Thursday, September 28, 2006

Random Thoughts

"Whenever you write, whatever you write, never make the mistake of assuming the audience is any less intelligent than you are."
- Rod Serling -

"To escape criticism - say nothing, do nothing, be nothing."
- Elbert Hubbard -

"Don't be seduced into thinking that that which does not make a profit is without value."
- Arthur Miller -

"Art is not truth; art is the lie which makes us see the truth."
- Pablo Picasso -

"The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast."
- Oscar Wilde -

"Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone."
- Pablo Picasso -

Tuesday, September 19, 2006



A person might think that when they’ve been doing something since childhood they would have it pretty much down pat. Breathing? Check — no problem. Walking? With a few notably humorous exceptions, it’s under control. Eating? Well, there’s where things get a little tricky. Beyond the days of the high chair, the do’s and don’ts of dining in polite society are numerous and confusing ... and when you add an element such as business into the mix, it’s unwise to simply leave success to chance.

The business lunch is a crucial component to American corporate culture, from entrepreneurs trying to get an idea off the ground to CEOs of Fortune 500 companies making company-wide policy changes.

Pulling off a successful business lunch takes, above all, grace. It requires the ability to remain attuned to both the social and professional, even when — as sometimes happens with well-established relationships — that line becomes blurred.

In his book, “Networking Smart,” Wayne Baker puts it this way: “At the heart of relationship-marketing is a great social truth: Business and personal ties become intermixed in long-term relationships.” And nowhere is this more true than with the corporate identity marketplace.

The Basics

Although the dance of a successful business lunch can be complicated, there are a few simple steps one can do to bolster the chance of a positive experience:

Choose the right venue. When selecting a restaurant, take your guest’s personality and tastes into account. Does he tend to be casual or formal? Will he be impressed by a fancy restaurant or will it just make him uncomfortable? Also take into consideration that you’ll want to be able to talk comfortably at the restaurant. Some swanky, highly praised restaurants can be too noisy and frenetic for easy conversation. If you don’t know your guest(s), choose a nice, conservative location, and if you aren’t familiar with restaurants in the area, ask a trusted associate for recommendations.
Dress appropriately to the venue you choose. If you have any question about what to wear, error on the side of formal. Your guest won’t fault you for showing you care. It’s flattering, and a sign of a true professional.Arrive on time. Showing up late says a lot about you — none of it good. Your guest is busy; respect his schedule.
Be good to the wait staff. This is something that’s said over and over in business etiquette books, and for good reason. The way you treat those waiting on you will be taken as a true test of your personality by the person sitting across from you at the table. Be kind and gracious. Be easy to get along with. Who doesn’t want that in a business partner?
Be careful with alcohol. Follow the other person’s lead. If he has a glass of wine, then that signals it’s fine for you to do so. But for Pete’s sake, don’t drink too much — generally no more than a glass. And if it’s not possible to take the other person’s lead, just abstain. Nobody will think less of you for not having a glass of wine with your meal.
Even though the purpose of your lunch may be business, it’s important to ease into things. Unless your guest launches into it first, save the business portion of your discussion until at least after you’ve ordered. It will help put both you and your guest at ease.
Steer clear of food that has a mind of its own. “Ignore your craving for the barbecue pork sandwich,” says the Creative Group, a high-tech placement agency. “By sticking to easy-to-eat items, you’ll save yourself the embarrassment of sauce dripping down your shirt.”

Beyond the Basics

“A meeting is worthwhile only if it achieves positive, tangible results,” says Michael Thomsett in “Little Black Book of Meetings.” Okay, that may be a little overzealous when it comes to your everyday business lunch, but results should still be taken into account. Plot out your objectives before you go into a business lunch. What do you want to get out of the meeting? If your answer is, “build a relationship” that’s great, but you need to be more specific. In a perfect world, what will the results of this interaction be in a week, a month, a year ... five years? And what steps can you take today that will make those things happen?

