Archive for the ‘Misleadership’ Category

Have you seen the recent Hyundai commercials? The friendly announcer says that recently, Hyundai put cameras into vehicles at dealerships and, according to the company’s press release, “captured the unscripted, unedited remarks of drivers as they tested various Hyundai models.”

Do you believe them?

I don’t.

Over time, anyone who’s ever shopped online and read the customer testimonials has learned how to tell fake reviews from real ones. The fake ones are usually really good or excusably bad (or really bad if they’re fakes created by competitors). Some sites don’t even bother sprinkling in a few negative reviews with the positives, but all positives are a sure sign the reviews are faked, or at least, selectively edited.

Enter Hyundai, with their “Uncensored” commercials. Not a negative comment to be heard. Well, except about Honda, Toyota and other cars. And of course, from people posting comments on their YouTube channel, such as:

laughingcrows (1 week ago)
Give us a break, your “hidden” camera commercials are really insulting.
Don’t lie to us. The American public isn’t that stupid. Or are we?

Censorship isn’t merely a sin of commission. It can be a sin of omission, too. So even if you equate uncensored to unedited, which would be a mistake because the commercials are clearly edited, the choice of only showing positive experiences and comments is in itself an act of censorship, where the negative ads are merely not shown at all.

Uncensored? Hardly.

I can’t help comparing this to the Ford Fiesta Movement, where Ford gave 100 social media storytellers Fiestas to talk about, however they wanted, on their own blogs, YouTube, Twitter, etc. Their campaign was also met with skepticism on blogs, but to his credit, Scott Monty, head of Social Media for Ford, engaged with the negative comments and addressed them head on. So did some of the Fiesta “agents” who defended their abilities to give honest reviews, good or bad, and the freedom Ford gave them to do it.

The recent Ford Fiesta movement is considered a watershed in automobile marketing. With $0 in traditional advertising, the Fiesta, a car available only in Europe, with no history in the US, and Ford’s first subcompact car in over a decade, achieved a stellar a 58% awareness pre-release (exceeding the Ford Fusion after 2 years and hundreds of millions in traditional marketing). It garnered:

  • 11 million social networking impressions
  • 11,000 videos on YouTube
  • 6,000 reservations 4 months before the car was even available
  • 10,000 units sold in the first 6 days of sales.

All for a fraction of what a typical national TV campaign would have cost. I wonder what Hyundai spent on theirs?

Taking another play from the Ford Fiesta Movement playbook, for what they’re calling the “experiential” component of their campaign Hyundai is giving 100 cars out to people who will then discuss their experiences via social media, again ostensibly “uncensored.”

Social Media marketing is about engaging in the conversation, not editing it. It’s about being honest and earning trust. And above all, it’s about disclosing your relationships, so even if you have a bias or financial relationship, you’re not hiding it and people can judge for themselves. (Full Disclosure: I have never owned either a Hyundai or a Ford, although my parents love their Hyundai and in college I made out with a girl in a Ford Mustang.)

The Social Media marketing landscape is littered with the corpses of  unsuccessful campaigns. In the end, many of them failed because they were disingenuous, misleading or downright dishonest.

I found this interesting post on the Dennis Hyundai blog for a Hyundai dealer in Ohio.  It says:

Have you seen the new Hyundais? Come to http://www.dennisimports.com and click on our Hyundai Uncensored Logo, tell us what you think about the new hyundais! If we choose your comments to use in our advertising, we will pay you $1,000!

The post was dated July 9, 2010, about a week after the corporate commercials began running. I’m not implying the original Hyundai Uncensored commercials were “incentivized,” but I’m willing to bet that for $1,000, Dennis Hyundai isn’t going to be using very many negative comments in their ads.

If you’re going to pursue a social media strategy, you have to be authentic.  In discussing social media, business and authenticity in this Wisdom 2.o interview, Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos.com, said:

“I think that is the only way you are going to succeed. Transparency is going to happen whether you embrace it or not, so you might as well embrace it. I think that is one way to develop a personal and emotional connection.”

So can someone please explain to me what kind of connection Hyundai thinks they’re making with consumers with their Uncensored campaign? Feel free to respond honestly… I promise I won’t censor your comments.

