Tag Archives: America

Welcome to Anytown, America! [Your Ad Here]

As reported by Mark J. Miller on brandchannel and the New York Times, many American cities are getting creative to earn more cash. 

How can you drum it up when everybody is also paying extra close attention to where a wallet’s contents are disappearing to? Cities are no different. Government services are hurting for cash and there are only so many ways to generate more dough.

Baltimore is currently trying to sell space on its fire engines to raise some extra pennies. And why not? The city’s current budget has made the elimination of three city fire companies necessary this summer.

Philadelphia is selling ad space on its subway fare cards and one of the city’s main train stops is now named for AT&T. Chicago is selling naming rights to its eleven “L” subway stations. As for the Times’ hometown, the naming rights for the Atlantic Avenue subway station at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn were sold in 2009, and the MTA implemented the Barclays name change in May.

The NYT report adds that corporate brands can cause confusion to the good citizens navigating them: “Cleveland recently named its new Bus Rapid Transit system the HealthLine after it received $6.25 million over 25 years from the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals. (‘The HealthLine is not a number to call for free medical advice, any more than Quicken Loans Arena is where you go to take out a loan,’ its website notes.)”

The paper notes that KFC was one of the leaders in this form of advertising. The company “temporarily plastered its logo on manhole covers and fire hydrants in several cities in Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee after paying to fill potholes and replace hydrants.” Sounds like not the worst tradeoff, right?

“As I’ve looked at budgets, they get bigger with less support from the federal and state governments,” Baltimore City Council member William Welch said. “And we can’t tax people out of existence. We’re trying, our mayor’s trying, to bring 10,000 more people back to Baltimore city. And if you have an increasing fee or tax structure, you’re not going to be able to do that. So you have to create alternatives.”

The Times notes that while selling naming rights raises money, it can also raise some thorny issues as well. The town of Tyngsborough, Mass., was considering selling ad space in order to raise money for new police cars, but it ended up deciding to not go there just yet. “Because of what we do, we like to be neutral,” said Chief William F. Mulligan, according to the Times. “Say there were two shopping plazas, and one advertised and one didn’t. Would that company feel like we weren’t treating them fairly?”

Can Carnival Cruises Rescue its Reputation?

As you continue to watch Carnival Cruises respond to its Costa Concordia accident near Italy, you might be wondering how this company — and the cruise industry — can restore trust during this peak season when cash-strapped consumers are booking their 2012 breaks.

Given the infrequent appearances from executives at this world’s largest cruise line (whose brands include Carnival, Holland America Line, Seabourn, AIDA Cruises, Ibero Cruises, P&O Cruises Cunard, Princess Cruises, Costa), clearly Carnival’s current and future revenues are at risk unless they take action now:

  • the “how” – immediate communication by the leaders of the company on its search and rescue efforts is a must. As in any corporate crisis, it’s all about speed.
  • the “who” – fielding top executives from Costa’s parent company, Carnival Cruises, is a must as only they have measurable credibility for reassuring concerned relatives, friends, customers, employees, investors, media and other stakeholders. This is a much more effective way to retain (rebuild) trust rather than leaving it to trade bodies to speculate on why the accident happened.
  • the “what” – demonstrating the actions being taken to all stakeholders that contingency plans are in place and being implemented is the best way to reassure people that your brand can be trusted.
  • the “where” – appropriate rescue operations need to be demonstrated in online and offline media by Carnival Cruises to ensure all its partners and channels are informed and aligned with your activities. This includes travel agents, system partners (airlines, hotels, car rental companies) and others in its ecosystem.

Chinese Find IKEA Is Swede Place for Romance

Ignore local knowledge at your peril: this is the lesson for retailers heading for China in the recent Wall Street Journal article “In China, Ikea is a Swede Place for Senior Romance” which Laurie Burkitt capably details.

