the grass is greener on the internet

There’s relations in public relations
April 15, 2010, 4:08 pm
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I don’t usually play the ‘naming and shaming’ game.

However this time I think the firm involved should know better, and if not they NEED to know better.

A Powell Tate consultant recently wrote a comment on the ‘about’ page of a friend’s corporate social responsibility blog, providing unsolicited information about a large F&B company’s new CSR initiatives on behalf of that company.

I use the word ‘wrote’ loosely, because it was clearly a form email.

Why do I have a problem with this? Let me count the ways:

  1. It was completely unsolicited and irrelevant to that page.
  2. We know you’re going to use a form email, but it’s nice to be able to believe that you paid enough attention to who you were sending it to to try and make it interesting/relevant.
  3. It’s bad form to use an email + attachment as a blog comment, particularly when the page has a contact email.
  4. Ditto for blog comments longer than 2 screen’s worth.
  5. Ditto for comments where one third is a wordy legal disclaimer.

Contrast this with the consultant from Howorth in Australia who contacted me a week or two ago about the Microsoft Student House competition promoting Windows 7 to students.

Okay, his job is made slightly easier by the fact that I’m involved with a student organisation also promoting it, and it made a MUCH better impression on me than some of Microsoft’s other attempts to utilise social media.

But what was also nice:

  1. Being addressed by name.
  2. A demonstration that he actually knew what my blog was about.
  3. Not having to trawl through an entire essay.
  4. Comment love.
  5. A prompt response when I replied with a question.

See, it’s not so hard, is it? We know you’re busy. We’re busy. We know you’re probably sending the same thing to other bloggers. We also have problems coming up with new things to write all the time. We don’t expect you to write us a long personal love letter. But just taking a couple of extra minutes to be nice makes a difference.

So, because someone reassured me that there’s still relations in public relations, here’s the feel-good entry that won the competition to share the love. The girls get free rent and use of a slew of electronics for 7 months, which I hope they share too.

[And just because I like segways, I heard about this UK survey recently which says that amongst businesspeople the brand with the best reputation is Microsoft, beating other likely suspects like Google and Apple.

Microsoft, I’m glad you’re back.]


Search engine response 3#
April 2, 2010, 10:55 am
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Someone either has a really easy course, or their heart’s really not into their job applications, because one of my latest keywords was “why i want to work for louis vuitton essay”.

Seriously, who needs to Google to write an essay like that? (Unless you’re a recruiter trawling for young hopefuls, in which case pardonnez-moi.)

Okay, apart from the fact that LVMH is one of the biggest luxury conglomerates attracting hundreds of fashion-obsessed applicants a year, how about this, marketing grads:

  • opportunities for internal transfer to get experience in dealing with the unique challenges of high end liquor, fashion and accessories;
  • for the brand Louis Vuitton, getting an internal perspective of mass premium strategies – it seems like everybody has Louis (or fake Louis) but they’re still grabbing for more;
  • real responsibility and challenges – LVMH centralises its marketing function, so you’re not going to be submitting things for head office’s approval, you ARE in head office;
  • centralisation also means good training and getting to deal with a variety of markets;
  • once you’ve worked with LVMH you have a much better chance of a career in luxury;
  • did I mention the internal sales where 10% is the price tag, not the discount?

I mean, that’s just off the top of my head. (No, I am not and have never been paid by LVMH, for anything. Mostly the other way around. But if they want to recompense/hire me they are welcome.)

For anyone who wants a career in the mysterious luxury category, I hear LVMH is a very good starting point (if you can get in). But if you don’t really know why you want to work for them it’s a bit of a pointless exercise, no?

Pimp my product placement
March 20, 2010, 1:05 pm
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If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone rave about Lady Gaga’s new music video this week…

Well, Lady Gaga is no stranger to product placement, and it certainly makes sense to have a phone featured in a song called ‘Telephone’, but the close-up around 2:06 really gives a whole new meaning to ‘product placement’. I wonder how much Virgin Mobile paid for THAT location.

Gratuitous is just about the only word for it…

A direct mail I wouldn’t vote for
March 19, 2010, 9:07 am
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As you may know, South Australia is in the grips of an election. The choices are the super-slick media-savvy Premier of 8 years (aka Mike Rann) and new kid on the block Isabelle Redmond.