If you were facilitating a board meeting, you wouldn’t think about showing up without an agenda. Now, of course, you aren’t going to pull out an actual agenda at your lunch, but it’s a good exercise to plot out your ideal business lunch agenda before hand. You need to be flexible and deviate from it whenever called for, but making an agenda can help solidify your goals.

“People who network smart see relationships as the essential way to get jobs done,” says Wayne Baker.

Remember, relationships are long-term investments, and the business lunch is just one step in building a successful partnership.
It’s not just about commerce. It’s about people.

Daniel Brockley is the copywriter for SanMar Corp. Prior to working in wholesale apparel, Brockley managed marketing communications and public relations at REM Eyewear and AlexanderOgilvy, working with high-profile brands ranging from B2B and technology to fashion.

Monday, September 18, 2006

How Heineken Dropped the Ball With Amstel

A Hard Look at a Light Beer's Marketing Strategy
By Al Ries

Published: September 17, 2006
From Adage
Years ago, I was invited to Amsterdam to make a presentation to the marketing staff at Heineken. We'd like you to come back every year to keep us up-to-date on marketing trends, I was told.

Heineken, which owns the Amstel brand, has launched Heineken Premium Light, which directly competes against Amstel. Does this make sense?

Sacred cows

That invitation lasted for about an hour and a half. As soon as I reached the law of line extension in my presentation, the faces in the room clouded up and I knew I was on the wrong side of one of their sacred cows.

Why are so many marketing people enamored with line extensions when history shows that line-extension successes are mostly "illusions."

Which brings us to Heineken and its recent launch of Heineken Premium Light. What is astounding about this move is that Heineken already has an imported light beer in the American market, Amstel Light. Why would you want to compete with yourself?

Corona Light

As a matter of fact, Amstel Light is the largest-selling imported light beer in the U.S. until recently when it was passed by Corona Light.

Which proves, of course, that a line extension is better that a new brand. Or does it? How successful is Corona Light?

If you look at the numbers, not very. Corona Extra outsells Corona Light 11 to 1. (The confusion factor between Extra and Light is probably responsible for some of Corona Light's sales.)

Companies tend to treat a line extension as a separate brand when logic suggests that consumers see a strong connection between the base brand and the extension. (Diet Coke is widely perceived as regular Coke with the sugar replaced by an artificial sweetener.)

Like a teeter-totter

This connection is like a teeter-totter. When the extension goes up, the base brand goes down. Sometimes dramatically. The success of Miller Lite just about killed Miller High Life. And the same thing happened with Coors Light and regular Coors.

While line extensions seldom work, what almost always works in marketing is being first. After the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, Heineken was the first imported beer to enter the U.S. market. And Amstel Light was the first imported light beer.

Heineken was the first imported beer to race into the U.S. market when Prohibition was repealed. Being first was a key factor in the brand's long-term success here.

The power of being first in the mind is so overwhelming that you can do almost everything else wrong and still be successful. Let's look at Amstel Light.

Naming mistake
Heineken made a mistake with the name. They should have just called the brand "Amstel." The "Light" implied that the brand was a line extension when it was not. (At least, not in the U.S.)

Later, they also line-extended the brand, confusing everybody. In addition to Amstel Light, they tried to sell Amstel Bier, a lager, and Amstel 1870, a pilsner. This couldn't possibly work and it didn't.

Being first is the most important move you can make in marketing, but it's not everything. To assure your brand's longevity, you should add a conceptual idea that attests to the brand's leadership and authenticity -- like Budweiser's "King of Beers" or Nike's "Just do it."

Memorable and meaningful slogan
Every big beer brand usually has some favorable association. Coors is brewed with "Rocky Mountain spring water." Miller is associated with "Miller Time." Samuel Adams is the "microbrewed" beer.

But what's an Amstel Light? What memorable slogan does your average beer drinker associate with Amstel Light?

Live tastefully? The brand's latest slogan sounds more like a strategy for a clothing brand rather than a beer brand. Prior to that, Amstel Light was the "Beer drinker's light beer." (I thought the beer drinker's light beer was Bud Light.)