Recounted in her revealing piece are educational stories about international retailers — IKEA, Wal-Mart, McDonald’s — that are getting accustomed to Chinese consumers expecting to use them as their home away from home, aiming to spend a great deal of time—if not serious money—at these usually generous sized, comfortable stores.  Examples from the article (below) can spare any business expaqnding there much time and stress:

Ikea: At the weekly IKEA romance session in Shanghai, the elderly arrive in swarms of 70 to 700 to get the free coffee offered to holders of the IKEA Family membership card. Ms. Tang, seated amid the backdrop of Poang reading chairs and Vreta poufs, sips coffee and says she is grateful to have such a meeting place. “I make more senior citizen friends when I come here,” said Ms. Tang. In China, IKEA is planning to up its nine locations to 17 stores by 2015 to meet demand from the nation’s growing middle class, who aspire to Western lifestyles at affordable prices. On a recent Sunday in Beijing, Liu Yunfeng sat in a 3,999 yuan ($625) white leather Tirup chair, watching home videos from the screen of her Sony digital camera while her shoeless daughter jumped on the Nyvoll bed of a mock-up room.

Wal-Mart: Several years ago, some Wal-Mart stores in China set up a children’s camp for summer and winter school breaks. During daily sessions, children are encouraged to try their hands as part-time greeters and announce deals over the broadcast system. “If I go to Wal-Mart I’ll want to go for the day,” said Cui Hongyan.

McDonalds: With its free Wi-Fi and clean bathrooms, is adding more electrical outlets to most of its China stores in hopes that people will actually come and hang around longer. In Hong Kong, the fast food giant is developing a service known as “McWedding” to encourage people to marry in their stores. One proposed feature of the ceremony: When it is time for the big kiss, the bride and groom can each chomp on the end of a french fry until their lips meet.

But did these retailers do their homework? Were they prepared for Chinese consumers expectations?

It seems that the retailer s relied on what worked in their home markets and are now struggling to adapt to consumers wanting to turn the retail experience into a full day social experience – “retailtainment.” Chinese consumers love Western and European brands and generally prefer them to their own Asian options. Retailers need to be educated about the unique demands of customers – they need to be relevant and have personality, which is exactly what Ikea, Wal-Mart and McDonalds have done – just a little too late. IKEA, however, is missing one of the biggest brand lessons – cultural sensitivity – when they propped up a notice board at the entrance of the cafeteria, which stated “IKEA would hereby like to inform this group and its organizers: Your behavior is affecting the normal operations of the IKEA cafeteria,” the notice said.

Comparably, Mercedes called on the local culture by flying over some of its best customers from China to join in a focus group to determine customer expectations in a new market. The brand not only differentiated itself, but it also went through the brand localization process, increasing its brand relevance and image in China. Again the key lesson here is to always challenge your assumptions and be prepared for foreign consumers’ very different expectations, particularly in the Chinese market.

Murdochs cause waves on both sides of the Atlantic

Rupert Murdoch (C) walks from a hotel to his flat with his son James Murdoch (L)Last night I was asked on BBC’s Newsnight, its influential current affairs television program, what Rupert Murdoch should do wearing his corporate diplomat hat given he’s now being pursued by a high-profile range of interested parties — UK Parliament’s Culture/Media/Sport select committee, London’s Metropolitan Police and the FBI who all are very interested in the extent of his company’s phone hacking and police bribery practices.  Is Rupert Murdoch’s defiance going to be seen as a Tony Hayward moment, the former BP executive wanting his life back? Clearly his newspaper brands in the US and UK have a lot more defending to do, with the mere whiff of wrongdoing taking the shine off both News International’s share price and the levels of trust in its brands.  The UK impact of this drama hopefully will result in not only a change in the privacy laws and regulation of the media, but will shine a bright light on the nature of British news media ownership and the dysfunctions that imbalances of market power bring.  Stay tuned!

Spotlight on America | In-Depth Analysis | Marketing Week


International Marketing Partners Director Allyson Stewart-Allen’s 2001 book Working with Americans highlights, among other things, that even though British and American culture is linked through history and language, key differences in approaches to business are worth understanding. She also revealed in her recent session with the Marketing Week-sponsored Marketing Academy that Americans put less importance on relationships but are more task-focused, and want to see numbers-based results and insights over qualitative commentary.

