watered down

I realize I just picked on Tropicana not too long ago, but their latest product has me back on the warpath.trop50They’ve introduced a product called Trop 50 which is supposedly a lower sugar juice.

If you’ll glance at the ingredient list on the back of ANY juice that says it has low sugar, you’ll find that the percentage of juice is less than 50%. In other words, they’ve watered it down. Trop 50 is a bit different as they’ve added a stevia type sweetener to mask the fact that it’s just watered down, but it’s still only 42% juice. Charging people the same amount (or more!) for half the product is a bold move in rough economic times.

btw — what happened to changing back to the old logos and packaging after the consumer backlash? They’ve changed the standard juice back, but the new product lines keep the new look? Inconsistent imaging is the first mistake on the path of brand destruction.

someone tried to proposition me in a hotel lobby

Last week, I was in Chicago speaking to a group. The hotel had an afternoon social time that I stopped at one afternoon to grab a snack. While I was sitting there, a young guy came in and started talking to me. He said he was from the area and had an appointment with someone staying at the hotel.

He was unusually chatty and a little cheesy in our conversation. But he was a young guy and I figured he was awkwardly trying to “network”. He said he had his own business and wanted to know what I did. I explained I was there to speak to the group. He said he might have a need for sales/business speaker in his new business. I gave him a card, said goodbye, and went to my room to crash.

A few days later, I get a call from the guy. He wants to know if I’m keeping my options open for “business opportunities”. And he goes into a pitch about his “system”.

It then dawns on me that the dude cruises business hotel lobbies to pick up leads. He has now taken the title of “most pathetic schemer” from the guy who tried to do the same thing to me in an aisle at Staples a few years ago.

I broke into his pitch and tried to politely tell him I wasn’t interested. He responded testily – “Does that mean you don’t want to keep your options open?”

I told him my options are pretty much closed. And I hung up.

But I wish I had stayed on the phone a bit longer and told him some simple truths:

  • The reason that my “options” are closed is that I’ve already been through that stage of life without getting sucked in. I’m now (much?) older and wiser. When I was in college and immediately afterwards, I wasted several hours going to “job interviews” that turned out to be MLM schemes like Primerica or worse.
    (Advice to the marketing kids — never respond to a job listing that refers to “sports marketing” or sports-minded marketing”)
  • If you’re hanging out in office supply stores or hotel lobbies trying to bottomfeed, you really need to reexamine your sales strategy. (and reexamine your life)
  • If you have to trick people into a meeting, you’re probably selling crap.

I’ve said it before. Sure, stuff like this works in the short term. But for long term success (in sales, marketing, or whatever), you HAVE to have honest conversations and relationships with your targets.

junk in the trunk

I have a love-hate relationship with Penelope Trunk.

On one hand, she does sometimes have a far-sighted vision for where the concept of “work” is going and how to deal with the realities of the new workplace. Sometimes, she gives good advice.

On the other hand, some of her advice is not only bad — it’s borderline crazy. You should really not take a vacation day without telling your boss, show up late for work, use company time/resources to start your own business, lay down on the floor of your workplace’s bathroom, or accept sexual harassment. (all things she has actually suggested as career advice) If the ethics of the “new American workplace” degrade to this level, we’d better get ready to polish our chopsticks as China eats our lunch.

I’ve never met Penelope Trunk face to face, so I have no idea what’s she’s really like. (although I only missed her once at a meeting in Nashville by a few hours) But her online personality seems abrasive, condescending, and she’s way too transparent with her personal life.

Last week, she (the career sage) got fired from her job as a career columnist for Yahoo! Finance which is a bit surreal.

She cites the reason that she was canned was that financial content gets a higher CPM than career content and her high traffic (that she cites from *ahem* Wikipedia) was bringing down the CPM of the whole finance package. Aside from the use of Wikipedia as a source for traffic figures, that makes no sense.

I don’t know if she was one of the top traffic draws for Yahoo!. She was a polarizing personality that drew lots of positive/negative commenters. Even now, she’s still getting lots of both mean/rude and positive/supporting comments on both her blog and final Yahoo! Finance post. But even if she was a huge draw, Yahoo! was right to get rid of her. If you’re driving traffic, ratings, etc that stem from shock value, you’re hurting your long term brand. Look at the brand equity of “The View” before/after Rosie.

I think the real reason that she was fired was because of a new problem that we are going to have to deal with as a result of the new world of web publishing — the self-made expert.

