July 8, 2013 § Leave a comment
It occurred to me recently, while working my stint at OrganicRestaurants.com,that 90% of the food-buying process is perception. For the last few months, I have been actively absorbing information about which companies are truly working towards health-oriented goals, and which ones are more interested in selling you some pink slime.As we all know, McDonalds, Burger King,and Subway- all toted as obvious offenders to the unwritten codes of marketing morality, are behemouths searching to poison us for a dollar. Processed food is evil, the scum of the Earth, right?
Well, not exactly. I’ll be the first to defend some brands, especially in food, that really don’t deserve their bad rep. Frozen food, that cancer-inducing scum: Non-GMO Amy’s has set a standard to be envied. Burgers? Try a Tasty Burger- their meat is all locally sourced and sustainably raised.
And then, there are those companies that fall somewhere in the middle, the grey-zone of what I will label as “food morality”. These are the companies which I will be addressing- companies which have seemingly unlimited resources to play spin-doctor to their own reputations. They do good things- sometimes even great things- to improve quality of life. Or so it would seem. However, looking behind the money waterfall of their public relations and marketing, comes a grim reminder of their core message: they couldn’t care less about your health.
3. Kraft Foods
Calling all mothers- if you haven’t fed your child a cup of radiation-yellow noodles known as “Mac and Cheese” in the last week, you are either a terrible parent, or simply haven’t heard the siren call of Cheeseasaurus Rex. After all, if you’re a mom, Kraft knows your pain points: kids are finicky, your time is limited, and you’re more or less one hissy-fit away from blowing your top at your Little Princess (or Prince). That’s why Kraft has spent millions on building a family-friendly food-based empire, which aside from erring on the side of conservatism (if you can find an image of a dad cooking with his children or a non-nuclear family on their site, please call me out), very easily fills the need of many busy parents. How wholesome of them- catering to the nutritional needs of children while simplifying the hassle of dinner! Peace at last.
Well, that is until you realize that Kraft is a fond supporter of Genetic Modification, and could already contain trace amounts of GMO wheat in every package. So what? Independent lab tests have already shown a correlation between a diet of GMO foods and a number of ailments. Oh you know, nothing big- just some tumors and severe stomach irritation and inflammation. Not exactly something you’d like to hear about those wholesome, cheesy noodles you’ve had around the house since you were a child. Only, this may not have been the case since your childhood. GMOs have only been in the food source since the early 1990’s. Bonus- they have not been tested on humans, either. Means it isn’t toxic to humans, right? Actually, all it means is that your children are Kraft’s little guinea pigs. Wholesome? Not really.
What a classic! Who wouldn’t want a nice, refreshing Coca-Cola on a hot summer’s day? If you took things at face-value, it might be easy to think that Coca-Cola has transcended the soda category and become a notable of business ethics. With a tag-line like “Open Happiness”, it seems that all this company wants to do is introduce you to some of the finer pleasures in life. They are the sponsors of so many childhood locations- places like Six Flags and other amusement and water parks nationally. Coca-Cola has even created a vending machine that with a press of a button allows anybody to send a soda and a smile to somebody as close as the next town over or as fara away as Japan. Now that’s impressive. Imagine how much money it much have cost to just develop and install these machines, let alone keep them maintained. They care so much about our having a wholesome, well-balanced life, that they are even helping to sponsor nutritionist events- whoa, hold up. If that sounded wrong to you, it is. Coca-cola is notorious for actively working their way into nutrition events, and have even allegedly thrown enough dollars into the pot that their sponsored speakers are encouraged to remove the stigma around soft-drinks in their talks and chalk them up as being “healthy in moderation”. Healthy isn’t exactly the right word to use here, especially since soda, even in “suggested” doses can cause long-term problems like lower bone density mineral decomposition over time. “But diet soda is better!” you might protest. In reality, diet soda is so terrible, I wouldn’t even feed it to the most heinous of prison-hardened criminals. The reality of diet soda is quite literally horrifying: perhaps they’ll help you cut out extra calories in your family’s diet with the same great taste (like advertised), but it’ll make a severe dent in your health. Still not shaking in your boots? Proven weight gain linked to artificial sweeteners is the least of your problems; try brain-swelling and the slow death of neurons due to one of it’s chemical components released in the blood-brain barrier, formaldehyde. To put it kindly, Coca-Cola is the new snake-oil.