For Nicole McDonnell, marketing director of children’s food brand Ella’s Kitchen, cultural differences in her team’s personality in the US has been very obvious and unexpected. She gives the example of company job titles – Nicole’s business card says “head of making friends”, and the company managing director is Ella’s dad, and his job title is simply that. McDonnell feels this adds to the brand identity, but it has not gone down well with her colleagues on the other side of the Atlantic.

“In the States, it’s all about being the CEO or the vice-president. I would like them to use the job titles we use because they epitomise what the brand is about, but in the US they feel it doesn’t give them enough credibility in their market,” she explains. “I appreciate the titles we like to use might not give the right understanding of how senior somebody is, so getting the right balance on this is something we are in discussions about.”

Diageo’s Cristina Diezhandino, now regional marketing and innovation director for Africa, also discovered some key differences when she embarked on her first role in the US about 15 years ago. First, that the customary greeting of kissing a business colleague in Spain was not appropriate in the US. Second, that meeting formats were a lot stricter than what she was used to.

“Meetings had a set beginning and end, stated in advance, with specific agendas and an outcome to be achieved in that time. What surprised me was that people would simply stand up at the end of the period of time, say goodbye and leave.

“I now regard that as very normal, but when I first experienced it I thought it was not a polite way to end things. Then I realised that it is equally impolite to take up more of people’s time than necessary when they are very busy.”

 

Click here to read my comments in Marketing Week’s  cover feature: Beware the culture gap on global growth trail

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The World’s Best Countries: Newsweek’s study of health, education, economy and politics ranks the globe’s top nations

So Newsweek has recently issued it’s “World’s Best Countries” ranking  based on education, health, quality of life, economic dynamism, political environment.  The UK weighs in at 14th place – behind Germany’s 12th – but ahead of France’s 16th and Italy’s 23rd rankings.  Guess where the US is?  The United States ranks in 11th place – behind Canada’s 7th place and Japan’s 8th place – putting it in the middle of the G7.

Maybe one reason for the US’ mid-level ranking is the severity of this recession and how different it is from the past few — how chronically it has affected white-collar professionals, especially those in California which has an unemployment rate approaching 13%.  This one State, the world’s 7th largest economy, would displace Canada in the G8 if allowed to be admitted.  As a key driver of technology innovations and economic renewal, this is very bad news indeed.

What this recession has done, interestingly, is make American companies even hungrier for business, finding creative ways to retain custom more than ever before.   This is good news for consumers – customer service keeps improving – if evidenced only by my dry cleaners phoning me to extend a hearty thanks for my custom (can’t see that happening in European settings somehow!).

I also observed American department stores & supermarket retailers pushing their ‘value’ and own-label ranges which is a growing and lucrative source of income.

For more about Newsweek’s ranking:  http://www.newsweek.com/2010/08/15/interactive-infographic-of-the-worlds-best-countries.html

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Robert Reich: Why Growth Is Good

Robert Reich: Why Growth Is Good

What will be the fall-out from the predicted global economic slow growth? What brands will survive, succumb or override this sustained downturn? Read this excellent article by Robert Reich and let me know your thoughts:

“Economic growth is slowing in the United States. It’s also slowing in Japan, France, Britain, Italy, Spain, and Canada. It’s even slowing in China. And it’s likely to be slowing soon in Germany.

If governments keep hacking away at their budgets while consumers almost everywhere are becoming more cautious about spending, global demand will shrink to the point where a worldwide dip is inevitable.

You might ask yourself: So what? Why do we need more economic growth anyway? Aren’t we ruining the planet with all this growth — destroying forests, polluting oceans and rivers, and spewing carbon into the atmosphere at a rate that’s already causing climate chaos? Let’s just stop filling our homes with so much stuff.”