Both are struggling with trust issues; one an alleged sex scandal and the other hardly in the public consciousness until last year.

Enough background; in a nutshell, it will be a close contest.

It’s in this situation that I opened my mailbox a couple of days to find several plain envelopes, one for everyone in the family. And who is it from but…Mike Rann!

What have I done to deserve such an honour? Been ethnic, apparently…

Mike askes that I endorse his friend for the Legislative Council, a Vietnamese immigrant who ‘does know what it is like to hop into a rickety boat […] master a new language and relearn all those things you need to survive in the modern world’. (There is a handwritten postscript saying Mike’s friend is both hardworking and courageous in case you weren’t sure.) Mike is delighted that his friend wants to run for Parliament, to be a key member of the team and represent all people from non-English backgrounds…

…serving a secondary purpose of trying to convince a migrant population that all you have to do is tick the ‘ALP’ box at the top of the voting form.

I don’t know whether to be impressed or sick.

I assume that this DM was sent out to everyone with particular surnames. You need to suck up to everyone in politics, but it seems to me that there are a lot of migrants who will be less educated about Australian politics and more open to manipulation. (His wordy 1 page letter would be challenging for those of us with poorer language skills, but luckily there is a Chinese version on the back.) For Asians relationships are important – we like friends in important places.  It may well gain him some of the votes.

The final straw for me is the encouragement to use this one guy as a reason to vote the entire party in. I’m half of the mind that even if I wanted to vote for him, I would feel too manipulated to be able to do it.

Am I the only person who thinks that if you need this much spin to distract from your policies it’s not a good sign?

But let us be fair, it happens on both sides. I for one am still suffering mental recoil from the rather arresting interview headline “Redmond bares all”.

Less PR, more policies, please!

March 16, 2010, 9:11 pm
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Either the lawyers at Apple are:

a) bored;

b) now getting commission per lawsuit; or

c) losing sight of the big commercial picture.

As you have probably heard, they have attempted legal action to restrain the use of both the Woolworths logo (disputably fruit-like) and a product called DOPi (iPod backwards).

(They have also sued Samsung over the use of certain technologies without permission, which is fair – although I note that Nokia’s suit against Apple for similar reasons didn’t seem to get as much press.)

Opposing someone elses use of a trademark requires an analysis of whether it is ‘deceptively similar’, taking into account the types of products as well as the people who would be exposed to both marks.

I would not be the first blogger to point out that to your average consumer this just looks like rubbish. And thus far, the Australian Trade Marks Office has agreed…

Woolworths v Apple

If you cannot tell that these are two completely different brands, get your eyes checked. The gradient work is completely different.

So remember kids, 'i' comes before 'p', except after a lawsuit

Beware, therefore, if you ever want to launch this:

The news of this lawsuit is building and may only serve to draw attention to ‘Wholesale Central’, the otherwise forgettably-named owner of the DOPi logo. Potentially disastrous if they were intending on bringing out similar products! (Unless this is the intent as it goes back to promoting the use of their own products in a twisted kind of way…)

Just because you might be able to launch a lawsuit…doesn’t mean you should. Microsoft comparisons have already been made.

This just makes Apple look like a dictator – we can excuse them for making their products exclusively work with each other, but petty lawsuits can become nasty PR very easily. It’s just as simple as me clicking ‘publish’…

Be valuable or lose
March 11, 2010, 11:20 pm
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It’s just that simple.

Ideally you should be the most valuable, but this is insanely difficult.

Ideally everyone would like you even if you weren’t valuable but this is not an ideal world.

Be valuable. Or lose.

Unremarkable is best
March 3, 2010, 6:25 pm
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…starting to think that perhaps the very best brands are not those that we love and talk about, but those we choose without even thinking about it.

They sneak into our lives and language subtly but assertively. Gillette and razors. iPod mp3 players. 3M Post-its and multi-coloured stationery of perfectly balanced stickiness.

If buyers are making a conscious decision and weighing it up, you have a tough fight for their affections.

When the product category becomes epynonymous with your product, you’ve won.