and possible applications for marketers and loyalty programs. Rob Lawson, a VP at Enpocket, tagged a list of promising SMS applications to the end of his article:

  • To thank you for registering and give you a reference number
  • To say how much is in your account
  • To tell you when you are overdrawn
  • To remind you of your appointment
  • To give you a ticket: admit one
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    Canadian politics aren’t wired: how embarassing


    Dan Lett of the Winnipeg Free Press has reviewed the use of technology by actors in the current national campaign, and he isn’t impressed:

    At a time of dwindling turnout in elections and escalating cynicism about politics, where is Canada’s Howard Dean?

    … In Canada, the main political parties are virtual digital dinosaurs who are using the Internet to push their messages but not a whole lot more. The question arises: could Canada produce a Dean revolution of its own? (WFP is behind a subscriber firewall)

    Canada’s political landscape presents several logistical hurdles to a fully wired campaign: election dates aren’t fixed, so a national campaign is announced and executed within six weeks; Canada’s political parties (and governments) haven’t embraced the opportunities for two-way communication available in the wired world; and the electorate is increasingly disengaged from the process, so they aren’t demanding clearer and more personal communication channels.

    … [One informed observer] said the Canadian election is so volatile that most Canadian parties would be foolish to spend their money on so-called “quiet media” like the Internet.

    In a close race like this, politicians need to focus on using mass media, television and newspaper advertisements to reach a wider audience, he said.

    The Dean experience demonstrated the limitation of relying largely on quiet media campaigning.

    I don’t really agree with that last observation: the limitations only exist if you haven’t had the foresight to install the technical infrastructure and train the right volunteers to deploy social software and implement effective web tactics.

    In the current campaign, the candidates on the stump depend upon their BlackBerries to communicate with campaign managers and central war rooms, feeding questions in and receiving party lines in return. The web sites could have been coded in 2000 or 1996: they provide HTML and PDF files, with little else. There are some blogs present, but there hasn’t been a commitment to frequent and transparent contributions from party leaders.

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    A dedicated advance team – for Reagan’s funeral


    Although all Presidents are asked to begin planning their funeral as soon as they leave office, the Reagans and their alumni have long worked to prepare an event suitable for “the great communicator.”

    Today’s WSJ (A1, sub. req.) reveals the work of a small group of former Reagan aides charged with the advance planning for a week-long funeral:

    … ‘We need every opportunity to show the media, who might be skeptical, that this is the way America feels about the guy,’ says Jim Hooley, 53, who was … head of White House advance in Mr. Reagans second term, and is staging the West Coast part of this weeks events. ‘This is a legacy-building event.’ …

    Apparently, twenty years can really shine up the positive experiences and repress negative memories:

    …The Reagan White House was the golden age for political advance men, the team of about 20 aides who handled the logistics — from arranging traffic routes to podiums — for all presidential public events. … ‘We went from being seen as the guys blowing up balloons and getting cars for the motorcades to senior, respected members of the team,’ Mr. Hooley recalls.

    He even had an office in the west wing of the White House. Mr. Reagan set the tone. ‘He was an actor, and he understood there was somebody who planned the lighting, somebody who built the set and wrote the script,’ says Mr. Hooley.

    Planning has been on-going, to the point that the advance team was expanded years ago to bring in additional TV expertise:

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    Basics of Health Care PR


    The latest PR Strategist examines the challenges facing firms and pros specializing in health care PR. There is specific advice for pulling together a health care PR team:

    In lieu of the dream team of generalists pulling in specialists as needed, the best firms today establish teams of specialists with a generalist at the helm. The team leader, who must also be an astute manager, will cull the right people with the right talent and put them to work …

    For example, if you were putting together a team for a product that treats rare disorders, like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Huntington’s Disease, you might tap into an issues-management specialist for availability, compassionate use and pricing issues, an advocacy/professional-relations specialist to work closely with the patient and neurology community, a science writer to help demystify the mechanism of action (MOA) of the drug and how it works in the body, and so on.

    The leader who cannot orchestrate his or her team (often strong practitioners in their own right) will align the wrong people with the wrong skill sets with complex client business.

