February 1, 2016
The Super Bowl is once again upon us, and the matchup – Peyton Manning versus Cam Newton – has many industry commentators asking which quarterback is better.
On paper, that question is laughable. Peyton Manning is one of the best of all time. A five-time NFL MVP, Super Bowl champ, and advertising powerhouse. Acknowledged as one of the best-prepared players to ever take the field, even Newton calls him “The General.”
Manning has inspired and informed a generation of QBs. He has been a model of how to play the game. And that’s where the rub is. Manning “has” and “has been.” While clearly he’s not a “has been” quite yet, Peyton is clearly in the twilight of his career. Pretty much everyone is taking for granted this will be his last Super Bowl appearance.
When it comes to marketing, Peyton still holds sway. He can be in commercials without ever mentioning his name. He can get you humming his brand’s theme song just by making a few self-mocking sketches in a 30-second spot. Crawfish shorts? Really?? That’s Peyton Manning, advertising juggernaut. While players before him have taken a Superman approach to marketing, by hyping themselves as much as their products, Manning seems content to laugh (at himself) all the way to the bank.
Newton is hot on his heels. As I’m writing this, the NFL MVP for this season has yet to be announced, but most prognosticators expect Newton to be a lock. They also expect him to massacre the Broncos in next weekend’s Super Bowl 50. And, of course, Manning is likely considering retirement. Sure, retired QBs like Brett Favre and Joe Montana still cash checks from advertising, but the NFL is a young man’s game. The fattest checks always go to the established, but still up and coming superstar. Cam Newton is that guy.
Newton is made for Madison Avenue. He’s literally bigger than life, and he absolutely loves the spotlight. Plus, he’s figured out the same thing Peyton has, but in a slightly different way. It’s all a game. Football is big business, but that business is fun, so if you bring the energy, people will love you. On the field, Manning is stoic and controlled, but still deadly. Newton is a wrecking ball. He literally and figuratively steamrolls opponents. Then he celebrates in front of their fans. Imagine what advertisers could do with that sort of attitude. Sports marketing hasn’t had someone that much fun since Bo Jackson.
January 25, 2016
Sometimes fantasy comes crashing into reality, leaving both looking the worse for wear. Other times, when tested, the on-screen hero comes through in a big way. That’s the story coming out of Hollywood after actor Jamie Foxx found himself in a life or death situation.
Foxx heard a crash on the street outside his home. He ran outside to see a truck on it’s side, engulfed in flames. He could have called 911, he could have run, he could have done all manner of things nobody would have blamed him for. Instead, Foxx climbed inside the burning vehicle and rescued the man trapped there.
Brett Kyle, 32, was driving too fast, reportedly drunk when he crashed his Tacoma in a drainage ditch near Foxx’s home. That’s when the Hollywood star stepped in.
Speaking to reporters at CNN, Foxx said, “I said, ‘you’ve got to help me get you out because I don’t want to leave you.’ I said, ‘ You’ve got angels around you…’”
Foxx helped an off-duty EMT cut Kyle out of his seatbelt and drag him away from the burning truck.
“I don’t look at it as heroic. I just look at it as … you just had to do something,” Foxx said, “It all worked out.”
By the time fire crews arrived on the scene, the entire truck was aflame. While Foxx may be downplaying his role in the rescue, others are not.
CNN reported Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Mike Lindbery saying, “When fire crews arrived on scene just one minute later, they reported the vehicle as fully involved in fire … It was a pretty courageous thing to do. It’s rare these days that you find someone willing to jump in to help.”
At that moment, Foxx made a “rare” decision that, in the eyes of the consumer public, revealed the action hero to be much more than an on-screen imitation of the guy in the white hat.
January 19, 2016
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has never been shy about expressing his socio-political perspectives on social media. Recently, the FB CEO chose to sound off while taking his new daughter in for her first round of vaccinations.
While the post may have been meant to simply be the sort of Day In the Life picture just about everyone uploads to Facebook, the photo and caption: “Doctor’s visit – time for vaccines!” ignited a firestorm.
To date, nearly 100,000 comments piled up on the picture, most from anti-vaccine apologists hoping to show others (and science) the error of their ways.
One particularly harsh anti-vax crusader put it this way: “Injecting newborns and infants with disease and neurotoxins is disgusting… Shame on you…”
Of course, while it’s clear this poster neither understands vaccines nor the science supporting them, there’s no use trying to tell her that. Though many did try. Ad nauseum.
One man posted in support of Zuckerberg, thanking him for supporting vaccine science. “As someone with autism, as someone who is constantly watching good people put their own children at serious risk because of old, fraudulent fears of vaccines … thank you for being sensible.”