Corona Light now outsells Amstel Light, depriving Amstel of its previous claim to category leadership.

In the 25 years that Amstel Light has been on sale in the U.S. market, the brand has failed to associate itself with any motivating idea or concept. Now that Corona Light outsells Amstel Light, the brand can't even claim the leadership position in imported light beer.

Heineken's weak slogan

For that matter, what's a Heineken? Their current slogan, "It's all about the beer," doesn't define the brand in any meaningful way.

In Colombia, Heineken has used the slogan "La cerveza más famosa del mundo" ("The most famous beer in the world"). Not a bad idea for the leading imported beer in many countries.

Then there's the Heineken campaign that tried to associate the red star on the bottle with the brand. Typical billboard headline: "Stare at this for a long time and you'll see a red star."

A red star? Why in the world would Heineken want to use a Russian symbol for a Dutch beer? (Would a Russian beer use a tulip as a visual symbol?)

The power of color
Furthermore, Heineken has a unique color (green) that it never has taken full advantage of. Color can be a very effective branding device. Tiffany has blue. UPS has brown.

What the green jacket has done for the Masters golf tournament, the green bottle could have done for Heineken.

If you want to build a successful long-term brand, for a beer or any other product, you can't go wrong by following two simple rules. (1) Be first. (2) Rub it in with an anthem that resonates with consumers.

And go light on line extensions.

~ ~ ~
Al Ries is the author or co-author of 11 books on marketing, including his latest, The Origin of Brands. He and his daughter Laura run the Atlanta-based marketing strategy firm Ries & Ries. Their website is

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Latest Discoveries About Male Shoppers

A Report From the 'Ad Age' and 'Maxim' Man Conference

By Andrew Hampp

Published: September 14, 2006
NEW YORK ( -- Metrosexuality is dead. Or if it's still alive, no one at today's "The Man Conference," presented by Advertising Age and Maxim, was checking its pulse.
New survey results released at the 'Advertising Age' and 'Maxim' 'Man Conference' indicate that 58% of men polled spend more money than they make each month and that more men view shopping as a pleasurable leisure-time activity.

Testosterone-heavy topics such as beer, cars and razors were on the agenda for three panels, which were comprised of marketing directors from advertisers including Burger King, Volkswagen and Anheuser Busch, whose VP-brand management, Marlene V. Coulis, was the keynote speaker.

Spend more than they make
Rob Gregory, group publisher of Maxim, and Scott Donaton, associate publisher of the Ad Age Group, kicked things off by discussing the statistics of a 500-man survey conducted just weeks before the conference. The results spoke to the surprisingly high consumer activity of the average male. For example, 58% of men polled spend more money than they make each month. "It almost makes their target household income irrelevant," Mr. Donaton said.

The survey also reported an increased amount of purchase activity among men aged 18 to 34 in clothing, specifically in department stores, something long thought to be a predominantly female habit. "It dispels the myth that guys 'mission shop' only once a month," Mr. Donaton said.

With consumer secrets revealed, the panelists proceeded to discuss ways they've successfully tapped into the purchasing power of men as well as a few ventures they're still exploring.

Some highlights of the discussions:

'Answer is control'
When it comes to entertainment, marketing to men can be tricky. But Jeff Bell, VP-interactive entertainment at Microsoft, has a solution.

"The answer is control," Mr. Bell said during the "Boys and Their Toys" panel. "The more we relinquish control the better. We really need to present male consumers with both the right hardware and software so they can watch the content they want with less-spooky marketing."

That relinquishing of control and subsequent rise in user-generated content has been an emerging way to both engage consumers and shape the products being advertised.

"It doesn't have to be visual content. It's not something to be afraid of," said Mark-Hans Richer, director of marketing at Pontiac.

Power of the average man

"I don't believe in focus groups in hotel ballrooms," said Kerri Martin, director-brand innovation at Volkswagen.