    If you have access to a media database, the May issue of Pharmaceutical Executive deals with the practical challenges of health care PR, including articles on:

  • Surveying the messaging landscape
  • The art of advertorials
  • Press releases and the FDA
  • But what are the competencies of a successful health care PR pro? See after the jump.

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    The Body Man takes a punch to the kidneys


    Buried deep in a NYT feature on New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson this past weekend was this nugget (reg. req.):

    As the day was winding down, Richardson sat in the front of his S.U.V., munching on chicharrones and harrassing one of his media people for proposing a photo op on a lake he, rather unpopularly, ordered partially drained. ”Forget it,” the governor barked. ”They hate me out there.” Then he looked at me and rolled his eyes. ”This is my communications staff. This is positive image-building. I can’t wait for the next big idea.”

    When it comes to the media, no one is shrewder in the Democratic Party than Richardson. In the end, that may be his biggest contribution to the 2004 election. The role of convention chairman is largely as talking head, master of ceremonies and (if need be) one-man rapid-response team, and this role is ideal for both Richardson and the party. Compared with the Republicans, who run a well-oiled media machine, the Democrats are disastrously bad at P.R. They’re dull. Defensive. Chaotic.

    Richardson, on the other hand, is the Democratic answer to John McCain. He says pretty much what he’s thinking. Candor for him is both schtick and real. Several times a day, he beckons his assistant to come over and touch up his makeup in order to make him camera-ready; his press people carry extra foundation in their bags. They estimate that he gets three requests from the national news media per day, as well as one from the Spanish-language media.

    Speaking of “body men,” maybe you missed the NYT article on Kerry’s “Chief of Stuff,” Marvin Nicholson. The Taipei Times has reprinted it, so you don’t have to register with the NYT.

    And here’s an article about the body man for Gray Davis – when he was Lieutenant Governor of California.

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    The theory behind telling your spokes to wear a tie


    Know how you give your spokesperson basic styling tips for appearing on television or when speaking at a conference? Things like “never wear checked shirts” and “don’t play with your hair”? Picked up an interesting tidbit at Cheskin about the theory behind the advice.

    Impression management is a sociological/anthropological theory based on the idea that selfhood and identity are performative acts that we continually engage in frequently without realizing it. The tools at hand include the human body, especially the face and hands, as well as clothing and other objects.

    In 1959, the sociologist Erving Goffman published The Presentation of the Self in Everyday Life exploring how we use these things in the course of daily interactions. In addition to the ordinary situations of everyday life, Goffman also examined unusual situations such as prisons and asylums, what he called total institutions, using these to show how individuals used various means (many unauthorized) to maintain their sense of selfhood to simultaneously communicate and construct their identity.

    There are some excerpts from the book here and here.

    If you really feel up to the intellectual challenge, Adam Barnhart has really dug into Goffman here.

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    BK: Just not feelin’ the love


    What exactly is keeping Burger King from growing? BK’s CMO told a Harvard group:

    When they know you more than love you.

    Russ Klein acknowledged that BK’s marketing efforts have been scattershot over the past ten years, and this has harmed their image among fast food afficionados/addicts.

    … Trying to discern where they fit in the fast food ecosystem, Burger King hired a cultural anthropologist to map the way… McDonalds is perceived as childhoods oasis, ripe with playful innocence. Wendys is the realm of the adult, signifying quality, peace, and being cared for. So, the only place left for Burger King was surly adolescence.

    The viral subservient chicken web site is one part of a larger campaign to re-establish BK as the choice of adolescents and the young-at-heart. As it rolls out, the campaign will centre on the re-introduction of the 1974 tag line “Have it your way.”

    … Come August, all packaging, design, and policies will reflect the Have It Your Way ethos, including the No Make Fun Policy, whereby customers will not be derided or laughed at by BK staff, no matter how weird or finicky their order.

    You may also see, as a print insert or tray placemat, the Have It Your Way Contract, which customers will be encouraged to sign to ensure that they become empowered consumers. Drink cups and sandwich wrappers will showcase a sniglet-like glossary of terms such as Potentater, which is the largest french fry in the container, and Lap Seed, a bun seed that falls in your lap.

