Here are David Akin’s suggestions.
Here are David Akin’s suggestions.
Thanks to Sarbanes-Oxley, some publicly listed companies are now being brutally honest about the external factors affecting their financials. Reuters’ Ritu Kalra pointed to a number of reports citing unusual reasons for poor forecasts, including this highlight in Applebee’s latest quarterly report:
As previously disclosed, the company recorded a pre-tax charge of $2.3 million for the write-off of excess riblets inventory which it determined during the second quarter no longer met the company’s quality standards.
Does that mean demand for riblets is declining? Or did they order too many? Is there a philosphical conflict between Applebee’s new Weight Watchers-branded healthy menu and the tasty morsels of processed meat product basted in liquid smoke? (check out the survey on the sidebar of this USA Today story)
Or maybe they just had freezer burn. Hmmm.
Young professionals apparently do not rely upon mentoring relationships to guide their nascent careers – according to a Harvard study. Researchers working on Making Good: How Young People Cope with Moral Dilemmas at Work took a look at a number of issues, but their observations about mentoring are startling:
… For the most part, however, young professionals did not speak of close meaningful mentor relationships in their professional training and workplace, especially as compared to more veteran workers’ discussions of mentors and paragons in their own professional development.
As young people advanced in their professions, however, we found that the function and importance of mentors and role models differed across profession. Young professional journalists in particular lamented the lack of mentors on the job, though those who had attended journalism school often spoke admiringly of professors, and almost all the young journalists looked to exemplary institutions (e.g., the New York Times) as standards.
While young actors looked to distant luminaries as models in their work, they were more likely to depend upon themselves and to look to their immediate theater community than to cite individual mentors.
In contrast, in the regimented career trajectory of science, close formal mentorship was central throughout training. While this formal mentoring was described positively by some, others spoke about challenging and even competitive relationships with mentors.
Overall, we were concerned that very few participants in our study described mentors who exemplified “good work.”
In fact, some participants described how their corporate or professional seniors had noted that they would have to bend the rules or pursue unethical tracks in order to succeed.
Once upon a time, lonely campers could only rely on a weekly mail call and the occasional long-distance phone call to break the solitude.
Parents and campers alike had to communicate through the Camp Director – a nice, traditional command and control communication system.
Obviously, times have changed. There are fewer filters influencing communication among staff, counselors, campers, parents and alumni.
Phone trees, bulletin boards and mimeographed newsletters have been replaced by sophisticated web sites, e-newsletters, voice mail broadcasts and alumni affinity programs.
This means transparency and the rapid flow of information are essential if a Camp Director and camp staff are to deal effectively with campers, parents and alumni in times of calm and crisis.
After all, why should the campers, kitchen staff and Head Counsellor’s drug dealer be the only ones to know that Cabin B has a wasp’s nest, the Assistant Director is sleeping with the crafts teacher, and the school bus failed its last safety check?
That’s why the advent of electronic communication has proved to be a boon for small businesses like camps:
But some communications activities need to be styled old-school: there are influential members of the community who need their hands held, voices heard, palms greased, and, sometimes, their skull cracked.
Camp Directors, in their daily work, call upon many of the skills routinely demanded of a well-rounded communicator: promotions, advertising, media relations, staff communications and business development.
And they deal with some really disturbed people along the way.
Crooked small-town supplier: pulls up in a V10 supercab pickup, but can only provide Israeli canned tomatoes and Russian chipped beef. Preferred form of communication: No small talk, just cash.
Idiot Savant Camper: can wire pirated cable to the cabin, but never uses soap or a comb. Preferred form of communication: just IM his Treo.
Competitive parent : their kids arrive at sports camp with a copy of “the seven habits of highly effective people” and autographed photos of Pat Riley and John Gruden. Preferred form of communication: daily email, weekly newsletter, constant phone calls to the director, and regular visits to watch every sporting event.