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I wasn’t going to blog about this.

Unlike most of my posts, which have at their core a desire to make things better by understanding how they happen, I have no hope that this situation will improve.

But after weeks of incredible personal frustration, it was the mounting complaints by my friends and co-workers that convinced me that this situation truly needs an explanation. Somebody somewhere made this decision, and I desperately want to know what they were thinking.

I’m talking about the recent change southern Connecticut made to their phone numbers.  Beginning on November 14th, customers in the 203 area code became required to use the area code, 203, before all calls within the 203, whether local or long distance.

Now I know what I said makes no sense, so let me explain for those of you who don’t live here.

203 has always been a pretty conflicted area code with serious identity issues. Sometimes it’s local, sometimes it’s long distance. And there’s really no way to know which is which, because it’s not just based on where the recipient is located. In fact, sometimes it’s both at the same time. I have clients who have business phones and cell phones, all within the 203 area code, but the cell phones are sometimes local while the business phones are long distance.

Have any of you ever encountered an area code like this?

There must be others, although I always thought all the calls within an area code would be local calls. In my experience, living at various times in suburban New York, suburban New Jersey, San Diego, CA and Manhattan, I have never encountered an area code that could be both local and long distance within the area code, and especially within such a small geographic area. (I could understand, for instance, if all of Montana shared an area code that included local and long distance. But Fairfield County, CT? You’ve got to be kidding.)

I’ve lived in Connecticut for 5 years now, and worked here for 10, so I’ve made my uneasy peace with the split personality of the 203.  Besides, the “locals” seemed to take it in stride, chalking up my frustration to my lack of geographic awareness. After all, how could I not know that Weston is a long distance 203 but Wilton is not, and Shelton is long distance from my office, but not from my home 15 miles away.

But this most recent change has the natives up in arms, so that must mean it’s really bad, even by Connecticut standards.

You see, now every call needs to have a 203 put in front of it, but not every call gets a 1 before the 203. And that’s what’s causing the problem.

The reason for the area code change is pretty clear: to accommodate the growing need for more phone numbers, Connecticut is adding a new area code, 475, to the 203 area. You can read the public announcement by the State of Connecticut’s Department of Public Utility Control here.

And the need to use 1 or not to use 1 is also pretty clear: local calls are still local calls. A prefix of 1 denotes long distance. And it matters because there are cost differences between local and long distance, of course. At least on antiquated land line systems.

So, technically, the change is pretty minor, right? In the past, within 203, you dialed 1-203 for long distance, and nothing for local. Now, you dial 1-203 for long distance, and 203 for local.

It should be a pretty simple change to adapt to. And yet it’s got people slamming phones and cursing throughout the day at the those endless, annoying messages:  “We’re sorry. You must dial a 1 and the area code before making this call.” or the dreaded “Hey, Moron, this call cannot be completed as dialed. Do not include a 1 for local calls. What are you, from New York?”

Talk about a frustrating and inescapable customer experience.

Speed dials on office phones have to be reprogrammed. So do faxes. Employee home phone number lists have to be updated, as do personnel records.

One of my coworkers has a 203 based cell phone. He says he has to reprogram the numbers in his phone to include a 1 or not, and it’s not based on where he lives, but where he activated his phone, in addition to where the number is located. (My cell started as a 917 out of NYC, so 203 has always been long distance and automatically gets a 1, so I’m ahead of the game on that one.)

You’d think I’d be enjoying this. All those people who were unmoved by my phone frustrations are now plagued with their own.

And yet I get absolutely no joy whatsoever from their angst.

Because I’m way too busy being frustrated on my own. That simple change now means that every call is 203, but only some get a 1.  I’ve got a 50/50 shot at being right, but for whatever reason, I’m guessing wrong way more than 50% of the time.

As I see it, the problem isn’t really about the change. The problem has been there all along, thanks to the schizophrenic nature of the 203 area code.  There must be a reason. Is it based on square miles of coverage? Is it based on greedy municipalities and usage taxes? Is it a 19th century legacy of a long forgotten battle between local phone systems that combined in some satanic mega-merger?

In other words, can someone out there please explain to me why the 203 area code is just so messed up?

