rubbing pelvic region with pumpkin

There’s a fine line between publicity that makes people notice you and publicity that makes people think you’re an idiot.

The kids at Peta like to cross that line on a regular basis.

From suggesting that Ben and Jerry’s replace cow’s milk with human breast milk in its ice cream to the campaign to rebrand fish as “sea kittens”, it seems that Peta has been wackier than usual lately.

But Super Bowl “big game” ads bring out the truly stupid in every organization. Apparently part of Peta’s Super Bowl “big game” media strategy each year is to get their spots rejected by the network. (but unlike GoDaddy, Peta actually wants to be rejected. It’s exposure with no ad dollars spent!) Last year, they got creepy with their arch-enemy, the Colonel. This year, NBC’s advertising standards department rejected Peta’s ad(maybe nsfw) because the ad basically was just several shots of women who appeared to be pleasuring themselves with fruits and vegetables.

And after Nipplegate, you just can’t have that sort of thing in the Super Bowl “big game” unless you count Bruce Springsteen’s crotch (hope you didn’t have the 3-d glasses on) or if you’re a Tucson Comcast subscriber.

Obviously, Peta is being outrageous just to get the attention. But after a few times of generating “false outrageousness” — you just become a laughingstock. And then people stop paying attention to you at all.

no such thing as bad press?

Marketing Tip — Always put your logo on the buoyant end of the plane.


btw– Supposedly this was the first pic of the event taken from an iPhone and immediately uploaded to Twitter using Twitpic. The MSM then interviewed the citizen journalist nearly a half hour after he broke the story.

Other reports say that Sean Connery was standing near the crash mumbling something about Charlemagne and armies of rocks and trees and the birds in the sky.

welcome to the jungle

It’s bad enough when you mess up your own publicity stunt and damage your own brand. It’s worse when you drag someone else into it.

While last week’s Dr Pepper fiasco hurt the beverage maker, Axl Rose is saying it also hurt Gn’R and is pursuing legal action.

A celebrity is a brand. Some of them have better brand management than many companies. (and some much worse) Yet, it seems to be the marketing idea du jour for companies to randomly pick a celebrity brand out of the phonebook and use it in their own marketing campaign without consultation or approval from the celeb. (See also – Taco Bell vs. rapper 50 Cent.) What it is — is lazy marketing. Instead of building traction with your own attributes, it’s easier to leech onto something else to create an artificial buzz.

Leaders of both Dr Pepper and Taco Bell (who is countersuing) have said in official statements in response to lawsuits from the celebs that they can’t understand why Axl and 50 can’t just take the events in the “fun” they were intended.

What if I started using Dr Pepper’s and Taco Bell’s brand assets to market my business? A chihuahua that appeared on stage with me at speaking engagements. A book entitled the “23 Flavors of Marketing”. I wonder if they think that would be “fun” or would their lawyers attack me with a cease and desist?

doesnt work at 10 2 or 4

So on the surface, it looks like a publicity win-win-win-etc when the Dr. Pepper folks good naturedly agree to pay up on an outrageous bet that they made with the public. That is until the public tries to collect and their website is inaccessible because of the slam in traffic (which they should have anticipated).

CONSPIRACY THEORY ALERT: Or maybe they purposely held back on shoring up the website so they wouldn’t have to payout all of their “23 flavas”

In either case, it turns a great publicity opportunity and chance to build the brand into an example of an online branding disaster. Forget the MotrinMoms. It”s time for the Dr. Pepper Pain.

UPDATE: (thanks to Doug – see comments) They’re trying to limit brand damage. Dr. Pepper has extended the offer until 6pm Monday

the opti grab of search

I have not commented on the un-coolness of the Cuil rollout because everyone else already has. But as more time passes and the fiasco grows bigger, I might as well throw my two cents in as well.

My first beef is the name. It’s hard enough to communicate simple web addresses. You don’t need the handicap of freaky pronunciations and spellings. And as a colleague pointed out to me, you’d better not have a typo when typing it in or you find yourself in a NSFW environment. Of course, if you can’t type it in directly, you could google it.