While I’m always preaching that ANYONE now has the power of worldwide publishing, there’s the problem that ANYONE now has the power of worldwide publishing. That means the fringe voices that were previously kept at a whisper because of their vulgar, obscene, hate-filled, or nonsense ideas now have a platform. There’s no/low barrier to entry. And while the web is a great equalizer, if you get picked up by a platform like Yahoo!, it enables you to shout a little louder than others.

Anyone can market themselves as an expert on the web. It’s like the old cartoon — on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog. How many experts have the credentials or the ideas to back it up? It’s a world of buyer beware. When you find an “expert” on the web, you’d better make sure you’ve gotten the real thing.

So while the vitriol behind some of the comments toward Trunk are pure hatred, I think some of it is akin to the townspeople riding the snake-oil salesman out on rail after his sham has been exposed.

congressional scam

A scam from Congress — imagine that!

I got a message this morning from a staffer of Congressman Tom Cole. It seemed that he wanted to present me with an award called the Congressional Order of Merit for my work with small businesses.

Frankly, I’ve gotten to the point where weird phone calls and emails don’t surprise me anymore. There’s always an interesting proposition in them. But this one seemed a little more odd than the others. I knew that Tom Cole was not in my state’s congressional delegation.

Something smelled bad. So I googled Tom Cole and from the first page of results it was apparent that he was a real congressman. But why would a congressman from Oklahoma want to present something to someone from Kentucky? So out of extreme curiosity, I returned the call.

Something automated picked up before I got the person, so I immediately went on guard. That’s when it hit me to google the phone number 888-383-4164.

As the “staffer” was talking to me, the google search found numerous blog posts about this scam that’s actually being run BY the Republican National Committee. For a “donation” of a few hundred dollars, you get this “award”. After the recorded message from the congressman was over, I told her to remove me from her list.

An issue that’s rotten with the Do-Not-Call list is the fact that things like this are legal. The politicians exempted themselves from the law. And it’s not just the Republicans. The Democrats are doing similar things as well.

The other rotten aspect here is the gathering of data from domain registrations. These scammers didn’t think I was with Shotgun Concepts. They thought I was with a company that I did a website for this summer. I registered their domain name on my domain account. I’m also getting business credit card junk mail addressed to my client. It’s the only place where my name and their name are conneceted. Shame on all registrars including mine, GoDaddy, for allowing this to happen and trying to make a buck by charging for protection against it.

I’m forwarding this blog post to my actual Kentucky congressional delegation and I urge you to contact yours as well.
Contact your Represenative
Contact your Senator

Black PR

While you’re all giddy about the transparency of the new web and the rise of consumer / citizen created content, common sense should tell you that stuff like this is going to happen.

And while there’s no way to know if that specific incident on Craigslist is real (the story is probably a fake — try googling Tomkins and Scott LLC), the potential is there.

If you as one person can develop the conversation, you know that you can also alter the conversation. Just ask yourself how many times you have commented anonymously, used multiple gmail/hotmail accounts to game a site, or did anything slightly subversive to the online conversation.

Now imagine if you had resources and an organization behind you.

And as corporations and media who are used to controlling the message finally learn how the whole outfit works, this will become a problem.

At least the Egyptian ones were useful

So here’s the deal…I have posted my speaking demo/commercial both on Google Video and on You Tube thinking that the viral nature of the beast might result in a speaking gig somehere….or at the very least, a visit to my website.

Imagine my delight and thoughts of how the viral system works when I get a call yesterday morning…
“Saw your video on YouTube and I thought we might be able to work together”

We spoke for about 15 minutes…He seemed impressed with my credentials…He said his organization needed help with “marketing”. I asked for information about his business so I could send him a speaking proposal. He said he would send me an email with the info and a link to his website.

I get the email today.

Pyramid Scheme.

Apparently, my future lies in the world of “speaking” to people to get them to “market” the health-giving juice of this tropical plant.

Now, there are scams all over the internet. There always has been. We should all be able to retire on the Nigerian money by now.

Here’s the lesson for marketers and anyone involved in trying to make an honest buck on the internet:: As we head into this new OPEN world of “web2.0”, beware.

The innovators and early adopters who had compuserve email accounts in the early 90’s thought that email was world-changing. And it was. However, by the time the majority of people had email accounts, spam had taken hold. It made it less useful and has almost ruined the original vision.

The spammers and schemers followed us into email and they’re now following us into blogs, wikis, viral video, etc….faster than they did into email. By the time the majority of people catch up to web2.0, will the original vision we’re talking about today be distorted by the crap? Will it be as useful as we’re building it to be?