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Lands’ End’s Big Warm Up: The best viral video I’ve ever missed

I saw a video the other day that was so good it brought tears to my eyes, which was, after all, its intention. It was so good that it powered Lands’ End customers to bring 33,267 “gently used coats” to Lands’ End shops at Sears to donate to the homeless. (If you haven’t seen it, you can see it here.)

It’s a good video. It’s powerful. It makes you feel all warm and fuzzy and makes you want to do something good for someone.

All of which is going to make me look even more curmudgeonly than normal, because I am not here to praise Lands’ End.

I think they screwed up.

I didn’t see the video until  Dec. 1, which was one day too late to actually join the Big Warm Up and donate a coat.

And that really bothered me. Because I have a gently used coat I would have gladly donated. And because I was actually in a mall with a Sears the last weekend of the promotion. And because I love good cause related marketing. I love it so much I actually co-wrote a book about it.

I wondered, how could I have missed out on this? I’m a good Lands’ End customer. I have 3-4 pairs of their pants and half a dozen of their shirts. More than that, I’m a fan. I blogged about them back in July and how they helped build direct response retail with their “Guaranteed. Period.” (R) guaranty.

So I went to my inbox (luckily, I try and keep my inbox at a lean, mean 300-400 emails) and sure enough, there it was. And it had company. Lots of company. The Lands’ End email barrage had started on Nov. 9th, and by the time it let up on November 20th I’d gotten 16 emails in 12 days.

But only 3 of those 16 emails were about the Big Warm Up. The rest were about clothes… and canvas.

The first email in the campaign, on Nov. 11, was actually the second Lands’ End email I received that day. It had the subject line, “Save 25% on a new coat & warm a heart!” Being that I’m not currently in the market for a coat, I didn’t notice that this was actually the announcement of a cause related marketing campaign at www.BigWarmUp.com.

In fact, that grand announcement was considerably quieter than the “Introducing Land’s End Canvas” email I’d gotten earlier the same day with a link to a video titled “What Will You Make of It” about the exciting, Ken Burns-ish history of Lands’ End Canvas.

The Lands’ End email tsunami continued. 4 days (and 5 emails) later I got an email with the subject line “What will you make of it?”

This was intriguing, so I opened it. It lead to an interactive site where I could “explore a unique interactive experience — then make and share my own canvas.” Wow. Canvas again.

So when I got the 15th email in 12 days, this one with the subject line, “Join us in making a difference,” I just assumed it was another email about the glories of canvas and ignored it. After all, it had the word “make” in subject line. What else could it have been?

This is a classic case that highlights the dangers of mailing too frequently. Your customers get so overwhelmed they tune out.

30,000 coats donated to the needy is a good thing by any standard, right? So do you think Lands’ End was happy with the results?

I’m not sure I would have been. Here’s why:

Way back in 2002 when Sears bought them, the NY Times reported that Lands’ End had a customer file of 30 million households. Now, not all of those households has email, and that number could be considerably smaller — or larger — by now.

30,000 coats is certainly a lot of warmth, but in terms of results, 30,000 is only 1/10th of a percent of 30 million.

On a more granular level, the email campaign was ignored by at least one ideal target: me,  a repeat customer, who makes buying decisions based on cause-related marketing and corporate philanthropy, who had a coat to donate, and who is clearly on their email list. And if they missed an easy target like me, how many others did they miss, too?

Maybe if the subject line of the first email in the campaign had led with the cause rather than a discount, I might have noticed it.

Maybe if they’d used some of their fancy personalization in the subject line instead of just in their video I might have noticed.

Maybe if they hadn’t bored me to death with their celebration of canvas and trained me to ignore their messages, I might have noticed their worthy campaign to spread the warmth.

But one thing is definite: if they hadn’t sent me 16 emails in 12 days I would have actually read the really important one.  (I’ve asked around, and I’m not the only one who missed this needle in the haystack of Lands’ End emails… or who regretted missing the opportunity to join the Big Warm Up.)

Good cause related marketing is a win-win for everyone. In this case, more coats donated to help the homeless would most likely equate to more coats sold.

This was an important campaign. So can someone please explain to me why Lands’ End quietly buried it under a pile of canvas instead of shouting it from the highest mountaintops?