As for Zuckerberg, people who follow his page already knew his stance. “Vaccination is an important and timely topic. The science is completely clear: vaccinations work and are important for the health of everyone in our community,” Zuckerberg has previously written.
So, the world is clear on where he stands and free to agree or disagree with that stance. But what if you haven’t waded into that debate? How can you be sure your innocently intended social media post will not ignite a PR nightmare?
The answer is indicative of the new reality we all face in today’s digital age. Much of our lives are played out online, for better or worse. A quick missive meant for a select group of friends can be shared with others, drawing many more voices into the net. Suddenly, a simple comment meant for a specific audience becomes a billboard for anyone with a bone to pick.
The solution? Be cautious of what you post online. Always. Understand that, on the net, privacy is nonexistent. Don’t let your next interaction with the internet turn into an unexpected PR crisis.
January 14, 2016
Rapid response is one of the true boons for entrepreneurs and the businesses they represent. The ability to respond quickly on social media with a response to questions, comments, or news worthy developments is one of the greatest gifts that the age of instant communication has brought us.
Used judiciously, this ability can be an excellent public relations tool that places an individual or company directly at the center of breaking news and events. However, this is one media technique that must be used with restraint, caution, and a well developed sense of timing if it is to be fully effective.
Does Every Single Question Or Event Require A Response?
Perhaps the first question that will occur to the reader of this post is, “Does every single question or comment from a viewer require a response?” This might be quickly followed by another question, namely, “Does every single breaking event require a response?”
The answer to both questions is an unequivocal no. You don’t need to be on top of every single question that pops up on your Twitter feed, nor do you have to register an automatic response to every late breaking news event, particularly if the event in question has absolutely no relevance to your company or your brand.
Never Try To Turn A Tragedy Into A Marketing Opportunity
For example, if a tragedy occurs that gains immediate media coverage, do not try to turn your recognition of this event into a marketing opportunity. You are not required to post anything in response to a school shooting or disastrous fire or flood. If you feel the need to register a response, keep it brief, general, and purely personal, with no mention of the products or services you may have on sale at your physical location for that week.
What Are Your Qualifications To Make An Official Response?
Another important question to consider when debating whether to make an official response on your company’s official social media account is whether or not you are truly qualified to make any statement at all. For example, if a client posts questions concerning your company’s official cloud computing account, and you yourself don’t know anything about the process of cloud computing, it’s an excellent idea to let another, more experienced and knowledgeable, individual post a response.
Failing that, you might simply refer the client to your company’s FAQ page concerning cloud computing. In the end, it’s far better to post no response at all than to post a misleading or ill informed answer that proves you have no idea what you are talking about.
Never Post A Response In A Hurry Or Under Duress
The absolute worst time to post a response to a question or comment is when you feel you are being pressured by that client, or by other circumstances, to give a quick answer. In such cases, your response is guaranteed to be rushed, piecemeal, and probably very badly worded. In addition, the tone of your post could come off as abrupt or rude, thus creating a very bad impression of your company and its media skills.
It’s always better to carefully plan each response you make to a client, as well as each fresh new post that you make on your various social media accounts. What you lose in sheer spontaneity you will more than make up for in coherency and accuracy of expression. Remember always that every post you make to social media represents your company and its brand, whether in a positive or negative light.
It’s therefore to your advantage to always weigh your words carefully when speaking before an audience of millions.
January 4, 2016
No more two-year contracts with AT&T. The story broke through tech industry site Engadget.com, which reported they obtained internal memos claiming AT&T will kick off 2016 by eliminating two-year contracts, effective January 8.
That means AT&T will officially join other competitors by forcing new customers – or current customers who want a new phone – to pay full freight upfront or pay for the phone in monthly installments.
The move, pioneered by Verizon, effectively puts a stop to a major upside to switching to another carrier. Both T-Mobile and Sprint have offered to “pay you to switch” from the higher ranked carriers to offset any dreaded early termination fees.
Those fees kept many On The Bubble consumers from trading into cheaper plans on other networks because they could run into hundreds of dollars. But when the lower tier of the Top Four began offering to pay customers to switch that stick disappeared from Verizon and AT&T’s arsenal.
The Top Tier in wireless communication then fought back with pay as you go plans. Instead of giving deep discounts on handsets for customers who signed up for two-year contracts, the companies offered to break up the cost of the phone into monthly installments, making it MUCH more expensive to switch. Even if a customer gets a free phone at the new company, they will still be stuck paying for one they can’t even use … unless they jailbreak it.