    Despite the involvement of hot new ad agency CP+B, I don’t know if these tactics will really draw BK’s targeted demographic. First off, how many 18-24 year-olds really need a “have it your way contract” with their burger joint? Well, maybe anyone with a bad tofuburger experience in their past. And anyone who’s used drive-thru.

    As Bob Garfield observed last week:

    … is also a colossal failure, because even though there is a great overlap between Web habitues and Burger King’s core audience, nobody seems to have been motivated into actually purchasing a chicken product from the advertiser.

    … like so much conventional advertising, it is so busy being edgy and weird and funny and subversive, it doesn’t bother to put the brand on display. [CP+B] intentionally obscured the Burger King connection in order not to seem too commercial and uncool.

    Like how I brought this back to my previous post about creative work?

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    Bacteria Cafeteria: like a wetnap with your lunch?


    Ah. The office cubicle. Those precious 96 square feet of semi-autonomous privacy! The cartoons, the art class pottery, and the cat pictures.

    And the germs. Billions of them, as WSJ’s Cubicle Culture tells us today:

    … the desktop surrounding you has 400 times as much bacteria per skuzzy square inch as the toilet seat; the keyboard and mouse have 67 times and 34 times as much bacteria, respectively. So says Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona. The difference, he says, is that someone cleans the toilet. “Basically what you have in an office is an unregulated restaurant,” says Prof. Gerba. “We’ve turned our desks into bacteria cafeterias.” …

    … To stifle whatever wafts from nearby plates, or the hot breath of garbage cans, [securities trader Leslee] Byron paints her aromatherapy oils onto Post-it Notes and sticks them under people’s desks above the trash cans.

    Bacteria Cafeteria! That would make a nice SchoolHouse Rock special! A short animated industrial film, to be shown at team meetings and OSH conventions:

    I know a little place,
    Just around the bend,
    Where you’re never on the mend!
    Someone’s always sneezing, someone’s always wheezing!

    Bacteria Cafeteria
    Don’t let them germs get near ya!

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    Reality show cherry …


    Mark Cuban, as you may know, is casting for his reality show, the Benefactor.

    He was sweet on one candidate … until he found out Chris McKeever was a repeat reality renegade. Here’s what he said:

    Turns out you are just a reality show groupie and you just wanted to make me your first conquest. After years of practice I was always able to spot the Gold Diggers when I was single. They all had the same MO.

    You sir, have broken my Reality Show cherry. Just when I was ready to trust everything every applicant and potential applicant had to say, you had to ruin it for me.

    Turns out Chris was lobbying for Apprentice II and Benefactor under the same domain. Next time, he should make the effort to register separate domain names for his suckup efforts.

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    Text-messaging the ’04 election


    Rock the Vote is launching a mobile campaign aimed at getting voters 18-30 engaged and involved in this fall’s election. As Wired reports, it will

    … offer information on candidates’ stances on issues. Users also could request voter-registration forms. And the service will offer a candidate matchmaker quick quiz, which asks users for their opinions on major issues and tells them the candidate most in tune with them. Users also would be able to query their phone to find their polling place on Election Day. And … [receive] get-out-the-vote pleas recorded by rock stars.

    How does this mesh with Joe Trippi’s observation to the NYT that

    …cellphone text messaging didnt work the way we had hoped. We really went after that hard. It went, but just didnt really do anything … ?

    Maybe Rock the Vote has focused on the two elements essential to the success of an SMS campaign: immediacy and personal relevance. Companies and marketers in Europe, India, Malaysia and Japan have discovered that sales can be increased if SMS messages are properly targeted and provide value to the consumer.

    In England, Orange is launching a promotion giving customers who text a company number two-for-one movie tickets. Some retail chains in Japan are experimenting with texting coupons to registered customers – as they walk past individual stores. In Canada, beer companies had consumers sign up to receive exclusive invitations to parties and events.

    MTV, Motorola and Rock the Vote seem to recognize that young voters will need an active exchange of information, targeted to their needs but offering tangible benefits. Who wouldn’t want a voice mail from, say, Bono, to keep on their mobile phone?