And while you’re at it, can you direct me to the nearest Goodwill Donation Center? I have a coat I want to donate.

I see them everywhere… on my computer, on billboards, in the pages of magazines and on my TV screen… dead celebrities drinking champagne and dancing with vacuum cleaners and driving cars that came out decades after they were rotting in their graves.

It’s easy to see why advertisers want dead people to endorse them. Dead people are safe: they’re known quantities. It’s unlikely an ad campaign will get torpedoed by new revelations or scandals. They’ll never be accused of sexually assaulting a waitress in their hotel room or getting addicted to prescription pain killers. And even if we did find out something juicy and new about James Dean or Marilyn Monroe or Steve McQueen, would it hurt their image or just add to their mystique?

Dead celebrity endorsements are big business.

Einstein made $10 Million in 2009, according to Forbes latest annual list of top earning dead celebrities.  All the way back in the 2006 edition of the Forbes list, Corbis image licensing said Albert Einstein was their most requested person. As Tony Soprano might say, “Einstein is a good earner.” Of course, in his case, his earnings go to a good cause. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem gets the cash, including a share from Baby Einstein (Disney), although how would Albert have felt about their recent settlement for misleading claims of jump starting juvenile intelligence? Do you think he’d be proud that being a character in Night at the Museum ended up with him as part of a Happy Meal movie tie-in at McDonald’s?

If you want to hire a dead celebrity like Marilyn Monroe to sell your products, just click on over to the Legends Media Archive. You’ll find advertising-friendly images for dead celebs from John Belushi, Ingrid Bergman and Ty Cobb to Jackie Robinson, Mark Twain and Natalie Wood.

Live celebrities are no better. Some of them have even tarnished their reputations by becoming product hucksters. Are you old enough to remember when Orson Welles did commercials for Paul Masson wine: “We will sell no wine before its time.” More recently, we all had to cringe when Ed McMahon made a Cash4Gold commercial his last role.

But whether you think they sold out or not, it was their choice. Nobody forced them to make those commercials.

The dead can’t do that.

These dead celebrities have been stripped of their most basic right: the right to self-determination, to choose what they do or do not do. They are slaves to the choices of their estates, or of the people who own the copyright on their images.

Some cultures honor their dead. We exploit ours.

There’s nothing illegal about it, although the FTC is considering new regulations concerning celebrity endorsements, according to this blog post by Jonathan Faber, licensing expert and former president of “CMG Worldwide, Inc., whose clients include Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Babe Ruth, Chuck Berry, Princess Diana…”

One of the proposed new rules is that “Advertisers should only use endorsements of celebrities if the advertiser believes that a celebrity subscribes to the views presented.” (Not a problem for the Marilyn Dom Perignon campaign, since it was her favorite champagne, or Steve McQueen driving a Ford Mustang, which he did famously in the 1968 cop classic, Bullitt.)

But this post isn’t about morality or legality. This post is about marketing.

The point of celebrity endorsement advertising is to make a connection between the celebrity’s persona, the product and the audience. If a celebrity swears by it, that’s good enough for me.

When done wrong, it can backfire. Who would believe that Paris Hilton ever ate at Carl’s Jr. or that Tiger Woods, one of the richest athletes in history and currently the top earning athlete endorser actually drives a Buick.

When done right, it can build a brand. When Brooke Shields said that nothing came between her and her Calvins, Calvin Klein became the must-have designer jean.

But what’s right about using a dead person to endorse your product? Does having David Spade talking to a now dead Chris Farley make you more likely to want to get Direct TV, or less? How many people went out and bought a Dirt Devil because some art director used special effects to force Fred Astaire to dance with one?

I know vampires and zombies are all the rage these days, but can someone please explain to me why anyone thinks a dead celebrity who never used a product can make a convincing sales pitch to the living?

I took a cab this morning on my way from Grand Central to the Javits Center for AdTech NY. If you haven’t taken a cab in NYC recently, you may not know that most of them now have TV screens mounted in the center of the back of the front seat. It’s part of a unit that allows you to pay for your ride by credit card.

