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Posts Tagged ‘things we assume we won’t like’

Apple’s ‘Made in USA’ Plan: Good PR, Bad Strategy or Both?

Tim Cook and Brian WilliamsApple CEO Tim Cook made the media rounds this morning to hype a major announcement: For the first time in well over a decade, Apple will be manufacturing a certain number of its products within the United States.

As cynics, we see this move as a blatant attempt to counter all the bad PR that Apple received over the Foxconn outsourcing/slave labor/suicide scandal (though we would note that this awful story didn’t really prevent anyone, least of all ourselves, from buying Apple products).

The fact that late CEO Steve Jobs supposedly denied a request for more domestic production from none other than President Obama strengthens this theory. As much as we’ve accepted outsourcing as a part of the modern business landscape, everyone loves to hear about good new jobs for Americans. So this is great PR, right?

Maybe–but investors hated it, and we have a feeling certain Apple advisers did too.

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Starbucks Unveils New $7 ‘Grande’ Cup of Joe

We’ve all heard more than enough about the prolonged American recession/unemployment crisis. We can’t blame the public for being confused about the fact that this very same struggling nation can set Black Friday sales records and create demand for—wait for it—a $7 cup of coffee at Starbucks. Huh?

Who, exactly, is spending all of this money on coffee–and where did they get it? Aren’t we all broke, unemployed and burdened by a lifetime of student loans? Champagne taste on a beer budget is one thing, but coffee doesn’t even have any alcohol in it. Has “a cup of joe” become the new glass of wine?

The Starbucks brand hasn’t just changed the way Americans perceive and consume coffee–it continues to guide our tastes and understanding of a substance that plays an increasingly prevalent role in our lives. Part of the coffee appreciation learning curve, apparently, entails pushing the boundaries of the ordinary. Sorry, Pike Place roast.

To capitalize on the public’s ceaseless search for something new, something better and something different, Starbucks now offers “high-end” Costa Rica Finca Palmilera coffee along with an extra-special variety called “Geisha”. Yes, that geisha.

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PR Kerfuffle Over Caffeinated ‘Cracker Jacks’

Fans of Cracker Jacks will soon find something other than temporary tattoos, cheap trinkets and miniature games hidden in their sweet and salty treat bags: a jolt of caffeine.

Not thrilled with the idea of your little tikes loading up on “jacked up” cracker jacks and bouncing off the walls? Fear not! PepsiCo (parent company of Cracker Jack makers Frito-Lay) assures us that it will only market the soon-to-be-released Cracker Jack’d Power Bites to adults. Not buying it? Neither is the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which charges that the planned snack violates federal food regulations.

In a letter to the Food and Drug Administration, CSPI argued that “Caffeine is generally recognized as safe only in cola-type beverages and only at concentrations of 0.02% or less (about 72 mg per 12 oz.).”

When asked about these allegations, a Frito-Lay spokesman told Ad Age that Power Bites will include “two flavors that will contain coffee, a natural source of caffeine, as an ingredient…We stand by the safety of all products in the Cracker Jack’d line, including those that contain coffee. It is worth pointing out the regulation referenced in CSPI’s letter to FDA speaks to caffeine–not coffee–and is not an exhaustive list of the safe uses of caffeine in foods and beverages.”

The FDA wasn’t the only organization to receive a strongly-worded note from CSPI.

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Billboard Charts Go Digital (Now With Even More Rihanna!)

Rihanna Billboard cover While we focused on superstorms and elections over the past month, a certain famous American business made a big change right under our noses.

Billboard magazine, long seen as the ultimate tastemaker in American pop music for its top singles list, decided to join the 21st century by revising its algorithm to include digital sales and online streaming services like Pandora and Spotify when determining which songs are most popular in a given week.

Sounds like progress, right?

Quite a few people in music don’t think so, because these changes give “stars with a pop-oriented sound and broad crossover appeal an advantage over other artists”. We have to agree: the fact that Psy’s “Gangnam Style” ruled the “rap” charts for more than a month while Taylor Swift continues to dominate the “Hot Country” category tells us that something in this new equation is a little off.

This excellent infographic demonstrates the fact that a mere six artists have all but dominated the Billboard charts over the past five years. According to most predictions, these new algorithms will result in more number one hits for Rihanna, Katy Perry, Maroon 5 and Flo Rida while making the climb to the top of the charts even steeper for independent artists and those who work in “niche” genres like country, rock and roll and, you know, pretty much everything but “pop.”

Billboard’s editorial director Bill Werde defended the changes on his tumblr page, but the whole story is ominous news for the vast majority of those who work in or care about the music business. Some have created petitions urging Billboard to abandon its new model, but based on the puny number of signatures collected so far we can’t see that working.