    SMS isn’t really an organizing tool – yet. But it could provide that extra push for young voters to maintain an interest in the election and actually turn out in November.

    As for Trippi’s plans – he had unnamed but glorious ambitions, but they were shortcircuited by reality:

    … Trippis plans for SMS extend beyond just the surface and may have an impact on the election in ways unseen. Though he is unable to discuss the details, he [told imediaconnection last August], We intend to use text messaging strategically in key caucus states.

    Here’s a recent Poynter tid-bit on SMS use in elections around the world.

    BTW – the Rock the Vote campaign’s privacy statement is pretty lame.

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    Good old fashioned record promotion


    Avril Lavigne’s turned to some tried-and-true promotion tactics in support of her new album. She has announced a whirlwind live performance tour, featuring six song acoustic sets at venues easily accessible to her core audience – malls.

    The promo people at Arista are even trying to give her tour an air of immediacy and exclusiveness by giving fans only 48 hrs notice of the locations and times of upcoming performances. Eager fans are supposed to pre-register, and will then receive an alert by email or SMS with all the information.

    Ummm. When a major record label is arranging flash mobs, does that mean they’re as out-of-date as trucker hats? Also:

    … how cool is it that mall operators, publicists and journalists twice as old as her fan base already know before her fans did?

    … her record label … is maintaining the veneer of it still being a “surprise” tour … Anthony Facchini, general manager of Toronto’s Fairview Mall, was at least doing his part. He said he was under a gag order and couldn’t tell his retail tenants until 48 hours before she would play the mall’s large, indoor-court area.

    The Chicago Tribune was even more cynical:

    In a marketing stunt that could have been dreamed up by shopping mall pop queen Tiffany and Internet savvy political operative Joe Trippi, singer-songwriter Avril Lavigne this spring will take part in a “flash-mob” concert tour. The appearances — to be held in shopping malls — are part of the publicity blitz surrounding her next record, “Under My Skin,” which will be released in late May.

    The real genius behind this campaign is the online pre-registration. Targeted and up-to-date contact information is being collected at the website by the record label, instead of being lost on slips of paper by call screeners at radio stations and clerks at record stores. Arista is building buzz, goodwill AND a viable and nation-wide database of Avril fans. That alone is worth the cost of the tour.

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    What it takes to win in politics is … style


    Startling results in the race to claim the Democratic nomination – over the past two weeks the guys with the good hair grabbed the attention of caucus participants across the cold wintry state of Iowa. Kerry and Edwards claimed the first and second spots last night, and today blue dress shirts are flying off the shelves as ex-Gephardt campaign staffers scramble to jump on the bandwagon.

    Elsewhere in the Style section, Wesley Clark has been taking a lot of heat for picking up a grey argyle sweater in an attempt to soften his image. Then again, maybe he was just trying to stay warm while trying to fufill his New Year’s Resolution: meet every Democrat in New Hampshire by January 27.

    Unfortunately, Clark is now trying to spin out of the argyle sweater story (he’s selling it on Ebay, with the proceeds to charity). The sweater has become something of a liability instead of simple prop. Clark’s encouraged the media to cover of previous sweater purchases, likely thanks to the advice of Chris Lehane, one of his senior strategists. Normally, these tips for talking heads are just one part of the common-sense advice we PR pros give to all prospective spokespersons. Unless your candidate has already been well-identified as a charming but uptight former four-star general.

    All this reminds me of a song from about ten years ago: “The Sweater“:

    Now if the sweater has, like, reindeer on it or is a funny color like yellow, I’m sorry but you can’t get away with a sweater like that.
    Look for brown or gray or blue
    Anything other than that and you know you’re dealing with someone who’s different
    And different is not what you’re looking for
    You’re looking for those Alpine-ski chiseled features and that sort of blank look which passes for deep thought or at least the notion that someone’s home
    You’re looking for the boy of your dreams who is the same boy in the dreams of all of your friends …

    You look at that sweater, carefully
    And you realize that love made you temporarily blind
    You’ve got a secret now, honey, and though you would never sink as low as him
    you could blab it all over the school if you wanted
    The label in that sweater said 100% Acrylic.