As a marketer, I love the idea of this media channel. You’ve got a captive audience with nothing better to do than watch the screen. What better place to advertise local restaurants, Broadway shows, clubs, stores and events?

Only that’s not what was on the screen. Instead I saw a few minimalist news items sandwiched in between commercials that had nothing to do with my location, my situation or even NYC at all.

I turned the programming off, to be greeted by a static NBC screen that promised that by watching this I would in fact find out what was going on in the city I was in.

I asked the cabbie if it was always like this. With an exasperated tone in his voice he told me what it’s like to listen to this same inane commercial ridden loop of content all day long. Even when one passenger turned it off, it turned itself on again every time the meter was started for the next passenger. Sometimes there were commercials for Saturday Night Live, but that’s as good as it got.

I asked the cab driver if at least he got a share of the revenue, to which he responded that it was worse than that:  he had to pay for it, 5% on all his credit card fares. He figured it cost him over $1000 a year.

When I got to the Javits Center I left the cabbie a good tip, in cash, and went inside to a day filled with presentations by some of the most forward thinking marketers on the planet. There was even one about place-based ad networks, a category that includes the screen in the back of my cab.

As I listened to case studies of personalized advertising delivered on high tech devices at the perfect moment to make a meaningful connection with the recipient and discussions about using semantic filters and advanced behavioral modeling to provide ever better targeting, my mind kept wandering to the backseat of that cab.

Our industry is in the midst of tremendous change: new technologies, new methodologies, new media channels, and new ways of listening to and engaging with our customers.

But can someone please explain to me what good all that technology is if we don’t have the skill to use it appropriately?

 

 

Has this ever happened to you?

Your commercial for Romano’s Macaroni Grill Dinner Kits is running on a cable tv network like Food Network. Everything is going well, happy people cooking food at home that’s every bit as good as it would be at the restaurant.

“Just add your chicken and cook for 20 minutes. Romano’s Macaroni Grill Dinner Kits… the restaurant favorites that…”

and then, suddenly,

“How rough are your dry cracked feet? Now there’s Heeltastic”… as a woman takes a sandblaster to her bare feet.

Mmmm…that’s tasty.

You’ve just joined the ranks of thousands of advertisers who suffer from Commercialus Interruptus, a tragic, embarrassing affliction that is, sad to say, occurring with increasing frequency among anyone who advertises on cable television.

Why does it happen? More importantly, why does it seem to be spreading? I first noticed it on the Food Network, but now I’ve seen it on Comedy Central, TNT, TBS, USA, CNN and many other stations too traumatized to allow themselves to be mentioned in public.

Uninformed theories abound, some of them no better than old wives tales. Some say the advertiser couldn’t afford the full slot and is willing to settle for less. Some say it’s because the advertiser didn’t pay the bill. I’ve even seen someone post that they think it happens when the person running the commercials at the station is in training and screws it up.

Commercialus Interruptus can happen to anyone, no matter how famous or successul. Whether you’re Billy Mays or Bob the Enzyte Guy, you too can have your pitch prematurely pre-empted by a puzzling 2-second snippet of a mop in bed banging against a radio alarm clock.

The most promising theory I’ve found suggests that the problem arises from scheduling or programming conflicts between commercials that are running nationally at the same time as ones that are just running in local markets.

But there have always been national stations and local affiliates, and there have always been national media buys and local. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember this happening as frequently even a few years ago as it does now. (I refuse to believe it has anything to do with getting older.)

I know what you’re thinking: this could never happen to your commercials. Your commercials run their full 30 seconds and never, ever end prematurely.

But how can you really know? Do you get full playbacks of every single commercial you run? Do you believe the networks would tell you the truth knowing that it would hurt your feelings and, perhaps, damage your self-confidence?

I thought so.

There must be an answer out there. We do not have to simply roll over and allow ourselves to be stigmatized. We do not have to be victims.

So can someone please explain to me what really causes Commercialus Interruptus , and more importantly, what we can do to stop it?

The other day my wife and daughter and I went for a walk. It had been raining on and off, and now the sun had broken through the clouds and we needed to get outside.

As we walked past one of the units in our garden apartment building, I noticed a USPS package in front of the door to Unit A.