And finally, we come to the bottom of the basket, and to the one company which, even as a relatively compassionate and forgiving person, I hope falls flat on its face. It’s Tyson. Why would I go after some humble, little (well, big) chicken company. After all, poultry prices would be through the roof without them! And they slice up their chicken into such fridge-friendly portions! Dinner is such a cinch!
I’ll give you that without industrial farming, meat would cost a bit more. But is the less expensive meat really worth it? Factory farms, like those used by Tyson (one of the 4 major meat monopolies in the U.S.) are the ultimate achilles heel of animal rights and environmental activists- and is even becoming an issue of human rights. Subsidized corn being fed to the animals is putting small farmers out of business- the price of corn drops so low that in order to pay the bills, farmers must grow more and more corn in a faster time slot. “Too bad, they should just just adopt a new model. Adapt or die!” critics exclaim. Only problem is, both adapting and dying results in the same outcome- being bought- up by the bigger company. But it doesn’t stop there. This corn is fed to the animals, like chickens and cows, whose digestive systems aren’t built to digest corn, causing many of them to live in pain. This feed is also enhanced to cause many of the birds and other animals to gain weight at a rapid pace, at which point some of them develop musculo-skeletal problems which leaves them immobile. That’s just the price of cheap meat, right?
Oh, but there’s more. Perhaps animal welfare, or the job security of family farms isn’t of interest to you. After all- you’re able to buy food for your family at a reasonable price, so who are you to complain? And Tyson’s marketing seems to think the same. In fact, they think you’re ignorant and that a nice little polish on their PR and advertising will be enough to wash away your worries and whisk you away to your super market’s meat aisle. Like Kraft, they have whole meal plans dedicated to making sure your family isn’t protein-deficient (by packing their meat into every plate you serve). And don’t worry, they won’t be. They’ll also be full of plenty of antibiotics and potentially animals which may or may not have eaten parts of their dead comrades ground into feed. Not that they think you need to know.
Eh, not that big of an issue? How about this: no matter what they do, Tyson will always be serving you this food with the nice little pasture logo and barn. Maybe you know what’s actually going on behind closed doors, but a surprising majority don’t know. A red barn and field on a logo no longer means what it used to. Many of these farms look- and act- more like sewage plants. Those with little nutritional information, or looking to put dinner on the table on a budget simply won’t stand a chance.
These companies are living proof that no matter how good your advertising may be, bad practices are still bad practices. Wrap it all up in a pretty bow on top, but when you learn more about where your food comes from, the ugly truth will begin to show.
So what do we do? It’s not specifically anyone’s job to clean these deceptive messes up- so it’s our job to do whatever we can. In the words of one of my favorite professors, “vote with your wallet”
May 21, 2013 § Leave a comment
Let me take back what I have already previously stated; Facebook, I can tell you right now, isn’t doomed. They’re on the move.
Although I was personally bent to believe that Facebook was going down the path to destruction after the initial release of the IPO, a month later I have no other option but to correct myself. Why?
Within the last few weeks, Facebook has done more than change the layout of their search (again) and introduced the moderately questionable graph search- they’ve truly taken a step to salvage themselves from self-destruction; and it’s come in the form of mobile.
Although I can’t necessarily sing praises about the new setup of the site, changes which were inevitable and I believe slightly unnecessary, I do have to compliment their relatively new take on mobile.
I know I might get some flak for this, but I believe Facebook is actively changing their status from a platform from which a user one logs into other, more niche platforms into a more modernized iteration of what it has always been; a way to quickly and easily build and maintain friendships and relationships.