Of course, none of this will be in AT&T’s PR for this switch. If Verizon’s PR is any indication of their message, expect AT&T to position their decision as an opportunity for customers to Get Out Of Contracts or be free from long-term commitments. Pay no attention to that big price tag behind the curtain.
However, they plan to work it, understand the days of customers getting what are essentially handheld computers for next to nothing are pretty much over. If you want to play, you will have to pay.
December 29, 2015
Recently, the war for wireless supremacy took a strange turn. While the bottom tier of the Big Four are desperately trying to win customers by all but giving them cash, and, in some cases, actually giving them cash, at least one major player is actually charging more for its most popular plan.
AT&T has been trying to get customers to abandon their unlimited data plans, but some have resisted. The carrier has decided that’s fine if you are willing to pay more. Last week the wireless provider said it would be raising its unlimited data plan rates from $30 to $35. Not much of a bump, but a curious move in a marketplace where they are not the top in quality and not the choice of price-conscious consumers either.
There are twin risks here, two sides of a dangerous coin. On one side are the quality conscious consumers who picked AT&T over Verizon for reasons of customer service or just on general principle. But if their current carrier starts treating them with the same assumptive disdain Verizon is infamous for, how many will stick around for the abuse when they can get the same treatment with a better signal?
On the other side of the coin are the mid-tier price-conscious folks. Those who have enough money not to go with a lesser carrier, but for whom money’s tight enough for them to think about it. Now, they may just decide the difference in quality just isn’t that much. T-Mobile or Sprint here we come!
Then again, maybe AT&T isn’t so crazy. Sure they raised their rates five bucks, but, earlier this year, Verizon raised there’s by $20. Sprint and T-Mobile also raised their unlimited data plan rates.
The culprit? All four carriers are blaming the rising costs of delivering that data to consumers. People are simply streaming too much for the carriers to keep up … at least, that’s their story, and they’re sticking to it.
Instead, carriers are offering tiered plans, which look and work like the U.S. tax code. Buy a certain plan, use up to that amount at certain speeds, use more and the speed slows down. Most folks won’t recognize it, but some will.
While it may sound like a PR time bomb, it’s really just a stopgap measure. In the not too distant future, WiFi will be nearly prevalent enough to not need data services at all. Even before then, American consumers will learn what sort of plans are available across the ocean…and American carriers may have to abandon their tiered shell game altogether.
December 24, 2015
There’s no doubt about it, cyber bullying is a real problem. More and more often we read stories of some poor kid who took drastic action to stop his or her peers from attacking him or her online. Kids have always been mean, but, in these days of pervasive 24-7 media, there really is no escape from the barrage of hurtful and threatening messages.
So, yes, it’s a problem. But cyber bullying insurance? Really? Could there really be such a thing? Well, now there is. Global insurance giant Chubb recently announced a new line of “cyberbullying insurance” for well-off customers in Britain and Ireland.
According to a company release, Chubb will shell out up to $74,600 to help customers and their families recover from “online trolls.” That “recovery” could include hiring PR pros to help clients repair their reputations online, and hiring cyber-security contractors to build a strong legal case against perpetrators if necessary. Of course, if a client has to miss school or work because of the bullying, the plan benefits will recompense those losses as well. There’s even an optional temporary relocation rider if a client has to move due to excessive trolling.
There’s one catch: customers can’t buy this insurance as a one-off. It only comes as an add-on to the most high-end property insurance products offered by the company, plans costing upwards of $3,730 per year.
The kicker here, of course, is the same as it is with any insurance product. The insured has to prove a loss. That’s easy with a car, for example. Car’s busted, here’s what it costs to fix it. Same with a covered hazard relating to a home loss. But bullying? How bad, exactly, does it have to get before mom and dad can skip work to stay home with junior and bill the company?
According to company spokesmen, a client can seek redress or compensation after three specific acts of cyber bullying result in financial losses. No word yet on what, exactly, constitutes justifiable loss.
December 24, 2015
Walmart is known for many things, but, when it comes down to it, innovation really isn’t one of them. Sure, you can find just about anything you want at any given store, some at any time you want it … but when’s the last time Walmart did anything really, truly … NEW?
Well, they were one of the first national store brands to be open on Thanksgiving. And, if that counts as innovative, then grab a seat, because they’ve done it again. Walmart recently announced plans to stay open until 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve … because nothing says I love you like rushing into the mouth of a retail gauntlet mere hours before Santa lands in your living room.
Of course, this decision has less to do with satisfying customers and much more to do with holding the line against Amazon. Now that the online retail giant offers same-day delivery in some places, Walmart and other brick and mortar stores have to pull out all the stops to keep up with the pace set by Bezos’ behemoth.