Read the full article at:

Robert Reich: Why Growth Is Good.

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BP Oil Spill Coverup: Fishermen Speak Up

Was the BP CEO shuffle a waste of time? Current reports don’t look promising – read Rick Outzen’s report:

While officials claim most of the oil from America’s worst-ever spill has disappeared, fishermen hired by BP are still finding tar balls—and being instructed to hide their discoveries.

Two weeks ago, as federal officials prepared to declare that some three-quarters of the estimated 5 million barrels of oil released into the Gulf over three months had disappeared, Mark Williams, a fishing boat captain hired by BP to help with the spill cleanup, encountered tar balls as large as three inches wide floating off the Florida coast.

Reporting his findings to his supervisor, a private consulting company hired by BP, the reply, according to his logbook came back: “Told—no reporting of oil or tar balls anymore. Don’t put on report. We’re here for boom removal only,” referring to the miles of yellow and orange containment barriers placed throughout the Gulf.

Williams’ logbook account, which I inspected, and a similar account told to me by a boat captain in Mississippi, raises serious concerns about whether the toll from the spill is being accurately measured. Many institutions have an interest in minimizing accounts of the damage inflicted. The federal and local governments, under withering criticism all summer, certainly want to move on to other subjects. BP, of course, has a financial incentive.

The miraculous disappearance of the oil and the pending transfer of $20 billion to Ken Feinberg, who is independently overseeing the claims fund, have resulted in the oil giant cutting back its response operations. With a recent halving of the Vessels of Opportunity program, which hired fallow charter and commercial fishing boats, captains and deckhands are now less reticent to describe their experiences.

This includes Mark Williams, who worked in the program until he was deactivated last week. Williams’ saga is typical. In May, he arrived in Alabama from Atlantic Beach, Florida, to captain a charter boat. He got one day of red snapper season before Roy Crabtree, NOAA Fisheries Southeast regional administrator, shut down the Alabama waters for fishing.

For the rest of June and much of July, Williams worked off and on as a deckhand on boats enlisted in the Vessels of Opportunity program, including a boat called Downtime that in early June first sighted tar balls and oil sheen in the Pensacola Pass.

Williams was also part of the skimming operations at Orange Beach when miles-long mattes of oil washed on to its shores the following weekend. Untrained, Williams remembers putting more than 100 pounds of oil-soaked absorbent boom in debris disposal bags that he was later told should have held no more than 20.

Subsequently, Williams saw seven large shrimp boats, with two Coast Guard vessels accompanying them, five miles off shore. “Plumes were everywhere,” says Williams, referring to thin layers of crude oil floating on the water’s surface. “Every time another boat would approach the shrimp boats, the Coast Guard would get on the radio and tell the boat to veer back to shore.” Williams says he believes the boats were putting dispersant on the oil, even though the Coast Guard has denied using dispersant off the Florida and Alabama shores. “The plumes were gone the next day,” Williams says.

Back in Florida on July 27, his boat, Mudbug, was activated into Vessels of Opportunity. While the media, BP, and the Coast Guard were reporting no more oil, Williams and other boat captains were assigned to find it.

Three days later, Williams found remnants of dispersant in a canal in Santa Rosa Sound north of Pensacola Beach. He reported it to his supervisor, who worked for a company that BP hired to help with cleanup, O’Brien’s Response Management.

Williams wrote in his logbook, “Returned p.m. for check-out. [Supervisor] said, ‘Oh, they sent someone out there and it was algae’—No ****ing way—Idiots.”

O’Brien’s was founded in 1982 by Jim O’Brien, a retired Coast Guard officer, who originally called his firm O’Brien Oil Pollution Service, ironically known in the industry as “OOPS.” Over the years the company has been acquired and merged with other response companies; it was hired by BP and Transocean prior to the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig as an emergency-response consultant.

On Saturday, July 31, Williams found a “tea-type” stain on the water and followed it toward Fort Pickens, which is the western tip of Pensacola Beach. He wrote in his logbook, “We found massive tar balls—both in quantity and size, in small gulley. They ranged from ping-pong ball to coconut in size not 3′ from beach line.”