Ms. Martin's recent launch of the Volkwagen GTI was released without focus-group feedback and was a huge success. In fact, it was so popular among consumers across the country that it elicited user-generated videos and design models of the product.

Ms. Martin's co-panelist during "Learning the Language," JWT New York Co-President Ty Montague, agreed that the reliability of middle America is key when launching a campaign. "The whole metrosexuality thing only exists on two coasts of the country," Mr. Montague said. "There's a whole group of men out there who've been pretty much the same for the last 20 years."

All about the product
Star power can boost an already strong product, but only so much. Rohan Oza, senior VP-marketing at Energy Brands, has seen strong sales of his company's Glaceau Vitamin Water, thanks in part to a campaign that featured sports teams, rapper 50 Cent and singer Kelly Clarkson. But at the end of the day, it's the product you have to sell to the consumer.

"When you can connect with a person and say, 'Here's nutrients, hydration and a laugh,' they'll say, 'I'll take that,'" Mr. Oza said during the discussion "Getting Men to Say, 'I Love You' (to a Brand)."

The power of word of mouth is much more effective with men than any celebrity or athlete endorsement, said Rose Cameron, senior VP-planning director at Leo Burnett USA.

"For males, friends are extremely important," Ms. Cameron said. "The advertising people are giving them options, but ultimately they're going to decide among themselves what they like."

Thursday, September 14, 2006

FCC ordered media study destroyed

Lawyer says FCC ordered study destroyed
By JOHN DUNBAR Associated Press Writer
© 2006 The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission ordered its staff to destroy all copies of a draft study that suggested greater concentration of media ownership would hurt local TV news coverage, a former lawyer at the agency says.
The report, written in 2004, came to light during the Senate confirmation hearing for FCC Chairman Kevin Martin.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. received a copy of the report "indirectly from someone within the FCC who believed the information should be made public," according to Boxer spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz.
Adam Candeub, now a law professor at Michigan State University, said senior managers at the agency ordered that "every last piece" of the report be destroyed. "The whole project was just stopped _ end of discussion," he said. Candeub was a lawyer in the FCC's Media Bureau at the time the report was written and communicated frequently with its authors, he said.
In a letter sent to Martin Wednesday, Boxer said she was "dismayed that this report, which was done at taxpayer expense more than two years ago, and which concluded that localism is beneficial to the public, was shoved in a drawer."
Martin said he was not aware of the existence of the report, nor was his staff. His office indicated it had not received Boxer's letter as of midafternoon Thursday.
In the letter, Boxer asked whether any other commissioners "past or present" knew of the report's existence and why it was never made public. She also asked whether it was "shelved because the outcome was not to the liking of some of the commissioners and/or any outside powerful interests?"
The report, written by two economists in the FCC's Media Bureau, analyzed a database of 4,078 individual news stories broadcast in 1998. The broadcasts were obtained from Danilo Yanich, a professor and researcher at the University of Delaware, and were originally gathered by the Pew Foundation's Project for Excellence in Journalism.
The analysis showed local ownership of television stations adds almost five and one-half minutes of total news to broadcasts and more than three minutes of "on-location" news. The conclusion is at odds with FCC arguments made when it voted in 2003 to increase the number of television stations a company could own in a single market. It was part of a broader decision liberalizing ownership rules.
At that time, the agency pointed to evidence that "commonly owned television stations are more likely to carry local news than other stations."
When considering whether to loosen rules on media ownership, the agency is required to examine the impact on localism, competition and diversity. The FCC generally defines localism as the level of responsiveness of a station to the needs of its community.
The 2003 action sparked a backlash among the public and within Congress. In June 2004, a federal appeals court rejected the agency's reasoning on most of the rules and ordered it to try again. The debate has since been reopened, and the FCC has scheduled a public hearing on the matter in Los Angeles on Oct. 3.
The report was begun after then-Chairman Michael Powell ordered the creation of a task force to study localism in broadcasting in August of 2003. Powell stepped down from the commission and was replaced by Martin in March 2005. Powell did not return a call seeking comment.
The authors of the report, Keith Brown and Peter Alexander, both declined to comment. Brown has left public service while Alexander is still at the FCC. Yanich confirmed the two men were the authors. Both have written extensively on media and telecommunications policy.
Yanich said the report was "extremely well done. It should have helped to inform policy."
Boxer's office said if she does not receive adequate answers to her questions, she will push for an investigation by the FCC inspector general.