Since I was expecting a package, I went up to check. We’ve only been living in this apartment for about a month, but in that time the Post Office had delivered Unit A’s mail to us in Unit C more than once, so I figured it was only a matter of time before the reverse happened.

The package was actually in the right place, Unit A, except for two minor details. First, Unit A was empty and had been for over a week since the tenants moved out. But more importantly, the package had a Delivery Confirmation label on it.

Now I don’t expect the U.S. Post Office to be mind readers. If someone moves without filing a Change of Address notification, I don’t expect them to peep into a window to find out that the residence is empty. (Although, in this case, since the blinds were up and the apartment was clearly vacant, it wouldn’t have been that hard to guess.)

But I do expect them to deliver on the specific features of a service someone paid extra money for. Here’s the U.S.P.S’s own definition of Delivery Confirmation, from their website:

Verify delivery with Delivery Confirmation.

Our low cost Delivery Confirmation service gives you the date, ZIP Code™ and time your article was delivered. If delivery was attempted you will get the date and time of attempted delivery. You can easily access this information with our Track & Confirm tool.

And from their Delivery Confirmation FAQ:

The customer will be provided the following information about items mailed with Delivery Confirmation:

  • If item was delivered:  the date and time of delivery
  • If delivery was attempted but not successful:  the date and time of the attempt

By what definition is leaving a box in the rain in front of an empty apartment a successful delivery?

I assume it wasn’t an attempted delivery, because that implies that the box wouldn’t have been left there. Although, technically, I guess it was an attempted delivery after all, but probably not in the way the sender was expecting.

As a direct marketer, I’ve had my share of unpleasant surprises from the Post Office. We once did a mailing in the Phoenix, AZ area where the variety of reasons for returned mail was so astounding and inconsistent that our regional rep could only laugh and offer some potential off-the-record explanations that could get them in trouble if I repeated them here. And we all remember the bad old days when Postal Carriers were getting busted for dumping catalogs or storing commercial mail in their lockers and garages.

But for me, this was over the line. I’m not going to get into comparisons with FedEx or UPS, because if you’re like me, you’ve been confounded by their occasional screw ups too. And I’m not going to conflate this into an indictment of  government incompetence and the “public option” like some congressmen or pundits have been doing these days.

But can someone please explain to me what was going through that mail carrier’s head when he or she chose to leave that package in the rain in front of a vacant apartment in spite of the sender having paid extra to know when it was delivered, or if not successful, when delivery was attempted?

Have you ever eaten Scrapple? It’s gastronomically ghoulish, made up of pig or hog offal (liver, heart, head, and anything else left over) that’s smashed into a mushy paste, sliced and then fried on a grill slathered in fat.

I know, I know, you’re wondering  what could possibly make something that good tasting that’s also good for you be any less desirable?

The answer is:  Hoovers.

I was doing research the other day on Jones Dairy Farm and banged into the Hoovers profile for the company. You can read the public profile here. In that profile, Hoovers says that

The links on this company’s Web site are of the edible variety. Jones Dairy Farm produces sausage, bacon, ham, and more…In 1981 Jones Dairy Farm acquired Ralph and Paul Adams, Inc., which markets Rape Scrapple.”

Rape Scrapple?

Now some of you may know that I’m a mostly vegetarian, except for one day a year when I gorge on Hot Pastrami at Katz’s Delicatessen in NYC for my birthday, and maybe the occasional classic hot dog from a classic hot dog stand I may come across in my travels. But before I met my wife and became a vegetarian, I’d never met an animal I wouldn’t happily eat. So my vestigial meat-eater’s senses perked up when I read “Rape Scrapple.”

I had to know what tasty extras they put into ordinary Scrapple to make it into Rape Scrapple.

Alas, the truth is that the only way to make  Rape Scrapple is through typographic error.

It turns out that Ralph and Paul Adams, Inc. make Rapa Scrapple, not Rape Scrapple, and have since 1926. In fact, according to their website, they are the largest producer of Scrapple in the world. The name Rapa comes from taking a little bit from Ralph and a little bit from Paul and mixing them together, in not too dissimilar a way from the way they make the Scrapple portion of Rapa Scrapple.