When I first saw the press on it, I went to the page to try it out and it was AWOL. As the recent Firefox blowup showed, it’s best not to have a timed event online when everyone shows up at once. This is old media thinking. If you’re having a grand opening for your store on Main Street, you hire the clown, the radio remote broadcast, and the chamber ribbon cutting for 2pm. In an online opening, it doesn’t matter if a guy in his underwear shows up at 3 in the morning.

And finally, the biggest problem is that most of the time Cuil doesn’t work and when it does it’s not as good as Google. Simple queries that should bring back alot have zero results. The queries that do have results are hard to sort through. The columned format stinks.

I’m no super smart former Google employee, but it might have been good to test all this out before a big rollout. As the inventor of the Opti Grab will tell you, it’s best to test products before you take them to market. (even on prisoners)

double half caff

Earlier this week, Advertising Age quoted me in an article on some comments I made about Starbucks shutting down over 7,000 locations one night in late February for a barista boot camp.
It’s now old news, but let me clarify and expand upon my original comment — and provide some updates.

First off, it’s obvious that the shutdown was not “training”. It was nothing but a PR/media stunt. It garnered LOTS of free coverage from the press who seemed not to realize they were being used.

I had said in my original comments that I would be interested when baristas started spilling the beans (ha!) about what went on during the 3 hour period. Just as I predicted, customer service was discussed during the training as well as how to make a machine produce three dollar foam. But some baristas are ticked off about the training and point to poor working conditions and wages as a reason for sub-par customer service and not-so-perfect drinks.

But here’s your big problem, SBUX. Customers aren’t finding any big difference. And that is a huge problem. After pulling a stunt that showcases how you’re going to improve, people expect…improvement. When it doesn’t show up, you’ve ultimately hurt the brand.

Mr Splashy Pants

Greenpeace has been running a poll to name some whales that are traveling in the Pacific.

29 of the 30 nominations are for either mythical, Zen-ish, or new-age-type names like Kaimana, Shanti, and Aurora.

And then scanning down the list, you see “Mr. Splashy Pants“.

And he’s winning the vote. Overwhelmingly.

While there was some noted vote tampering (votes that are not going to be counted), the reason that Mr. Splashy Pants is winning is because he went viral on the net through blogs and other forms of social media.

Greenpeace saw the opportunity and grabbed it. They’ve extended the voting to capitalize on the buzz. They quickly mobilized to develop Mr. Splashy Pants merchandise. They’re embracing it on their blog.

The entire affair is getting lots of press and it will probably pop up in the MSM in next few days. It’s an immeasureable PR coup for the cause.

But when you read through the comments on their blog and posts on other blogs, you’ll find some Greenpeace supporters who are not happy at all about the name.

One of the main reasons that so many non-profits (and for-profit businesses) languish is that they spend most of their time talking to the people who are already familiar with the cause and are already ardent supporters. While it’s important to cultivate your core, you have to find new people in order to grow. For some of the inside core, this feels like outsiders are hijacking the organization.

Some people are so comfortable and locked up in the “normalcy” of the cause or the business that they can’t see the massive opportunities right below the surface.

This seems obvious — but the best way to get attention is to stand out from the crowd.

shirtless drill

I have never stepped inside an Abercrombie and Fitch store. Sadly, I’m too old to pull it off.

They’ve built a brand around a certain look. Their marketing reflects the shirtless chiseled male — a.k.a. the “Abercrombie look” (which sadly, I also cannot pull off)

Last Saturday, an improv group of 111 men of all shapes and sizes shopped shirtless in the Abercrombie and Fitch store on 5th Avenue in New York. The customers and even the employees apparently thought it was great. The management of the store did not. You can read more about the event here.

Now this was a stunt, but it reflected the brand that A+F tries to cultivate. It was a fun thing that the other customers in the store were enjoying. There was a great opportunity for positive PR had the management worked with it. But they squished it. The most disturbing part of the story in the link above is how the security pulled one of the participants away from the cash registers as he was handing over his credit card to purchase an overpriced shirt.

Here’s the question you need to ask yourself: If a large group of people came into your business today and tried to participate in your brand, how would your management react?

In addition to conducting fire drills and severe weather drills, your business should be conducting “branding drills” and “PR drills”.

Here’s video of the event: