September 21, 2015
JetBlue and now Delta Airlines are offering “humanity” as part of their service and that’s kind of an issue for JetBlue. They wrote the phrase “bringing humanity back to air travel,” right into their Customer Bill of Rights. It has been there for several years. Now in recent Delta ads the same phrase appears.
Delta explains, they never meant to copy anything, and it just seemed like a phrase that fit their recent efforts. Michael Thomas, the spokesman for Delta said, they never set out to specifically highlight “humanity.” “The phrase succinctly captures Delta’s efforts to improve food and beverages, customer service, and onboard products,” he said.
But in August, Delta did it again when it gave flight attendants handheld devices to help with customer service and said they had done so “while endeavoring to bring more humanity to the skies.” So we wonder if Delta is doing this deliberately, a cunning move – or really didn’t make the connection, implying they aren’t savvy enough to know what their competitors are doing.
Where does all this humanity come from? Well, probably as a countermeasure to everything else many of the airlines are doing, like charging for checking in baggage, cutting back on the already limited leg space, herding people like cattle, charging for carry-ons, and providing fewer perks. With all of that happening, is it really being humane to simply offer good service and be willing to sell more onboard products?
That seems to be JetBlue’s point when they offer their version of humanity, first included in their efforts when the company was founded in 1999 and steadily increased and improved since then. The phrase in question was added to their repertoire in 2007 after a service breakdown from an ice storm that stranded thousands of passengers on planes and airports.
They changed a lot so they would be prepared if something like that ever happens again. JetBlue points out they have consistently worked to improve the customer’s experience, being the first to add leather seats, and the first to put screens in the back of seats. They also offered diagram instructions cards for people on their flight with yoga and Pilates moves that can be done in an airline seat to ease aching muscles.
With Delta’s choice, they’ve given JetBlue a forum to remind their customers of all they’ve done in the name of “humanity.” While still choosing to take the higher ground and not take legal action or make a big deal, Doug McGraw, a JetBlue spokesman said they trust their customers to know the difference and prefer to make the customer experience “even better.”
September 17, 2015
Rick Perry had never lost a bid for election until he first aimed for the White House in the 2012 campaign. He held the office of Governor of the State of Texas longer than anyone has and seen big successes, but the Presidential candidacy is probably the most difficult bid anyone could attempt – and the most expensive.
Perry had been doing well in the 2012 Primary when he spectacularly flamed out by flubbing a debate question. His campaign had been loudly proclaiming his intention to axe 5 federal agencies. When asked which ones, Perry could not name them all. His closing salvo “oops” was the soundbite on everyone’s lips the following day.
Voices from inside the Perry camp are blaming the cost for his early exit this time. Perry made it clear, however, funding was not his only reason. Explaining, he said, “We have a tremendous field of candidates – probably the greatest group of men and women.” Perry continued, “I step aside knowing our party is in good hands, as long as we listen to the grassroots, listen to that cause of conservatism. If we do that, then our party will be in good hands.”
Considering he was unable to get enough backing in order to participate in the debates, he’s probably making a good choice. Successful politics often entail timing and knowing when to move forward or back away. Perry chooses now to back away and leave this campaign to others. That doesn’t say anything about his future plans. But he’s right, there are a lot of people with strong backing ahead of him in line at the moment, and there are going to be several casualties along the way before this campaign hits the Primaries. Bowing out now removes him from all that negative association, and he can return in another race. People will remember his name, but they probably won’t think of him in any crash and burn scenarios from this campaign.
That’s more than could be said of his 2012 bid. For the last four years, Perry has been meeting with people, working hard, being less arrogant in his approach, and putting in the long hours needed to appear well-studied on the issues of the day. Unfortunately, all that work couldn’t help in the face of the sheer numbers of high-profile politicians and otherwise vying for President on the Republican ticket.
Will Perry continue to improve his standing and abilities over the next four years in preparation for 2020? Time will tell … but now that he’s out, he can focus on what went wrong this time, with plenty of time to correct it.