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Segway Recalls Scooters for Injury Risk

Segway Recalls Scooters for Injury Risk

The Associated Press
Thursday, September 14, 2006; 11:07 AM

NEW YORK -- Segway Inc. is recalling all 23,500 of the self-balancing scooters it has shipped to date because of a software glitch that can make its wheels unexpectedly reverse direction, causing riders to fall off _ and in at least one incident, break some teeth.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, with whom Segway is cooperating on the voluntary recall announced Thursday, said consumers should stop using the vehicles immediately.

Segway has received six reports of problems with the Personal Transporter, resulting in head and wrist injuries. The vehicles were previously known as the Human Transporter.

Segway is offering a free software upgrade that will fix the problem. The upgrades will be done at Segway's 100 dealerships and service centers around the world, according to Segway spokeswoman Carla Vallone, and the company based in Bedford, N.H., will pay to ship the devices to the appropriate center if need be.

It is the second time the scooters, which sell for about $4,000 to $5,500, have been recalled since they first went on sale in 2002. The 2003 recall involved the first 6,000 of the devices sold, and involved a problem that could cause riders to fall off the device when its battery ran out of juice.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Apple forges path to digital living room

SAN FRANCISCO--Apple Computer overhauled its digital music and video offerings on Tuesday, introducing new iPods in three categories and announcing plans to make movies available for purchase through the iTunes store.

Movies from four studios owned by The Walt Disney Company will be available on iTunes 7, the new version of the download software, the same day they are released to DVD, said Apple CEO Steve Jobs in outlining the new offerings at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts here. Preorders and movies purchased in the first week will cost $12.99; the price then bumps up to $14.99 for new releases.

The studios are Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar, Touchstone Pictures, and Miramax, and older titles will also be available for $9.99.
Apple Showtime

Those movies can be watched on new iPods with brighter screens and more capacity. The movies can be downloaded in near-DVD quality, Jobs said. Consumers with broadband speeds of 5 megabits per second will be able to download movies from iTunes in 30 minutes, he added.

"The big theme today was Apple announced its intentions to take over your living room," said Gene Munster, an analyst with Piper Jaffray.

Apple also plans to introduce a product in the first quarter of 2007 that lets consumers stream their movies or music to televisions, Jobs said. The new device, code-named iTV, has 802.11 wireless built in. It will sell for $299 and works with PCs and Macs. "We think it completes the picture here," Jobs said.

Apple would not say which flavor of 802.11 wireless networking the iTV would use. "We're not talking about the technology inside iTV," Apple Senior Vice President Phil Schiller said in an interview. "That's next year's discussion."

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Marbury vs. Madison Avenue

Marbury vs. Madison Avenue
Can Stephon Marbury's $15 sneaker revolutionize the sports-shoe business?

By Daniel Gross

Star-endorsed basketball shoes have long been one of the great rip-offs in footwear. Nike wants $130 for a pair of Zoom Kobe I sneakers and $110 for Zoom LeBron IIIs. You'll pay at least $90 for Allen Iverson's signature shoes, the Answer. (The question: What costs too much?)

But now cheap is suddenly cool. New York Knicks point guard Stephon Marbury has just put his name on a line of cheap athletic wear and shoes, dubbed Starbury. Marbury's signature Starbury One basketball shoes retail for a mere $15.

Marbury isn't the first basketball player to put his name on cheaper shoes. In 2004, Shaquille O'Neal's Dunkman line of shoes retailed at Payless for $40 a pair. But what distinguishes Marbury's shoe is its extreme cheapness combined with his vow to actually use it in his professional life. "I'm going to wear the shoe on court. I'm going to wear the sneakers all season," he said in a piece that aired on National Public Radio this morning.