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    Diet Marketing: I’ll Have A Chalupa and an Atkins Fries


    As they might say in the grocery business, 7 – Eleven owns the “high-margin, high inventory turnover retail institution” corner of the market.

    Which means it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the world’s largest convenience store chain is jumping on the Atkins trendwagon. Concerned about your weight – but not quite concerned enough to make sensible choices when shopping at the grocery store? Stop at 7 – Eleven for Atkins Bakery bread, Atkins Crunchers chips, Morning Start bars, and Advantage meal replacement bars and shakes.

    “Atkins is long past being a fad,” said Kenneth Fries, 7-Eleven category manager for snacks. “What first was considered a fad and then a trend has now crossed over to become a lifestyle for millions of people. An estimated 25-30 million are following some kind of low-carb weight-management program. Fortunately, now you can have your cake and bread, and eat it too.”

    That’s right – the spokesman for the new Atkins menu is called Fries.

    But the Atkins diet isn’t just causing heart palpitations among convenience store marketers – imagine the stress over at the American Institute of Baking! People just aren’t buying rye, hot cross buns, wonder bread, croissants or bagels anymore. The most recent Fortune discusses the impact of the new low-carb diets on everyone’s favourite sandwich component: After peaking at 147 pounds per person in 1997, U.S. consumption of wheat flour fell to about 137 pounds last year. Bread baskets in restaurants across the U.S. remain unmolested.

    But what can stop this decline? Milk, pork, beef have their tag lines. Radio, print, outdoor and TV campaigns remind you to pick some up on your way home, as part of a balanced diet. The industry is worried enough that they recently convened the first meeting of the National Bread Leadership Council.

    Their first strategy has been to work along some tried-and-true public relations principles. Perhaps a catchy tag line would bring people back to
    bread, an audience member suggests. “We’re on that. We have ‘Whole grains at every meal,’ ” replies Kirk O’Donnell of the American Institute of Baking.
    Mmmm! Crunchy bread! Maybe with some muesli and yogurt!

    The NBLC also released a survey that revealed a majority of Americans have
    negative impressions of the Atkins diet and the impact of carbs in your diet.
    They’ve simply got to correct the “crisis of consumer misperception,” as one NBLC spokeswoman puts it. Ah. The old “let me speak slowly so you’ll understand me” gambit. Always proven to shift consumer opinion and preferences.

    Who immediately comes to mind when you think of bread products? Fred the Baker, sweating over a tray of glazed treats at your local Dunkin Donuts (retired, by the way)? Betty Crocker? Aunt Jemima? Hmm. A perception problem definitely exists.

    Maybe the bread industry should confront this challenge with a combination of marketing, public relations and old-fashioned hucksterism. After all, 7 – Eleven isn’t facing down an industry-rattling change in consumer attitudes. They’re being opportunistic, seizing onto an opportunity to establish a position in a lucrative niche market. And they’ve done it by identifying products and tastes that would appeal to their traditional clientele.

    Really, this is an old lesson. How did the Kellogg’s convince thousands to eat the baked corn flakes they developed at their health retreat? The first impulse to market was demand from customers – then they built demand among the wider population through gimmicks, public relations and old-fashioned marketing.

    Subway has recognized the challenge as well. They’ve spent years convincing North Americans that submarine sandwiches full of processed meats are “healthy foods,” but I was a little surprised to see their recent ads for Atkins Wraps. Other companies are preparing Atkins Bakery Bread, and low-carb desserts. One ingenious entrepreneur even marketed low-carb, low-fat doughnuts (he’s going to jail now).

    How’s bread holding up? “We don’t promote ourselves as well as the beef and dairy folks,” says O’Donnell later on in the hallway. “It bothers me a little.” (In case you didn’t notice, November was National Bread Month.)

    Update: Seth Godin just published an anecdote about meeting up with an Atkins devotee at a grocery store – who didn’t pick up the Atkins chips because they had too many carbs. He notes that the power of the idea – that carbs are bad – in this case outweighed even the influence of the Atkins advertising wave.