September 9, 2015
For bacon lovers, the news could hardly be any worse. Kraft recently recalled two million pounds of Oscar Mayer turkey bacon after consumers reported illnesses. Now, bacon purists might argue consuming turkey bacon in any amount is actually an illness. But those who want to stay healthy or avoid pork for other reasons enjoy turkey bacon because they can dig into the breakfast staple without transgressing in other important areas.
When the headlines hit, the reaction was not discerning. Bacon was being threatened, and people took it very seriously. Then, Kraft Heinz made it worse by issuing a stilted recall released announcing some products “may be adulterated.” Now, it’s a perfectly fine word, but in the world of clear communication it ranks pretty low. Maybe they were shooting for ambiguous in order to keep consumers from being disgusted … but when bacon is in the offing, it pays to be clear, concise and simple.
Worse, the report indicated that the food industry giant “discovered” the issue after “spoilage-related consumer complaints.” You do NOT want your brand connected to the words “spoilage-related.” Then the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced reports of illnesses related to the consumption of these products.
The situation quickly spiraled out of control for Oscar Mayer. They gave concerned consumers words like “adulterated,” while the news was saying things like “spoiled” and “illnesses.” Note the plural form of illness.
When you go for highbrow and confusing but the media breaks it right on down to words that look scary in massive fonts or on chirons under concerned looking reporters, you have officially lost control of the message stream. Worse, people think you were trying to hide something … simply because you chose a word the general public will not relate to. When the news keeps it simple, and you make it complex, the consumer market tends to believe you may be hiding something.
You might be thinking: “Well, we dodged a bullet there” … Meanwhile, they are thinking: “What do they REALLY mean by adulterated?”
Next time you have a crisis and you need to communicate your response to the problem. Do it so you don’t have to come back and explain what you really meant.
September 8, 2015
Everybody loves a good comeback story, and that’s what Rupert Murdoch is offering us. Along with that, Murdoch proves the ongoing support for Rebekah Brooks he’s claimed ever since her resignation in July 2011 from the now defunct News of the World. Brooks, for her part, has traveled the hard road and appears to be well on her way to redemption.
Before that resignation, Brooks, now 47, had accomplished a great deal in her career. She became the youngest editor of a British national newspaper, in 2000 she was placed in charge of News of the World, and in 2003 she became the first female editor of the Sun. It didn’t stop there.
In 2009, she became CEO of what was then called News International. The crisis hit in 2011 when Murdock closed News of the World in the midst of public outcry over a phone hacking scandal. Brooks was arrested.
Then last year Brooks was acquitted of all charges in the investigation including phone hacking, perverting the course of justice, and bribery regarding a scandal surrounding the murder of 13-year-old Milly Dowler.
Reporters were accused of hacking the family’s phones to gather information for more salacious stories.
Brooks has been quietly building back her career recently. Murdoch made that easier in a further show of his support. This year, she’s assisted a startup bought by News Corp in 2013, Storyful. The Dublin-based group helps newsrooms search the web for video content to vet.
Her latest accomplishment just announced, she’s been named CEO of the U.K. subsidiary of News Corp where she will handle development and acquisition of digital properties.
Brooks is out of the fray of the phone hacking scandal. But that does not mean the scandal is over. An evidence file relating to the police investigation of the case is being reviewed by U.K. prosecutors.
If that goes further, controlling officers who were members of the board of News of the World at the time could face prosecution. Also still under investigation are several reporters.
Some of the other news outlets owned by Murdoch include the Wall Street Journal, News Corp., U.K.’s The Sun and The Times, the New York Post, and 21st Century Fox. Since truly good PR is found in telling a good story, Murdoch and Brooks offer that, and as luck would have it, they have easy access to outlets that can herald this tale.
August 27, 2015
They’re young, they’re hot, and they’re happy. Guess which attribute got an Alabama sorority in trouble? If you chose “All of the Above”, you get an “A” for the day. Bowing to the harsh competition between Greek organizations on campus, the ladies of Alpha Phi decided to go all out with their recruitment video. The production values are top notch, and the content is as fun, breezy and easy on the eyes as it can be. The reaction of most sane people? Hey, those girls look like they’re having a good time at college. I might want to check that out.