Crazed groundskeeper: whether Carl Spackler at golf camp, or Groundskeeper Willy … there’s always a hint of mischief in their eyes – and the whiff of home-grown. Preferred form of communication: Quick verbal commands. Don’t get pushy, and don’t expect quick action.
Unwilling camper: can be spotted by eternal frown at the back of the pack. Prefers retro tshirts with suggestive logos. Preferred form of communication: Loud verbal commands and understated hand signals.
70s throwback music teacher: her license plate reads “JHN DVR” and she insists “Macarthur Park” and “Kumbaya” be sung at every campfire. Preferred form of communication: Passive and non-confrontational conversations.
Head Counselor: an unusual combination of natural leadership and subversive impulse. Can take forty kids on a three day canoe trip, and find a forty-pounder of vodka for the end-of-summer party. Preferred form of communication: A loud shout-out across the campgounds.
Lonesome Camper: easily spotted by the 180 page diary clutched to their chest. Preferred form of communication: Mix tapes with Liz Phair, the Indigo Girls, Elvis Costello and Alanis.
Camp Casanova: upturned collar on the Lacoste tennis shirt. Sebago deck shoes. Brings cologne on the canoe trip. Preferred form of communication: Plenty of empathic body language. Rhythmic verbal cadences. Handwritten notes on linen.
45 year-old Fantasy Camper: wants to know where he can hang his suitbag, and whether he can switch to a room with a mini-bar and broadband. Preferred form of communication: that young lady at reception.
The FT has given us a quick glimpse at the growing acceptance of gay and lesbian life in North American advertising. What’s driving this trend? A growing recognition of the broader purchasing power of this demographic group.
… evidence is emerging that – contrary to popular perception – gay and lesbian buying patterns closely resemble those of the general US population. A recent study by MindShare, a division of the WPP Group, with the Poux Company and Lightspeed Research, revealed that the gay market is not in fact dominated by buyers of up-market goods. Half the respondents said they regularly shopped at Wal-Mart and about one in four owned a Sears card.
The recent US Census results provided advertisers with the detail they needed to pitch more business:
And for the first time, new U.S. Census data about same-sex households is providing a look at gay demographics, via a new “unmarried partners” option in the 2000 survey, as detailed in a new book, “The Gay & Lesbian Atlas,” by Gary Gates and Jason Ost.
It discovered same-sex couple households are present in 96 percent of counties nationwide, totaling 1.2 million individuals. One in four gay households have children, more than one in 10 gay homes have a senior over 65, and male couples prefer cities while females prefer the suburbs.
Bob Witeck of Witeck-Combs Communications, a Washington, D.C., gay marketing firm … is enthusiastic about the census results, pitching three new clients with it. “We needed to know the geography for the community. While there’s a ‘duh factor,’ there were also surprises in where people live. Also, you can mine the data. It’s richer and deeper than surveys.”
Observations on the finery and filligree at the Tonys, held this past Sunday. To think PR folk have it tough giving advice on which rep tie and button-down to wear for a TV interview.
It has been remarked before … but it is worth repeating. Red carpets need car wrecks. They need Bo Derek in cornrows, Cher in a hat inspired by the rings of Saturn, Bjork draped in an ornithological specimen.
One can probably blame the stylists, those stealth dictators of fashion, for taking the raw clay of, say, a former waitress or Juilliard student and transforming it into a vision so uncontroversially tasteful that the result is a sartorial yawn …
What confirmed the impression that Broadway’s salvation does not lie with a bunch of puppeteer former interns with big dreams and fauxhawks, was the alarming decision by most of the women to come dressed like prom-night chaperones. (NYT)
Two Democratic political consultants and a UCLA psychiatry prof have joined forces to fund a project exploring how the brain reacts to the stimuli from political ads. (NYT, Reg. req.)
How have they measured the reactions of their eleven test subjects so far? With an M.R.I. machine!