Part of the unspoken language of consumerism is that we're not really supposed to believe that high-end celebrities actually use the affordable products they endorse. At her various homes, including her estate in Westport, Conn., now on the market for an absurd $8.995 million, we don't expect to find Martha Stewart using the $8.99 100 percent nylon bath mat she endorses for Kmart. Likewise, when Michael Graves designs interiors for fancy homes and high-end offices, we don't really think that he's fitting them out with the $4.99 wall clocks he designs for Target.

On the court, Marbury has generally been the anti-Michael Jordan—stuck with a reputation as a pouting, troublemaking nonwinner. Off the court, he wants to be the anti-Jordan, too. Jordan's long-running Nike shoes are rather expensive—the new Jordan Men's XXI goes for $175. They're certainly not 12 times better than the Starbury One. Over the years, Jordan has come in for criticism for putting his name on expensive shoes that are made with cheap foreign labor and marketed to a generally low-income domestic audience. And he's generally been indifferent to the charge. Marbury is framing his commercial venture as a self-abnegating act. He's using his celebrity to create products that even poor people can easily afford.

Will his shoe put him at a competitive disadvantage against NBA opponents who hawk and wear $150 sneakers? Fifteen-dollar sneakers may be adequate for kids running around a schoolyard, but against LeBron? Earlier today, I picked up a pair of $10 Starbury SXMs and road-tested them, juking several editors, executing an awkward 360 at the Xerox machine, and busting out a few crossovers in the elevator. They seemed to work fine. But if my job involved covering ankle-breaker Dwyane Wade, and if my ability to earn millions of dollars hinged on protecting my fragile feet and ankles, then I'd probably want a little more arch support. In fact, I'd probably want to wear the best, highest-performance equipment money can buy. Not even Marbury is making that claim about his shoes.

And rather than affiliate with a sleek, design-conscious company like Nike or a mega-retailer like Target, Marbury has chosen to cast his lot with a scrappy upstart. The Starbury line is available only at the up-and-coming cheapo apparel retailer Steve & Barry's. Steve & Barry's started with a single store at the University of Pennsylvania in 1985, expanded to other college campuses, and then to malls. Today, there are about 130 stores, with six opening in August and September alone. This piece in Business Week explains how Steven Shore and Barry Prevor have managed to undercut Wal-Mart and Target by scoring great deals from landlords at crappy malls, buying directly from overseas, and offering only house brands. The result: absurdly low prices. Walk through the aisles and you'll shake your head in disbelief: polo shirts, rugby shirts, hats, university T-shirts, bulky hooded sweatshirts, jeans and khakis, shorts, warm-up jackets, all for less than $10. You could clothe your family for a year for $100. If Steve & Barry can figure out how to make a few pennies on each sale, they can certainly figure out how to make sure Marbury gets a penny or two.

And unlike Nike and Foot Locker, Steve & Barry don't advertise. Which is another reason that Marbury's deal seems both self-sacrificing and affordable. Spike Lee certainly won't be making any high-concept ads for the Starbury One, and Stephon will have to help hustle the goods himself (Marbury vs. Madison Avenue). But these days, fantastic word-of-mouth can be as valuable as a multimillion-dollar ad campaign. And Starbury certainly has that.

This morning, the Manhattan Mall was generally empty—except for the line of 75 people queuing up outside Steve & Barry's to get a look at the shoes, which had arrived earlier this month. Inside, many were frustrated by the lack of selection and the two-pair-per-person limit. But that didn't stop them from loading up on Starbury apparel—T-shirts and varsity jackets, jeans, satiny warm-up jackets and baggy shorts, basketball jerseys—all for a tiny fraction of what similar products would cost at Niketown or at the New York Knicks' online store. Meanwhile, foot traffic at the Foot Locker one floor down was nonexistent.
Daniel Gross ( writes Slate's "Moneybox" column. You can e-mail him at

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