But that reaction is not good enough for the haters who, for better or worse, troll the ‘net for just this sort of happiness to condemn. A writer called “A.L. Bailey” penned a shrieking screed of a column aimed at denouncing the video and all the girls it represented. Because, apparently, the video did not represent what Bailey believes sorority recruitment videos are supposed to represent.
Instead of frolicking coeds having fun at the lake, shopping, hanging out on the quad or just being girls, Bailey insisted the video only portray serious students involved in charity work. Look, there’s a lot to be said about studying hard and even more reason to promote good works, but remember what they said about “all work and no play?”
Put it another way … who is joining a sorority so they can study hard and feed the homeless? Aren’t they joining for sisterhood, fun, and camaraderie? For connections, opportunities, and to enrich their social lives at college? If that’s the goal, then the video is a home run … with nary a word of dialog spoken, the message comes out loud and clear.
Most people apparently agree. Though there are a relative few that agree with Bailey. If nothing else, Bailey succeeded in one thing – generating tons of eyes and clicks on the site AL.com. He or she also succeeded in giving a video with already 500,000 views a massive new audience. As one father of a soon-to-be college student said: “Definitely sending my son to ‘Bama. Roll Tide.”
Or, perhaps even more succinctly stated, the gal who opined: “So, yeah, there’s babes at college. Like that’s news.”
Well, apparently so.
August 19, 2015
Akron native and NBA superstar LeBron James has always been vocal in his heartfelt support for his hometown and the greater Akron community. Even after leaving Cleveland for Miami, James was a force for good in Ohio. Now, he is taking those efforts even further.
James recently announced that (at least) 200 Ohio school kids will have the opportunity to go to college entirely for free … as long as they complete his mentoring program. That program, the LeBron James Family Foundation, works with at-risk kids in Akron.
According to further reports, the scholarships are available to middle school children in Akron Public Schools IF they complete the six-year mentoring program through the Foundation. The mentoring program is supported by the University of Akron and JPMorgan Chase.
According to JPMorgan, company tech staffers have volunteered to work with students on a variety of projects ranging from mobile application development to tech optimization.
This project and, to a larger extent, this program exemplifies the magic that happens when a person of means and influence connects with a cause that is nearest and dearest to them. The lesson here for anyone involved in any charity is to look for your greatest support from those with a strong reason to support you.
In your public relations, marketing, and imaging never be afraid to be who you are. Send out a clear, concise and consistent message. Don’t try to be more things to more people. Be what you are about and do what you want to do.
There are a lot of good works being done out there. Don’t chase what you think will be the most popular. Instead, work on a way to connect your cause with the people most likely to support it. Good marketing, solid branding and expert PR will get you a lot further than trying to please everyone.
August 17, 2015
In March Blue Bell, a Texas company, experienced a PR nightmare as many of their ice cream flavors were found to contain Listeria bacteria. This triggered a recall, and ultimately all four of their plants in Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas were closed down until further notice. The company took no chances, and all of their products were removed from the freezer aisles in grocery stores.
Blue Bell has been supplying frozen treats for 108 years, and this is the first time they have faced such a situation. All of the plants have been receiving complete cleaning and decontamination treatments. But now, as of the first week of August, at least their Sylacauga, Alabama plant is making small batches of ice cream.
The Alabama Department of Health and Safety has given the go ahead. Blue Bell is proceeding with caution and only making ice cream during the day shift. Everything being made currently is used to build their inventory until they are ready to begin shipping.
There is no word on when their ice cream will be back in the grocery stores. Kroger is one of the main stores selling their brand. Management and customers at Krogers are thrilled to hear they may soon be enjoying one of their favorite ice cream brands again. Taking their time before getting products back on the shelf was the right move. At the moment it seems to be building anticipation for Blue Bell’s return in the 23 states where they have sold product in the past.
When Kroger begins getting shipments, they plan to stock their larger-volume stores first, so some customers may be waiting awhile for their taste of heaven. But, in this case, the time invested in getting it right translates to customers as a company that cares for their health. Accidents happen, and Blue Bell takes them seriously.