Although Facebook’s current mobile strategy is far from perfect (bubbles? Really?), it is apparent that Facebook is no longer in a state of stagnation, but on the move to define itself as a key facet of any relationship. Realizing how slow and outdated their app was, Facebook re-designed the mobile site to become a more user-friendly iteration of the full site- fragmenting site extensions into individual, more clean-cut apps. For your pages, try the app for page manager. Want to make your messages more accessible on-the-go? There’s the messenger for that.
But one has to wonder- is breaking up the app actually going to encourage more usage or just confusion? As I believe, both.
While Facebook is most clearly making an effort to polish their offerings on mobile, it is curious as to why it couldn’t be done in one single, all-inclusive and optimized app. Perhaps they know something we don’t. Or maybe they’re just right, and we all just need to catch up to their level. Regardless, I can’t say I am a fan of it.
Judge me if you’d like- but I actually do like the new messenger app; to an extent. While I do think the profile bubbles make access to the messaging app radically better, the execution of the app is, er, lacking. The bubbles truly have no spacial perception of your phone, and they will not hesitate to pop up on the side of the screen when you are trying to zoom in on fine details and block your way- until you have to forcibly drag them down the screen. I also take problem with the inherent size of these bubbles- on an iPhone, they will eat up your screen space without second thought.
Plus, for the love of God, they are bubbles- can I just have the option to pop them.
All on all, I have reason to give Facebook the benefit of the doubt- as long as they keep moving towards innovation, I see them continuing on as the omnipresent force that they are.
Now, about that Facebook phone…
September 22, 2012 § Leave a comment
You know that little blue “s” symbol that advertisers have started dropping on the corners of their advertisements? Expect to start seeing more of them, starting now.
While I am sure most of you have heard of Shazam, the social music-tagging software, the program is now branching out into a whole new universe; television.
I remember the first time I saw a Shazam button on an ad: Progressive. Being the front-of-the-curve as usual, the brand promoted their adver-game Rocket Cat Adventures (meow) by encouraging us to scan the symbol to play along. While promotig some of their own agenda, of course.
Oh- and don’t forget the Olympics! The perfect testing ground of their expansion, Shazam promoted themselves as a secondary source of content.
“How revolutionary! A new way to distract myself WHILE I am being distracted by TV!” while I won’t deny that we are already distracted to the brink by multiple sources, often at once, the role of this “distraction” is evolving.
While today we may distract ourselves with Plants vs. Zombies while watching Dr.Phil (“that’s good quality television!” in the words of Justin Timberlake), tomorrow we will not only be watching tv, but interacting with it.
“Now how is that ever going to happen?” you may ask
One word: Shazam. Not only can you watch a progressive commercial, but now you can play the cat in the commercial, allowing the brand to position itself while providing you with an active means of watching. Now that’s smart.
Now, how about an app that cleans my house while I watch?
June 22, 2012 § Leave a comment
As you all very well know, I have been spending the majority of my summer doing what I enjoy most: reading. Call me a dork, but more than once marketing book knowledge has saved me from embarrassment. My business book compulsion has also helped me learn things outside of the classroom and workplace; it’s a given, although more than a few people I know take reading for granted, especially in the business field.
In the words of one of my classmates “how can you read during the summer? You couldn’t pay me to do that!” I laughed and proceeded to shove my nose in another book.
This being said, thus far during the summer I have some across more than a few good reads relating to marketing and business as a whole. If you are just beginning to pursue a career in marketing or are a seasoned veteran, I encourage you to pick up any of these titles (many of which are light reading) and go wild.
