Monday, June 30, 2003

Philip Morris PR

I used to be a smoker, Marlboro Man I was, loved the flip top package because it kept the cigarettes fresh. They say there's nothing quite like a reformed sinner and I guess you can call me one. I gave it up many years ago. Now in the mail comes a package of information about youth smoking prevention from the same people that manufacture the cancer sticks. I remember a bumper sticker many years ago that said, "Cancer cures smoking." Gallows humor.

And I've noticed the Philip Morris ads with the same campaign. My question is, is Philip Morris as concerned about all those youths in the Third World, where they export billions of cigarettes per year? No, of course not. It's business after all. And would the cigarette companies be doing this if they hadn't been sued and lost? Of course not. Business is business.

So tonight's rumination is about the ethics of what marketers do. How could you sleep at night knowing you had helped market a product that ultimately will kill you? I know, the same thing can be said about guns. Guns don't kill people, people kill people; therefore, cigarettes don't kill people, they kill themselves by being addicted to them.

Marketers have to keep their moral compass so instead of helping the world light up something lethal, they should be lighting up people's lives with useful products. No more soap box.

Alain's Home.

Friday, June 27, 2003

Keep On Keeping On!

In the first 14 hours, the government received over 635,000 requests for the do-not-call registry. What is that telling us marketer? Back off with your intrusion marketing. Good lesson. Now we have to be creative about how we will reach our customers. Cheers.

Do It Today!

Register for the do-not-call list by calling 888-382-1222---if you're West of the Mississippi---or register online at The registration is good for 5 years and takes effect in October. Go for it!

Do Not Call

Hip hip hooray...the national do not call list is on its way. On an NPR yesterday, it was reported that every day there are over 104,000,000 telemarketing calls! Yikes. And I think a million are made to me as I work from world headquarters. The Direct Marketing Association is going to go to court to try to block this. But I think enough is enough.

How many of you actually buy something from an unknown person giving you a call and interrupting your day or dinner or whatever? Telemarketers beware.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Technology Gains Help Pharmaceutical Marketing

Great article in Darwin Magazine about the use of technology for getting a bead on what doctors prescribe so that when the sales rep gets in the door he knows exactly those patterns and can use that information to turn things in his/her favor. Is that okay?

From a marketing point of view, it certainly makes sense to use data to further your case, but from an ethical point of view is it okay? Does it mean that it's only about the prescription race of "he who has the most prescriptions wins", patient be damned? You decide. It's a fine line. Click on the link and read it and let me know your thoughts.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Hiring Right

It was a slow afternoon today at Lowes when jr. and I parked close to the store. Sitting in his car was a Lowes' employee, talking on a cell phone, then getting out of his car, greeting a friend about how tough life is, shuffling very slowly to the entrance, passing by carts that were clearly hampering the use of the parking spaces, even more slowly ambling into the store, greeting another employee about the dreadfulness of work, totally mindless to the customers who saw him and heard him. Another example of marketing failing at the lowest common denominator at the first point of contact with customers.

I'm often asked in my practice and in the classroom which marketing strategy you should consider first. I always respond, "Hire right." I should also add, "Train right." Because in a service industry this is the one intangible that's hard to control: People. I'm sure every one of us has experienced this. It's so destructive to the mission of the organization or business. So the marketer should always include the people factor in all the marketing he/she plans.

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Alain Strategist Flyer.doc

Monday, June 23, 2003

Intrusive Product Placement

The ends to which marketers will go to place products is non-stop....from movies to the little commercials you get while you pump gas. An article in the June 30th issue of Business Week discusses how gaming is now becoming a hot marketing vehicle with some companies building games around their products, including Disney, Nokia, McDonalds et al. Gaming is a $10.3 billion business so it's easy to see why marketers are grasping at it, especially as the "noise" out in consumer land is at a fever pitch so breaking through the clutter is what it's all about.

As a marketer I understand it, but as a father, I don't like jr. to be sold to on a constant basis especially when he's playing. I am a capitalist and view marketing as my religion, but enough already.

R.I.P. Art Murphy

Not necessarily a household name, but to the movie industry Art Murphy pioneered opening weekend grosses as a measurement of success and became an industry icon. Film performance now has even less to do with critics' choices or the intrinsic cultural-literary-entertaining values as much as it's about money. Duh, I know everything is about money. But Murphy's calculations are now what's making movies hit the top spots in the news. What it really does is influence people into seeing movies like lemmings because of the so-called box office popularity based on revenue. Not only that, it also hurts the movies that are of more redeeming value---the lesser known ones with even lesser known actors---in terms of audience share.

When Mr. Murphy died last week, he had set an unintended process in motion...mainly that movie grosses are a PR tool that drives the engine. All to point out that marketing and PR can get help from the strangest place.

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Sunday, June 22, 2003

How To Get Into Women's Pants

There you go thinking that I'm being rude, crude and contraire, this is about a new marketing gimmick and actually part of the continuing struggle for men to look young and sexy, you know the guys that don't have all that adipose tissue, men who have lanky frames, so they're wearing women's jeans and pants. Alas, I am not one of them.