There is also no word yet about when the other three plants will open. For now, however, it remains to be seen if the company can bounce back from such a major health concern. They seem to be making all the right moves, and putting public safety first. It doesn’t hurt that they have a loyal customer base who despite the Listeria outbreak, is excited to enjoy their favorite flavors again as soon as possible.
August 4, 2015
A machine takeover and subsequent apocalypse. It’s an eventuality that has been common fodder for SciFi movies. It was done well in The Terminator and then updated on a much more meta scale in the Matrix movies. Now several very smart folks are on record as saying not only is “Skynet” possible but, if we keep going the way we are, it may be inevitable. Sleep well tonight.
A recent open letter, signed by 1,000 pre-eminent minds, warns of a “military artificial intelligence arms race” concluding, thankfully, that this is a bad idea. Among those inking their names to the missive: Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and Steve Wozniak. Not exactly a bunch of tin-foil kooks.
The creation and proliferation of “killer robots” have been a hot topic in the scientific community, but many governments scoff at the idea (probably because they would love to have some).
So what do such “the sky is falling” proclamations do for the robotics industry? Could this ongoing conversation become this generation’s “nuclear question.” Sure, we had the will and ability to build intercontinental ballistic missiles as well as the know-how to create nuclear weapons … but should we have? Most governments say “absolutely.” Many have nukes, and many others wish they had them. Will it be the same for AI robots?
Many people love the idea. But, they picture a world of driverless cars and Rosie the Maid from the Jetsons. Other people see Agent Smith. There doesn’t seem to be any in between. Writers and imangineers have long since warned of the dangers of trying to create a bunch of smart slave bots. Sooner or later, those slaves will decide not to be slaves anymore. For years, this plotline was nothing more than science fiction. Now, some of both science and industry’s greatest minds are saying that fiction could become reality.
As STEM programs are increasing, and the interest in robotics is exploding, even among grade schoolers, should consumers, investors and researchers be concerned with these dire pronouncements? And, if so …how? What say you?
July 20, 2015
Recently Forbes listed the highest paid athletes in the world. CNN took a look at the list and dubbed golfer Tiger Woods the “Most Overpaid Athlete on the Planet.” Tough title to bear … especially if it’s earned. But is performance in the game as important as name value, or is brand opportunity a more equitable measure of pay scale?
The CNN piece came on the heels of a particularly disappointing round of play on Thursday at the British Open. Tiger’s day was an unmitigated disaster that put him in danger of missing the cut in the contest altogether. While some are saying everyone has bad days, others are calling Nike fools for continuing to contribute to Woods’ approximately $50 million annual income.
The doomsayers may not be wrong. Woods only won $600,000 last season, a pittance compared to his days at the top of golf. Then he went and missed the cut at the US Open. As his performance stalls, many other golfers have stepped up to steal the spotlight.
Still, those doomsayers may also be wrong. Star power and brand value are calculated based on more than wins. The would-be News Kings of Golf have failed to capture the imagination of the fan base the way Tiger did at his prime. Even the guys who constantly vied against Tiger at his best have failed to excite the crowds. And that, more than anything else, matters when it comes to branding. That’s why a long-retired Michael Jordan is still scoring endorsement deals. Why Shaq is still a draw, too. People aren’t looking for athletes, they are looking for heroes.
Tiger, despite his failures and lackluster performance on the links, still offers name recognition and star power. While this dynamic is more often seen in women’s sports, the guys are hardly immune. Just ask Tom Brady. Even in his off years, the New England QB remains in the spotlight. Meanwhile, other Super Bowl winning QBs with less photogenic faces languish in relative anonymity.
That brings us back to Tiger. Woods is not just a player, he is a symbol. He broke as many perceived racial barriers as he did expectations. He rocketed to the top of a sport where people his age, who looked like him, were not supposed to become superstars. That success will always be a part of the Tiger mythos.
In his wake, a new cohort of younger players have won big contests, but they have failed to win the crowd. Sure, they all have a relative handful of faithful fans … but players – and brands – need something more, an “it” factor of some kind to make it from big to huge. Tiger has that, in more ways than one. At least, he did … and his fans remember.