In Walmart’s case, this includes changing up delivery dates on online orders to allow as late as possible and still get there well in advance of Christmas morning. For example, regular shipping will make it on anything ordered by December 20, while rush shipping gives customers up to December 22 to get their orders in. That beats UPS (December 18) and FedEx (December 16) by several days.
In this golden age of consumer choice, retailers must do anything to abide by the expectations set by online retailers. Expectations – like same or next day delivery – that may have been laughable not that long ago. Things are different now, and they got that way in a hurry.
Retailers who can’t keep pace can expect to find themselves on the receiving end of some very nasty consumer PR, followed by sharply declining sales numbers.
December 24, 2015
Olive Garden might be the butt of innumerable foodie jokes, but the company isn’t listening. The home of breadsticks and endless bowls of salad has been shouldering most of the load for parent company Darden Restaurants as of late.
Overall Darden earnings easily eclipsed expectations, and, believe it or not, Olive Garden can take most of the credit. And, for the second quarter in a row, Darden raised its fiscal outlook… right, and it announced a new stock buyback plan while also boosting its dividend. Talk about making everyone happy!
Consequently, Darden stock is up nearly 20 percent in 2015. Of course, none of this was really expected.
Back in September 2014, industry watchdogs came down on the flagging eatery with both boots. In a blistering nearly-300-page document, Olive Garden was slammed for doing just about everything wrong. No salt in the pasta water, too much gravy on the food and, the worst sin of all, filling the menu with items that were not, precisely speaking, in any way Italian. In addition, too much of the (not so good) food was being wasted, leading to more lost profits.
Starboard, the force behind the horrific dressing down of, among other things, Olive Garden’s dressing-drenched salad, took over and cleaned house. CEO Clarence Otis vacated his position. COO Gene Lee was promoted and Starboard CEO Jeff Smith took over as company chairman.
That’s when the real changes began. Under Starboard’s leadership, Olive Garden began making changes to address the problems listed in the report. Profits jumped 12 percent, and continue to climb. Slight price increases thinned out the clientele, but that didn’t stop the profits.
Now, aiming for more of the right type of diner, Olive Garden hopes to continue its growth trend. Consumer confidence might not have rebounded quite yet, but, there’s every indication that, should this trend continue, as things get better at Olive Garden, consumer confidence will soon follow.
December 17, 2015
If ever a man fits the description of driven to succeed, Elie Hirschfield does. His father, Abe Hirschfeld was a major real estate developer, but Elie has taken it to the next level – his real estate holdings include over 1,000 apartments in New York City, approximately one million square feet of commercial property in the City, and added to that, other real properties including what was once the summer home of the Clinton’s – with an estimated value of over $32 million for just that property. He’s the President of Hirschfeld Properties.
The list of historic and luxury properties he developed reads like a who’s who for New York City real estate including Park Avenue Court, the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Hotel Pennsylvania, the first open air garage, and the Grand Sutton. Conservative estimates are that his personal fortune is worth approximately $500 million.
But real property is only one place Elie focuses his energy. He enjoys a good show on Broadway – usually about 25 of them each year. He’s also produced and co-produced several Broadway plays and is a voting member for the Tony Awards on the Broadway League. In addition to those arts, he’s also an avid art collector holding several modern art pieces from artists including Andy Warhol and Francoise Gilot, he also has art from others such as Norman Rockwell.
He established the Hirschfeld Foundation as a charity supporting athletics, healthcare, education, and more. Education is obviously important to him, having studied at and graduated from the London School of Economics, Brown University, and New York University Law School. He serves as trustee emeritus for both Long Island University and Brown University. Elie also sits on the board for Weizmann Institute of Science (US Board director), and various other organizations including the Jewish National Fund.
Elie Hirschfeld directed Hirschfeld Properties, LLC into partnerships with other distinguished real estate development firms such as the Zeckendorf Organization, the Donald Trump Organization, The Silverstein Organization, Empire Realty Group, Belz Enterprises of Memphis and the shopping mall development group, The Mel Simon Organization.
Oh, and did we mention, he’s also a triathlete – even though he’s in his 60’s he’s completed over 100 endurance events including marathons, triathlons, and ironman races. He even took first in his age group at least once.
He continues to work in the City of his birth and enjoys a few properties owned personally where he lives with his current wife, Sarah J. Schlesinger MD. Along with being a doctor, she’s also an associate professor at Rockefeller University working in clinical investigation.
Elie Hirschfeld is a great entrepreneur.