All this from an article that caught my eye in the Los Angeles Times, the West's only newspaper, yesterday. Men's underwear are also apparently taking a cue from women in that they are cut lower, as well as socks being marketer as "waist socks" something like panty hose. The article talks about some designers earlier this year having collections of men in skirts, with one model even wearing a "bra" to fill out a tight turtleneck. Please, I'm getting ill.

All to show that the line between the sexes when it comes to marketing is mighty thin: Everyone is equally exploitable. As for this marketer, I like my Y chromosone jeans, with plenty of space for the spread that has arrived with my gray, thinning hair.

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Thursday, June 19, 2003

McDonald's Redux

So it goes with McDonald's with a recent article in Money about the venerable company being all grown up and not doing well. The market is saturated in the U.S. with over 13,000 "stores" and over 30,000 worldwide...and still opening new ones. My focus on this company is that it is so representative of what is so basic to marketing: it's not your advertising that makes the product zing, it's the quality of the product and the service behind it.
A case in point is my local McD, with its lousy service, cold food and long wait times. Everything there seems to be like a Rube Goldberg machine, all ahead slow to do one thing. As the new president of McD, Jim Cantalupo, told Money, "If you're not executing at the most basic level, with your food, it's hard to build on top of that." Duh!

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Thursday, June 12, 2003

"I'm lovin it"

Well, you can't say McDonald's isn't trying to recapture market share. Yesterday they unveiled their new slogan above, replacing the innocuous "We love to see you smile" because there was nothing to smile about for either the customers or the owners. If you go to my local McDonald's the only reason to love it is that it's close because the service is not there and the food is not well prepared or very hot...and they usually run out of the toys jr. has his eye on: not exactly redeeming qualities.

So it's okay to change your slogan and to build a new ad campaign, but the real proof of change is in the execution of the service. No other way around it. It brings to mind a new client I've been working with who asked me when I made the pitch to work with them what I'd recommend. "I assume you're going to say we need to do some advertising," he said. To which I replied, "No, I'm going to look at how you deliver the goods because that's your best marketing tool along with hiring the right people with the right skills and the right attitude." That still stands and that's what McDonald's needs to do.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2003


When I was a kid in France, we loved the Spam we got from the GIs. I still do today although Mrs. isn't too enthused. The Spam I'm more familiar with these days is in my email and not at all cooked the way I like it. I've noticed lately that many spammers are now asking me if I want to "unsubscribe" as if that's possible. The warning here is that the Spam you get somehow you asked for in one form or another by signing up on some site you've long forgotten, you know the ones that talk about their "partners". A study conducted by the technology research firm Ferris Research estimates that the Spam that has been clogging up corporate computer systems is costing us $8.9 billion annually! It all goes back to marketers beating a thing to death. Seth Godin in Permission Marketing calls it interruption marketing. As a marketer who works out of world headquarters right down the hall from my bedroom, I can tell you that in between phone solicitors---it seems that MCI is upset I moved away from their deal---to fax Spam (mostly vacation deals to places I don't want to go) to email Spam, I do spend more time dealing with it.Is it any wonder that the public is placing marketers just a notch above The New York Times?

Male Biological Time Clock?

Leave it to medicine to find a market...apparently we of the male tribe have a biological time clock that consistently rings fewer chimes after age 35. So fertility experts are now extending a friendly hand by offering more testosterone-replacement products, of which sales went from $100 million in 2000 to $350 million last year and expected to top $1 billion within 5 more years. And we guys thought we were immune to all that stuff. Wrong again. The pharmaceutical guys are after us and their marketing is proving effective. As we seek the fountain of youth, we also have to open our wallets.

Dreaded Yellow Toenails

Is it just me but all of a sudden I see those ads with those nasty looking cartoonish bugs that crawl under your toenails and leave them yellow----and apparently infected. All to the demise of your social life, if you don't heed the ads and rush to your doctor to get a script. So it goes in pharma land, where no disease or symptom goes unmarketed.

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Monday, June 09, 2003

Mea Culpa

Seems like there's a hell of a lot of mea culpa in the media these days with Martha Stewart defiantly making her stand in the media...kind of reminds me of Nixon with his "I am not a crook" stand. Boeing is now taking the public ad route to boost its PR standings after some nastiness with an investigation by the Feds about shady contracts---check your newspaper tomorrow. And of course, a public outing is also good for the pharmaceuticals such as the Wyeth ad on where they stand on hormone therapy and the impact on cognition and memory in women 65 to 79.

Will it last? The principal guide to crisis PR is to get the story out and away from the front page or the lead in for the nightly news. That's what these companies are doing, but a word of one trusts a company that doth protest too much. It's been studied and studied to death that in a crisis no one really trusts what the PR flacks are feeding the media. And that seems especially true since the media has been getting black eyes just like the rest of the world. So it goes.

The moral of all this is that to do good, you must be good, have good products and above all tell the "truth", whatever that is.

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