Searching on Google turns up numerous repetitions of the Hoover’s Rape Scrapple error, passed blithely along to unsuspecting searchers by Answers.com, numerous contacts on DemandBase.com, AAAA’s Smartbrief, and of course, the ever popular but highly dangerous varta.rr.nu/germany-dialing/xionghim (NOTE: Don’t check this out: it’s a reported attack site!!!)

I think it’s safe to assume Hoovers made the first typo, and it was simply picked up by other companies that reference or license the Hoover’s information, since the Hoovers free profile says:

“Produced by Hoover’s in-house editorial team, the Company Description tracks ownership transitions, company progress via mergers and acquisitions, major growth milestones, and strategic initiatives, to provide a holistic view of Jones Dairy Farm’s evolution in the marketplace.”

Clearly Rape Scrapple is just a typo. Somebody inadvertently changed an “a” to an “e.”

So what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that Hoovers is a D&B company, and their stock in trade is corporate research. Hoovers made the mistake, and then they failed to catch it, and  it got picked up and repeated across the Internet (where it will most likely stay forever) by people who have reason to trust Hoovers to get it right.

Now I’m not suggesting that some potential investor or business person doing their due diligence will choose not to invest in or do business with Jones Dairy Farm because they make Rape Scrapple.

But can someone please explain to me why, if Hoovers can’t catch a simple error like this, we should trust them to get the financials correct? Or the media spend?  Or the annual sales?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to microwave a Morningstar Farms Vegetarian Sausage Patty and pretend it’s Scrapple. It’s not the same, but then again, maybe that’s a good thing.

So I’ve got the place all to myself the other day and I’m watching The Dirty Dozen on AMC.

It’s bad enough that they’ve edited the hell out of this classic and see fit to interrupt me every few minutes with commercials, turning a 150-minute testosterone thrill ride into a slogging, 210-minute endurance test.

But I’ve got a DVR, so I’ve given the movie a head start and I’m racing through the endless commercial interruptions, jumping from scene to violent scene. I mean, it’s The Dirty Dozen:  Lee Marvin, Charlie Bronson, Jim Brown, John Cassavetes, Telly Savalas and company killing Nazis…it doesn’t get tougher than this.

Then we get to one of the few scenes where there’s no action at all, and Lee Marvin’s got me riveted to the screen with just a hard look, a bottle of scotch, and his gravelly voice, when suddenly, in the lower left corner of the screen there’s this hot chick in sexy lingerie standing in a doorway exhorting me to watch Mad Men — and she’s totally blocking Lee Marvin’s face!

Did the sexy chick make me want to watch Mad Men? Not one bit — quite the opposite, in fact. Nor did that slick Don Draper guy in the 1960’s suit that stood in the same left corner later on, blocking a scene where a real mad man was actually killing something. Nor the next time the sexy chick came back…nor the time after that, nor the…you get the picture. (Where’s Maggot when you need him? Hey, it’s an inside joke — if you don’t get it, watch the movie.)

What’s AMC’s plan? Do they think that somehow, somebody who has avoided tuning in to watch Mad Men for the last 3 seasons will be swayed suddenly by the sexy chick in the lower left corner? Or that somebody who is already watching Mad Men will suddenly go, “Oh my god, that’s right, I nearly forgot that I love Mad Men and I must make a note to watch it the next time it’s on. That Don Draper is so tough.”

Now I’m pretty sure there’s no intelligence behind the timing of the tune-in ads. They didn’t plan to obscure Lee Marvin with the sexy chick, it just worked out that way because nobody who cared was paying attention.

And that’s my point. AMC is supposed to be a channel about movies for people who love movies. In their own words, “Story Matters Here. Dedicated to American movie fans featuring popular movies and original productions. Long Live Cool.”

Does anybody else remember when AMC walked the walk they still talk? They were all about great old movies… and they played them without commercials. Sure, sometimes they edited them for content, but I could overlook that — what’s a few deleted expletives between friends?

But as bad as that got, at least they weren’t obscuring critical content with their own tune-in ads for their original TV shows. (TV Shows? Don’t they understand that if I want a good cable TV show, I’ll watch HBO or Showtime?)