Here are my top 5 recommended business books for summer reading:
1. Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media and Blogs by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah
Read this book first! For more than a few reasons, this book has been my savior. Inbound marketing had only been minimally explained to me in school and work, and this book more than filled in the blanks about how the miracle that is user-generated content works. In a very approachable (and even entertaining!) format, Halligan and Shah explain how to use inbound marketing to your benefit, explaining real-world examples of SEO optimiazation techqniques that worked and encouraging you to employ them, as well. Every chapter concludes with a checklist of ways you can incorporate these strategies into your own inbound marketing campaigns. Starting a blog myself at the time, you bet I did as they said; and for the most part, it worked. Halligan and Shah, I owe you one.
2.Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore
The essential how-to guide of outbound marketing- scratch that; the bible. Moore explains the “Chasm” theory, that in order to sell any product or service, a marketer must first bridge the gap between the Early Adopter and Early Majority markets. “The What?” you say. Basically, this book explains how to keep the momentum behind a brand, service, or product once it has launched and bridge the pitfall created when your brand message does not go public. This book was required reading in my marketing class, and I would have been at a disadvantage if it had not been assigned. And I don’t say that often- did I mention how high school ruined Huckleberry Finn for me?
3. Culturematic by Grant McCracken
This book is a goldmine of real-world examples of brands that stood out and became greater because of it. So how can “reality TV, John Cheever, a pie lab, Julia Child, Fantasy Football, burning man, the Ford Fiesta Movement, Rube Goldberg, NFL films, Wordle, Two and a Half Men, a 10,000-year symphony, and ROFLcon memes” “Help You Create and Execute Breakthrough Ideas?” Without spoiling too much, they do it by being different, word of mouth, and creating a new culture for their consumers. This book is absolutely to blame for my business book addiction at present.
4.Say Everything by Scott Rosenberg
Believe it or not, Blogs are not a leftover scrap of the 1990’s internet bubble, but a real form of marketing prowess for individuals and brands. This book explains just how blogs have become the media by the people, for the people, and why they won’t be going out of fashion, well, for a while. This book blends beautifully when it is read after Inbound Marketing, as it expemplifies inbound marketing done right. Part history, part guide, this book is surprisingly readable. If you have ever even looked at a blog post like this one and considered joining the blogosphere yourself or as a marketing pursuit, read this. Yes, You.
5. Onward by Howard Schultz
A gorgeous read about the trials of the Starbucks company in its re-branding effort during 2007/2008. The book is in a way an inspiration within itself; beginning with the crisis and ending with the return of the company as a top-dog in the coffee world after years of slippage, Howard explains how experience really is everything. As a story, this novel is interesting within itself, but the marketing and business value which can be derived from this novel is invaluable. That and Howard Schultz is thebombdotcom.
Gunn’s Golden Rules by Tim Gunn
Tim Gunn of Project Runway is the perfect example of the personal brand. Rising to fame in his later years, this book describes how even some of the largest names in fashion thankfully have brands like Vogue to form their first impressions. Gunn’s charismatic manner comes through his writing naturally, taking us the reader under his wing like one of his students, and guiding us through his own life experiences to perfect ourselves, and in a marketing context, our own personal brands.
Enjoy the sun, wear suntan lotion, and get your read on!
What are your favorite business books? (i.e indulge me in my pursuits as a bookworm?)
June 19, 2012 § Leave a comment
Apple; beacon of all things innovative and different.
Am I right?
Yeah, in 1985.
Alright- so I am absolutely not smashing apple. I am the proud owner of a Macbook Pro and iPod Touch; I just revere it in my own way. That way, being not for how currently”innovative” the brand is, but rather for the changes it has made throughout the history of computing as a whole.
They made home computing cool and a must-have for the new millenium, providing innovative devices which made technology more than an aspect of life, but a platform for life. But then, they froze in their tracks.
This is to say, I am inclined to believe that over the past few decades, Apple as been slipping from its formerly indie, innovative platform into something well, more standard.
In 1985, owning a Mac made you an oddball in the infancy of the personal computer.
Today, if you don’t own an iPhone, you might as well live on another planet.