After that, Williams was taken off spill and tar ball watch and put on boom removal. In an inlet north of Pensacola Beach, his crew sighted more tar balls. He wrote in his logbook: “Middle of Sound to off-load boom. 1″ to 3″ tar balls—floating—must be old—told [supervisor] at end of the day.” That’s when he was told not to make the report, but rather to simply gather up the boom.

“We found massive tar balls–both in quantity and size, in small gulley.”

Williams was deactivated from Vessels of Opportunity last week. Last Tuesday, the day before he was dropped, the boat captain wrote, “Coming back p.m. from Ono Island. Counted 12 oil plumes small in comparison to offshore between range marker and decon barge.” This was a week after Carol Browner, a top energy adviser to President Barack Obama, announced 75 percent of the oil had been contained, evaporated, or dispersed.

Williams never believed the reports that the oil had disappeared. “It’s out there and we will see it continue to wash up on our beaches,” he says.

The Daily Beast received a similar account from the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where commercial fisherman Mike Stewart of Ocean Springs has tried to get state officials to recognize that oil and dispersants remain in the waters off their shores.

Since the first of August, Mississippi fishermen have found oil in the marshes of their barrier islands, seen massive fish kills and scooped up submerged oil in Pass Christian. Nonetheless, Bill Walker, director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, declared on August 9, “there should be no new threats,” and issued an order for all local coastal governments to halt oil disaster work being funded by BP money that was granted to the state.

Walker challenged anyone to prove there was still oil in Mississippi waters by calling his office. As of Friday, August 13, Walker told media that he had not received any phone calls.

“That’s a bunch of bull,” says Mark Stewart in telephone interview with The Daily Beast. “There is oil all through the water column. We’ve proved it, and they do nothing about it.”

Stewart even has a video on YouTube showing his crew dipping an absorbent cloth into the Gulf water three-quarters of a mile off the Mississippi beaches. When it’s pulled out of the water after less than two minutes, the cloth is covered with oil. There is so much oil on the surface that it reflects sunlight like a mirror. There, too, the commercial fishermen are concerned about the dispersants.

“They say the oil is gone,” Stewart said on the video. “We disagree.”

Stewart, a third-generation fisherman, was in Vessels of Opportunity for 70 days before being laid off August 2. He tells The Daily Beast part of his time in the program was play-acting for visiting dignitaries. “Whenever a government official would be flying over our boat, we were told to put out all our boom and start skimming for show, even when there wasn’t any oil.”

The Daily Beast asked BP officials about the shrinking number of vessels involved in Gulf cleanup. BP spokesman John Curry says: “We have no certain number of vessels for the program. It will be adjusted based on the need. Less oil means less resources are needed.”

When asked about Williams’ claims that he had been instructed by O’Brien’s supervisor not to report oil, Curry said, “I am not aware of it. We will work as long as the work needs to be done. You will need to check with the contractor about this specific claim.”

The Daily Beast did contact Tim O’Leary, O’Brien’s vice president of communication services, and relayed Williams’ account. O’Leary says that he is unaware of any issues near Pensacola, but agreed to check further. The Daily Beast gave him until the end of the day for a deadline—O’Leary subsequently left a message that he needed more time to respond. O’Leary’s response was: “We have checked with our on-scene supervisor regarding this allegation. He denies that any such order was given to Vessels of Opportunity participants.”

Correction: This article initially reported 5 billion gallons of oil were released in the Gulf; it has been updated to 5 million barrels.

Rick Outzen is publisher and editor of Independent News, the alternative newsweekly for Northwest Florida.

For American Eyes Only: “Making It Right” BP’s TV Ads

Why isn’t BP showing these US television ads in the UK and other EU countries where their image has also been badly eroded?

This one ad has had 847,091 views to date:  via YouTube – MuseOfMarketing’s Channel.