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    Crisis Communications for Santa and Elves


    Memo: To all Regional Distribution Managers

    Issue: Communicating during Uncomfortable Situations

    The Santa Claus, Inc. corporate PR Department has worked on a number of possible scenarios that could be encountered by employees during the valuable Christmas rush. While Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and the Chief Elf remain the principal corporate spokespersons, every employee must be prepared to deal effectively with suppliers, aviation officials, parents, children and, sometimes, law enforcement officials.

    Working through past incident reports, we have created this series of handy guides for employees on resolving stressful situations.

    Getting Busted at the 7-11

    While the logistics staff make every effort to ensure that the sleigh is fully stocked with hot chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers, we have found that Santa and his reindeer sometimes require a more substantial meal. For most of the year, it means picking up some Chicken Tikka takeout. On Christmas eve, this is a little more difficult, especially if Santa is on the road with the sleigh.

    Given our unusual operating hours, Santa Claus, Inc. has found that 24-hour convenience stores are the most available source of Santa’s favourite foods: tacos and Dr Pepper. In the past, storeowners understood the urgent midnight munchie runs of very portly elderly men dressed in red velour, but the increasing number of drunks coming home from office christmas parties has soured them on Santa.

    As a result, Santa is frequently being harassed by convenience store owners convinced he is going to “wheze da juice” and run without paying. Here are some tips for avoiding a confrontation with a shotgun wielding store owner:

    – Gout is not an excuse for parking the sleigh in the handicapped space.

    -Do not use your Santa Claus, Inc. building pass to wheedle a discount.

    – Do not try to pay with the Pokemon cards from the Jensen house.

    – “Ho, ho, ho” might not be seen as a greeting by some female customers.

    – $50 solves everything. It’s under the hat.

    Getting caught by a six year-old

    Despite all of the Chief Elf’s technological advances, the noise of the reindeer, sleigh, chimney and bored elves poking the reindeer will wake someone up during the night. Some adults go out of their way to encourage children’s mischief. It is important to maintain the illusion of magic, happiness and giving that is Santa Claus, Inc:

    – “Holy Crap! What the hell are you doing up!” is not an acceptable greeting.

    – Don’t skip out on the milk and cookies, even if you’re lactose intolerant.

    -Remind the child that Elves need to use washrooms just like the rest of us.

    – $5 will not buy the silence of an eleven-year old boy. FHM will. Take one from aan elf – they hoard the magazine.

    Sleigh Accident at Toys ‘R Us

    Despite the stagnant economy, it is still hard to find skilled sleigh drivers – especially ones under four feet tall. This has meant an increase in SRDC – sleigh related damage claims. The cost of these claims is naturally reflected in our insurance premiums.

    Both to boost morale and undermine Santa Claus, Inc’s competitors, we have begun training our new sleigh drivers in Toys ‘R Us parking lots. This provides open space for maneuvering a large sleigh and team of reindeers as well as plausible deniability.

    – “That rich red scratch down the side of your Lincoln could have been caused by that car there, sir!”

    -Remember – the sleigh handles like a pig at slow speeds. Why do you think we land it on the roof, and not the driveway, when doing deliveries?

    – It also holds about 300 shopping carts – which can be sold off at $300 a pop.

    – As the settlement with Wendy’s will attest, the sleigh is NOT drive-through friendly!

    Bar Fight on Boxing Day

    Inevitably, Santa, elves and other employees will come across one or two people who did not get what they wanted on Christmas morning. Some may even claim Santa does not exist, and will attempt to undermine the work of Santa Claus, Inc. through scientific deduction. If some of them (or you) have been drinking, this discussion might get animated, even physical.

    – Logic doesn’t usually work on drunks. The Rope-A-Dope might, though.

    – No matter how many elves are with you, you will not win the fight. You are fat, and elf arms aren’t long enough. This is why every elf always carries a sock full of coins.

    – If the police ask, you grew the beard on a bet, and these are your pajamas.

    – If will take up to 48 hours to post bail. It will take us that long to sell enough handmade wooden toys to get the money.

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    Balloons theme by