Apple has set itself up with a double standard; standing out to fit in. This, we will call, the Apple iNomoly.
the Apple catchphrase, “Think Different,” has always been paramount to the Apple experience (which, I will admit, was very lovingly built). But does it really stand the test of time?
Is designing iPhone generations 1-4 to look identical throughout the years setting a precedent for the rest of the industry? Certainly, iPhone took down Blackberry down with an iron fist. But what now?
This decision lays primarily in the hands of Tim Cook, Apple CEO
Lately it just feels as through Apple has been sitting on its laurels, despite a few interesting tidbits like possible detachable lenses for the upcoming iPhone 5 and, well, that Apple TV thing. Whatever that is.
Apple, simply stated, needs to get back into fighting stance, because before Tim realizes it, the mindless legions of the 1984 Apple superbowl ad could be his own followers.
And I really don’t want to have to be be the weirdo in hotpants wielding a javelin. Really.
June 18, 2012 § Leave a comment
The other day I walked into an electronics store, and was met by a crowd of employees who appeared to be standing in a circle, bored out of their wits.
That moment when I walked in, like a buch of hornets from a kicked nest, they eagerly swarmed my way.
I had stopped by the store to pick up a few small things- an HDMI cable and an iPod charger that had been misplaced between Boston, Austin, and back. And while I felt fortunate to be waited on so eagerly, something struck me as odd.
In the entire superstore, there were no more than three individuals shopping. And then I realized that I was not being swarmed to because I was special (read: loved), but rather because there was nobody else in need of assistance.
in fact, as I mentioned, there was nearly anyone there. At all.
You have probably heard this before- that digital stores have essentially slammed physical stores into a mud pile and then rolled their faces around in it, but it is the kind of thing that doesn’t entirely strike you until you have been the only one in a vacant, formerly booming electronics store.
“huh” I thought to myself, “this place used to be the mecca of all things digital. What happened?” I wondered until the store associate handed me the cables I needed; a grand total of $80. My heart stopped, and I knew I had my answer.
$80 for two wires.
I pulled out my phone and bought the two cords I needed for a grand total of $8 as one of the associates suspiciously eyed me.
Melanie, 1; Electronics store, 0.
And yet one thing has shocked me ever since I left that store- digital shopping is indeed becoming the end-all-be-all, not because it is oh so much better than trekking out to the store, but because the stores simply are not adapting. It’s like that movie Hannah, where she is told to adapt or die. These superstores, apparently, are seriously considering the “die” option.
I for one know that I love to go out and physically see an object before I buy it, which is the magic of brick-and-mortar, but not in this world am I going to pay $80 to watch associates twiddle their thumbs awkwardly as I shop.
And yet stores like these have such a huge advantage over their competitors, which they are taking for granted like no other. Does Amazon have a staff of bright, technology-literate employees to wait on you hand and foot? No. Are they located by a scenic lake where the sun shines?
Nope- they are located by scenic 4chan, where the trolls live.
So what’s the problem? What we are left with is price, something which could essentially be compensated by one thing- their ability to sell themselves in the light of online shopping, where things are cheap and scams are rampant.
Electronics stores right now are dying out- by choice. They have physical locations, and yet they choose to not use them to their advantage, or even aknowledge the existence of their online competition.
My suggestion? Drag those price trolls out from their caves and show them what electronics superstores are made of. Price wisely, and, especially- get this; aknowledge Amazon, and then its weaknesses, in-store.
We have trained staff who not only know the products, but use them themselves- what about you, Amazon?
We can tailor your products to you- get to know you as a person, learn what drives you and help you live to potential with our help and products- that’s a bit tough to beat, huh Amazon?
Oh, and we are really here for you. After you buy your product, we will care for it like our first-born child. We will help you raise it to your standards and show you how to use this gorgeous product, and we will even take it upon ourselves to fix it and keep you on the edge of updates and technology. Amazon, you should probably be crying in a corner right about now.
Electronics stores, get yourselves together, and get your iPhone torch apps ready. It’s time to storm some internet troll caves!