What do we think? Will these changes make it harder for music reps to promote their clients? How will the industry adjust?

(As a bit of a bonus, here’s Werde talking to Mediabistro’s Donya Blaze about the challenges of music journalism): Read more

Re-Branding: Oprah, HuffPo Join Forces

Two of the media world’s biggest one-woman brands have  joined forces in the interest of elevating both of their profiles—and their respective media outlets.

After some earlier announcements, the two chose today to launch “HuffPost OWN”, a co-branding project that amounts to a new section on the Huffington Post site focusing on lifestyle and personal/inspirational content drawn from Oprah’s channel, website and magazine.

Winfrey says she’s “delighted to join the conversation” and Huffington calls her new partner “made for the internet.”

The real message here? After her OWN Network suffered some disastrous ratings failures, Oprah realized that what her fans really want is her—in the flesh and ready to distribute her own well-formed brand of advice and “authenticity”. The network’s ratings began to steadily improve once Oprah realized her mistake and brought back the things her fans love: the book club, celebrity interviews, and controversial personalities like Rihanna and Kim Kardashian.

Will the venture work? As long as Oprah’s face is on the page every day, we see this as a branding win for both properties. Our only question: does the world really need more of the good doctors Oz and Phil? We hope the answer is no.

‘Words With Friends’, ‘Draw Something’ Board Games Aren’t Fooling Anyone

Virtual games based on classic real-world board games have taken the social media world by storm; bored office workers and easily distracted students everywhere play Draw Something (aka Pictionary-on-the-go) and Words With Friends (Scrabble for the attention-span-challenged) obsessively on cell phones and tablets.

Toymaker Hasbro naturally decided to get in on the action by producing tangible, real-world board games based on everyone’s favorite online distractions–which were based on board games in the first place. Confused? So are we.

Anyone notice the right-before-the-holidays release date? The company has even chosen to market these shameless ripoffs as “more social” than their digital versions, since fans can play them at parties with other actual humanoids. But no one seems to be falling for it. Some related Tweets:

Here’s the kicker: the makers of Words with Friends the Board Game are the makers of Scrabble!

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Goldman Sachs Will Address The Court of Public Opinion Now

Today marks a Very Serious Literary Event: the release of Wall Street turncoat/general sad sack Greg Smith’s highly anticipated non-fiction debut, Why I Left Goldman Sachs.

Smith’s book expands upon an op-ed he wrote for The New York Times back in March in which he decried his former employer’s once-noble culture as “toxic and destructive” while claiming to be shocked at “how callously people talk about ripping their clients off”. The article’s best-known revelation was the fact that managers referred to their clients as “muppets”—and not in an endearing Fozzie Bear kind of way.

First the obvious: Most Americans don’t think too highly of Goldman Sachs right now, no matter what Mr. Smith says. When Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone referred to the company as a “great vampire squid”, he wasn’t just engaging in colorful hyperbole: According to the widely cited YouGov Brand Index, GS remains engaged in a bad-PR battle with JPMorgan Chase to determine which financial organization Americans hate most.

Politicians may have plenty of love for Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein, but the average “man on the street” feels differently. So how will the biggest name in investment banking deal with its most visible enemy? Until now, the organization has largely ignored Mr. Smith, but a curious internal memo reveals that this is no longer the case.

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Michael Vick Is a Dog Owner Again

We’re guessing the title above either made you shout an expletive or emit a compassionate sigh. Michael Vick is what we call a polarizing figure, and the public views him as either a heartless torturer of innocent animals or a man who has paid his dues to society and earned the right to move on in life.

As PR professionals, we won’t judge Vick here, but we will break down his relationship with the public because, like it or not, Michael Vick is a public relations textbook still in the making. Here’s the story:

Michael Vick, from Hampton Roads, Virginia, was the electric quarterback for Virginia Tech before being selected as the number one pick in the 2001 NFL draft by the Atlanta Falcons. Vick had undeniable talent, awe-inspiring athleticism…and tens of millions of dollars to show for his gifts before playing a single professional down. This was a 30 for 30 script long before the show ever aired on ESPN.

A series of poor financial and personal decisions, alongside a smug attitude toward his quarterbacking duties somehow culminated in an FBI investigation, lies to the NFL commissioner and, ultimately, jail time for running a dog fighting ring with “friends” near his hometown. This wasn’t the usual cocaine and hookers–this was brutality and Fido. The public wanted blood. Vick went to jail, and most thought the story would end there, as any aspirations of a comeback seemed doomed by both human reality and spiritual karma. Read more

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