It all comes down to respect. AMC doesn’t respect me. (At least not the way TCM does!) To AMC, I’m just an eyeball to be advertised to, whenever they want, as much as they possibly can, regardless of what I’m watching, in whatever inappropriate manner they think will work this week.

Can someone please explain to me why — in this day and age when dozens of commercial-free movie networks are just a click away, when I can download movies from Netflix instantly, or watch them On Demand — AMC still thinks any self-respecting movie fan will swallow their disrespect?

Maybe that kind of thinking used to work in the fictional 1960’s in which Mad Men is set, but it doesn’t fly now. And if Lee Marvin were alive today, he’d kick Don Draper’s ass for dissing The Dirty Dozen. Long live cool.

Have you heard the one about the beautiful blonde Danish woman named Karen who went on YouTube in search of her baby’s father, a tourist with whom she had a one night stand a year and a half ago? Turns out it was all a hoax, courtesy of the Danish government tourism bureau, VisitDenmark.

I found out about this on Mashable, perhaps the greatest blog covering all things Web 2.0 and Social Media. According to Mashable, the video got over 800,000 views on YouTube before it was taken down. If you hurry, you can still see it here on this Australian 9 News site.

More from Mashable, “…by her own admission, the woman in the video is an actress named Ditte Arnth Jorgensen and the baby is not hers. According to Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet, it’s a hoax created by the Danish government’s tourism agency… It seems that the Danish government opted for quite a radical approach in luring tourist to the country; as they say, any publicity is good publicity.”

Now, it’s easy to get outraged by the hoax, as comments on the YouTube video proved. There were people who felt sorry for Karen, and then felt abused when they found out it was a hoax.

Setting aside the moral issue, I’d like to look at it from purely a marketing point of view.

I’m not against hoax marketing, if it’s done right and delivers a high degree of value to the people being hoaxed. Sega’s Beta-7 is a classic of the genre. FastCompany did a great post-mortem article about the campaign and Campfire, the viral agency that created Beta-7, and before that, the Blair Witch Project, reporting that:

“Beta-7” ultimately clocked some 2.2 million followers and, for $300,000 (excluding TV spots), helped Sega top sales projections by 25% in a category overwhelmingly dominated by Madden. Along the way, however, Campfire had done something else: It proved that a young, cynical, media-saturated audience just might be willing to listen to marketers as long as they showed some respect. “The virtue of their work,” says ESPN’s Daly, “is that if you’re on the side of the equation that believes [the hoax], then it’s fascinating, and if you’re on the side that gets that it’s not real, then it’s just great entertainment.”

I think the key to successful hoax marketing is best summed up by Harry Anderson, the actor/magician who played lovable con artist Harry the Hat on Cheers and Judge Harry T. Stone on Night Court. Back in the 80’s I saw his live act at Caroline’s, basically a celebration of misdirection and the con. In bit after bit, as he tricked us while blatantly telling us he was tricking us and still got away with it, he made the point that you can take a victim’s money as long as you entertain him for it.

The Danish video certainly delivered entertainment value. It was compelling and engaging. It might deliver a great ROI and boost Danish tourism. (It even had a bit of mischief of which Harry the Hat might have approved: the word “Ad” is in the background as part of an innocuous piece of art.)

But the message it delivered was that the Danish Board of Tourism is willing to dupe you into visiting their country. If they’re willing to do that, what other practices may they condone? Bait and switch hotel packages? Cab drivers who overcharge tourists for trips to the airport? “Official” currency exchanges with rip-off rates?

And how’s this for a mixed message? In the video, Karen says that it was a discussion of “hygge” — the Danish word for a warm, fuzzy, cozy, comfortable feeling of well being (according to Wikipedia) — that led to the one night stand. (Don’t you feel warm and fuzzy knowing that the Danish government is willing to lie to you to get you into bed with them?)

What kind of tourist do you think an advertising message like this will attract to Denmark? If I were a Danish woman (or the father of one) I’d be appalled at my government right about now.

In the end, just because you can use an advertising tactic doesn’t mean you should.

So can someone please explain to me why VisitDenmark chose to advertise the warm and fuzzy nature of their culture with a hoax that is exactly the opposite of the brand character they were hoping to portray?