In the experiment … , researchers exposed [a subject] to photographs of the presidential candidates, commercials for President Bush and John Kerry, and other video images, including the “Daisy” commercial from 1964. In that advertisement, promoting Lyndon B. Johnson against Barry Goldwater, images of a girl picking petals from a daisy were replaced by images of a nuclear explosion …
“Brain imaging offers a fantastic opportunity to study how people respond to political information,” said Jonathan D. Cohen, director of the Center for the Study of Brain, Mind and Behavior at Princeton. “But the results of such studies are often complex, and it is important to resist the temptation to read into them what we may wish to believe, before our conclusions have been adequately tested.”
The NYT notes that others have looked into this area, including neuromarketers. Read Montague, the director of the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory at the Baylor College of Medicine, has conducted similar research.
”I keep joking that I could do this Gucci shoes study, where I’d show people shoes I think are beautiful, and see whether women like them,” says Elizabeth Phelps, a professor of psychology at New York University. ”And I’ll see activity in the brain. I definitely will. But it’s not like I’ve found ‘the shoe center of the brain.”’
Or the left-leaning/suburban mom/suv-owning/tough on crime center of the brain either.
If you’re in PR or Marketing face the depressing news that, at some point in your life, you’re going to have to deal with a trade show.
A veteran of way too many, Peter Shankman has exposed a few secrets:
1) Prep! prep!, prep! But not only by the book …
If you are managing your company’s appearance at the show, then you and only you do it from beginning to end. The reason I say this is because the trade show people know how hellish it is, and will try to help. They usually send along a manual the size of a Volkswagen, with everything you could possibly need, from phone numbers of the convention staff and hotel caterers to pre-printed shipping labels so you don’t lose your stuff on arrival.
Use this book. Make sure you get it. Don’t let it go to the client or to a subordinate. Don’t let it out of your sight or you’ll never see it again. Make sure it has your name on it, offer a reward if it’s returned. It actually does have some valuable information in there.
(Confused about the terms in the manual? Here’s a glossary)
2) Do your homework before booking your hotel …
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.
Two recent reviews of long-treasured magazines prompted this little mini-reminiscence. I know I’m overlooking a lot.
Once upon a time, the world was a gentler and kindler place. You had search hard and long for irony, satire and sarcasm in popular culture in North America. Sure, Lenny Bruce, Newhart, Cavett, Carlin and the Smothers Brothers were working clubs and skating a fine line of morality on TV, but you were more likely to see Jack Hanna or Senor Wences talking to Ed or Johnny most nights.
National Lampoon helped crack the veneer of respectablity. Like Carlin, they brought a critical eye to the details and conventions of that defined our everyday suburban life. Slate’s taken a look at a re-issue of a book that made us re-examine our own surroundings – the familiar cast of nerds, dweebs, losers, geeks, sluts, bikers and teacher’s pets we all knew intimately from school – National Lampoon’s 1964 High School Yearbook
National Lampoon’s work continues to resonate in popular culture today. Doug Kenney, one of the Yearbook‘s authors, helped write Animal House as well as Caddyshack. P.J. O’Rourke was another author.
Despite this ground-breaking work, it would be years before the TV networks would reluctantly welcome the caustic wit, mildly offensive skits and satirical observations of everymen like David Letterman – and then only late at night.
In 1986, as Folio reminds us, Spy magazine was launched. Gradon Carter and Kurt Andersen helped rip open the pastel pink underbelly of the egomaniacal 80s – with its attendant power suits, pink suspenders, money clips, flashy cars and pretentious society gatherings. Spy’s irreverent approach to the affairs, parties and peccadillos of businessmen, celebrities and policiticans echoed many of the ideas first published by Britain’s Private Eye and Punch magazines – but in a louder, more aggressive and more colourful manner.
Spy’s influence can be seen everywhere from The New York Times itself (which adopted its disembodied celebrity heads) to the snide asides that pop up in Entertainment Weekly and The New York Observer.
Maybe the loudest incarnation of this influence was E!’s Talk Soup, where hosts like Greg Kinnear and John Henson distilled a day’s worth of talk show freaks, soap opera antics and news oddities into a soundbite and video clip potpourri – narrated with more than a touch of sarcasm.